Chapter Eight

By Scarlet Fever

"Hey, Seifer..." Squall called as the blonde strode ahead of them. His legs were far longer than either of them, so they had to jog to catch up with his hasty strides. "Maybe we should ask Ellone to come with us..." He pulled on Seifer's elbow to get him to stop. They were standing outside Odine's Laboratory, the din of the futuristic Esthar all around them.

"Why?" Zell asked.

"Well, Odine said that Ellone had seen Adel's life before she took over Esthar. Maybe if we take her to the Trabia graveyard, she'll see something that's familiar..."

Seifer furrowed his scarred brow. "But, Odine said that Trabia was wiped out by fire..." He trailed off, remembering his nightmares, about a burning city, about being hidden under the floor, about Ultimecia's broken glass voice as she descended upon Lillith.

"But, there could be something..." Squall pointed out, crossing his arms over his shoulders.

Seifer conceded. "True. Where is Ellone, anyway?"

"Around somewhere, I'm sure..." Squall frowned. "I'll ask my father. I should also contact Trabia Garden. Now that it's rebuilt, they might not like us wandering around. But, I'm sure it won't be too much of a problem..."

"The graveyard isn't part of the Garden," Zell said, walking beside Seifer, wishing he could take his lover's hand.

"Yeah, but after the missiles hit, they buried their dead there. They might see it as disrespect." Squall shrugged. "I just don't want to start anything for Quistis. She'd be the one who would have to deal with any Trabia hissy fits."

"Is Selphie back there now?" Zell asked.

Seifer cocked his head. "I wonder if Irvine actually went with her...."

Before Seifer and Zell had left for their journey to Esthar, Irvine had told them that he was thinking of going back to Trabia with Selphie when she had to leave. During Cid's retirement party, while Seifer, Zell and Squall had been dealing with the T-Rexaur, Irvine and Selphie had gone to the old hiding place in the Training Area, and talking for hours. Irvine had boasted about more than just talking, but both his roommates didn't really take his sexual boasting seriously. But, he'd confessed that he still loved Selphie, and that, both Seifer and Zell believed.

"I think he did..." Squall trailed off as they boarded a telepod. "So, as soon as we get back, we'll find Ellone, and we'll call Quistis. It shouldn't take more than an hour or two." Squall looked at Seifer. "Can you wait that long?"

"I've waited my whole life... I think I can handle it," Seifer answered dryly. Since they were riding the fast moving transport, Seifer took Zell's hand, entwining his fingers with his small boyfriend. He smiled softly at Zell. "Hopefully, this won't be just a big let down."

"Well, I mean, seriously, Seifer," Zell said. "We've found out so much already." He sighed. "If we could see Lillith, then we would really have more information."

"Maybe going to the graveyard will give us that opportunity," Squall muttered as they stopped outside the Presidential Palace. "I really want to see her."

"Why?" Seifer asked.

"Curious." Squall crossed his arms as he walked. "You've both seen her. I feel out of the loop." Squall narrowed his stormy eyes. "Maybe I'll think she's hot."

Seifer narrowed his eyes. "She's dead, Squall."

"You're sick." Zell made a face.

"Well, I fucked Rinoa for a prolonged period of time, didn't I?" Squall rolled his eyes. They stopped in the hallway. "Okay, to save time, why don't you guys call Quistis from your room. I'll go look for Laguna, and bring Ellone there. Deal?"

Both blondes nodded. They parted from Squall and went to their room. The auburn-haired soldier slowly walked down the hall. He figured his father would be in his office, but knowing Laguna, he could be anywhere.

"Excuse me, have you seen President Loire?" Squall asked of one of the Sentry on guard.

"I believe he's in the Conservatory, master Squall."

Squall shook his head, his jagged bangs falling in his eyes. "Please don't call me that."

"Yes, sir." The guard saluted him.

"Thanks..." He muttered, heading in that direction. Leave it to his father not to be working. As Squall walked, he thought of himself, and what he was going to do with himself, and more than just career-wise. He knew that he would always have his SeeD job, and he would eventually be President of the most powerful country in the world. But, he also wondered what he was going to do with himself personally. He couldn't ignore the fact that he was getting sexually charged about thoughts of Seifer and Zell, of himself and Seifer and Zell. He didn't know if he actually wanted either man, or wanted both of them to throw him down and fuck him senseless, but, the idea was firmly planted in Squall's mind, and was making him want to explore different avenues. As far as sexual relationships went, Squall was pretty green, having Rinoa as his only experience. That didn't mean that he was ignorant about sex, just inexperienced.

Did this mean that he was Bisexual? Did it mean that he had feelings for either Seifer or Zell, or both of them? He wasn't sure. He sighed. That was what it meant to be human. Uncertainty. He slumped his shoulders slightly. He knew that he should probably talk to someone about it, because he was just running in circles in his own mind. He knew Seifer and Zell should probably be the ones that he talked to, seeing as how they were the central point of his possible sexual revolution.

