The Ancient Curse
Part One: Interrupted Journey
Important Note: This is the sixth (and possibly the last) story in a series. If you haven't read the previous stories, you'll probably be very lost. Still want to read? Begin with The Dark Bandit, and go from there.
Standard Disclaimer Thingie: Digimon, all related characters and money, is not mine. I have very little money for you to take. In short, don't steal, don't sue, don't forget to moo.
It was a warm day in early spring. The sky was clear and blue, with only a few flawless puffy white clouds floating within it. The grass was slowly returning to its bright green state after months of brown.
The ocean was made of beautiful blue waters that splashed up in perfect-looking waves against the rocky coastline. Fish frolicked happily in its depths, oblivious to the fishing boats which hunted them further away from shore. The waters were calm and peaceful, and seemed to stretch on for all eternity.
At the top of a cliff, at the edge of the ocean, a quiet dirt road meandered through a field of grass. The purpose of this road was to lead travelers south from the port city of Kido by way of the westernmost coast. About two day's journey south of Kido was a place known as Westernmost Point, which was the farthest west that anyone in Yagami could travel without leaving the land. It was a popular vacation spot for residents of Kido, and so this road was well traveled in the summer months.
For the time being, however, only a single carriage was traveling upon it. It was a sturdy carriage, pulled by a lazy but dependable Monochromon, which was lumbering along at a slow but steady pace. Monochromon rarely traveled at very fast speeds, unless they were frightened of serious danger, and this particular one was no exception to the rule. The carriage was traveling from Kido toward the palace, a journey which ordinary took anywhere from two to four days, depending upon weather and the temperament of the Monochromon.
The occupants of the vehicle, the driver, his partner Plotmon, and the Monochromon pulling it, were all very unaware of the fact that they were being watched. They had, in fact, been watched since they'd left Kido the day before, and they had been followed since then.
As the carriage approached a forested area, a dozen pairs of eyes were watching its arrival from behind the trees. The area in question was well known as a place in which bandits, robbers, and other unsavory characters would lie in wait and attempt to ambush innocent, unsuspecting travelers. Most people who knew any better took a weapon with them when passing this area. Those who could afford it brought along guards.
The Monochromon lumbered on slowly, occasionally pausing to eat a bit of the new grass which was sprouting along the side of the road. The driver's partner Plotmon was napping lazily in the warm sun on the roof of the carriage, snoring lightly. His partner was only half paying attention to his job, as it was an uneventful journey he'd made hundreds of times already.
The windows of the carriage were opened to allow in the warm breeze and the cool ocean smells. As they rumbled along slowly, a small, yellow colored digimon with long, wing-like ears squeezed his not-so-small behind through the window and hovered in the air beside the carriage.
"I'll be back in a little bit," he called back to the others, and took to the air, flapping his wings in a surprisingly effective method of flight. As he passed over the carriage, Plotmon opened his eyes and peered sleepily up as a small shadow passed over him, but then returned to his nap almost immediately.
Patamon easily rose into the air and soared cleanly over the plains. He circled the carriage a few times, taking in the sight of the nearby ocean, and then flew on a bit ahead, enjoying the feeling of flight. After two months in the Northern Kingdom, during the cold of winter, he was in high spirits from the warm spring weather.
When he reached the edge of the forest, Patamon set down on one of the higher branches of a very tall tree and looked back toward the carriage, which was slowly lumbering up the road toward the wooded area. Feeling lazy, Patamon thought he might take a short nap while he waited, and so shut his eyes and let his ears droop to his sides.
Suddenly, a voice nearby awoke him. It was a quiet, hushed voice, nearly a whisper, but his long ears were quite good at hearing as well as flying, and so he heard quite clearly.
"Don't lose those, or you'll be stuck here," said the voice. It was a male voice, sharp and commanding, not particularly old or young, but competent and authoritative. Curious, Patamon raised his ears once more and flew in the direction of the voice.
