Disclaimer: I don't own any of them. Not making any money of this. Love the idea of Ed and Roy.
This idea just popped into my head and wouldn't leave until I started typing it up. It's leaving another one of my fics (for Shaman King) stranded, so please, please, please review if you enjoy it so that I can feel as though poor Yoh & Co. are being left hanging for a good reason. I know the first chapter may not seem entirely related, but I promise all our favorite characters start wandering into the picture come Chapter 2!
Chapter 1: Gatekeeper
He had been a Gatekeeper for four years now. That much, at least, he knew.
He also knew that he was considered to be one of the best at what he did. His reputation stemmed from that day exactly four years ago when his people had found him, battered, bleeding, and unconscious, lying by the side of a road, looking like another casualty of war. They had taken him in and cared for him, expecting nothing in return. It was simply their way. But when the last Gatekeeper had lost control of an incoming Gate, he had leapt up from his sickbed and taken control of the energy stream, channeling it through his body and slamming it into the earth to ground the portal, saving the village.
At that moment a legend was born. No other Gatekeeper in living memory had ever been able to regain control of the Gatestream after a connection had been broken prior to closure – the positive feedback whiplash generally killed the Gatekeepers on either side of the connection. That was generally how Gatekeepers died, if sickness or violence did not overtake them first. Opening and maintaining the Gates between worlds was a rare gift, but one that came at a high price.
It was all quite scientific, really. The law of conservation of energy. For matter to travel through the gate, an equivalent amount of energy needed to flow through in the opposite direction in order for balance to be maintained. To open a Gate, a Gatekeeper would send out a small amount of energy to another Gatekeeper waiting at the desired destination. The second Gatekeeper would ground the current, opening a portal. As matter was transported – people, goods, messages – the Gatekeepers would keep the current flowing in the opposite direction.
The problem was, the energy to keep that current flowing had to originate from somewhere. Or more precisely, someone.
For small amounts of matter, enough to keep commerce and trade going, it was a negligible drain on the Gatekeepers. There had also been more of them to share the burden. But when the war between worlds broke out, and as that war raged on, more Gatekeepers were dying, leaving fewer who could bear up to the task of harnessing the Gatestream. They were also being asked to transport far larger quantities of matter than ever before: troops, artillery, supplies – they had to be moved en masse, requiring phenomenal efforts on the part of Gatekeepers. Many of them died under the strain of it.
Not him though. His powers bordered on the inhuman. Sometimes they scared him. He supposed he would feel better about them if he knew more about his past and where they came from. But that was another toll required by this gift.
No Gatekeeper had any memory of his life prior to becoming a Gatekeeper. It was simply a fact, part of the price they paid for this gift. No one even knew where Gatekeepers came from – they simply turned up and were accepted into the community that found them. Hence the ingrained courtesy towards all strangers – you never knew if you had found a Gatekeeper in disguise. A Gatekeeper could take a name of his choosing, or be given one by his community.
They called him Auric. It had been little Nina, daughter of the village elder, who had given him his name. When he had asked why, she had giggled before telling him it was on account of his unusual golden hair and eyes. It had been embarrassing, but he had accepted the name in the spirit it was given. His colouring was a little vivid in their land of muted browns and greens. He wondered where he had come from and who he had been before his arrival here.
He turned, his reverie momentarily interrupted. His partner, Alp stood smiling at him. When the war had broken out years ago, the Gatekeepers Guild had mobilized and reorganized themselves for battle efficiency. Each Gatekeeper took on a partner – to watch their backs, to help stabilize the ever-larger Gates, to ensure that one could teleport ahead if necessary when emergency connections had to be created between two regions. He had been thrown together with Alp pretty much by chance, but it would always be something he was grateful for. Their personalities were complementary – where Auric was quick and impulsive, Alp was steady and methodical - and Alp had become his best friend and anchor. Despite Alp being slightly taller and rounder of face, sandy-haired and grey-eyed, they were often mistaken for brothers by those who didn't know them. At least until the observer caught a glimpse of the black gauntlets and doubled string of amber beads hidden beneath the folds of their weather-stained hunter-green cloaks. In combination, those three innocuous items of apparel marked them as Gatekeepers.
