Sorry for the deluge of posting.
This is the second and, so far, final part in the Clash of World trilogy. Dedicated once again to my betas of awesome: Gogo_Didi, Istezada, Lizzy, Aranellaurelote and my mother.
A dark shadow reared up over the bridge and let out a sudden glow from light it had absorbed. The lone figure before it held it back with a word, but not for long. It surged forwards again and the bridge collapsed with a screeching roar, taking the shadow and the figure with it. Down they plunged, down into the raging river, foam and rocks in a lethal melée that they were dragged through with brutal force.
Jack woke with a gasp and rolled over, digging his fingertips into holes in the rock surface. He breathed heavily, closing his eyes to fight off the images and made himself roll back towards Ianto's touch, relaxing back into it. "I'm okay," he said at last. "Just a dream."
Ianto squeezed his shoulder once more and sat up next to him, stretching and looking out of their cave onto the coastal shelf beyond it. "Just before dawn," he guessed. "And the tide's on it's way out. We should get going whilst we can."
They loaded up their bags and picked their way carefully along the newly-revealed shelf, avoiding slippery seaweed and the deceptively deep pools that hid sharp rocks and things that bit behind fronds of seagrass, ready for them to misjudge the depth and sink into them. A lower section of cliff gave them the opportunity to climb up to the rocky scrubland above about two hours after they set off, and Jack watched with his heart in his mouth as Ianto climbed the last few feet until he could grab Jack's hand and let himself be pulled up onto the clifftop.
When another steep cliff blocked their path, Ianto shrugged his bag off and dumped it next to a boulder with a huff and sat down on the boulder. "Even the landscape seems to be against us, now. The more we don't want to get there, the harder it gets to get there."
Jack chuckled and dropped his bag next to Ianto, then went over to look down the cliff again. "I think it's that the harder it gets to get there, the more we don't want to do it," he suggested. "This shouldn't be too hard."
"Fine. But I'm having lunch first. At least that's one fewer thing for me to carry."
He nodded and raised his gaze to look East, seeing a glimmer on the horizon. A shock ran through his body and his knees buckled at the pain. It passed quickly, just in time for him to register the ground rushing up to meet him.
When he came to, he was flat on his back, gazing up at the slight overhang of the dusky grey cliff and the bag that was swinging loosely on the rope as it descended towards him. He pushed himself up and steadied himself against the cliff, then caught the bag and unknotted it from the rope with stiff, clumsy fingers. As soon as the bag was loose the rope was pulled back up again, and he moved away from the cliff edge to wait for the next one.
Another bag came down to him, faster than the last, and then the rope hung freely and Ianto began his slow, careful descent. He used the rock wall more than the rope, just keeping it where he could grab it easily should he fall, but he reached the bottom and Jack's secure embrace without incident. His fingers clenched in Jack's coat and he shuddered once. "Idiot," he muttered, "what were you thinking?"
"Wasn't thinking anything." Jack hugged him again and pulled back so that he could look him in the eye. "Are you okay?"
"I am now. Now I can stop worrying. Well..." He pulled out of Jack's embrace and looked up at the rope he'd come down. "We couldn't leave a clearer 'Jack and Ianto were here' sign, could we?"
Jack tilted his head. "We could have come all over..."
"Stop it." He stalked past Jack and tugged on the rope. "Well, there's nothing for it, unless we blow up the cliff."
"Bad idea..." Jack trailed off and watched the rope drop into a pile next to Ianto, feeling the blood drain from his face. "Ianto..."
"That..." Ianto pointed at the rope. "Was the scariest thing that's ever happened to me."
Jack nodded fervently and fought back a nervous giggle.
It was nearing sunset when Ianto dumped his bag down again and sat down next to it to search through it. "I recognise this valley," he sighed.
"That's because we've been here before." Jack walked to the edge of yet another cliff and crouched down to look over it. They'd been unable to see a safe way down earlier, and were unwilling to trust the ropes again. "We're going in circles. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that we're lost."
"You could be right." Ianto pulled his food package out and picked out a piece of Magenbrot. "You know, I don't often like foreign food; but this Swiss stuff, it's pretty good."
Jack frowned into the distance. "You like curry and Chinese."
"Doesn't count." He gave an exaggerated sniff. "Can you smell that? Smells like there's a nasty bog around here."
"I think there is," he agreed. "We're not alone."
Jack twitched his fingers against Ianto's and snuck his hand over to cover his partner's. One of Ianto's eyes opened to look at him and he gave a tiny smile, then he closed his eye and resumed the impression of sleep. A tiny skitter of stones close to them gave them their final warning, and then they leapt up and at the figure advancing on them. The scrawny figure shrieked and writhed, fighting to get towards them and away from them at the same time. He went for Jack mostly, scratching at Ianto to get away from him until Jack fell back onto the ground, tripped by a loose stone, when he turned on Ianto, scratching and biting to get loose.
By the time Jack had scrambled back to his feet, their attacker was behind Ianto with his arm around Ianto's neck, pressing down hard. Jack yanked his head back with a handful of stringy hair and pressed a gun against his chin. "Get your hands off my husband."
Ianto took a deep gasp as he was released and the figure quailed under Jack's gaze.
The figure sobbed and wailed through the night, whatever they did to quieten him. It took an hour to get his name out of him, and no further introduction was forthcoming. Serki was probably human, once upon a time, but had been driven mad by some hardship, and was now painfully susceptible to psychic wavelengths, even able to feel it when Jack got angry. Neither of them was in the mood to kill him in cold blood, and they couldn't risk letting him loose again, so they spent a sleepless night huddled together, trying to ignore his wailing. When the first light of dawn turned the sky grey, Jack pulled himself to his feet and rubbed warmth back into his hands. Ianto stood up more slowly and tramped towards him. "Jack, if we don't shut him up then he's going to bring people looking. Can't we just tie him up and leave him?"
"No!" Serki yelped, stopping the screaming and crawling towards them. "Don't leave us. They will find us and kill us, or we will die alone. Please don't leave us!"
Jack glanced at Ianto and sighed, then turned to crouch in front of their captive. "There's no way we can trust you."
"We promise," he sobbed. "We promise not to hurt the Carrier. We only want to help!"
Ianto growled. "Jack, he'll kill us in our sleep if you let him go."
He shook his head and ignored Ianto. "The Carrier, what do you mean?"
"The Carrier." Wide eyes looked up at him and the pitiful figure crawled closer. "The Carrier of the Song. You can hear it... We can tell."
"How do I know?" he asked. "How do I know I can trust you with Ianto's life?"
"We swear on the song, on the life of the song." He reached out towards Jack and Jack brushed him off. "We swear to help the Carrier. We swear!"
"You're clearly unhealthily obsessed and more than a little unbalanced." He reached out carefully to untie the ropes. "I'm going to trust you."
Ianto cursed behind him and the figure flinched away. "Master..."
Jack stood up and hitched his bag back onto his shoulder. "You know this area, right?"
"You know the way across land to the Red Sea?"
"Yes..." the eyes widened further.
Jack smiled grimly and nodded. "Then lead us. Lead us to the Red Sea."