Dragons at Dawn
Notes: The characters are not mine (save for the Fragmented Triangle crew and any other OCs) and the story is. Part of the idea is something I've had for years, but Rishid's inclusion is recent and inspired by a dream. I'm not certain where this fits into my timeline; it could be after Life After the Tears, and then again, it could be in place of that story. And I can't guarantee how often this will be updated, but I do have ideas for it and so I hope to be able to use them consistently. Thanks to everyone who has offered plot ideas and encouragement! The name of the organization must be credited to Crystal Rose of Pollux.
The structure had been immense not that long ago. The previous day it had stood in all its imposing majesty, as if daring for anyone to breach its walls. If anyone had opposed it before, they had not tried to do anything about it. Most had honestly not cared, though to be fair they had not known the secret agendas of the corporation. It had not been in place long, and its originators had only been beginning their diabolical plots. They had not thought that anyone knew that they were attempting in secret to harness an age-old power.
But they had been mistaken. This day several had dared to enter, determined to bring the plan to a halt. Yet it was unclear if they had been successful. The enemies they had sought to capture had perhaps escaped but more likely had been destroyed; the power unleashed from their ancient force had brought down the entire building in a horrifying cacophony of steel, wood, and plaster. There the remains had lain in silence for hours, giving no indication as to whether or not all had been swallowed up in their death throes. Smoke and other debris had filled the air, only cleared away at last by a stubborn wind as night fell.
And in the midst of the destruction there was still life.
A lone hand clawed up through the devastation, the raw and bleeding fingers seeking for a hold. At last locating a piece of debris that was fairly sturdy, they gripped tight. The owner of the hand began to hoist himself upward, clutching at another twisted piece of metal with his other hand. Blood was running into his eyes, making vision difficult, but he ignored it. The instinct to survive was strong, pushing him to continue struggling to extricate himself from the ruins. The top had been visible for some time now, and once he forced his battered body onto this stack, he should be there.
And then . . . where would he go from there? The bodies of his loved ones he had left behind him.
He had wanted to remain with them. For hours he had lingered, cradling the lifeless forms as he had struggled to convince himself that this was not real, that the duels had not ended their lives. He had been a broken man. All that he had cared for was now gone. But then their voices had come to him, urging him to get out of there. He was still alive, and he should never waste that precious gift. And even though he could not comprehend why he had survived, how could he refuse them their last request? Once he could manage to return to civilization, he would have to find someone to help him get their bodies away from here. He would not abandon their mortal remains to this cold and harsh burial ground. They would be properly laid to rest in a cemetery or mausoleum.
But freeing himself of this nightmare was not easy. For hours more he had wandered through the devastation, dazed and bleeding, favoring one leg over the other as he had stumbled into one dead end and then another. It seemed as though there was not any escape. Once he had managed to climb a good way up, only to find that he could go no further. And to add insult to injury, he had been unable to keep hold of his cruel ladder. He had tumbled back to a lower portion of the debris, where he had lain nearly unconscious for some time. His loved ones' voices had awakened him, encouraging him to keep going.
And now he was almost there. He was pulling himself up over the edge to kneel on the jagged ground. Through his blurring vision enough could be seen to know that it was indeed the top. The moon and stars shone down on the site, their light pale and wan as it touched upon the broken and twisted metal and wood.
And he was not alone. Another figure was standing several yards away, staring at something clutched in a trembling hand. The wind was playing with the edges of the person's long coat and the short hair, which was now tangled and mostly straight, the forced flip gone out of it.
He knew that person. Not very well, but they had interacted at times. And they had both come to this location with their loved ones and a singular goal in mind. What had happened? The figure looked as broken as the climber felt inside. Dry and sore lips parted, but no words escaped.
The cloaked man froze, the sounds of the struggle having reached his ears. He turned, his gray eyes widening at the sight.
"You . . ."
It was the first living voice the journeyer had heard in countless hours. And it was cracked and tortured. The object in the bleeding hand was held much tighter.
Golden eyes focused on it, recognizing its origins. "You . . . have lost someone too." It was a statement instead of a query. "Both of them. . . ."
Something flickered across the scratched face, dangerous and determined. "No. I'll get them back."
Confusion and concern passed across the first's eyes. "You cannot bring back the dead."
