Halves: Circles + Chapter 18
There had to be better ways to wake up than that sneer.
Duo cracked open an eyelid, then another. G wasn't usually the one to wake him up. What was he doing in Duo's room? No, he wasn't in his -
Duo stiffened as the entire picture slammed into his waking mind.
G - halfway between the door and the summoning circle- staring- Heero behind Duo- on his elbow, glaring at G - an arm wrapped around Duo's waist- which was completely bare apart from a thin silken blanket and a lot of hair-
"Get the hell out of here NOW!"
"Whoa what a rotten riser."
"Sorry, Duo." Wufei's voice came from the doorway. Duo stared at the man's hastily turned back -and flushed neck. "It's morning, and he has important information. Erm, you should probably get up. You and, er."
"Did you find anything?" Heero asked, sitting up, the silken blanket sliding from a hard chest- Duo whimpered and grabbed the blanket as it slid from him too.
"Out! Now! Or I'll-"
"You'll what?" The long nose quivered with amusement. "Interesting use of a summoning circle, by the way, quite new in the history of sorcery if I'm not mistaken."
"I can be OUT of this circle in about three seconds." Duo snarled.
"And you should be, too. We found the spy." G nodded at the sudden serious silence in the lab. "We were finally able to divine his position magically, though it wasn't easy. He's not going anywhere, though, so take the time to get dressed. I know it's nearly the honeymoon but that's no excuse. People are going to talk if you run around like-"
Heero was already standing, completely unembarrassed, but glaring daggers on Duo's behalf. "Out!" They shouted together.
"Man, it's almost as if they were married." G snickered to a pewter-red Wufei and a grinning Trowa -who had prudently hung back in the stairwell- as he left the two for a few moments of privacy.
"So, Heero, a quiz." G snickered as the prince of Sanq straightened his leather armour and glared at him. "Who's left in our line-up?"
"What?" Heero snapped. They were striding quickly across a courtyard to one of the lower buildings in the council compound.
"For some reason, we've seen one and one fiend only from every circle so far, so who's missing? Who'd you think we'll be running into-"
"It's one of those fiends?"
"Yes, apparently they can communicate together over distance, so it makes sense the spy was one of them. So which one-"
"I don't care!"
"Really, Duo." G cast a look back at his former pupil who was following them, trying to fasten his cloak on the run. "How can you stand a man with so little intellectual curiosity?"
"He has other assets." Duo growled, referring to Heero's mage-blade he was gripping as he glared at G... then the braided sorcerer went brick-red as he realized how his words could be interpreted after...
"Please spare me the details-" G started.
"We've seen fiends from the third, fifth, ninth and tenth, oh and fourth circle." Duo said, quickly and loudly. Gods even Trowa was chuckling. "So that leaves darkness, void -oh gods don't tell me-"
"No, apparently the enemy wasn't able to send those two. I'll remember to burn a year's rent in candles to the deity of your choice after all this is done; those were not two I wanted to meet."
"How do you know-"
"Oh, our spy has been talking. A bit. It goes off on tangents quite a lot but Jay is much more patient with it than I could think possible. So, care to guess?"
"Well if it was Ice or Chaos, you'd be running around in circles screaming and the palace would be down around our ears, so that leaves... pain and sorrow?"
"Right. Pain may be this 'tortured one' the spy keeps carrying on about. If it is, I'm in the strange position of feeling sorry for a hellspawn fiend...As for the spy, he's not formally introduced himself but we know who he is and who he was. Meet the representative of the second circle, the circle of Sorrow."
The last was said with a fancy wave of his hand as G entered the well-appointed house in the lower complex. Duo and Heero followed and looked around.
The house was a typical Lin residence, all harsh stone and hard lines, softened by a few touches of beauty and delicacy, like an alpine flower on a rocky crag. They were in the reception room, which most people in Lin used to live in as well as receive guests. It was full of books and paintings and old pain.
The old man was crumpled on a chair. Duo ignored Jay, Quatre and Amon gathered around the spy; he headed towards the white-haired, broken figure alone in a corner and stared down at him.
"Why?" Duo said simply.
The old man didn't look up at his king, his gaze fixed on the last occupant of the room, the spy that Duo had only glanced at.
"Don't bother, your majesty." Jay's voice was subdued. Behind him, Quatre's face was pinched and miserable. Trowa walked over and slipped a comforting arm around the blonde's shoulders.
