Final Fantasy - All Series Fan Fiction ❯ Rage of the Wolf-Lord ❯ Withdrawal from... ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: I own everything but the characters and some places/ideas…dammit…
Sixteen-year-old Cloud Strife looked down from the top of the cliff he was standing on. Below him a pack of Nifl wolf cubs were playing around in the snow, jumping and biting at each other. Cloud grinned down at them, laughing when the youngest one finally got a good head-butt in and knocked his older brother down.
Looking out into the distance, he could still feel the disgusting presence of the old hag trying to find him, and the warmth of his thrir still searching for him.
Vincent came up to stand beside him, Cid on his other side. “Are you sure about this, Cloud?”
Cloud looked up at Vincent, who was still taller than him, but now only by a good twelve inches, and nodded. “Yes, I do believe I am. It is time for me leave, time for the world to be rid of that gods-forsaken Loki and his dead-ish wench. Odin as well, the damned bastard. Tyr would do a much better job at running Shinra, much less Thor. Hell, Tyr's Dark Nation would be better at running that thrice damned company than Odin!”
Vincent coughed into his hand, Cid not being so polite and outright laughing.
“Dammit, kid! Don't make an old man laugh like that!”
Cloud grinned over at Cid. “I thought you weren't old. When did this change?”
Cid sputtered, and Vincent let out a laugh this time. “You've dug your own hole, Cid.”
Cloud let his eyes wander around, until they settled back onto the cubs playing down below again. “I feel that Angrboda, Jenova, is starting to get desperate. The scrying has gotten more powerful just within the last few days, and I don't want to think what kind of sacrifices had to go into it to make it that way.” He shuddered, whether the cold affected him or not was unknown. “She's become much worse. From what I can gather of her thoughts from the glimpses I get through her terribly made spells, she's become a lot more unstable in the head, meaning Lok-Hojo, has also unbalanced a little more. The whiteness of chaos surrounding them is actually quite scary.”
Cloud gave Vincent a wry look. “That's chaos with a lower case `c'.”
Vincent spared him a glance, then resumed his watch on the cubs as well. “Hojo has always been unstable, but if he has gotten worse, then things must be very bad. Very bad indeed.”
Cloud nodded in agreement. “My thrir aren't too far away. If we leave within the hour, we'll miss them by about three days. I don't want to meet up with them quite yet.”
Vincent gave him a questioning glance, but remained silent. Cid, on the other hand, was vocal about his thoughts. “Whaddya mean, you don't wanna meet up with 'em yet? Isn't this what you've been waiting for the past six years we've been here? Besides the training?”
Cloud sighed. “I don't know, but it's just a feeling I have. I can't meet them yet. And they're so close, but I just don't know what it is.” He sent a pleading glance at Vincent. “It's just one of those gut feelings I've got. Something will go wrong if we meet now.”
Vincent nodded. “Your instincts have never let you down before, so I don't see why we shouldn't believe in them now. We'll leave by noon.” With that, Vincent swirled around in red-cape goodness and disappeared into the little cabin they had built not-to-long ago.
Cid snorted and pulled a cigarette out, lighting it before following Vincent. “Never woulda thought Vincent would try ta be alpha. S'interestin', that's for sure.”
Cloud followed Cid's slow walk back to the cabin with his eyes, a slow grin forming on his lips. “Heh, Vincent as alpha. Not a bad plan, Cid. Make them notice him, and forget the little blond-haired kid in the background.”
Turning back to the pack below, Cloud gave a sharp whistle as he jumped down to join them. Adults from the forest started bleeding out of vegetation, and the cubs forgot their little games as Cloud sat down around him.
“I'm going to be leaving this afternoon. I would like to know of three who would come with me, to help in protection of mine and ours.”
Thytr and Myrkr were automatically at his side, and a third wolf, Varda, sat down next to him.