"Auric, I'm heading over to the hall to hear the latest news from the front. Do you want to come?"
He shook his head, smiling faintly. "No, Alp, it'll be more of the same. I'd like some quiet time before we have to get to work again."
"Oh, that's right, I forgot, today's your Aleph Day, isn't it?" Alp said in a too-bright tone of voice. Auric smirked knowingly and his partner's face fell. "Fine, I didn't forget. I got you something."
"You didn't have to."
"I wanted to. I know your dreams get worse around this time. Maybe this will help." Alp held out a small leather-bound journal. Auric took it in awe. Paper, proper paper, was hard to come by at the moment, all available supplies being taken up for military use. To have a whole book handed to you thusly! He opened it reverently, rifling its blank pages, breathing in the smell of leather and pulp – and was that a real pencil? He looked up, speechless. Alp beamed down at him happily. "You used to draw, remember? That always seemed to calm you down."
"Alp…" he found he couldn't continue. The usual platitudes would have cheapened the gift. "I love it. Thank you." He reached out and gripped Alp's forearm in a warrior's handshake, then decided it wasn't enough and pulled the bigger youth in for a backslapping hug. "Thank you."
Alp ducked his head awkwardly, but he was obviously pleased with the reception his gift had received. "You're welcome. I'll see you later." He made as if to leave, then paused and turned around, grinning, "Happy Aleph Day."
Auric watched his partner head off, then turned his attention back to the book in his lap. He picked up the pencil and twirled it lovingly in his fingers, then smoothed his hand over the first page and wrote the date down. Aleph Day. The only date of significance he had to hold on to. The anniversary of the day he lost his past and gained his present. The day he woke up a Gatekeeper.
He'd asked Alp once if his Aleph Day bothered him. Alp had given the thought serious consideration, then shaken his head. "No. Not really. But then I became a Gatekeeper at a much younger age than you, so I had less of a life to lose. No, I don't have dreams. Why?"
Why indeed. Auric sighed. Those damned dreams. His hand began to move over the blank sheets before him. Always in the same order. A house in flames. A winged snake twisted around a cross. An armored knight reaching out to him, red eyes glowing from within the helm. His own reflection in a mirror, but with bitter, angry eyes as he holds up his right arm encased in what looks like armor that stretches from shoulder to fingertips. And last of all a dark-haired man with burning eyes he doesn't recognize, cupping a flame in his gloved hand as he says something. Auric could never quite hear what it was before waking up in a sweat. Fulminate? Fool meta? He frowned continuing to fill in details. What on earth was a meta, anyway?
By the time the sketches were done to his satisfaction, the sun was high in the sky. Auric closed the journal and slipped it safely into the inner pocket of his cloak. Alp was right as always, he did feel better for having set the images down on paper. He straightened up, stretching out his back and flexing his fingers. Where had Alp gotten to? It shouldn't have taken him this long to find out the latest news. His stomach growled, and he realized that it was almost lunchtime, so deciding that searching went better on a full stomach, he turned his steps towards the inn where he and Alp often had their meals. He could almost smell the meat pies.
"Auric!" came a breathless cry. "Auric!" He turned sharply at the note of fear in the voice. It was little Nina. She fell into his arms as he stooped down to hear her better. "Hurry…the front…lines broken through…wounded incoming…retreat…."
"Where is Alp?" he asked urgently.
"He told me to tell you he would teleport ahead to the front and open a Gate from there! Hurry Auric!" she wailed, tears running down her cheeks.
He took off running towards the village square, the only place large enough to open a Gate of the size required. A part of his mind vaguely registered that others were running with him, villagers and military support personnel who had heard the news. Shouts of "Make way for the Gatekeeper!" and "Clear for incoming wounded!" resounded distantly in his ears. As he ran, he reached out with his mind, searching for the ripple of energy in the ether that would be Alp's beacon to him across the miles that separated them.
