Dawn landed the ship down on the Gagazet path and helped Mizu check the reports, and Shinra with the fiend reports. While they were working on the fiend reports, the girls had hurried over to a secret opening in the side of the mountain. Pressing a small rock on the right, Buffy stepped back as a section of rock smoothly slid up.
The home of the Dragon Clan was much like Guadosalam, only bigger around and taller. A set of stairs led up six levels with stone railing around each level. Each level was painted a different color. The first level where the girls were standing had been painted brown. The second level was green. The third level was painted dark blue. The fourth level was white. The fifth level was black. And the sixth level was sky blue.
There were holes cut in the rock with wooden doors leading into the homes. There was one small Item/Weapon shop on the bottom floor right in the center. As the girls walked into the city Buffy was explaining the colors for each level. Brown equaled the Earth, green was for Forest, dark blue was for the Ocean. White was for all Life, black was for Death, and sky blue was for Peace.
Each Dragon chooses to live on a level that fit their life. For some of the ones who'd lost family two years before at Glory's hand, chose to live on the death level to show mourning. For the Dragons that were more in tune with the earth, they lived on the earth level. One's in tune with the forest and plants lived on the green level. The Dragons with the power of water lived on the ocean level; one's with no intention to fight lived on the peace level. And the new parents and their families lived on the life level.
For a long while Faith had lived on the Death level to mourn the loss of Harmony and Hallie, but moved down to the Forest level a year ago. Buffy led them to a small dark purple door and knocked, she said the purple door meant that Faith had learned the fiends' way of fighting. When the door opened Buffy latched on to Faith giving her a loving kiss before letting Willow and Tara inside.
Walking into Faith's home they saw a bookshelf full of different books on the left beside a door leading to a bedroom. There was a sofa in the middle of the room with a small end table on each side. And two small reclining chairs sat near the sofa with a small table beside each one. The back wall was covered in several different spears, swords, daggers, knives, and staffs, all very sharp and dangerous looking. The kitchen was on the right, with something cooking on the stove.
"So what brings ya'll here?" Faith asked as she sat down in one of the recliners with Buffy sitting in her lap.
Willow sat down and pulled Tara into her lap before she spoke, "We need your help."
Faith straightened up with a serious look on her face. "What's wrong?"
As the girls told Faith what was going on away from Gagazet, something very weird was going on in the airship. The printed out reports flew into the air and fell to the floor as Dawn jumped and screamed.
Mizu turned in her seat, and her eyes went wide as she ducked under her consol. Shinra had stood up in his seat to see what was going on, and immediately jumped down and slid under his consol. Dawn was frozen in place scared half to death, as the transparent form of Mythe struggled against unseen bonds.
After a few tries she gave up and turned her sad blue eyes to Dawn, she mouthed one word before she vanished. Dawn shakily walked to the pilots seat and sat down fighting the urge to call Buffy and crawl into her protective arms. But no she wouldn't do that she was a big girl now, and didn't need to call on her big sister every time something scared her. No she would wait with the two chickens that were still hiding.
Faith had stood and began to pace around the living room all the while thinking. Buffy had headed into the kitchen, closely followed by Tara, who was afraid she'd blow something up if she tried to cook. Willow heard Faith sigh just before sitting down, and look to her.
"Okay, problem number one: There's a huge machina on the lose, and you don't know where it is... and Yevon was hiding it." Faith said getting a nod from Willow. "Problem number two: A huge fiend is attacking, and killing the diggers in Bikanel." Again Willow nodded. "Problem three: The flow to the Farplane is blocked, and it needs to be stopped. Problem four: Fiends are pouring out of the temples, right?"
"You got it."
"Have I missed anything?"
"The Aeons, the dreams... and Omega Island."
"Forgot about them... Problem five: You've had to fight the Death Dragon, and Bahamut. You, Tara, and Buffy all had the same freaky dream. And there's a psycho island, with a nut-ball trapped and wanting to get out."
"Yep, that's about it."
"Well fuck! What in the name of Ifrit's Hellfire is going on!?"
Willow shook her head with a sigh. "That we don't know... both Meyvn Nooj and Praetor Baralai are now missing. So, there's no way to get any information from them, unless we find them. But finding them is not very high on our list at the moment. Baralai can become a fiend for all I care... and I really don't want to see Nooj anytime soon."
Faith nodded understanding what she was saying, after hearing everything she wasn't in the mood to meet them either. Standing up she eyed the weapons on the back wall for a moment before walking over.
She grabbed a six-foot long spear with a star shaped blade, and gold and blue feathers strapped below the blade. She opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of small brown and green diamond shaped arm armor, and strapped them on each wrist.
