26 February 2011 @ 01:28 pm
The Queen's Magicians: Eternal Silences (4/4)  

Title: Eternal Silences (4/4)
Author: Emma
Characters: Canonical Torchwood Three members… sort of.
Rating: Some chapters definitely not safe for work.
Disclaimer: Oh, please. If I owned them, would I let some of those idiots write the scripts? And if I were making any money off them, would I be where they could find me?
Summary: Someone is playing with life and death in Cardiff, and Doctor Owen Harper is fed up with it all
Author's Note: This is Meat. And it's nothing like it. Although there’s food involved….
Author's Note: The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread. Blaise Pascal

Part One is here; Part Two is here; Part Three is here

Owen tapped Ianto on the shoulder and pointed towards a small door half-hidden behind piles of discarded shipping boxes. Ianto nodded. They scanned the area until they were sure as they could be that they hadn't been noticed then made a dash for the warehouse. Jack and Andy were moving in from the other side of the parking lot. Gwen had requested and had been granted an audience with King Gwynn Ap Nudd. This is the second time the Unseelie court has dared to use Kymry as their hunting ground, she had told them grimly. There is no way in this world or the next that King Gwynn will not take steps. Tosh and Kathy had stayed behind at the Hub, running worst-case scenarios and activating emergency plans with MI5.

Ianto placed his fingertips against the door and pushed. It swung open with a faint squeak. He grabbed it before it could continue moving. They slid inside and then Ianto gently pushed it closed.

“Play invisible,” Owen whispered. “No need for two targets.”

Ianto rolled his eyes at him, but did as he was told. Even though he had seen it happen many times, it still made Owen's skin crawl when Ianto suddenly disappeared from his perception. He barely stopped himself from reaching out and trying to make physical contact. Instead, he looked around the small airlock-style entrance. It was cramped, tiny, and it smelled of rotting biomass, as if he was standing in a forest floor that didn't get any sunlight. He reached for a breath mint and popped it in his mouth, then put another one in the palm of his hand, holding it out. He shivered as he watched it disappear too.

The narrow corridor beyond the inner door was stacked high with half-opened boxes. The stench was worse, if that were even possible. There was a door at the far end. It had a frosted glass inset and through it Owen could see a greenish-gold light that pulsated slowly. He found himself automatically counting the pulses. It didn't take long to figure it out: the light echoed the rhythm of a healthy adult heart. He moved towards it.

As he reached the door, he could hear voices. Two men were arguing, and it wasn't a friendly slanging match over beer at the pub.

“Sounds like the Cunnick family bonds are snapping,” Owen muttered. “We better get in there before someone decides to end the partnership.” He started for the door, but an invisible hand stopped him. “Um.... yeah,” he said sheepishly. “I suppose you do make a better target.” He winced as knuckles rapped him smartly on the back of the head. “And they say you're a nice bloke.”

He flattened himself against the wall as the door swung open. The shouting in the room beyond continued for a few minutes, then there were two sharp thumps as heavy objects hit the ground. Grinning, Owen pulled out his gun and went in.

It was a large, dingy room without a single stick of furniture or light bulb to be seen. Darkness seemed to skitter along the walls and pool into corners, more smoke than shadow. In the center of the room was the largest iron cauldron Owen had ever seen. It stood on three short legs over what looked and smelled like a peat fire. The pulsing light was emanating from it. For a moment it was terrifying; then Owen remembered what this place really represented, and the fear was replaced with disgust.

“Nice atmosphere,” he said to the two men sprawling on the floor staring in horror at a suddenly visible Ianto looming over them with what must have seemed like a cannon pointed in their direction. “You two fans of Hammer classics?” There was no answer, but he wasn't expecting any.

“There's another room in the back.” Ianto jerked his head towards one of the corners.

Owen nodded and plunged into the darkness. It felt cool and clammy and it licked at his exposed hands and face, leaving thin trails of moisture behind. He could barely see the wall. He laid his hand on the brick, clamping his teeth over the need to chuck up his breakfast, and felt his way. Finally, just as he was certain he couldn't stand it any longer, he felt the knob under his hand. He turned it slowly and peered in.

It was a reassuringly normal office, with a single window looking out to the parking lot, covered with some sort of paper shade so it was only dimly lit. There was no horror-movie atmosphere here. He was about to close the door and turn back when something made him pull the door completely open and feel for the light switch. The sudden flood of bright white light blinded him for a few seconds. Blinking furiously he managed to get his eyes working again. The room seemed empty, but he wasn't taking any chances. Slamming the door flat against the wall, he went in, gun at the ready.

Nothing. One more time he started to leave but the something wasn't letting him go yet. He turned in a slow circle until he was facing the door again. There were some metal filing cabinets next to it, and then some boxes piled up between them and the wall. There was something odd about it, though he couldn't have put into words exactly what. He pushed at one of the boxes and it toppled over easily. He realized they were empty. He gave one near the bottom a hard kick and the whole wall came tumbling down.

