AN – I'm BACK!
;A; I just realized I've only updated this three times since February last year; I'm sorry! Thank you for your patience! Long chapter as apology below :D Though updates will still be rather slow sorry.
I hope the posting of my notes will help with this world I've inadvertently been building (I was going to keep it vague but nooooo, I just couldn't leave it be and now I have drawn maps and developing cultures and histories.)
Also, thank you to those who actually read my Author Notes.
I own only my plot
Feliciano knew that he shouldn't have let Ludwig touch the bow.
He knew he shouldn't.
It had Bad Idea (capital letters showing how terrible it was) written all over it.
But, for all his love for rules and order, Ludwig was also extremely curious and Feli should have guessed what he was about to do.
Shouldn't let him; especially after the human had nearly been drained of all his strength and magic fighting first the Naga then his poison. The innocent looking wood made his hair stand on end for some reason, so when Feli saw Ludwig go to grab it, he had tried to stop him.
However, before the words could leave his mouth or his hand could come into contact to draw him back, Ludwig had picked it up. Almost instantly, the weapon released a dark miasma while Ludwig's eyes rolled back in his head and sank to his knees as he let out a hair-raising scream, one echoed by the Naga trapped in the earth.
Feliciano froze, not knowing what to do.
What kind of dark magic was this? Should he touch Ludwig? Would doing so drag him under the curse as well? What if he could somehow get the bow out of his grasp without touching it directly? Would pain get him out of the spell? Was it only affecting his mind? How was it affecting Sadiq considering he wasn't touching the weapon? There was no time, no time to search for answers but he couldn't just drag them to cover... it was a problem with no solution.
Ludwig was in light.
Truly there was no other way of describing it, just infinite whiteness surrounding him. Was he right side up? Sideways? Honestly, Ludwig couldn't even really be sure if he was standing or floating.
"Hello?" He called, his voice echoing in the void and he began to walk. "Anyone here?"
Does anyone know where 'here' is? He added on silently.
"Is someone there?" a faint voice called echoing around.
"Yes!" Ludwig answered, looking around trying to find the source of the voice.
"Who?" The sound bounced off of invisible walls, seeming to come from everywhere at once.
"I'm..." Unsure of how much he should say - after all names had power - Ludwig trailed off before finishing lamely, "Ludwig. I'm Ludwig. Who are you?"
"I-" The voice sounded a little closer and Ludwig broke into a run. "I don't know."
He was closer now, he could see a dark speck on what could maybe be a horizon...
"Why don't I know?"
He was closing in fast.
"Who am I?"
At least he now knew that wherever the hell he was defied any basic laws as sitting upside down, or rather, coiled upside down on the ceiling, was Sadiq, the Naga. Ludwig prepared to defend himself but when he saw his eyes...the Naga's eyes were blank of any malice or knowledge; instead upon seeing him, his eyes opened with wonder and a hand slowly reached out to him.
"Do you know?"
"YoU shOuLDn'T bE heRe!"
Out of nowhere an enormous black shape came and tackled him.
Ludwig instinctively rolled with it and shot his fist up, knocking his assailant off him and whirling around into a defensive position.
A hissing shadow confronted him, it's shape constantly changing and contorting and was rather disturbing to watch. Having recovered from the blow that sent it flying it leaped once more at Ludwig, claws of sorts reaching forward to tear.
Easy to read.
So the Taurus Guardian jumped up and leaned his upper torso back to dodge the claws while his booted feet shot up and kicked the creature solidly in the stomach sending it flying backwards once more. However, as their fight went on it became increasingly clear to Ludwig that he wasn't damaging whatever the hell the shadow was and that is was slowly getting stronger.
After a hit set him flying, he landed by Sadiq, the Naga looking at him with empty eyes... Why was the Naga here?
Where was here?
Ludwig tried to keep his thoughts from distracting him as he got back up on his feet and braced for the next attack. As he once again danced out of the reach of the shadow creature, his mind raced. He was only fighting to defend himself at this point, trying to think his way out as clearly violence just wasn't working. What he knew... that the creature was somehow feeding off his energy as he grew weaker while the shadow grew stronger...that it was becoming harder to think, to remember things when they came into contact...and that this was not in any way conducive to getting himself out of whatever situation he had found himself in.
What could he remember?
What had happened before he had entered the white, this world of light?
His mind latched onto the word. The world was green most of the year with a sky that was blue most of the time with people who were mostly good. He had friends, family in the world. People who were counting on him. But for what? What was he doing that was so important?
