Passport to Paradise
A/N: We're in the
Once back in Janan they'd gotten a room at the very same
inn that they'd stayed in before. Not that Kakarotto had been aware of it, most
of the time. A week's stay had quickly transformed into nearly a month and
Vegeta had never been more glad to have been born a prince. He'd had more than
enough money to pay the proprietor for food and shelter without having to touch
what they'd stolen from the would-be thieves.
The three of them sat around a small table in the dining room downstairs as Kakarotto examined the book by the light of a single candle. It was before the dinner hour when people would come down from upstairs and in from outside to eat, drink, and be loud. They were the only ones in the room.
"It's like an entire part of our history has been ignored," Kakarotto muttered, mostly to himself. "It only talks about the Key and how we have to do our best to protect it. Any references to the gateway are vague, at best."
"Does it say who created the Key?" Vegeta asked.
"Not in so many words. In reference, they're always 'the creators' or 'Wiit Betholea' -- the Pale Ones."
Vegeta grew very still and stared at him. "'The Pale Ones'?" he repeated.
"Yes. Are you saying that you know something about them?" He couldn't stop the eager expression from appearing, but he did stop himself from leaning across the table. Alain looked interested as well; at least interested enough to stop daydreaming.
"In Saiya we have stories about elves and how they once had vast magical kingdoms throughout the world. Most of them are just silly children's tales, but there's one that makes me wonder..."
When he didn't continue right away, Kakarotto prodded him. "Well? Go on."
He looked mildly embarrassed to be spinning a tale like a bard. "Once, the world was peaceful. No one went hungry, no one was enslaved, and no one fought over land, resources, or petty grudges. However, there was a small, war-like clan in the far east who detested this peace. They could only see the value in fighting for the right to exist and felt that those who thought otherwise didn't deserve what they had.
"Wanting to teach the rest of them a lesson, the clan came up with an idea to force everyone else to prove their worth. They stole great books of magic from the elves and devoured their contents, teaching themselves dread magicks whose very existence was forbidden. It was using one of these spells that doomed them. They accidentally released a Darkness upon the land like no other, one that completely annihilated them from the face of the planet."
Kakarotto wasn't sure of the last time he'd taken a breath. His entire body was tensed, eager to hear the words spoken aloud that matched the tale he'd heard so often as a child.
"The thing they unleashed upon the world could not be stopped by ordinary means. It killed indiscriminately as it swept across the land, seemingly intent on a particular destination. Those who were able fled before it. Those who remained behind fought, but perished where they stood. When, at last, the Darkness ceased to spread, and had gathered over a single location, those who were once again able to see the sky breathed a sigh of relief.
"However, things weren't going to turn out as well for the elves.
"The Darkness coalesced into the form of a great black dragon whose wingspan was greater in size that their entire village. It belched out flames from its lungs, reducing many of the buildings to cinders, and tore apart a great many of the population with its claws. When majority of the elves lay dead, and their village was transformed into little more than a smoking ruin, the beast transformed back into a creeping cloud and moved on as if carried on the wind. The few survivors that there were recovered as much as they could and left to start a new life."
"I know where this is going." Of that, he was certain. As the prince spun the tale, he could literally picture the triangle sections from the mosaic in his mind. "They settle in somewhere new, but the 'Darkness' appears again. They somehow seal it away and everything is peaceful once more."
Vegeta nodded once. "Yes. It's very similar."
"What if-" Alain cut himself off when the eyes of his two companions immediately snapped to his face. He hadn't meant to speak aloud, but now that he'd begun... "What if there is protection on, or around, the gateway itself? The elves were an incredibly powerful magical race, right? They'd had the knowledge to create backup protection."
"It's like you're saying that they figured we would fail!"
"No, not at all. But it's better to be safe than to be sorry. Especially in a case like this."
"Around..." It was now Vegeta's turn to be stared at. "We're assuming that the protection is magical in nature, correct? Something possibly to prevent people from locating the gateway at all instead of just being prevented from opening it."
"It makes more sense to hide it entirely," Alain agreed.
"Then I know where it is." His hands gripped his mug so tightly that the wood began to collapse from the pressure. "It's in Saiya. The forest around the castle was enchanted by the elves and said to have been given especially to us. Not only is it there and none of us had any idea, but we're supposed to be the final defense." The thought of that was ludicrous. His father's soldiers wouldn't be able to defend against an army of invading ten-year-olds. He was certain then, even more certain than he had been before, that they were all going to die.