When Squall stepped into the threshold of the airy conservatory, he stopped dead in his tracks, the humid air filling his lungs, and making him burn hot with embarrassment. He could really do anything except sit there and stare, totally surprised and shocked. Laguna and Kiros were leaning against one of the railings, facing a big picture window that overlooked much of the city of Esthar. And, they sure as Hell weren't there to enjoy the scenery. Laguna and Kiros were locked in a passionate embrace, Kiros's long, graceful arms wrapped around the President of Esthar's body, his fingers in Laguna's long ebony hair. From the soft moans that Laguna was eliciting, he was really enjoying himself.

Squall cleared his throat, and politely averted his eyes. The fact that Laguna and Kiros were a couple didn't surprise Squall, because he'd known about it almost as long as he'd known that Laguna Loire was his father. But, it did surprise him to catch is father making out. It was highly disturbing. Laguna sometimes acted younger than Squall did. There was something seriously wrong with that. And, Squall knew that it was mostly him.

"Squall!" Laguna exclaimed, his voice breathless. He disentangled himself from Kiros's grip and smoothed out his clothes and hair. "Er.... I didn't, I mean.... Ahhhh... We didn't hear you.... Well...." Laguna laughed nervously.

Kiros just gave Squall a look. It wasn't angry at the intrusion, but more understanding to the utter embarrassment both his lover and Squall must have been feeling.

Squall just shook his head as Laguna continued to blather on. "Look, Dad..."

"And, it was that.... Well, you see...... Uhhhh...."

"Will you just shut up for a second?" Squall asked, raising his hands as he came into the conservatory. "Sure, I find it... Strange to walk in on my father making out with his boyfriend, but you're just making it worse."

Kiros laughed, slapping Laguna's back, who was still trying to stutter out an apology.

"I actually came here for a reason," Squall said, crossing his arms over his chest.

"What reason would this be, Squall?" Kiros asked, both of them ignoring Laguna.

Squall sighed. At least someone had their head on straight. He looked up into Kiros's coffee brown eyes. "Where's Ellone?"

Kiros thought for a moment, looking at Laguna. "Do you know where she is?"

"I think she went shopping..." Laguna trailed off, his face still beet red from embarrassment. "Why?"

"We want to take her to Trabia."

"We?" Kiros asked, crossing his arms, his face brightened with interest.

"Seifer, Zell, and myself."

Laguna's eyes widened. "Did Odine tell you something?"

Squall nodded. "Well, most of what he told us, we knew already. But, he told us about the old city of Trabia." Squall cocked his head. "Did you ever go there? I know you travelled a lot when you were writing for the Timber Maniacs."

Laguna became silent in thought. "I might have went there once. Maybe around the time that I was making that movie..." He looked at Kiros. "Do you remember going there at all?"

"Not really. If we did, it was just a brief stopover, where Laguna spent all of our money on a Hotel, like he did with every other town."

Laguna snorted. "It's not like you tried to stop me, Kiros."

The black man sneered playfully. "Uh, yes I did. You just wouldn't listen because you're such a stubborn idiot."

"Look, you guys can bitch at each other later." Squall sighed impatiently. "We want to go to Trabia. There's a graveyard there that might have some sort of genealogical information. Apparently, it was the town that Adel and Xerampelinae lived in before the Sorceress War."

Laguna and Kiros nodded distantly. "I'm sure Ellone will be able to help you any way that she can..." Kiros muttered. "Do you really think that it's a good idea to dig up things about the past?"

Laguna furrowed his brow at his lover. "Why would you say that, Kiros?" He crossed his arms, nodding. "Seifer has every right to know about his past."

"But...." Kiros sighed. "From what we know of Xerampelinae, she wasn't the most reputable Sorceress in the world. She was about as bad as Adel, maybe even worse..."

"But," Laguna held up a finger. "Adel's dead. Xerampelinae's dead." He smiled. "Seifer knows what he's getting into. He's a strong man. He survived all the stuff that Edea and Ultimecia put him through."

Squall sighed, a feeling passing through his chest and abdomen, shooting through his brain. It almost felt like pride. He was proud that Seifer could have survived all the horrible stuff that he'd gone through. Squall didn't even like uttering or thinking about the atrocities that Ultimecia committed against Seifer Almasy because it seemed disrespectful to him. Squall and Seifer hadn't always been friends, and Squall hadn't always looked on his former rival with a friendly eye, but now, so many things had changed. Seifer had changed. Squall had changed. They'd all been through so much, and it made them all stronger, and Squall was proud of that.

"I'm sure you're right, Dad. Seifer's strong.. He's not stupid. He can handle himself." Squall smiled stiffly. "I'm sure you'd love to get back to.... work... And, I have to look for Ellone."

"She's got her mobile phone!" Laguna exclaimed noisily, which caused both Kiros and Squall to flinch. "You can just call her on that... It's a lot easier than scouring a mall for her!"

