Passport to Paradise
There was almost nothing left on the killing field after
four years of rain, of snow, of sleet, of hail, and of wind. Here and there he
could see fragments of bone made beige from the clinging earth amidst the
greenery of plants that had grown healthy on the decomposition of the bodies. He
was somewhat pleased that his people had done good things for the land even
after they'd died and wondered why the tribe had not made it customary to bury
bodies instead of cremating them. Ashes did no one any good as they were a waste
by-product that had little or no organic value.
He was hesitant to actually set foot on the battlefield. He knew intellectually that nothing could hurt him there, but that did nothing to quell his fear.
As he stood there, he recalled the many different stimuli he'd experienced that day. The battle cries of his clan's warriors as they faced the barbarian threat head-on, the dying screams of those who had not been able to defend themselves. He recalled the feeling of his heart pounding in his chest in time to the clashing of swords and the trickle of fear sweat down the back.
When his mother had found him standing in the square, frozen in place, she had hugged him desperately, her arms reluctant to let go. His nose had immediately picked up her familiar scent of vanilla, one that he had, for many years, associated with safety and comfort. But he knew that there was no comfort to give this time, and that he would be separated from everything and everyone that was familiar to him for his own safety.
He also realized, as his mother pushed him towards the agreed-upon hiding place in the forest opposite the swamps, that he would never see them again.
There had been nothing he could do for them back then, but he had done something upon his return to the village. And he would do so again, now, to let all of the lingering spirits know that he had not forgotten their sacrifice.
Stepping farther out onto the plain, he raised his voice in song. "Mahon Loc, Fahon Gaer, henai fuerlin bethol ni joai suun...." Mother Sky, Father Moon, please welcome them into your home. They have had a long, hard journey and I deem them worthy of your paradise amongst our ancestors, the stars.
As he sang the funeral song, he walked around the field, remembering. The position of certain bodies, of certain people, stuck in his mind. The final resting places of each one of his friends, his master, and his parents were touched gently and reverently before the song was finished.
Before he returned to the village, he paused to silently thank his people for protecting him. He still did not think it was fair that he had survived and they had not, but what had happened, happened and no one would be able to change that. The very best way for him to say thanks, he knew, was to live what remained of his life to the fullest.
It suddenly became difficult to see the plain. He thought for a moment that the sun had simply shifted position, but it was dusk so it had almost disappeared below the horizon. He blinked and raised his hand above his eyes to shield them from the glare, but still could not see. It was then that he realized that the light was not coming from above but, rather, from below.
Small white orbs of light were rising up from the ground. They were misty, their outlines indistinct. Kakarotto watched in fascination as they danced in the air, slowly floating nearer to gather around him. He was not afraid, and it didn't occur to him once that, maybe, he should be. This was the graveyard of his people and the orbs had risen from it. He tried desperately not to attach a name to the phenomenon, but he wanted to call the orbs the spirits of his people.
They drew closer still until he had to cover his eyes with his hands even after he'd allowed them to close. No heat was generated by them, nor any cold. It was like they didn't exist when he couldn't see them, sort of similar to the way moonlight vanished from existence when your eyes were closed. But he could feel something from them. As each one made contact with his body they passed into it and caused little bursts of warmth to erupt within his being. He gasped, throwing his head back with the intensity of it. As suddenly as they had appeared, the orbs vanished.
Kakarotto opened his eyes and looked down at his body. He looked the same as always. He also felt the same after the warmth faded. Shaking his head in wonder, he slowly began to smile. He had received a precious gift, one far greater than he deserved.
Whispering a word of thanks, he headed back to the village where his lover and Alain waited. He wondered if they would notice anything different about him. If they did not, it could just be his little secret.
Alain was snoring and Vegeta contemplated smothering him with his own cloak. His nerves were already raw; he didn't need the added irritation of somebody's snoring.
Sighing, he rose and moved towards the library's giant entrance doors. They not only dwarfed him by a considerable amount, but they also would dwarf Kakarotto as well. He supposed they were built that way to add to the importance of the library. He was starting to realize just by how immaculate the building was, and by the sheer amount of books, that knowledge had been very respected amongst Kakarotto's people.
He opened one of the doors and stepped through. The sun cast its dying reflection on the windows of the buildings across the square, and illuminated Kakarotto's face as he came up the street. For the first time since they'd left Janan his head wasn't hanging down. When their eyes met, a smile spread across the teen's face and he quickened his pace to meet him.
"I'm back, Master," he said in that way of his that always made Vegeta hard. It didn't fail this time, either.
He allowed a little of the desire to bleed into his eyes. "So I see. Have you gotten all of the angst out of your system?"