Against the better judgement of Kakarotto, they decided to wait until morning to set off. It would be best to have an entire day's light to travel by and not just torches fashioned from tree branches. Vegeta pointed out that he highly doubted that the barbarians had figured out where the gateway was in such a short span of time seeing as it had taken them a thousand years to find the Key. The teen frowned at him, but didn't say a word. There had been something in Ra Naga's voice that was more than just triumphant to finally have the Key. It had been as if the barbarian chieftain had figured he had won and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
Dinner that evening was tense. Everything Kakarotto ate seemed to turn to lead within his stomach, but he forced it down anyway, using the thought of being forced to fight for his survival soon as his encouragement. He had to keep his strength up. He didn't want to dishonor his ancestors by going down with hardly any resistance.
Alain was quiet and Vegeta was moody. It didn't matter in the least that they were always that way; Kakarotto automatically associated their behavior with the fact that they would probably be going into battle soon. He wanted to order them to stay in Janan where it was safe while he traveled to Saiya alone but didn't say a word because he knew it wouldn't have done any good. Alain seemed to want revenge on the barbarians on behalf of everyone who'd lived and died in Fisher's Cove while Vegeta just didn't want him to fight alone.
During the night, they made love as if the world was ending (which was a distinct possibility if the barbarians succeeded with their plans). Mouths sucked and nipped, tongues teasing patterns over sensitized skin. Fingers clutched with bruising force at backs and hips and thighs. When Vegeta sank into Kakarotto that night, it had never felt so wonderful and so saddening. The teen tried his hardest to lose himself completely in the simple act of arching his back to meet his lover's thrusts, but his mind refused to be shut down. Thoughts of gloom and doom tainted the experience that felt so wonderful and so awful at the same time and he could not stop himself from crying.
"Don't do that." For some reason, it only made the tears come harder. "Kakarotto, come on." Vegeta started to pull out so that he could kiss his lover's face without bending the tall teen practically in half, but was halted by strong hands on his hips.
"No. I love it when you make love to me." His eyes were still leaking, though not as much, and his voice sounded clogged with the contents of his nose. Vegeta wanted nothing more than to take his pain away (and maybe get back to thrusting), but knew it would take more than an orgasm to heal this wound.
"Why are you crying?" he asked tentatively as if he didn't already know.
His fists came up to rub his eyes. "It's stupid. We should get back to what we were doing."
"If it was enough to make someone as brave as you cry, then it's something sex won't cure." He shifted once more to pull out and, again, Kakarotto would't let him. The teen rolled his hips beneath him, a determined expression on his face. Have an orgasm, or die trying. The clench of his muscles around his cock made Vegeta gasp and completely forget about withdrawing.
Kakarotto became wild beneath him. An entirely different person. Not that he was ever passive during sex, but neither was he this unrestrained. He met Vegeta thrust for thrust, his hands firmly fastened on the prince's hips, short fingernails digging into his skin and leaving behind shallow cuts that welled with blood. When the prince wrapped his hand around his weeping cock and began to stroke it in time with his thrusts. Kakarotto's fingers squeezed tighter and his back arched one final time as he came with a loud moan. His entire body seized up, tightening with his release, and his passage was not left unaffected. Vegeta groaned as his cock was squeezed by his lover's body and let himself join him in peaceful oblivion.
When he came back to himself, he was lying atop Kakarotto, still within his body. He nuzzled the damp skin beneath his cheek and wondered how long it would take his bones to regrow. "Kakarotto..." He mumbled. He received no response. "Kakarotto?" he said a little louder, raising his head slightly.
The teen's eyes were closed tightly and his head was turned off to the side. He would have appeared to be dead if not for the color still in his cheeks and the slow rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. Vegeta turned so that he was on hands-and-knees and moved so that he up near the pillows.
"Nothing," he exhaled.
"Bullshit. I know you're still worried about what might happen soon, and that nothing I can do or say will ease that worry, but this won't do anything except make you feel worse."
"Don't you think I know that?" his voice sounded weary. "I tried and tried to make myself forget. I tried to focus only on you and what we were doing. It felt so good, you know. I love it when you're inside me. Vegeta..." He began to cry once more. "I don't want to lose you."
