"Waiting for Pain"
DUO: Sheesh, nothing’s happening! I thought they were
planning to jump straight into another chapter again?
They’ll hear you!
DUO: I was just wondering--
WUFEI: Do you
them to get to the part where I’m being tortured?!
not really, but they did promise not to kill you.
WUFEI: And they also
said I might wish they had. No thanks!
You want some more relationship progress, don’t you?
looks down at his hands and twiddles his fingers. Wufei glares at him. Duo
starts twiddling his braid instead.]
WUFEI: ...All right, damn it, I’ll
talk to the onnas!
KRASHNARK: You’re willing to get tortured for him but
you won’t even kiss
WUFEI: Duo doesn’t insult me.
Yeah, and I respect him in the morning!
KRASHNARK: ...I think you’ll be
much happier if I just ignore that comment, right?
KRASHNARK: Which shows I do
care about your feelings. And
I’ve stopped insulting you!
WUFEI: You still have a long way to go before
there is any
possibility of me regarding you as anything other than
‘someone to be very wary of’. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and organise
my own painful near-death. *sigh*
DUO: Thanks, ‘Fei, you’re the
KRASHNARK (watching Wufei’s rear as he walks away): *sigh*
Definitely. ...Hmm. I don’t suppose you could give me any pointers?
Well, if you’re serious about wanting to be nice to him now, instead of
complaining every time the onnas want to write you as being
I promise, I’ve learned my lesson!
Here as well as in the story!
DUO: In that case, go talk to Quatre. He
put Heero on the right track. Just don’t expect him to go easy on
[Meanwhile, Wufei has stalked into the computer room, where Christy
is staring at the screen and fiddling idly with the mouse.]
right, get on with it!
CHRISTY: Hmm? What?
Torture. Of me, specifically. Come on, you’re usually enthusiastic about
CHRISTY: Oh, that! We’re going to start in maybe half an hour, as
soon as Mel gets online.
So... what took so
CHRISTY: Her boyfriend was visiting her in Japan. She finds it a
little hard to concentrate on writing torture while snuggling with her
Errr, yes, I can see how that might be
distracting. Well, since you seem to have things under control I’ll just be
CHRISTY: Actually, since you seem to be actually interested
in this chapter, you can stay here and help us make it worse-- errrrr,
?! No, hold on, I--
[There’s a ‘bong’
noise from the computer.]
CHRISTY: Yahoo! Mel’s awake! ON WITH THE
Demon of Justice
Krashnark seethed, pacing back and forth
in the area of the Dark Gods’ realm that was loosely defined as his ‘quarters’,
glowing a pale red. Random items of furniture appeared out of the swirling mist
around him, twisted and distorted by the force of his rage, lasting only seconds
before evaporating again or being destroyed.
“That filth,” he snarled to
himself, smashing a small table to one side. “That worthless little
! If he thinks our lord father will protect him from me, he’s
wrong. I’ll crush him the way Wufei would crush one of his precious bugs if it
dared to scuttle out from under its rock!”...Once I’m strong enough
to do it and block him from taking revenge in the mortal world, that
Anger gave way to worry as he turned to stare at the glassy,
shimmering spot in midair that he used to watch Wufei when he wasn’t actually
hovering invisible at the human/demon’s side. Behind him, the roiling chaos
began to settle down into the usual pattern he shaped his ‘rooms’ into as he
concentrated his will on the shimmer, trying to force it to show something other
than the vague green-streaked darkness it was reflecting.I shouldn’t
have used so much of my power making that link for him,
he berated himself.
I should have done it some other time, not the night before he went into a
battle against my idiot brother’s forces. Or I should have cut it off sooner,
instead of hanging on as long as I could maintain it. But he seemed so happy,
talking to his friend... and I was sure I had Sharna cowed! Where in
Krahana’s hells did he find the courage to defy me like that?!
very least I should have realised before now that I had so little power
available, curse it!
Scowling, Krashnark sent another pulse of power
into the floating shimmer, and growled as even that tiny expense of energy made
his glowing aura dim slightly. After effectively ignoring it for several hundred
years, he finally had a reason to regret neglecting his church.They
were boring, it’s true,
he thought sourly, but boredom is no reason to
neglect a duty. I stopped paying attention to the priests... four hundred years
ago? Longer? They all seemed to be the same, cowering and fearful and crawling
before me, begging for scraps of my power. They reminded me of my brother, damn
it! Then, after my last Champions died, there wasn’t anyone else who appealed to
me, so I ignored the mortals except when there was a major war happening. The
church still exists, if smaller, but... when did they stop really praying
He still had his own strength, of course; the strength that
made him his father’s second-in-command instead of his older brother Fiendark,
the strength that he could have sent to Wufei to use against his enemies if the
annoyingly honourable little demon had just accepted his place as Krashnark’s
destined Champion. He would have noticed quickly enough if anything had happened
to that! But the power that came from prayer, the power that he could use to do
things only a god could do, things where he didn’t
have a Champion to use
as a conduit -- the power he could have used to stop Sharna from cutting Wufei
off from his
power -- hadn't been there when he’d needed it. He’d had
only the barest fraction of what should have been available, and he’d used it
all up... and there was no-one involved in the fight who was even slightly
inclined to worship him, so now that he was cut off from the anchor that Wufei
would have provided, he couldn’t even go there in person to
seems to have plenty, the little worm,” he snarled,
glaring at the faint acid-green smears across his scrying illusion. “Enough to
help his priests summon demons. Enough to trap my
chosen. Enough to stop
me from even seeing what’s happening to him!”I will wait,
decided grimly, forming a chair out of the mists with a flick of thought and
settling into it, eyes fixed on the shimmer. I will wait, and see if
Torframos’s Champions can save my Champion. And when it is all over, I
will take full and proper payment for every drop of blood, every moment of pain
he suffers, out of my worthless little brother’s hide!
