Chapter Eight: Those That Darkness Takes
It was a deep dark hole, with all that implies. Shikar, in his haste, had evidently not been much for originality, and his newly-created cave was festooned with such clichés as dripping noises, slimy walls, and portentous darkness.
Harry slipped before he'd taken three steps, and only a quick windmilling of arms saved him from a painful crash. He would have looked mighty stupid were there anyone to see him, but luckily no one could see anything in the pitch-darkness.
A faint swishing sound betrayed Hermione's drawing of her wand. She muttered a light-spell and held it up as the tip began to glow faintly, then brightly.
Their eyes, already adjusted to darkness, were stabbed with skewers of light. They all raised hands to shield their eyes, then lowered them slowly as they adapted.
The wand-light illuminated a dusty path before them, winding down and down into the earth. Water dripped down the slightly slimy stone walls, gradually eroding away at them. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, and though stalagmites thrust up from the ground all around, a clear path remained, the dust of ages disturbed only by the tracks of the two who'd preceded them down…and down…and down.
Behind them, the entrance quietly sealed itself, unnoticed until Harry looked behind them cautiously. All that was left was a rough stone face, innocuous enough until you realized that it had been the only known way out.
"Well, I guess the only way to go is down," he said, trying not to sound scared. In fact, he was pretty spooked; though it was scant consolation that he wasn't the only one. Oddly, his voice did not echo, and indeed sounded slightly muffled.
The dampening effect, however, could not completely deaden the sound of an explosion from further on, testifying to the extreme power of it at the source, and reminding them all why they were there.
"Hurry," Hermione whispered unnecessarily. "We followed to watch, let's make sure we get a chance!"
They moved carefully down the passageway, relying on the illumination of Hermione's wand. It did not take long for them to notice that the sounds of battle ahead were getting louder.
"This is random, but has anyone looked at the tracks we're following?" Ron asked suddenly.
"No… ha ha." Hermione glanced down and smiled. One set of footprints, clearly Shikar's, were without detail and showed only the basic shape of a human foot, as if someone had traced a foot with a stick and left it. The others were exactly what you would expect of a dog-demon- as if a human and a dog had walked in each other's footsteps, leaving each print intact, but fused.
Abruptly, they emerged into a gigantic chamber, as big as a sports amphitheater, but rougher, wilder, and made of a randomly patterned stone, probably slate. Their exit was higher than the 'ring' floor, like a balcony or spectator seats. This upper circle, nearly seven feet wide, encircled the entire arena, which lacked the smooth, even quality of human sports. This ring was studded with projecting stones and deep hollows, as unevenly as possible. The entire arrangement was that of a battlefield, unerringly accurate.
Shikar stood warily against one large smooth stone, back against it as he watched his nemesis warily. Still dripping black blood onto the sands, he nevertheless stood with his long claws slightly raised, ready.
His adversary was in no better condition. Sprawled limply against the sheer face of the edge of the arena, he didn't seem to be still alive. He lay in a dark puddle of sand stained so by his own blood. As incapacitated as he looked, Shikar was finally taking him seriously, and didn't relax his guard for a second, even though Inuyasha looked pretty dead.
'Dead,' however, didn't seem to apply to Inuyasha. Dead in the way that mattered most, he wasn't about to lie down and give up because of a few, or many, physical injuries. He pulled himself to all fours and stood for a moment, breathing heavily.
Slowly, his tortured breathing slowed, then stopped for a brief moment. As Shikar and the three students watched, he sighed, and relaxed. Suddenly, he rose to his feet and looked straight at Shikar triumphantly. In response to the lizard-demon's baffled expression, he held up one arm. Bloody gashes across it stopped bleeding, and vanished.
As the atmosphere in the room grew less oppressive, something that hadn't happened in centuries happened. Inuyasha smiled, happily and sincerely, the expression of someone who need worry about nothing, who stood safe and content with his friends. That expression changed his entire demeanor from madman to wild child, half feral, half completely and utterly tame.
