The god of death

Part one

The male voice shouting was what had woken Duo from his deep sleep, "Adam, Adam, what the hell did you blow up this time? I felt the reverberations upstairs." There was a small period of silence before the man shouted again in accented Japanese. "Adam, answer me when I talk to you?" Duo carefully opened one violet eye and then the other. He was in bed and naked. The bed was clean and smelt, he took a deep breath, of gunpowder. In fact the whole room stank of cordite and burned sulphur. He patted across the bed with a hand to find another warm body, one that grabbed his wrist and held it in a bone crushing grip. His eyes met a pair of hard cobalt eyes that urged him to silence. It was typical, he woke up in a strange place with some strange man shouting and he was in bed with the perfect soldier.

"Adam!" The man shouted. There was a period of silence, in which time Duo took the opportunity to look around the room. The bed they had woken in had posts at each corner with a canopy and curtains, and three out of four of them were pulled tight against the draught. There was a small window with a bronze vase with flowers, and the light suggested that it was early morning. "Are you deaf again? One of these days your hearing won't come back."

"You bought me it." Another man shouted back. "I haven't stained it black in the explosion, have I?"

"Hearing." The first man corrected. "Not earring." There was a slow intake of breath, "what did you blow up this time?"

"I created a temporal rift." The one called Adam shouted with some pride, "I summoned demons from the aether." There was a dull thump.

"Again, Adam!" The man muttered something that Duo couldn't hear.

"In the other room." Adam shouted, obviously he couldn't realise how loudly he was shouting because the bang had deafened him. Duo had had that happen to him once or twice so he understood completely. "They were unconscious so I put them to bed. They're only boys, how dangerous can they be?"

The other man said something that sounded suspiciously like baka. Then the door to the bedroom opened and with a few steady strides the man had crossed the floor and yanked open the curtain over the end of the bed. "Wake up." He said. He was a tall broad man with a white stripe at each temple that made him look like a badger, he wore a black uniform with a silver sigil at his breast and there was an aura of power about him that gave Duo a moment's pause.

"Adam says you're demons." He said bluntly, "that he summoned you from the demon dimension. Is this true?"

It was Heero than answered him. "We are travellers." He answered, "we were in an explosion and woke up here, we are not demons." He was always economical with words and he had to be careful what he said in case this was an Oz trap, lulling them into a false sense of security to see whether or not they would reveal sensitive information. "I think this Adam saved us from our impending doom."

"Gotta thank him for that." Duo added throwing his braid over his shoulder in a look of nonchalance, one hand pinned the sheet to his shoulder, Heero had no such compunctions in regard to his nudity. "Now if we can get our clothes back, we'll just be going."

"Where are you going?" the man asked, "I will arrange for transport, this is not the first time that Adam's experiments have had unforeseen consequences when they go awry. I am Alister D'Cevni, secretary to the king, I can arrange transport for you as far as you'd like."

"Where are we?" Heero asked.

"This is the palace of Halcyon in the city of Dathyl-of-the-Jetties in the country of Dathyl. Where do you need to go?" The man was so earnest that Duo knew in that moment that this wasn't an Oz trap, or if it was it was designed to drive them mad. It wasn't Oz's style though to play with their minds like this.

"We need to get to the Cinq kingdom." Heero said, "its sovereign will see us safely home. If you can arrange a shuttle for us."

The man puzzled over the word. "Is that some demon magic?" He asked, "a shuttle is a part of a loom, I can arrange a carriage but I will have to consult with my brother, Tobin, as to the whereabouts of the Cinq kingdom, he is much better travelled than I. I will send my brother Terenz here with clothes, he is a physician and will make sure that Adam's meddling did not harm you in any way."

"If we could have something to eat." Duo said, "I don't know about Heero here, but I'm about ready to eat a horse."

The broad man, who had introduced himself as Alister frowned. "It will be no problem, I am sorry, my manners are remiss, although I introduced myself I forgot to claim your names. I take it, sir, that you are Heero." He looked at Heero it was Duo's fault that he had gathered that name, "and I trust that this is your lady wife."

Duo burst out laughing as Heero went through seven shades of red. "There are so many things wrong with that." He howled with laughter. "First and foremost he hates me and b I'm not a girl."