* * * *
“I’m serious, Heero, I just know it! Wufei’s
Heero blinked and wrapped his arms tighter around the
braided teen’s shoulders. “Duo, it was just a dream,” he repeated.
“I know it was a dream!” Duo interrupted, raising his head to
look him in the eye. “But it was still real! A true dream! We talked! Touched!
He was surprised by my brace!”
“Dreams can be like that. Your
Duo put two fingers across the Japanese teen’s lips,
silencing him. “I know
what your mind can do in dreams, and I know this
sounds crazy... but it was real
Heero sighed, then gently pulled
Duo’s hand away from his mouth. “Okay. Convince
“Convince me. I know you
, Duo, and I know
you’re not crazy... no matter how much you may pretend, sometimes,” he added
dryly, settling back against the pillows and pulling Duo against his chest.
“Whatever convinced you, it’s got to be pretty good.” I hope!
Duo relaxed and let Heero hold his weight. “Well, it started
with another nightmare about ‘Fei getting blown away. Then something
and it was like I was floating, with mist and stuff all around. I
started talking to myself--"
“As you do,” Heero interrupted,
“--and the next thing, I heard Wufei say ‘Duo?’,” the
long-haired teen continued, jabbing Heero in the stomach with his elbow without
losing a beat. “We both thought it was some sort of freaky dream, at first, but
we could actually feel
each other... like you felt me just now. Ha. Then
he brought up the brace, and the new t-shirt, and asked why he would dream about
me in things he’d never seen before. He said he thought it was too ‘concrete’ to
be an ordinary dream.”
There was a slight pause while Duo thought about
how best to put the next bit. He didn’t think telling Heero that a god had
turned up and spoken to them both would help the story’s credibility. It didn’t
feel good to keep anything from his boyfriend, but maybe if he just left that
bit out? It’s not like lying, after all... just, ah, ‘editing for
Ugh. Still feels bad.
He sighed, and went on.
“Wufei’s exact words were, ‘If this is my dream, why would I invent a leg brace
and a new t-shirt for you? If this is your
dream, why would I -- a
figment of your imagination -- be surprised by them? Either one of us is
dreaming far more imaginatively than normal, or--' Then he told me to smell him.
Heero, he smelled like grass and woodsmoke.”
Heero blinked. “I don’t see
“Think about it,” Duo interrupted impatiently. “Have you ever
smelled anything in a dream? Really
smelled it, I mean, instead of just
knowing how something should
smell, or waking up to find out that the
smell was in the air where you were and just got incorporated into the
“That’s... a valid point,” Heero said slowly. “And if the Doctors
are correct, and he’s been pulled into a different leg of the ‘trousers of
time’,” he continued, getting a snicker from Duo, “then it is
that, thanks to some lingering connection to this world, he might be able to
contact you when your mental barriers were down for sleep. Still, that would
almost certainly take incredible amounts of energy! Where did that come
“Pleased to hear you saying ‘did’ and not ‘would’,” Duo said
lightly, covering an inward wince as he mentally deleted any mention of gods and
magic from the story. Plausible but not a lie, plausible but not a lie...
“Well, we spent more time discussing what happened to everyone than how we were
managing to have the conversation. If we’re talking theoretically
said carefully, “what about the energy from the gun? That was a pretty
cataclysmic sort of thing, you know; there was enough from that to do just about
anything, I’ll bet, and the Doctors said it came from the ‘trouser fabric’. What
if he could draw on that? Maybe it never really left him?”
plausible,” Heero agreed, nodding. “Given a source of energy and a ‘connection’,
for want of a better term, and the oddities of the dream itself, I’d have to
agree that it’s possible... and I certainly can’t prove it’s not
thought for a moment longer, frowning, and then shrugged. “All right. I’m at
least provisionally convinced.”
Duo sighed happily, then winced again at
the next question.
“So, did he say where he is? What it’s like?
“Um... he said he was okay. He ended up in some sort of
mediaeval-type world,” the injured boy said, thinking fast and editing out all
the unbelievable parts. “There are knights and peasants... no guns or
anything... he said they even thought he and Shenlong were demons at first. But
he’s met some good people. Some of them aren’t human, though -- he said
something about them having a few non-human intelligent species! They have
different languages, of course, but he’s catching on quick. He said it’s really
interesting, and that I’d love it there.” A soft sigh escaped him.
hugged him closer. “You really miss him, don’t you?”