"You won't," he promised, stroking his hair. One way or another, whatever the cost, he would find a way to remain by Kakarotto's side. It was a promise that he could not break.
Vegeta was in the lead for their trip to Saiya as he was the only one who knew exactly where it was. He retraced his footsteps from a month before, back to decimated Fisher's Cove, back to Lios where he and Kakarotto had made love for the very first time, back to Hillys where he'd purchased his lover's freedom. The great elven enchanted forest was visible from Hillys as a dark smudge against lighter sky. They took the time to eat and drink in an inn far better than the Horse's Head (one that Alain discovered), emerging from the establishment around noon, eager to be on their way. It was Kakarotto that noticed something strange over the forest, something that floated upward lazily to merge with puffy white clouds.
"I think the forest's on fire," the teen informed his companions. "I thought you said it was enchanted."
"It is," the prince responded. "But it's safe to say that few, if any, enchantments can withstand a barbarian magical assault."
They made their way over the plain as quickly as they could, only to stop short a few hundred feet from the line of tall trees. There were no flames in sight and all assumed that the fire was farther in. After debating quickly, Kakarotto was sent ahead to scout out the best route around the barbarians.
"I hope they're alright," Alain said, chewing on his lip with anxiety. The Fisher's Cove survivors had been sent this way.
"They probably escaped to the castle," Vegeta said with far more confidence than he felt.
Kakarotto returned about thirty minutes later, his face flushed and his eyes glittering with rage. "It's them, alright. It's looks like they've brought every warrior they have. I spotted the tail end of them, with the beginning nowhere in sight."
"How are we going to get past them without going all the way around?" Vegeta asked no one in particular. "Goddamn it."
"I have a way, but it's not going to be easy. Especially since my magic is gone." They turned to look at the teen, whose eyes were cast upward to the treetops.
"You're not serious," Vegeta said flatly. "I get enough of being associated with monkeys, thank you."
"How else are we going to get to the castle, then? Grow wings and fly?" Kakarotto pleaded with his dark, soulful eyes. "It won't be that bad. The trees are very old and sturdy, and they're growing close enough together that handholds will be within easy reach."
Vegeta was still uncertain and it almost showed on his face. His eyes, however, told his lover exactly how he felt about things. "We don't have any other choice if we want to get there before they do," Alain urged.
Rolling his eyes, Vegeta shrugged his pack off his shoulders and began to rummage around in it while the others watched him, curious. After a few moments, he located what he was searching for and pulled out a pair of leather gloves. "I'm not cutting my hands up on that bark."
"Oh, Vegeta," Kakarotto sighed, rolling his eyes. "Come on. There's no time to waste."
So they took to the trees like little monkeys or flying squirrels. Kakarotto seemed to be a natural at it, leaping gracefully from limb-to-limb, using his hands -- and sometimes even his tail -- to catch himself. Vegeta turned out to be quite good as well (once he got the hang of it) and forced himself not to look at the way the leaves and the ground moved beneath him.
Alain was the one who had several close scares, yet he continued onward doggedly. He might have been a few trees behind the other two, but he didn't want to give up. In fact, that was the last thing he wanted to do. He felt as if he was a part of something great, like he was racing off towards his destiny, and it was an exhilarating feeling. He opened his mouth to emit a loud cry of excitement, then quickly stifled himself when he remembered who was nearby. This was not a game, after all.
A fairly small section of the forest was on fire as if the trees themselves were trying to hold it back. Through the smoke and the flames they could see the remains of rough buildings and fences: it was the settlement in Fisher's Cove survivors had created. Miraculously, they could see no bodies, only charred wooden structures.
When the palace finally came into sight, Vegeta let out a surprised gasp. Every single warrior his father possessed looked to be on the gray stone battlements. The inner iron portcullis was down to prevent unauthorized entry, while the outer one remained raised. To the casual observer, the reason for that could be so that it didn't take long to allow someone inside, but Vegeta knew it was so that they would be able to trap a small force between the two portcullis. Once they could not escape, arrows would be rained down upon them until there was no one left standing.
"Almost there," Vegeta said, relieved. His arms and legs were aching from the constant use of them. "Finally!" He lowered himself into a crouch in preparation to leap to another branch; Alain's voice stopped him.