Alister's face hardened. "My apologies, master." He left it open waiting to be supplied the name.

"Duo Maxwell." He said proudly, "but mostly they call me Shinigami."

The word meant something to Alister for he frowned. "That complicates matters. I will have Terenz call on you, and have our house keeper arrange lodgings for you for the duration of your stay in Halcyon. May I suggest that you do not wander alone."

"Is that a threat, Alister?" Heero asked, trying his best to look as menacing as one could trapped in bed by modesty with only a sheet to shield him.

"Not, at all, Master Heero, merely that Halcyon is large and labyrinthine, it holds many dark memories and I would not have you lost in it's halls when I offered you my protection." He went to turn. "What have you done this time, Adam?" he murmured under his breath.

"Don't forget the food." Duo called after him.

Heero flopped back on the bed with a sigh.

The man called Alister was as good as his word within half an hour a tall blonde man came in with clothes, "don't mind me," he said, "Alister said you were expecting me, I'm Terenz, I'm the Royal physician, I'll just look you over and then let you dress and I'll march you along to the kitchens, Rachel's fascinated with the idea that Adam has managed to summon such handsome demons and she's started baking, you can't beat Rachel's cooking, although I don't live in Halcyon I almost always eat my meals here."

Heero blinked at the tirade, even Duo at his best didn't talk that much. The man didn't stop for breath he just continued on and on and on. "So which of you handsome boys is Heero," he had the name written on his hand, "I swear if my Val could see the pair of you he'd be stood at the door to make sure I didn't steal you both away and run off to Duramatsen and install you both as my pleasure slaves, but I love my Val so you can rest assured that I won't, so Heero, if you'd like to put on a shirt I can examine you and make sure everything is tip top and then we can see about getting you something to eat, and you're probably exhausted."

"Wow." Duo said, "do you breathe through your ears?"

"Duo." Heero hissed in warning but the strange man only laughed.

"You know, everyone asks that, Braea, the First Sword of the Garvem, keeps threatening to cut out my tongue and he keeps hyperventilating when I'm near because he breathes for me. Overall I find it very funny, if there wasn't so many people determined to keep me safe then I'm sure I'd be mute. Now, come on the pair of you, into some clothes whilst I warm up my equipment." Duo burst out laughing and Terenz had the good manners to look mock offended. "If you carry on like this, young man, I'll have to send Grace and something tells me you don't want her doing the examination." Both boys went very pale at that thought. "Now come on, Hero," he didn't extend the e the way he was meant to and Duo had the distinct impression that it was deliberate. "Put the shirt on and we can get this over with."

Heero pulled the strange long shirt over his head, then got out of the bed, it came to his knees covering him quite well, except the light from the window made the shirt transparent. Duo sniggered as he pulled the second shirt over his head. "Adam said to apologise, but your clothes were a mess when he found you, you were covered in some kind of soot and clear goop and they were torn to shreds, it was easier to give you new, but they are away being mended. We thought you'd want to keep them, now, Hero, if you want to give me your hand." Heero gritted his teeth.

"Terence," Duo deliberately mispronounced the name. "it's pronounced Heero, you elongate the e."

Terenz smiled as he measured Heero's pulse, "now stick out your tongue." Heero did, he put his hand on the length of his neck. "Any discomfort?" He asked. Heero shook his head. "You're absolutely fine, now come on, Duo."

Duo climbed out of the bed and offered the doctor his hand. "Interesting scars." He said, pushing aside the neck of Duo's collar. "You and I can talk about it later, they're so clean I'd say that they were caused by a poker or a hot whip. Now stick out your tongue." He looked at the tongue. He then laid his hand on his neck. "Any discomfort?" He asked.

"Well, doc, there's a bit of a draught under this dress of yours, and it does make me a little nervous." Duo answered with a laugh.

"Are you hungry, Duo?" Terenz laughed, Heero snorted, "and you sleep poorly, I bet, also you're probably losing more of that beautiful hair than usual. Well, not to worry, I'll get Adam to mix something up to help with it, he's super healthy and you're just a little under the weather, in fact, I'd guess at stress and possibly depression, nothing that rest and care won't cure you of."

Duo looked at the man aghast. "And you got all that from looking at my tongue?" He asked.

