Passage: Dark Part 2 (Revision 1)

Notes: this is a complete alternate reality. The world that this takes
place in is Passage, precursor to the Gateway. Both are places that I write
fantasy stories in. I just had to toss the G-boys in and see what they did.
Be prepared for yaoi, violence, sap, OOC-ness, and some yuck factor.

WARNING: MAJOR YUCK FACTOR IN THIS PART. This is not for the faint of heart
or stomach, do not read if you have just had or are currently eating
dinner. Because of the graphic nastiness, I have rated this part R.

~text~ indicates words that are subliminal...they aren't audible in the
normal sense, felt rather than heard. Think of it as someone whispering
into the mind, but not as directly as Shenlon seems to do it, which is why
Wufei never gives any sign of hearing it. ;)

---
Contrary to what he had stated before, the search went on for several days,
Wufei and Shenlon flying in ever widening circles, hoping to find some clue
as to what had happened. Shenlon's ,memories of the near disaster began to
fade quickly. Such was the way with the Lesser Dragons; their lives were
long but their memories short, leaving them perpetual, powerful children.

Which was probably just as well, Wufei reflected as Shenlon banked
abruptly, nearly causing him to slide off her back. A constant undercurrent
of annoyance and displeasure trickled through the back of his mind. Short
memories meant that they quickly forgot why they were in a bad temper.
Shenlon started into a steep dive, causing Wufei to hold on to the bony
ridges of her back even more tightly. /Unfortunately, they never seem to
forget quite quickly enough.../ he thought grimly. Shenlon was tired of the
fruitless search, and very grumpy. The fact that he was feeling just as
disgruntled didn't matter to her, if she thought of it at all. It wasn't
as if he *enjoyed* being tired and cold and dirty. /We have to keep
looking./ he reminded himself sternly, /We have to find out what happened.
Whatever it was, I know it wasn't natural./

|tired, hungry| Shenlon interjected, followed by |home.|

Wufei sighed quietly. "I'm sorry. We have to keep looking."

|annoyance|

"Whatever." Wufei stifled his own growing annoyance with the entire
situation with great difficulty. He slowly scanned the horizon, looking for
something--anything--to break the utter monotony of the endless sea of
treetops beneath them. Off near the horizon, there was an odd looking brown
smudge, breaking through the never ending green. "Shenlon, turn north." he
said quietly. He knew she couldn't hear his voice over the shriek of the
wind, but that was unimportant. What Shenlon listened to was the form of
the words in his mind. He'd never quite gotten the hang of just *thinking*
at her, as he was told the last Master of Dragons had been able to do.

Shenlon banked and swung north, finding an updraft, which she used to gain
height sharply. Since they had a destination, they no longer needed to
remain low enough to watch the ground.

They came upon their objective quickly, much more quickly than Wufei had
expected to. "Elder Dragons..." he breathed out softly, looking at the
forest below them. In a perfect circle that had to be miles across, the
trees were decimated, brown and dry and dead. Most of them had fallen,
leaving their great corpses scattered haphazardly across each other like a
child's game of pickup sticks. "Shenlon, find somewhere to land." he
watched the desolation roll along beneath them. "I think we've found what
we're looking for."

***

It had been more difficult to find a safe spot to land then he'd expected.
The fallen trees were too unstable to make good landing platforms. Once
they were finally on the ground, another difficulty presented itself.
Shenlon reached a certain point, about half a mile from the circle's
center, and refused to go any further.

Not that Wufei blamed the dragon. He didn't particularly want to go any
deeper into the destruction either. There was a feeling of wrongness
permeating the air that left a bitter taste on the back of his tongue, and
it became stronger and even less pleasant with each step he took.
Everywhere he looked, there was death. Birds lay on the ground,
death-stiffened wings outstretched--a few even had bits of grass clutched
in their feet; it was the nest building season. Butterflies, moths,
beetles, and every other kind of insect imaginable spotted the grass, wings
and exoskeletons shining in the harsh sunlight. He walked in a stilled,
waiting hush; the only source of sound in the remains of the forest, it
seemed, was him. The sparse grass hissed dryly under his feet. It had
obviously been dead for several days, and the sun had backed it into a
brittle tan like the leaves of the trees. This wasn't natural. Wufei
shuddered. Even if some natural disaster had caused the destruction, there
should have been some sounds, from birds and other animals beginning to
move back in, searching for food, scavenging the bodies of the dead.
Instead, not even the breeze blew, as if the Wind itself was afraid to
touch the decimated forest.