He found him a short distance away. It was a young man, perhaps thirty years of age at the most, with a small Gazimon partner by his feet. The Gazimon looked particularly ferocious, but the man himself was nothing to laugh at, either.
He was a tall young man, with long, dark hair bound into a braid at his neck. He wore a pair of dark blue trousers made of silk and a tunic of the same fabric. Over his shoulders was thrown a long white jacket, tied around his waist with a black belt. On his back was strapped a sword.
A bandit? Patamon wondered, but doubted this, for the man was dressed in an odd fashion for a thief. He was not going to be very successful at hiding while wearing a long white coat, either.
The man in the white coat appeared to be the leader of a group of about a dozen men who surrounded him now. Each of them was dressed entirely in black, and each carried a sword in the same manner upon his back. None of the other men had a digimon with him, so the Gazimon was the only one present. None of them spoke, but several of the men in black were closely examining something they held in their hands. Patamon could not clearly see what the objects were, but thought he saw a glint of red color as the sunlight filtered through the treetops.
Having taken in the situation, Patamon turned to leave the forest, thinking that it might be best to bring his partner this odd information. He had only flown a short distance away, however, when he heard the leader's voice once more.
This time, he spoke only a single word. "Now."
Patamon turned back, curious, and saw that the entire group had vanished. For a moment, he hovered in midair, staring at the empty space, and then wondered if he had imagined the entire thing. Before he could come to any conclusions, however, he heard the sound of a blood-curdling scream coming from somewhere behind him.
Without another thought, he turned back in the direction from which he had come and flew back to his partner with all speed.
Takeru was coming out of the carriage when his partner arrived on the scene. He was thankfully unhurt, which caused Patamon to breathe a sigh of relief. Though the scream had not sounded like Takeru's voice, it had nonetheless caused him to panic for a brief moment.
It was the driver who had screamed, and for a good reason: there was a sword protruding through his stomach, and a great deal of blood was pouring from the wound. The man who had caused the wound, one of those dressed in black who Patamon had seen in the woods a short while earlier, was standing atop the carriage a short distance away.
The small Plotmon, who had been napping atop the vehicle, cried out a tiny squeak, and then deleted as the last bit of life drained from his partner.
The killer removed his sword from the body and the driver fell forward, lifeless. Blood dripped from the blade and fell to the ground below, where it began to form a small puddle beneath the wheel.
Takeru and Hikari had left the carriage when they'd heard the scream, and had been and now continued to stare at the body of the driver as though they did not completely comprehend what had happened. Then, without warning, the man who had killed the driver vanished.
"What - ?" Takeru questioned, slowly coming to his senses. He turned toward Hikari. "What's going on?"
She was similarly clueless. Before anything else could be said, Patamon called out, "Takeru!" from a short distance away.
Hearing the voice, Takeru turned his head and noticed his partner's arrival from the direction of the forest. "I'm all right," he said, guessing that he might be worried. Upon arrival, Patamon sat himself in his usual spot atop his partner's head. "The driver's dead, but I have no idea why." He was looking up at the roof of the carriage as he spoke.
"Maybe someone didn't like him?" Tailmon suggested.
"Really didn't like him," Hikari answered. "Didn't like him enough to kill him. Who, though? Who would a carriage driver make angry enough to kill him?"
"No one who bothered to tell his story," Takeru replied. He was already climbing up the side of the vehicle as he spoke.
"Do you have to go up there?" Patamon questioned. "It's pretty obvious he's dead: you're not going to be able to bring him back to life."
"Someone has to take care of the body anyway," his partner answered. "We can't leave him up here, especially if we want to get home."
"Do you think there's a chance that whoever that was might come back?" Hikari called up from the ground where she was waiting. She turned and looked out across the empty plains.
Takeru had not considered that possibility. He had reached the top of the cart and was looking down at the body of the driver, who was lying, facedown, a great deal of blood pooling from the wound in his stomach. The sight of it made him nauseous for a moment, and he took a deep breath while waiting for his stomach to settle.
There was a gentle cool breeze that smelled of salty ocean water. It skipped lightly over the fields, through the grass, rustling the new leaves in the forest.
