Title: Accidental Destiny
Rating: T (estimated)
Fandom: Atop The Fourth Wall/TGWTG
Character(s): Linkara, Margaret the Magic Gun, Harvey Finevoice
Warnings: Cyberpunk AU. Some mild language/violence, past character deaths, self beta’d.
Summary: All it takes is one accident to change the course of one’s life forever.
Disclaimer: All characters/borrowed concepts are property of their respective owners. Therefore I do not claim to own them, nor do I mean any disrespect toward either characters and concepts, or their owners.
Sometimes the beginnings of the greatest adventures happened purely on accident.
Someone had once told Linkara this a long time ago, and thinking back on it, he couldn’t say that he disagreed with that sentiment at all. However, had he known then that he was about to embark on the types of journey that he’d only dreamed, he was sure that he would have chosen deeper, more poignant words to say than “Oh, crap.”
Bursts of gunfire screamed around him like a lions’ roar behind him, muffled only by the crumbling piles of brick and plaster that surrounded him. He could hear the heavy, booted footsteps of his pursuers stood outside the building he hid in.
His heart beat rapidly in his chest as he heard their voices, like distant thunder, growing closer. He held his breath as his survival instincts kicked in, instructing him to crouch low, pressing himself as close to the wall as he could and pray that they didn’t happen to see him hiding amongst the crumbling debris and shadow.
“Oh,” he muttered under his breath as he dared to peek over a large, fallen, chunk of concrete, “So, they sent the trolls after me, huh?”
Silently, he prayed to himself that his pursuers hadn’t heard him. Even if they weren’t very bright, trolls were just about as strong as they were ugly. And these two, Linkara added, were the ugliest and smelliest he’d ever run in to.
He should have stayed and helped Harvey out at the bar. At least that way, he thought, the worst he would have had to deal with the occasional idiot who got too drunk and rowdy after foolishly trying to match a dwarf shot-for-shot in a drinking contest. But, even then, that wasn’t usually a situation that couldn’t be dealt with quickly.
At least then, he could have slipped off into the storeroom with one of the books he’d borrowed from the library (or rather, the sparse collection of old, worn out books that he and the others had managed to salvage from whatever ruins they’d happen to venture into.), and lose himself in stories about daring, noble heroes in far off lands.
Actually, he thought, the prospect of adventure itself was probably more of the reason he went along when the others were looking to stir up trouble than anything else.
Sure, that wasn’t to say that he managed to completely avoid trouble. Trouble, much like a native citizen of the vast urban sprawl Linkara and many others called home, knew every winding and darkened street by heart. More often than not, it was not the beast that was hunted, but rather the hunter itself.
Of course, trouble was also a shapeshifter, and it seemed that it had taken the form of a rival gang whose territory they’d happened to have stumbled into. More specifically, it seemed to have taken the form of two particularly ugly, bloodthirsty and territorial trolls.
At least, if he stayed at the bar, he would have had a purpose; unlike out here.
Cautiously, he dared to sneak another peek at his two towering pursuers. He could see their large, curved fangs jutting out of their large, squarish, rough jaws in scowls of frustration as they exchanged looks with one another, debating on their next move.
“I saw him run in here,” One of the trolls said, his booming voice reverberating off the outer stone like echoes of thunder, making Linkara’s heart clench tightly in fear, “He’s trapped, let’s get him!”
“Dude,” He heard the other one say, “No way! Don’t you know what that place is?”
“Uh…” The other one replied, “Looks like some old busted-down church or somethin’. What’s the big deal?”
“That’s not just any old busted-up church, you slot-head,” The second one said, “That’s place is supposed to be haunted. Like really haunted. Everyone whose ever went in there has either died. An’ the ones who didn’t are sittin’ up in a padded room with their brainpans fried.”
“So? That’s just kid’s tales.”
“Maybe, but I don’t wanna have any bad karma thrown on me,” the first one said, “Let the ghosts deal with the poor slothead.”
“Oh, will you shut up?!” the first one growled, taking a few steps forward, “C’mon I ain’t letting that punk get away. Nobody starts a fight on our turf and gets away with it.”
Although the two continued to argue with one another, Linkara was no longer listening.