Opening the bottom drawer she pulled out a pair of silver and gold shin guards, and strapped them on. Grabbing a leather belt with two pouches on it she put it on, and set Potions, Antidotes, and other healing items in the pouches. Next she put her leather chest armor on and turned around with her weapon the Spirit Lance in hand, and nodded to Willow as Tara stepped out of the kitchen.
"Let's go save Spira!" Faith said smirking and made her way to the front door.
Buffy ran out of the kitchen eating a bowl of stew and grinned. Willow shook her head, as Buffy seemed in inhale the rest of the stew, then wash the bowl before following them outside. Faith spoke to the Clan Elder before leaving with the girls.
When they boarded the ship it was too quiet, by now they thought someone would be screaming at the others. Running up to the deck they found Dawn holding one of Willow's swords and one of Buffy's knives. Mizu and Shinra each had Al Bhed machine guns pointed at the center of the room, and all were shaking.
When they saw the girls they lowered their weapons, and began talking at the same time. With three voices franticly speaking the girls couldn't understand a word of what was being said. Getting enough of it Buffy shouted for them to quiet down, and speak one at a time.
"Spook! Spirit! Ghost!" Shinra shouted and pointed the gun toward the center of the room.
"Yeah! It appeared right there! Scared the hell out of me!" Mizu shivered.
"Not it! Her!" Dawn shouted "Lady Mythe!"
"Tell us what happened." Willow said gently as Dawn sat down.
"She was here." Dawn pointed to where Mythe had stood, "She was, um...struggling against something, and gave up. She looked at me and mouthed 'Help' and then was gone."
"I wonder what she meant? We know about the Farplane..." Faith said as she sat down on the floor next to Dawn.
"Maybe something more is going on, than we know?" Buffy asked confused and hugged her sister.
"First the Farplane is going bonkers, and now Mythe is asking for help... This is getting weird!" Willow said rubbing the small of Tara's back comforting her.
"You're right..." Tara slowly nodded then glanced at everyone. Mizu and Shinra had put their weapons up, and began working on their computers. Faith stood up and began pacing; Buffy was keeping an eye on Dawn as she started the ship and set course toward the Bikanel Desert.
Twenty-five miles from the Al Bhed camp in Bikanel Desert six men were digging in the sand, looking for machina parts, and other treasure. The men fell to their knees as the ground began to shake, and sand shot into the air and rained down on the men. They looked up and saw their death moving toward them as fast as a lightning bolt from the sky.
The ten-foot tall and nine-foot wide fiend hovered four-feet off the ground as it sped toward the diggers. It was dark gray and light brown, with a man's body molded into a section of a wall it was pulling behind it. Two decaying bodies with glowing red eyes, and foot-long tusks stuck out of their mouths, and orange and black armor sat on either side five-foot in front of the man.
A green magic shield surrounded the right body's hands as it raised them into the air. Black magic shot out of the middle body's hands toward the diggers, and froze three of them into place. A yellow magic shield surrounded the left body's hands as lightning fell from the sky, stunning them. The right body pointed its' hands and shot out a poisonous gas, causing two of the men to fall to the sand gasping for air.
One man was left to stand and got hit by an orange spell causing him to draw his sword, and in a rage walk over to the frozen men. Drawing his hand back he swung the sword beheading one, thrusting forward and twisting the sword he cut another in half. The third tried to plead with him but gave up when he realized the man was under a Berserk spell.
After severing the man's head he dropped the sword and fell next to the other bodies, as the poison mist surrounded his body. The giant fiend surveyed its work and sunk down under the sand and out of sight, as the last of the diggers died of poisoning. If anyone had been left alive they'd seen the sand rise up where the fiend was moving underground.
A half hour later the airship sat down near the desert camp Nhadala ran toward the opening cargo door to meet the girls. Everyone aboard the ship stepped outside and froze at the sight; the six diggers had been brought in fifteen minutes before.
The once white sheets wrapped around the bodies were soaked with blood, as was the sand around them. Shinra ran toward another boy dressed exactly like him, and fell into his arms. Dawn had latched on to Mizu as soon as she saw the bloody sheets, and cried.
"What happened?" Buffy asked not taking her eyes off the bodies lying on the ground.
"Dryd vilgehk fiend rybbahat!" (That fucking fiend happened!) Nhadala growled and glared out at the desert.
"Again?" Tara asked surprised.
"Yes, and I need your help. You see that boy holding Shinra?" she pointed over her shoulder and got a nod from the girls. "That's Benzo, Shinra's older brother... I need you to escort him to the Cactuar Nation and speak with Marnela, and to represent us."
"Okay, that we can do, and if we find the fiend that did this... we'll kill it!" Buffy said in a deadly voice as she walked toward Shinra and Benzo.