“Yeah, a lot,” Duo
nodded. “He told me not to miss him so much I screw up what I’ve got, though!”
He turned slightly, snuggling against Heero’s chest, and went on after a few
moments. “He’s my best friend... like the brother I never had. Like Solo was,
kind of. I could tell him anything. He may not have shown it to you guys, but he
always had time for me. He read to me when I couldn’t sleep, listened when I
bitched about Relena, commiserated, cheered me up when things went wrong... he
even gave me advice about you.”
“About me?!” Heero asked,
The other teen chuckled. “Yeah. He’d tell me when I was being
an idiot, throwing myself at you or whatever. He said to be more subtle; you
already had Relena stalking you, and you didn’t need me to join the Scary
Brigade. Oh! He was totally
shocked at Relena’s turnaround. He said that
her giving up on you and being nice to me was less plausible than anything that
had happened to him!”
Heero laughed along with his boyfriend, then
sobered. “Do you think this will happen again? This real dream?”
shook his head sadly. “I don’t think so. It felt like a one-time
The Japanese teen pressed a comforting kiss to Duo’s temple. “It’s
early, but not too early,” he said, changing the subject. “Do you want to stay
up, or try to get a little more sleep?”
“Maybe sleep a little more? Like
this, if it’s okay. I’m comfortable.”
“It’s fine, Duo. I’m comfortable
too. Go to sleep.”
Silence descended on the room, and ten minutes later
Heero thought the other teen had drifted back to sleep. He closed his eyes,
trying to digest everything Duo had told him. Part of him stubbornly refused to
accept that Duo could have received a mental message from another world --
technically a completely different reality
-- in his sleep... but
another, even more stubborn part of his mind insisted that this was Duo
Duo was not crazy, or gullible, or stupid, and therefore there had to be some
concrete truth behind his conviction...
It was a difficult concept to
grasp, and he could tell it was going to take him some time to
“Heero... are you still awake?”
“Yes, Duo, is there
“Um... will you help me to the bathroom? I have to
* * * * *
Vaijon leaned back against the rough wall where
he’d been chained, panting slightly. Their captors had forced the
knight-probationer and armsmen to run at what would have been their best speed
if their arms hadn’t
been bound tightly behind them, and he’d fallen
several times, only to be yanked roughly to his feet and forced
“Not precisely the way we want to enter a Dark God’s temple, is
it, Sir Vaijon?” Karthan muttered almost absent-mindedly from his place next to
the blond human, craning his neck and peering towards the other side of the
good-sized chamber. “Sword in hand and together with a lot more of the Order’s
fighting men would be better, I think...”Myself leading the charge, a
Champion glowing with the God’s fire,
thought Vaijon automatically, a
lifetime’s fantasies supplying the way it should
have been; he grimaced,
dismissing the thought, and tugged experimentally at his manacles. “Even if I
had my sword right now, it wouldn’t be doing me much good,” he muttered back
bitterly, trying to flex his burned right hand and not having much success. “I
should have tried to pull that thing off him with my off hand, not my
“How is it?”
“It doesn’t hurt,” Vaijon said
shortly. “I’d feel better if it did.”
The dwarf glanced up at the white,
seared flesh and winced sympathetically. “Well, if we get out of this with our
skins more-or-less intact, Sir Uthmar and Sir Arwen should be able to do
something for it. Assuming they can fight their way through to us in time, that
is... or if we can do something for ourselves.”
Vaijon gave one last,
futile yank at the chain holding him to the wall and sagged, blowing out his
breath with a sigh. The damn thing didn’t even rattle
, curse it, it was
so heavy and well-greased against rust that it just clanked dully. “Quite
frankly, Sir Karthan, and yes I know you’re not a knight but you are
voice of experience here... I am completely
There was a faint, pained chuckle from his other side.
“First thing I’ve heard you say that didn’t sound like you had the family banner
up yer arse, flagpole an’ all,” Jens grunted, shifting to ease the roughly
bandaged wound in his shoulder. “May be there’s hope for you yet...
The knight-probationer stiffened, mouth opening for an automatic
freezing rebuke... and then stopped.I am probably going to die,
he admitted to himself, staring blindly across the chamber, past the twenty or
so assassins who had brought them in, at the huge stone scorpion looming over
the blood-caked altar. Soon. Not gloriously, or heroically, or even
peacefully. I am going to die badly, and Sharna will eat my soul. Why
waste my last moments snarling at one of the only people here who isn’t
going to cheer the priests on, just because he isn’t giving me the respect due
my birth and position? As if that matters right now!
circumstances, Jens,” he said, a little stiffly, “I’m going to take that as a
sort of warped, back-handed, possibly sarcastic compliment. Thank you. Would you
happen to have anything a little more constructive to contribute, perhaps on the
subject of how we get out
of here? We can return to the question of
flagpoles when we have a little more free time.”
