Blood in Siberia
Chapter 21: Another Breed of Enemy
I first became aware of being warm and comfortable. Whatever I was laying on was soft and silky against my skin, and tickled my nose as I breathed. A hand started petting me like a favored dog, and I welcomed it. Snuggling further into the softness, I went back to sleep.
I woke a second time when my stomach began gnawing on my insides. The room I was in was obviously in the dungeon. Thankfully, there weren’t any chains or torture devices on the walls. Two torches were lit, which only gave off enough light to fill the tiny room with terrifying shadows. I combed my fingers through the pelts, trying to convince myself that they were nothing more than shadows. After last night, I was having a hard time doing so. If a mist can have teeth, so could the dark.
Startled, I sat up and immediately spotted Heero on his pelts a foot away from mine. My joy at seeing him quickly turned to consternation. “What the hell is it with y’all and nudity? Is it too much to have you wear clothes?” I had on pajama pants that were handed to me by a masked Otto last night, after Edward turned me over to him. But Heero was sitting cross-legged on his pelts in his birthday suit. Luckily, the shadows kept certain parts of him out of my sight.
“I am collateral,” he reminded me.
I waited a moment for him to expand on that. When he didn’t, I shrugged. “So?”
“I am not to be harmed while being held as Collateral. Wufei is able to check on me at any time to ensure that I am being taken care of. It is common practice to be kept unclothed. Any sign of abuse will be immediately noted, and action taken.”
In a bizarre way, that made sense. “You all right?” I scooted closer to him.
“Yes. They treat me fairly.” He hesitated. “You?”
I could feel my hands shaking. “No,” I whispered. Naked or not, I crawled to Heero. I flopped to my side and pressed my face into the cold floor. I didn’t realize how overheated I felt until then. Heero buried his fingers in my hair at the back of my head, and balled his fist. The grip was tight, but calming. It probably released some endorphins or something.
“Okay, Duo. What happened?”
I told him an edited version of last night, as well as my suspicions that Noin was probably taken out by silver, another supernatural, or both. The last idea seemed more plausible when I got to the part about the ghouls. “I mean, if they were able to hold onto Sedici and capture me, I’m sure they could’ve gotten Noin.”
“True,” Heero said slowly, rubbing his jaw. “But I’ve never seen ghouls like that before.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Huh.” I thought about that. “Sedici seemed surprised too. At first, he didn’t believe me when I told him what they were. How do they normally look?”
“Almost like zombies,” Heero said with a grimace. “To me, they have a half zombie, half skeleton appearance. However, they do not have a mind of their own like the zombies do. They only think of their hunger for flesh. But if you recognized them as a mist, you will not have any problem recognizing them in their true form.”
“I don’t know which will be worse. I might prefer the mist,” I said, pressing the other side of my face into the floor. I felt like absolute crap.
“I don’t know. Personally, I prefer to fight things I can see,” he said with a chuckle, then sobered. “Now, what are you not telling me?”
What I omitted was what Edward told me about G’s obsession with me. That bit of info was going into the box I used for brain-dumping. “What makes you think I’m not telling you something?”
“I can smell it,” he whispered in a pretty intimidating way. “Now... what is it?”
Ohhh no. I was not giving Wufei any more ammunition. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Without warning the door opened. I sat up with my hand covering my eyes, momentarily blinded by the extra light. My eyes adjusted in time to see a tangible shadow come through the door. As it stopped by my pile of pelts, I recognized G. He didn’t say anything, only placed a pile of clothes and boots on the floor. After a quick glance at me, he backed out and left just as quietly as he came. I turned to Heero, and knew instantly by the look on his face that my secret was out.
“He desires you,” he sighed. “Now what?”
I flopped on my side again and pressed my face to the floor. This time it was me who grabbed my hair and pulled. “Fuck if I know.”
God damn if I wasn’t like the Titanic. I was sinking and short of lifeboats by half. If I didn’t figure this out soon, I would take everybody down with me.
“Duo, wake up. They’re coming for you.”
I woke instantly, jumping to my feet and grabbing clothes. The woolen trousers and turtleneck were a beautiful charcoal gray, and fit perfectly. Disgusted, I stomped into the leather boots which were buttery soft and warm. Damn. There was no way in hell I wasn’t going to steal them. Snatching my hair tie out, I shook my braid loose. I gave it a quick comb with my fingers, and was just finishing the braid when Otto opened the door. Without a word to me he grabbed my shoulder and propelled me out of the room. “Need anything Heero?”