In a small space between the filing cabinet and the wall was a man. He had been tied to a chair and obviously beaten. Owen recognized him immediately. It was the old man that had washed up on the beach at Wild Rose Cottage. The one that had called him grandson.

Cursing sulfurously under his breath, he rushed to help the old man. The pulse under his fingers beat in a familiar rhythm. It took him a second to identify it and when he did, he dropped his fingers from the old man's throat as if he'd been burned.

The man's heartbeat was the same as that of the light coming from the cauldron.

Owen swallowed bile. This had to be the Dagda. The old man he had Healed on the beach was... damned if he knew what. A God? Owen’s years in Torchwood had taught him to distrust both gods and demons; he had seen too many examples of how dicey it could be to be either loved or hated by Power. Still, he couldn't leave the old man there, if only because they would need him to deal with Dilys and the other patients. He untied the ropes, then rubbed his hands across the old man's neck and shoulders. He could feel strength surging under his hands, and opened himself up, pouring as much energy as he could into the old man's body, until he was lightheaded.

Strong hands gripped his wrists and pushed him away gently. “Enough, garmhac. All is well now.”

Owen staggered a little. “Not bloody near anywhere well, it isn't. There's a bunch of people in hospital who are trapped in their own bodies, a megalomaniac twelve-year-old is about to trigger a war between Fair kingdoms, and I can't figure out a way to tell my best friend that I'm in love with her!” The shock of blurting out something he hadn't even known himself left him stuttering. “Ah... I didn't ...”

The old man grinned at him. “I cannot help you with the last one, worse the luck, but the first two I can do something about. Help me up.”

Owen took the offered arm and tugged gently. For a moment it felt as if he was trying to lift the weight of the world, and then it was just a weak old man who wasn’t quite steady on his feet. He noticed that the Dagda’s eyes were unfocused. For a mad moment he wondered if gods got concussions. Then the old man stumbled and his right hand touched Owen’s chest briefly.

Images poured into his brain, blotting out the here and now. Millions upon millions of beings, some human, most not, but all living and thinking and feeling; world after world, some so glorious they brought tears to his eyes and some so horrifying he wanted to scrub the sight from his eyes, and some so alien he knew he couldn’t describe them, much less understand them.... He let go of the old man’s arm and stumbled away. A memory of a conversation he’d had with Gwen resurfaced: the greatest difference between us and the Gods is that they can see the whole of creation at once. Closing his eyes he took several deep breaths and pushed the whole thing away.

“You’ll do,” the old man murmured, almost to himself. “But now to business. The... twelve-year-old megalomaniac is here.”

He walked out of the office, Owen at his heels. The shadows flowed towards them, and now Owen could see faces in the inky pools. But it was the sounds that caught his attention: high-pitched giggles and screams that reminded Owen of his internship in a London psychiatric hospital. He rushed forward, ignoring the old man’s attempts at holding him back.

Ianto stood more or less in the same place he had been in before, but where the Vic and Greg had been there were two piles of clothes and dust. Circling slowly widdershins around Ianto there were five Unseelie warriors in full armor, swords held at arms’ length. Once in a while a blade would flash towards Ianto, only to bounce off with a dull metal clang and a shower of sparks. Ianto seemed unfazed, arms held loosely at his side, face impassive, but Owen could sense the amount of effort it was taking him to hold off the attack. A few more blows and Ianto's shield would collapse.

“Jack!” Jasmine stood near the cauldron, a happy smile on her inhumanly beautiful face. “Come out, come out wherever you are! Or don't you love your boyfriend?” Her giggles made Owen want to slap his hands over his ears. “I'm going to have him sliced into teeny, tiny ribbons, Jack. Are you going to hide the whole time, while he screams?”

“I'm here, Jasmine.” Jack emerged from the shadows at the far end of the room, Andy one step behind. “What do you want?”

“Your head on a gold platter, Jack.” She was suddenly hard and vicious. “I don't like people who interfere with me. And yes, the old bitch told me all about you. You don't scare me, Jack. I'm the Heir to the Unseelie Throne, and no half-demon bastard scares me.”

Jack's smile froze Owen to the core. “I should, little Princess.”

He held up his right hand towards her, palm up. Slowly, so slowly that at first Owen couldn't see the movement, the fingers began to curl upwards towards the palm. As they moved, Jasmine was lifted off her feet. She screamed in panic. The warriors circling Ianto stopped and turned to look; one of them dropped to his knees, wailing. Jasmine struggled against the steady pull; Owen could feel her Power battering itself uselessly against whatever it was Jack was doing. She was lifted upwards until she was hovering over the cauldron.

“Shall I let go, little Princess?” Jack smiled widened a little. “Your people have only one life, long as it might be. Shall I send you to your final and true death?”

She held still. “You drop me, my warriors will kill your lover. Are you going to take that chance?”

“No chance. You may have had a chance when he was alone, and even then it was a question. Now, little Princess, decide.” His hand started to open. “Shall I let go?”

“No! No!” She screamed, real fear now in her voice. “Don't.”

