Fanfiction: Wraith of Gaia 8
A solid door slammed down in front of Backer. The floor then tilted downwards as the wall behind him tilted away, causing him to tumble down a short chute. He landed hard on a stone floor. He hadn't yet regained the ability to move, but he was definitely able to feel pain.
A fierce, white light assaulted his eyes. Through the glare, he saw what seemed to be ripples in the light. As his eyes adjusted, he was able to make out that the light appeared to be coming from white flames that filled his vision. Oddly, he could feel no heat from the flames, so he took a moment to relax as he recovered.
/Recovery: 67.8% Input restored to normal parameters.
Recovery status: 84.2%
Gross motor control reestablished./
Backer managed to prop himself up on one elbow and used this opportunity to get a full view of the room. It was roughly cylindrical, with white flames growing out of the floor, some of which appeared to shoot straight through his body. Towards the top, the flames dissipated and the room narrowed. At the very top appeared to be a sphere of pulsating energy whose color rotated through the entire visible spectrum at a steady rate.
A tumbling sound from the direction of the chute caught Backer's attention. Another creature appeared to be falling in. A glimpse of four long, slender legs outlined against the flames told him that the creature was most likely a deer.
A glimpse was all he got, as within moments of entering the fire, the corporeal body of the deer was vaporized. Left in its place was a green phantom, taking on roughly the shape of the deer. The phantom turned its head and looked plaintively at Backer as it slowly ascended. Eventually, it reached the sphere of energy at the top and was absorbed into it.
Fine motor control reestablished.
Preparing elemental input: 26.1%/
Backer stretched his muscles and stood up, taking a further moment to ponder the situation. The flames had incinerated the deer, but had left him untouched. Given what the men who'd thrown him there had said, this was most likely intended to be an execution. For some reason, however, it had failed. Instead, his mind seemed to be opening to a new sense--
/Preparing elemental input: 100.0%
Constructing elemental buffer: 17.4%/
-- and rapidly, at that. If anything, the energy from the flames was empowering him.
This knowledge in hand, he resolved to initiate his escape. The chute through which he'd entered appeared to be the only viable exit, but it presented two notable obstacles. The first obstacle was its slope, which appeared to be 76Â°. The coefficient of friction he'd felt in his tumble would have allowed an ascent of a slope of at most 50Â°. The second obstacle was the door mechanism. It appeared to be designed to only open one way at a time, so even if he could reach the top, he would have to maintain that position until someone opened it to send in another victim.
It was at this point in his analysis that Backer realized he had neglected to consider his newfound draconic abilities. The chute was far to narrow for him to be able to fly up, but he could put wings to another use. If he were to use them to brace against the sides of the chute, he might be able to exert sufficient vertical force to elevate him to the top of the chute.
/Constructing elemental buffer: 65.0%/
This still left the problem of the door mechanism. His view of the chute's material from outside had allowed him to narrow down the possibilities greatly. Of those possibilities, the only viable choice for construction purposes was Silicon Dioxide. Silicon Dioxide was one of the sturdiest natural minerals known, but most of the time it was only found in small granules, commonly referred to as "sand." If this world possessed, naturally or artificially, larger pieces, they just might be used for such purposes as this. This unfortunately meant that it would next to impossible for him to break through it, but he still might be able to force the door back into its socket on the assumption that it was held by weaker materials.
/Constructing elemental buffer: 100.0%
Transferring elemental input to elemental buffer./
Backer's newest sense came alive. He had somehow become aware of the magical energies that permeated this world, normally kept out of the way in a "Mana Layer." Magical abilities drew this energy out of the Mana Layer and into the Material Layer. The flames surrounding him, which he now could tell were pure light energy, felt as if they were caught in a flux state between the two layers -- a highly unnatural configuration.
The energy seemed chaotic at first analysis, but a pattern started to emerge as Backer analyzed it further. As he opened his mind further to this sense, he was sure of it: there was an intelligence behind this energy. It seemed oddly familiar, but Backer chose not to delve more into that; he had most likely encountered something similar in his past life. He tried to commune with it, but got only a sense of urgency. Whatever or whoever this was was urging him to make his escape without wasting any more time.
- * *
Rianna took in the Judgment Hall in a second as she entered. Along the wall to her right was the Orb of Judgment, resting on an altar at chest height. Rows of chairs stretched to her left, left over from the days when the hall was used as a courtroom. Across from her was a desk at which sat the room's sole occupant, who was at the moment taking a nap.
Damnit! He's not here!
Paying him no heed, Rianna cut across the room and through its northern doorway. An empty, white hallway stretched ahead of her. At the end, she could make out two figures, one of which was carrying something towards the wall while the other watched.
"Hey, you!" Rianna yelled at them as she ran forward. "Let him go!"
"What the--?" the observer said as she approached. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm here to rescue him!"
As Rianna got close enough to make out the body that was being carried, she realized her mistake.