Pain alerted him to the fact he should be paying better attention as only his instincts had saved him from getting more severely injured. He quickly looked down at his torn shirt and the slight cut on his...stomach. There was something missing there. A black spot about the size of his palm was normally in that spot...
That was when it clicked.
Feliciano. He was a Guardian. He was here because he picked up the weapon on the ground, some energy had dragged him into some mental plain which was why his mark was gone and his wound wasn't bleeding. Sadiq...Sadiq could be trapped here the same as he was. The creature could sap energy and apparently blur memory until it was difficult to think, it was likely at least a fragment of whichever demon was possessing their comrade.
It was clear that the Naga in here was not the same creature he had fought and if he could talk to him, perhaps he could find out why they were betraying them, how they had been corrupted and how to undo the possession.
Magic should work here, a simple teleportation spell should suffice.
Mind made up, he came to the conclusion that he needed to get out of here, and if he could, he was taking Sadiq with him.
Blocking a blow to the head, he whipped around and dashed forward, gathering his magic around him and reached, the world swirling around them.
What should he do? Neither Ludwig or Sadiq had so much as twitched in the past minute and he was jumping at every sound. Should he move them?
He was still frozen by uncertainty when both Mathias and Yong Soo came bursting from the undergrowth and out into the clearing fighting each other as they did so.
Well his time was up.
Shutting his arms firmly, he threw his arms out drawing on the water from the nearby stream and creating a solid wall between them and the other two. While Mathias could not be affected by the Basilisk's stare, he certainly could and if he looked into the snake's eyes, he would be leaving Ludwig alone.
He couldn't do that.
So he grabbed a branch off the ground and used it to knock the bow away from his partner before lifting him as best he could and began to drag him to the river. While he couldn't counter the dark magic that had attacked the Taurus Guardian's mind, he could at least protect his body and the best way for him to do that was to get to the closest source of water...
Memory stirred somewhat in him, feeling as if this situation or something similar had happened before. But not recently, because as far as Ludwig and he could remember, they had been rarely permitted to leave the boundaries of the city or at least not with a guard. Could it be from before?
However before the Rabbit Guardian could get to his goal two things happened. One, both the Naga and the Draug got around his temporary wall and two, Ludwig jerked back into consciousness with a gasp causing Feli to stumble and his eyes to open.
So close were they to the river that Feliciano could see his reflection...and that of Yong Soo and his deadly red eyes.
Mathias put on a burst of speed, scooping up one Guardian under each arm and running for it, quickly leaving the slower Basilisk behind.
He looked guiltily down at the frozen body under his left arm, poor kid didn't deserve this and Ludwig was appearing shell shocked and exhausted, considering how little he was resisting.
One benefit of being undead was unlimited stamina, not having to rest finally having at least one benefit (one of the greatest things Mathias felt about being a Guardian was gaining the ability to assume human form and sleep, it was glorious) and so it was only an hour later that Mathias began to slow.
"We need to go back." Ludwig mumbled, though clearly having gone beyond his limits.
"No we're not." He retorted a bit more sharply then he intended, not really want to deal with this right now. "We're going to go find a nice, cozy cave to bunk in and you are going to sleep."
"But...the others. Gilbert." The Taurus groaned, struggling slightly to be put down and go back.
"No. Right now you're no use to anyone, your magic is depleted and you're clearly dead on your feet. Besides, what about Feliciano?" Mathias retorted as he stopped and gently put the slightly-heavier water elemental down then Ludwig, though he kept a steadying hand on him.
Ludwig looked down, clearly feeling guilt-ridden and not wanting to look at Feli. "That's why we need to go back. Possessed or not..." He swayed slightly but clenched his fists and growled "I can't let him get away with killing my partner and if I..."
"Whoa, hold on there buddy." Mathias interrupted, grabbing his chin and forcing him to meet his eyes, "He's not dead or else you would be too. Remember? The entire life-span-sharing bit? He's alive, he's just petrified, he didn't look Yong Soo directly in the eyes. Calm down."
"He's alive?" Ludwig whispered before his knees buckled only sheer force of will having had kept him standing until that point.
"Yeah, yeah he is." Mathias answered, being surprisingly gentle, "We just need to find someone who can reverse the petrification, so we need to go North. I am owed a favour or two and one of the best healers outside of Sarya lives there."