"He's dead," said a voice Takeru didn't recognize, and then saw that a man in a long white coat was standing a short distance from him on the roof of the carriage.
The man's dark eyes were narrow and cold: the death meant nothing to him. As the breeze passed by, his coat floated behind him. His hair, tied in a long braid at his neck, gently waved before settling down once more.
"Who are you?" Takeru asked, and turned to glance toward Hikari, to see her reaction to this strange development.
She was surrounded now by a dozen men dressed all in black like the one who had killed the driver. None had drawn his weapon yet, but something about the nature of their stances and the cold, hard expression on each face made Takeru fearful. He took a step forward, intending to climb back down.
In an instant, the man in the white coat had drawn his sword and stretched out his arm, blocking Takeru. "A message," he said in the same cold, emotionless voice.
"Message?" Takeru echoed, turning back toward him. "What message? What are you talking about?"
"Takeru?" Hikari said then in a fearful voice, and he turned back. Hikari rarely sounded very fearful, even in the most dangerous situations. The men had narrowed the circle, and they were now only inches away from her. She looked now toward the man in the white coat. "What do you want?"
He smiled a broad grin now, the first sign of emotion he had shown. "You," he replied, and then nodded. It was a quick, slight move, so sudden and subtle that it was barely noticeable.
Then, with no puffs of smoke or flashes of light – with no sound or light at all – the men and Hikari and Tailmon had all vanished.
Forgetting the sword in his path, Takeru took another step forward. "Hikari?" he questioned. The sword was no longer there, or perhaps he had moved it aside, he was not quite certain. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground where she had once stood. "Hikari?!" he called, and his voice carried across the empty plains.
There was no response.
Panic flooded into Takeru's veins now. He could hear his heart beating loudly in his ears. It suddenly became very difficult to breathe. Patamon took to the sky, flying quite some distance into the air. He returned a moment later, shaking his head.
"I don't see anything," he reported.
Takeru looked back toward the carriage. The man in the white coat had vanished again; there was now only the body of the driver lying in a pool of his own blood. "Where did they come from?" he demanded, his confusion slowly beginning the transformation to anger. "Where did they go? Why did they kill the driver?"
Patamon had no answers, only further speculations that wouldn't help matters, so he kept them to himself. "What do we do now?" he questioned.
Before Takeru could force his mind to think of a plan of action, the voice of the man in the white coat spoke again.
"A message," he said once more, and Takeru saw that he was now standing only a few steps away.
"What are you talking about?" Takeru demanded, "What message? For who?"
The man's lips curved into a smug smile. He stretched out his arm, revealing a small roll of parchment about the length of his hand. "Motomiya," he said then, and his eyes narrowed slightly at the sound of the name.
"What - ?" Takeru questioned, for this had not explained anything in his eyes. The man tossed the small parchment across the short distance, and Takeru caught it easily. He was about to unroll it when the man spoke again.
"No," he said, and his voice was a harsh command. "Give it to him. The message is for him."
"I don't understand," Takeru stated plainly. "What do you want? What's the message? What does this have to do with Motomiya? Where did you take Hikari?"
"Give it to him," the man said again. "Tell him to be at Westernmost Point in three days." He raised his arm again, and tossed something else across the space between them that Takeru caught easily.
It was a red jewel, slightly smaller than his palm, and set into a surround of ancient-looking metal. A long leather cord seemed to allow it to be worn around the neck. As Takeru looked at it, it glinted brightly in the sunlight.
"Three days?" he questioned. "That's not possible. He's at least a week's journey from here, probably two."
"Use the amulet," the man said. "Three days, if he doesn't want her to die." Then, he was gone.
"Die?" Takeru echoed. "Hey, wait! What am I supposed to do with this? Who are you?"
He was gone, however, and this time seemed to show no sign of returning. Takeru looked at the red jewel, then toward the carriage, where the body of the driver was still lying. He looked around the empty space, wishing that he understood, even slightly, what was going on.
