Stage 18: Turbulent Winds
Narrator: When we last left off, Quenn and Marina infiltrated Bone Island in an effort to rescue Millefeuille, but found a slavery ring being run on the unmarked island. Infuriated at the way the girls on the island were being treated, Marina fought back against the slavers, almost jeopardizing their mission. Marina’s newest friend and cellmate, Gita, was later kidnapped to bait Marina into a trap. After a brief fight with a few of the slavers, Marina had been poisoned and when she awoke, she found herself face to face with Nero Gregorov, the man in charge of the slavery operation. Nero planned to use Marina as breeding stock, but not before he vowed to make her watch as he purged Gita. However, Quenn managed to rescue Gita. Quenn and Marina struggled against Nero before Keith appeared to even the odds. However, it was all up to Marina to stop the power-hungry slaver. With Millefeuille and the other girls finally freed from their nightmare, the Adepts continued on their journey…
The Adepts are shown walking to the start of Gust Valley.
Marina: This place looks pretty vast.
Brandon: Technically, it is a desert, so you’d be right about it being vast. It’s a pretty long stretch to Shima Town through here.
Quenn: Well, guys, if we want to make some distance, we need to start right away.
The Adepts start their trek into Gust Valley. In Antiochus’ fortress within the Shadowlands, Antiochus has learned of Banenoir’s defeat at the hands of the Adepts. Watching them through a mirror-like portal, Antiochus speaks to his Generals.
Antiochus: I see. So those children were able to defeat Banenoir. It seems that we should underestimate them a little bit less. But that isn’t what really irks me. What does is that with Banenoir’s defeat, they were able to procure the Venus Stone. That simply won’t do. We must not only take the Mars Stone they have, but we must get back the Venus Stone that Banenoir lost in his beetle-headed attempt. (he looks at the remaining three Generals) You all must now divide his share of the fighting, and get those Planet Stones.
Gali: I’ll do it, Master Antiochus.
Antiochus: [nodding] Very well, Gali. I’ll leave it to you. Just try not to make the same mistake that Banenoir did. As we know, the Adepts are crossing through Gust Valley. We cannot allow them to get any further on their quest.
Gali: [nodding] I’ll bring you their Planet Stones, along with their skulls.
Gali stands up before walking away. Icirrus follows her.
Icirrus: Gali… where are you going?
Gali: I’m going to fix that bungling fool’s mess. In a sense, Banenoir was right on the money about these Planet Stones, and their ability to enhance one’s power. With the Jupiter Stone, my winds will be powerful enough to tear those meddling Adepts to shreds.
Icirrus: We can’t afford to lose another Planet Stone. Doing just as Banenoir did won’t ensure victory for you.
Gali: Really? And you honestly believe that Antiochus isn’t above punishing one of his Generals for hiding a lowly human from him?
Icirrus stays silent.
Gali: Just as I thought. Do me a favor and keep quiet about my plan. However, if I return and find out that you’ve told, I’ll tell Master Antiochus everything.
Gali turns on her heels and walks out of the hall, leaving Icirrus alone. Deep within Gust Valley, the Adepts have managed to cross a quarter of the way through, resting within a cave in a crag to wait out the recent sandstorm.
Keith: [spitting out sand] Eugh! Pah! Puh! Yep, genuine desert sand, all right.
Marina: You know you’re supposed to keep your mouth closed during a sandstorm, right?
Quenn: Seems like it’s really starting to pick up out there. Get comfortable, guys; it’s gonna be a while.
Keith: Hey, I got no problem with that. It beats getting lost.
The Adepts spend most of the night within the cave, waiting for the sandstorm to finish. Gali is then shown flying in the direction of Gust Valley.
Gali: [thinking] It’s inconceivable how those kids were able to defeat Banenoir. Granted, Banenoir had always been hardheaded. But with his defeat, the Adepts now have two Planet Stones. (clutches the Jupiter Stone in her hand; continues thinking) But I won’t allow them to claim a third. The Adepts’ story shall end, right here in this very desert.
Back in the cave, the Adepts sit and talk as they wait out the sandstorm.