Wufei didn't want to walk any further through the strange silence, and he
certainly didn't want to meet whatever had caused this, somehow he managed
to force himself to keep walking. The sun beat down on his shoulders almost
tangibly, baking the grass further and causing the smell of aging death and
rot to rise from the ground in almost palpable waves. He could barely feel
the presence of Shenlon in his mind any more. She hadn't wanted him to keep
walking, and apparently she'd walled him almost completely out of her
thoughts, so resistant was she to the idea of going further into the circle
even in spirit. The silence deepened, if it was possible, as he neared the
center. Wufei wanted to scream, or shout, or anything to break the
stillness, but he couldn't. It reminded him of the one time he'd visited
the crypts below Sanctuary to honor the past Dragon Masters. The world
seemed to be holding its breath, not wishing to disturb the dead.

And then, in an instant, the silence was broken, as Wufei stumbled over a
tangle of dried out vine-weeds and nearly fell over the body of a man.
Huge, black flies that Wufei had never seen outside of the ancient,
tropical battlefields of his youth swarmed over the body, their frenzied,
heavy buzzing suddenly filling the air that had been so completely still
before. Stifling a shout of revulsion, Wufei scrambled away from the body.
Hastily, he pulled a piece of his overshirt from the waistband of his pants
and covered his mouth and nose. The stench the corpse was putting out was
nearly unbearable.

With a grimace of disgust, he forced himself to creep closer so that he
could examine the body as well as he was able through the mass of flies
that crawled over it. They clung in thick black sheets to the corpse's
eyes, nose, and crotch. The dead man's pants were undone, leaving his
genitalia exposed, much to the delight of the flies. The dead man was
wearing hardened leather and ringmail armor of better than average quality,
and there was a well-crafted bow on the ground nearby; it was obvious that
he was not the ordinary bandit scum. Wufei sat back on his heels, trying to
imagine what could have happened. The man had most likely been a sentry;
his armor was quite possibly standard military issue of some sort, which
indicated that he was a part of a larger group, and the bow was a short
horse-man's bow, not something that was used anywhere on the west side of
the mountains. He'd abandoned his post briefly to relieve himself, setting
his bow down nearby in case it was needed, and then...

/And then what?/ Wufei thought grimly. There was no blood on the ground, no
marks on the man's body that he could see, and the facial expression
indicated no surprise. The sentry hadn't seen his death coming. /And he's
definitely not going to see much of anything now.../ Wufei stood and moved
away from the body, turning his feet once more toward the center of the
circle. He couldn't help but wonder if the soldier had been friend or foe;
there was no indication of either, though his very presence in the woods
where no friendly soldier had a right to be was damning in itself. If the
man was a sentry, it begged the question of where the camp he was guarding
rested. With a grimace, he came to the conclusion that he'd have a lot more
questions before this was over.

As if the first body had been the signal, the further in he walked, the
more death he saw. Dead men, all wearing the same armor and covered with
greedy flies littered the ground, sprawling in piles or laying alone. There
was no indication whatsoever of what had happened; no blood, no weapons, no
sign of a fight, and the faces of the dead men were peaceful and relaxed,
nothing like the looks of fear or shock that should have been there if they
had died as the result of an attack. It couldn't possibly have been a
plague, Wufei decided; all the men must have died at exactly the same time,
like some giant had just reached out and negligently snuffed out the life
of everything in one instant. He shivered at the thought.

When he finally found the main camp, it was already afternoon. It had
obviously been a large camp. The dead nearly covered the ground. They lay
thickest around several large piles of half burned wood that could only
have been the remains of bonfires. The more Wufei saw of the camp, the less
he liked what it indicated. Everything was neat and well ordered, clustered
around a single tent in the center. Every time that he tried to look at the
tent, his eyes slid past it. Something told him that he didn't want to go
there, the same feeling of nameless dread that seemed to be permeating the
area. He knew that he'd have to check it eventually; it most likely
belonged to whoever had been in charge of the group, so it would have the
best chance of telling him what was going on.

Yet somehow, he *really* didn't want to.

