Tsukimine Shrine Fic Challenge issued 3/4/04

Challenge: Prologue; Genre: Any; Canon: No

Rating: G-PG13

Words: 500-1000

Special Requirements:
-Must be a completely new universe.
-Must introduce at least 3 of the following: Sakura, Fujitaka, Touya, Yue, Yukito, Kero, Syaoran, Yelan, Tomoyo, Sonomi, Eriol, Clow, Kaho, or Meiling.
-Must include a death.

AUTHOR'S NOTE and DISCLAIMER: I've used an alternate spelling for Keroberos, and I hope this world counts as a completely new universe.  The universe may be free, but each of the characters and anything else CCS is the property of CLAMP.  Song quotations and song titles (yes, they're real) were written by Michael Timmins and belong to the Cowboy Junkies.  This disclaimer applies to all the following chapters.

Prologue: Misguided Angel

            Yelan Li rested her hand across Sakura's forehead.  The girl's face was pale, and her skin was cold with a sheen of sweat.  Her eyes had become unfocused as she began to slip away.  "Die quickly," Yelan murmured.  Her soft words were the last that Sakura heard before her life fled her body.

            A hard form lay under Sakura's tongue.  She pulled it from her mouth and found what she had hoped: the splinter-small form of her staff, and a square-holed copper coin that left an unpleasant taste on her palate.  Around her, fog-like gray shadows swirled and slithered into a deeper darkness beyond.  A hushed lapping of water echoed out of the black.  With a whisper and a twist of her hand, she magicked the splinter of sacred olivewood into its full size; the heavy base of it thumped against the stony ground while the jewel at its tip radiated a brilliant light.  Sakura used the light to illuminate her path as she strode toward the sound of the water.

            At the water's edge, a flat bottomed boat bumped against an ancient stone dock.  The boatman wore long, hooded robes of sooty red that obscured his shape and his face.  When he reached out his hand for her fare, only the tips of his fingers extended beyond his sleeve.  Sakura surrendered the copper coin that High Priestess Yelan had remembered to send with Sakura's departing spirit.  The coin must have been the correct token for the boatman; he pushed off into the silent river as soon as Sakura had both feet in the craft.

            The mists hardly moved as the vessel crossed the inky water, but the boatman did not need to see his way across.  "Ah," said the girl, timidity making her voice waver, "did an angel pass this way before me?"  The boatman was silent.  Sakura was unsurprized at the lack of answer, but she had needed to ask, if only to break the ominous quiet with the sound of her own voice.  Because of course Yue would not have come this way.  He had not needed a coin for the boatman when he had had the escort of the lord of this realm.

            The curtains of fog slowly pulled away to reveal a stage of black stone: the far dock.  Lifting her long skirts up to free her step, Sakura started her journey away from the river's edge.  "Thank you," she called back to the boatman, but he was already lost again in the mist.

            Even without the light from her staff, she would have been able to see the grand gates that glowed a hellish red, and the golden beast that paced across its entrance.  Willing herself brave, she approached.  The great cat blocked her way.

            "I am Cerberus," he growled thunderously, "the guardian beast of the Underworld.  Only the dead may pass this gate."

            "But I am dead," said the girl.  "And someone has passed this gate who isn't.  And I'm going to bring him back to the living."

. . .