"You got some sorta connection to this deer?" the man asked her.
"What the--? What are you--?" Rianna sputtered as brain tried to simultaneously come to grips with the facts that she was too late and that they had started to extract deer.
"No one to save today," he told her. "Just wild animals and one demon." He turned to the guard grappling with the deer. "Yavar, put it in. I'll escort this lovely lady to the interrogation chamber."
Realizing her predicament, Rianna drew her shortsword in preparation for fending off this man. He in turn pulled a gun from a holster on his belt and gave Rianna a look that seemed to say, "Now, do you really me to shoot you?"
Their fight was interrupted, however, as the guard hit a switch on the wall. This resulted in a section of the wall retracting upwards. Rianna's vantage point didn't allow her to see what was inside, but she could hear a familiar, lilting voice say, "Miss me?"
A winged figure that could only be Backer shot from the opening and incapacitated both men with two quick punches.
"Why else would I have come?" Rianna said, alerting him to her presence.
Backer turned to her as his wings shrunk into his back. He gave her a small smile and said, "Thank you for coming." Until this moment Rianna hadn't realized how fearful she'd been of his demise -- it would have been like losing Torin again -- but her fear evaporated at his tone. He hadn't needed her, but he still seemed touched that she'd come to save him.
"What happened to you?" Rianna asked. "How could you survive the Soul Fire?"
Backer sighed. "I can't say exactly what happened. I think I was poisoned somehow, so I wasn't able to resist. As I regained coherence, the guards made me place my hand on some orb."
"That would be the Orb of Judgment," Rianna explained. "Choras has used that to judge criminals."
Backer nodded and continued. "Nothing happened with it, and they were surprised by this. Nevertheless, they dragged me down here and threw me into that chamber."
"That leads to the Soul Cannon," Rianna said. She motioned to one of the unconscious men. "That man -- Dakris Encephos -- invented it about a year ago. The Soul Fire inside burns away the body and the soul is absorbed. When enough souls are absorbed, it can be used to launch some sort of attack -- I'm not sure exactly what happens, though. But, somehow, you survived and escaped."
"Yes," Backer said. "The flames didn't harm. In fact, they even seemed to be trying to tell me something."
"More mysteries--" Rianna said, shaking her head. "I don't know what to make of this, except as further proof that you're special somehow." She caught his gaze for a moment and quickly looked away. "Right, well-- Do you have any idea what the flames were trying to tell you?"
Backer shrugged slightly. "All I got was the impression that there was something I was supposed to do. You know, it may just be because of my experience there, but this 'Soul Cannon' seems wrong to me, as if it's a crime against nature."
"Niran seemed to feel the same way--" Rianna said. Backer raised an eyebrow and she elaborated, "Niran Menos is the commander of Choras' army and also its head of intelligence, and it seems he's my uncle as well. Anyway, he helped me get in here and mentioned something along the lines of destroying the Soul Cannon." Rianna remembered his instructions to her and motioned Backer to the door on the other side of the hallway. "He told me to meet him in the room below here when I was done. Come on."
Rianna unlocked the door and led Backer down the flight of stairs behind it. As she was unlocking the door at the base, she heard a muffled, "Damnit! Damn, damn, damn!" from the room beyond.
The room's most prominent feature was a large crystal on the other side which appeared to be made of Rainbow Shell, glowing with a full spectrum of colors. Its top was embedded in the ceiling, most likely connected to the Soul Cannon. The walls were lined with open steel cabinets, containing miscellaneous devices that Rianna couldn't identify. Rummaging through one was the sources of the profanities: Niran.
"Uncle Niran!" Rianna said. "What are you doing?"
Niran gave up his search and turned to her. "Looking for a few things that will help us out." He noticed Backer and said, "I take it this is the man you came to save?"
"Yes, this is Backer," Rianna said.
"Anything I can do to prove I'm not a demon?" Backer added.
"Well, there is one thing," Niran said. "Rianna, is he a demon?"
"Uh, no?" Rianna replied.
"That's good enough for me," Niran said. At Rianna's confused look, he continued. "I knew Maria well, and you take after her a lot. I trust your judgment -- I wouldn't have let you in if I didn't."
"Right," Backer said. "So, could you elaborate on what you're doing?"
"I'm trying to destroy the Soul Cannon," Niran said. "That crystal over there is the heart of the device. It's the only part that can't be replaced, so it's what we have to take out. The problem, of course, is that it's made of Rainbow Shell, which is indestructible by all human means."
"So, what do you hope to do?" Backer said as he approached the crystal, sizing it up.
"Rainbow Shell can be forged with the aid of certain 'shiny elements.' If we had those, we could rip this abomination open. I was hoping Dakris would have kept some here, but no luck." Niran slammed his fist into the wall in frustration, causing a series of cracks to form.
"Is there something more going on here, Uncle?" Rianna said, intentionally slipping in the "Uncle" to remind him of their bond.
