Matagot 1- Burning, Or; A Strange Inheritance
Disclaimer: I do not own Death Note. If I did, everything after the Yotsuba arc would not have occured, L and Light would've hooked up two eps after the chain went on and Near, Mello and Matt would've come in in some other fashion (Just because they rock). I do, however own some of the legends attributed with the 'Matagot', (which is a real French myth, who'da thunk it?) and the general AU.
Warning: AU, Yaoi/Shonen-Ai. If you don't like, please don't read! Rated for later content, possible swearing, definite limes and possible violence. LightxL, possible side pairings to be decided.
Flames shall be extinguished with great force because it is bush-fire season and I hate bush-fires. Many Australians do.
Credit goes to my beta, TsumeLover666 for an excellent job, and a swift return!
This is my first attempt at a Death Note fic, and I hope they're in character for the situation they've been put into... Hope you all enjoy and please leave me a review to let me know how I'm doing so far! It is definitely an AU, but if you got past the summary you'd have been expecting that so...
The dark-haired youth stood with hunched shoulders at the gate bordering the small farm on the edge of the village that stood just at the fringes of the woodland in which his home lay somewhere to the north. With pale skin, almost abnormally milky-white in its pallor and yet with hair dark as a raven's wing he was an oddity, even if one was to discount the almond-shaped eyes with the pupils that were so dilated that his eyes appeared to be completely black in colour, ringed with dark circles.
A lip quirked in sardonic amusement as the hue and cry was raised in the shed these particular farmers used for storage of their winter hay and oats (for both the livestock and humans respectively).
"Mould! And look, here! This whole bag's full of the rot!"
"This 'un's had the mice at it!"
"I can't believe it! This is the second time!"
"It's all the fault of that shapeshifter- that demon-spawn as what lives in the damned forest!"
"I told you he was a matagot!" He chuckled somewhat sourly at that one.
So it was 'matagot' they called him now. A shapeshifting demon that often took the form of a cat, bringing fortune to a master, and ruin to those that took its fancy, according to the French who claimed the myth as their own.
Not that he was denying anything. 'Matagot' was merely a new name, with several fanciful notions added to ancient myth.
They all stormed from their barn, and one of the nastier daughters saw him, yelling out "There's the filthy demon!"
'I take offence at that one, I am perfectly clean.'
"Look! His eyes are glowing with mischief! I told you he was a matagot! I told you he must be with those hellish black eyes with those marks around them. Not mentioning the waxen colour of his features!"
'Wasn't it just this week she cornered me and praised their beauty in a weak attempt at seduction?' he wondered with jaded amusement.
It was not his fault his appearance was what it was. If he couldn't sleep, how on Earth were his pupils to shrink and reveal the true colour of his eyes? The same thing was at fault for the dark rings around his eyes, though the paleness was mostly a gift from his mother.
"You'd better just admit what you are, demon-boy!" she yelled furiously.
He remained silent. 'Hell hath no fury… I have no obligation to answer these simple folk. Especially with all the insults they have paid me.'
"You ruined our crops three times running,"
'I had thought they just said this had happened twice.'
", Mrs. Applecroft's child was born dead and the cows have been giving birth to deformed calves!"
At that, he decided he'd had enough. Even if he did have the power, he would never cause any child to die, nor would he have anything to do with something as trivial as causing deformed calves.
"Her child was a breech-birth. There was nothing I nor anyone could have done to prevent it being born with its cord around its neck. As for the harvest, if your children had not been lazy and had gotten in the harvest on time then it would have been dry and rot would not have set in. You're actually very lucky the barn hasn't set alight yet."
"You see!" the scorned woman said triumphantly. "He's admitting it! He just said we are lucky it didn't set alight earlier! I'll bet that was his next plan!"
He sighed, deciding to quit while he was behind. Nothing he could say would dissuade them; they were quite determined to blame their problems on him. Rolling his eyes he slouched further, saying nothing as the situation snowballed.
A young man, only just into his seventeenth summer had been making his way home, light brown hair tousled by the breezes wafting through the village, when he had heard the ruckus coming from the central square, where markets were generally held.
