A/N: For three days, while Manticore fought and Chimera cast the ritual spell, James and Tiffany were lost to the perceptions of the rest of the world. Here is their story.
James finished talking to Sonya and returned to Chimera. He flipped a glance at the horizon. The sun was almost down and the Heart of the World would be showing up any minute now. He frowned as he thought about what the giant had said earlier.
"I see," said Treebreaker, "that does explain why you are here, and should you lay hands on the Earthstone and live, it will be a matter for song indeed. No one has ever touched the Earthstone and survived with their minds intact."
James was not happy with that thought. It would not help if the two of them lived, but were insane. "Teddy bear, quit worrying about it. We really don't have a choice right now. It's far too late to back out now."
James sighed. Tiffany was correct. After getting seventy people into the Giantlands and involving a dozen more on the other side of the Borders, they simply could not back out now. At least, not without a very good reason.
He stopped, and entered the light trance that allowed him to touch the Manticores that were bound to him with the Final Moments link. The closer ones were tense, but he found surprisingly little fear. He came out of the trance to find three sets of green eyes regarding him impishly.
Rose: "Checking on the children?"
Tiffany: "Did you leave a number with the babysitter?"
May-ling: "Is everything ok, Mommy?"
James stared at them as Alexander and Chimera laughed. "Wolfpack one, did you ever get this much grief when you led?"
James' uncle grinned at him. "No, but I never invaded the Giantlands with my wife and sisters either."
James stared at Rose. "I seem to recall," he said thoughtfully, "that I wasn't given a choice. I seem to recall mention of me being here in chains if necessary."
Rose shrugged, unrepentant. "We're doing all the work, brother mine. You just have to stand in front of the Heart of the World, touching it."
As Rose spoke, the sun slid below the horizon, and the feel of the valley changed. Chimera watched as a thing appeared in the Valley. Standing ten meters high, it was nearly five meters across. Made of some strange black stone, it had red streaks running up and down it's length, like flames embedded in the very stone. It radiated magic, eddies and swirls of magic that changed to valley. Across the valley, everyone, even the Squibs like Alexander knew that the Heart of the World had made its appearance right on schedule, and many of the Manticores relaxed, certain now that this was not a wild goose chase.
James stared at the stone, awed by the appearance of something that had existed since the beginning of the world. "Somehow, I don't think our part is going to be all that easy."
Looking at the stone, Rose had to agree.
As Phoenix set up a perimeter around the Heart of the World, Chimera, May-ling and Mercy began setting up for the ritual.
A few minutes later, May-ling released James from her hug and Chimera was ready.
James and Tiffany stepped up to the stone and hesitated. This close to the stone, the feel of magic was nearly a physical presence and they looked at each other. This was something more than either of them had expected.
James turned, about to say something, but Rose merely held up a pair of handcuffs. James smiled slightly. "Interesting hobby you have there, Sister mine. Is there something you're not telling me?" Rose blinked, and then carefully, deliberately, stuck her tongue out at James.
Rose sobered, and looked at her brother, and then the rest of Chimera. "Let's get started." The five of them meshed, allowing Rose to control the link. She started a countdown. "On my mark, five, four, three, two, one, Mark."
On the signal, James and Tiffany placed their hands on the warm stone as Hangeld and Emma began the chant that was their part of the ritual.
For the rest of their life, the two that laid their hands on the stone would never have the words to explain what happened to them during that time.
They froze, and burned, swept away in a maelstrom of feelings, emotions, visions and thoughts that bore no resemblance to anything, and sometimes not even to each other.
They tasted colors and smelled words, heard tastes and felt sights, every sense blended together.
They struggled and fought, trying to make sense of something so totally outside any human experience as to be indescribable.
James and Tiffany soon figured out why everyone that had touched the stone had gone crazy. The Soul bond was the only constant in this seething tsunami of experience, the only link that remained the same. They clung together, defending each other from the waves and slowly, it settled down.
They began to see visions, different things, from their pasts, from the now, and from the future.
They had experiences, pleasure, pain, fear, joy and emotions so extreme that only the link they shared kept them from going insane.
Vision: They flew over Hogwarts, and pain flowed. The grounds were covered with bodies, and almost half wore Manticore uniforms. Despair grew as they realized they'd come too late.
Vision: They were making love in the room at the Hogsmeade Inn, and washed away on the emotions that came with it, they were oblivious to the red robed figure that came in the room and calmly cut James' throat.
They felt a thousand things, were raised to the heights of pleasure and dropped into agony indescribable.
The feelings were like a summer day with good friends around them, and like a rape in the depths of horror.
Good and bad, several lifetimes of pain and pleasure condensed and pushed through them in what could have been seconds, or hours. With nothing but each other to cling to, they had no way of keeping track of time, they merely endured.
Vision: They won, and the Prophecy was fulfilled, they lost and the Patient Child stood on a pile of bodies from around the world, laughing.
They had children, and they were perfect, were misshapen monsters, the children lived, they died and everything in between.
They saw their lives, long and good, short and painful, they watched chimera die, saved them.
They turned, and joined the Patient Child, they killed Chimera, Chimera killed them.
All things though, have an ending, and the visions slowed, until there was one final scene.
James and Tiffany stood before the bodies of the rest of Chimera and they used the Draconian Codex to raise them.
A last burst of impressions, and they knew how to unlock the Animage talent in them. A burning sensation on their chest and the stone threw them away from itself.
James and Tiffany lay on the ground, weak and staggered. They had just registered the fact that they could feel Chimera again when the final moments link struck, showing them Ron's final moments. James flared in anger as Ron died and he could do nothing, and Tiffany was right with him.
They changed, becoming cougars, large cougars from James' beloved mountains, and their shared anger sent them running for the mouth of the valley. They arrived, and attacked the first giant with teeth and claws until he went down, and attacked the next one.
The giants scattered and tried to run, but James' fury/guilt/anger/despair kept them hunting until no giants remained.
The two cats turned back toward the valley, fury still burning in them, but under that was the knowledge that the hot salty taste of blood would never fade.