Jens gaped incredulously
at him, but quiet sputtering sounds from the other side of the human armsman
indicated that the other members of the party were appreciating the
“Gods save us, Gunnar’s rubbing off on him, too...”
have a bit of an idea,” Karthan whispered tensely, ignoring the byplay. “Can you
see where they’ve taken Wufei? It’s not going to work without him, and I can’t
reach him through our link.”
At six foot four inches in height, Vaijon
had the best view of anyone in the group, and he nodded grimly as he looked back
towards the altar. “I can see him,” he said quietly, “and I think you’d better
come up with a different plan...”
* * * * *
muttered, flopping back on the bed. "I was sure
I’d do it
“This is nothing for you to upset yourself over, Mister
Maxwell. Your knee is just not ready to bend yet, that’s all,” Dr. Modi said
calmly, patting the braided teen’s good leg.
“I almost did it yesterday,
and almost did it this morning, and almost
did it just now! Why won’t it
cooperate?!” Duo pouted.
The doctor chuckled and waved to the brand-new
forearm crutches standing proudly next to the bed. “I am quite sure you will
manage it soon. Now, since your magnificent custom crutches have arrived, and
the incision has stabilised sufficiently to survive any minor accidental strains
you may put on it as you swing your way around, why don’t you take a walk around
the hospital? Perhaps you could buy your Mister Yui a cup of coffee in the
cafeteria?” he said with a smile. “I promise you, the cafeteria food is of a far
higher standard than the patient breakfasts...”
“You mean I can hobble
anywhere I want?” the teenager asked, pout turning into a grin as he reached for
the matte black crutches, covered in silver lightning bolts and
“As long as I have your word that you will put absolutely
weight on that leg during your travels,” the older man replied,
walking towards the door and opening it.
“You got a deal, Doc! Hey,
Heero, get in here and help me put my sweats on! We’re going for a walk!” he
called through the doorway.
The doctor nodded politely to the Japanese
teen as they passed in the doorway, and continued down the hall towards his next
patient examination. Back in the room, Heero opened Duo’s bag, pulled out a pair
of sweat pants and started helping his boyfriend into them.
haven’t told me to pack your bag, I assume we’re not leaving today?”
braided teen sighed. “No, this stupid leg just doesn’t want to cooperate yet.”
He brightened. “But the doc said I could wander around, so I’m taking you down
to the cafeteria and buying you a coffee or something. Consider it our first
Heero blinked. “Okay... uh, Relena, Quatre and Trowa should be
here soon. I’ll just leave a note on the door, telling them to come find us.”
One scribbled note later, he was following Duo as the American pilot swung
merrily off down the hall.Our first date, huh?
watching his boyfriend carefully, ready to grab him at any sign of unsteadiness.
Not exactly the most romantic place... but it is a
He never realised there was a small smile on his
Quatre sighed as he and Trowa stepped into the
cafeteria, shortly before 3pm. “I was hoping we could bring him home today,” he
said, a small frown on his face. “You know how depressed he gets when he’s
cooped up...” His voice trailed off in surprise as Duo’s cheerful laughter
floated across the nearly empty room.
“He certainly doesn’t sound
depressed,” Trowa replied, smirking as he led his blond lover over to the table
in the back corner. “Good afternoon, Duo. I see the poor doctor has had enough
and banished you to this dungeon.”
“Yeah, it’s pure torture! Forced to
drink this slop they call coffee! Fate worse than death, I tell you,” the
braided teen said, chuckling. “Better than their icky fake vitamin-fortified OJ,
but still a fate worse than death. Plus, my jailer,” he motioned to Heero,
“forced a slice of apple pie on me. Terrible, just terrible!”
this jailer thinks we should head back to your room,” Heero said, helping Duo
out of the chair and handing him the crutches. “The previously wicked queen will
probably be along soon, and we don’t want to have that meeting out in
“Especially not if she makes good on her threat to kidnap me and
you have to kick her ass,” Duo nodded solemnly, negotiating his way between
tables. “Wouldn’t that
look good on a front page or
Quatre was left speechless, staring after the Japanese boy as he
walked out beside Duo. Trowa chuckled and nudged him forwards, breaking him out
of his daze.
“You’re not hallucinating, Quatre. That really is
Heero Yui. New, improved model, with a visible sense of humour...”
just shook his head and followed the other
“Duo! Should you be up?” Relena exclaimed,
dropping part of a stack of folders as she nearly bumped into him outside the
room. “Is your leg all right? You’re not overexerting yourself, are
“Calm down, Pretty!” he said, carefully manoeuvring around the
fallen papers and swinging across to the bed. “It’s okay. Doctor Modi said it’s
fine for me to wander around now, so long as I stay off the leg. Come on in and
Heero crouched down and started gathering the folders up,
nodding for Relena to go in.
“I think we’ve missed something there too,
Trowa,” Quatre said under his breath.
