see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Halves: Circles + Chapter 19
"Are you sure?" Zechs sounded
puzzled, as his eyes swept the ruined outer walls of the long-abandoned
Jay started to answer, but G was more practical. With a minimal twitch
of his finger, he sent a mage bolt twisting towards the ruins.
It impacted with a solid 'whoomph', taking a wall and part of a building
In the ruins, something stirred.
The fallen bricks and masonry were catapulted aside and several creatures
rose from the dusty remains; skeletal corpses, rags of flesh and winding
cloth still clinging to withered muscle and apparent bone.
"I was rather afraid of that when you told us that both sides buried many
of their soldiers in the convent grounds during the war." G commented,
trying to sound flippant and not being very successful at it.
"Yes, the fiend from the circle of Decay is still alive and well, although
neither term really applies to him." Jay nibbled the tip of his moustache.
The creatures had lined up in the hole formed by G's blast. A quick glance
over the ruins showed other signs of movement. The fiends knew they'd
been discovered. The forces of the dead, animated by Decay to make a rampart
against the living, were no longer trying to hide.
Zechs turned towards his lieutenants and gave a few curt orders. They'd
made plans for what they might be facing. The forces circling the abandoned
convent were small in number but hand-picked and well-trained, and commanded
by grizzled officers from Zechs's first campaign to regain Sanq from the
forces of Lin; they knew how to face down demonic hordes and keep men
together in the face of the supernatural. The difference this time was
that Lin sorcerers were interspersed in their ranks, readying bolts of
force and spell wards, facing the common enemy.
"They shouldn't attack." G said, watching the ruins with gleaming eyes.
"They're here to defend the location of the breach."
"But if that changes, we can rely on our honourable shaman." Jay snorted.
It was carefully planned. If the dead charged, the men were to fall back
in good order, defended by the blasts of the sorcerers, to group around
the command center where Zechs was currently giving his final orders.
In the middle of the organized chaos of incipient battle, Wufei stood
before a tripod on which rested a huge metal basin filled with various
ingredients. He was concentrating, eyes closed and face tight as he tried
to gather himself for the unaccustomed task ahead. Sally stood close behind
him, with a torch ready to toss into the basin to light the saltpetre;
her other hand was on her sword, and she shot a nasty glare at anyone
who looked like they were approaching the oriental man. People were giving
them both a very wide and prudent berth after one look at her face.
"We're ready." Zechs said as he came back to the two wizards. His face
was set, his eyes were as hard and cold as blue crystal. The warrior-king
had his sword unsheathed, and he carried himself like a much younger man,
and someone you wouldn't want to meet in battle. He wasn't enjoying himself
though. He'd never wanted his peaceful kingdom to ever see war again.
And now a battle was beginning in his backyard, only thirty minutes away
from the capital. And what was worse...
"Are the boys... ?" He didn't finish his sentence. Jay nodded minutely.
Zechs scowled at the walls ahead of him.
"Right men!" He shouted, his voice the confident clarion of battle. "Apparently
we have unexpected guests. Let's show them the welcome Sanq reserves for
fiends who drop by uninvited."
The men near them roared in approval, swords and bows lifted in salute
to their king. Then archers pressed around the firepits, carefully maintained
by squires. At a signal from Zechs' sword, a hail of flaming arrows hammered
down into the edge of the ruins. Here and there a winding cloth caught
fire and a corpse writhed as dried tendons contracted under the heat.
"We'll keep this up for a few minutes, then we'll get you sorcerers to
knock down the remaining walls on this side." Zechs told G tightly, eyes
on the forces ahead of him. "We'll hammer them until nothing moves in
there or until they attack. Then we'll move in a bit and start again."
"Right." G rubbed his fists and flexed his fingers, magefire crackling
over them. "That should keep them nice and distracted. It'll be up to
the boys to do the rest."
The blue light of the teleport portal flickered nervously.
Duo glanced around carefully, giving Heero and his drawn sword room to
swing as the prince followed him. Nothing.
"Okay, leave." He told Kelna crisply. She scowled at him and took a hasty
step back into the portal. It wasn't customary to have the teleporting
mage accompany his or her charges, but Duo still didn't trust his old
rival's sister completely. He decided to use her despite that because
she was one of the best 'porters in the kingdom. And besides, if things
had gone badly wrong at this end he wouldn't have lost too much sleep
if something nasty had happened to her.
