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Demon of Justice

chapter 28



AUTHORS: Mel and Christy, We Who Cliffhang.
WARNINGS: Yaoi, angst, sap, language, some OOC, AU...
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: We own everything in here that we made up ourselves, which does not include the characters and stuff we borrowed from ‘Gundam Wing’ and ‘Oath of Swords’. We’ll give them all back... probably slightly traumatised, but intact!
FEEDBACK: Please peeps, can we have some more?
APOLOGY: Why would we do something like that? We’re not sorry!


minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, etc): ----------

major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *

flashback or dream starting or ending: ~*~*~*~

thoughts (and the occasional sound effect): *Tadah!*

some more sound effects (little ones!): -tadah!-

electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>



WUFEI: I wish the damned onnas would just finish this already!

SPIKE (slapping him on the back): Look on the bright side, will ya? At least the torture is over and done with!

DUO: Physical torture, maybe! But my ‘Fei is floating around in Karthan’s body!

[Karthan comes out of the computer room.]

KARTHAN: I didn’t do it on purpose. And what’s wrong with my body? I happen to like it!

DUO: While I’m sure it’s very nice for a dwarf, it’s not my ‘Fei’s! Heero! Mission! Make the onnas give our ‘Fei back his own body!

HEERO (wincing): Duo, have you lost your mind? I admit, I’ll do anything for you, but I think this is above and beyond the call of duty!

DUO: Do it or meet the couch on a permanent basis!

KRASHNARK: Ow... I have to feel for Heero. No-win situation there.

DEATHSCYTHE: I’ll handle it. Duo, I’ve been talking to Christy. Wufei is going to get his own body back... so why don’t you tell Heero to abort this mission, before I’m forced to collect his soul?

DUO (eyes wide): Do you really think they would...?

[Wufei, Deathscythe, Krashnark and Spike nod emphatically.]

WUFEI: Do you honestly want to go back to just a twosome, Duo?

DUO: ‘Scythe... Christy said they’ll put ‘Fei back? Really?

DEATHSCYTHE: Yes, my little mortal, she promised. If nothing else, the onnas do keep their promises. (muttering) Occasionally they keep those promises in sick, twisted ways, but they do keep them...

DUO: Okay. Heero, abort mission.

HEERO: Thank god...

DEATHSCYTHE: You’re welcome, Heero... Eth.



Demon of Justice

Chapter 28

‘Dragon Rising‘



“I’ll explain, and find some way to get the others loose,” Vaijon said, grimacing in frustration as he looked down at his burned hand. *Damn it, why did I grab that damned chain with my sword hand?! Never mind the fact that I couldn’t have known it would cripple me, I should have known better than to put my weapon down in the middle of a skirmish!* “You have something else to worry about.”

“I noticed,” the demon in Karthan’s body said grimly, turning to walk towards the approaching cultists. “I could wish they’d taken a few more minutes to notice what was going on! I’ll try to keep them occupied and away from you,” he added, shooting a quick glance back over his shoulder as colours began to flicker in the air around him, forming into shadowy images. A taller, slender form was visible rising above Karthan’s stocky frame for just an instant, dark eyes glittering dangerously before they were hidden behind red and green armour.

Jens swallowed, eyes widening further. “That was Sir Wufei, wasn’t it?” he asked, voice slightly higher-pitched than normal.

*Well, that makes explaining what’s going on a lot simpler!* “Yes, it was,” Vaijon confirmed, looking around for something he could use to pry at the manacles’ locks. “Karthan’s plan ended up being rather more effective than he’d expected...”


Wufei bounced slightly on his heels and stretched as he strode forwards, trying to quickly accustom himself to the differences between his and Karthan’s bodies. *Shorter arms, shorter legs, just generally shorter,* he frowned, not trying to send the thought to Karthan but not trying particularly hard to keep it private either. *I won’t have the reach I’m used to... though that shouldn’t be a factor with a right-handed punch,* he added, grinning faintly. *He’s certainly fit, and seems reasonably flexible for a non-martial artist, but I should still avoid doing any really extreme moves--*

*I’d appreciate it,* Karthan told him dryly. *I’ve seen the things you do when you’re practicing alone, and I don’t even want to think about what some of those flips and kicks would do to me! I like my hip joints in their sockets, thank you very much.*

*I’ll start with something simple, then,* Wufei said soothingly, well aware that it wasn’t convincing. There seemed to be a bubble of gleeful humour welling up in his chest, prodding him to say or do something reckless, and he spared a moment to wonder if that was how Duo felt when he pulled his most outrageous pranks. (*--reaction to sudden relief from pain? anticipation of revenge? whatever, it’s fun--*)

*’Simple’?* Karthan sounded rather suspicious. *What do you mean by ‘simple’?* (*--uh-oh, sounds like Gunnar in one of his moods--*)

Grinning wickedly behind Karthan’s beard (*--STILL tickles!--*), Wufei ducked his head and lunged forwards as he reached the first of the approaching cultists, dodging a wild sword strike. A quick swing of his arm wrapped the dangling chain around the man’s wrist, and he turned and yanked, sending the cultist flying over his head with flailing limbs and a panicked yell. *That was simple,* he thought innocently, freeing the chain with a jerk that left the man with a dislocated shoulder and wrenched elbow. *No blood, no mess... simple!*

*Which makes me wonder why you’re feeling so mis--*

Wufei dodged another blow, slid smoothly sideways in between two tall men, and jumped straight up, one foot lashing out to kick one of them in the face. The blow wasn’t quite as solid as he’d intended (*--damn, didn’t judge the changed leg length right--*), but was still sufficient to send his target reeling backwards with at least a broken jaw, and gave him the momentum to flip backwards.


Leaning down to cut at what he thought was a low target, the other cultist faltered and looked up as his short opponent shot upwards and tumbled in midair, twisting his neck to keep Wufei/Karthan in sight as he/they flipped over him. One short, muscled arm was suddenly clamped around his head, hand fisted in his hair, and there was a loud cracking noise as Wufei wrenched his head further around on his way to the ground.