"I will." He held out his free hand. "I'll find a way. And I'll get your family back, too."
The plan was amiss. What had been done could not be tampered with or changed. But in the climber's stricken mind, the thought of there being any shred of hope was a comfort. For now he would not argue.
He reached out a sore hand in response, taking hold of the other's.
The rest of the night was long, mostly passing in a vague blur. They had escaped the ruins at some point, but with nowhere else to go they had been forced to walk to find shelter on legs that had long ago been ready to collapse. The man's new companion had tried to help where possible, but he could not do much in the way of lending physical support. They had been mostly silent as they walked, attempting to conserve needed energy as well as being lost in their thoughts of the horrors that had taken place. Before the golden eyes flashed the images of his family's lifeless forms, and it was almost certainly the same for the other.
Making it back to their hotel and entering through the back way happened mechanically. The steps were endless, and in each stairwell the voices out in the hall echoed, as if they were separated by the dimensions and on another plane altogether. They might as well have been; the two men were alone as they went up each floor, not wanting to attract attention.
At some point they gained the desired floor and traveled down the hall to the correct suite, belonging to the first man—and his family. The sight of the door and its number sent memories crashing through his mind again—memories of only the day before, in another lifetime. His sister had registered the suite in her calm, unconcerned way. Then they had gone up in the elevator, which was one of the modern clear kind that allowed one to look outside during the travel. His brother had enjoyed the view. Such things still amazed him, after having lived so many years in the darkness. . . .
. . . They had still amazed him.
He fumbled in his pocket for the card key. It was somewhat surprising that it was still there and intact after the day's events. But now he was not sure if he could bear to go inside. He would see his siblings' possessions, and know that they would not be returning for them. . . . And he would have to make that telephone call to someone who could help with the bodies. . . .
Vertigo washed over him as he stood debating what to do. He had barely stopped to rest during the time he had been fighting to obtain liberty, save for the unwilling venture into unconsciousness. And then there had been the long walk. It was impossible to gauge how much time had passed since then, but this final onslaught of stress, coupled with having currently paused in the journey, was something he could not handle right now. His body was giving out.
"Hey . . . !"
He could hear the other's surprise, and a bit of desperation. He could feel the younger man trying to grab at him and keep him from collapsing. And he did not want to be a burden. Above all, he could not stand that thought. His fingers curled on the doorknob. But it was no use. He sank further down, hitting his raw knees as he slumped against the door.
It was much too peaceful when awareness began to return. The bed was soft, the mattress firm but inviting. The covers were warm without being hot or confining. And the light was not too bright. Still, memory had not faded during senselessness. It was there as soon as he began to revive—where he was, the reason why he was laying there, and the fact that he was alone. It was all too tempting to try to return to slumber in order to further ignore reality. But that would not make the truth go away.
Now his head was announcing its own pain. His hands were still raw as well, and as he raised one into his line of vision, he found that it was bandaged. His entire body was stiff. There was likely gauze in other locations; he recalled sustaining wounds on his arms and legs as well as in his side.
A form standing near the window caught his attention. He turned his head to the right, focusing golden eyes on the slender frame of his rescuer. The other was facing away, his arms crossed. His reddish hair, freshly washed, hung against his face and neck. His coat was absent, leaving him dressed in a tank top jersey and dark pants. He appeared younger than he truly was, though his actual age was not far past twenty. Now he looked like a young boy, lost and alone.
"It wasn't easy to get you in here," he said, his voice betraying none of his emotions. He always had been blunt, somewhat as the other's younger brother had been. Of course they were really quite different, but in this current time of devastation their similarities seemed all the more apparent. It only served to drive the ache deeper.
The bed-ridden man frowned. "Were you forced to bring me in by yourself?"
A shrug. "You woke up halfway to help."
He looked away. "I apologize for burdening you."
For a long moment there was silence. ". . . While you were sleeping off the damage, I read over some of your sister's research."
The golden eyes narrowed. In spite of any plans his ally might have for reviving their lost loved ones, and in spite of any characteristics shared with his brother, he was not certain he liked the idea of this man going through his sister's belongings without receiving permission from him.
"Did you discover anything that would help?" he asked, aware that his tone was somewhat clipped.