“Looks that way... and I can’t wait
to find out what,” his lover whispered back, before crossing the room and
settling into a chair.
Heero dropped his burden on the wheeled table,
pushed it over next to Relena, and perched on the edge of the bed next to Duo.
“So, what exactly do you need our advice on?” he asked calmly, without any of
the wariness he usually showed when the ‘Pink Princess’ was
“Quite a few things, actually, but the most important one is the
question of some sort of policing agency for the whole Earth Sphere,” she said,
opening a folder and passing around papers. “We’re setting up a sort of
parliamentary or congressional system for the government, where regions on Earth
and each colony will have representatives. In the future, of course, they’ll be
properly elected to their positions by their region’s people, but we’ve already
got a temporary structure in place, made up of surviving pre-Alliance rulers and
politicians... and they’re already arguing. Some want a military force, with
anywhere up to wartime-level powers. Others want a civilian police force, less
power but in fancier uniforms -- in fact, some want a police force that’s so
watered down that we might as well use them as school crossing guards, because
they certainly won’t be able to do anything more useful! The rest of us want
something in the middle...”
“Like a paramilitary
Heero put in. “A force that could handle terrorist threats, and small military
forces, yet not be an actual army.”
“I agree,” Quatre nodded. “Especially
if it’s run with the proper emphasis on...”
Duo lost track of the
conversation almost immediately. He had a niggling feeling that something was
badly wrong, but what that ‘something’ was, he had no idea. His leg wasn’t
bothering him, there were no missions to worry about, Relena’s presence was no
longer a teeth-grinding annoyance or
a security threat... so what could
* * * * *
Wufei spent most of the hurried journey to the
hidden temple slung over a brawny human’s shoulder, dangling head-down,
struggling just to breathe and stay conscious. The barbed chain wound around him
had somehow blocked his newly-formed links to Karthan and Nataku, and the cold
fire running along it was slowly burning into him, sapping his strength until he
could barely twitch a finger. And when he did
manage to move, slowly
working one hand out from under a loop, it shifted as if it were alive, coiling
back around his wrist and digging hooks into his skin.Magic,
thought painfully, thoughts moving as sluggishly as if he’d been concussed.
Obvious magic. And since there isn’t a god yelling in my ear... I think he’s
blocked too. Which means... this has to be his brother’s
Several minutes of slow thought later, it occurred to him that
perhaps he wasn’t completely cut off from his ‘godly stalker’. He’d become so
used to trying not
to think his name, but
=*He can’t help you now,*=
gloating voice said in his mind, higher-pitched than Krashnark’s low tenor but
otherwise similar. =*My big brother,*=
he went on, putting
sarcastic emphasis on the words, =*thinks he can order me around, but he
doesn’t even have the power to break through my shield to see you, let
alone save you. I might let him watch as my priest tortures you to death,
Wufei’s thoughts froze for a moment in shock, before a
wave of cold fury drove away the haze clouding his mind. Wonderful,
thought acidly. Childish sibling rivalry on a grand scale. ‘You keep hitting
me, so I’m going to break your toys’, is it? Could you possibly be any more
He could feel Sharna’s mind recoil in startlement for a
moment. =*You-- who do you think you are?!*=
the god sputtered
eventually. =*How dare you speak to me like that?! You’ll be begging for
mercy in a few minutes, and--*=
As if grovelling would make you treat me
Wufei snapped back. You’re planning to have me tortured to
death and you want me to be polite to you?! Your brother’s right; you’re
=*You-- what-- I'm a god!*=
And I should care
about that fact... why?
he answered, mental ‘voice’ dripping sarcasm.
Hmm. You don’t sound as much like Krashnark as I thought you did at first. He
doesn’t sputter. Or whine.
One last angry, incoherent noise,
and the sense of Sharna’s presence was gone.Duo’s been a bad
influence on me,
Wufei thought, anger fading into exhaustion. I really
have to stop insulting every god I meet; it’s becoming a
Considering his situation, it was impressive that it only took
about ten seconds before he did a mental double-take at that
As he passed through the hidden entrance to
the underground temple, ducking his head in a sketchy reverence to the scorpion
carved into the stone above the door, the assassin carrying Wufei used the
movement to glance warily back at his limp burden. People marked for sacrifice,
being carried semi-conscious into the temple where they are to die, are not
usually snickering quietly to themselves...
been brought in with a little more consideration for his physical well-being
than the members of the Order of Torframos had received -- the idea being to
keep him in as good condition as possible until the moment when the ceremony of
sacrifice started -- so they travelled faster, and were already chained in a
line to the back wall of the central chamber when he was carried in and
stretched out on the altar. Vaijon was taller than anyone else in the room, and
the chamber had been carefully designed so that everyone within it had a good
chance of getting a good view of whatever ‘entertainment’ was in progress, so he
had no problem seeing exactly what was going on... and it wasn’t
“I think you’d better come up with a different plan,
Uthmar,” he said quietly. “One that doesn’t require Sir Wufei’s participation.
