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!>>

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.

(--WHOA!--)

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.

"What?"

"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.

Typical.

"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.

* * * * *

[cont]