"As much as I was able." He took the few final steps forward that would bring him into touching range. Vegeta didn't hesitate to wrap his arm around his waist. They headed in the direction that Vegeta had just come from. "What have you and Alain been doing while you waited?"
"We talked a little. He feel asleep. We would have also searched for the information we need, but we can't read your language."
"That's alright; I have a good idea where it is." Kakarotto smiled when he realized where they were going. "It's not going to be in the library, though."
"Oh? Why not?"
"It's ancient and there's only one copy of it in existence. The Elders definitely didn't want a kid with sticky hands touching the book. If anything, it'll be in the council house. We'll go in the morning." His smile then transformed into a leer. "Do you think we can persuade Alain to go sleep somewhere else?"
"Well, he's already asleep. As long as we don't make too much noise, he won't know a thing." The prince slid his hand across his back and grabbed a hold of his hand. "Come on."
There were a few close calls that night, but Alain never woke up fully. And even if he had, they would have simply stopped moving beneath the blanket for as long as it took for him to return to sleep. Afterward, Kakarotto pleaded for Vegeta to remain inside his body as long as he could and they fell asleep still joined.
Kakarotto tried to rise without waking him, but when you were wound so tightly around a person that you could not tell when your body ended and their's began, it was nearly impossible. Vegeta cracked open one eye to watch his lover dress, then closed it again when keeping it open became too much of a burden.
"Don't take too long," he mumbled. "I'll have the boy cook up something for you to eat when you come back."
He kneeled beside him and kissed his cheek. "I won't. When you decide to rejoin the world, the council house is the building with the writing over the door." The words were the code the members of his village had sworn to live by. All that we do, we do for the sake of the world.
Vegeta sleepily nodded, then rolled over, burying himself deeper into the blanket. Kakarotto smiled fondly at the small lump before pulling on his boots and quietly exiting the library.
Early morning mist swept the square and swirled around the foundations of the buildings. He had to pass by his old home to enter the council house, but he did not allow himself to stop. They only had enough food for a few extra days in addition to the return trip back to Janan. From there, they would restock their supplies and head to the location of the gateway.
It was uncertain if any of the fields were still producing as weed-choked as they were. And even if they were, it would take some time to find vegetables that were healthy and untouched by vermin, insects, and disease. Better to complete their task and leave as soon as they were able.
Kakarotto pulled open the door to the council house and blinked as his eyes adjusted to the dimness inside. The floor was made of simple, unadorned wood and there was a desk off to one side where someone had always been stationed to greet petitioners. He had never actually been inside before since he'd had no reason to. Children in his village didn't usually have problems serious enough to warrant help from the Elders. And if they did, they went to their parents who, in turn, petitioned the Elders. There were two doors to choose from, one facing the entrance and the other on the wall to the right of it. He didn't know which to select, but supposed it didn't matter because there was no one around to admonish him for being intrusive.
He walked over to the nearer door and peered inside.
It was the audience chamber, a place he had only imagined entering before. Seven tall wooden chairs with padded seats sat arranged behind a solid wooden table. All of the chairs, as well as the table, had been stained a dark color and, once he'd swept aside a bit of the dust with his finger, saw that they were still highly polished. On the other side of the table were two chairs for the petitioners. They were less ornate, but just as padded and as polished.
On the floor of this large room beneath the two visitors' chairs was a circular mosaic made of crushed stone that was hand-painted in minute detail depicting a tale he would have never thought to see. Even though a layer of dust that covered the floor as well, the shapes and colors shone brightly through. Yet it made sense that it was in the audience chamber the more he thought about it. A few of the scenes he could easily identify; the sealing of the gateway, for one, and the creation of the Key. He lowered himself to hands and knees to examine it more closely by the light of the windows, wishing all the while that he was still able to use magic. Natural light just wasn't good enough to view the mosaic by. He wanted bright white light that would illuminate every corner of the room, leaving nothing untouched.
The first seven triangles were foreign. Nothing he had ever learned about his people's history could satisfactorily explain them. There were people in them that looked nothing like him or any of the people in his tribe, nor anything like Vegeta, whose people were his cousins. Neither did they resemble the humans. They were pale-skinned with ice blue eyes and blonde hair. Every one of them portrayed in the story wore a dove gray, cerulean blue, or seafoam green robe that covered their slender bodies from head to toe. The first scene depicted them in what he considered an example of their daily life, complete with farmers working in the fields and children playing. The next was more somber in tone. A haze of something darkened the horizon and people turned to look at it, most of them terrified. In a series of three panels a great battle took place that they could not repel. There wasn't a spot on the battlefield that wasn't stained red.
The next was more hopeful. The survivors were packing up their belongings against the backdrop of their ruined village to start anew somewhere else. More had escaped death than he'd thought, but they were still fewer than what he would consider to be the size of a community. The expressions on their faces were grim, but determined.