"And your scars, your pulse is erratic and your skin clammy, but as I said, it's nothing to worry about, now put some clothes on, love, and I'll take you to the kitchens and feed up that bottomless pit of a stomach of yours. I get the impression that our Rachel is going to feed the pair of you until you can't walk and I have to roll you into the rooms that Dieina has put aside for you." It took all of 0.2 seconds for Heero to tug on the leather breeches and start on the heavy woollen coat that they had given him, before Duo had shook out the breeches. "I love your hair." Terenz said touching Duo's braid, "mine wouldn't grow like that, you should meet our other brothers, Tobin's hair grows like that, but me I'm stuck with blonde fluff, all my brothers are dark haired but me as blonde as a wheat sheaf, not that I was the only one but I'm the only one left." He was silent for a moment, then he brightened, "are you ready? If so, I'll take you to the kitchens, did Alister warn you not to wander off on your own, because Halcyon's massive and paths don't always lead where they ought? Do you read? Alister's told me that you can make full use of the facilities and the library in Halcyon is the best in the world."

"I'd like to use your online connection." Heero said bluntly.

Terenz tested the words, "on-line connection?" He shrugged, "if we've got it you can use it, but I have no idea what it is. Do either of you boys play Lakros, there is a league here in the palace and I'm sure they won't mind you playing, I imagine at some point the king will want a word with the pair of you, being demons at all." He laughed at that, "And Val will want a word, because I'm going to be showing you around, but a word of advice, stay out of Tobin's way, he's not really good company at the moment."

"Why's that?" Duo asked.

"He's in mourning." Terenz answered blithely, "and beware the Lord Matherion, the Seraphim I imagine will have questions for you."

"The Seraphim?" Heero asked.

"A militant group from the church." Terenz said, "they hunt witches and demons."

Heero made an o shape with his mouth as it made sense. "They won't hurt you directly under Alister's protection, but they will do everything they can to get you out of it."

The palace of Halcyon was massive, Duo noticed as they stepped out of the cellars that Adam had lived in and moved into the palace proper, it was easily as big as Peacemillion and the air here was thick with ozone and other smells of the sea. There were other smells he didn't recognise. The palace was made of golden sandstone and decorated with wall hangings and weapons. In fact it looked like the kind of palace one saw in history books, very old history books. He led them down a flight of stairs that hugged the wall with no safety rail into a large courtyard and into the kitchen where a large old woman was stirring a pot. She was a large woman with hands like slabs of meat and arms like a bear. She wore a utilitarian dress that had seen better days and her white apron was stained with blood.

"You must be the demons." She said with a smile, "skin and bones the pair of you, sit, make yourselves comfortable and I'll make sure that you get all you want to eat and more, no one goes hungry in my kitchen, I'm Rachel, and no matter what Dieina says I'm not out to make you fat, just pleasantly plump." She laughed at her own joke as she fetched two pewter plates down from a cupboard and laid them down on a large worktable, "sit down, lads, come on, and help yourself to milk and beer," she fetched down two bowls and spooned some of the substance from the pot into them and pushed them towards them. "Go on, it's not poison, it's chicken." Duo warily lifted his spoon, he knew better than to trust strangers bearing food, even as hungry as he was, and took a small sip of the soup, measuring it for poison and flavour, and then dived into it with gusto. Heero was more cautious, watching to see if Duo was taken sick.

"Heero," Duo said looking at him, "if you don't eat that, I will."

"Nonsense," Rachel said with a smile, "there's plenty more where that came from, but I've got cinnamon buns in the oven, and there's plenty of bread, and I've got fish stew on for later. Now give me your bowl and I'll give you some more."

"Rachel," Duo said with a grin as he handed her the bowl, "now is a woman as beautiful as you married?" Heero rolled his eyes as the woman giggled.

"Oh I don't know," she said with a smile, "young men these days." She swayed across the kitchen like someone who had, in her day, been quite a coquette and how with the flattery of a handsome young man remembered what it was like to be young and beautiful.

Author's Note

This is an AU, obviously, set in the world of Dathyl which is an experiment for me as Dathyl I created for an original fiction, and all the characters in it are set at the end of that fiction with the exception of our boys, so the plan was simple so insert them to practise characterisation, scene setting whilst keeping my hand in.