Duo looked down at Chamberlain. That was his function and, traditionally, his name. The one who organized Duo's day to day life, the man the king trusted with his food, his sleeping arrangements, his travel plans... The man had been Chamberlain to the previous king before Treize, twenty five years ago. He was a dedicated, efficient and loyal servant and Treize had offered him the same place at his side, an honourable office for a non-sorcerer in Lin. But the man had refused, despite the consequences to himself and his position in Lin society; he'd not approved of Treize and, feeling that he couldn't give him the complete loyalty his office required, had turned him down.
So when Duo had acceded to Treize's throne and happily fired the slimy worm that was Chamberlain under Treize and Septim, he'd been overjoyed when the old man had accepted to return to the office as Duo's Chamberlain. Duo had taken it as a sign he was doing something right! And he'd been honoured the man would give him his hard-won loyalty.
"Why... ?" Duo found Heero's hand in his, and realized that there was a feeling of comfort coming from his husband. He wondered if the link thing Quatre had given them was activating after... last night. If it was, he'd probably been swamping Heero with his sense of hurt and betrayal. They'd been so busy investigating old allies of Treize and Septim, people who had cause to hate Duo. They never would have thought to look at someone standing so close to him. Why...
The old man didn't glance at him. His health had gone dramatically downhill in the past few months, Duo remembered. He was very old after all. The king had tried to lighten his burden and leave him behind in his travels. But Chamberlain had always insisted on coming with them... The old man's rheumy eyes were fixed on the last figure in the room as if Duo didn't exist.
Duo and Heero followed the gaze. What appeared to be a young man sat on the edge of a decorative rock garden at the centre of the room. He was pale and slender, dressed in a robe that seemed to shimmer between ivory and grey without ever being completely definable. His face was turned towards the rockery. His eyes were dark and immense in the wan face, and filled with muted, exhausted anguish.
"This is Sorrow, is it?" Duo said briskly, trying to regain his equilibrium.
Jay turned towards him slowly. "Yes. But before that, it was Chamberlain's son."
Duo and Heero stared in silence at Sorrow, then glanced in dawning understanding and pity at Chamberlain, who could have been alone in the room with the quiet figure for all the awareness he showed.
"Son? I didn't know... I didn't think Chambers had kids." Duo said softly.
"He used to, obviously. But-"
"But his son died at the Gap of Sevring with Treize. Or so it was thought." Heero concluded quietly.
Jay nodded. "He was the first generation in Chamberlain's family to show magical aptitude. Since he was his only child, it was his hope in the future. His son followed Treize against Chamberlain's wishes..."
"Can he tell us where Treize is?" Heero asked brusquely, though he squeezed Duo's hand gently as his husband stared, pained, at Chamberlain.
"He doesn't even know who Treize is." Jay started, but was interrupted.
"Alone. Masters why are we alone... " The voice was quiet, soft, and rang with the emptiness of someone who had never been able to cry, crushed as he was by sorrows too big for tears.
"Yeah, he does that a lot." Jay said, to the chilled couple. Behind them, Chamberlain sunk a little further in his chair.
"The Tortured one howls, but no one listens. It would only make it worse." The boy whispered. He must have been young when he died at Sevring, Duo thought, aching. He looked to be eighteen, if that.
"Tortured one? That is the one from the circle of Pain?" Heero asked.
"Yes, apparently he's quite berserk. Can't blame him." Jay sniffed. "Sorrow'll answer any question about the circles and the other fiends-"
"Couldn't find Darkness. Where is she? We wanted her with us but she never came." The pale young man seemed to flicker before their eyes, like a streak of white had run through the already pale face, blond hair and light robe, then was gone. His eyes were really too big to be human... Duo almost felt like screaming at the lack of tears in those eyes. Was that part of the tortures of Hell, perpetually tormented by sorrow and unable to cry?
"Okay, let me give you the short of it, because I've been at it for the last four hours and if I have to hear him whine on about this much longer I am going to hang myself." Jay snarled, rubbing tired eyes.
"He doesn't know who he is, as such. He doesn't remember Chamberlain. But someone did because they sent him to the old guy, who, as far as I can tell, immediately lost whatever marbles he had and bent around his finger like toffee. He continued to act like a devoted retainer and fed the spy any information he required about you and your movements." Jay's voice was harsh, but they could tell the brusqueness masked a slight tinge of pity.