Niran took a few deep breaths and said as leaned against the wall, "I did some research on the Soul Cannon today. It turns out the fuel for the Soul Fire is--" He trailed off as he turned to Rianna with a far-off look in his eyes.
"What?" Rianna asked. "What is it?"
Tears welled in her uncle's eyes as he looked down. "Maria--"
"Wha-- What do you mean?"
"Your mother wasn't killed by Porre," Niran said slowly. "Chaine just made it look that way. He'd built his power-base in war. He wouldn't have been able to stay in power if she brought peace to the world. So, that bastard took her out of the picture." Niran hit the wall again, causing the room to shudder.
"But, that wasn't enough for him," Niran continued. "Dakris had drawn up plans for the ultimate weapon: the Soul Cannon. They tortured Maria over the course of months, eventually imprisoning her soul in that crystal to fuel the Soul Fire."
Stunned, Rianna stammered out, "You mean-- she's--?"
"Yes," Niran said flatly. "She's dead, but denied heaven. The best human to ever live, trapped, serving as a weapon of war. Argh! It makes me want to rip out Chaine's throat with my bare hands, if not worse! That is why we have to destroy the Soul Cannon!"
"I-- I think I--" Rianna said as dropped to the floor, overcome with emotion. She rested her head in her hands and started to cry. After a few seconds she felt arms embracing her and looked up to see that Niran had come to comfort her.
"It's alright, Rianna," he said. "We won't let them get away with this. We'll free your mother, and make them pay."
"Maybe that's why I'm here." Rianna looked past Niran to see that Backer was still standing by the crystal. As she watched, he tilted his head back slightly and held his arms out as his body transformed into its draconic form.
Niran stared at him in wide-eyed shock. "The Dragon of Light-- Tenryu--"
"What?" Rianna asked.
"One of Gaia's dragons, the embodiments of her powers over each of the elements," Niran explained. "But, how--?"
Backer struck the crystal with two fierce punches, causing vibrations throughout the room. The crystal showed some signs of wear; small indentations had appeared where he struck it. With a growl, he launched an even more fearsome punch which caused vibrations strong enough to knock a cabinet off the wall, but still failed to seriously damage the crystal.
His failure only seemed to enrage him more. "How dare they!" he said, his voice deeper, as if he were speaking in the midst of a growl. He let loose a furious roar while bracing his body in a similar stance to the one he had held while morphing into a dragon. As he bellowed, his body started to radiate a bright, white light. This display caused Rianna to cringe in fear; he appeared about to lose control.
As the light reached a blinding intensity, it appeared to flow to Backer's mouth and coalesced into a sphere of energy. He leaned forward and the sphere turned into a beam which struck the crystal. As Rianna watched in awe, cracks started to form at the point of impact, until the crystal exploded from within.
White flames leapt from the crystal, flooding the room with energy. Rianna lost sight of Backer and Niran as the fire filled her vision. The energy seemed to plunge into her head, causing her to black out.
- * *
Rianna found herself in space. Stars surrounded her, and she could see a planet far below her feet. She gazed in awe at its vast, blue oceans and green landmasses. She'd never imagined she'd see a planet from this perspective; it was beautiful.
As she looked closer, Rianna saw that its surface appeared to be covered in a web of gold and silver. She could think of no explanation for it, but this line of thought prompted her to ponder the improbability of her existing at this point in space.
"What's going on here--?" she said to no one in particular.
"I'm not sure myself," a voice answered her.
Rianna recognized it immediately. "Mother? Is that you?" She looked up from the planet to see her mother, Maria Angelus, standing in front of her.
"Yes," she said in her soft, soothing voice. "Thank you, my daughter. I'm finally free."
"So, is this heaven?" Rianna asked.
"No, this simply a dream. I believe this image was pulled from the mind of the man you know as 'Backer.' You'll have to thank him for me when you awaken."
"Alright," Rianna said. "But, why haven't you gone to heaven?"
"I've decided to stick around with you a while longer. You could use my help in the coming ordeal."
Rianna chuckled. "Now you're sounding like a mother." Maria smiled slightly at this. "What do you know about this 'ordeal'?"
"Humanity is facing extinction. Disasters are occurring worldwide. It would seem that you and your friend, Backer, are in a position to stop it."
"What about Backer? Can you tell me anything about him?"
"Not much you don't know. He's not of our world, and it would appear he has some connection to this place. I came into contact with him when he was in the Soul Fire. He's strong of will and noble, and he seems to already have some connection to you."
"Hey! Are you trying to set us up?" Rianna accused.
"Don't worry, Rianna," Maria replied with a grin. "I know you still need time to get over Torin. Even if you now realize that what you felt for him wasn't true love, he was still a very dear friend, and it's alright to mourn for him. But, when you are ready--"
"Mother! Let me make my own decisions about romance!"
"Fine! But I'll be here for advice a while longer. For now, it looks like you'd best wake up--"