Squall shook his head. "Okay... What's the number?"

"Okay, Quistis. Thanks."

"Are you sure about this, Zell? I mean.... Dealing with Sorceresses, even when they're dead, is risky."

"It will be fine. Besides, if I'm sleeping with a child of Hyne, I think I can handle anything." He laughed into the phone before hanging up.

"You're not funny," Seifer muttered. He was reading a book about History that he got from the Esthar library. He was now looking up any references to any sort of city in Trabia. There weren't many details. "This is getting me nowhere. Odine was right about Trabia City being wiped off the map." He sighed, looking at the pages again. His eyes narrowed. "There are a couple of things here about a palace and an old language. But, that doesn't help us."

Zell sat beside his lover. "What about a palace?"

Seifer looked at the book. "Well, I guess there was some sort of palace built there. Probably during the time that the Dollet Empire was crumbling. When Dollet's power began falling apart, a lot of residents of that Empire left to different places. Some of them went to Trabia..." He sighed, then took in his breath quickly. "Wait a second."

"What?" Zell peered over his lover's shoulder. "What does it say?"

"That the people who left the Dollet Empire were seeking out a new land to practice their beliefs. Children of Hyne...."

"Sorcery?" Zell's eyebrows shot up. "But, people knew of Hyne back then... Why would they persecute Sorceresses or Sorcerers?"

"They were a cult. I guess it was the starts of breakaway religions from Hyne." Seifer flipped the page. "The Dollet people named them the Inaudax."

"Inaudax?" Zell furrowed his brow. "What does that mean?"

"The Dollet people used a word from the Trabian language to describe them..."

"So, Inaudax was a word from that old Trabian language? I wondere what it means..." He pursed his lips. "Acutally... It sounds vaguely familiar... Maybe it's a crossword word.."

"Meaning?" Seifer asked.

"That it's an existing word, but nobody uses it outside snooty scholars."

Seifer quickly stood. The book in his lap fell to the mattress. "If Squall comes back with Ellone, tell them that I went to the library. I can read up some more on the way to Trabia if need be." He smiled wearily at Zell before quickly leaving.

Zell sighed, looking at the book that Seifer had been so engrossed in. Inaudax? What did that have to do with anything? Or, did it have meaning? Just because some heathen Sorcerers migrated to Trabia didn't mean that they had anything to do with Xerampelinae or Adel, or Lillith and Ultimecia. Zell sighed. He knew that there must have been some meaning. Some sort of recognition hit him, and he couldn't ignore it.

"The Inaudax Tribe wanted to find a new home to worship their God, Iudicium, the bringer of Judgement. They created a small city named Ignus, with it's central shrine to Iudicium, a palace called Xystus...." Zell sighed. He couldn't ignore the feeling he got deep in his chest. Like he should know something of this.

He looked up when there was a knock on the door. "Come in."

Squall poked his head in. "Hey."

Zell looked behind his friend. "Where's Ellone?"

"At the mall. Laguna gave me her cell number. I called her. She's on her way." Squall sat on the bed. "Where's Seifer?"

"Library..." Zell answered distantly, his eyes travelling to the book once more.

"Did you find anything out?" Squall asked, noticing the gaze.

"Sort of... I don't know... Maybe not."

"What does that mean?" Squall asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Well, Seifer was reading in this book about a group of Sorcerers and Sorceresses that left the Dollet Empire when it was falling apart. They migrated to Trabia. The Dollet people named them the Inaudax."

"Inaudax? What the Hell does that mean?" Squall asked, knitting his scarred brow. "It sounds familiar."

"I know..." Zell trailed off. "But, I don't know where I heard it before..." Zell reread the passage that he had read aloud.

Squall thought for a moment. "So, those words are from this Trabian Language?" He pursed his full lips. "I've never heard of Iudicium. That religion must have died out..."

Zell looked in the book. "Well, it says here that the Inaudax were ruled by a Sorceress Queen... That makes sense. Her name was Intervigilium." Zell sighed deeply. "Why are we even reading this... It's just mythology."

"Is it?" Squall asked hollowly. "What does it say about her? About Intervigilium?"

"That Iudicium passed Judgement on the Inaudax, and summoned Inandantia, wiping them out." The tattooed blonde read further. "The Queen reportedly was a Time Mage, and cleaved time to save herself. In a rage, Iudicium swore to destroy Intervigilium and the Inaudax by calling forth a warrior to destroy them once and for all. Vividarium."

"Vividarium? Was that the name of the warrior?" Squall asked.

"That's what it says..." Zell rubbed his palms over his cute face. "What the Hell does this mean? Maybe there's an index.." He flipped to the back of the book. "Well... I see something about Intervigilium... Page 256." He flipped to it. "Okay, well, here's another story about her. Apparently, she could see the future. Clairvoyant." Zell's eyes skimmed the words. "Most of this is just legend. But, it says that she came from a rich family in Dollet. She was their youngest daughter. They had no sons, so the eldest would take over the family...." Zell trailed off, flipping the page. "Well, Intervigilium saw that her sister would turn her out, jealous of her beauty, so Intervigilium poisoned her with something called Xiphias."