Brandon: We’ve barely even managed to get through a quarter of this desert. With the sandstorms occurring every other moment, getting to Shima Town is pretty treacherous as Carêmella said it would be.
Marina: But to get to Shima Town, we have to cross through this place. Since Shima Town is the only place with working airships, there’s no other way.
Keith: There’s also the three remaining Generals, and Squid Face himself. I think that after dealing with Banenoir, we should be able to take the rest of them.
Brandon: Yeah, the one who was the first to get knocked out by Antiochus is saying that.
Keith: I could’ve taken him! Besides, it’s not like you did any better, Mr. Sneak Attack.
Quenn: As far as I see it, we all pretty much lost. Now that we know just how devious Antiochus can be to achieve his goals, this should give us something to work towards.
Marina: We also have to wonder if the other members of the Generals are using the Planet Stones to enhance their abilities like Banenoir did. (she recalls the battle with Banenoir) It seemed like the Venus Stone gave him a great degree of mastery over his abilities. Maybe that’s their plan?
Brandon: I doubt that, Marina. Even though it seems they can benefit from the stones that match their affinity, the stones serve some greater purpose if they are all together.
Keith: All I know is that we’re spinning our wheels going crazy about what to do. We know that Aster is being held in a place called the Shadowlands, so what’s stopping us from going there and launching our own campaign against Squiddy McSquiddles and his goons?
Quenn: Because we’re not ready to fight against Antiochus yet.
Brandon: While I hate to agree with Keith, which is most of the time, ironically he’s right.
Keith: That’s right. [realizes what Brandon has said] Hey!
Brandon: This campaign might just give us a chance to not only stop Antiochus and the Generals, but it could also lead us to finding Aster and the remaining two Planet Stones. Every time we hesitate, the trail to find Aster grows colder and colder. We need to dig deep, explore the extent of our powers, and believe that we -- at least, theoretically -- have a chance at beating Antiochus.
Quenn: If you guys think so, then let’s give it a try.
Soon after, the sandstorm has stopped. The Adepts, having camped out inside the cave, wake up.
Brandon: We should probably get going. Who knows how long it’ll be before another sandstorm blows through.
The Adepts pack up and leave the cave and continue through the crag until they reach a seemingly endless stretch of desert.
Marina: Well, this looks promising.
Quenn: Let’s see if we can try to reach Shima Town before nightfall.
Keith notices a strange shadow at the tip of the crag’s shadow.
Keith: That may have to wait. There’s something on the crag behind us.
Marina: What could it be?
Quenn: Not sure, but stay ready.
The Adepts look around warily. Unknown to them, Gali is standing atop the crag.
Gali: [thinking] So, they’ve become aware. They have no idea that I’m the one who is watching them. Maybe I should announce my arrival.
Gali swings her arm forward, producing a blade of wind. The blade of wind then slashes the sand to the left of the Adepts.
Keith: What was that?!
Another blade of wind slashes through the sand again, this time to the right of the Adepts.
Brandon: Whatever it is, it’s very sharp. Watch out!
Gali: [thinking] One more…
Gali produces a third blade of sand, which travels straight towards the Adepts.
Marina: There’s another blade, and it’s heading straight for us!
Quenn: Tornado Wing!!
Quenn swings his arm forward and produces a funnel of wind surrounded by electric charges. The tornado crashes into the blade and both attacks disperse. Quenn looks up toward the crag and notices Gali.
Quenn: Keith got it right before. We were being watched.
Gali: [laughing] Well, aren’t you the inquisitive one. [Gali drops down from the top of the crag] Hello, foolish Adepts. Short-lived separation, eh?
Gali: That’s right, and I’m here to seek retribution for a comrade of mine. You should know.
Keith: Of course. You Generals are pretty much all alike.
Gali: Two Planet Stones, and you’ve already gotten cocky. Thanks to Banenoir failing, I have to clean up his mess. The difference between him and me was that he was stupid enough to allow himself to be defeated. But I’ll be the one taking the Planet Stones you have.
Keith: Or we beat you for the Planet Stone you have.
Marina: Do you really have to antagonize people?
Keith: Can’t help it; it’s what I do.
Gali: One way or another, I will take back the Venus Stone, and I’ll also be taking the Mars Stone from your mutilated corpses when I’m done.