Frowning, he picked up his pace, autumn-hued eyes curious. It wasn't market-day for another few days at least you see, so he hadn't a clue what all the commotion was about.
He arrived at the square, joining the fringes of the crowd. Being well-liked for both his natural charm and good looks, he easily melted between the jostling crowds to nearer the front for a better look with surprising ease.
At the middle of the square was the focus of the crowd- a hastily erected wooden platform with a pole in the centre with a large bundle of old wood arranged around the feet of a pale young man who couldn't have been much older than he himself with a blank, expressionless face, eyes currently hidden by mussed black locks of hair.
As soon as he saw that, he didn't need to see the ropes on his wrists to know the other young man was tied there.
"For the crime of being a shapeshifting demon, by the name of 'matagot' you are to be burned at the stake 'till dead." announced the village chief from the platform.
He frowned. Shapeshifting demon? Superstition if you asked him. There was absolutely no way anyone would actually allow someone to be burned for such a foolish reason.
"Yeah! Burn 'im!"
"Burn the demon!"
Apparently there were some fools who would. But, surely when they asked the customary question someone would speak up for him.
"Be there any who object?" yelled the village chief atop the platform.
There was an eerie silence, save for the shuffling and shifting of the crowd, only broken once.
"Just burn him already!" shouted a ragged child near the back in impatience. The crowd roared in agreeance, surging forward around him.
In response, the speaker on the platform accepted a burning brand from one of the village elders at the front of the crowd, lifting it theatrically in the air to roars of approval. He was about to touch it to what would be the dark-haired male's funeral pyre when said male lifted his head, as though sensing the gold-brown eyes now staring at him, and his oddly dark eyes locked onto the teen's own.
'This is wrong.' he thought. 'This man grew up here with us! He can't be some legendary demon! Magic doesn't exist anyway, and it is wrong to burn an innocent. His only crime is being a hermit!'
"I object!" the teen yelled, forcing his way to the very front and hauling himself onto the platform.
The crowd stared, along with the chief. "What did y'say?" he asked disbelievingly, hand holding the brand dangerously close to the wood.
"Light, think carefully!" pleaded the young man's father, trying to make his way through the whispering crowd to his son.
The one about to be burnt sent him a quizzical stare. Pulling his eyes from that stare and ignoring his father, Light continued. "This is wrong and you all know it! He grew up here, and we all know him." He turned to the crowd; arms spread wide, palms up. "How could he be some demon when even the meanest beggar knows they aren't real?!"
"Burn them both! If he wants to protect the demon so badly, let him join it in the flames!"
"It's a legend and we all know that in our hearts! How can you allow someone to be killed for being a myth?!"
The crowd set up a chant. "Burn them both! Burn them both! Burn them both!" they all yelled, angry at being interrupted in their sport.
There was so little excitement in the village, but a good demon burning would be something interesting, and would be something to talk about in the long weeks to come.
"No! Don't burn our son! He doesn't understand what he's doing!" pleaded the boy's father, still trying to force his way to the platform, hindered by unmoving crowd members.
Ignoring the hullabaloo from the crowd, the chief asked Light, "Will you stand witness for him?" the hand holding the brand trembling a hair's breadth closer to the wood at the accused youth's feet, dangerously close to lighting the bundles.
"Yes! Of course I will if that will stop this madness!" Light said hurriedly, eyeing the flame warily.
The older man sighed, turning and dropping the flame to the cobblestone of the square, whereupon it was hastily snuffed by the elders there.
Before they could change their minds, Light moved forward and began to shove aside the wood so he could release the prisoner tied tightly to the stake.
"Why did you do that?" asked the one tied there quietly in a hiss.
"Because this innocent has elected to stand witness for the accused, the law states that we are not allowed to execute either of them." announced the chief.
The crowd began to roar in protest. He held up a hand and they fell quiet. "However we are allowed to enforce a maximum sentence of exile. I think that in this case, to prevent young Light being cornered and murdered in the backfields on his way home we'll have to exile him too."