That chain doesn’t seem to have burned him the way it did me,” his hand
twitched, “and he’s certainly alive, but... he doesn’t seem to be truly
conscious. Or as strong as usual,” he added, voice dropping to a puzzled
The high priest had two acolytes (or minor priests, or perhaps
just random cultists dressed in fancy robes -- Vaijon didn’t know how to tell
the various grades of Sharna’s priesthood apart and didn’t really want to learn,
beyond the basic recognition required for ‘evil cultist, kill’) holding Wufei
still as he carefully unwound and rearranged the barbed chain, moving it so that
his arms and legs were free while taking scrupulous care to always have at least
one loop of it around his neck or torso. The men holding him had probably been
chosen for strength more than piety, and were gripping his wrists and ankles
tightly enough for their white knuckles to be obvious even from where the
prisoners stood, but it was also obvious that they weren’t really necessary;
Wufei’s eyes were glazed, almost closed, and the few movements he made were weak
“He’s acting like someone who’s taken a solid blow to
the head,” Vaijon went on, “and I know that didn’t happen, so--"
has to be under a spell,” Karthan finished for him, sagging slightly. “Bound
into that chain, no doubt, and also probably the reason why I can’t contact him
through our link. Damn. That does
scuttle my idea... unless they’re going
to take the spell off him once they have him chained down, to make him
experience the ceremony ‘properly’.”
The blond knight-probationer raised
an eyebrow, inviting further explanation. “Since I doubt they’ll remove the
spell unless he’s restrained so securely even he
won’t be able to break
free, I fail to see how that will help.”
“I don’t need his physical
participation,” Karthan told him, dropping his voice to a bare whisper so as to
not be overheard. “I just need his attention... and the link. If we can’t
re-establish our link, this idea really is
doomed.”And so are
we, if we don’t come up with something else,
Vaijon noted privately. Sliding
down the wall to crouch on his heels, manacles pulling his arms up over his
head, he did his best to look like someone who was just trying to find a
comfortable position and brought his ear closer to Karthan’s mouth. “Even a
flawed plan is at least a start... and I have, as yet, no ideas at all,” he
admitted dryly. Some random impulse made him glance up at Jens, remembering the
‘family banner’ comment, and a faint smile quirked his mouth as he switched into
his best Court accent. “I pray thee of thy courtesy, good Sir Karthan, do
Focussed on the need to get free before Sharna’s worshippers
could really get started, Karthan managed to take that comment with only a
filthy glare and a few violent beard-twitches before starting to
Despite Wufei’s best intentions -- and
previous practice at escaping from seemingly hopeless situations -- he wasn’t
coordinated enough to take advantage of the moment when his bearer laid him down
on the altar, the hooked chain loosened slightly, and the men responsible for
restraining him hadn’t yet taken hold.And even if I were coordinated
enough, right now I’m so weak that Une would be able to hold me down,
he thought sourly, trying to kick the man holding his ankles and managing
absolutely nothing. Alone. Without her glasses on!
I can’t even
The hands holding him abruptly pulled,
spread-eagling him, and he could feel someone else fumbling at his wrists and
ankles; a cold hand dropped to touch the chain where it was still looped around
his throat, someone muttered something under their breath, and he could abruptly
see and feel clearly again. His first convulsive move made it clear that he’d
been solidly bound in place, though, and he slowly allowed himself to relax,
glaring at the robed man smiling thinly down at him. The links are still
he realised. I could probably break loose using the ‘extra’
strength my link to Nataku gives me, but... I don’t have it right now. Luckily
“Good morning, my lord demon,” the man said
pleasantly, spreading his hands. “Welcome to the House of the
Wufei paused for barely a second before he smiled nastily
back. Oh, why not? It’s better than doing what they expect, begging for mercy
or acting nobly defiant--
“You really should be more careful who you invite
in, you know,” he said calmly, noting the slight flicker of surprise in the
priest’s eyes with a certain amount of satisfaction. “I killed the last person I
saw dressed like you.”
“So I’ve heard.” The priest recovered his
composure quickly, tucking his hands into his flowing sleeves and nodding. “My
lord Sharna is a trifle... annoyed
with you for that, shall we
“He’s throwing a childish shit fit, you mean,” was the blunt reply.
“From what I’ve heard, he does that a lot. Don’t you get tired of
“You are determined to be as irritating as possible, aren’t you?”
the robed man asked in an amused voice, wisely ignoring the last
“It gives me some personal satisfaction, and can’t really make
my situation any worse, can it?” Wufei flicked his hands in a sort of
abbreviated shrug, accompanied by a dull rattle from the heavy chains attached
to his manacles. Behind the priest, he could see the dark-clad men who had
captured his group slowly filtering out of the room, replaced by an equal number
of men who seemed to be bulkier, on average, and with more visible weapons, but
who somehow struck him as less dangerous. The heavily-armed ones are
soldier-types, as opposed to... hm. Spies and assassins?
He nearly laughed.