"Apparently none of these people remember who they are. They all think they're fiends from Hell, like the others. The fact that they shouldn't be able to survive on our world doesn't seem to faze them."
"Well, fiends have little use for logic at the best of times." G said, scratching his pointy chin. "They tend to use it as a target when they practice their megido bolts."
"Whatever. He doesn't know who Treize is, but they are apparently led by something they call Chaos, and I'm willing to bet-"
"Chaos, from the thirteenth circle of Hell." Duo's eyes hardened.
"Yes, the toughest of the bunch, so probably the former King of Lin himself. He's apparently keeping a breach open, somewhere."
"Where?" Heero snapped.
"That, unfortunately, our spy doesn't know." Jay said glumly. "No, don't bother." He added as Heero took a step towards Sorrow, cracking his knuckles. "Trust me there is little we could do to him that would register; he thinks he's a fiend after all, incapable of pain and emotions, and even dying. Besides, he has no willpower. He's just a limp rag. Probably why they sent him as a spy and not an attacker. He told me all he knows without any difficulties, except for the tiresome one of not being able to stay on the same subject for more than five minutes. He was ported here and he doesn't know from where, so-"
"We need to know where Treize is!" Heero snapped.
"Well let me tell you what we know. Treize, as I said, is sitting on a breach, and holding it open on the commands of the masters of Hells, according to the spy. All of masters. They're all in on this, and each sent one representative -apart from Void and Darkness, who are contrary sons of bitches even by fiend standards. The representative is, each time, one of the sorcerers who was caught in the Gap, since they wouldn't survive otherwise. The gap Treize is holding open is not big enough for normal fiends to use as a link to live in this world. It took considerable effort on the masters' behalf to thrust each of their representatives through it, apparently.
"So Sorrow and the others have been trying to get you to come and help Treize rip the thing open. Although I'm surprised Treize doesn't have enough power to do this by himself. It must be a very weak breach-"
"Which is why we can't find the thing." G stuck in.
"Now, what is Treize doing here in the first place? That's interesting. The spy said something about a bridge. He doesn't know that Chaos is Treize, so he can't give us any more information on that subject. But I have a theory that Treize had some sort of link with the world, a connection that allowed him to worm his way into a breach -maybe quite some time ago- and stick there. Apparently he can't move away from the thing either, so when I say he's stuck there, I mean it. He's holding the breach open and will probably defend it with his life."
"Why are we wasting our time with all this theory? We already know we need to find this Chaos and kill him and seal the breach." Heero ground out.
"Can't... " Sorrow suddenly spoke and his eyes grew even wider, devouring his face. "Can't... never-ending, always changing, always suffering, never ceasing... lord Chaos... everlasting." He shuddered and curled up a bit on himself.
"Hm, Heero, before you get too enthusiastic, there's something you should know about the fiends of the thirteenth circle of Hell." G said dryly.
"If it's not their weak spot, I'm not interested." Heero growled.
"That's just it, they don't have any. They're unkillable."
Everyone in the room -except for Jay and a glum Duo, who already knew this- stared at the small sorcerer.
"Un-unkillable? What do you mean?" Heero stuttered.
"Immortal. Ultra-tough. Ever mutable. Stick a sword in its heart and it'll grow three new ones before you can even say 'gotcha'. Get the picture?"
"But-but then how are we going to-"
"Well that... ." Said Jay slowly, staring at Sorrow "is the big question all right."
They found him...
They found Sorrow.
I'm sorry... I know-... I'm sorry. Well, does that mean we can expect the children then?
"N... I tH1nk s0 yes... "
Pain and decay will try to capture them. No, actually, Decay will try to capture them. Pain will try to skin them alive, slowly. Where is he anyway?
"Hns>nnn, hUnger is waTchiNg him."
You mean, following him around at a safe distance... Can't blame her. Okay, so what do we do when your son and his - whatever, shows up on our doorstep?
"... h0pE paIn doesN't teaR them t2 shRedssss... "
... please tell me we have a better plan than that...
"TruSt tHe blO0d... "
Trust-... Trust your blood, Treize? I'm sorry, I find that worse than no plan at all!