"What! But that's not-"
"It is final. You will have to try your luck in the world. You will not be allowed to receive your inheritance from your parents before you go either." the elder added, eyeing Light's father whom had a mutinous glare in place. "That demon you so staunchly defended will be your only inheritance. Matagot are said to bring their master fortune well enough, and you have saved this one's life. Perhaps he will be a better inheritance than any of us can guess. Pack whatever you can into a small bag and leave by sunset. Both of you."
"Wait, sunset?" Light whispered, face shocked.
Both the chief and the youth he'd saved gave him a sympathetic look from their respective positions.
"You heard me." the chief said gently. "Be gone by sunset. I cannot guarantee the safety of either of you after that time."
The crowd began to drift off, disappointed that there was to be no burning, only an exiling, and not a small amount of anger was present also.
Light did not remember later undoing the knots on the other young man's wrists and feet, but numbly he carried out this task the way he carried out any task given him, thoroughly and well. After the knots around the other's ankles had been untied, Light was still kneeling there, in shock more than anything else.
Wordlessly a pale hand stretched down to him, red-raw around the wrists. The ropes had been tied cruelly tight around his delicate flesh, though there had been no protest at the time. Gently this hand took Light's wrist, pulling him effortlessly to his feet, despite the slender stature of the youth pulling him.
"Let's go, Light. I'll help you pack your things. I'm sure your mother will give you plenty of food, though our harvest was as bad as any other…" Light's father said sorrowfully, sending a glare at the dark-haired youth beside his son.
Numbly Light nodded, following after his father. The other young man also followed, staring at him. Finally Light had had enough.
"What?" snapped the upset teen, annoyed at the constant staring. There was no response, though the other continued staring.
Light swung away from his father and went the other way, willing to take the long way if it meant shaking the silent follower, to no avail.
"Why are you following me?! Don't you need to get your own things?" snapped Light, swinging back around to face the dark haired male who was standing behind him, having stopped when he did.
"I do not have other clothing apart from what I wear now, and am not accustomed to eating much. I have no need to collect anything." replied the other matter-of-factly, apparently unbothered by the harsh tones.
Light was taken aback by this. "What?"
"The villagers would not serve a 'demon' and I had not much from my mother anyway." He shrugged. "It is of little consequence. I survive."
Light continued walking, a thoughtful look on his face.
Sunset came and the two young men stood at the road out of the village. Light's family had wanted to come and see him off, but he had resisted, not wanting to see their distress.
Honestly, he was half-regretting saving the other. He'd never planned on leaving the village- he would have led a perfectly comfortable (if slightly boring) life as the sole inheritor of his parents, though he would not have been wealthy, as they were not rich, he would have had a fulfilling life.
Now, because he had too active a conscience he was to be sent away with barely anything, leaving everything and everyone he'd ever known, not to mention that he hadn't the faintest idea about what the rest of the country was like, not to mention where the city lay.
"This way." the other said, walking in the opposite direction from the forest, his shoulders hunched.
"Why that way?"
He stopped, half turning his head towards Light. "The nearest city is this way. If you are to be repaid for what you did, then to a city we must go. Unless you would prefer that we wandered, and you were left to make your own way in the world. Though that would sit ill with me, given I am bound to you until I repay my debt to you under the Law…" he frowned slightly at the idea. Light wondered why he'd said 'law' as though it was capitalised.
"The law says no such thing, the chief was mocking me. I'm happy enough for you to tag along with me though, given you appear to know what you're doing and where we're going."
"Well then." the dark-haired male said, turning to continue as though the issue was settled.
Light caught up to him, grasping his slender forearm in one hand, to which the other froze. "Wait. If we're travelling together I might as well know your name. You were always out of the village, so I never really met you, and I'm afraid we've not been formally introduced given the circumstance…" He trailed off, before determinedly pasting a smile on his face. "Besides, I can't just keep calling out 'Hey, you' all the time."
Darkened eyes travelled from the hand on his arm up to Light's face. He took Light's hand between thumb and forefinger, not moving his gaze from Light's face as he tugged the hand from his arm, dropping it. "You may refer to me as L."