“Thank you.” Cloud smiled gratefully at them. “And I leave Daga and Skyn in charge while I'm away. Please follow their lead.”
Standing, Cloud followed the path next to cliff that would send him back up, Thytr, Myrkr and Varda following.
Cid was already in the airship, preparing everything inside and making sure nothing was wrong in the final stages of start-up. Vincent was walking in Cid's direction, a bag of clothes in both hands. Grabbing his own bag, he closed the door to the cabin behind him, then boarded ship with the wolves.
Sephiroth frowned. Zack noticed Sephiroth frowning, and frowned at Sephiroth. Aeris noticed Zack frowning at Sephiroth, Sephiroth frowning at nothing in particular, and grinned at both of them. “You boys are so cute! All frowny at each other. I could just eat you up!”
Sephiroth looked startled, and Zack had the decency to blush. “What?” was the simultaneous reply.
Aeris giggled. “Sephiroth was being all frowny in the distance, and Zack was being all frowny at Sephiroth. You two were just too cute for words!”
Zack grinned at her, picking her up by the waist and twirling her around. Sephiroth resumed his frowniness.
He was looking from the top of his chocobo, a nice black named Otul. If you considered ripping out your entrails and feeding them to your herd mates for breakfast for looking at him funny was nice.
Aeris' own rose-colored chocobo was an even-tempered hen named Lilja. Zack's not-quite-as-fierce-but-still-able-to-kick-ass silver-gray was called Vapn.
Sephiroth had noticed the cabin from a few miles back, his eyesight being much better than either Aeris' or Zack's. But despite his eyesight, he had found nothing other than a large pack of what looked to be Nifl wolves running about it.
“They are not here. Our fourth is not here.”
Zack and Aeris stopped and stared at him. “Whaddya mean, not here? He has to be! It's the only place we haven't looked yet!”
Aeris placed a hand on Zack's arm, calming him down slightly. She focused on Sephiroth. “Are you sure?”
Sephiroth growled, low and feral in his throat. “He is not here.”
Zack blinked out of his dismay, eyes widening at the tone in Sephiroth's voice. “Um, Seph, buddy. I think it's time we had a calm down session. Anger at this moment, in this place, is bad! Calmness is what it's all about! Calmness!”
Dismounting, Sephiroth turned to look at Zack, and even Aeris froze at his expression. His pupils had contracted from his normally odd-looking vertical slits, to horizontal slits. “Um, Seph? I don't think your eyes are supposed to do that!”
At that point, Zack had grabbed Aeris around the waist and hauled ass backwards.
“When I get my hands on that blond-haired little brat, I'm going to chain him to our bed and weld the locks shut!”
Zack and Aeris just stood in shock for a moment. Aeris' laughter broke the strained silence.
Zack's grin returned, bigger than ever, and he marched back up to Sephiroth. “Seph, that's the best damn thing I've ever heard you say!” The pout Zack suddenly slapped on would kill a puppy. “Why don't you ever give me threats like that? I always get maiming or death or something. Totally not cool!”
Sephiroth gave them both a brief, if small, smile. Turning back to the cabin, he motioned towards its general direction. “The only things milling about are the Nifl wolves. Ruts from landing gear towards the east of the cabin are still somewhat fresh. The dirty little boy left not even two days ago!”
Zack patted Sephiroth on the shoulder. “There, there. It'll be okay. You just wait and see. We'll find him.”
Aeris took one of his hands in hers, smiling into his calming eyes. “And when we do find him, we'll make sure he remains shackled to at least one of us at all times.” She smiled impishly. “Hopefully it will be me.”
Zack chortled, face turning red from lack of breath. “Oh Aeris, we love you so much!”
Sephiroth smirked in her direction, before re-mounting Otul. “Let's head back to that last village. We'll stay the night, and try to find him again in the morning.”
Cloud figured Cid would be the best person to ask for any place they might be able to lay low for a while. How could he have been so stupid?