Gali raises her arm and fires five Feather Bullets toward the Adepts. The Adepts jump away from the attack, which leaves marks in the sand where they were once standing. Keith begins forming a fireball in his hands.
Keith: Tango Flame!!
Keith thrusts his arms out and launches his attack at Gali. The attack flies toward Gali and seems to hit, but when the fireball explodes, Gali is unfazed.
Keith: What the heck?!
Gali: That was my Blast Screen. By manipulating the air around me, I can deflect any of those weaksauce projectiles of yours. This, or course, leaves you all perfectly open to my attacks. Feather Bullets!!
Gali launches more feathers at the Adepts. The Adepts scramble away desperately, avoiding the projectiles as they strike the ground. The Adepts take cover behind a rocky mesa as Gali continues launching feathers.
Gali: [laughing] Why don’t you come out and play, kiddies? I’m sure there’s more than enough to go around!
A feather scrapes past the top of the mesa, barely grazing Brandon’s head.
Brandon: This mesa won’t last that long!
Quenn: Eventually, with those feathers of hers, there won’t be any place left to take cover.
Gali: That dumb rock won’t keep you safe for long! The Grim Reaper awaits you!
Gali launches a torrent of feathers that destroys the mesa, exposing the Adepts.
Gali: I see you! [she launches a torrent of Feather Bullets in the direction of the Adepts] I win!
Quenn: Not yet! Tornado Wing!!
Quenn uses the Tornado Wing to cancel out the feathers. Quenn then leaps up and spins rapidly, forming the Mirage Typhoon. Gali smirks and begins to spin rapidly as well, forming a typhoon of her own. The two typhoons collide with each other and cancel each other out. As the typhoons disperse, Quenn and Gali are shown having blocked each other’s kicks. Quenn and Gali leap away from each other, and Quenn does two back handsprings before regrouping with the other Adepts. Keith dashes forward, shrouded in flames. Gali smirks as she counters Keith’s Burst Rocket technique with her Slashing Top technique. Keith and Gali collide into each three times, but Gali is able to outmaneuver Keith.
Gali: You shouldn’t match power with speed. It makes it easier for others to get behind you.
Gali knocks Keith out of the sky with a rolling leg drop. Keith turns his momentum to land upright and starts to charge another Tango Flame.
Gali: You fool! Did you not hear that your projectiles are useless against me? You may as well be spitting at a cannonball!
Keith tries to launch the Tango Flame, but Gali summons a funnel of wind beneath. The wind funnel rises, and Keith is trapped inside it. The fireball he had been forming fizzles out.
Brandon: She’s drawing the oxygen out of him! He can’t use his powers!
Keith starts to gasp for air, kneeling on the ground with a hand to his throat. Gali starts to concentrate hard on the funnel, but she is unaware of Marina’s Dousing Pulse, which strikes her in the head. This causes Gali to stop focusing, which disperses the funnel around Keith.
Gali: [turns to Marina] You little wench! You want to get in my way, too? Fine! Let’s see how well you can do without your friends backing you up.
Marina gets into a fighting stance and Gali does the same. Then, Marina dashes toward Gali and jumps into the air with a spin kick. Gali dodges the attack and thrusts her leg out in an attempt to strike Marina, but Marina pushes her leg aside and swings her own leg around for another kick. The kick barely whiffs past Gali’s face as she evades the attack with a spin. Gali and Marina return to their fighting stances.
Gali: You’re doing quite well, little girl. Not bad for a healer.
Marina: You’re not too bad yourself.
Gali: Indeed. I’d say it’s getting very interesting now.
Gali flies over to Marina and strikes her with a kick. Marina is hit in the chest and is sent flying back quite a distance. Marina recovers with a back handspring as Gali flies over to her and swings her leg around with a strong kick. Marina bends back into a bridge and uses her hands to flip back upright. Marina spins around with an illusion kick, striking Gali on top of the head. As Gali staggers from the blow, Marina drops to the ground and launches both her feet out, striking Gali and knocking her airborne. While in the air, Gali tucks into a ball and flips backwards to recover and lands on her feet. Gali dashes toward Marina, throwing a couple of punches and three spinning kicks, causing Marina to lose ground. Marina drops to the ground and tries to sweep Gali using both of her legs, but Gali leaps into the air to avoid it. Gali utilizes a Feather Bullet as a makeshift dagger to thrust down at Marina, but Marina pushes her feet up to meet Gali’s, pushing her into the air to keep her from landing. Marina then rolls away as Gali lands harmlessly on the sand.