"I can't just refer to you as a letter! Surely you have a name." Light exclaimed, hiding his offence at being treated as though he were contaminated.
"I do, though there is much that can be done to someone if you know their true name. And, while I do not think you mean me harm at present, what you don't know you can't tell." L explained.
"What on Earth do you mean? There is no way something as simple as someone knowing your mere name could hurt you. Unless you're suggesting those fools in the village were right to believe in magic." Light said scornfully.
L just returned his gaze, eyes somewhat vacant. "They were not entirely wrong." he said softly, before returning to following his invisible path.
Light blinked, before rolling his eyes and falling into step behind the odd young man he now knew as L.
Soon the orange tinged light from the setting sun melted into pink-red then a blood-dark red before finally falling into the strange period between day and night- dusk.
A lone farm came into view, a large barn behind it.
"We will shelter here for the night." stated L.
Light eyed the farm warily. "Couldn't we just keep walking? We'd reach the city quicker, and we could rest in some comfort rather than in a barn that's probably filled with lice and all manner of other pests."
L looked at him, an eyebrow raised. "If you wished to be accosted by something. Besides, it is at least another day's walk and you will need to rest at some point, now seems just as good a time as any. I would ask what is wrong with the barn also, as it will keep the wind away and keep us dry. There ought to be some straw or hay you can use for bedding if need be also. I would not worry about lice- or mice for that matter." he added with a small smile as though at a private joke. "They will not bother us."
"What do you mean 'I' will need to rest? What about you?" Light asked, picking up on the small oddity.
"I do not sleep. I cannot. You couldn't have thought my eyes were naturally black? I would have thought you'd notice the circles under my eyes at least, you seemed rather more observant than the rest of those simple villagers…"
Light bristled. "I did not make a habit of staring at your face, nor your eyes, so I had not observed. Not that I'd have had much of a chance to, with your self-enforced isolation."
They stopped as L pushed the barn door quietly open.
"It was not entirely self-enforced." L said softly, staring tranquilly at Light, eyes glittering strangely in the light from the moon now appeared in the sky, apparently unbothered by his harsh tone. "And I was not chastising you; therefore you have no need to become hostile. Eat something, and then sleep. You will need your strength for tomorrow."
The seventeen-year old frowned, but entered the barn and decided he might as well obey, seeing the sense in the suggestion. Before he actually began to eat the food he'd removed from the pack he looked at L. The dark-haired male was not watching him, but rather staring out the open door, eyes narrowed ever so slightly as he stared at the thin sliver of moonlight peeking through the door.
"Would you like something to eat?" Light asked.
L brought his dark eyes down to Light's hazel-brown ones in surprise. "Oh, no thank you. I am not terribly hungry." He continued to stare into Light's eyes a second before adding, "Thank you for the kind offer, however." as an afterthought.
Light shrugged and began to eat as L returned to staring out the opened door. He finished his food and looked around for something to sleep on. He sighed and went to the pile of straw (or hay, he wasn't sure, his family had grown food crops, not horse crops) in the corner. It would be rough and prickly, but at least it would be warm and hopefully clean. He curled up atop the straw with a goodnight to his companion, which earned him a distant reply. While sleep did manage to elude him for several minutes he eventually fell into dreaming.
Unbeknownst to him, his dark-haired companion watched him sleep for just long enough to ensure he was actually sleeping, before he slipped out the barn door.
Light woke up warmer than he'd thought he'd be. He didn't know what had woken him, as the sun had not yet risen, though judging by the lighting it wasn't far off.
Sleepily he rubbed his eyes as he sat up, the small blanket now covering him falling off as he did. He frowned slightly. Surely that hadn't been there when he'd gone to sleep?
He looked around for L, but his companion was nowhere to be found. Light's frown deepened.
L was nowhere to be found, but there was a cat sitting in the doorway, staring at him. The animal had eyes so dark a grey as to be nearly black while its fur was white, with both ears and the tip of its tail black.