Cid had parked them right outside of the capital of Wutai.
Vincent gave Cid an exasperated look and shook his head. Cloud just gave him a pleading glance, as if asking `Why? Why do you do this to me? What have I ever done to you?'. The looks went unnoticed.
Cid was grinning like a little kid who just stole his mom's famous dumbapple pie and got away with it.
Turning back towards the two lollygaggers, Cid glared. “What's holding ya up?”
Vincent sighed. “Cid, why are we in Wutai?”
“I ran out 'a tea. And Cloud said anywhere we c'n lay low. I gotta coupla…people, here who'd help us out.”
Cloud didn't want to know, he really didn't. So instead he asked, “How long do you think they will house us for? Only a few days are needed.”
“Yeah, they'll cover us a coupla days, an' all we gotta do is give them a coupla materia. Even trade.”
Cloud tried not to be too angry, he really did. “Cid, we don't have any materia.”
Cid blinked back at him. “Oh, well why didn't ya say so? I woulda gone to the temple of Hel if I'd a known that.”
Cloud palmed his face, turning around and returning to the ship. “I'll wait in with the wolves. Go get your tea, Cid.”
Vincent turned towards Cid, quirked an eyebrow, and followed Cloud. “We'll be waiting.”
“Aww, dammit.”
The Temple of Hel was a huge, decrepit old pyramid-like structure on the middle of an island in the middle of the ocean in the middle of nowhere. It was a sorry sight, to say the least.
“'What the hell?' and `why?' are the first two things that come to mind.”
“Hell, kiddo, I ain't got no fuckin' clue. All I know was that the Temple of Hel was here. I didn't think it'd be in this bad `a shape.”
“Cid, I do believe that you are no longer our navigator. Cloud, please take over.”
“Aww, double dammit.”
“They were at my temple, but they're gone now. I felt his presence there.”
“You mean that gods-forsaken little island in the middle of nowhere? The one that could fall apart if someone, or something, so much as breathed on it? The one that no one knows how it was built, cuz there wasn't even a ruins of a village there? That one?”
“Yes, that's the one.”
“Well, okay! Just making sure I had the right one.”
“Don't make me maim you, Zakuri.”
“Shutting up!”
“Go to Nifl.”
Cid and Vincent just stared at Cloud. “What?”
“Niflheim.” Cloud stared right back. “It would be the last place anyone would look for me. Think about it. I was treated wrong there all of my childhood, no one even remotely liked me there. No one will probably recognize me either, as they never paid attention to whom their kids were beating on. It has been six years.”
Vincent pondered the suggestion as Cid vocally denied it. “I ain't gonna send you to no damn place that'll just keep-”
“Cid, shut up.” Cid's mouth closed at Vincent's bland statement. “It's a good plan. But first, we must get Cloud a weapon that doesn't break every time he uses it.”
Cloud had the decency to blush at that comment. “I can't help it that every sword we come across is horribly made! One swing and they're done! Why do you think I've been doing mostly hand-to-hand?”
“I don't know why I didn't think of this before we went to all of those places Cid was suggesting, but Smidrheim would be the best place to go for a weapon for you. And the wolves would be able to run free for the few days we would need to be there.”
Smidrheim was a little village that mainly consisted of blacksmiths. It held maybe twenty houses, and only four he could tell so far, were of the general description. The others all had smithies attached to them.
“I'm going to assume that I can get a sword made here.”
Vincent's bland expression brought a grin to Cloud's face. Cid was laughing in the background.
“Yes, Cloud. A sword for you can be made here.”
“Oh good! I didn't think there would be any blacksmiths around for miles!”
Vincent rubbed his temples with his good hand, then turned around. “I'm going to go back in and let the pack out. They need a good run, and I'm not inclined to follow you at the moment.”
Cloud laughed at that, but nodded agreement. “Cid should stay here to watch the airship. I'll be back in a few hours then.” Tossing a wave over his shoulder, Cloud sauntered down the ramp and wandered into town.
