Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Two Halves + Chapter 26
Prayers For The Dead

Septim's soul was shaking. Madness was clawing at his mind as he saw just how well Heero had been trained to do the job he was doing. But the power! No one could have that amount of power, it was right up there with Duo's! How was this possible?

He was left suddenly staggering in empty air, all blasts around him dropped, and he saw Duo run to the Gap. The slight flicker of hope that Duo would stop the stranger from undoing his life's work were crushed into the dust as he realized that Duo's powers were feeding into the other's, harmonising in ways that Septim knew was just impossible.

He saw his dream of the domination of Lin - of the escape of his dying people from the chains of the magical mountains- shattered through by the pulses of power.

Madness swept up in their place.

Septim's wards were practically solid around him, he'd had them for so long. They slowly dropped one by one.

They'd misjudged him. They all had. They all thought he didn't have the same power as Treize. But he did, he did! It was just focused inwards. Why blast your enemies when you can get someone else to do it for you? Why take risks striking out when you can stay safe behind wards? Treize had done the seizing, the rampaging. But Treize was dead. Septim was alive, and he would not fail where his brother had.

The last ward dropped and power slowly started to pulse in the small, thin hands. His mad eyes were fixed on the two slight silhouettes burning against a sea of darkness. Now...

He heard the soft sound behind him and spun around, unable to ignore his cautious instincts even then. His eyes widened.

He stared into coal-black almond eyes for a time, as if trying to understand something that was always just beyond his reach. His gaze finally dropped to the sword running through his chest. His eyes stayed blank and fixed when the blade was removed, leaving him to crumple, a scarecrow of straw and twigs in a rumpled robe, glass orbs staring at nothing.

Wu Fei smiled grimly at the figure. In his mind, a prayer for the dead, started five years before, was finally completed. Then he spun, prosaic, to help Trowa attack the five remaining guards grouped around the only sorcerer left. He smiled grimly. Behind Trowa, a good distance away but closing in fast, a contingent of guards, lesser sorcerers and servants, those who served the breach wizards but couldn't stand to be this close, were running to assist their seniors. It looked like he would be accompanying Meilan's death gift personally after all. He felt a stab of regret for the steady blue eyes and gentle healing hands he was leaving behind, but it didn't weaken him. Why should he feel sorrow? He was a free man, he was avenged, he was going to die protecting his friends while stopping, he felt, something really bad from happening. He was honoured.

*

"Duo... " It sounded like ground glass. Looked like Heero was angry at him for being here. Duo wasn't too happy either. It felt like every inch of his skin was being peeled away. He was keeping nothing back, nothing for defence, nothing. It looked like they were going to die together after all. He tried to feel for the anger he'd felt back at the lodge, five years ago, at the thought. It seemed to fritter away under the clammy rasping wind lashing from the gap. Nothing could live under that. It wasn't death, the calm cold peace he'd come to know and deal out evenly. This was sheer black malice, the hatred of all that was alive.

He suddenly thought of Father Maxwell. He didn't know why. Father Maxwell giving his life so Heero -and Duo yoo, if he'd have needed it, whatever his birth- could live.

Somehow that helped a bit.

He remembered Zechs ruffling his long hair and laughing, holding him close when he'd fallen off his horse, giving him one of his old swords...

He remembered Heero kissing him...

That helped quite a bit as well.

"... Not gonna beat us... " he snarled into the teeth of anihilation. "Screw you!"

Beside him he thought he heard a startled chocked laugh.

*

Trowa sighed as he kicked the sorcerer off the point of his sword.

"Right. Your turn, love..."

Wu Fei stared at the man while wiping his sword on a fallen guard's uniform. "What?"

Trowa glanced at him. He looked a bit dazed. He was bleeding from several gashes and his forehead was bruised. The growing pressure around them seemed to crush their words into the dust; it plucked at their bodies, trying to bring them to their knees. Neither looked at the Gap, they knew they would not be able to look away again.

"Thanks, Chang. Looks like I needed some help after all."

"You're going to need more than my help now." The guards were almost upon them; they weren't moving fast because they understandably didn't want to get any nearer to the Gap, but an officer was moving up the ranks swiftly. Wu Fei realized a desperate enraged attack was inevitable, if they wanted to stop Duo and Yuy from doing- whatever it was they were doing. "In fact, if you know any gods on a personal basis, you might want to see if they're not too busy to assist us in a minute."