"Shikar, there's a reason you won all those years ago," he said, and his voice was different too. It was the same voice, yet, paradoxically, that of a different person, one who hadn't run mad for five hundred years. "Because she was on her own, because we were parted, you could bring Kagome down,"
"We were down, but not out, Shikar. We'll beat you yet," his sentence was finished. Beside him, a girl phased into existence. They'd never seen her save in sketch, but she was instantly recognizable, especially by the smile she and Inuyasha exchanged fleetingly. Kagome raised her bow, strung and loaded, and smirked at Shikar's shocked expression.
"You didn't expect this, huh, Shikar? You didn't watch us enough; you never realized- where Inuyasha walks, I'll follow. This time, we're together again, this time, you're doomed!
She let her arrow fly; it flew true. However, Shikar quickly dodged to one side, grasping the arrow in one scaly hand. An instant later, however, he shrieked and dropped it. It had begun to glow blue with eldritch fire, scorching his hand painfully.
Taken unaware by the arrow's flame, he was fatally distracted, allowing Inuyasha and Kagome to go on the offensive. Leaping high into the air, the dog-demon unsheathed his sword, the first time Harry, Ron, and Hermione had seen him do so. To their shock, it immediately transformed into the biggest sword they'd ever seen.
Unnoticed by the combatants, Ron breathed in awe, "That thing's probably taller than I am! No way he can swing that-"
Instantly, Ron was proved very, very incorrect. With a triumphant cry, Inuyasha swung the sword hard, though he was nowhere near Shikar. As it turned out, he didn't need to be within reach. Whirlwinds blasted from the giant katana's blade and hissed through the air, striking Shikar powerfully. The shocked lizard-demon was thrown through the air. He hit a dangling stalactite hard as Inuyasha returned to earth, holding the oversized blade with ease.
"And take that, Shikar," he smirked happily.
"Ok, your comebacks still stink," Kagome chuckled, stringing another shaft.
"Yeah, but he's not listening anyway, so it doesn't matter."
Shikar was not, in fact, listening. He was more preoccupied with picking himself up off the ground and staring in shock at Inuyasha's blade.
"Whelp, what is that sword! How come you haven't used it before?"
"What, Tetsusaiga? Come and find out!"
Shikar seethed furiously, still glancing sideways in shock at Kagome (or her ghost). Cautiously, he raised one hand, clenched into a fist, in front of him, cocked sideways. He opened it abruptly, sending out a wave of darkness towards the two.
A moment later, he did a little angry dance of rage on the spot as a glowing arrow sliced right through it. In the next moment, he was forced to stop and erect a hurried barrier as Inuyasha used his sword to send the attack right back, turning it on its creator. The ink-black wave spent itself on a glowing wall of light.
No one at all was paying attention to Hermione, Harry, or Ron. Completely ignored on the ledge above, they were reduced to following each move on the battlefield, and looking utterly unsettled.
"This is getting really dangerous," Hermione muttered to the boys. "I thought they were just going to fight hand to hand, but power like that, that sword, and…Kagome's ghost… is taking things too far. I say we get out of here. No curiosity's worth this danger."
"We don't have a choice," Harry said tensely. "The entrance sealed itself, remember? I don't think anyone's getting out until this is settled, one way or another."
"I forgot about the entrance," Hermione admitted. "I really do not feel at all safe, though."
"When have we ever been safe?" Ron asked rhetorically. No one answered him, but that was okay, because he didn't expect an answer.
Back on the battlefield, for such it was, the two sides had halted. Shikar faced his foes, trembling slightly. For all his power, the reappearance of a victim of five hundred years ago, a full-on battle, and Inuyasha's strange, abrupt return to sanity had rattled him. He clearly wasn't used to direct battle, whereas his foes had nothing to lose, and had faced many battles like this, though never with this specific enemy.
The three stood still, locked in a standoff, facing each other directly. For an instant and an eternity, no one moved.
Though they were watching closely, none of the trio could say later who moved first. Certainly Shikar, flustered out of his composure, attacked most obviously. Crying out in rage, he unleashed a torrent of blinding light, bleaching the entire cave red-gold. The brunt of it, however, was of course directed at Inuyasha and Kagome.
"Die! Die and disappear and plague me no more!" he shrieked.