Procrastination seemed to be the best course, and he decided to explore the
rest of the camp in order to make an accurate mental tally of the number of
men. The numbers weren't very comforting; by his count, there were nearly a
thousand dead, and he knew there were more, since he'd only found the
sentries on one side. One of the largest groups of corpses was centered
around the remains of some kind of dice game. Bits of jewelry lay scattered
in the dirt, gold chains and precious stones woven into necklaces that
shone brightly in the afternoon light. He'd never seen jewelry quite like
it before; it was all obviously made by the same incredibly skilled hand.
Wufei picked a few of the pieces up and stowed them in one of his pockets;
he hoped that someone in Sanctuary would be able to identify the style.
More jewelry sat in small piles by the various dead men, along with
slightly torn or stained bits of delicate silk that had no business being
in the midst of a group of soldiers. They looked like something that would
belong to a woman's dress or scarf. Cautiously, Wufei picked up one of the
airy bits of fabric to examine the stains on it, revealing a tiny doll with
sculpted wooden and a delicately painted face of fired clay.

~Heramu...~

The stains on the cloth were rusty red...blood. Wufei hastily dropped it
and moved away, trying not to look at the doll. /It has the same stains on
it.../

~Sarkantar...~

Something led him to the north side of the camp, past the tent, pulling him
out toward the few trees that were still standing. Wufei didn't know if it
was Shenlon driving him on, or the Wind, but he could almost feel the
urgency, a sudden need to see what was there.

~...Kenta, Sarkantar...~

The smell of death, riper and older, infinitely stronger than what was in
the camp hit him like a wall, leaving him gasping for breath and struggling
for control of his suddenly uncooperative stomach. "Elder Dragons..." he
moaned softly, unable to look away from the sight before him.

It was a grave, an enormous grave yawning up from the ground with dead tree
roots twisting through it like obscene snakes, black loam piled around it
in mounds nearly as high as he was tall. Another dead soldier lay
bonelessly by it; before he'd died, he had stripped off his ringmail armor
and under tunic, probably because he was overheating. The dead man's slack
face was streaked with dirt, and a shovel was still clutched in his hand.
Strangely enough, there were no flies in the clearing at all.

That wasn't what held Wufei's attention, however.

~Karam...karam...heramu teso la...~

The dead lay around the grave in a sea of twisted wreckage. They were not
the dead of the camp...no, Wufei realized with sick finality, they were not
soldiers at all. Young, old, men, women, children, grandmothers,
babies...all lay in a tangled mass. For one moment, Wufei's eyes refused to
see the details, his mind trying desperately to forget what lay before him.

~Teso la...~

All at once, the images before him became clear, nearly bringing Wufei to
his knees. He'd thought that war had hardened him to the point that death
couldn't bother him any more, or at least not in a way that would effect
his heart. But he'd been wrong. Oh, had he been wrong.

At the edge of the mass of dead, the body of a little girl lay half under
another body. The skin of the corpses was grayish and sunken, waxy in what
half-light the dead trees above allowed to shine in. The little girl's
mouth was opened in a silent, unending scream, and one of her hands, stiff
with death, reached out toward Wufei, pleading...

~...karam...~

Wufei close his eyes and turned away. The fingers of the dead girls hand
were twisted and broken, as was her arm, and she was covered with brown
streaks of blood and charcoal streaks that could only be burns. Willing
strength into his knees, Wufei forced himself to look back at the dead, to
memorize as many details as he could. All of the corpses were naked, as if
death itself hadn't been enough of an indignity, and all of them showed the
same marks as the little girl's corpse, some worse than others.

Every single one of these people had been tortured to death.

He didn't know how he did it, but he forced himself to walk forward, to
kneel by the wreckage that had once been living, breathing, laughing,
crying people...

/Stop that...think of them as things. Think of them as bodies, or you'll go
insane.../

He bent to examining one of the bodies, trying to find some pattern in the
wounds, anything that could tell him why this had been done. He found it
all too easily; a sigil carved deep into the skin directly over the heart
of each of the corpses. He couldn't read it; it wasn't in any of the
languages he knew, but looking at it made his skin crawl. It was a name
sigil, a calling sigil, and what it called was evil.

~...karam...~

Wufei stood up quickly, not wanting to get too close, now. He had no
protection from the curse or the life spell that was almost certainly
attached to the sigil. He wouldn't even be able to give the unfortunate
victims a decent burial.