Walking through the shops, he noticed that each one was specialized. One did nails and other building fastenings, another did gardening tools, and another did interior decorations. Even the weapons shops were specialized. The shop he was currently in apparently worked on nothing but spears. The last one was shuriken.
He exited the shop, and turned towards the last smithy. Once he entered, he almost passed out in sheer happiness. Swords decorated every wall. Large, small, huge, thin. Beautiful.
The man behind the counter was fairly tall, and broader than his door. Smiling brown eyes peeked at him from behind a huge, scruffy looking brown beard.
“Can I help you?” the man asked, voice almost vibrating in Cloud's chest.
“Um, yes. I need a sword.”
The man behind the counter chuckled. “Well, as you can see, I've got plenty of them. Which one do you want?”
Cloud couldn't help but smile at the friendly man. “One that doesn't break every time I try to use it.”
The man chortled again, holding out a hand. “I like you. Name's Styrandi.”
Cloud took his hand and shook it. “Cloud.”
“What kind of sword are you looking for? Anything in particular?”
Cloud shrugged. “As long as it's big, and doesn't fall apart the first time I use it, whatever.”
Styrandi smiled and slapped his hands together.. “Ah. Very well. Let's see you hold this biggun' here. This is an over-sized bastard sword. I doubt you could pick it up, but let's see what you got.”
Cloud lifted the bastard sword out of the mans hands with both of his, then turned towards the door. “You don't mind if I do a few practice swings, do you?”
“Nah, go ahead.” Styrandi followed Cloud out, only to drop his jaw in astonishment.
Cloud was swinging the sword with one hand, spinning it in place, just to get a feel of it. Placing it firmly back in two hands, he started a kata that didn't even make it halfway through before the blade shattered.
Raising one hand to rub embarrassingly at his neck, the other held out the hilt of the sword. “I'm sorry. I'll pay for it if I have to.”
The shopkeeper could only stare at the hilt in wonder.
“It happens every time. That's why I usually do hand-to-hand. I just know more techniques for the sword than anything else.”
Styrandi emptied the expression from his face, then tossed the broken hilt into a bin next to his door. Staring at Cloud, the biggest grin he had ever seen spread across the man's face.
“I do believe we have a custom job on our hands! A challenge!”
Cloud stared into the man's beaming face, dumbfounded. “What?”
“You will, of course, stay with me during the forging of your sword. I will take approximately take two-weeks for us to build it, depending on what you want done, and what I can think up!” He hugged Cloud, enveloping him in arms as big around as tree trunks. “Go get your things, I'll get the spare room ready!”
Letting Cloud go, Styrandi turned around and practically flew into the shop, heading towards his back room. Cloud stood there, a little bewildered, before one of the other shop holders came up to him.
“He hasn't had anyone come through for a sword in a long while. Not a custom one, anyway. And he's had plans and ideas for a buster sword, but no one can really use them. You've just made that man the happiest he's been since he started.” A slap on the shoulder pushed him towards the town entrance. “Now go get your things! He was serious about you staying!”
Cloud nodded, still a little out of it, and headed for the airship.
“So you've got all you need for your stay?”
Cloud nodded. “I also informed my pa-companions about the stay. They will travel for a little while, and will visit in ten days to see if we'll need more time.”
“Good, good.” Styrandi rubbed his hands together, then grabbed a notebook and some pencils. “Let's get started then. How much are you willing to spend?”
Cloud pondered the thought. “I want the best. I have enough gil to buy your village, if that's what you need.”
“Excellent. I didn't want to make anything if I wasn't getting paid for it, even if I've been waiting for a job like this forever. Next, how big?”
“Big enough to withstand me. Maybe a couple of inches shorter than me, so I wouldn't have it dragging the ground behind me when I walked.”