"No! You die! And shriek out your existence beyond the gates of Hell!"
"It's over, Shikar! We strike you down together, as we always ever were!"
Almost in unison, clearly a move that they'd perfected over many battles, Kagome fired her shot, straight down the center of Shikar's desperate blast. The arrow flew hard and true, and sunk itself to the fletching in Shikar's chest. He had just enough time to touch it in shock and look up in fear and realization before his own edge-of-desperation attack, thrown back upon his by Inuyasha's Tetsusaiga, hit him with the force of half a millennium of grief and hatred.
The cavern echoed with his final shriek of disbelief; disbelief that two he'd thought dead and defeated could bring him down. Disbelief that even those in their graves had risen up against him. Disbelief that he was-finally- helpless, powerless, at their mercy. And they had no mercy for their tormenter, the one they'd hunted so long.
When the spots faded from their eyes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked up, breathless with the shock of the near-apocalyptic battle they'd witnessed. Below on the battlefield, Shikar's body lay, eyes wide in shock and fear, staring up at the ceiling in eternal astonishment. Kagome's arrow still protruded from his chest, sparking slightly in what seemed a bit too much like smug satisfaction.
Looking around, they saw that the arena had been shattered. Fragments of slate lay everywhere; stalactites and stalagmites had fractured into shards and were scattered across the sand-covered floor. Amidst it all stood Inuyasha and Kagome, who was still present. They stood in each other's arms, clinging to each other as the only hope in their dark world. Although they spoke quietly, still their voices could be heard. If they knew the trio was there, which they probably did, they didn't care.
"I can't believe we did it…you are avenged. It took so long."
"My poor Inuyasha. I'm so sorry for what you had to go through."
"Wasn't your fault."
"But I'm still sorry. I can't stay…you know that."
"Take me with you."
"Take me with you. I don't want to stay here anymore. I never did, save to avenge you. That's done. I'm coming."
She laughed quietly. "Still my same old stubborn Inuyasha. I do love you so."
"I know. I love you too."
"You would never have said that before."
"Maybe I've finally grown up a little. You kept teasing me about that."
"I did. You're so easily tease-able."
"You've always gotta have the last word. Let's go, beloved."
"Yes. We're finished here."
She shifted one hand slightly. Before anyone could realize what she was doing, - and it was likely none of them could (or would) have stopped her- she pulled a small, bright dagger from her long sleeve and drew it across Inuyasha's throat.
As he collapsed, she vanished into smoke, then faded away altogether. Before the sense of her presence vanished completely, a second ghost-like presence joined her, and they faded away together.
Until now motionless on the balcony, Harry and his friends finally found the will to move. Hermione clapped one hand to her mouth and said something along the lines of 'oh, oh…' but as she was speaking more to herself than anyone else, no one minded that it didn't make any sense.
"I don't believe what just happened," Harry said firmly, gazing at the two bodies below. "I don't know whether to forget about it or hide under my bed and hope nothing like this ever happens again."
Disregarded, Shikar's body began to crumble into dust. As he vanished, something more ominous began to happen.
"Uh, has anyone noticed…?" Ron started quietly, then gave up and shouted, "The ceiling is falling!"
So it was. And there was nothing to do but run like mad up the stone corridor and hope to high heaven that the entrance was back. What they were going to do if it wasn't was something no one mentioned. Not only did they not want to bring up the subject, they were running too fast to bother with speech.
With their usual dumb luck, the entrance, now an exit, had re-manifested itself, though it gave them a few moments of heart attack when they saw only a wall of slate. Luckily, Harry, annoyed and a little bit spooked by the cave-in sounds from behind, whacked it with his fist, and it crumbled into dust along with everything else.
They tumbled out in a heap, all tripping over each other in their haste to get out of there. It was, however, most humiliating that by then, although a little bit belated, Professor Dumbledore had gotten wind (finally) of what was going on, and had dashed down to the grounds to investigate. They ended up sprawled on the floor in a three-person pileup, covered in dust and dirt.
"As relieving as it is to see that you are all alive, I must admit that I am rather impatient to find out what's going on this time," he said coolly.