Gali: I’d say it’s time to stop playing with the kid gloves now. You may be on par with me now… [she pulls out the Jupiter Stone] …but when I use this, the gap between us will be widened once more.
Gali squeezes the Jupiter Stone and becomes enveloped in a purple aura for a short time. Then, Gali dashes toward Marina with a burst of speed that surprises her. Gali strikes Marina in the plexus with a kick, which sends Marina tumbling back a bit before Marina rolls up to a standing position. Marina dashes forward and attempts four palm strikes, which Gali effortlessly manages to dodge. Marina attempts a roundhouse kick, but Gali ducks beneath it and uses her leg to sweep Marina’s legs from beneath her. Marina falls to the sand onto her back, but before she can move, Gali steps on her chest, pinning her to the ground.
Gali: I can’t believe how easy this is! Honestly, I thought killing you and your friends and taking your Planet Stones would be more fun.
Keith: Why you--!
Keith and Quenn start to move, but Marina stops them.
Marina: [strained] Stop!
Marina: I want to do this myself! Don’t help me unless I absolutely need it!
Gali: Funny. You’re the one who’s on the ground, and you’re refusing help? And I thought Banenoir was dim!
Marina: [strained] Why… are you doing this?!
Gali: A simple question, really. It’s because of humans like you, always believing that you can just hunt and destroy those who are different from you. And you Adepts are the worst hypocrites of all, taking the side of the humans, when the humans are able to do things like this to us! [Gali unzips the front of her top, revealing a cross-shaped scar] Do you see it? This is what the humans of your pathetic, feeble race did. Those hunters, who nearly tore me open for their own sick amusement! How can you defend them?!
Marina: It still doesn’t explain why. What do you hope to gain by gathering the Planet Stones?
Gali: [as she zips her top up] Equality. A world where no one will judge or chastise anyone because of their species. And to do that, I must have the Planet Stones!
Marina: [strained] You have to stop this. I know you’re upset about what those hunters did, but you can’t take that out on the ones who don’t deserve it! Do you really think Antiochus cares about you? He doesn’t care about anyone but himself, or anything except what he desires! He’ll double-cross anyone in order to get what he wants as long as it suits him!
Gali: [presses her foot harder onto Marina’s chest] How dare you slander my master with those insolent lies?! [Gali removes her foot, then picks Marina up from the ground, placing her over her shoulders in a rack] I’ll make you retract that right before you die.
Just then, a burst of wind strikes Gali in the back, causing her to let go of Marina.
Gali turns her head to see Quenn standing with his palms extended toward her.
Quenn: I’d say this counts as an “absolute need”!
This distracts Gali long enough for Marina to use both of her legs and sweep Gali off her feet. Gali falls onto her back.
Gali: [thinking] Not good… the power of the Jupiter Stone is being overcome…!
Marina walks over to Gali. Gali stands up slowly and gets into her fighting stance.
Gali: [growling in anger] You little bitch! Do you honestly believe you can still match me?!
Marina: Trust me, Gali, this time, it’s not gonna be a match.
Marina dashes forward and strikes Gali with a powerful kick that sends Gali flying across the desert. Marina chases after Gali and follows up with a few rapid palm strikes. Gali tries to counterattack with a head-butt, but Marina flips back, striking Gali with her heel. Marina leaps forward with a full twist and attempts a dropkick, planting both feet into Gali’s chest. Gali staggers back from the blow as Marina spins around with another illusion kick, striking Gali on the top of the head again, this time knocking her out cold. Marina searches Gali and retrieves the Jupiter Stone.
Keith: Jeez, Mousey. Pretty sure she’ll be feeling that for weeks.
Quenn: Okay, so this makes three of the Planet Stones now. One more, and we’re close to stopping Antiochus’ plan.