"Look there!" The young man pointed over to where a small group of men were emerging from the trees. Judging by their manner of dress, they were barbarians. A single man took the lead, while the other two flanked him, their weapons drawn. When lead man's mouth began to move with words they could not hear, Kakarotto let out a cry and drew the small dagger he had tucked into a sheath on his leg. It was one of the weapons he'd stolen from the bandits, one that he let fly with a snap of his wrist toward the barbarian mage below. He hadn't had much time to aim, but he wasn't looking to kill the man, simply break his concentration long enough for him to get down there. He didn't pause to see if he'd hit him before he began to climb down. Above him he could hear cursing from Vegeta and Alain whispering, "Holy shit!" over and over again in an awed tone of voice.
He saw why he was so awed when his feet hit the ground.
The mage had fallen over and was lying incredibly still, blood coating his pale skin. The blade had found a home in the side of his neck, much to Kakarotto's disbelief, and had nicked a major vein. The two men with him were back in the forest searching for the attacker with careful eyes. The teen took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and launched himself into action.
By the time Vegeta and Alain joined him on the ground, the two men were as dead as their comrade. Kakarotto, his face devoid of emotion and his body completely taut with alertness, motioned with his hand for them to follow. He began to run towards the castle at full speed, paying close attention to his hearing, which would alert them to any surprises hiding in the forest. The only thing left upon clearing the treeline was a wide swath of open land around the castle that was completely devoid of any form of vegetation larger than a small shrub to prevent enemies from having any kind of advantage. Until they were at least halfway across, they were completely at the mercy of any bow-and-arrow-wielding barbarians that happened to come up behind them.
"Just keep running!" he shouted. "Don't look back!"
He didn't. And he was fairly sure that neither Alain nor Vegeta did, either. That was why he never noticed the man down on one knee beside the thick trunk of a tree. It took Alain's strangled cry to tell him that something was seriously, seriously wrong.
Time slowed down. It seemed to take an eternity for him to turn and see what was going on. Alain's face was white, his brown eyes wide in his head. He couldn't see what was the matter until he collapsed onto his knees, first, before slowly sinking forward onto the ground. Behind him was a barbarian warrior wielding a crossbow, a cruel smirk on his face. He reloaded the weapon quickly and raised it again, this time pointing it at Vegeta's heart.
Kakarotto could not move as the man's finger began to squeeze the trigger. He could not move even though he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Vegeta's life was in grave danger. His body felt tight and hot as if he was wearing a woolen tunic two sizes too small in the middle of summer. The barbarian's finger finished signing his lover's death warrant, the bolt flung forward from the force of the string. Someone was screaming as if their heart was breaking -- a wordless, anguished cry -- and then, inches from Vegeta's chest, the crossbow bolt caught aflame. The fire incinerated the wood almost instantaneously and small bits of black ash fell out of the air to land at Vegeta's feet along with the bolt's metal point. The screaming stopped as abruptly as it had begun when Kakarotto gasped in shock at what he had somehow done. Then he heard the sound of a crossbow being loaded once more, and the flames were cast over the barbarian, who shrieked when they hit him. He felt no remorse at watching the man burn. Because of him, Alain was now dead. Because of him, Vegeta could have been dead.
"Kakarotto, Kakarotto." Vegeta's hands were on his upper arms, shaking him. "He's dead, Kakarotto. He's dead."
"I know he is." His eyes were red and felt raw, but he would not allow the tears to come. "That bastard killed him."
"No, Alain's alive. The bastard is dead."
The flames vanished with this revelation. "Alain's alive?" He was numb with shock.
"Yes, he is, but he won't be for much longer if we don't get him to a healer. Help me with him." He led him like a child to the still form of the young man who had become their friend. Kakarotto stared at him, amazed to still see him breathing. The bolt was sticking out of the middle of his back below his shoulder blades.
He lifted him as gently as he could but it still caused him some pain as indicated by the weak moans he emitted. Kakarotto's arms lay under his chest and his waist, his hands curling up over his side with his fingers resting on his back, while Vegeta carried his legs. They carefully, but quickly, made their way to the castle where help could be found.
"He'll be okay," Vegeta said, his voice shaking slightly. Alain may not have contributed to the conversation very often, but he had still been a steady presence by his side.
"Yes," Kakarotto agreed with everything he had. "He will."
The two of them hurried on, racing against time to save a life that might already be gone.