*THAT was NOT simple!*

*Yes it was!* Wufei’s grin widened as he felt Karthan’s shock. *Simple, and sloppily executed as well. If you want complicated, though...* His mental ‘voice’ trailed off as he concentrated on avoiding his next few opponents, crippling two of them with well-placed blows, but a wash of stunned amazement from the dwarf’s mind let him know that some indication of what he considered ‘complicated’ had leaked through.

*You’re insane. It’s the only explanation.* (*--who first found out that one was even possible? And why did they try?!--*)

Diving deeper into the crowd of increasingly confused and panicked cultists, Wufei laughed. (*--get in close they can’t target us without hitting each other--*) *I’m not insane. Setting my own bones, now that would be insane!* (*--he’d better treat Duo right or I’ll find some way to get to him--*)

*Are all of you ‘Gundam riders’ crazy, or is it just you and--*

The banter abruptly stopped as they both zeroed in on a splash of colour, elaborate robes and bloodstained embroidery standing out against the duller uniforms. (*--there! the priest!--*)

There was a brief moment of confusion as Wufei realised he didn’t know whose thought that had been, but it was swept away by Karthan’s alarm. *Get him now! He’s casting some sort of spell!*


*Serving Sharna may have its good points, but why does my god have to be so damned stupid?! We’re worse off now than when he was calling _me_ incompetent!*

Watching the mayhem, the priest clenched his hand around the hilt of his largest knife, squeezing until his arm shook. *Never mind that now. Thinking like that won’t do us any good even if he doesn’t hear me...* Calling on a tiny trace of the power he’d managed to take from the small demon, he could see the overlapping souls inside the dwarf’s body. *And how did he manage that?! --No, worry about what to do about it! Hmm... if I take the chain off the demon’s body to use on them, he’ll be able to return to it, and we’ll be right back where we started if not worse... but I might be able to duplicate the spell in a hurry...*

*I’ll need more power.*

*Not a problem.* “Hald... assist me!” he ordered, turning back towards the scorpion statue.

“My lord!” the acolyte said eagerly, hurrying over. Even in the middle of a crisis, he took the time to look over his shoulder and smirk at the other acolytes and underpriests, making sure they saw that he was the one being picked out for a special duty. “What do you require of me?”

*Smarmy, bootlicking crawler... you’ve always annoyed me.* “Kneel here,” he said, pointing to the spot under the scorpion’s claws, “and await instructions. I will be able to cast a spell to defeat that dwarf in a moment, but a second... pair of hands... is needed.”

“Yes, my lord!” Hald almost tripped in his haste to reach the indicated spot, adjusting his sleeves fussily and folding his hands into a pose of pious adoration that was slightly spoilt by his expression of smug superiority. The priest could almost see him thinking that this was sure to advance his standing.

*In a way, it will,* he chuckled to himself, moving to stand behind Hald and starting to murmur a prayer. *My lord Sharna?*

=*Get on with it!*=

Preoccupied with calculations of his own importance, Hald didn’t realise exactly which prayer he was hearing until the priest yanked his head back and cut his throat.


*There’s a fine line between ‘pragmatic’ and ‘ruthless’, and if you ask me I’d say he passed it a long time ago,* Wufei thought coldly, dodging between attackers and catching a glimpse of the acolyte’s body crumpled at the priest’s feet. *What’s he doing?*

*Waving bloody hands in the air and chanting, what’s it look like?!* Karthan shot back, sounding frustrated. *Can’t you get to him any faster?!*

*I meant, what’s the spell likely to do?!* Wufei growled, white energy crackling briefly around his/Karthan’s arm as he put a little of his annoyance into a punch and slammed one of the cultists into the wall with a nasty crunching sound. *Do you know of any tactics that would be appropriate here? And I’m working on it!*

*You probably have a better chance of working out what he’s doing than I do,* Karthan admitted. (*--I’m not Uthmar not a Champion not a mage not a demon can’t do magic and haven’t studied it--*) *Whatever it is, he’s aiming it at us and presumably would like to get us from a distance, so it’s probably something he can ‘throw’, and spells are apparently easier to aim than ordinary weapons--*

(*--yes well that chain TURNED to get me so in my terms it’s either ‘seeking’ or ‘terminally guided’--*)

*--so the only tactical advice I can offer is ‘get him first’.*

*That’s what I thought.*

Despite what Karthan might have thought, Wufei had actually been fighting rather conservatively up until then, feeling his way into how best to use Karthan’s unfamiliar body. He hadn’t tried any moves that were likely to leave him/them too vulnerable if they failed, and hadn’t been drawing heavily on the power that came through the link (*--links? there were two wonder why--*) to his Gundam; the strength he’d used to break out of his bonds and fight so far was what he was starting to think of as ‘normal’, the level of physical power he could use without thinking about it. Now, however, he reached out mentally to Nataku and pulled.

* * * * *

“What in Krahana’s bloody hells does your father think he’s doing?!” Terrin asked incredulously, sparing a moment’s attention from the battle to wave at the swathe of destruction Cord was carving through the cultists’ ranks. Beside him, Naiya grumbled something under her breath and sent another well-aimed shot into the mess.


“I said, ‘he probably isn’t thinking at all right now’,” she said disgustedly, reaching for another arrow. “He’s given himself to the Rage, and quite frankly I can’t think of a stupider time to do it...”

“‘Given himself’-- what?!”

“Keep shooting! He’s gone berserk. It’s a hradani thing.”

“You usually say that about things like having a rotten sense of humour and no respect for authority, not-- not whatever the hell that is!” the hunter sputtered, snapping off a shot almost at random.

“Oh, those are things that all hradani do, so they’re respectable,” Naiya said sarcastically. “This is a male hradani thing, and it’s about as useful as all the other male-only things in life, like being able to piss standing up, comparing weapon sizes and scratching random areas in public.”

“Well maybe it’s a male dwarf thing too,” Terrin grunted, picking off someone who seemed to be giving one of the armsmen a bit too much trouble. “Uthmar’s gone after him...”

Naiya paused for a moment, eyeing the blazing-gold dwarf, and then smiled slightly. “Maybe he is thinking after all... it got one of the Champions fighting seriously, at least! I might even agree it was a good idea -- if he makes it out of this alive!”

