Author: Charles Amadeus Anansi
Genre: Action, Adventure
Spoilers: Various mentions of Labyrinthine fauna, some from the story, some not.
Warnings: None, yet. Future violence, some possibly sensual content.
Pairings: Othello x Zephyr
Disclaimer: Obviously I'm not trying to steal the series. The only part of Death Gate I own is the enjoyment I derive from writing in Weis's universe.
Summary: Patryn Runner Othello struggles to reach his next gate, beset on all sides by the Laybrinth's fell creations! Will he find companionship in a Squatter camp?
Author's Note: I'm baaaaaack. Lol. It's been a long, long while. Hello again my friends, welcome again to my stories. I'm rewriting Labyrinth from the ground up, since my previous work was hideously full of holes. Now that I bear at least some increase in skill I felt it only fair to you to bring you my full potential. Get ready, for Labyrinthine!
Episode One: "If the Boots Fit"
Othello carried through the kata, pivoting away from his finishing blow and coming back to face his foe, his blackened saber held straight-armed out to the side. The chaodyn staggered backward, black blood gushing from the hole punched into its carapace, and crashed to the dirt. Othello's magic moved swiftly, and the blood of the chaodyn rose into the air in a murky orb, not a drop of it touching the dirt. Dead, the chaodyn's magic dissipated, and its blood would no longer spawn another of the insectoids, but Othello wasn't taking any chances. He held the blood away from the sand until every trace of magic in it ceased, then carefully siphoned some of the black fluid into a leather flask that he took from the belt about his waist. Then he let the rest splash back down onto the split carapace of his foe, hung the bare, rune-engraved saber back on the side of his pack, and limped out of the cave, the pain from his battle wounds not even causing him to flinch. As a Patryn of many gates had once said, to care was to lose. He did not intend to lose. His feet crushed the long grasses beneath them, bare and scarred. His boots had long since worn through, and not wanting to stop long enough to make a new pair, Othello had just continued walking, trekking through the hell of the Labyrinth- and thusly he continued now, eyes always scanning for danger, ears perked to any noise.
Othello took his saber from his pack. He could smell the smoke from a nearby group of campfires. Assuming they were Squatters, he approached. It had been two days since the battle with the chaodyn in the cave, and he knew he would need shoes, as he would soon enter the desert portion of the world. He was loath to approach the Squatters, they weren't known for their overt friendliness (who was, in this hell of a place), but it was either that or make his own, and the Labyrinth did not deal kindly with those who wasted their time. He crouched and made his way cautiously down from the trees, saber held at the high ready.
In the world of the Labyrinth, there were two classes of the Patryn- the Squatters, those who chose to remain in one place, and the Runners, those who chose to spend their lives racing ever onward for the Final Gate, the sole exit from that malevolent place. Othello was a Runner, and he'd long since learned to trust the runes. You didn't get to be twenty-seven gates old by ignoring warning signs. The warning sigla in his arms burned, and he knew something was amiss here. But he needed the boots, so he lit up the sigla and prepared for a fight.
The camp was a fairly large one, capable of holding at least a score of Squatters. Its huts were tough and tall, rounded to let precipitation fall free. It was also empty, and that didn't mean anything good. Intending to get the boots and leave as quickly as possible, Othello strode into the largest of the huts, rune-saber held ahead of him. Instead what he got was pulled inside the hut, disarmed, and thrown to the ground in a whirl of crimson runes. A heavy, rune-scored cudgel fell heavily toward his face but was stopped suddenly. Othello looked about him cautiously. In the hut was packed a score and a half of Squatters. The leader, a tall man with grey hair (a crown of achievement in a place where life-expectancy was age thirty), was conversing rapidly with the man with the mace. They looked down at Othello, whose runes were glowing like octagonal stars. "Who are you?"