"I wonder what that is..." Squall trailed off. He looked up as Seifer came back in. He had a few books in his arms.

"Did you find anything?" Zell asked.

"Maybe. There were some books on mythology. Maybe they have something...."

"Take a look at this..." Zell trailed off, passing the book to Seifer.

"What am I looking at?"

"There was a kingdom in Trabia called Ignus, that the Inaudax began. They had a Queen named Intervigilium, who used to be the youngest daughter of a rich merchant in the Dollet Empire. She killed her sisters ahead of her with a poison called Xiphias."

"Xiphias?" Seifer trailed off, furrowing his brow. "I've heard of that before."

"Really?" Squall asked.

Seifer nodded. "Where's Ellone?"

"Coming..." He muttered. "So, what's this Xiphias, or whatever?"

Seifer sighed. "I'm trying to place it...."

There was a knock on the door, and Ellone shyly came into the room. Her coffee brown eyes shone with excitement. "Hello!"

"Hey, Sis!" Squall greeted, getting up. He kissed his surrogate sister on the cheek. "I haven't seen you in a while... I've missed you."

She blushed at Squall's attention. "You're such a honey dripper. But, I've missed you, too. All of you." She smiled at Seifer, her eyes bubbling over with eagerness. "Squall told me on the phone that you want to take me on an adventure? What sort?" She cocked her head, wrapping her familiar green shawl around her slender shoulders.

"Well, I'm discovering things about my family..."

Ellone's friendly eyes clouded over. "Oh..."

Zell narrowed his icy eyes. "What does 'Oh' mean?"

Ellone pursed her lips, and sat on the bed beside Seifer. "About Xerampelinae?"

"Yes..." Seifer trailed off. "What do you know about her?"

"Only what I got from Adel's mind when she, Ultimecia and Rinoa were fused..." Ellone tucked some of her chin length hair behind her ears. "It wasn't pretty."

"I know," Seifer held up his hand. "But, I want to know. I need to know. I want to know about both Xerampelinae and Lillith."

She nodded. "So, why do you need me?"

"Because, Odine said that you saw residual memories of Adel's past. Maybe you could see something familiar when we go to Trabia."

"Why Trabia?" Ellone asked. She may have had her reservations about Seifer's quest for the past, but she was still excited about the adventure. She'd seen things about Xerampelinae that wouldn't make Seifer happy. Ellone had to wonder why he wanted to search for his past, when he had a beautiful present.

"Xerampelinae killed people, you know..." She blurted out.

Seifer sighed deeply. "Yeah, I know." Seifer looked straight into Ellone's eyes. "She also sold her daughter to Ultimecia."

Ellone sighed heavily. "I hope you know what you're doing."

Seifer smiled sadly. "I appreciate your concern, Ellone."

"So..." Zell trailed off, snapping the book shut. "When can we go?"

Quistis propped her chin up on one gloved hand. She was sitting behind her desk, staring at some paperwork. She signed them absently, her vision blurring. She was extremely exhausted, not yet having caught up on lot of sleep she'd missed. There had been a T-Rexaur invasion of the Garden grounds. It was breeding season for the mammoth monsters, and they didn't have anywhere else to go. Quistis had easily been able to defeat many, having Death junctioned to Save the Queen. She had advised the rest of the Garden fighters to do the same, and things hadn't gone so bad. Herself and Xu, who had been armed with her powerful long bow, had gotten rid of a lot of them, with the help of some of the students. Her body was still exhausted from the ordeal, and now, she had to deal with overseeing the repairs of the Garden. The heavy feet of the dinosaurs had destroyed a lot of concrete, their tails crumbling pillars.

"You look like Hell...."

Quistis looked up as Xu stood in the doorway of her office, a look of mirth in her deep brown eyes. Her Oriental features were lit up with happiness.

"I have to finish this paperwork."

"I'm sure the world won't end if you take a break." Xu crossed the floor, her footsteps muffled by the thick carpeting. "What did Zell want?" Xu's eyes darkened. "There isn't anything wrong, is there?"

"No, no...." Quistis waved a hand, pulling her glasses off her face. "Nothing's wrong." She crossed her arms over her black tank top, the hands of her black leather elbow length gloves rubbing against her bare arms. "They just wanted me to give a heads up to Trabia Garden."

"What for?"

"They want to look at the graveyard..." Quistis muttered, giving Xu a look.

Xu knew that look, and didn't say anything further. It must have been personal matters that she didn't want to intrude on.

"The crew finished the repairs. I've still ordered that part of the Garden to be closed off. We just want to make sure..." Xu lowered her body in the chair across from the blonde. "You really need some sleep, Quisty."