Whatever he might have been going to say in reply was lost as a low, deep grumbling sound shook the ground, making the cart they were standing on top of tremble.

“What was that?!” he yelped, wobbling off-balance for a moment.

“Nataku,” Naiya said triumphantly, pointing to where the giant figure sat, still motionless but with its eyes glowing greenish-white. “That’s got to be a good sign!”

* * * * *

White fire burned through Karthan, mind as well as body, and he would have gasped in shock if he’d still been in charge of his lungs. *This is nothing like that time I was in Nataku! Is this what Wufei feels every time he draws on the power? It seems like you could do anything with this, shatter a mountain or break the world-- no wonder he’s frightened by it sometimes--*

The shadowy armour around him/them was abruptly clearer, easier to see, and several of the attacking men recoiled in horror as crackling white energy crawled over its surface, outlining its planes and joints and leaving it seeming almost solid.

*It is solid!* Karthan realised, watching from behind his own eyes as Wufei swatted a thrown axe out of the air, sending it spinning out of sight without ever touching it with his/their hand. *Or -- no, the chains are swinging through it, so -- Well it seems as though if Wufei wants it to act as if it’s solid, everything else goes along with the idea...*

He couldn’t tell whether any of his thoughts were ‘leaking’ through to Wufei or not, but if the black-eyed human/demon was distracted it didn’t show. Cultists dodged or fell or were smashed out of the way as he turned and lunged, sprinting to reach the priest before he could complete whatever spell he was casting, and Karthan could see the strain on the robed man’s face as he raised one hand in a blocking gesture and Wufei’s fist rose for a strike--

--and slammed against an invisible barrier, feet away from the altar and the priest standing behind it.

For just a moment, there was near-silence as they stared at each other; then the man’s face relaxed, near-panicked expression sliding away to be replaced with a triumphant smirk. “I hate to-- *ahem* I hate to disappoint you,” he began, clearing his throat to bring his voice back to its normal smooth, amused tones, “especially after you’ve tried so hard to kill me, but that should hold you long enough for me to complete--”

The frail mental barrier keeping their minds at least partially separated finally collapsed, overloaded by the sheer volume of energy flowing through them, and a flood of Wufei’s thoughts and memories poured into Karthan. Reeling under the onslaught, he could somehow tell that the memories he ‘saw’ weren’t even ones that Wufei was reliving at the moment; they were simply fragments thrown up out of the torrent, images that somehow matched or complemented what was happening right then. In a hundred bright shards of emotion/vision/touch, Wufei took aim at a target with Nataku’s dragon-arm, and flicked a toggle on his right-hand controller--

--the half-visible armour around his raised right arm sparked with energy and shifted, lengthening and arching like an angry snake about to strike as a fanged head formed around the hand/gauntlet--

--and a hundred memories blazed with liquid fire as white lightning struck from the shadowy Dragon Fang, crashing through the priest’s barrier and burning him to bones and charcoal.

* * * * *

Sharna shrieked in fury as his priest died, clawing hands raking impotently through the shimmering image of Karthan/Wufei hanging in front of him. “Curse you, you bastard mortal, I’ll-- I’ll get a new priest-Champion, one that can do the job properly! To hell with your energy, I just want you dead--”

Fumbling in his haste, he widened the focus of the scrying window, flicking his gaze over the panicked cultists. “No-- no-- not him either-- no-- damn them, don’t any of them match me?! No-- no-- ah!” Grinning, he narrowed the window and centered it on one of the scrambling acolytes, not caring that by doing so he lost sight of his other target completely. A faint, faltering spark of sickly green bobbed within the muddy blue of the human’s soul, and Sharna hesitated for a second. *Not strong enough, really. He won’t last... hells with it, I don’t need him to last more than a moment! Claim him, take control, and fry that upstart mortal demon, that’s all I need to do!*

Concentrating his energy, he focussed on the green flicker, pouring power and will into it. =*MINE!*= he sent, demanding, not caring that he could already feel the man’s mind breaking around him. =*BE MINE! And kill him for me!*=

A thin scream came from the man’s throat, eyes and mouth stretching painfully wide as he spun, one arm flying out to throw an uncontrolled blast. Light flared around his hand, and Sharna leaned forward eagerly, starting to widen the window so he could see Wufei’s death--

--and a semi-substantial dragon’s head flashed into view, metallic jaws closing over the new ‘priest’ and crushing the life out of him before he could complete the strike.

“NO!” Almost incoherent, beginning to panic again, Sharna wrenched the window’s point of view around again, searching desperately for another spark, someone else he could act through before all his cultists were killed or fled out of range.

“That’s enough,” Krashnark’s voice said from behind him, cold anger making it deeper than his usual low tenor. “That is more than enough... little brother.”

A faint, strangled noise escaped Sharna’s throat as he spun around and backed straight through the collapsing scrying window, automatically pressing back against the wall. “Wh-what are you doing here?!” he asked shakily, trying to sound confident and failing miserably. “G-get out! You had your chance to make him yours and he turned you down, h-he’s fair game now and I have a right to destroy him for what he did!”

“That’s not what our lord father said,” his twin pointed out, advancing. “He told you you could send one demon after him, and then you were to leave him to me. He said nothing about giving you a second chance at killing him later. And, more importantly... that’s not what I said. Do you remember what I said... little brother?”

“Don’t call me that!”

“‘Chang Wufei is my meat’,” Krashnark quoted softly, ignoring Sharna’s outburst and pacing forwards until the two gods were standing almost nose-to-nose. Like that, the resemblance-- and difference-- between them was obvious: identical features, same hair, same height even... but their expressions and stances were completely different. One standing straight, face hard and angry; one cowering back, trembling, hatred and terror easy to read in his expression.

“Do you remember the rest of what I said, Sharna?” Krashnark almost whispered, leaning forward and lifting one hand to gather a fistful of his brother’s tunic, almost gently. “You should, since I had my hand around your neck at the time and it seemed to make quite an impression on you, but perhaps I should remind you. I said, ‘You can forget about your revenge. It’s not... going... to happen’!” he snarled, voice rising with each emphasised word as he pulled Sharna forward and slammed the screaming godling backwards into the wall. “HAVE-- I-- MADE-- MY-- SELF-- CLEAR-- THIS-- TIME?!”