"Good luck your majesty." Kelna muttered not entirely insincerely and
the portal blinked out around her, leaving them alone.
Duo stared at his surroundings. I can't believe we're here again...
"Sounds like they've started." Heero said, his mind as usual firmly where
it belonged as he picked up the sounds of the fight in the distance. For
once Duo envied this blighted control Jay had inflicted on him.
He couldn't tear his eyes away from the room they were in. The convent
had been abandoned shortly after her ladyship's death many years ago;
the sisters had left for newly build temples around the kingdom painfully
rebuilding itself after nearly a decade of war. It had always seemed strange
that the huge grounds and convent buildings had remained both undisturbed
and uninhabited... but there was a faint miasma of evil around the place
that Duo, a magic user, could sense. Even a non-sorcerer would probably
avoid the place on instinct. As such it had remained remarkably undisturbed.
They were in the drawing room of the old, elegant house in the center
of the huge grounds, surrounded by a small private park and its own inner
walls. They were safely distant from the battle that had started at the
convent gates, even if Zech's forces were to advance. And hopefully the
enemy at their door would draw out Treize's forces, away from this house.
Duo knew they had to hurry; they couldn't be seen here, they were relying
on the element of surprise. Heero knew how to close breaches, and Duo
would be there to help him, harmonize their powers if the breach proved
too big to deal with alone, and counter anything Treize might throw at
him. Or at least that was the plan. They were hoping to get the drop on
the demonic ex-king of Lin, close the breach and lock him back into hell
before he could react. Speed was of the essence but both of them hesitated
in the center of the room.
A few things had been removed but most of it was as it was, covered in
dust and cobwebs and beaten in by the passage of years. The heavy black
wooden chair she used to sit in as she stared out into space for hours
at a time. The rich furnishings, elegant in their antiquity, which her
Ladyship had brought with her from her distant land. The low bench against
one wall, away from any window or distractions, where two very young children
had been forced to sit without moving or making any noise while her ladyship
pondered her revenge against Zechs and fate.
I am the sorcerer-king of Lin, Duo thought. I can blow this whole house
up with a flick of my finger. I could kill that old hag with less than
a thought and with considerable pleasure.
The very young child inside the man was still shuddering and refused to
be comforted. Until a familiar hand slid into his.
"Come on, Duo." Heero was also looking around the room, his face hard,
eyes gleaming as he scoured the darkness. He glared at the chair as if
she were still there, sitting and not bothering to glance their way even
once, even though she was the closest they had to family the first five
years of their lives.
Duo squeezed the hand in his. He hadn't needed her affection. He had Heero.
"How we gonna find the place?" He whispered, glancing around carefully.
"We were lost that time."
"Let's go down to the basement and take it from there. I think once we're
near the breach, we can just follow the nasty feeling of having our skin
crawl off our bones until we find the source." Heero muttered.
"Why down there?" Duo whispered. He knew he shouldn't be talking but he
couldn't help it, he had to hear the sound of his voice shivering the
silence in this mausoleum or the memories would rise up and choke him.
Everything was haunted with the withered flowers of their childhood. The
hallway that led to the study where their simple-minded nurse would take
them to get their assigned duties or reprimands on the very few occasions
they'd disobeyed her Ladyship. The stairs leading to the small room containing
only a cot on which they slept together and spent most of their days in
solitude. The kitchen, in which they had some limited form of interaction
with their nurse as she cooked for all of them, and babbled nearly meaningless
stories about fairies and dragons and mothers and fathers and other mythical
Heero's hand was on the door to the basement, another room pregnant with
unpleasant memories. He glanced back with a quizzical look, not understanding
"Why did you create the bond down there, and not... " not in the study
where hard eyes barely looked at them as she told them how they would
suffer for talking, or making noise, or not doing their chores, or just
because. Why not in the cupboard where she locked them up on a few occasions,
and once forgot them for two whole days. Why not in the basement itself
where she would make a crying nurse lash their hands with a thin rod,
the tears and whimpering of the one person who was kind to them making
their own redundant until finally they took all corrections in silence.