Quistis smiled sadly at her girlfriend. "Yeah, I know. But, if this paperwork doesn't get done, I'll never be able to fall asleep."

Xu shook her head, standing. She walked behind Quistis's chair, her hands falling on the Headmaster's shoulders. "You're worried about Seifer, Zell and Squall, aren't you?"

Quistis closed her sapphire eyes as Xu's hands started to knead the knotted muscles of her shoulders. "It shows that much?"

"They're your friends..." Xu murmured. "But, I'm sure that no matter how well meaning you are, Seifer would hate you to be worried about him." Xu smirked. She knew Seifer Almasy as well as Quistis did. "He's a big boy. Plus, Zell's there."

"I know, I know..." Quistis looked up at Xu. "I just can't help it. What if he finds something terrible?"

"Then he'll deal with it," Xu answered, lowering her face, giving Quistis a quick kiss. "I have to go meet with the teachers union. Are you sure you'll be okay? You really look ragged."

Quistis rolled her eyes. "I'll be fine, Mother."

Xu shook her head slowly, rolling her eyes. "Promise me you'll get some rest."

"I promise," Quistis said. She was sincere, too. She was practically falling asleep where she sat. She smiled as Xu gave her a meaningful look before leaving.

Quistis groaned to herself, signing the last of the documents. She closed her eyes, leaning back in her chair. She knew that Xu was right. Seifer didn't need Quistis's worries. But, she couldn't help it. She felt like a big sister to them all. It was her teacher instincts. Plus, there was something in the pit of her stomach that she couldn't put her finger on. Was it good, was it bad? She didn't know.

Her silent lamentations were cut short by a small explosion, that got louder. They were a series of loud bangs and booms, sending fire and debris into the air. The smell of smoke, fire and burning flesh hit Quistis's nostrils like a wave of mutilation. There were people piling on top of people. Garden uniforms, Esthar Soldiers, Galbadian Soldiers, the Dollet Army, SeeDs. It wasn't ending. She was running. As soon as she heard the explosions, she was running. Down the halls, into the elevator, which was shaking with the force of the outside explosions. An extremely volatile explosion caused her to lose her footing, falling heavily against the wall of the elevator. When it stopped, she ran out, ran out of the Garden. But, it wasn't Balamb that she stepped into. It was Esthar. The hazy blue glow of the city was bathed in red. Blood. Everywhere.

"Quistis, we can't hold onto the Palace much longer!" Selphie's voice crackled into Quistis's ear.

Without really knowing what was driving her, Quistis hopped on a Galbadian motorcycle, and sped into the city, avoiding swords and bullets, monsters and creatures. She was going so fast that the creatures were mere blurs in her vision. But, she knew they were horrible, knew they were powerful. The smell of death and decay wafted into Quistis's nostrils. She didn't want to stop, didn't want to see the carnage. When she saw the Palace come into view, Quistis hit the gas, going faster than was safe.

"Quistis....Isn't.... the... force.....rabia....ceress...."

Selphie's voice sounded far away as it broke up.

"Selphie?!" Quistis called as she sped towards her friend's position. Her ear was then filled with a horrible scream. Selphie's scream. It was a scream of agony, a scream that could have only been made during death.

"Selphie??!!" Quistis shouted. She stopped the bike and got off. It toppled to its side, but she didn't care. Quistis was met with the site of Selphie, all decked out in her SeeD uniform, which should have looked regal and proud. But, she was laying facedown in a pool of blood, which was only growing wider, reaching out against the ground.

"Quistis, we need help!!"

Xu. Quistis's heard leapt into her throat as she ran into the Palace. She didn't really think about any personal danger to herself. Only Xu. Would Xu meet the same fate as Selphie? She came to a hallway in the castle. The stench of death was choking, the smell coating Quistis's nostrils and mouth. It made her tongue feel large and woollen in her mouth.

"Xu!!" Quistis exclaimed. She looked around. Irvine was bleeding badly from a wound on his chest, and was leaning against a wall, trying to reload his shotgun, grimacing in pain. Squall was looking around, fear, anger and sorrow in his stormy eyes. His gunblade was dripping red and black. Human and monster blood. There was also black blood splattered all over his face and chest. Xu was heavily bruised, and when she approached Quistis, she was limping, her movements slow and deliberate.

"They're too strong for us..."

Quistis bit back a sob as she looked into Xu's beautiful face.

"Quistis, Squall!! Are you still there?!" Laguna's voice crackled in Quistis's ear.

"Dad!" Squall exclaimed with relief. "Are you alright?" He narrowed his eyes. "Where are you?"

"In the conference room with Fujin and Raijin."

"We're on our way!" Squall motioned for all of them to follow him. Quistis helped Xu, while Squall offered an arm to Irvine, who grudgingly took it. When they went into the room, Squall almost sobbed in relief. He embraced his father. Raijin helped Irvine into a chair. Fujin aided Quistis with Xu.