"North?" Ludwig asked slowly, "You mean Aryca? I thought no one lived there, that it was inhabitable."
"That's exactly what they want you to think." Mathias answered, shadow of a smile on his face. "So?"
"I..." Ludwig began, uncertain look on his face causing the Draug to interrupt him one more.
"Gilbert will be fine, if he's with who I think he's with; he's in good company. You should know though, you got a better look then me."
"What do you mean?" Ludwig asked, confused.
The Monkey Guardian gave him a strange look before his expression cleared. "Ah, right. Memory loss. Well, it's little known now and perhaps better kept that way, especially as there are bigger things to worry about right now and I could be wrong. Just know that he is safe."
"...Alright." The Taurus Guardian sighed before agreeing. "Alright. I trust you, we'll go North."
"Good." Mathias nodded before pushing him into the cave "Now sleep, I'll stand watch."
"Okay." Ludwig answered before adding on "But wake me after midnight, I'll take second watch."
"There's no need." Mathias responded, waving him off. "One of the perks of being undead. I'll wake you at dawn."
The night passed quietly, though as always when he had nothing to do, his mind drifted back to that night. As with each night, it was like a whisper in mind, fading away the more he tried to listen, to hear the rest...
Heart of ice and yearning
and Ancient hurt
will nature subvert
and leave the world burning...
It seemed even after his betrayal, Erik continued to haunt him.
The mountain crossing was dangerous, more so than they were prepared for. But with the attack on the White Elephants, the group of caravans knew that they couldn't afford to stop to rest or to gather supplies.
So they pushed on.
The first few days weren't too bad, though they lost a caravan when the ground under one of the horses legs crumbled, sending it, the wagon and the other horse off the mountain side. Though they abandoned the wagons and all they couldn't carry after that and were even more vigilant after, nothing could have prepared them for the storm that hit. The rain had come out of nowhere and had begun to rain so hard they couldn't see, never mind get to shelter.
Already Aadya was concerned for a number of those from the Formosan Blue Magpies travelling with them as they had been in the south when they had had to flee and had thinner clothing on. Aadya had everyone put on any spare clothing they had or even fashion some from blankets as if hypothermia set in, there would be nothing they could do. Regardless, they then experienced their first losses as the rain was relentless and the clothing wasn't enough leaving them all shivering and numb.
It was almost like it couldn't get any worse, but then a rumbling sound alerted them to a mud slide. As they all urged aching limbs to move and scramble out-of-the-way, Aadya found himself thinking that if the Nichacs could not finish them off, it was quite possible that the weather would.
A clink of teeth signalled another very close, too close, call.
Lovino had fought the wolf demon a number of times before, he knew Berwald had always been a fierce fighter, deadly and precise but it was like he was a completely different person now. Despite his fierce exterior, Berwald had always been 'soft', he would always hesitate before striking unless the person had managed to completely enrage him.
Now he was merciless and going for the kill each time.
If he ever had the chance, Lovino was going to torment the person that had turned the Guardians into this. As a royal guard he had worked with them a number of times and there was no trace left of their original personality, it was like they were just a mask to be worn.
He hoped that when this was all over that they would be able to go back to how they were, or as close to it as they could ever get.
The kitsune and wolf demon circled one another, blood dripping from various wounds as they deeked, lunged and snapped at each other, causing them to move further and further away from the fights in the clearing. War had a slight reach advantage in Berwald's half form with his broadsword but Antonio was levelling the playing field, shooting off any fire spells (his speciality) or earth ones whenever he could.
Neither side was giving quarter and soon to the two powerful demons had nearly left Antonio behind. Lovino, noticing, allowed one of Berwald's blows to knock him back far enough that they had a moments reprieve and he growled at his Námo to "Get the fuck on bastard and hold on tight or we'll lose him."
Antonio didn't need another invitation and quickly jumped on, Lovino taking the opportunity to change his size so that he was slightly bigger then the average sabre-tooth moose-lion and charged forward once more.
"Lovino, I...have an idea." The Leo Guardian said after several minutes of heavy fighting. "Though I don't think you'll like it."
"What!" Lovino snapped, hissing through clenched teeth as he tried to rake claws across the wolf demons chest.
"We've been steadily closer to the edge of a cliff, next time he tries to land a blow, be 'knocked' over it. We have no real reason to keep up this fight and at this rate we'll end up separated from the others or you'll end up killing each other. " He elaborated.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! How would we survive?" Lovino hissed quietly.