The last blow shattered the wall, chunks of rubble dissolving into mist as they fell, and Krashnark let go of his brother, kicking him through the hole into the unshaped area between the Dark gods’ private territories. Sobbing, Sharna scrabbled desperately away on hands and knees, half-formed items congealing out of the mist around him, spawned by the strength of his terror. A contemptuous sneer twisted Krashnark’s face as he followed, crushing warped weapons and instruments of torture under his boots.


“It was about then that I told you what would happen if you took an active part against him again,” he went on, voice back to an almost conversational level as he kicked out once more, sending Sharna tumbling. “I hope you remember that part, at least. I’d hate to be trying to kill you without you understanding why.” Pausing for a moment, head cocked to one side, he considered that sentence and then shook his head. “No. No, on second thought, I think I’d like trying to kill you under any circumstances, really. Shall we find out if I’m allowed?”

Scrambling to his feet, Sharna began to run towards one of the other constructions looming in the distance, the low, spiky-looking one that he recognised as his sister Krahana’s home. *She might-- she might protect me-- she’s not very strong but she’s very good at blocking us out when she wants to be alone, she can stop him if--*

Stone tentacles rose out of the mist in front of him, curling around him and closing fast before he could backpedal or dodge. Hammering at them with hysterical strength and all the power he could call up, he screamed again in renewed terror as the newly-formed stone, ignoring his attacks and showing no damage, just curled around his hands and began to crush them. “How are you doing this?!” he wailed, twisting around to see Krashnark strolling calmly towards him. “You’ve got hardly any energy left, I watched you use it all-- you shouldn’t be able to do anything apart from just hitting me!”

“Oh, doing this doesn’t take energy, Sharna,” Krashnark said with satisfaction. “It just takes willpower. Something that you’ve never had more of than me.”

*It’s a start,* he thought with a certain amount of dark satisfaction, watching Sharna struggle helplessly. *A start on what you owe me, to pay for whatever you’ve put my Wufei through. I’ll collect the rest after those Light champions get him out of your temple, out where I can see him, and I can find out exactly what’s happened to him... though, judging by what little I saw before your window collapsed, he’s doing quite well by himself.*

* * * * *

Head throbbing, Karthan/Wufei collapsed to his/their knees, barely aware that the last surviving cultists were scrambling desperately out the door. The shadowy armour around him/them flickered and warped, temporarily reshaping itself into something less like Nataku and more like a real dragon, before a desperate mental effort wrenched it back into what part of him/them insisted was the proper shape and then banished it. Dazed and searching for something stable, a memory that could be reliably identified as more ‘his’ than the rest, that part of him/them wondered briefly if such a thing as a ‘real’ dragon did actually exist--

(*--I’ve seen one -- they’re only old stories -- faced it down with my axe and -- river dwelling, guardians of clouds -- two armsmen at my back -- king lives at the bottom of the ocean -- remember the look in its eyes -- emblem of my clan and -- that was no animal’s _expression, it -- I’ve always been proud to call myself a Dragon, but -- was thinking about whether it could -- they don’t exist in my world -- take us down and decided -- I can’t be remembering -- we weren’t worth the trouble -- this, it’s not my memory!--*)

“Stay back, you id-- sir! There’s no way to tell what’s happening to him!”

The urgent, hissed voice cut through the swirling confusion, and he/they looked up into Sir Vaijon’s worried face. “Sir-- sirs?” he said uncertainly, reaching out with his good hand as if he wanted to support them but wasn’t sure whether they were safe to touch. “Are you-- both-- all right?”

“No,” he/they choked out together, closing his/their eyes as the blond knight-probationer seemed simultaneously too tall and precisely in proportion to him/them. “We-- I-- he can’t-- too close--”

The sleeve of his/their shirt pulled oddly as he/they brought a hand up to rub at his/their face, and he/they opened his/their eyes again to blink perplexedly at it. The laced cuff that should have been snug around his/their wrist seemed slightly too large, somehow, and had slid back up his/their forearm, baring a couple of inches of skin that should have been hidden, but the sleeve was still pulled tight from the shoulder--

Part of him/them blinked uncomprehendingly at that, but another part froze in horror, realising what it meant, and that difference in reaction gave him/them the momentary separation he/they needed to pull apart again, becoming separate minds instead of the blended Wufei/Karthan. With a wrench, Wufei took control of their shared body again, gasping out what he had to say as quickly as possible.

“I have to get out of here,” he said urgently, head snapping up to look at Vaijon once more. Karthan’s beard tickled again, and he seized on the sensation, using it to remind him of the differences. *His body, not mine -- I mustn’t get used to it, mustn’t get comfortable again!* “Out of him. Our minds are running together, we-- I-- we can’t stay separate, and I think the energy I used is starting to change his body to be more like mine--"

Vaijon’s blue eyes widened, almost comically. “Ah. Yes. A serious problem. Can you get back into your own body?”

“No. Still blocked,” Wufei gritted out, head swimming as Karthan’s sudden realisation/shock/semi-hysterical humour hit him. (*--you mean now I’m really tall for a dwarf?! Torframos save us, for once the Almerhas of Almerhas has grasped a situation immediately and Gunnar isn’t here to see it--*) “Don’t have time for you to find a safe way to get that thing off me. Have to--”

“You can’t just, ah, hover around bodiless, the Gods only know what would happen if you tried that! Can you, ahhhh, can you go to somebody else? Perhaps if you were in a human, there would be less problems because the body would be slightly more similar--” Vaijon swallowed, hard. “Can you, ah, possess me?”