Jack stared at her as if considering his next action. Owen held his breath, then let it out slowly as Jack pulled Jasmine away from the cauldron and set her back down. “Remember this, little Princess. I will kill anyone who harms those I love.” His hand twisted, and she jerked upwards. “And remember this.” He flicked his hand and she crumpled to the floor. “Next time there will be no reprieval. Not even for your grandmother.”

“There won't be a next time.”

Owen whirled around. Caught up in the battle of wills in front of him, he had forgotten the old man. Now he saw the true face of the Dagda, the Oldest of the Tuatha, the AllFather, and the breath was knocked out of him.

“I do believe,” the old man said mildly. “That I will visit my cousin Mab. She has invited me several times before and I have always been too busy. I shall take this little truant back with me.”

Jasmine gave him a defiant look. “You have no power, old man. I took it away from you, remember?”

He smiled down at her. “What in the world has Mab been teaching you, child? My power does not reside in that little toy.” He turned to the warriors still standing around Ianto. “I suggest a long exile, gentlemen. Several hundred years should do it.”

He waved his hands and the warriors disappeared. The old man sighed. “This younger generation has no bottom. Now, then.” He walked to the cauldron and laid his palms against the metal. “Well met, old friend. Please forgive me for having mislaid you.” He chanted something under his breath, and suddenly the cauldron was no bigger than a child's toy. “Garmhac.”

Before he could think through the implications, Owen had stepped to the old man's side. The Dagda held out the cauldron. “Fill it with good clear water and steep holly berries in it. I am sure Jack has some in storage somewhere. Put three drops of the water on your patients' tongue and tuck a single berry under it. It will ease their passage home. And don't worry. There will be someone waiting for them.”

Owen nodded. “How do I... return this to you?”

“We will meet again. Keep it safe for me until then.” He leaned down and grabbed Jasmine's arm. “Let's go, child.”

“Sire.” Jack said. “The Lord of Annwfn rides north to face the Unseelie Court. This is not the first time Jasmine has brought Mab down into Kymry.”

“I think he will find she has not entered it. Mab is no fool.” He grinned as he reached out to ruffle Jack's hair. “Have you ever figured out how to catch the salmon?”

Jack laughed. “Not yet, but I keep trying.”

“As it should be, boy. Keep yourself and your people safe.” He made a Sign, and reality parted to reveal a glen bisected by a road that led up into towering mountains. The sound of a Hunt could be heard in the instance. “It's important. Something is coming, and we will need you all.”

And they were gone.

( Post a new comment )
http://fide_et_spe.livejournal.com/[identity profile] fide_et_spe.livejournal.com on February 26th, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
I hope we get an epilogue? My favourite thing was the old man ruffling Jack's hair and calling him boy. Just a bit of added intrigue. Really great chapter and I hope that you continue to write this AU and finish the series!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Oh yes, there's a coda... there's always a coda :D I am planning to finish the series, and I am thinking -- only thinking, mind you -- to launch into my own third series. I am not touching the 456 in this one, but well, there are some ideas...
http://fide_et_spe.livejournal.com/[identity profile] fide_et_spe.livejournal.com on February 27th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
A third season from you would be lovely!
cen_sceal: Cardiff Bay[personal profile] cen_sceal on February 26th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
Really love Owen in this, he's a lovely sympathetic charater and I adored the way he just blurted his feeling out about everything to his surprise. And the way he interacts with Ianto is just brilliant banter :)

Really enjoyed this, thanks for sharing it
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Owen has turned out nice, hasn't he?
a_lanart: Torchwood - Jack 'to Jack'[personal profile] a_lanart on February 26th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Owen being told to keep hold of the Dagda's cauldron is somewhat worrying...

Apart from that, this is excellent as usual. I love this series and I just wish we could have had this as the show sometimes!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
Well, you can always imagine the worst! *snerk* Not really. There's a purpose for it, as you'll see, but it's not bad...
milady_dragon[personal profile] milady_dragon on February 26th, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)

Action, and foreshadowing. Dare I think some of what the Dagda said will relate to certain episodes coming up? And I don't mean that last bit, either...

And Owen blurting out that last bit...oh dear. That was great.

Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
Owen gave himself a shock there... And yes, definitely. What the Dagda says is very relevant...
ladycat1170: Jack smile[personal profile] ldycat1170 on February 27th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
Epilogue and a third series???

Squee!!!!!! is the best I got.
Midori[identity profile] midori-marmotte.livejournal.com on February 27th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with ldycat1170.... Squee with a big serving of Chantilly cream on top...

Thank you for writing stories that are interesting, entertaining, and respectful of their origin!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
*blushes* thank you!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 27th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm still waffling on the third season -- but we'll see... They keep on throwing dialog at me
rhianona: cookie[personal profile] rhianona on February 28th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
This was a lovely conclusion to the au-version of Meat. I really like your Owen and you remind us nicely of his potential with this. Your use of Dagda was nicely done as well. I like the politcs of the Fae. Ianto and Jack amused me here too.
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 28th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
This Verse has been building slowly and the politics both human and fae are becoming more and more integrated. And I'm glad you like Owen. I do too. I saw so much in him in the show that was never developed...