Something shifted in the air, making it dance and shimmer before the young man’s eyes like a mirage rising off the hot desert sands. And yet, everything felt oddly cold, as if it were the middle of winter, rather than the early spring that it currently was.
In the corners of his vision, he could have sworn he saw movement, usually nothing more than a blur of white or a flicker of yellowish light, but just as he turned his head, it seemed to disappear.
A cacophony of noise echoed in his head, swirling around him like a raging typhoon. Gritting his teeth against the noise, he wanted to clasp his hands firmly over his ears to block it out. But, something told him that these sounds could not be shut out that easily, for they resonated from within the deepest parts of his mind.
Taking a deep breath, he once again tried to think back to everything that Harvey and years living on the streets in the metropolis had taught him. The best way to keep oneself from becoming too overwhelmed was to try to take it in pieces and work your way out.
The loudest sound, he noticed, was what sounded like a wailing young girl. But, were her shrieks of laughter or of pain? He wondered. Slowly, the cloud of light and noise began to dissolve like a salt tablet in water as everything began to settle around him. Images flashed across his mind in rapid succession, like flashbacks to some previously forgotten nightmare.
Pale light flooded in through the large stained glass windows, pooling into rainbow light upon the floor, as spectral veils of gossamer fabric swayed overhead. Candles—far too numerous for Linkara to bother counting, dotted the room, clustering around a flat, stone slab. The stench of blood drifted up from the intricate red arcane symbols painted onto the stone floor.
Heavy iron chains wrapped around his wrists and ankles, binding him to the granite altar. Standing beside him, he could just make out the shapes of a handful of robed figures, their faces obscured by the masks and hoods they wore. A storm of rage like he’d never felt before surged through him as he saw these figures. They seemed familiar, as if he had always known them, yet he was sure that they were just as much strangers as any random person on the street.
Two figures in particular seemed to stir the biggest feelings of anger within him. A tall woman with reddish-brown hair, her features sharp and pointed, as if they were made of shards of glass, stood beside a shorter man with slightly wispy grayish hair and large, owl-like glasses.
He wanted to call out to them, begging for them to help him. After all, he trusted them, didn’t he? They were his parents, right? They’d raised him, hadn’t they? They loved him, right? No, he thought as despair began sinking into his heart, they never loved him. He was a freak, and they saw him as nothing more than a tool—an object to be used and discarded.
Wait, He thought shaking his head, that wasn’t right. They couldn’t have been his parents—his parents had died a long time ago; back when he was still young. Besides, he was sure, from all the pictures and memories he had of them, neither one of them looked anything like the two robed people standing in the crowd there.
His despair grew more, making his already rapidly beating heart feel as if it were going to fly out of his chest, as a cold, echoing chant rose from the crowd. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt as if he remembered that song—he’d always thought it to have sounded so mystical and haunting when his mother sang it to him as a lullaby—but now it sounded alien and terrifying to his ears. But, again, he noted, that was impossible. Yes, he remembered his parents singing him to sleep when he was younger, but he never once had heard that particular song.
What was going on here? He wondered as he struggled against the chains around his wrists. How, and more importantly why, was he living through memories that clearly did not belong to him? What ghost or spirit was speaking to him forcing him to see these memories?
His limbs felt as if they had been paralyzed as the tried to struggle, only to find himself suddenly incapable of movement. A deep voice chanted strange words as a knife flashed dangerously in the candlelight, like the fang of some predatory beast ready to kill.
He heard the wail of the child ringing in his ears once more—but now it felt like an entirely different sound to him. No longer did it seem confusing and ambiguous. He knew what terror had brought her to tears. It was not just in the fear of impending death for which she wept, but rather for the trust and love she thought she felt that turned out to have always been a lie.
Nobody loved her, she cried. They never had.
This wasn’t right, Linkara thought as the blade hovered above him, ready to drop at a moment’s notice. Like her, he hated feeling trapped, with no hope for escape and too powerless to fight back. He wanted to save her, he thought—nobody should have had to been hurt and destroyed like this.
Still, illusion or not, he was not going to allow himself to give up easily. Harvey sometimes joked that to Linkara admitting defeat was like a fish or a merperson attempting to live on land. It simply wasn’t in his nature. Admittedly, this wasn’t entirely true—running away from the gangfight with the trolls was proof enough that exceptions to the rule existed.