They settled down in a fertile land full of grasslands and trees. Their new homes were constructed of simple wood instead of the stone from before. The streets were merely dirt paths instead of the crushed white rock that had comprised the streets of the old village. However simple the village was in design, it was perfect to the Pale Ones and they began to work at recovering what was lost.
Kakarotto's hand reached out to touch the next section. There were pieces of it missing and he wondered why. All of the previous scenes were flawless yet this one was not. Two medium-sized holes sat near the center and a large one was in the lower right corner so that all that remained was darkness. It was as if someone had purposely removed anything that could have identified the scene. He shook his head in dismay and moved on.
A portal loomed in the next section, its edges indistinct and merging in with the environment around it. On the outside were Pale Ones in black robes this time, their arms raised to ward off evil. Within the portal he could see only darkness that was again marred by two missing pieces.
By now he was facing the entrance, his back to the council table. He had gone around half the circle and had finally reached something he was somewhat familiar with.
"Kakarotto." He hadn't heard the door open.
He looked up and motioned for Vegeta to join him. "I never knew this was here."
Crouching beside him, the prince examined the mosaic. "What is it describing?"
"The truth behind my people's mission. Here is the portal, or gateway, that the barbarians are seeking." He pointed to the section he'd just looked at. "And here they are sealing it up. I don't know how they did it with the Key, now that I know what it is."
"Hmm," was all he said.
The next scene was the giving of the Key to Kakarotto's ancestors for safekeeping. But that wasn't the only thing they gave them. "Our magic," Kakarotto whispered. "The Wiit Betholea gave us our magic."
"Perhaps to make you more efficient guardians?"
"It didn't work, though. We still failed."
Vegeta touched his shoulder. "Not yet, you haven't." Kakarotto nodded in agreement.
The rest of the scenes were more than a little frightening. They were filled with violence and ever-encroaching darkness all the way up to the final scene. It stopped at a cliffhanger, an indication that the outcome was still uncertain. Neither of them wanted to consider them as such, but they knew they were looking at the future.
"Look at the last one," Kakarotto said. A mass of darkness with the usual missing pieces loomed above an indistinct figure holding a bright light above its head. "A mage. I thought my clan was the only one who was able to use magic."
Vegeta glanced at him. "How do you know that it's not a member of your clan?"
"Because I'm the only one left and I can't use magic anymore." He said this in a way that clearly indicated that the answer was obvious. "There has to be another group of people somewhere who can manipulate the planet's energies."
"If you say so." Secretly, he thought that being a hero was in Kakarotto's blood and that there was a good chance that person in the mosaic standing up alone against the darkness was his lover. "We should look for the book now."
"Yes, we should." But the teen's eyes didn't leave the mosaic, not even for a second. He focused on the scenes of the future that spoke of misery and death and wondered if there was anything anyone could do to stop that from happening. He had seen enough senseless killing in Fisher's Cove to last him several lifetimes.
Quietly, he stood up and brushed dust off the knees of his pants. "It must be the other door." Without another glance back lest he be tempted to study the mosaic once more, Kakarotto left the room with the intent of finding the book as soon as possible so that he could leave his old hometown. It was painful to be there. Every building, every step prompted another memory. He had to leave in order to preserve his sanity.
It took significantly less time than he'd thought which enabled them to be back on the road after lunch. The small library in the back of the council house had been neatly organized and each document clearly labeled. To keep it from falling apart in his pack, he'd wrapped it generously in a couple of his tunics.
It went unsaid that they were going to wait until they'd returned to Janan to examine the book and neither of them pressed him about it. After all, he was the only one who could read the language it was written in. Kakarotto simply needed a little time to distance himself from his memories.
When they'd stopped to make camp that night on the opposite side of the swamp, Kakarotto found sleep long in coming. He lay miserably on his side facing away from Vegeta, wishing that he wasn't such a coward when it came to expressing himself. As he debated the pros and cons of sharing his thoughts with Vegeta, the decision was taken out of his hands.
"The mosaic's bothering you."
He sighed. "Yes. I really don't like what I saw in the last few scenes."
"I don't either, but what can we do about it that's different than what we're doing now? Once we find out where the gateway is, we can do something to prevent the people living nearby from being killed."
"Yes, I know."
"Then go to sleep." He wrapped an around around his waist and pressed his nose into his neck. The familiar musky scent of his Kakarotto aroused the passion sleeping inside of him and he felt himself grow hard. Kakarotto felt it to, and slightly moved away.
"Vegeta, can you just hold me tonight?" he asked.
There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Kakarotto, if he was able. And he knew that he needed to cuddle more than he needed to fuck.
So he did.