Auric skidded to a halt in the middle of the dusty village square, throwing back his cloak and whipping off his beads. Holding them up in a doubled strand, one loop inside another, he lowered his head and took a deep breath, calming himself. This was going to be a particularly difficult Gate, he knew, because the energies being thrown off by the explosions at the front would destabilize the Gatestream. He would need to focus. The world seemed to fade away with him at the middle of a shadowy darkness. Sounds became muffled. Even the wind stilled for that split second. He felt Alp's presence tickle at the edges of his consciousness, and his head snapped up, his golden eyes blazing as he channeled his powers into the beads, which began to glow. He slammed his right hand to the ground, then flung the beads into the air, where they scattered to form the outlines of a huge circle. A whirlpool of light formed almost immediately.
"Kai!" The word of power cracked out like a whip and suddenly the newly formed Gate was filled with screaming, crying masses. Auric shuddered as they poured through, the wounded, the dying, and in some cases, the dead, dragged by their comrades. He hoped Alp was holding up all right grounding the massive energy flow Auric was sending his way to balance the mass transfer. An explosion on the other side of the gate shook the Gatestream for an instant, and he cursed at himself mentally to focus – Alp was perfectly capable of doing what need to be done. He'd been a Gatekeeper for twice as long as Auric!
Minutes passed. Or hours. Or days. Auric didn't know anymore. His world had narrowed down to that bright Gatestream flowing between Alp and himself. He fell forward, catching himself with his hands, and realized belatedly that he was already kneeling in the dirt before the Gate – his knees must have buckled earlier. How many more people? How much more energy? Did he have enough? He crawled almost blindly towards the Gate, almost getting knocked over in the chaos of people running to and fro. "Alp?" he croaked out. "What's our status? How much longer?" His vision was beginning to blur, and the clouds of smoke and dust in the air weren't exactly aiding visibility. It was all becoming rather surreal actually. "Alp?" he called again.
Finally his partner came staggering into view. He was streaked with blood and dust and pale as death, but for all that, he was still moving. He grimaced at Auric, who knew he must look just as bad. "You look like hell. Can you hold on for a few more minutes? They're just moving the last of the post-op patients from the MASH."
"Oh please, you forget who you're talking to," retorted Auric, baring his teeth wolfishly, a display of bravado that would have been more convincing had he not suddenly started to cough, a horrid wet hacking sound that brought up blood. He stared at the dark splatter on the earth before him in mild surprise. So he did have his limits after all. This was the longest they'd ever held a Gate open after all…he wondered in semi-delirium if it was going to add to his legend and finally decided that it would. Especially if it killed him.
"Auric!" gasped Alp. "I'll close the Gate. We can re-open it again…."
"No!" snarled Auric. "I can do this! Just a few more minutes…."
"Auric," Alp opened his mouth to argue again. And then the unthinkable happened. An enemy shell came whistling through the air in seeming slow motion. Alp turned, eyes widening in shock. Auric reached desperately for his partner, as if to drag him through the Gate by sheer force of will.
The shell exploded. And Auric knew with a fatal certainty that Alp was dead and that he was going to follow in less than a second. There was a scream from behind him and he knew it was Nina without looking. Nina…all the people of the village…they were all going to die. This entire village would be blown off the face of existence from the Gatestream backlash that was about to occur. All the people they had evacuated would find that Death had found them though they had sought to escape his clutches. Alp would have died for nothing.
And something in Auric snapped. He pushed to his feet shakily. He could feel the other end of the Gatestream screaming towards him, its tethering cable snapped with Alp's death, coming to deal death of its own.
Well, fuck you too.
And just as he had four years ago, Auric raised his arms and clasped the incoming Gatestream to him, letting it pass through his body, bending it to his will, dredging up every last ounce of energy he had left, intent on joining it with the end he already held captive. Turned back on itself, he could feel the Gatestream resisting, fighting him, and suddenly the image of a snake eating its tail popped into his head. Gritting his teeth, he slowly brought his hands together, forcing the two ends to meet.
His hands clapped together. There was a huge explosion, followed by a soft pattering that sounded like rain. And when Nina ran forward, all that remained of the golden-haired Gatekeeper was a smoking crater with a pile of gently smoking amber beads lying in the bottom of it.