"My name is Othello…" said Othello, standing cautiously. Twenty-five weapons followed him as he stood, so that he stared into a thicket of swords, spears, and cudgels, all faintly glowing with runes. He put a hand to his bald head and it came away bloody. He glared through the mass of weapons at the chief of the Squatters. "…and I'll be leaving now, since I'm obviously in the company of some pretty paranoid folk." He made a little gesture with his hand as he turned on his bare heel and stepped out of the tent, and his saber leapt from the ground and into his hand. "You all have a nice day."
"Stop, Runner." A woman's voice came from the back of the hedge of Squatter warriors.
Othello stopped, but did not turn around. "What do you want, Squatter." He turned his head, the tattoos burning bright on his neck lending eerie shadows to his face and putting a fell gleam into his black eyes.
"Forgive my father's rudeness." There was a ripple of murmurs and the clank of weapons as the woman pushed her way through the hedge of warriors to stand behind Othello, staying just out of sword's reach.
"No." Othello began to walk away.
There were a few short footsteps, and the woman grabbed Othello's shoulder. "Please, Runner!" His saber rose and his head turned, eyes glittering with violent thoughts, but he stopped, and after a second, lowered his sword. The chief called his daughter's name, and without turning, Othello could hear the tribe fanning out behind him, waiting for him to move so they could strike him down.
"Because you need boots if you are going to cross the desert beyond this camp, and I know you need them because your feet are bleeding, so quit holding your pride above us, and look at me!"
Othello turned around. "Why do you care, Squatter?" The Squatter woman was tall and beautiful, her hair, cut just below the chin, had just begun to turn white, marking her as being young like Othello, whose hair would be in a similar state had he allowed it to grow. Her eyes were a very pale blue.
"Because, Patryn help each other, Runner." She locked his gaze with her own, and his runes began to fade as he relaxed. "Listen," she said quietly, so only he could hear. "I want to Run. If I get my father to give you new boots, will you take me with you?"
Othello didn't speak for a moment, then he said, "I do need the boots."
"Then stay for a night, and tomorrow morning, I will leave with you." The woman turned away from him to return to her father, the simple green dress tunic she wore somehow complementing her features perfectly despite the cheapness of the fabric.
"What is your name?" Othello hung his sword on his pack, and the tribe of Squatters relaxed visibly.
"Zephyr," said the woman, tilting her head back flirtaciously and flashing him a smile.
Othello spread his lips in a passable grin, baring pointed teeth. "Well met, Zephyr."
"Likewise, Othello." She dashed away to talk to her father, who looked like he was trying to pass a brick.
The Runner watched amusedly as she went. In truth he wouldn't mind a companion. His smile faltered a little. As long as she didn't slow him down.
Othello sat around the perimeter of the main tent, Zephyr to his left, the chief of the Squatter village across from him, and all about him, the muscled, tattooed forms of five of the other Patryn warriors from the village. Everyone seemed to have warmed to him, but Othello was still tense- more than usual, that is. Patryn rarely relaxed. But that wasn't what was bothering the Runner. What bothered him was that there had been no scouts to see him when he came to the perimeter of the encampment, and so much of the tribe had been gathered in that one tent. It was as if they had been waiting for something else. The chief looked extremely harried: afraid, even. What could make a Patryn powerful enough to live to see grey hair afraid? What would make him distrust even other Patryn so fiercely?
A woman with a long red braid and silver sigla tattooed over her body came into the tent, bearing a platter laden with meat and fruit. She presented it to the chief and bowed out of the tent. The chief took some and passed the platter to the warrior to his right. Othello felt the comforting leather of the hilt of his saber where it lay behind him and spoke. "So, what were you waiting for when I came into your trap?"
The chief locked gazes with the Runner, his eyes the same pale blue as his daughter's. "You are observant, Runner." The chief watched a warrior pass the platter of food to his daughter. "There is a beast in the area, a new creation of the Labyrinth, as far as we know. No word has reached us from other tribes regarding it or its capabilities. Nor have any Runners reported fighting one successfully. In fact, none of them even report having seen one. We believe that the creature has successfully defeated all who challenged it."