“For you to gut yourself, then shove your entrails up your ass.”
Otto pretended to think about it. “Blow me and I’ll consider it.”
I lost Heero’s retort due to the door being slammed closed, but whatever it was made Otto chuckle. “Such language.”
I couldn’t stop my smirk. Heero has called me some creative names in the past, and we were friends. I could imagine what he called his enemies.
In short order we arrived in the throne room. I almost didn’t recognize it. Low, long black tables ran width-wise in several rows. The doggie pillows, whatever they’re called, were thrown down as seating. A good majority of the Siberians were seated on the pillows, having breakfast. It wasn’t a ruckus by any means, but the room was filled with the low hum of conversation. I could see that the werewolves were happy and comfortable. Every few seconds someone laughed.
It was like breakfast at Wufei’s.
Otto guided me to a pillow, then seated himself. Reaching towards some bowls on the table, he placed them before me. They were filled to the brim with scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. Someone walked by and placed glasses of orange juice in front of us. Another from the opposite direction laid down toast. My drool landed on my leg.
“Help yourself.” Otto motioned towards the food.
We won’t go into details, but let’s just say I didn’t need to be told twice.
I didn’t know how much time had passed, but the next time I looked up it was into tired, slitted blue eyes. The Prince had sat down across from me and ate breakfast without me noticing. My mouth fell open, and a piece of egg tumbled out the side and onto my lap.
Otto and the Prince both barked out laughs before they could stop themselves. As they giggled at me like school girls, I cleaned myself up. “Bitches,” I mumbled under my breath, which only made the giggling worse. “Yeah yeah, laugh it up.”
After a few minutes they settled down. There were a few stragglers left, but other than that the throne room was empty. I looked at the Prince, and watched as he played with his food. There was still quite a bit left. Really looking at him, I noticed the unkept hair, the bags under his eyes, and the general weariness surrounding him. He’s probably lost more weight too.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hated, absolutely hated, when my compassion came to the fore. It made me do things like what I was about to do. The Prince watched me from under his lashes as I reached across the table, and laid a hand on his wrist. My skin was so olive next to his porcelain coloring. So small too. It looked as if I was grabbing onto a giant.
What I meant to say was that I was sorry for his loss, and that I would find Noin. I meant to say that I will find the fuckers responsible for his son. Instead, what came out was, “I hate your guts.”
The Prince and Otto stared at me in astonishment. Then the Prince laughed, hard and loud. He braced one hand against the table as he slammed the other repeatedly, shaking his head. Otto looked on in concern, then shrugged to himself.
The Prince said something in Russian, before finally calming down. “Wow.” He wiped the tears from his eyes. “I haven’t laughed like that for some time.”
I frowned, thinking how sad that was. I busted a gut laughing everyday at home. It was unfortunate that so many people didn’t have that pleasure. “I’m going to solve this,” I told him, staring directly into his eyes. “I mean it.”
He nodded. “You’ve... made a great deal of progress, according to Sedici.” I raised an eyebrow at that. I was happy that Sedici was alright, but there was no love lost between us. The positive feedback was just strange. “However, you are working for me now, and that makes you and your escorts targets.” The Prince nodded to one of his underlings, who left the throne room. When he returned, he brought a very welcomed person with him.
I gasped, and almost tore outta my seat when Otto grabbed my arm. I flashed him a dirty look before returning my attention to Trowa. He was dressed in the signature red robe of the Shenlong, eyes wide and bright. He was ready for blood.
“The Alphagues are to escort you whenever and where ever you search.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned my head. The Prince had reached across the table to get my attention, and the look in his eyes demanded it. “You will not go anywhere without both of them.”
Ah. He didn’t trust Trowa. He was probably right not to. “Yes,” I answered, not really knowing what to say.
He squeezed my shoulder. Not enough to hurt, but he got his point across. If I messed up, he’ll have my ass, not Trowa’s. “Off you go,” he said to Otto. “Early dusk tonight.”
I jumped up and ran as quickly as I could to Trowa before Otto caught up. Gripping his shoulders, I whispered breathlessly, “How’s Quatre?”