“Can’t. No link... and the more similar the more dangerous, I think...” He swayed dizzily, sliding perilously close to becoming ‘them’ again, before he dragged his attention back on target and focussed grimly on staying ‘him’. “I’ll go to Nataku. I think...” Greenish fire flickered in his eyes for a moment, and then was gone. “I think they need help up there, anyway. I’ll block the entrance before I go, stop the remaining Sharna-worshippers from coming back... get you out a different way... do you still need help with the chains?” he asked fuzzily, trying to plan with a mind that seemed to be full of echoing thoughts, his own and Karthan’s, back and forth and blending and... *No!*

(*--I’m a _dwarf_,--*) came Karthan’s thought, struggling just as hard as him to stay separate. (*--I grew up in Dwarvenhame, in the city of Mountain Heart, under White Horn Mountain, not in a metal box floating in nothingness! I am not him!--*)

*Not just a box,* Wufei thought back, a little wistfully. *It had its own sun, and trees, and even fields of flowers... Meiran’s flowers...* (*--that’s my memory, me, Chang Wufei! I am not him!--*)

“--managed to get one of Jens’s hands loose,” Vaijon was reassuring him when he managed to focus again, “and he turned out to be far better at picking locks than myself, so--”

“Not to mention that I remembered which of those bastards had pocketed the keys after the dog brother who chained us up handed them over,” Jens put in over his shoulder, “and he was one of the ones you did in during the fight... uh, m’lord Wufei?” he finished tentatively, obviously not sure who he was addressing.

“Good,” Wufei managed to say, fighting off a flood of Karthan’s memories triggered by the sight of the tall armsman’s face. *I don’t want to know that he has three children, I shouldn’t know, that’s not mine--* “Get everyone clear of the door,” he gasped, lifting his right hand and swinging it towards the entranceway, Nataku’s image flickering back into view around him. “I have to go now!”

The Dragon Fang shot out the instant all the armsmen were clear, warping partway into something with scales that bit viciously at the rock above the tunnel entrance, ripping at it until it collapsed and sealed them in. It coiled back rather than folding, shadowy image settling in loops around the kneeling dwarf, and white sparks crackled over its surface as it melted into a new shape, briefly becoming Nataku, then Wufei, before it disappeared.

*Now how do we get you out of my head?* Karthan thought, sounding slightly tired and definitely stressed. *I don’t have any idea how I got you in!*

*Push,* Wufei suggested dryly. *While I pull on my link to Nataku again, just... differently.*

(*--how wonderfully specific--*) *Let’s get to it then. I like you, Wufei, but I don’t want to look like you!*

* * * * *

“This was such a brilliant idea!” Uthmar yelled at Cord, not caring that he obviously wasn’t listening. “Absolutely wonderful! What will you come up with next, swimming in full plate armour?! Taking on a cavalry charge naked, perhaps?!”

The huge hradani ignored him, furry ears lying flat against his head as he snarled and hacked down another cultist, and the dwarf Champion swore under his breath. *Damned stupid thing to do, charging into the middle of them like that! I had to call on Torframos’s power just to stay alive long enough to protect his back, and now we’re cut off-- not to mention that he probably wouldn’t go back to rejoin the others even if we had a clear path to them--*

=*Something’s happening,*= Torframos interrupted his thoughts suddenly.

*--eh? What is it?* Eyes narrowing, Uthmar scanned the battlefield, looking for anything out of the ordinary. *Not that much is really out of the ordinary for such a confused mess of a fight, that is... Has one of Sharna’s priests turned up, or-- don’t tell me we’re going to get hit with another demon!*

=*No, that’s not it,*= Torframos said tensely, and Uthmar could feel him looking through his eyes for a different perspective. =*It’s not Sharna’s power I’m feeling, but I can’t tell exactly what-- Oh. Of _course_.*= There was a half-amused, half-exasperated laugh. =*I should have remembered. If something’s going on, and I can’t tell what... Wufei’s up to something.*=

*Wufei! He’s all right?!* The dwarf dodged sideways, tripping a cultist charging at Cord’s back and killing him without really paying attention, attention fixed elsewhere. *Where’s he been?! I felt something wrong, just before we were attacked, but I couldn’t pin it down and I haven’t exactly had time since to check--*

Torframos cut him off again. =*Maybe you should have made time,*= he said slowly, voice distant as he concentrated. =*Something’s still wrong...*=

* * * * *

Karthan could feel Wufei straining against the link holding their minds together, pulling harder on his link to Nataku, and felt his own body grit its teeth in response, then a wave of frustration from Wufei’s mind.

(*--No, that won’t work -- I have to separate myself from his body, not keep controlling it! This isn’t a physical effort, anyway, it shouldn’t need a physical response--*)

Whether it needed a physical response or not, it was getting one. Karthan was crouched on hands and knees, muscles twitching and jerking as the white energy leaked over into him from the link again, and he could feel his pulse hammering as if his heart was trying to break out of his chest.

(*--Not good. Not good at _all_! At this rate he’s going to have a heart attack, and--*)

*If you keep worrying about me,* Karthan thought at him, *we’ll be stuck together for good. Stop thinking about me! Think about Nataku-- think about how it felt when you were fighting that demon! Concentrate on getting into Nataku instead of on getting out of my head, and we might actually get somewhere!*

*...all right. I’ll try again.*


Watching Karthan anxiously, Vaijon didn’t realise he was holding his breath until his chest started to hurt. Nobody spoke, nobody was moving... they were all watching the dwarf crouched in the middle of the floor, shuddering. It had been nearly two minutes since he had blocked the doorway -- no, Wufei had blocked it, Vaijon corrected himself -- and the lack of visible progress was starting to worry the blond knight-probationer.

Jens stirred finally, shifting his weight as if he was going to step forwards, then flinched away as a few sparks crackled down Karthan’s arm. “I don’t mind tellin’ you, I don’t like the look of that,” he said uneasily. “...Sir. It looks like they need help, but damned if I know how to help ‘em!”

“Wish we had one’a the Champions with us,” a dwarf grumbled, and the other armsmen muttered agreement. “They’d know something to do.”

“If we had a Champion with us, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place,” Vaijon snapped back, hiding a wince at the unintentional reminder that he wasn’t one. *Why not me?!* came the familiar, hurt thought, but this time he pushed it away impatiently. “And since this is most certainly not a situation that’s happened before, I doubt they’d be any more prepared to handle it than we are!” Straightening up, he glanced around, and frowned as he realised that his initial impression had been correct; all of them were gathered around, watching Karthan.