“Yes, yes.” Styrandi was drawing on the notepad, but Cloud wasn't able to discern anything from it. “How about something like this?”
Holding up the notepad, Cloud studied it. I was fairly long, and about as wide a he was. Studying the drawing nest to it made him gasp in awe. “There are six blades here.”
Styrandi nodded. “Oh yes. I've had that design in my head for ages, but I didn't know of anyone who would be able to use it. So in my head it's stayed.”
He pointed to the first blade, the largest. “That's the base sword of the First Tsurugi. It can change from either a single blade, to a double blade. The other five connect to it, so you have the option of using any of the swords in any combination. Long range, short range. Double handed, double bladed.”
Cloud didn't even bother to think of his answer as his mouth ran away from him. “Make it. I want it done and in my hands as soon as possible!”
Styrandi answered him in bliss and moved to the smithy. “Yes sir!”
Vincent stared at the contraption strapped to Cloud's back when they finally returned to Smidrheim. He didn't even notice the giant hunk of metal in Cloud's hands.
It was obviously a sword holster, but why it had six sheaths was too much for him to stand. Thankfully, Cid asked before he could.
“What in Hel's name do you got so many damn spots fer a sword on your back?! I thought you were only gettin' one!”
Cloud grinned at them, then lifted the huge mass of steel and metal in his other hand. “It's for this.”
Vincent still didn't understand, and Cid saved him yet again.
“What the hel is that?! It's fuckin' huge!” Cid paused. “It still doesn't explain the six slots on your back.”
Cloud's grin turned into a smirk. Taking hold of one side, he started separating his sword into six smaller ones, holstering them as they came apart.
Vincent blinked, and Cid gawked. “Oh.”
Cid turned around and walked outside, the swears coming from his mouth strong enough to melt the lesser swords in the shop.
“Well Cloud, it seems as if you found yourself a decent sword.”
Cloud's smile returned. “Yep! And it only cost me an eye, two arms, and my soul!”
Vincent slowly nodded, then turned around to exit the shop behind Cid. “Let's go. You're thrir have been chasing us for days. The last time we checked, they were only a half-day behind.”
Cloud nodded and turned to Styrandi. “Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. I'll tell every one I know your business here.” Grabbing his bag, he left before Styrandi could get a word in edgewise.
Standing before the airship, Cloud smiled. Vincent moved next to him as Myrkr laid down at his feet. Varda and Thytr were already in the airship, Myrkr being the only one to stay behind with Cloud.
“I think it's time to meet them. What do you say to parking here for a few more hours?”
“I say it's about damn time, kid!” Cid grumbled from just inside the airlock. “I'm sick and tired of running from `em.”
Cloud nodded. “I'm going to put my stuff away, then get used to First Tsurugi a little more. I'll be outside the rest of the day.”
“They've stopped.”
Zack whipped his head around to her. “Are you sure?”
Aeris nodded to the east. “Yes. I can no longer sense the energy trails from the airship. They are not far from here.”
Sephiroth turned and looked into the direction she had indicated. “I can see the wingtips of the airship. They have not left yet.”
Zack whooped. “Alright! Time to rustle us up some wayward fourth and friends!”
Sephiroth shook his head at Zack as Aeris giggled. “What we have to put up with.”
“Let's get him.”
Okay, just for you guys, here's a translation of names for all of you:
Myrkr - darkness, Nifl wolf
Thytr - howling, Nifl wolf
Varda - guard against, Nifl wolf
Skyn - knowledge, Nifl wolf
Daga - dawn, Nifl wolf
Gersta - to tease, chocobo, Zack
Otul - fierce/piercing, chocobo, Sephiroth
Lilja - lily, chocobo, Aeris
Drifa - drafting snow, Cloud's mother
Thrasir - stormer, Cloud's father
Styrandi - guider/ruler, blacksmith
smidr - smith, forge
thrir - three
hvelpr - whelp
lif-lauss - inanimate/lifeless