But now? Now was not one of those exceptions, nor did Linkara intend for it to be. Gathering up all his mental and physical strength, he made one last struggle against the bonds that tied him to that stone slab. Just as the masked priest’s booming voice chanted the last words of the ritual, plunging the knife toward the young man’s heart, Linkara felt the chains break. With a quick motion, he caught the knife just inches from his chest.
Suddenly, it felt as if the world around the young man had begun spinning as the knife and its wielder vanished in a wisp of golden dust and light. More dust swirled around him as the scene around once more became a swirling mess of sound and motion.
This was quickly ended as a sudden coldness spread throughout his body, as he closed his eyes, sighing deeply. He knew that he ought to have been scared, yet at the same time, he felt as if he were unable to feel fear. The chill that ran through him was almost refreshing, like a sudden blast of splash of cold water in the midst of a boiling hot sea.
He opened his eyes as he once more heard the voice of the young girl. This time, however, it was the sound of her laughter that filled his mind. It was a much more pleasant sound than that of her pained and tormented cries.
A spectral figure of a young woman, perhaps no older than a teenager, floated before him, glowing with an ethereal aura. Her white dress, much like her shining copper hair, swayed gently in the breeze of the aura, further adding to her ghostly appearance. Slowly, she reached out, taking the young man’s hands within her own.
All at once, it was as if everything had begun to click into place in Linkara’s mind. Suddenly, he understood that she was the girl whose memories he had witnessed as if they were his own. Experiencing her memories had only been a test to see if he were worthy enough of her power.
Although he didn’t fully yet understand why, something told him that perhaps it wasn’t a mere accident that he had happened to stumble into the ruins where her spirit had lain sleeping all these centuries. Something about him had drawn her spirit toward him, just as, subconsciously, something about her must have called out to him.
He felt as if he were just starting to truly wake up for the first time as the girl’s aura burnt brighter, engulfing him within its warm light. An entire universe flashed before his eyes, imprinting itself into the core of his subconscious.
Yet, at the same time, it felt as if he were doing more than simply viewing another plane from afar. It felt as if a piece of him was connected to this universe, as if it always had some connection to this place, but that part of his mind had been sleeping until then.
Somewhere in his trance, Linkara recalled reading and hearing about people known as shamans—individuals who held a heightened awareness and connection to the astral realm, so much so that they were capable of performing certain types of magic. The specifics of how this was done usually varied between cultures, with some involving rituals and special clothing, while some individuals had other methods of communicating with the astral realm.
Usually, though, there were typically three things all shamans had in common: One was that communicating with the astral realm and casting magic always involved some form of meditations or prayer. The second was that they typically had some sort of spirit partner or guardian. While typically the spirit was that of an animal, he had heard about rare cases in which they’re spirit partner took the form of another human.
The third was that they usually had some sort of magical item or charm they carried with them. It was here that Linkara seemed to be a little confused. He didn’t have any sort of special amulet. So, how was he supposed to channel this kind of magic into a useable energy?
Curiously, he looked over toward his newfound spirit partner, silently asking her this question. She only continued to smile, but her smile reassured him that he had nothing to worry about.
Instantly, the aura around her flared brightly, like the light of an entire galaxies’ worth of stars combined, blinding the young man. Soon, however, the light faded into a fainter, more pleasant light, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
The girl no longer stood beside him, he noticed, although he could feel her presence whispering about him like a voice in the back of his mind. His eyes widened as he lifted his hand, staring down at the ancient pistol that he now held in his hands.
But, the young man had no time to ponder upon what this all meant, before reality began to crash in on him like a tidal wave against a rocky shore. He could hear a voice calling to him, begging him to wake up. But this voice, he knew was not the voice of the young girl, for it was far too masculine and familiar to him.
“Linkara,” the voice said, growing more and more concerned as they spoke “Hey, kid! Wake up, will ya?! C’mon kid, don’t do this to me…”
Slowly, Linkara blinked as his vision came into focus. Quickly he noticed he was not greeted with the ominous, crumbling gray ruins of the ancient church, but rather the tidier and warmer surroundings of his own bedroom.
Maybe it had all been just a dream, he wondered? Or the result of a concussion he’d forgotten about sustaining in his encounter with the Troll gang?
