Fanfiction: Wraith of Gaia 5
Rianna woke to a soft, feminine voice saying, "How are you doing, my child?"
Rianna opened her eyes to see a regal, white-haired woman kneeling over her makeshift bed. "I'm alright; the zombies didn't manage to hurt me." As her mind cleared, she remembered that she was in the basement of the Chapel Angelus, having taken shelter there after the zombie attack. She sat up and said, "Oh, uh, I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't be here--"
"Don't worry, my child," the woman assured her. "I'm always glad to provide shelter for those in need. And don't worry about the mace either, it seems your mother meant for you to have it."
Rianna blushed slightly, "Thanks, I guess." She then realized the implication of the woman saying "your mother," and said, "Wait, you know who I am?"
"Yes, Rianna," the woman replied. "I'm Steena Adeptus, the attendant of this chapel, but you can just call me Steena -- I don't care much for formality. I knew your mother, and even met you once when you were but a baby. You take after her a lot, you know. Your soul is the most beautiful I've felt since your mother's--"
"What do you mean?" Rianna cut in. "You say you can feel my soul?"
"It's a talent of mine," Steena replied. "I can sense the soul of anyone I come in contact with, and get insight into them. I'm sorry if it seems I've intruded, but, well--" She gave Rianna a heartfelt smile. "Your soul is so powerful that I could feel you from a distance, and I couldn't help myself."
"That's alright," Rianna replied. "So, if you're the attendant, here, where were you last night?"
"During the attack last night, I left to the hospital to help with the injured. I returned this morning to find you and your companion resting here. The villagers tell me of your heroism; it would seem we're all in your debt."
"My companion--?" Rianna said. She then noticed the prone form of Torin resting on another makeshift bed beside her. That's right! I carried him down here after he collapsed last night. I can't believe I forgot about him. "That's Torin, my fiancÃ©e-- or at least, I think he is--"
Steena sat cross-legged beside Rianna and asked with a smile, "You're not sure if he's your fiancÃ©e? Shouldn't you know that?"
"Well, he looks exactly like my fiancÃ©e, Torin," Rianna started to explain, almost frantically, "but Torin died three days ago -- or, at least, I think he did -- and this man didn't act like Torin and turned into a dragon--"
"Relax, my child," Steena consoled her. "Why don't you just tell me your story from the beginning, and we can try to answer this question from there.
Rianna took a deep breath, and told Steena what had happened starting with the attack on Larin and leading up to the zombie attack. She then resumed her frantic analysis, "Now, if he is Torin, why did he turn into a dragon and fly away? And then, why did he kill the rest of my companions? But, if he isn't Torin, why does he look so much like him? But if he is, why wouldn't he say anything to me--?"
Overstressed, Rianna broke down in tears. Steena caught and consoled her, "It's alright, we'll figure it out. We just have to ask him a few questions when he wakes up, right?"
"Yeah," Rianna sobbed. "I guess. But, where to start? There's so much I want to ask him--"
"Why don't you leave that to me?" Steena suggested. "He might be just as confused as you are, and you're definitely in no shape to talk to him calmly."
"But, I have to know--" Rianna started to say as she looked up.
"Of course," Steena said, cutting her off. "I'll let you know as soon as we've pieced everything together. For now, how about you head to a bar and get something to drink to help you relax? There's a good one just down the street."
"Fine," Rianna said, submitting to Steena's wisdom. Something about the older woman made Rianna want to trust her. Perhaps Torin -- or whoever he was -- would feel the same way. As she thought about Steena's suggestion, it started to strike her as a bit odd. "Are priestesses supposed to condone the consumption of alcohol?"
Steena chuckled at this. "Well, I'm not exactly a typical priestess, and I, for one, see no problem with a little drinking now and again. Besides, you really sound like you need it."
"Well, if you say so--" Rianna said with a smirk. "Thanks, Steena. Let me know as soon as you've talked with him, okay?"
"I will," Steena replied. "Don't worry."
- * *
Steena looked over Rianna's companion as she waited. He was sturdily built, with dusty blonde hair and youthful, handsome features. It wasn't long before he woke up. He did it in an abnormally abrupt manner; one moment, he was sound asleep, the next, his eyes had shot open and he was scanning the room.
"Sleep well?" Steena asked him once she caught his eyes.
The man looked over her, and, apparently deciding she meant him no harm, replied as he sat up, "I suppose so. I don't have much against which to compare it, though."