*Of all the foolish, thoughtless-- no, the fault is mine,* he corrected himself, stiffening his spine. *As a nobleman, and the only officer of the Order present, it is my responsibility to see to the proper disposition of forces. I can’t expect peasants to feel the same sense of responsibility...* “We may not be able to help directly, but that is no excuse for standing around! We need to arm ourselves and guard the entrance, in case the cultists attempt to clear a path and re-enter. We should also do something for Sir Wufei’s body!” he added, feeling a sudden pang of guilt. *I can’t believe I forgot that!* “If he does not succeed in going to Nataku, perhaps we can help by clearing the path for him to return to his own self, but he can hardly do so if we allow his body to die for lack of attention! --And don’t touch that chain with your bare hands!”

“Got it... sir,” Jens nodded, shooting a quick glance at Vaijon’s seared right hand. “We’ll see to it.” He turned away, waving the other armsmen to him as he began to assign tasks, but not before the knight-probationer caught a faint mutter. “Looks like the flagpole’s back, stuck in there right an’ proper. Pity, really...”

Vaijon’s opened his mouth to deliver a scathing reprimand--

--and a sudden explosion of white light sent the armsmen scurrying in all directions, scrambling desperately away from the sizzling arc stretching from Karthan to -- and through -- the cavern wall. Vaijon fell backwards onto his rear, throwing up an arm to shield his eyes, and squinted through his lashes at the glare. He couldn’t tell whether it was just an illusion caused by the dazzle making his eyes tear up, but it looked like something was pulling itself out of the dwarf’s torso...

A narrow, fanged head swung out and clamped its jaws onto the arc of energy as if it were a rope, and Vaijon could see translucent, scaled hide bulge and shift as the muscles underneath it tensed, straining to drag the rest of its body free. It uncoiled from around Karthan’s torso as it pulled itself loose, seeming to rip through his skin and clothes but leaving them unharmed, and Vaijon gaped in mingled horror and amazement as one long talon struck out, clawing grooves into the stone floor as it added its strength to the effort.

*Dear gods -- is this what Wufei really looks like?!*

The long, snakelike body finally finished uncoiling, plumed tailtip flicking out from between Karthan’s shoulderblades, and the white energy outlining the glassily see-through creature subsided slightly, light dimming. Vaijon blinked his eyes clear, lowering his arm, and just had time to see that the line running through the wall was now linked to the creature, with a second, thinner arc of energy linking it to Karthan, before the monster coiled in on itself, outlines blurring, and resolidified... into Wufei, floating a few inches above the floor, right hand clamped on the thicker light-arc as if it was a lifeline.

“Told you... you just had to concentrate... on the right thing,” Karthan gasped out, finishing with a shaky laugh as he twisted his neck to look up at the insubstantial demon. “Your ancestors chose the right symbol... or maybe they knew something you don’t... huh? I wasn’t even looking at you... and I still saw that!”

Wufei grimaced, expression a mixture of exasperation and relief, and seemed to say something; Karthan snorted and shook his head, letting himself slump to the floor.

“Get your glowing arse into Nataku... before something else goes wrong,” he said acidly, rolling onto his back and going limp, closing his eyes. “I’ll be fine.”

The small demon’s spirit looked unconvinced, but nodded. Drifting slightly away from the sprawled dwarf, he glanced over at Vaijon for a second, burning eyes sending an unmistakeable message. ‘Look after him.’ The knight-probationer swallowed, nodding back, somehow certain that although there was no implied ‘or else’ threatened in that look, there would be serious consequences in store if he failed at this task. He hid a relieved sigh as Wufei nodded back, apparently satisfied, and turned towards the wall, tightening his grip on the brighter cord of light. A careful tug sent him drifting again, sliding smoothly away and slightly upwards... and then he shot forwards, form starting to shift into the long snaky beast again as he dove head-first into the wall and vanished. The thinner light-cord running into Karthan sparked a few times, then abruptly faded, dwindling into a sparkling silver thread before it vanished.

Jens broke the stunned silence following his departure, clearing his throat a few times. “Well. I dunno ‘bout you lads, but Sir Wufei didn’t need t’ go through all that for my benefit; I was already impressed.”

Karthan wheezed out another tired laugh. “You should have seen it from here...”

“Rather not,” muttered the same dwarven armsman who’d expressed a wish for a Champion’s presence, coming forwards to scuff one toe carefully at the seared claw-marks in the floor. “That white lightning-magic looked like it hurts.”

“Oh, no,” Karthan said softly, opening his eyes again. “That’s not the problem at all. It’s scary as all hells, and it felt like it was going to kill me, but it didn’t exactly hurt... in fact, I think it even fixed the cuts and bruises I picked up in that fight.”

“Helpful stuff,” the other dwarf said conversationally, crouching down next to him and looking him over. “So what is the problem?”

“Oh, it’s helpful all right,” Karthan sighed, stretching one hand out in front of his face and staring at it -- a surprisingly slender, long-fingered hand for a dwarf to have. “Too bloody helpful by half!”

* * * * *

Heero jumped as Duo stirred and murmured in his sleep, then lightly stroked his boyfriend’s back. He had been twitchy ever since the episode earlier this afternoon.

Duo had slept through the rest of the plan-making, and each time he stirred, everyone would fall silent. Finally, everything had been worked out, and Relena, Quatre and Trowa left, all insisting ‘call us if you need us’ as they went. Heero had woken Duo for dinner, but the braided boy had barely kept his eyes open long enough to eat and clean up before he fell asleep again. Now it was 11 pm, and Heero was still awake, watching over the boy in his arms.

*Well, I guess that dream wasn’t just a one-time thing,* he thought. *I’ll have to watch out... be aware that it could happen again. I just hope all of his ‘contacts’ with Wufei aren’t as upsetting! What really happened, though? There must have been some sort of fight... Duo couldn’t remember anything but the pain, then the feeling of Wufei being all right. At least he got that much... It would have been bad if he didn’t get that relief...*

The Japanese teen’s eyes closed as his mind slowly drifted, until he jerked awake as Duo shifted in his grasp, sniffed and mumbled something again.