Of course they seem more dangerous to me; they’re the local equivalent of
terrorists and guerrillas. My equivalent!
point!” the priest agreed cheerfully, drawing Wufei’s attention back to the
conversation. He turned away for a moment, pushing up his sleeves as he examined
something one of his assistants was holding out, but kept talking. “I have to
admit that your attitude is a refreshing change, really. Normally, people in
your position seem to think that not only could things get worse if they say the
wrong thing, things could get better
if they say the right
he mused, hand hovering over the contents of a tray for a moment before he
nodded and made his choice. “I have to put up with a lot of useless begging and
pleading for mercy, and it’s nice to have something different to listen to for
once... though I’m sure we’ll get to the begging and pleading eventually, of
course,” he sighed, turning back towards Wufei with a short knife in his
“Shall we get started?” he asked brightly, cold eyes and thin smile
making an unpleasant contrast to the false warmth in his voice. “I hate to cut
this conversation short, but my lord Sharna doesn’t like to be kept
“Are you getting anywhere?” Vaijon hissed,
glancing down at Karthan. The shuffling worshippers were clustering nearer to
the altar, beginning to settle to their knees, and no-one seemed to be paying
any attention to the ‘extra’ prisoners any more; since there was no longer any
need to keep their voices down to bare whispers, he was standing up for a better
view again. “They’ve taken the spell off, at least partly -- he seems to be
properly awake again -- but I don’t think that’s going to last!”
,” Karthan gritted out, eyes squeezed shut as he mentally hammered
at the closed link. Wufei? Wufei! Can you hear me?
“Is the chain still on
.” So much for this idea,
thought darkly. Well, all I can do is keep trying and hope Uthmar and Arwen
get here in time... Wufei! Answer me, damn you! Wufei!
last couple of assassins slipped quietly out of the chamber, glancing uneasily
behind them as they left, and Vaijon twisted to watch them go. “Where are they
off to?” he muttered, half to himself. “I’d expect them to be in the front row,
gloating over being the ones who caught us...”
“The dog brothers’re
assassins, not cultists,” Jens said tiredly, shrugging his good shoulder.
“Sharna may be their patron god, an’ they may do dirty work for his church, but
they don’t worship
the bastard, not really. They kill, but they don’t
torture; I hear they charge extra if you want them to kill someone slow
instead’a just shootin’ them.”
“Ah.” Vaijon digested that for a moment,
then nodded towards the men who had replaced the assassins. “So they
cultists.” The armsman spat on the floor in front
of him, scowling. “The sort that want
to live in a hidden temple
instead’a in a city, ‘cause that’s where the sacrifices happen. I’d say these’re
the temple guard; the assassins’ll be swapping with ‘em so they can get in
“Ah. I, ah, I see,” Vaijon said, a little sickly. There was a
brief pause, and then he burst out with, “No. No, I don’t
see. They want
to watch people die that much?!”
“You’ve made it to knight-probationer
and you don’t know
this stuff?” someone muttered incredulously on Jens’s
other side, and Vaijon blushed fiery red.
“They don’t want to just
people die,” Jens explained carefully, looking at the blond with
something like pity. “They want a taste
of ‘em.” Seeing Vaijon’s
horrified expression, he nodded. “They don’t call their sacrifices ‘Feasts of
Sharing’ f’no reason. Sir. Sharna gets the soul, an’ these bastards--” he jerked
his chin at the worshippers, mouth twisting as if he wanted to spit again “--get
Vaijon swallowed hard a few times and then nodded, a bit
jerkily but still polite. “I see,” he repeated numbly. “Thank you.” Glancing one
more time at Karthan’s tense face, he went back to watching the group around the
altar, sending a silent but heartfelt prayer to Torframos as he
“Unfortunately, I won’t have the opportunity to
show you my best
work,” the priest sighed, discarding the last shred of
Wufei’s clothing and handing the knife back to his assistant as he ran his eyes
appraisingly over the bared flesh before him. “Given a strong subject, I can
make a sacrifice last for days
, but in your case I have to balance the
desire to extract every bit of power against the need to finish before those two
Champions come knocking down my door-- oh, I see you’ve done this before!” he
laughed, fingertip tracing the thin scars left by an OZ sergeant’s knife on
Wufei’s stomach. “Someone else got to you first... what a pity!”
you’d consider him to be in your league,” the human/demon said evenly, keeping
revulsion and anger out of his expression with an effort.
“No doubt,” he
agreed, turning away to consider the tray of knives again. “Did you kill him
“A friend did me that favour.”
“Can’t have that this time,”
the priest murmured absent-mindedly, testing the edge of a long, narrow blade
against his thumb. “Now... where to begin...” Resting the tip of the blade
lightly on Wufei’s skin just below his navel, he turned his head to examine his
victim’s face, eyes glittering cruelly. “Any more bold comments? Defiant
speeches? Swear words, even? You can spit if you like, it’s been done
“You’re enjoying this entirely too much, you know,” Wufei said
flatly. And I will see you dead!
“Ahh, but is there really
such a thing as ‘too much’ when you’re talking about fun
?” the priest
purred, and made the first cut.