"Don't you remember?" Heero whispered reluctantly as he eased the door
open and glanced down. The house had been deserted -except for a few very
nasty ghosts from their past- and so was the basement.
Duo tried. The four or five times in the basement, where they were lashed
and then left to 'reflect', melded into a blur. All he could remember
was that once, when they were what, gods, three? Four? Once it had been
Heero moved towards the corner where at the time a wooden panel had gaped
as one of them had leaned against it. Now the wood was completely rotten
away and they didn't need to struggle against it as they had then. It
fell away easily to show the hole in which they'd crawled at the time,
the one that led down to the convent catacombs.
Heero moved forward prudently, sword ready. Then he moved back out again.
"Dark." He muttered, frustrated.
"I'll go first." A mage could sense his way in the dark.
"No." Heero ground out.
"We can't show a light." Duo hissed back and, before Heero could argue,
he'd grabbed his husband's hand and ducked into the hole. And remembered.
"Duo?" Heero tried to keep his alarmed voice quiet.
"It was me... I dragged us down here." Duo tried to get his legs to move,
but the memory was overwhelming him. He'd been the one to restlessly wander
around the room - he still had his own personality at the time and it
was just starting to burgeon. He'd found the hole in the wall. He'd been
the one to drag a reluctant Heero through. He...
"I was afraid she'd blame you." Heero's voice was barely a whisper, hand
squeezing Duo's. "I thought she would punish you."
It was one of the first things that they remembered; they were always
treated the same, never cared for individually, never differentiated.
Even when disciplined, it didn't matter which one of them did the wrong
thing, they would both be punished as one, as if they were one and the
same 'boy', like she always addressed them. But this had been a transgression
of the highest order; trying to escape her, trying to run away. Duo remembered
ending up lost in a dead-end, huddling near Heero, knowing they wouldn't
be able to get out and that she'd find them - they never doubted she would,
death by starvation hadn't been considered a possibility by the very young
He remembered clutching Heero to him as if they could mash themselves
into one boy, someone strong enough to resist her.
"I thought she might separate us. That was the worse thing she could have
done. I thought... " Heero's hand squeezed his again, the cobalt blue
eyes were full of pain as they caught his. "I didn't want to lose you...
Of course, if she realized what an atrocious punishment separation was,
she probably would have used it once she had found them. She had been
very angry... but she didn't know them well enough, didn't care for them
enough to even realize what a potent weapon that would be. So she'd just
dragged them back up to the surface and locked them in their room for
a day. But by then... Duo couldn't remember much about what happened after
that. Because Heero, in his panic, had unwittingly used a subtle but strong
pulse of power to set up a bond of steel between them that would only
grow and strengthen the longer they remained with her.
The rest was a blur. Empty days full of quiet and brooding, with only
each other's presence as haven. And then Zechs, and the first few months
with him, fighting instinctively against the separation he was trying
to impose on them, even as they started to believe in the love and the
life he was offering them.
And then she came back. And undid some of the damage she'd caused. Duo
found himself grasping his pendant and for the first time in his life
he wondered why... remorse? It hardly seemed possible. But even more impossible
to believe that she might have cared for them a bit after all.
He shook himself. He could feel the love and comfort flowing from Heero's
touch, and it dragged him back to the present. Forget the old witch. And,
once this last little mess was cleaned up, they could put their past behind
them too and start looking at the future which, if he had anything to
say about it, would also be spent together but in much more pleasant circumstances.
Heero must have felt his resolve through their growing bond - a new one,
and much healthier than the one that had nearly ruined them in the past
- as he smiled and pressed Duo's hand, caressing the back with his thumb,
then tilted his chin at the hole.
"Let's do this." Duo muttered. "I can feel the breach from here." He added.
As memories were set to rest, he realized that not all the feelings of
horror were coming from them. There was a familiar tinge of hate and evil
in the air, one he remembered from the Gap of Sevring. "Let's go kick
Treize back into Hell, close this godsdamned breach, and then burn this
place to the ground. It's giving me the creeps."
"I'll let you toss the match. Or mage bolt. Lead on." Heero whispered
behind him as they moved forward into darkness.
[chap. 18] [chap. 20] [back
to Maldoror's fic]