Trowa smiled. “Just fine,” he answered just as Otto stormed by, yanking me back. I stumbled and squawked as I was carried away. “Stop manhandling him!” he snapped at Otto. “Take more care!”
“Move your ass!” the Siberian snapped back. “We need to get going before it gets too cold for him.”
Trowa bristled, but nothing else was said.
We spared a minute to bundle me up in a snowsuit, and off we went.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, and prayed for patience. Again.
Trowa and Otto were arguing for what felt like the fiftieth time, kicking snow at each other and barking. This has been going on all morning. If I got too close to Trowa, Otto would snatch me outta reach and accuse us of trying to communicate without his knowledge. If I got too close to Otto, Trowa would snatch me away and accuse him of trying to put his scent on me to claim me for the Siberian. Despite all the drama, we were accomplishing quite a bit. What Sedici was unwilling to answer Otto did freely, with Trowa investigating odd bits of tree or brush. So far nothing turned up, but we were covering a lot of ground and ruling out possibilities.
“Right. So Noin couldn’t have been taken by the pixies because werewolves eat them. It couldn’t have been the dwarves. They live underground and don’t like the surface. It could be the elves, but they hate werewolves and would sooner kill them on sight than capture them.” I sighed. “It couldn’t have been the goblins, lord knows why, and it couldn’t have been the trolls. Do I have that right?”
Otto paused mid-curse to answer. “Yes.”
I sat on a rock and thought as they continued to argue about some invisible slight. “So what that leaves is zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghouls and humans.”
Both of them stopped at the same time and turned to me. “It wasn’t a werewolf,” Otto said with conviction.
I tilted my head. “Why not?”
“No werewolf would ever turn on his Pack, unless he was rabid.”
I immediately thought of Darlian, and of how he killed his wife to get to me. I guess, technically, his disgust at me drove him to insanity, which in Were terms was ‘rabid.’ I glanced at Trowa, and saw the same thought in his eyes. He pointedly looked away from me. Right. We were so not going there. “My mistake,” I said instead. “So that leaves zombies, vampires, ghouls and humans.”
“Not a vampire,” he said with conviction again.
I tilted my head in the opposite direction. “Why not?”
“No suitable food supply. Vampires like human blood. They would have to feed off of rodents, or small animals if they were nesting here. And a vampire strong enough to take Noin would have to be Old, and the Old Ones’ pride wouldn’t allow them to resort to feeding from rodents.”
I glanced at Trowa. He gave a deep nod, confirming Otto’s assessments. “Okay then. So that leaves, once again, zombies, ghouls, and humans.”
“Not a hu-”
I held my hand up. “I am under the impression that the Siberians live in the mountain, and that the Shenlong went to the sticks of America to get away from the human population. Is that right?” Both Alphagues nodded. “There are humans out there who know you exist, and make it their life’s mission to kill you.” I shrugged. I got what Otto meant, but there was evidence to the contrary. Werewolves may be stronger than humans, but we dwarf them in numbers alone. Add silver, a missile launcher, or anything extra, and we’d wipe them off the face of the planet.
“I understand what you are saying,” Otto enunciated. “And in many instances, I wouldn’t discount your kind. But for Noin? Not a human.”
Ah. Got it. Which that bit of information, I conceded. “Then it’s either zombies, ghouls... and whoever controls them.”
They looked at each other. “Wizards,” they said simultaneously.
“A wizard took Noin,” Otto said distractedly. “But who? Between Zechs and Chang, the Mad Five are under control... kind of...”
“Wait, wait, wait.” I stood up. “Wizards? The Mad Five?” I pointed to myself. “Explain?”
Otto turned his back to me, muttering, so Trowa took over. “Wizards are a race of magical beings that are born every few millennia or so. Real wizards anyway. There are frauds of course, people who think themselves wizards. But real wizards are born as such, and show an aptitude for magic manipulation during toddler years.” He blew a breath through his bangs, and I stood straighter. It wasn’t like Trowa to do something so... human. “Wizards are dangerous because they can manipulate essences and life forces of anything magical.”
I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”
“They could destroy any magical creature if powerful enough,” Otto butted in. “The existence of werewolves, vampires, and other creatures exist by pure magic alone. Wizards have direct access to magic, and can pull and change it as they see fit.” Otto stared at me so intensely, I wondered if he saw through me. “They could stop a werewolf’s heart, for instance, if they really wanted.”