"Where's Selphie...?" Irvine asked wearily.

"Selphie...." Quistis murmured sadly, remembering the spreading pool of crimson. "She...." Her eyes filled with tears.

"Koudln't get there fast enough, kould you, Kwistis?" A voice hissed into the room. "Pity for poor Selphie."

Quistis breathed in quickly. That voice. It sounded like Ultimecia, but not. It was far too masculine to have been here, but yet, still a woman's voice. It was also mixed with a familiar lilt.

"Adel!!" Squall roared. "What have you done??"

A second voice laughed. It was far more melodious, but was mingled with that same broken glass harshness that was in the voice that Squall said was Adel. But, Adel was dead.

"Oh, Skwall, you really are a kursed fool."

"Xerampelinae...." Squall grumbled low in his throat. "Where are you?! Face us!!"

"Oh, don't worry, my dear. We've kalled a ceasefire." A horrible laughed filled the room, and it sounded hauntingly familiar to Quistis, like she'd heard it a million times before. The first voice, Adel, joined Xerampelinae, and the room was filled with horrible laughter.

"Face it, SeeDs, you're krippled. You're no Vividarium." That voice was the one Squall identified as Adel. Quistis was totally confused. Like she'd just walked in on a movie, halfway through a confusing plot. "Esthar is mine again."

Laguna began to say something, but a small wheezing escaped his throat, and he collapsed on the ground.

"Dad!!" Squall screamed. "Zell!!!!" He screamed again.

Help me, Quistis....

Quistis gasped as she heard a voice in her head.

"Quistis, what's wro...." Xu began to ask, but the words died on her lips, coming out as a waterfall of blood. Quistis raised her face to the ceiling, screaming through the horrible laughter.

Quistis woke with a start, her hands gripping the leather of her chair, causing it to creak under her leather clad fingers. She breathed in and out, blinking. She was in her office. It was totally peaceful and silent.

"A dream..." She mused, pressing her fingertips to her bisque forehead. A horrible dream. What had caused her to dream such a nightmare? Her breathing slowly became regular again. She gasped noisily when her intercom went off.

"Yes?" Quistis asked, her voice groggy and shaky.

"Oh, I woke you..." Xu said, her tone apologetic.

"No, I was awake."

"Are you sure?"

Quistis smiled. "I'm glad you woke me."

"Something wrong?"

"No, no... How did the teacher's meeting go, or are you still meeting?"

"That happened two hours ago, Quisty."

"Oh...." The blonde trailed off. "Look, Xu... Can you come up here, right now?"

"Sure... Quistis, are you sure that nothing's wrong?"

"I'm sure. I.... I just... I need to see you, okay?" Quistis asked, her voice choppy. She knew that the dream had been just that, only a dream, but she wanted to see Xu with her own eyes.

"Okay..." Xu's voice sounded distant and concerned. "I'll be right up."

Quistis sighed with relief, knowing that it was just a dream. But, if it was, why did it hit her so hard, and fill her with a sense of dread?

Seifer sighed, slamming the book shut. "This isn't doing any good. I don't know what these words mean. It's not like I'm ever going to find a Trabian to English Dictionary."

Zell pursed his lips as he piloted the Ragnarok. "Well, you mentioned that one thing... The potion. You said that it sounded familiar, right?"

Squall nodded. "Yeah...." He trailed off, patting Seifer's shoulder, noticing the blonde's frustration. "Xiphias, right?"

Ellone's eyebrows shot up. "Xiphias?"

"You know it, Sis?" Squall asked.

Ellone nodded slowly, resting her elbows on her knees. "Yeah..." She fiddled with the hem of her silver skirt. "It's an old poison used by Sorceresses. It's made from some sort of glad found in Swordfish."

Squall cocked his head. "Swordfish?"

Ellone nodded. "Having Hyne's gift myself..." She trailed off, smiling sheepishly. "Well, sort of.... I know about it. It's used on monsters. It's really potent."

"Why would someone make this?"

Ellone shrugged. "Well, why do some Sorceresses take over countries? They're just bad."

"That book said that Intervigilium used it on her sisters to be the heir to her family's wealth."

Ellone placed a slender finger on her chin. "Intervigilium... Why does that sound familiar?"

"You know it? You sure do know a lot of old Trabian words." Zell muttered as they flew over the Heath sea towards Trabia.

Ellone giggled slightly. "I used to read a lot. Uncle Laguna was always away." She sighed. "Was she a Queen?"

"Yeah, discovered some city in Trabia."

"Ignus," Ellone said, smiling. "The Sleeping Fire."

"What?" Seifer asked in confusion.

"That's all I can really remember. I'm sorry. I thought that the Sleeping Fire sounded romantic. Intervigilium means sleeping, and Ignus means fire."

"Ignus is what they said the city in Trabia was called that was discovered by the Inaudax." Squall pursed his pretty lips in thought.