"So, you have amnesia, then?" Steena queried. It could explain some of Rianna's observations.
"It would seem so," the man replied. "Might I ask who you are, and where I am?"
"This is the Chapel Angelus," Steena replied. "I'm its attendant, Steena Adeptus. Do you remember your name?"
"Yes," he replied. "It's Backer."
Not "Torin," Steena noted. Could the "Torin" Rianna knew have been a pseudonym? Maybe, or maybe this is truly someone else. "Well, how about you tell me what you do remember. Maybe I can help you."
Backer stared into her eyes for a moment and gave a slight nod, deciding to trust her at least this far. "My earlier memories are pretty hazy; I don't believe I was in a completely stable mental state. I can't be sure of much. The first thing that I remember feels almost as if it were a dream -- maybe it was.
"I was in a place that can't be described physically, facing a phenomenon known as a 'Dimensional Maelstrom.' These were characterized by connecting to multiple dimensions, and it was theorized that someone who fell into one would be cast off into a random dimension. No one could confirm this as dimensional travel is otherwise next to impossible, however. Oh, and don't bother asking me how I know this -- I can't trace the origin of any of my knowledge, and I'm not even sure if this is accurate.
"At the time, I was despondent. As long as I'd lived -- I can't say how long -- I'd never been accepted by others. I never had any real friends, just people who found it beneficial to have me around. I did some great deed -- again, I don't know what -- and I couldn't even feel a sense of satisfaction. Facing this dimensional maelstrom, I decided to take a chance with it. I threw myself into it. I'd either get a fresh start somewhere else, or I'd die. I was prepared to accept either outcome.
"Assuming that actually happened, it would look like I got the former. Some start, though. My mind was scattered, I lost my memories, my sanity, and even my body -- somehow, I got stuck in someone else's. I don't know whose it was, what happened to him, or what connection this has to my ability to turn into a dragon -- I'm pretty sure I didn't have that before."
Steena took a deep breath and told him, "In my time as a priestess, I've counseled a lot of people who were suicidal. Sometimes, I tell them to face their problems, helping them when it's appropriate. Other times -- usually with social problems -- I advise them to move away and make a fresh start. In either case, living on is what takes the most courage. I have to convince them they have something to live for. It would seem you were able to decide this for yourself, which is why you took a chance on life rather than simply giving up."
She put her hand on his knee. For some reason, she couldn't sense his soul at all. It was like touching an inanimate object. She decided to put off that mystery for later -- there were more pressing questions. "Can you tell me -- do you remember -- why you decided to live on?"
"What I did -- whatever it was -- helped a lot of people. Even if I couldn't feel satisfied with it, I couldn't let myself die knowing I could go on to help others. That's why I fought the zombies: I couldn't abandon people in danger, particularly when it's what I came here to do."
"That's a noble goal," Steena assured him. "But, you still don't seem happy. You should be proud of what you've done; you helped a lot of people. There's something else bothering you, isn't there?"
"Yeah," Backer admitted.
"Does it have anything to do with how you mentioned that you lost your sanity when you came here?"
"Mostly, I guess."
"Please, go on," Steena pressed him. "Don't worry, I won't judge you. If you weren't in a stable state of mind, I can't blame you for whatever you did."
"Alright," he said. "I can't tell you very well what thoughts were going through my head, but I can tell you what happened. When I first awoke here, I was in the form of a dragon -- I probably thought I was a dragon. There was a battle going on around me. In front of me was another dragon, staring at me in surprise. Then, it was hit with a blast of magic and started writhing in pain.
"I didn't know what I was supposed to do, so I took wing and flew away. I was trying to avoid the carnage, I think, until I got a better grip on what was going on. I flew to a cave in a nearby hilly area. I rested as my mind healed itself.
"But, then, they came. A group of survivors from the battle at the village: four swordsmen, a wizard, and her. As soon as they saw me, she shot me -- well, tried to, at least. Here I was, new to this world, having done nothing, and she was trying to kill me. I snapped; I lost control. The beast inside me took over. I ended up killing the rest of her companions as they attacked me -- maybe you could call it self-defense, I don't know. She was prone on the ground, and I was standing over her. Seeing the fear in her eyes made me stop. I started to regain coherence, and I started to regret what I'd done.
"Once more, I ran. I ended up here, in Choras, finally having figured out how to assume a human form. When the zombies attacked, I had to help. In defending the city, I ran into her again. I was sane again by this time, so I put the past aside and worked with her to fight off the zombies. I exhausted myself in doing so, passed out, and here I am."
