Disclaimer: This story is copyrighted by Rummi (2004) and is based on characters and ideas owned by others (namely Marvel Productions, TSR, Inc., Saban Entertainment, etc., etc.). Only the events and certain original characters portrayed in this work of fiction are mine. All others belong to the above-mentioned conglomerates, as well as any more recent successors, and are being used without permission. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money is being made by its author. (All I ask for is credit if you wish to copy, distribute, or refer to it and maybe a lil' feedback!) Thank you and enjoy!
Rating: PG-13 for violent situations and mild language.
Author's Notes: New fic! New fic! This one's been on my hard drive for a while, but I just didn't have the motivation to work on it while Legacy was still progressing. It won't be quite as long as my last story and is actually set during the show's timeline, rather than as a prequel or a post-Realm sequel. (Definitely after "Winds of Darkness," so I'd place it sometime following the close of the third season.)
Originally, I started writing this in response to a challenge Kimmy had posted at Darkhaven – one that questioned what would happen if Hank really did betray his friends. In the end, it turned out a little differently than I'd planned, but it does have a conflicted Ranger, a crazy bad guy, a few OC's, a bit of Hank/Sheila romance, an occasionally soft Eric, and potential character death. Sound good? Yay, then! Read on!
Summary: Dungeon Master's latest quest leads the Young Ones to a town with many scars. And they'll be lucky to leave unscathed.
Through a Mirror Darkly
by N.L. Rummi
For now we see through a mirror, darkly,
but soon we will see face to face.
Now I know only partially;
but then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, and love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor. 13:12-13
The ceremony was lit only by flickering torchlight. The chamber deep within the bowels of the endless catacombs seemed smaller than it actually was due to the large number of people gathered there. They lined the walls and crowded the open floor, gripping weapons of various types, but not brandishing them for battle. Instead, they stood at attention, clutching their weapons ceremoniously. Strangely, regardless of the thick assembly gathered there, the only sounds to be heard throughout the vast chamber were the occasional drip of moisture down the dank rock walls and the crisply-heard proceedings of the ceremony itself. The cavern was chilly and the air hung with the acrid scent of mold, but the group remained still and alert as their eyes focused intently toward the front of the chamber.
Two figures were stationed there, alone and unimpeded by the large crowd that surrounded them. Two men, separated from the attentive throng seemingly by an imaginary barrier. A barrier which none other dared to cross. The two seemed only to focus on each other as the dim torches danced long shadows across the proceedings.
One of the men stood upon the slightly raised dais at the front of the chamber, his arms spread wide. His face was obstructed by a dark mantle shrouding his head; his unseen features seemed hidden in a place beyond where the torchlight could reach. When he spoke, however, his loud voice carried clearly through the chamber, reaching the ears of all who gathered there.
This man was clad in loose black clothing; the squared edges of the hooded black tunic trimmed in red. While his manner of dress was similar to those who surrounded him, he did have one addition to his costume: a white scarf draped across both shoulders which hung down his front, and ended just past his torso. It set him slightly apart from the uniformity around him. If intruders had lived long enough to get a good look at this ceremony, they may have pegged this man as the leader. And they would have been correct; for that was what he was.
With a stern bearing, he reached down to the red sash that surrounded his waist and procured a long jagged sword from its place there, pointing it at the person kneeling before him.
The second figure, who knelt with both knees on the cold stone floor, looked to be a very young man. Blond, well-built, his manner of dress nothing like those around him. He remained a lone splash of bright color against the other black figures who swayed like moving shadows in the torchlight. He faced straight ahead and his arms hung down at his sides, fists tightly clenched, trembling ever so slightly, though the movement was probably unnoticeable to any but himself. He remained otherwise motionless and stoic as the ceremony proceeded.
The first man addressed his followers in a strange tongue. His voice was booming and it resonated throughout the cavern. "Ballach, ousa welloch este mangast eta oun!"
"RACH-TA BALLE!" the multitude cried.
The leader then turned his attention back to the young man in front of him. "Dok yashe aceptes miora feh?" he asked as he positioned the gleaming sword point a breath away from the other man's neck.
The second man did not speak. His adam's apple made a drastic plunge in his throat as he swallowed deliberately and hard. Anger, fear, desperation -- forced down his gullet like a mass of cotton, leaving behind a mask of composure. When he replied, it was only with a deliberate nod, pinning the man before him with stony eyes.
With a grin hidden deep within the umbra of his hood, the leader removed his blade tip from the other's throat and moved it to a new position. The young man could feel the cold undulating steel of the sword as it slid down the side of his neck. Even as the blade came to rest upon his shoulder, he continued to feel an icy trickle cascading down his spine.
"Arise then, fellow Assassin," the leader announced, dropping the formality of the ceremonial language. He turned to the table behind him, bringing forth a weapon and presenting it to the young man. "We welcome you, my friend," he continued, "to the Choros Sect."
The young man rose slowly to his feet and turned to face thunderous applause as those around him raised their weapons into the air in honor of the newest member to their order. He tightly gripped the weapon with which he had been presented: a golden, stringless bow.
He reached forward with three fingers and closed them upon the empty space beneath the arc of the bow, pulling back slightly. In his grasp there appeared, as naturally as if it had been there all along, a fiery bowstring and with it, a golden arrow of pure flame. This caused an eruption of even greater applause from the multitude assembled around him. With anxious eyes, concealed within what he hoped was an emotionless face, the young man surveyed the activity below the place where he stood upon the dais – the hooded faces, the raucous cheering, the flashes of firelight upon the raised clanking weapons. He allowed the flaming arrow to evaporate into nothingness again as he released the bowstring from his grasp.
It took him a few moments to notice that the man who had indoctrinated him into the Sect, his new leader, was no longer standing behind him.
At the close of the ceremony, the young man stepped down from the platform and was greeted by several of his new brethren, many of whom had now removed their hoods. He took note of the fact that they were all young; like him -- if not younger. Most looked as though they had never raised a blade to shave their own faces, and yet here they were brandishing weapons of war. He turned back to the dais, scanning above the crowd for the one who had performed the ceremony, but the man was still nowhere to be seen.
Eyes narrowed, the youth set his mouth in a grim line.
After a few minutes of being welcomed by his new peers, he began to sift through the crowd and make his way back to the sleeping chamber which had been pointed out earlier as his own. He was stopped by a gentle hand on his shoulder and he turned around at the sound of a woman's voice.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked. "It didn't seem to be in your blood."
He looked at the slender, dark-clad figure who had spoken. She lightly gripped the corners of her hood and eased it back away from her face, tilting her head back and giving it a gentle shake. Her knot of black hair swung out of the confines of her cape as she did so. She cocked her head to the side and fixed onto his gaze, seeming to ask the question again with her equally-dark eyes as they narrowed at him.
"I told you that I was sure, didn't I?" he replied.
"Can you do it, though?" she continued, her eyebrows furrowed and her stare firm and serious. "Can you do what needs to be done?"
"Would I be here if I didn't think I could?"
The young woman shrugged and surveyed him, her gaze slightly allayed and softer. "I suppose we'll see, Hank. We'll see."
To be continued…