"If yU hAve anY otHer sug-nnn-suggestIon... "
"ThAt's whaT I thOugth... "
"So tell us about this link." Heero said, leaning against the altar in G's lab, a coiled spring of dangerous tension. Unlike Duo who was wearing a hole in G's floor with his nervous pacing. Trowa and Quatre were running ahead of the king each time he changed direction, moving anything flammable out of the way. The exhaustion of the past few days was making the Duo's control even dodgier than usual. One small fire had already been quickly put out by a prosaic Wufei, who was quite used to this by now.
"The link is what allowed Treize, or Chaos, to stick himself into this world, or partly. Unfortunately we don't know what it is." G shrugged. "If we did-"
"We'd know where the bastard is!" Duo spun towards him, braid flying. "Since he can't move away from the breach, and that will be wherever this bridge was created."
"What can it be?" Heero asked impatiently.
"Well, we don't know... if someone was crazy enough to summon Treize, it would be a summoning circle somewhere." G scratched his nose. "But summoning a chaos fiend is just about the hardest thing a mage can do. Only a few sorcerers in the world can do it. I can, for one." He added proudly.
"Who else?" Heero asked, with the air of someone who was about to take down names and then ask some serious and very painful questions.
"Amon is hunting them down and checking them out - hard - but I don't think anybody is crazy enough to-... I did this summoning once in my youth and it almost killed me. The only one I knew who made a practice of it was Treize! He was very good at summoning, which is probably why he tried that stunt at the Gap in the first place... He always got along well with fiends, and look! The irony!"
"Take this seriously!" Duo snapped. Behind him, a glass vial on the altar exploded with a sharp crack. Heero absently moved away from the transparent blue liquid that started running towards him to drip on the floor.
"I am, I am... " G frowned. "I don't think it's a summoning circle, because then Treize would be severed from his power and very obviously he's got it. Both the fiendish powers, his former human power -if he can hold a breach open, and teleport people around - and the power of his blood, to hex you two. So I doubt that's the answer."
"Say that again?" Jay was suddenly staring at G, a few inches from the long nose.
"What, 'So I doubt that's the answer'? Listen, Jay, you really should look into getting a hearing aid. I understand they make good ones in Sanq. Only the size of your hand, look like a trumpet, you stick it in-"
"Not that... " Heero could hear Jay's knuckles creak all the way across the room. "Just before."
"He's got his fiendish powers, his human powers and the power of his blood." G said slowly. He frowned. "... fiendish powers, human powers, power of blood... okay I give up, I'm too smart even for myself. What did I say that was so interesting?"
"I know what the link could be... "
"Well don't keep us in suspense or young Maxwell here is gonna blow up my entire lab! Spit it out!" Duo glowered. He had some restraint after all, he was only blowing up small stuff. Anyway he was king of Lin, he was allowed to make bits of it explode when he was feeling very worried and cross...
"Think. The fiendish power we can forget about, that belongs to the other side, but what could link him to this side? His mage's signature? An echo of him?"
"Power and - oh shit."
"His power and his blood." Jay said softly.
"Hn." Heero said suddenly. His eyes betrayed nothing, but Duo spun and ran towards him and, disregarding the risk and anybody else in the room, gave him a quick hug then grabbed his hand with knuckles whitening.
"Okay, that's an interesting lead. Possibly." G stared thoughtfully at the two. "But where would it be?"
"The place where his heir first manifested the power he inherited from Treize, would be my guess." Jay grunted.
Duo frowned. "But that was at the lodge, when we were twelve. We were there last month -and we totalled it, by the way- and there wasn't a breach-"
"It wasn't the lodge." Heero said quietly. "That's where you manifested your magic for the first time, Duo. But remember... You have his power; I have his blood."
"And that... " Jay said quietly, turning towards a startled Quatre, Trowa and Wufei "-does not leave this room, understood? I hate political headaches."
"But-... " Duo stared at his husband. "But then where-"
"We already checked the Gap of Sevring." G sighed. "That's where Yuy here first let loose. But the Gap is clear, Treize is not-"
"That's not where I used my powers the first time." Heero said softly.
"Uh?" Both Jay and G stared at him. "Then where-"
"Where Trowa told you." Heero said unexpectedly. "During his reading of the future. The child's shield, the joining in darkness."
"Oh shit." Duo said suddenly, eyes wide.
"The first time I used my powers was when Duo and I were children. When I created the bond between us, blurred our identity. In the convent where her Ladyship raised us."
"If you can call it that." Duo snarled, hand jerking his cross.
"And that's where my father is... " Heero said quietly, eyes turned inwards.
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