"Thank you for telling me this," Steena said. "Don't worry about what you did. I can understand why you acted the way you did. There's just one thing I have to ask you--"
"What is it?"
"Whenever you mention this girl," Steena elaborated, "there's a certain tone to your voice. As if you knew her, or she means something to you."
Backer sat and thought for a moment before replying. "You're right. There is something there. An echo of a memory; she reminds me of someone I knew in the past, but I can't say more than that. And besides that, I can feel remnants of someone else's mind within me -- most likely the former owner of this body. I think he loved her, and the impression was so strong it stayed with him and on to me."
"So, does this mean you love her, too?"
"I can't," he replied. "I don't know her well enough. But, the feeling's there, and I'm not ruling out any possibility."
"Thank you for telling me this," Steena said. "I guess I should probably tell you a few things, too. First of, that girl. Her name's Rianna. She brought you down here after you collapsed last night. She woke up earlier than you, and it would seem she's quite stressed about this situation."
"I can see how she would be. Where did she go?"
"I advised her to go get a drink to help her relax," Steena explained. "I didn't want her to do anything rash, and I wanted to be able to converse with you calmly -- which fortunately seems to worked."
"True, but are you sure it's alright to leave her in confusion for so long?" Backer asked.
"Well, if she were questioning you, it would probably have ended up taking even longer for her to get the whole story -- assuming you even decided to tell her." Steena stood up and motioned for Backer to do so as well. "Come with me, there's something I want to show you."
Backer followed her to the main hall of the Chapel, where she motioned for him to look at the paintings lining the walls. They depicted the visage of Maria Angelus in a variety of scenes. Maria was a beautiful, mature woman. She had short, black hair which framed a statuesque face, with brown eyes that seemed to express a love for all. Steena had never met a more beautiful woman -- with the possible exception of Rianna -- and she felt sure that Backer had never either.
"She resembles Rianna," he noted. "Except, Rianna is younger and wears her hair longer."
"That's Maria Angelus. Rianna is her daughter," Steena explained. "She was the most benevolent person to ever grace this world. Her goodwill was contagious, and everywhere she went, she improved. Ten years ago, she was granted the surtitle 'Angelus,' as she was believed to be an angel sent by Gaia herself to improve the world."
"What do you mean by 'surtitle'?" Backer asked.
"Oh, sorry," Steena said. "It's unique to the Choras culture: a title the follows the name. It's generally only used for positions of some honor. For example, as a priestess, I was granted the surtitle 'Adeptus.'"
"Ah," Backer said. "Carry on."
"She worked to bring peace to the world, but there were those who had spent their lives in the name of war, and couldn't imagine another way. Eight years ago, a legion of troops from Porre attacked her home village of Larin -- this is the same town that you awoke in. They gave an ultimatum: Maria would surrender herself to them, or they would raze the village and Porre would declare total war on Choras. Maria, of course, surrendered to them. She hoped that she would be able to persuade them to abandon the pursuit of war.
"She was bound and led into an enclosed carriage. As soon as she was out of sight, the legion's captain killed her husband out of spite, then led them away. A few days later, our government announced that Porre had killed her." Steena bowed her head, weeping softly. "A few years later, I received approval from the government to convert this chapel into her honor. I was her protÃ©gÃ©e for a time, and this seemed the only appropriate course of action."
"I see," Backer said solemnly. "What about Rianna? How does she feel about her mother?"
"I don't know this firsthand; I'm going mostly off of what I've heard from her adopted parents. For a while, she felt inadequate. She felt hopeless in living up to her mother's legacy. For a while, she denied their bond. Last night, however, she showed promise. She took her mother's mace, and used it to fight off the zombies. Her mother's mace was far from ordinary; it possessed a powerful enchantment. Only those of pure hearts could so much as lift it. Rianna would never have been able to do so if she hadn't accepted Maria as her mother."
"Thank you," Backer said. "But, don't you think we should be getting back to her, by now? It wouldn't be right to keep her in the dark much longer."
"I guess you're right," Steena replied. "I'll go ahead and explain your story to her, then you can follow in a few minutes. She'll definitely want to talk with you herself. Come." She motioned him towards the door. "She's in the bar down just down the street. You wait outside, and I'll get you when I'm ready."
Note: I just moved this here from the Submissions forum; hope no one minds. Sorry it's been a while since I updated here. Expect a bunch of updates in the next few days.