"Yeah..." Ellone cocked her head at Seifer and Squall. "Trabia City's alternate name was Ignus. It was like it's ancient name or something. Nobody ever called it that."

"Trabia City... Ignus..." Zell trailed off. "Pretty ironic."

"Huh?" Squall asked.

"Trabia City was burned to the ground by Xerampelinae and Adel, right? And, it's real name is Ignus, which means fire."

Seifer nodded distantly. "I hope that Lillith will show up."

Ellone's eyes went as wide as saucers. "Does the Zombie Queen actually exist?"

"I think so..." Seifer muttered. "Apparently, she's my sister. The Sorceress Lillith Almasy."

Ellone frowned. "I wonder what happened to her."

"Ultimecia happened," Zell muttered.

They sat in silence for a few moments. "Squall?" Zell asked.


"Can you drive this thing for a while?"

"Sure..." Squall got up, taking the pilot's seat. Ellone sat beside him, and they started chatting about Ellone's life. She asked a few questions about Rinoa, which started a big discussion.

"Do you think that Lillith will help us, even if we do see her?" Zell asked quietly, sitting beside Seifer."

"I have to try..." Seifer trailed off. "I have to find out about my powers, about what my family was."

"Are you going to let Odine look at you?"

Seifer nodded distantly. "I don't know if I like the idea of that creeper poking and prodding me, but I have to learn how to control my powers. What if I have another burst of it or something, and it does something destructive. I mean, I'm doing alright now, but I'm relatively calm."

Zell sighed deeply. "Wanna go for a walk?"

Seifer smiled at his lover. "Sure."

They got up, unbeknownst to Ellone and Squall, who were now in a heavy discussion about why Squall and Rinoa broke up. Seifer and Zell walked out to the conference room. The afternoon sun was passing through the windows as the dragon ship made its way over the snowy fields of the Trabian continent.

"You need to relax..." Zell murmured, wrapping his arms around Seifer's waist. "It isn't life and death."

"Maybe it is..." Seifer trailed off. He looked deeply into Zell's eyes. Just looking into his lover's face made Seifer feel more at ease. "I'm not used to being the way I am.... I mean, why?"

Zell shrugged. "Well, I'm glad that you're a Sorcerer. I would have died if you weren't." He stood on his toes, and kissed Seifer deeply, his tongue instantly snaking into Seifer's mouth.

Seifer cupped the sides of Zell's face, running his own tongue over Zell's teeth, poking at his sharp canines. Zell felt himself swooning slightly with desire, and he crushed his chest to Seifer's, moulding their bodies together. Zell lowered their fused bodies into one of the chairs, straddling Seifer's lap. He pulled his mouth away, and smiled happily.

"I love you, Seifer."

"I know," the scarred Sorcerer whispered back. "I love you, Zell. Always."

Zell smiled brightly. He curled into a ball in Seifer's lap, resting his head against his taller lover's chest, listening to his heartbeat. "I can feel your power."

Seifer buried his face in Zell's hair. "You can?"

"Yeah. You know when your leg falls asleep, and when it's waking up, you get that tingle?"

"Mmhmmm..." Seifer murmured incoherently. He pulled Zell closer to him, holding him as tightly as he could without limiting Zell's breathing.

"I can feel that on my skin wherever you're touching me. It feels nice."

"Does it?"

Zell closed his eyes, feeling deliciously weary. His favourite thing about being in a relationship with Seifer was falling asleep next to his lover. He knew he couldn't fall asleep now, but he wanted to. It was the most comforting thing in the world for Zell. Seifer's arms felt like he was coming home. His arms held Seifer tighter against him.

"I really do love you..." Zell whispered into Seifer's black shirt.

"I love you." Seifer repeated, his heart warming in his chest to the point of pain. When he'd found out about his powers, he was afraid that Zell would reject him. But, he was happy to find the opposite. He didn't know what he would do without Zell. He didn't want to have to find out. Zell had been the only thing keeping him together during his time as Ultimecia's Knight, when she'd done a million horrible things to him. He still had nightmares about being raped by corpses, and the entire Galbadian Army. Seeing those blue Galbadia uniforms still sent a shiver down his spine, but every time, the shiver got less and less noticeable. He knew that Zell was what kept him sane, was what made him feel like life was actually worth something.

"Guys... We're landing..." Squall muttered into the intercom. "Better put your clothes back on, or I'm gonna have to find you and join you."

Both of them heard Ellone giggle in shock before the intercom was cut. They sighed, breaking apart, and went back up to the cockpit.

"Okay, the Trabian Garden Faculty know we're here, so we can just go straight there," Zell pointed out as Squall landed the Ragnarok.

Ellone stood eagerly. "Wow. I feel like a private investigator or something!" She smiled brightly and went down to exit the ship.

"Come on..." Squall said, giving Seifer and Zell a look. He wondered if they had actually been doing anything. He figured not, but that hadn't stopped his mind from conjuring up all sorts of naughty images, and images of himself interrupting, joining in. Squall squelched a growing fire in his abdomen, nodding in a professional, detached manner. "Hopefully we find something."