"Gypsies don't have much care for gods, they tend not to answer our prayers. But I know a couple of their servants who do. A crusty old guardian of crossroads. And the sweetest angel that ever walked in sunshine."

Wu Fei gave him a worried glance. The Lin officer had drawn his sword, a black mage-blade, able to cast dark magic, and seemed to be haranguing and threatening his men in turn. Some of the sorcerers had already advanced, looking at them with venom. Any second now... and his fighting partner was hallucinating about angels.

Oh well, it wouldn't make much difference in the end... They were dead anyway.

The officer raised his sword, turning towards them. Wu Fei thought he saw a couple of men dart away at that opportunity, but not many of them. Damn, the people of Lin just didn't know when to quit! From the nasty rumbling tearing sound behind him, they should all be running for cover. Actually, it was probably better to die cleanly on a blade than-

The officer jerked sideways a few feet and fell, his limbs jerking in surprise. No, in death-throes. Wu Fei stared in amazement at the blue-tipped quarrels in the man's neck, chest and thigh. What the-

There was a noise that almost rivalled the scream of air behind them. A long ululation of savage ferocity. Two dozen men were running towards the Lin soldiers and sorcerers, waving pikes and scimitars.

"... Angel... " Trowa murmured, dropping to one knee for a moment, a hand to the wound on his head. Then he straightened and walked towards the melee. Wu Fei stared at the fight. Among the dark-haired hulky attackers, a small golden figure was darting and killing with deadly finesse. Two short scimitars flashed as he spun and dived and struck again and again. Wu Fei recognized the two-bladed style, he'd seen it plenty of times in the last few months, and again just now, against the Gap sorcerers. There were almost fifty Lin guards, more servants and half a dozen sorcerers, but Wu Fei didn't favour their chances. Trowa accelerated, a rare warm smile on his face. Wu Fei started to follow.

"Chang!"

The voice stopped him in his tracks, whirling with blade ready. The weapon dipped in shock right away.

"D- Dr G? What are you-"

Duo's mentor was standing nearby, eyes fixed on the scene behind Wu Fei's back. He was in the shadow of a taller man in a dusty long-coat, white hair drawn back over his forehead, moustache dangling in the wind from the Gap, small glasses covering his eyes and glinting in the unnatural light.

"Chang, how long have those two been at it?" Dr G barked.

Wu Fei shrugged, helpless. It felt like he'd been fighting and killing against this backdrop of nightmares for half a day at least, but his common sense told him it couldn't be more than an hour since they'd entered the maze.

"They're doing OK. That's a turnout for the books. Why did you say your lad wasn't controlled enough for this, G? He seems OK to me." The stranger smoothed his moustache as he watched Duo intently.

"Don't be an ass, Jay, the kid's a lunatic! I mean, I like him and all, but I wouldn't trust him light a candle without torching the entire house in the process. Ask Chang here, he's been burned a number of times by Duo's temper."

"I guess Heero's a more stabilising influence than I thought. Unless... " The grin beneath the moustache twisted in cold amusement. "Unless... Oh well, shall we do anything? Or shall we wait for Heero and his friend to do all the work."

"The later." G shot back. "I'm old and I'm tired and I've been on a horse for the past three days. Let the younger generation deal, I say."

"Heero?" Wu Fei's voice cracked. Of all the huge questions bouncing around his head at that point, for some reason this one stuck. That was the name of Duo's-

"Did I ever thank you for keeping an eye on the lad, G?" The taller man glanced at the Doctor. "I mean, you had enough work watching over Septim's little plots, and the numerous smaller breaches scattered all over Lin. This place is a sinkhole of rotten old magic. Why anybody would want to live in these god-forsaken mountains-... "

"The air is fresh." G snapped. "And I like goat's milk. Rather live here than in your scorching hot patch of sand."

"Well, hopefully both our jobs just got easier. I think we better hide behind something, looks like the boys are ready for the finale."

"Hmm, you're right. Come on, Chang, don't just stand there like an idiot, follow me. Yeah, that overhang looks OK, should keep us relatively safe. Blasts away."

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