Othello nodded. "The Labyrinth is a sadistic place. I am not surprised by this news." He paused, and then said, "How many of yours have fallen to it?"
"Eighteen. Four scouts, and later, two hunting parties of seven sent out in separate directions." The chief nodded at Othello. "We attacked you because this creature has a rather unique ability. From the scouts of ours that report possibly glimpsing it, it takes the form of a Patryn. We don't know what its magical capabilities are; all we know is that it looks like us."
Othello took the plate from Zephyr, who brushed his hand as she passed it to him. Ignoring the tingle that rushed up his arm, the Runner said, "That sounds quite grave. I will be sure to pass on the warning to any tribes I meet across the desert." He paused for a moment and said. "But to get across the desert, I need a new pair of boots."
"My daughter told me of this." The chief smiled, his grin eerily resembling that of a Wolfen. "As you know, Patryn help each other."
Othello narrowed his eyes. "But…"
"But if you want the boots," the chief added, "I want you to bring me this changeling's head."
"What?" Zephyr stood up, and the runes on her hands pulsed thrice before settling into a dull, angry glow of blue. "If a hunting party of seven can't do it, what makes you think Othe- this Runner can? Why would you send a fellow Patryn to certain death?"
"My dear Runner," said the chief, standing, acting as if his daughter hadn't spoken. "If you think I am unaware that you intend to take my daughter with you out of this tribe, you are mistaken. A man knows what goes on in his own house." The chief made a cutting gesture at his daughter, and she crumpled, runes dimming to nothing. She coughed a gobbet of something dark out onto the ground and sank back to her knees, gasping. "If you want those boots, you're going to bring me the head of a changeling."
Othello stood as well, a little amused smile on his face. The other warriors leapt to their feet, their weapons coming into their hands and the sigla on their bodies burning like octagonal stars. Othello ignored the others in the tent, looking straight at the chief Patryn. "The assumption you make is that I cannot kill this changeling. As for your daughter coming with me out of this tribe, the last time I spoke to an elder about Patryn law, I know he said that a Patryn is free to Run however he or she chooses." The runner looked over at Zephyr, who stared pleadingly up at him from the ground. He looked back to the chief. "That dispute is between you and your daughter. But if she chooses to leave with me… you will not stop her." He gestured with his left hand, and the saber jumped into his grasp. "We will have words about this when I return." For the second time in as many hours, weapons and eyes followed him as he walked out of the tent.
Othello located his pack outside the tent, and swung it onto his back. He considered just walking out of the camp and leaving the Squatters to their fate. In fact, he had already begun walking back toward the forest, with the intent to hunt something and make himself the required boots out of its flesh, when a little cry came from the main tent, followed by the chief's angry shouting. Othello looked back, and Zephyr tumbled out, her hair a mess, smoke coming off her body from her from where her father's magic had smote her, her runes glowing almost white in anger and fear. Something rose up the Runner's spine, a tingle of something that made his hair stand up and gooseflesh to rise on his arms. Whatever it was, it settled firmly in his chest, somewhere around his heart. Unnerved, he tried to shake it off, but he found his gaze snapping back to Zephyr, where she lay in the dirt, and something was shaken within him. She looked at him, her beauty still heart-stopping though her face was streaked with tears and her hair and cheeks were now smeared with dirt. Her eyes met his, and her lips formed the word "Please". Othello nodded and then looked pointedly at the tent. Zephyr got to her feet and faced the tent squarely. Othello smiled at her. Then he turned and strode out of the camp and into the forest as a thunderous boom marked Zephyr's furious reentry into her father's presence. The runes in the Runner's sword glowed as the magic in it sensed its wielder's inner turmoil. Othello dispelled the errant glow and made his way deeper into the trees. It was time to hunt a changeling.