"Trust me Lovino, I'll catch us." Antonio replied cheekily, waggling his fingers. "Magic remember?"
"...Fine. If we die though, I'll make your afterlife a living hell." He agreed after a moment, "Also, you're still an idiot."
"That's fine." He grinned, holding tight to the thick fur beneath him, "let's do this."
Sadly, his plan didn't quite work as possessed Ox Guardian followed them over the edge.
Captain Eduard and First Lieutenant Raivis were afraid, Colonel Lars had seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth.
Within the past ten hours they had both been taken to separate rooms and interrogated about the most random of things before being marched back to their quarters by an armed guard and made to pack their things.
They were being reassigned to separate commands.
In the few seconds they had made eye contact, both had agreed. This was not the Nichac they loved and were willing to fight for, to die for.
Something was very wrong.
Then when it was told to them that Colonel Lars had been stripped of his rank and was in a holding cell for high treason, to be executed on the triumphant return of the army...
Well, they took advantage of the full army mustering and marching out for Sarya and instead of going with them, they ran.
"Arthur?" A voice croaked and Arthur turned to see Francis's eyes finally open and looking straight at him.
Arthur waited to see if Francis would say something else however, when it became clear he wouldn't, he answered. "Yes?"
"You're...you're here?" Francis questioned softly, his tongue darting out to moisten dry lips.
"Yes," he responded gently, "yes, I am here."
"Why?" The Guardian questioned after a moment.
Arthur flushed a little. "Well, you see...my search for the Courts led me all across Sarya and I was just leaving the dryad's clearing when I came across you and you appeared to be in danger, captured if you will, so I helped."
"Captured...by who?" It was clear that Francis was trying to piece everything back together, to have some sense sooth his fevered mind. "Where is everyone else? Where is here?"
"Roderich oddly enough, I don't know, I haven't seen them. You are in what was one of the greatest cities, the ancient Goblin city of Anmenros, which was flooded and since abandoned. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure what's going on myself what's going on...Why the blazes Roderich was the source of such dark miasma confuses me, just as why he had you unconscious and slung over his shoulder. Something very strange is going on here."
Francis struggled to sit but when he nearly flopped backwards, his arms not supporting him, Arthur was quick to assist, propping him up against the now-empty barrel of mead he had found in searching the city. "Something...Something doesn't feel right." He murmured, mind focused on this idea. "Not just with Roderich but with, well, with me. I don't feel right."
Arthur flinched then shrunk into himself a little, clearly not wanting to talk about it but after a moment of internal debate he explained slowly. "I have an idea what might be the cause behind that... and I'll have you know I'm not too happy about it. He paused here, eyebrows furrowing a little and his lips drawn in a thin line. "This isn't really your fault so don't be worried about me being mad, I just feel a little gypped. I mean, you were unconscious and I just gave it to you...no that sounds wrong." He made a few bark noises, testing before switching into the common tongue once more. "Damn second language... Gave it up? You were in need and I had the only thing that could help... Hell, just...just look at you ankle." The Selkie stuttered off, grumbling again in seal and taking a swig from his flask (which he now suspected was not full of water).
Even with his brain muddled from fever, Francis could tell something important had happened and so, reaching under the blanket, he drew his ankle up and felt his world turn upside down.
He had bonded.
A grumpy, fuzzy–eyebrowed Selkie with a sharp temper.
His fingers dug into his blanket instinctively as he tried to come to terms with what had happened and realized just what his blanket was. You bound to a Selkie by stealing or being given their seal skin... which Arthur had covered him with.
It proved too much for his fevered mind to handle and he heard Arthur's panicked voice echoing as though trapped in a tunnel as everything spun and went dark.
"KIKU" Lily shouted in anger as Elizabeta screeched into the howling wind as they chased after the escaping Griffon.
And you haven't heard something screech until you've heard a Harpy do it.
The bone curdling sound carried on the wind as they gained for both Harpies and Vila lived at higher altitudes and had evolved for speed whereas Griffons were larger in order to carry off large prey and were much slower.
It wasn't long before they were right on top of the other and instead of the more sinister pseudo-race they had going on, it became an all-out aerial war with each trying to outmanoeuvre the other.
From the ground, Vash could only watch helplessly as streaks of red appeared over his partner's and their ally's bodies and they drove each other ever higher and farther away from the others.
It was then that he noticed something.