Light stood and slowly moved towards the cat, which calmly watched his approach, grey eyes serene.
Tentatively he reached out and caressed the surprisingly soft fur along its back. It started slightly, fur puffing out a bit at the impulsive caress though it did not scratch him. Encouraged by this, Light began to scratch the animal behind its ears and under its chin. It looked at him, trying to keep its unnerving stare on him, but it soon caved in and could not resist the scratching, tilting its head up, eyes closed as it began to purr.
Light smiled. "I wonder who you belong to, hm?" he asked aloud, continuing to scratch. "You're not a thin cat, but you're not well-kept either." he mused.
He picked up the cat (inadvertently discovering it to be male as he did) and carried it with several loud yowls of protest to the pack which contained his things. He reached into the pack and pulled out a piece of salted meat, tearing a piece off and offering it to the somewhat ruffled cat, which was now glaring at him.
It stared first at the food, then at him, and then back to the food, the angry swishing of its tail subsiding as it appeared to debate whether or not to accept.
Light kept his hand extended patiently for perhaps a minute before the cat reached his decision. It stood and slowly and warily went to his hand, nudging the morsel before stepping back and looking at Light's face.
When the food was neither dropped, nor withdrawn the cat leant forward to take the meat between its teeth, carrying it a little ways away before actually eating it. It sat in that spot for a while longer, refusing to be coaxed back to Light before it left through the door, through which Light could see his namesake stealing through to fill the barn. Light tilted his head to the side.
"What an odd cat." he remarked as he turned from the doors, taking out a small bit of bread for his breakfast.
He was just about to eat the piece he'd torn off when he heard a familiar voice say, "What cat?" in an inquisitive voice.
Light turned his head to see his companion L, hair somewhat ruffled. "Where were you?"
L blinked. "Finding a faster way to travel to the city. You wished to get there as quickly as possible so as to return to comfort did you not?" he answered, gesturing vaguely out the door.
Light stood and went to see what the strange young man meant. Outside, tethered to a nearby tree stood an old mare.
"An old horse?" he asked sceptically. "Surely it won't be able to carry either of us let alone both."
"She will. You can take the horse and I'll follow you."
"Won't we become separated then? You can't keep up with a horse, even one as slow as this."
"Perhaps. Nevertheless, I will keep up." L said with an enigmatic smile.
Light shrugged. "I will eat, and then we can leave. Which direction will I need to take?"
"Head towards the Reaine Forest, and you ought to find the road. Just follow the signs once you get to it.
Light nodded, not seeming to find it odd that L knew that he could read (unlike the majority of the villagers.)
"I will go ahead now, or I'll never get there."
Light nodded once more in acknowledgement as L left.
"You have arrived then." L greeted Light as the teenager entered the city, half-dead in the saddle.
"Oh. Have I? I'm not sure, I was under the impression that I'd died a few kilometres back and this was Hell." snapped Light as he clumsily slid from the horse.
"Light is angry?"
"Not in the slightest."
"That is good then. Come, I have something I must do. Incidentally do you have anything I might trade?" L asked, oblivious to the heavy sarcasm in Light's voice.
Light was intrigued, despite his aches and pains. "Why would you want something to trade?"
"Because we will need coin in order to stay at an inn somewhere."
"I really don't have that much, except for food and I don't think it would be wise to trade that away.
L nodded thoughtfully. "It will be fine then. Sit with the horse here a minute and wait. I'll be back soon." He started to leave, but turned his head. "You should eat something, you look hungry."
With that the raven-haired man left (much to Light's irritation) leaving Light to his own devices.
L stood outside the door to one of many ramshackle houses along the street. He had not yet raised his hand to knock, but the door suddenly flung open before he had the chance.
"It's about time you arrived." said a surprisingly quiet tone considering the gusto with which the door had been opened. "I expect you'll wish to ask about the usual?"
"I see I was expected. But what do you mean 'the usual'?" questioned L as he entered the house.
Despite it's decrepit outside, the inside of the house was neat and tidy with well-worn but tasteful furniture and several cushions. The one concession to the mess that covered the outside was the papers sprawled across a somewhat battered desk.