Immediately, Harvey heaved a sigh of relief, halting in his nervous pacing as he heard the younger man’s voice. Admittedly, Linkara couldn’t help but blink at the sight of his mentor and father figure. The older man looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Dark circles had formed under his eyes, seeming to highlight the scruff of stubble just beginning to form on his usually clean-shaven chin. The man’s clothes seemed to be in a contest over which could appear the most disheveled, with his suit just narrowly managing to win that contest.
“Oh thank god,” Harvey breathed, “I thought you were gonna die there, kid.”
“How did I get here?” the younger man asked, slowly sitting up.
“You’ve been out for a couple of days,” Harvey explained, “When the other kids noticed you didn’t come back with them; we went out looking for ya. We eventually found you layin’ passed out lookin’ like a runner who just drew an ace of spades. If it hadn’t been for you breathing, we might have taken you to the morgue instead of here.”
The older man laughed weakly, as if trying, and failing, to convince himself that there was any sort of humor to be found in his comment.
Slowly, Linkara tried to sit up, feeling his head spin briefly, before he felt his fingers clasp around something smooth and metal. Once more, his eyebrows raised as he noticed that the antique pistol from his vision appeared in his hands. Curiously, he quirked an questioning eyebrow at Harvey, hoping that the older man could begin to explain.
“That?” Harvey said casually, “You were hanging on to that iron we found you. We tried to pry it outta your hands a couple times, but the damn thing wouldn’t budge. Crazy thing just shocked us and started glowing all weird like. Kinda spooky, really.”
At this, Linkara’s expression darkened, staring far beyond the walls of the tiny little apartment room. So it wasn’t just a dream, he thought. He really had become awakened to whatever latent spiritual connection he had to the astral plane.
“So,” Harvey said quietly, as if reading his mind, “Looks like you might be some kinda spell-slinger or something, now.”
“What makes you say that?” Linkara asked.
Now, it was the older man’s turn to stare wistfully into the distance, recalling memories of his younger days.
“I’ve met a few mages and shamans in my day,” Harvey said wearily, running a hand through his hair, “Trust me, I know how to spot ‘em in a crowd. Better fighting beside them than risking your neck going up against one, y’know?”
The older man sighed, leaning tiredly against the wall. Although the casual observer would have written off this as simply exhaustion from several days of tending to a comatose Linkara, there was a faint hint of something in the man’s sigh that suggested that perhaps there was something more behind it than he suggested.
Of course, Linkara dared not ask. After all, he guessed that it probably had something to do with Harvey’s days as a hitman and body-guard in the mob. Although the younger man had often heard stories of Harvey’s adventures during that time, there was always a sort of somber wistfulness that suggested that there perhaps even more stories that were perhaps a little too personal for him to share.
“So,” Harvey said after a long pause, “What do you plan on doing, now that you know you got these powers? Seems like kind of a shame to not really do anything with them.”
A sudden terror crept up Linkara’s back, hitting him like a splash of cold water in the face. Where did he go from here? Sure, there was the logical step of trying to improve his newfound abilities by trying to better connect with the astral realm. But, that in itself was only half the journey.
His fears were eased a voice whispered in the back of his mind. Although he could not fully understand the words that were being spoken, the sound alone felt comforting, like a warm, midsummer’s breeze. The image of the young girl flashed before his vision once more.
As much as his connection and control over the astral realm was due to his own latent magic, he couldn’t forget that she was very much a part of this as well. If it wasn’t for her, he probably would never have been able to realize these powers, much less connect with them. She was his partner, his friend, his guide through the strange and confusing world that had awakened around him. And, no matter what happened, neither one of them was alone in this.
“I dunno,” Linkara said, as a small grin crept across his face, “But, I think we’ll figure something out.”
*A little side note about Magic in this universe: There are two types of known magic: Shamanistic and Hermetic Magic. Shamanistic magic, as explained through in the story, Typically invovles channeling powers of Astral Realm through a spirit partner, and typically involve some sort of prayer/meditation/altered state of consciousness, and can be typically used for healing/summoning. While Hermetic magic (used by Mages) Involves drawing magic from Earth itself, and is primarily attack or deception based. Spell components usually need to be prepared beforehand, and spell casting is treated like a science or art. In both cases, more powerful and complex spells involve more intense and elaborate preparation.
- fic: Accidental Destiny