"Wow," Ellone mused, running her hand over a crumbling tombstone. The graveyard went on farther than any of them had imagined. They were in behind where the Trabia Garden students had been buried after Edea's missile attack. "Some of these graves are really old."

"I never realized it was so old..." Zell mused, looking at a couple of graves.

"I never realized there were so many graves." Squall looked at one of the tombstones. "Hey, this one says Almasy!"

Seifer rushed over. "There's no first name."

"It looks really old..."

Seifer took out a small notepad from his coat. "I'll write down the dates..."

Zell took out the small disposable camera he brought with him, snapping a picture of it. "They look too old to be from the Sorceress War. Maybe it was one of your grandparents, or great-grandparents..."

"What are we looking for?" Ellone asked, going further into the graveyard. The tombstones were becoming really crumbled and dilapidated at that point.

"Do you see anything familiar?" Zell asked.

"Not yet." Ellone walked farther, and began trekking up a hill. "I'll tell you when I do, though."

"What a strange image..." Zell mused, running his hand over a carving of a woman. She had bat wings, reminiscent of Diablos. Her face looked young and pretty, but it was hard to tell from the wear on the rock. She was holding an hourglass in one hand, raised above her head, and in the other hand, she was holding a feather. It looked like a Phoenix Pinion. "I wonder what it is..." Zell took a picture of it. "Is it a GF of some sort?"

Seifer shrugged. "I don't know...."

"Guys!!" Ellone called.

Seifer, Squall and Zell looked up as she called. Ellone was standing on the crest of the tall hill, looking in front of her. "Come here!"

They all trudged up the hill, rushing, but doing it with caution to avoid falling. "What is it?" Squall asked, his voice slightly out of breath.

"Look..." She pointed. There was a building, or what used to be one. It was crumbling into the ground, but its structure was still there. There were more graves surrounding it, and it looked like it had been burned. There were blackened streaks against the weather-worn bricks.

"From the fire of the Sorceress War..." Zell mused. "I wonder if the Trabia Garden Faculty know about it..."

"We can ask them later..." Seifer muttered, jogging down the hill, sidestepping so he wouldn't fall.

"Hey!" Squall called. "Wait up!" He, Ellone and Zell followed the determined blonde.

"Wow..." Zell breathed. He immediately took a picture. "It looks like it was a church..." He stepped towards the crumbling rock. He noticed a half burned cross, sitting on a steeple. "Yeah, a church."

Squall looked around him. He noticed a few wooden poles, on their last legs, dug into the ground. They were badly charred and weathered. The ground around them was permanently scorched. "These poles look like they got it worse than the building."

"They look like stakes..." Ellone placed her hand on the top of one, which was only up to her waist. "Maybe they burned people on them...?" She shook her head, hoping it wasn't true.

Zell stepped into the fallen church. "There's nothing in here anymore."

Seifer was about to follow his lover into the building, but stopped. His new powers told him something was there, that there was an anomaly in the air. It made all the hairs on his head stand on end, and a chill pass through his body, like the temperature had dropped rapidly. He turned around, sensing something. His eyes stopped when he saw a blob of black. A bird was sitting on one of the rubble tombstones, perched. It was a big black bird. A raven.

It squawked when it saw Seifer looking at it. Squall heard it, and turned around. He briefly looked at the raven, then stopped, staring at it like it had three heads. One of its eyes was gone, pearly white against its black feathers. Squall paused. He remembered seeing a raven in the woods when the T-Rexuar died, and when Seifer brought Zell back to life. A raven with the same injury. It couldn't be a coincidence.

"What is it?" Ellone asked. "Hey, that bird's missing an eye!"

Zell slowly came out of the church. "A bird?" He looked over. Seifer and Squall were frozen, staring at the raven. Zell took in his breath sharply. A one-eyed raven. He remembered seeing that same large raven, perched on the shoulders of the Reaper. On Lillith's shoulder. "Lillith..." He whispered.

Seifer blinked slowly, walking towards the raven with caution. He didn't want to scare it away, but he wanted a closer look. He briefly looked down at the name that was engraved on the headstone. It was still rather well-kept. That large hill must have protected this area from some of the nastier winds. Blinking a few times at the bird in confusion, Seifer looked down at the name again, something passing through his stomach. It felt like disgust, but it wasn't . He didn't know what it was. "My God..."

"Seifer...?" Ellone whispered. She looked at the grave as well. She gasped loudly, bringing her fingertips to her mouth.

Squall just shook his head silently as Zell approached on silent feet. He didn't want to scare away the raven, Lillith's raven. However, the bird seemed content to just sit there, watching them. When Zell's eyes grazed the name, he had to read it again and again, because it didn't make any sense. He knew that it couldn't be a coincidence. It was truth. He just couldn't believe the name he was staring at.

Adel Viator.

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