"Of course you were expected, your mother told me you would come eventually." L nodded as though this explained everything. "And, as for 'the usual', there are many like yourself who come to me and ask a certain question. So, ask away. I'd offer you tea or some such thing but I don't think you'll be wanting to stay long."
"How do I gain my freedom?" came the straightforward question.
The other looked surprisedly at the dark-haired young man, whom sat atop the worn divan with his feet on the cushions, legs either side of him in a fashion almost catlike. Add a swishing tail and pointy ears…
"Not the usual question then." mused the older man. "Of course, to answer that I would have to know what sort of freedom you mean."
"Isn't there only one sort of freedom? I want to be unbound from the rules that keep such as us chained." L said with polite puzzlement etched onto his features.
"Ah, I can not answer you that."
"Whyever not? You gained freedom didn't you?"
The older man smiled gently. "I merely chose a different chain, young one." For a moment he appeared older than he was, and world-weary. "The best any of us can hope for is, when the time comes to choose, to know which path will allow us to choose the manner of our binding."
L frowned, deep in thought. "The manner of my binding?"
"Your choice will come soon I believe, and will entwine with the path you have chosen to walk."
"I chose no path." L said sharply. "What do you mean?"
The older man shook his head wearily. "I am unable to explain it to you. I've overstepped my boundaries already. I will give you what assistance I may, and if you will return tonight I will teach you what I am able."
"I am bound to the safety of another, and therefore can't leave him alone for long." L said reluctantly.
"One has caught you already? I thought you would be one of the last of this generation to be caught, if ever. So it begins already does it?"
L was silent.
"Then I will do what I can in the time we have given to us."
The older man left the room and L heard him rummaging for a brief time before he heard a soft 'clinking' noise.
"Here." the older man said softly, returning with a small leather purse which he handed to L. "Make good use of this."
Knowing better than to argue with this particular older man L accepted the purse, stowing it somewhere in the folds of his unusually loose clothing.
"I will return." he told the older man, who nodded by way of farewell.
He was unsurprised to find Light dozing against a tree-trunk with the horse lipping lazily at the grass nearby, he'd half-expected it, what with there being a distinct lack of horses (and therefore riding opportunities) in their home-village.
He was surprised to note the colour of Light's eyes as he crouched down and woke him up. The light of the setting sun caught the brown-gold of the younger male's eyes, turning them to a captivating yet eerie shade of burnished red-bronze. L froze as he leaned closer and looked into those strange eyes.
"Took your time, L." the owner of said eyes grumbled sleepily with a yawn. "Where'd you- what are you staring at?!" he demanded, waking up proper as he noticed the other's darkened eyes staring into his. "Is there something on my face?"
L was silent for another second or so before deigning to answer.
"What of them? And could you move to the side so I may sit properly? I'll hit you if I try at the moment."
Ignoring this request, L leaned even closer, frowning slightly. Without realising it Light froze, not a breath issuing from his lungs.
"Your eyes are… a rather strange shade of red." L commented distractedly, moving back to crouch to the side of Light. "It's really quite a lovely colour." he added.
Light sat up, taking air into his suddenly starved lungs. "What?"
"Come." L said, standing with Light following suit.
"Where are we going, and what precisely did you mean when you said that my eyes were a 'lovely colour'?" Light demanded.
"I did not say anything of the sort. I merely commented that your eyes were an odd shade of red, and then I added that I thought the shade quite lovely. I mentioned nothing to do with your eyes being lovely."
Light gave him a disbelieving look. "Splitting hairs aren't you?"
Ignoring Light, L continued to walk on. "And in answer to your first question, I am going to an inn called the Dancing Cat. That is where we will stay the night."
So? Like it? Don't like it? Please remember that although I appreciate constructive criticism, I will not accept flaming. It's immature and childish quite frankly and I've better things to do than waste time (and energy) replying to such insults. Hope you can leave me a review or two!
At any rate, I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I hope to have chapter two typed and posted soon!