“Shh... Duo. It’s all right. I’m here, it’s just a dream,” he murmured, running his hand down the other teen’s arm.

Duo squirmed again, then said quite clearly, “The world is coming to an end.”

*Eh? What?* Heero blinked, then slowly smiled. “Oh, really? When?”

“Next Wednesday...”

He snorted, then chuckled quietly with relief. It wasn’t a nightmare. It was just... Duo.

* * * * *

Trowa fell into bed, glad they finally had the new house completely in order. Now, when Duo was allowed to come home, everything would be ready for him.

Duo... now there was a twist. The tall ex-pilot thought back over the strange events of the afternoon and shook his head. *I still only half believe it, I think. What are the odds? I never thought Wufei was dead, not really, but Duo ‘channelling’ him is a bit much to accept...* He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Except for the fact that Quatre confirmed it...”

“Confirmed what?” the shorter blond asked, walking out of their ensuite bathroom and tossing his robe on the footboard. Trowa blinked, not having realised he had said the last bit out loud. Raising the sheet and blanket for his lover, he waited until Quatre had joined him and wrapped him in his arms.

“Quatre,” he said hesitantly, “this afternoon...”

The blond sighed. “I know. I almost don’t believe it myself... If I hadn’t actually ‘felt’ Wufei, I would have said they were both crazy and needed professional help. As it is, half of me wonders if I’m not the one who needs it.” Reaching over his lover’s body, he turned out the bedside light. “But, I did feel him, and I know it wasn’t some hallucination... any more than Duo’s reaction was. I think we’ll both agree that there was no way Duo would have faked something like that, even if he could have. So, members of the jury, we have to conclude that Chang Wufei is alive, in some alternate dimension, and can contact Duo Maxwell... as hard as that is to believe.”

Trowa pulled the shorter teen over on top of himself and kissed him lightly. “You know, I’ve always thought it was a bit arrogant for most of the human race to assume that we were the only sentient life in the universe. And, along that line of thought, we have the Doctors’ word that alternate dimensions exist... with sentient beings in at least some of them. If there are alternate dimensions, why couldn’t one contact the other somehow? Radio waves travel billions of miles through space, eventually... why can’t some other form of energy travel to other dimensions?”

“In other words, whatever form of mental energy it is that I pick up on.”


There was silence for a moment. “And some green, scaly alien on a distant planet could be watching The Roadrunner, or Rocky and Bullwinkle, on our radio waves from hundreds of years ago?”

“Hn. It’s a valid theory. ...Or, some green, scaly alien in another dimension could be picking up your thoughts, and treating our daily lives as a particularly riveting soap opera.”

Quatre laughed and hugged the darker-haired teen. “I love you, Trowa Barton...”

* * * * *

Lightning struck. Sideways.

Fighters scattered in all directions as white energy shot out from Nataku and grounded... somewhere... beyond the trees to the northeast. Naiya and Terrin threw themselves flat as the crackling bolt shot directly over the wagon they were standing on, thin tendrils licking out from the main arc but never quite touching either of them.

“Phrobus’s black balls, what in the hells is that?!”

Uthmar shot a split-second glance over to his left, where the voice had come from, and then went back to staring at the impossible thing. He could feel the power radiating from it, like strong sunlight beginning to burn his face, and it was just hanging there... “Nice to see you’re back with us,” he growled.

“Nice to see you finally got serious,” Cord growled back, moving up to stand beside the Champion but prudently staying clear of the flaming golden aura still surrounding him. “And you didn’t answer me at all, at all, little man. What is that thing, apart from the biggest excuse for a man’s takin’ to drink that I’ve ever seen?”

“I’ll be in line ahead of you at the bar,” Uthmar muttered under his breath, and shook his head. “It’s magic. Bloody strong magic, that doesn’t seem to be doing anything except making us want beer. Apart from that... your guess is as good as mine. Torframos?” he added, flicking his eyes briefly upwards. “Anything to add to that?”

=*_I_ want a drink,*= his god replied grimly. =*I wasn’t sure before, because Wufei never used much at a time, or for long, and there’s that strange dampening effect he has that keeps me from feeling him, but... That’s wild magic. And where he’s getting it from--!*=

“Wufei’s doing it?” Uthmar sagged slightly, relieved. “At least it’s not something we’re going to have to fight... Is this something to do with what you felt him doing before? What’s he doing with all that energy?!”

=*Nothing, as far as I can tell! He’s just... holding it! Maybe he’s planning to do something soon, but calling up that much power and then not using it straight away is like -- like cutting down an entire forest and setting it on fire, because you might want to warm your hands later and it would be handy to have a fire then! And how in Orr’s name did he get a link to the boundary between worlds?!*=

“The what?!”

“You know, little man, some of us can’t hear whatever it is that’s so surprising,” Cord began pointedly.

He never got to finish the sentence.


End chapter 28


DOGMATIX: Tadaaaaaaah! Eth.

[She poses triumphantly in the middle of her sprinkle of Official Pseudo-Biblical Chroniclerereth Sparkly Dust, slightly squeaky fanfare going in the background and orange smoke dissipating around her.]

DOGMATIX: Hear ye, hear ye! Here beginneth the Third Book of Eth, which is more like The Several Pages Scribbled On The Back Of Notes From Mel’s Kanji Class of Eth, which continueth from the Second Book of Eth, which was really The Back Of The Scroll That Had The First Book Of Eth On It of Eth *gaaaaasp*, which... ano... is something wrong? Eth.

DUO: Ahhhhh, C-chan’s just sulking ‘cause Mel wouldn’t let her put the word ‘Pissed’ in the chapter title.

CHRISTY: Well he is! Was. Wufei is a pissed-off dragon and the title just doesn’t show that!

WUFEI: *mutter* No shit I’m pissed off, Sherlock.

CHRISTY: Would ‘Pissed Dragon Rising’ really be so bad?!

SPIKE: Sounds like he’s been into my vodka again, luv.

CHRISTY: Hmph. ‘Pissed Off Dragon Rising’?

QUATRE: The rhythm isn’t exactly... ah... melodic.

DOGMATIX: Ah... is it okay if I getteth started? Mel needs her notes back sooneth, for she doth have a kanji test tomorroweth...