My mouth went dry. If they could do that to a werewolf, what could they do to a clairvoyant? “Oh. Yeah. That’s a problem.”
“It’s not as dire as all that, but it is a concern,” Trowa put in with a glare at Otto. “Yes, they can technically stop a werewolf’s heart, but it is not as easy as that. Wizards have specialties that only they can do according to their magic. To try and go outside of his specialty may very well kill him.”
“So if a wizard’s specialty is... golfing, and he tries bowling, it’ll kill him.”
Otto smiled. “If he puts enough power into bowling, yes.”
I felt somewhat better, but not much. “Let’s keep looking.” We all turned and went back to examining things. The werewolves, by sniffing around. Me, by touching trees, rocks, snow, tracks, whatever. “What types of wizards are there?”
“Earth, Air,” Otto grunted, kicking at something.
“Fire, Water.” Trowa sniffed a tree, licked it, snorted, then moved on.
Okay. What the hell was that about? “So a wizard is one of the four elements?”
“Yes,” they answered, then glared at each other.
That didn’t make sense to me. “Wizards manipulate magic. How can an Air Wizard manipulate the air?”
“By creating tornadoes, wind storms, or make the wind form into an arrow so sharp as to go through a wall,” Otto said disdainfully. “Magic is everywhere, Primus.” Otto gave me a hard glare. “Do not forget that.” He turned and trudged on. Trowa growled at him, and they started arguing in their language. Me? I decided not to say shit else that didn’t pertain to finding Noin.
Yep. Best plan I’ve had all day.
The next couple of hours passed on in silence as each of us focused. We had gone over the area where the ghouls found Sedici and I with a fine tooth comb. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything. I could still sense their hunger in the air from before, and the wolves could still smell the lingering death, but that was all. At this point I decided to lead, and followed the direction the ghouls headed last night.
We continued in this vein for another few hours. At this point all three of us were griping and snapping at each other. We were hungry, tired, cold, and wanted to be anywhere than where we were. Definitely temper-inducing conditions. Because of this, we didn’t notice anything wrong until it was too late.
Otto and Trowa both started exhibiting signs at the same time. It started with a cough. Every few seconds they would cough, first mildly, then with some force. As it continued, they grabbed at their throats, and their faces became red and blotchy.
“Let’s go back guys!” I shouted, pulling at their clothes. “Something’s attacking you. I don’t know what it is!”
The next ten minutes were agony. Otto and Trowa were crawling along the snow, desperately trying to breathe. There were times I pulled them along when they fell on their faces. Other than that I didn’t know what else I could do.
It was when I tried to pull them both that I found the problem. I fell face-first into the snow. As I lifted my head and brushed the snow from my face, I noticed how sparkly my hair was. Now, snow itself sparkles, but this was odd. It was a darker sparkle than the sheen of the snow, but very, very fine. If it wasn’t in my hair, I would’ve never seen it. “Silver...”
Rounding on the werewolves, I started barking orders. “Cover your heads with the inside of your cloaks!” I yelled. “There’s silver in the air! It’s an Air Wizard that has Noin!”
Right as I said that the wind howled, blinding us all as the snow blanketed us. The wind continued to twist around me, and I realized in sudden horror that I was being picked up. But whatever the wizard was doing, he wasn’t good at it. He would get me in the air, then lose control and drop me. This went on several times. Then he half-dropped, half-dragged me before completely dropping me. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the idiot dropped me on my feet, instead of my head and shoulders.
By the thirteenth drop I was a pile of mush. When I felt the attempt again, I couldn’t even brace myself for the upcoming fall. I felt the wind turn under me, twice, before it disappeared. But instead of hitting the cold ground this time, I landed in someone’s arms. Trowa wrapped me inside of his cloak and took off running.
“Otto’s going to get backup,” he said.
I didn’t know how he was seeing. He and I were under his cloak, but it was also over our heads. My view was of blackness. Of course, I knew they had night vision, but I doubt he could see through clothing. “That asshole kept dropping me,” I complained.
I heard a puff of air that I was sure was a laugh. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get it together enough to help you sooner.”
“No biggie,” I said with a sigh. “But he kicked my ass. I feel like shit.”
There was another puff of laughter. “Rest Duo. We’ve done enough for today.”
I was out like a light.