* * * * *I need to be
listening to this!
Duo thought, annoyed at himself. I’ve got the chance
to help plan something that could do a lot of good, and I’m sitting here
twitching because I’ve got random heebie-jeebies... ow!
Damn. I like
these boxers, but the waistband must have a scratchy seam or something...
Rubbing surreptitiously at the suddenly aching, prickling spot on his stomach,
he concentrated his attention on the conversation going on around
[Christy is sitting in front of her
computer, with Duo, Krashnark and ‘Scythe reading an e-mail over her shoulder.
Wufei is slumped in a chair next to the desk, chin in hand, apparently
CHRISTY: Hmmm. Not bad, considering she finished it after I
went to bed, and she’s always complaining she can’t write unless I’m right there
keeping her on track...
DUO: Eh... well, I suppose you could consider
that to be relationship progress, yeah. Not much, though!
got a first date! You’re in hospital
, for crying out loud, we can’t do
much more until you get out of there!
DUO: You’re the ones writing me not
being able to bend my knee yet! You can get me out of there any time you
KRASHNARK (fuming): How dare
he! I’m going to skin my little
brother and give Wufei a new rug
‘SCYTHE: Calm down... it’s just
KRASHNARK: You weren’t saying “it’s just a fic” when Christy and
Ashkara wrote about Heero using Deathscythe for parts!
have a point. Would you like to borrow my scythe?
WUFEI: You onnas never
are going to get around to torturing me properly, are you? You’re just going to
keep on letting me anticipate
it-- and, judging from the way this chapter
ended, you’re going to be doing it to Duo too!
CHRISTY: Why ‘Feifei, are
you saying you want
to be properly tortured? I never knew you were a
masochist, but if you insist--
WUFEI: If you never really start torturing
me, you’re never going to get it over and done with so I can get on with other
CHRISTY: What other things? Relationship
[Krashnark looks hopeful.]
WUFEI: y-NO! Things like
killing that damn priest!
CHRISTY: All right, all right! Next chapter, I
swear, we’ll torture you properly. Now... what’s Mel written for the ending
DUO: What... this isn’t it?
CHRISTY: No, Mel said she had
something special in mind.
[She scrolls down and starts to
CHRISTY: Oh, it’s a guest cameo!
[Dogmatix -- the fanartist
and writer, not the cute little Gaulish dog -- appears, wearing a large floppy
hat that looks like it’s a mixture of about three different mediaeval styles.
With a feather in it. And a pointy bit on top, with a veil. She’s also got a
sign hung around her neck, but whatever’s written on it is hidden behind the
scroll in her hands.]
DOGMATIX (reading): “And yea, the great god
Krashnark was royally pissed. And he didst make the heavens -- er, the dark bits
of them anyway -- smoke with his wrath. And lo, Sharna peed his godly pants, or
at least he wouldst have if he had hadst the sense, but we all knowest that
Sharna hath not the brains Orr gaveth a mayfly, so he didn’t. Eth. Did noteth.
Dideth not? Whatever. And--"
‘SCYTHE: Er... I think you mean ‘Didst not’,
DOGMATIX (looking up briefly): Really? Thanks! “So he didst not.
And all the readers marvelled at his idiocy, and waitedeth to findeth out what
the great god Krashnark would eventually doeth to his moronic and infinitely
less sexy little brother but we don’t mention the relationship because Krashy
doesn’t like acknowledging that they’re twins so don’t read that bit out loud
Matix. Eth.” Um. Oops?
[Everyone just looks at her for a
DUO: ...Did Mel write that?
WUFEI: I knew it. She’s finally lost what was left of her
‘SCYTHE: Sounds like she’s writing her own bible... sort
KRASHNARK: And what was that?! The First Book of
DOGMATIX (looking at the scroll again): Actually... “Here Endeth
the First Book of Eth.” I think she just likes saying Eth.
DUO: So why is
she making you
DOGMATIX: Oh, I appliedeth for the
[She lowers the scroll, and the sign around her neck can now be
read: ‘Official Pseudo-Biblical Chroniclerereth.’]
DOGMATIX: I get
paideth, too. Slightly less than Jester to the Gods, but it’s not badeth. The
speech peculiarity cometh with the position.
WUFEI: That’s the most
ridiculous thing I ever--
CHRISTY: I liketh
it. “And lo! The
Divine Krashnark smote his evil brother!”
WUFEI: --oh, good
KRASHNARK: I’m not going to kill him, you know. *growl*
wouldn’t suffer enough if I did... and anyway, Mel warned me she wants him for
future plot developments. *sigh*
CHRISTY: I want him
DOGMATIX: I secondeth that! He deserveth smiting,
CHRISTY: Right. Heero! Mission! Thy mission is to go smite the
evil wicked Sharna!
[Heero looks in the door.]
HEERO: Can’t I just
CHRISTY: I said, I want him smote! Smoted!
DUO: I think it should count as smiting if he uses the buster
DOGMATIX: You haveth a point there.
I want another drink.