He is in the desert.
The sun is hot and swollen and heavy, and its heaviness bends the hard white line of the horizon until it threatens to snap into a million pieces. The sand is as hot as molten glass and it whirls and sings and burns as it strikes his plating. There is nothing to mark where he has been or where he is going, and he is alone.
His shoulders are shaking, and he cannot tell if it is from the heat or cold or something else entirely. He cannot feel anything but the overwhelming tiredness and pain that permeates every inch of his frame. His armor is cracked and rusted, and the paint flakes off with every movement. His vents will not close, and sand burns his internals with every intake. The sparkling in his arms is heavy, so heavy, and he cannot tell if its body is hot or cold. The sand swirls and tugs and dazzles his optics until he is half-blind.
He is afraid.
The desert has already poured itself down his intake, clogging his internals with the searing blistering sand. His vents will not close and his insides are poisoned with the molten glass that burns and bites with every motion. The sun has forced him down, writhing as his coolant pump fails and his mechanisms melt from the heat. His plating aches and the pump stutters every so often. It has happened, should happen, may happen.
It did not happen.
A broken sound forces its way out of his raw and abused throat, and the shaking worsens. He is alone here. There is only the angry sun and the burning sand and the too-heavy sparkling, and he is alone. The only living thing in this place that does not exist, and he is not even sure if he is still alive. Too much time spent alone in the place that does exist has worn him down and he has nothing left. He is alone, and that hurts far more than the sand and sun and dead sparkling.
Something touches his arm, and it takes him too long to realize that it isn't part of the desert.
He twists away, fear spiking into sharp panic, and the movement causes him to stumble and nearly fall. The something touching his arm its a hand he can see that now shifts and holds him steady before the sand can drag him down. It takes a long time for him to regain his balance, too long, and it takes even longer for his mind to realize that he is no longer in danger of falling. The hand that hold him steady is patient, and when he is able to he follows it to the arm and the body attached to both.
He is no longer alone.
One corner of his mouth twitches up into the thin imitation of a smile, and he can feel the thin dermal plating tear slightly. He wants to hug and cheer and dance around in joy, but all he can offer the other is a slight upturn of the lips. And it is enough.
The other stares at the sparkling in his arms, but holds up a hand in refusal when he offers it. He understands. It is his burden, and only he can carry it.
The tug on his spark is starting again, that invisible pull deeper into the desert. Without realizing he takes a step forward, and then another, and the other is still by his side. The thin half-smile doesn't waver, even as the sands shriek in anger and strike his plating with renewed vigor. The sun is still swollen, still heavy, but it remains in the pale sky where it belongs.
There is something in the distance.
It takes his sun blind optics several moments to focus on the shape, and even then the image is over exposed and blurry. For a moment he fears that he has walked in a circle, and what squats on the horizon are the tall and rusted funeral piles. His steps falter, and the sands tug a little harder. He cannot return to the funeral mounds, not yet, not ever.
The other is still by his side, and that gives him a little comfort.
As they draw closer he can see that it is something larger than the funeral piles, a dark smudge against the hard horizon that seems to stretch up into the sky. Distances are tricky in the desert, even without being sun-blind, and it is even longer before he can recognize the hill for what it is. Its sides are slick and steep, and glisten like glass or some nameless liquid. He cannot stare at it for too long without his processor hurting even more. There is something perched on the top of the hill, but it is too far away to see clearly.
He and the other take the time to walk the circumference of the hill, seeking an easier passage to the top. The hill is featureless on all sides, not quite smooth and flat, but with irregular grooves worn into it by the wind and stinging sand. The grooves are big enough for his fingers to almost fit into, but it will be a difficult climb, and he is exhausted. The shaking that never quite stopped is getting stronger, and he jumps when the other places a hand on his shoulder.
He wasn't alone. He could do this.
The glass hill is hot to the touch, hotter than the sand that digs into his joints and servos. He can feel the delicate metal in his hands threatening to melt. The climb is awkward, as he needs one hand to hold the sparkling, and more than once his pedes slip out of the slick grooves and his plating acquires even more scrapes and dents. The other is below him, and he tries to remember that falling will hurt them both. He tries not to slip again.
It seems like forever, but eventually there are no more grooves to seek, no more handholds to wedge his hand into. He has reached the top of the glass hill. The desert is all around him, stretching out much further than his tired optics can see, and the sand still sings and shrieks as it whirls around the hill. In the center of the hill is a crystal, as glass-clear as the hill, reaching up into the hard pale sky and piercing the the sun. Dark, pod-like structures are clustered around its base.
He hesitates for a moment, waiting until the other has managed to crest the hill as well, before cautiously approaching the crystal and its pods. The too-heavy sparkling in his hands is glowing, maybe, or perhaps his optics are shorting out and it is a trick of the harsh desert light. One of the dark pods opens as he approaches, and he places the sparkling's body inside of it. He then retreats, to stand beside the other and to wait.
There is a low hum, a sound that he just now recognizes but something that may have been going on since they reached the glass hill. The sparkling's pod closes, and the hum grows stronger as it and the other pods begin to hover. One by one they are absorbed by the crystal, dark smudges easily seen through its clear surface. He tracks the smudges as they rise through the crystal, pulled along into the sky.
The humming does not cease after the smudges are gone. It rattles his battered plating, intensifying every second but somehow still not quite audible. The crystal and the hill are glowing now, faintly, but becoming stronger with the sound.
He looks to the side, and the other is still standing with him.
The hum reaches it's peak, and the crystal and the hill flash.
A/N: Well. Is this a good time to confess that 'Mad World' began as a flashfic idea, and at the time this chapter sounded like a good idea?
If you guys would like to see what delayed this chapter for so long, check out thedemonsurfer .deviantart .com (slash) art/ Godfall-Chapter-One-The-King-s-Return-313296528 (remove the spaces and add the slash). I did manage to get into said tournament, so yay me. This means that the last chapter probably won't be finished until after the end of the first round, however. If it does get posted within a month, you know that means I am procrastinating on my comic.
Please excuse any typos you may find. My beta is asleep, and will look over this after she wakes up.
Thank you to Field Empathy, B-Bellisthename, Acidgreenflames, Starfire201, N4uGHT, reka1207, Phoenix51, Richard'sQueen aka LGFS, Kaileeyp, Vigatus, and Sounddrive for reviewing! Only one more to go!