Benzo looked up and nodded. "Very nice to meet you."
"All right, the pilot knows where to take you. Good luck." Nhadala said and left.
Shinra sniffed as Mizu led him back to the ship, Dawn was already inside keeping the engine warm as she watched the hover leave. The pilot drove ten miles to the east and sat the hover down in-between four tall sand dunes. Benzo led the way a few feet as the girls were avoiding one cactus after another.
"Damn! It's cactus central out here! Where's is this Marnela, anyway?" Buffy asked looking around and seeing only more cacti.
"Right here." Benzo stopped in front of a tall and very old cactus.
"Huh?" Faith looked around as Buffy backed into the cactus and jumped as a needle poked her.
The cactus began moving back and forth squeaking like a chipmunk. "It talked?" Buffy backed up.
"What the hell?" Faith stared at the cactus. "I know I've seen some weird things... but this is ridiculous!"
Benzo grinned shaking his head, "I'll translate... Hello, Benzo and sphere hunters. I am Marnela of the Cactuar Nation. It does not surprise me that you are startled. We, the cacti of this Nation, were once cactuars. The cacti that sprout in the desert grow and become cactuars, and when they mature they once again become cacti. And we have watched over the sands of Bikanel since the dawn of time. Tell me, do you believe this?"
The girls looked wide-eyed at the giant cacti before Tara nodded. "Yes, we believe you."
"Thank you." Benzo translated. "She's ready to tell us why she called us here." He looked up and began speaking again. "Strange things have been happening in the desert as of late. All of you may have felt the sands trembling beneath your feet. A fearsome fiend called 'Angra Mainyu' has begun to stir, and wreak havoc near here. For every life it takes it gathers strength, and it will not be long before it attacks the Cactuar Nation. It seeks vengeance, for it was we, who locked it away beneath the dunes so very long ago. Or to be more precise, it was not us, but our ancestors who ruled this land at that time. This is where you come in, I need you to find the cactuars known as the 'Ten Gatekeepers' and bring them here. They are the only ones who can weave a magical barrier, for us to summon the 'Great Haboob'. Please, take these, they will lead you to the gatekeepers, and glow when you are near."
A bright green glow surrounded the giant cactus as ten green spheres lowered to the ground in front of the girls. Willow kneeled down and picked up the palm size sphere and found it warm to the touch, nodding she picked the others up, and placed them in her pouch.
"How do we use them?" Tara asked looking from Benzo to Marnela.
"The sphere will glow brighter as you get closer, just touch the spot where the sphere is glowing brightest, and the gatekeeper will appear. He or she will take the sphere and return here."
"Thank you." Willow said to the cactus and followed the others as they approached the hover.
"Finally! I thought you'd never leave!" Picket said floating over to the girls.
With the spheres in her pocket Willow helped Tara on to the hover glaring at Picket, causing Tara and Buffy to laugh, and Faith to wonder what was going on. The pilot shook his head and drove back to the camp; Benzo spoke with Shinra, as the girls talked with Nhadala. They told her what was going on, and asked her to keep the diggers out of the desert. With everyone in agreement the girls entered the ship and spread the spheres out on a table.
Dawn pointed to one that was softly glowing and gaped as something appeared. Faith picked it up and turned it around studying it.
"It says: Lobivia-Oasis."
"There's only one oasis around here... It has to be there." Buffy said as the ship rose into the air.
Willow remembered waking up in the oasis two years before and looked out the window. Feeling a pair of arms wrap around her waist she leaned back against Tara and sighed.
"What's wrong?" Tara asked kissing Willow's earlobe.
"Nothing... just remembering." Turning around she cupped Tara's face and gently kissed her before laying her head on her shoulder.
As the ship hovered over the oasis the sphere glowed brightly, picking it up Buffy nodded and Dawn sat the ship down.
"Yeah, you can kiss later, we have work to do!" Faith grinned and followed Buffy to the cargo door.
Buffy turned in every direction when she reached the small pond of water, and sighed. The sphere glowed the brightest when she faced the water, hoping against all hope she touched the sphere to the water and jumped back. Everyone went for their weapons as the ground shook, and the water glowed bright green. They relaxed when a foot-tall cactuar appeared with the sphere, and disappeared again.
"That's it?" Faith asked shaking her head. "He could have at the very least thanked us."
"Couldn't have understood him, anyway." Willow said turning toward the airship.
"True, but still!"
"Where now?" Dawn asked over the intercom after the cargo door closed.
"We'd better check Besaid. I'm worried about Anya and the baby." Tara said getting nods all around.
The airship shot up and headed toward Besaid Island, no one saw the giant fiend rise out of the sand behind the ship. Angra Mainyu watched the ship disappear into the distance before it sunk back under the sand, and waited.