"Nothing's happening, professor," Ron said before anyone else. "Anyone who would make something happen is dead."
Dumbledore's eyebrows nearly shot off his face at that. "This is going to be an interesting story," he hypothesized. "I'm sure you are anxious to stand up and tell it."
The three hurriedly untangled themselves and scrambled to their feet, trying futilely to brush of accumulated grime.
"Well what happened-"
The three spoke in unison, tripping over each other's words and stopping short all at once.
"You tell it," Hermione said, pointing at Ron.
"Who, me? No way, you tell it." He pointed at Harry.
"Why do I always have to tell it?"
Eventually, they got their story sorted out and actually managed to tell it in some form of order. Luckily Professor Dumbledore was used to very, very weird narratives, because about halfway through, they realized that had they been hearing this story, they would have shipped themselves off to the nearest mental hospital locked in nice soft straitjackets.
One Month Later:
Perhaps annoyed at the loss of his ally, Voldemort was lying low. Well, he'd been lying low for something-odd years now, so nothing really had changed.
Shikar's cliff, erected in such haste and collapsed before too long, had done just that- collapsed. However, no one had bothered to move the rubble from the lawn. As it was out of sight of the castle, it wasn't of utmost urgency, but perhaps no one had been able to. Demonic power does strange things to human magic. Often it isn't even affected.
Nick, of course, was the second and last person they told their story to. As Professor Dumbledore had specifically requested, well, ordered, that they not tell anyone what had happened, he was the only one they could tell. And, naturally, he was curious. Conversely, he wasn't really surprised by even the most 'out-there' parts of the tale they told.
"I had a feeling something like that was going to happen," he said calmly. "Not the bit about the ghost, but I was pretty sure that no matter win or lose, he was going to die. If he lost, Shikar would kill him. If he won, what reason would he have to live? He wouldn't even have his revenge anymore."
"Still," Hermione said, "it's sad."
"Not really. I think it was better so. Excuse me a moment."
Harry walked alone down on the lawn to look at the humongous pile of rocks that marked the grave of two mortal enemies. Oddly, his current thought- which he could not shake- was 'glad it wasn't me.'
"Figured you'd be down here."
"Hey, Nick. How'd you know I'd be here?"
"I guessed. I'm mostly right."
"Whatever. I was just thinking that this is a poor grave for them."
"Shikar deserved it. And anyway, he doesn't have a grave. You said his body dissolved."
"Yeah. I did say that."
"But anyway, I was thinking. I was thinking that if anyone ever tried to excavate this, and I don't recommend that, demonic magic is weird, they'd still find two bodies."
"What? What do you mean? And how do you know? And don't tell me your 'guesses' are usually right, because that's one far-out guess."
"I don't know, so I am guessing. The reason why is this. I saw it when I first came to look at this. Don't ask me how it got there, because I didn't do it and I have no idea who did."
Nick stood on tiptoes and tapped one flat piece of stone. Harry, who was slightly shorter, backed up slightly to see what he was showing him. Etched into the stone, faintly but distinctly, was a short verse.
Sleep in peace beneath this stone;
As one in soul and mind and heart;
Nevermore to stand alone;
Death itself could never part.
Afterword: Wow, you stuck it all the way through. Thanks. What do you think? Ok for a first fanfic? If I repeat myself with phrases, sorry. I do have favorite phrases. And if anyone got sick of 'deep dark hole' so-rry! Go through the HP books- there is always at least ONE deep dark hole somewhere. Why break with tradition?
Ok. I am done with tragedy-fics for now. Now I'm going to write something Star Trek! Bring on the Delta Quadrant! Here comes Voyager! Whoosh! (plays with little Voyager model I got for Christmas) Oh yeah, I was talking. I forgot.
Depending on reviews I may write more Inu-Yasha or HP fics. My brother suggested, "what happened to Shippo?' Me: 'hmmm, Nick meets Shippo…" Him: 'Aaaahhhh!'
P.S. The phrase 'half-blood prince' just screamed 'Inuyasha' so I had to try it out.REALLY THE END THIS TIME,