Marina: But out of the two remaining members, we don’t know which one would have it. Since we have the Mars, Venus and Jupiter Stones, the only one that remains is the Mercury Stone. And if any of the two remaining members possesses an elemental ability attuned to it, they may utilize it like Banenoir and Gali did with the Venus and Jupiter Stones.
Quenn: Well, there is one thing I know for sure. [an image of Zhane appears] Zhane isn’t the one holding the Mercury Stone.
Marina: [remembering Icirrus] Do you guys remember that girl who helped direct us to Bone Island? She’s a member of the Generals of Order, but yet, she’s the only one of the Generals who hasn’t attacked us. Also, she asked us for amnesty so that none of us would attack the other.
Brandon: You have a point. That girl is the only one whose abilities we haven’t seen in action.
Quenn: You think that Zhane and that girl are somewhere in the Shadowlands?
Keith: If they are, we need to find out. [he walks up to Gali] As far as we know, there’s only one Planet Stone and two members of the Generals of Order left. We need to find them and end this. What do you know?
Gali: [chuckles] Only that you won’t be able to reach the Shadowlands by normal means. The only way to get there is through a Nightfall Corridor, or by invitation, but seeing how neither of you possess any Necro-Elchemy and Master Antiochus isn’t particularly interested in you to bring you to his abode, I’d say you’re out of luck on both counts. If you plan on using me to help you, then you’d better just kill me right now, because I have no intention of helping you hypocrites.
Quenn: We’re not gonna do that, not when you may have information we need.
Gali: [laughing] Seriously? Is that the best you have? If so, then you’ll never be able to defeat Master Antiochus!
At that moment, the sky becomes dark and a psionic bolt strikes from above. The bolt strikes Gali at the top of the head. Gali’s mouth hangs slightly open and her eyes have rolled back, leaving them completely white. Gali’s lifeless body falls to the side. The image of Antiochus appears in the sky.
Antiochus: [voice-over] Another failure! However, I will acknowledge Gali’s willingness to lay down her life for me. Oh, how I wish the rest of the Generals had her loyalty.
Keith: You bastard!
Antiochus: Now, now, no need for name-calling when I’m just stating the obvious. You may have three Planet Stones now, but as I see it, it’s still anyone’s game. But even then, you still lose. I still have the Mercury Stone, but with no way to use Necro-Elchemy, there’s no way you’ll be able to reach the Shadowlands! Guess your precious Aster forgot to mention that. Ta-ta for now!
Antiochus’ image vanishes and the sky returns to normal. At the same time, Gali’s body has evaporated into black dust.
Marina: Now what?
Keith: You heard squid head; without Necro-Elchemy, there’s no way for us to get to the Shadowlands, and to keep us from using Gali to make a way for us, he killed her. All this time, we’ve been chasing a dead end.
Brandon: So, we came all this way for nothing?
Quenn: I don’t believe that! [the other Adepts look at him] It’s not impossible. There has to be a way. Aster’s depending on us to help him, and everyone back in Corinth Village is depending on us to bring him back. We may not have any Necro-Elchemy, but don’t forget, there’s still two members of the Generals of Order that remain. Maybe we can try to convince them of Antiochus’ real intentions, and in turn, that would help persuade them to our cause.
Marina: Are you sure that will work, Quenn? With Antiochus holding the power of death over his own Generals, there’s no way we’d be able to sway them to our cause. [remembers Icirrus] But I bet if we were somehow able to persuade that girl to our cause, we may able to get there.
Brandon: That may work. If we want to get the final Planet Stone back, that seems like our best option.
Back at the Obsidian Fortress, Zhane’s eyes open slowly as Icirrus approaches him.
Icirrus: Is something the matter, Zhane?
Zhane: Gali’s life force has completely faded. Master Antiochus took her life to keep her from being compromised. But before that, she was clearly on the ropes. [looks at Icirrus] You and I are all that remains of the Generals of Order. Without Gali or Banenoir, Master Antiochus’ plan has become more difficult to execute. [he looks out the window and an image of Quenn is shown; thinking] This battle’s not over, not by a long shot…
End of Chapter