~...karam, Sarkantar...~

Wufei turned back toward the camp and began to walk, setting his eyes
firmly on the tent that lay directly in front of him. Someone had directed
for the sigils to be used, someone that knew a great deal about death
magic. He had a feeling that the person was or had been the resident of the
tent, which would explain his aversion to even going near it. He had to
look though; he had no choice. If the person was dead, he didn't have to
worry. If he wasn't...Wufei grimly skirted that possibility. In a pitched
battle with someone that powerful, he would probably get killed.

~...heramu do tenya...tenya...tenya...~

Wufei pushed the flap of the tent open, doing his best to take shallow
breaths through his mouth. The stench of death was no thicker in the tent
than it was outside, yet it smelled infinitely worse. The scent of cooked
flesh hung in the air, as well as the deep, purely mental stench that Wufei
associated with death magic.

The tent was filled with racks of equipment, knives and hooks, and other
metal implements that Wufei recognized subconsciously but refused to
acknowledge sitting in neat orderly rows. In the back of his mind, he could
hear one of the teachers from Sanctuary describing in detail what each
instrument could do...

/Torture is perhaps the most common way for a Master to die. If you are
captured by the enemy in a land war, and they know what you are, which they
undoubtedly will, you will die under the knife as they try to torture
either knowledge or life or both out of you. You will be stronger than
them, though, because you are a Master, and you must never even begin to
consider to give in to pain...that means they have won, and your death will
be for nothing.../

He knew that one day, he would almost certainly face torture in some form
or another, but it was his duty; he'd acknowledged it when he took his
station as Master of Dragons. But this...to do this to women and children
and old men...

Wufei tore his eyes away from the torture implements, forcing himself to
look elsewhere. His attention was immediately drawn to the floor.

There was blood all over, in a long trail...

~....heramu....heramu...tenya do ne la, teso teso ne...~

Wufei's eyes followed the trail up to the torture rack at one end of the
room. Two corpses lay by it, dressed in leather armor, each one holding a
poker frozen fingers. There was a...body...strapped to the rack. His eyes
passed over it without really looking, drawn back toward the floor. There
was another body on the floor, this one wearing robes that were once rich
silk, but were now soaked with blood and torn. Cautiously, Wufei walked
over and looked....

The corpse was a man, and unlike all the others, the look on his face was
not one of peace. It was terror, pain, and horror. Where his eyes should
have been, there were nothing but bloody holes. He had torn his own eyes
out. Wufei clamped the cloth over his mouth and ran from the tent. The
instant he was outside, he fell to his knees and vomited until there was
nothing left in his stomach.

/Elder Dragons, protect me.../

Slowly, he stood, took a deep breath and immediately wished he hadn't,
wiped his mouth, turned, and forced himself to go back into the tent. The
least he could do was take the body from the rack if it had not been marked
yet, and bury it like he could not do for its people.

The least he could do.

~Atya Sarkantar....~

It took all of the strength he had to approach the torture rack. He wasn't
sure what he would find, but he didn't want to think about it either way.
The body had long hair, masses and masses of hair so matted with dried
blood that the original color was no longer discernable; it obscured the
corpse's face. The outstretched arms, strapped to the rack, had delicate
wrists. It was probably a woman. Steeling himself, Wufei reached out toward
one of the corpse's wrists...

~Atya Sarkantar, Lesz szivas segteni karam do ne!~

With a soft sound, half gasp for breath and half hiss of pain, the corpse
moved, raising its head. The corpse...no...man...turned his face blindly
toward Wufei, his head lolling. His eyes were glued shut with blood, his
face striped with burns. Cracked lips opened slowly, and the man gasped
again, fresh blood dribbling slowly from his mouth in bright scarlet
streaks.

The cloth that Wufei had been using to cover his mouth fell to the floor,
dropped by his suddenly limp fingers.

"Nen tero matare...nen te ya...." the man whispered in a voice so broken by
screaming that it was almost nonexistent, "please...no more...please...."

~Keres do la Atya Sarkantar. KARAM!~[1]

 

[1]All of these sentences are in the native tongue of the Zsidok, the
people of the boy that Wufei just found. ^^ Translation will be provided at
a later date. I just feel like being mysterious right now.