The Aquarius Guardian had been doing his best to guess where the Griffon would be next and then to try to interfere after but from the ground, he could see that the spirit possessing Kiku was pushing, trying to get around the pair of demons and go back from the direction they had just come from.
What would happen if they continue to drive him away?
Drawing on his favoured element, he used the air magic to connect their minds. Lily. Do you hear me? He called in his mind softly, not wanting to distract his partner but wanting to relay this information.
Little busy. She responded, a bit tersely.
I'll be brief then. Push him back, something is strange.
What? She snapped, having just dodged Kiku's claws raking down her back.
When he dodges, he only goes back from the direction we came from. Vash answered, messing as best he could with the air currents without fouling up the two women.
That is strange. She mused, curiosity evident even in thought. We'll try.
Francis slurped at the meagre broth Arthur had made, mentally dreading when the other attempted anything more complicated because it was burnt and not the best tasting.
And broth was pretty easy to make.
Arthur sat across from him, watching him like a hawk to make sure he ate it or to help him if he needed it or to watch his final moments as the poison took effect, who could say?
In an effort to distract him, Francis mused "The bond mark is oddly faint which is very strange as we've both acknowledged the bond between us now. Any ideas? Has this happened before?"
Arthur blinked surprised before his brows furrowed and he looked down as he adopted his thinking position – Francis taking the opportunity to add a liberal dose of a few spices to try to counteract the saltiness then chug it down while his partner couldn't see his expression.
Luckily it worked.
"No, I can't recall a single time it has. Each bond mark always came in jet black...perhaps it's because you are still recovering and it can't take as much magic as is needed to have it be as it should be?"
"Could be, I guess we'll have to wait and see then... On another note, will we be able to go soon? I'm concerned about the others and the strange actions of Roderich. Something is very strange and it's making me nervous."
"Get better first or at least healthy enough to move around under your own power for more than a minute and we'll see." Arthur responded drily. "Now, finish your broth."
They had been running for days and they were barely ahead, only stopping for water and for an hour or two's sleep.
They were still a week's worth of marching from the mountains.
Eduard sighed before looking down at the farm below once more. They had precious little choice but he hated to do this to innocents, especially the less fortunate who would suffer for the loss of their only horse.
But they needed to get out and warn the other nations, even the hated Sarya. Something big was going on here and they were the ones who would have to tell what they had seen or else it may end up very badly.
How they were going to survive was uncertain as the Saryans harboured little love for them in turn and he had little hope they would listen but for now they needed to focus on getting that horse. They could worry about surviving the mountains and Saryans and everything else later.
The sun setting, he and Raivis stole down the hill and to the horse's paddock.
Wow guys, we're nearly at 100 reviews :D Sooooo excited :D Really. :D :D :D :D Soooooooo, the person who is the 100th reviewer will receive a One-Shot, pairing, setting (AU, Nekotalia, crossover, even the FMD universe, etc) and even plot of their choice! Only restrictions – I will NOT write any pairing that is abusive as this makes me very uncomfortable and of course anything that goes against the site's rules. Good luck~
EDIT* HELL YOU GUYS! I POSTED THIS WITHOUT NOTICING WE WERE ALREADY PAST THE 100 MARK! YOU'RE ALL FANTASTIC! TO MAKE IT FAIR, THIS WILL GO TO THE 110th REVIEWER INSTEAD
I have no idea what you're talking about, angsty things aren't fun to write. Not at all.
Gilbert (mage) / ? Aries/Dog
Francis (mage) / Arthur (Selkie) Libra/Snake
Antonio (mage) / Lovino (Nine-tail fox) Leo/Dragon
missing Guardian / missing Wild Prince ? Scorpio/Horse
Ludwig (mage) / Feliciano (water elemental) Taurus/Rabbit
Vash (mage) / Lily (Vila) Aquarius/Ram
Erik (mage) / Mathias (Draug) Virgo/Monkey
Tino (mage) / Berwald (Wolf demon) Gemini/Ox
Yao (mage) / Yong Soo (Basilisk) Sagittarius/Rat
Gupta (mage) / Sadiq (Naga) Capricorn/Rooster
Heracles (mage) / Kiku (Griffin) Pisces/Boar
Roderich (mage) / Elizabeta (Fury) Cancer/Tiger
Sins: Roderich – Envy, Yao – Gluttony, Erik – Pride, Heracles -Sloth , Tino – Wrath, Gupta - Greed
Horsemen: Berwald -War, Kiku- Famine, Sadiq – Pestilence, Yong Soo – Death