HEERO: The sooner you start, the sooner it’s over.

DOGMATIX: I’ll take that as a ‘yeseth’. *ahem* And yea! The unclean followers of the totally unsexyeth Sharna didst quaketh, and trembleth, and blubbereth, and runneth for their lives, for behold! In their midst the captured dwarf -- er, one of them -- becameth at once the raging dragon, who bringedeth down his wrath of fire upon their heads. Still the foolish icky priest stayed his courseth, and called unto him a lackey, whom he sleweth most vilely--

DUO: He deserved it! You could tell!

DOGMATIX: --and there arose aroundeth the icky priest a barrier to holdeth the dragon at bay. Yet the mighty dragon foundeth the barrier, and was not afraid, for the priest was stupid, as well as icky. Eth.

QUATRE: Most seriously icky-eth!

DOGMATIX: His demonic highness summoned then the true powereth of the dragon, wreathing himselfeth in the armour of Justice (*coffNatakucoff*), and smote the barrier as if t’were naughteth but smoke, and then didst continue, smitingeth -- since the barrier had been so weak and there was some smote left over -- the icky priest dead. Dead dead dead and they couldn’teth even matcheth the dental prints after. Eth!

CHRISTY: Yay Wuffie! ...’Never Piss Off A Dragon’?

TROWA: Too much like the title of that Shadowrun novel, ‘Never Deal With A Dragon’.


WUFEI: I didn’t smite him, I fried him! ...Why am I caring about whether or not this is accurate?!

‘SCYTHE: Smiting implies godlike wrath, therefore holy fire. QEDeth. *snicker*

DOGMATIX: And there was mucheth rejoicing!

EVERYONE (in deadpan bored voices): Yaaaaaaaay.

LEGOLAS: ...Why did we just do that?!

DOGMATIX: Stupid icky Sharna, he who is not cuter than the other god who shall remaineth nameless but we all knoweth who he is, casteth about for a suitable priest, but foundeth only the most faint of traces nurtured within one of his followers. Nonetheless, he tore-eth into the man’s soul, which destroyedeth his mind (tiny as it waseth), and poured his power like unto a torrent into the vassal, and commandeth the poor slob to kill His Demonic Highness, but in vain.

ARDETH: I think ‘poor slob’ is a good description of any character who gets special mention in these stories...

DOGMATIX: For the Dragon turnedeth to the vassal, and didst unto him as he’d done unto the icky priest.

DUO: I hate to interrupt, Oh Official Chroniclererereth, but... welllll, that’s not quite what happened...


DUO: The priest got fried. The next guy got, er, chomped.

[Wufei looks slightly queasy at the reminder.]

DOGMATIX: Ano... true. Hm. Quite righteth, thank you. The end result was the sameth, though, if a bit messier. *ahem* Once more didst Sharna casteth about, but lo! There appearethed before him a grim spectre of retribution, also knowneth as Krashnark.

CHRISTY: Go Krashy!

DOGMATIX: And yea, Krashnark waseth pissed.

CHRISTY: And so was Wufei! ...’Portrait of a Dragon, Pissed’?

SPIKE: In the vodka again. Plus, it sounds like he’s that wussy Lestat git somehow.

CHRISTY: *grrr*

DOGMATIX: And lo, Sharna didst pisseth his pants.

CHRISTY: YAY! See, ‘Scythe... I tolja he was a wimp!

KRASHNARK: *sniff* A specter wouldn’t have been able to kick his butt. I prefer the term ‘Nemesis’, myself...

‘SCYTHE (dryly): Not applied to you, you don’t. Trust me. She’s female.

DOGMATIX: *chuckle* True. And ‘nemesis of retribution’ just... doesn’t carry the same ‘oomph’, somehow. Er, eth.

CHRISTY: Ummm... I think Nemesis has a previous gig, anyway. I think Ares needs her for some Hercules torment this week.

DOGMATIX: Meanwhile, backeth on the farm-- er, in the caveth-- the mighty dragon foundeth himself ensnared as he and the noble dwarf becameth one with each other; minds and souls didst meldeth and floweth together ‘gainst their most valiant efforts. Happened they then to raise their arm, and caughteth sight of a most fearful happening, forsooth, the melding was not just of the mind, but also of the bodyeth.

WUFEI: Is it just me, or is this pseudo-Chaucerian nonsense getting worse?!

CHRISTY: It’s just you. ...How about, ’Do Not Piss Off Dragons, for they are Subtle and will Fry Your Ass’?

DUO: *snicker* You mean, ‘they are NOT Subtle and will Fry Your Ass’!

WUFEI: And no.

CHRISTY: *pout* You’re no fun.

DOGMATIX: Greatly fearful--

WUFEI: I was not! Horror is not fear! It’s more like disgust, which is what I usually feel when the onnas get going.

DOGMATIX: --the dragon foundeth and heldeth himself, didst nameth himself separate from his dwarven host, and tore-eth his sinuous coils from aroundeth the dwarf. And the warriors of Torframos beheld his glory, and were afraideth. (Also very impressedeth, but that goes-eth without saying.)

DUO: That’s my Wu-man! Impressive in mind and body! *leers*

DOGMATIX: And yea, the secondeth batch of warriors of Torframos (the ones outside the caveth), along with various and sundry hradani and gods, didst beholdeth the bungee cord of lighteth, and felteth the urge to get very, very drunk. Eth. Here endeth-- oh, there’s another bit, sorryeth...

[She turns the messy sheaf of notepaper over, reads what’s scrawled on the back, and blinks.]

DOGMATIX: P.S. In other newseth, Quatre and Trowa didst speculateth about little green men, and Duo predictedeth the End of the World. Here endeth the Third Book of Eth. Eth!

[The Chroniclerereth bows, and vanishes in another burst of sparkly dust that starts Trowa sneezing.]

WUFEI: Well, at least that’s over.

HEERO: For now.

WUFEI: Don’t remind me.

CHRISTY: ‘A Dragon is a Terrible Thing to Piss Off’?

‘SCYTHE: Just let it go, Christy.

On to Chapter 29

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