"Yes." The younger man turned to face the other, his gray eyes determined. "The very thing we came here to investigate could be something we could harness and use to revive her and the others."
That was not what the first man had expected to hear. The idea was cold and dark. He did not want anything more to do with the wretched power, and it was difficult to believe that the other would even consider it, for more reasons than one.
"Isn't it the very force that killed all of them?" came the retort.
A fist clenched. "That's all the more reason why it should be used in our favor, to bring them back."
The older man was not pleased. His sister had been adamant that the power not be used for any reason. They had come to stop those who were already interested in it, taking along this man and his friends due to their knowledge of a similar force. But their efforts had failed. Or, if their enemies were dead, it had been a bitter victory.
"You are overcome by grief," he said now. "You are not thinking rationally. Was it not you yourself who previously commented on how this power is very much like the Orichalcos, which brought so much sorrow to you and the others?"
There was a brief flicker in the tortured eyes, but the red-haired man was undaunted. "It would be fine if we use it right. If you're not willing to risk it, I'll go ahead by myself." He began to turn away again. "You'll be fine here in the hotel," he said. "I'll copy the research papers if you don't want me to take the originals. And when I've experimented and found how everything works, you'll be the first to know."
That was not an acceptable solution. "It was my sister's project. I do not trust you to go about it on your own."
"As you pointed out, I said that this force is a lot like the Orichalcos." The long arms crossed. "I know how the Orichalcos works; therefore it shouldn't be any problem to use this power."
They exchanged a long look, their eyes cold and impassive.
"Mr. Mackenzie . . ." The golden-eyed man gripped a handful of quilt as he hesitated. Perhaps his family would be upset with him for this, but he did not know what other course of action to take. In the past, when faced with such a serious problem and choice, he had gone along with the erring soul. Treachery had been committed, but it had seemed the lesser evil when faced with the possibility of the much more dire evil that had been trying to get free. Though in the end, it still had broken loose in spite of his best efforts.
In this situation, he did not want to make a possible enemy of the other. It was clear from his eyes that the younger man was now teetering on the brink of desperation and madness. If he was alone, he could wreak havoc not only on himself but on many others. Not that the dilemma would change with someone watching him whom he barely knew, but the golden-eyed man would feel better to know what was happening and to be right in the midst of it.
And he could not deny that in some dark corner of his mind, he wished that Mr. Mackenzie would be correct and this would work. He knew the dead could not be restored, but he could not suppress the longing for it to not be true. He desired more than anything else for his loved ones to be revived. They had not deserved to perish, nor had they wanted their lives to end. They needed another chance.
At last he spoke again. "If you are insistent, I feel I have no choice but to accompany you."
The redhead gave a single, satisfied nod. "Good. Then, Mr. Ishtar, I'd say we have a deal." He reached into his pocket. "I found these in the wreckage. They must have fallen from the people we dueled."
The other's eyes widened at the sight of the semi-precious rocks that their opponents had worn around their necks. The stones resembled tanzanite in color—a deep, polished blue. So small, and yet so dangerous.
"Why did you take them?" he demanded. "Were you planning this even then?"
"It's better for us to have them instead of any remaining enemies." Mr. Mackenzie held out one of them to the golden-eyed man. "When we go to get the others, I'm planning to see if I can find any more. I don't want anyone else to get hold of them, even the police or the cleanup crews."
Slowly a bandaged hand reached to accept the gem. He should not do it. He knew that, and yet he was going through with this anyway. His fingers closed around the tanzanite. It glowed in response, sending a tingling force into the big man's flesh. Already it was so empowering. Perhaps Mr. Mackenzie was correct after all. Perhaps if they collected as many of the stones as they could, and brought the gems to their full power level, they would be able to bring back those they had lost.
He gripped tightly at the rock. "Very well," he said. "Yes, that should be the first step."
Mr. Mackenzie nodded. "The stones are supposed to be able to grant the users' deepest wishes and hopes," he said, "if we activate their highest powers. And I know how to do that. We'll create the Neo-Orichalcos."
Something sounded terribly wrong about that. But the other only nodded. The Neo-Orichalcos. . . . Perhaps it would not be as devastating as the first. Perhaps it would instead be benevolent.
Outside, thunder boomed in the distance.