Finally, feeling tired, confused, and exhausted from all the thinking which had produced no conclusions, he sat down in the grass. "I am dead," he mumbled, and rubbed his head with his hands. "I am so dead."
Patamon, setting down in the grass beside his partner, was confused. "Dead?"
"Dead," Takeru repeated, and rubbed his eyes. "If Daisuke doesn't kill me, then Taichi will. Gods," he mumbled, and lay back in the dirt. "What the hell is going on?"
"Well, if you're going to reach him," Patamon said a moment later when his partner showed no sign of movement, "you might want to get up and start walking."
"It doesn't matter!" Takeru replied, waving one arm around in frustration. "This message says that Daisuke is supposed to be here – a day's journey from here, to be exact – in three days. It will take me two weeks – four days, if we fly, at least – to get to him, and then another four days for him to get back! There's no way. It's not possible!"
Patamon was silent for a long moment, having nothing to say to this.
"Which means that, no matter what I do, she's dead. She's dead! So I'm better off lying here in the dirt and waiting to die because there's no way I can succeed!"
Patamon waited a few moments for his partner to calm down and then said, in the calmest voice he could muster, "The man said to use the amulet."
"How am I supposed to do that?" he questioned. "Do I shout at it? I don't know what to do with the stupid thing. He might have left me instructions."
Patamon sighed. "Well, lying around here yelling at me isn't going to make things happen," he replied sternly. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start trying something."
Takeru sat up. "Trying what?" he demanded.
"Well, those guys managed to pop in and pop out instantly," the digimon reasoned calmly, "and each of them was carrying one of those amulet things."
"They were in the forest," Patamon replied, pointing with one ear in that direction. "They were all holding one, and the leader said 'Don't lose them, or you'll be stuck here.'"
"So they used them to teleport?" Takeru questioned, studying the amulet with a renewed interest.
"That would be my guess," his partner answered. "Isn't it true that teleportation usually isn't possible by a single person because it takes a lot of energy?"
"Usually," Takeru answered, "though we both know there's an exception to that rule. We teleported from Takaishi to Hida…with the help of a magical crystal."
"So maybe this thing works the same way," Patamon concluded with a shrug. "If that's the case, it would be very easy for you to get to…wherever Daisuke is…and back in three days. In less, even."
"Only one way to find out," Takeru decided, suddenly feeling motivated to at least attempt the task before him. He got to his feet, and Patamon set down upon his head once more. "Ready?"
"I'm ready," came the reply, and then they were gone.
Hikari was aware of a cold, silent darkness that surrounded her for the interminable length of three heartbeats. Then, it was over, and she was in a place with light once more.
It was a room, a small room, with walls made of ancient stone. There was a small fire burning in a fireplace which was set in the wall. A tiny window had been carved out a short distance above this. Along one wall was a wooden bench which ran the entire length of the short wall. The other three walls were all exactly the same length.
For a moment, she was surrounded by men dressed in black, and then they vanished, and she was alone. Tailmon had apparently not come with her.
"Wait!" Hikari called to the men, but they had already vanished. "Where is this?"
No answer came to her question. She turned slowly, peering around the room. A sturdy wooden door was on the wall across from the fireplace. It had no window in it so that she might see out. It was likely that the door was locked, but she tried it anyway, and found that it did not open.
"Takeru?" she called hopefully, but he didn't answer. She wondered if he was back on the plains. She wondered how far she had been transported.
There was no noise. Sighing, Hikari crossed the room and sat down on the bench to wait for something to happen.
If anyone's reading this, thanks for taking the time to get this far. I might have said this previously, but I'm pretty sure this will be my last fanfic (at least for quite some time, or at least the last one I put on ). It may interest you to know that I've actually written quite a bit ahead this time (which I rarely do) and I've actually planned out pretty much the entire story (which I have never done before). This means that A: the story will proceed toward a goal rather than aimlessly rambling through 29 chapters before ending and B: it might actually get updated on a regular basis.
Here's hoping. Thanks again for reading.