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[personal profile] sunsetmondays posting in [community profile] mindcracklove
I apologise sincerely for sitting on this for nearly five months, but we're almost done!!!!!! Big things to come next chapter and I can't wait to get to them. Thanks to silver for being my ever-patient beta and happy reading!

Breaking Point

"He's playing us, Kurt. This is exactly what he wants us to do."

"I know, but I'm not willing to watch any more of my friends die either."

The door creaked open, and Guude and Kurt walked in, faces solemn but set with determination. The hall fell to silence, no one daring to breathe. Nebris locked his eyes with Guude, his expression unreadable. Seth shivered, feeling as though he was watching a predator stare down its prey. Even chained and subdued, Nebris was as menacing as ever.

Guude approached the podium, his footsteps echoing through the hall. Everyone sat on edge, and no-one was prepared for the judgement that was about to take place. Guude cleared his throat. Seth felt Etho fidget nervously beside him. A stick was rapped against the podium, and, voice booming over the crowd, Guude began the announcement.

"Nebris, under the guidance of those heard today and a judgement made upon the principles of this community, you are hereby sentenced to indefinite imprisonment within a cell upon these grounds and upon these grounds alone. In no circumstance, including the relocation of this community and its people, shall your imprisonment cease or your location of imprisonment change. If we leave, you will be left behind. This decision is final."

It was as if the world were frozen. No-one moved. No-one spoke. People sat, wide-eyed with disbelief as the decision registered. Some sagged with relief, others tensed with disappointment. BTC shared quiet words with Zisteau, resigned to the outcome. "I knew this was coming," Seth overheard him say.

Seth hadn't known what to expect when he'd come to the trial, but in his own way he was relieved that Nebris hadn't been sentenced to execution, if only for his own selfish reasons. Nebris knew something about that portal and Seth was determined to find out what. If this was the cost, then so be it. The nightmen, this portal; whatever was going on here was clearly greater than themselves, and the loss of his friendships with those who threatened to leave was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

He looked over at BTC's group again. They'd already begun to gather themselves to leave the hall. It was expected that they would leave come morning. They'd already cleared their houses and packed their things, predicting their fate. Their departure would be a solemn but unmourned affair. They'd brought it upon themselves, after all.

From his left, Etho had gotten up and approached Nebris for a hushed conversation of his own. Seth could only make out indecipherable mutterings. Etho's body language was terse and he reached a hand towards Nebris' wrist which was swiftly jerked away. Eyes like ice, Etho turned and stormed away, pushing past those filing out of the hall.

Eventually, only Seth, Guude, and Nebris remained. "This is it?" asked Seth.

"This is it," Guude agreed. "Nebris is going to tell us everything he knows about that portal and then we'll leave—all of us will leave—the day after tomorrow."

"I said nothing about tell-" Nebris began.

"You will tell us everything you know about the portal, after the sacrifice I just made for you," Guude interrupted, a snarl catching the edges of his voice.

"Whatever you say, boss."

"Seth, take him to his cell. I'll meet you there in five."

~ ~ ~

"So you're all going on your big adventure without me," said Nebris, arms crossed lazily as he leaned back against the wall of his cell. "And here I though you cared about me."

Seth, Guude, and Etho sat opposite him on chairs dragged in from outside. Five minutes had turned to thirty by the time Guude had managed to free himself from the flurry of discussion after the meeting. Seth supressed a yawn and Etho gave him a sympathetic smile. It had been a long night.

"Shut up, Nebris," snapped Guude, his voice thick with weariness.

Nebris shrugged, unperturbed by Guude's blunt irritation. "Whatever floats your boat."

"Nebris," Etho warned, his tone unusually harsh. Seth looked up from the notebook sitting in his lap. This was the first time Etho had spoken since he'd turned up at Nebris' cell after the trial. Nebris looked away, violet eyes dark and dim.

For all his time spent there, Seth still had no idea what went on between Nebris and Etho. No-one ever really talked about it and any attempts to pry had been brushed off by the others. He wasn't sure if even they knew what went on between Nebris and Etho either. Asking Etho himself had only awarded him silence.

"Fine, fine. I'll behave," Nebris finally conceded. "I'll tell you what you want to know."

Guude held a pencil ready above his own notepad. "Good."

As it turned out, Nebris apparently knew very little about the portal itself. He described having come across it during the time he went missing. After seeking shelter in a cave for the night, he'd stumbled upon the dungeon and explored it from there. He claimed to have made no attempt to enter the portal, and that a book he had found nearby described a terrible beast that would have to be fought on the other side to gain passageway through what he described as 'the End'.

When asked why he hadn't divulged this information sooner, Nebris claimed to have forgotten it until recently, blaming the memory loss on his encounter with a nightman, or 'Enderman', as he still insisted on calling them. He repeated the story perfectly when asked to recall it again. Everything matched to the tee and he spoke with a convincing certainty that made Seth want to believe him. The thought of it made the hairs on the nape of his neck stand on end.

Seth eyed him suspiciously. There was no evidence to back up his claims, but Guude was convinced. His earlier irritation had melted away as Nebris' story echoed his own sentiments of 'home' and 'answers'. "This is it," Nebris asserted. "This is what you've been looking for."

"We're going home, then," said Guude, eyes sparkling with hope.

The whole time, Nebris' violet stare reminded Seth of the piercing, unending gaze of the nightman. He shivered. BTC's offer echoed in the back of his mind and, not for the first time, he wondered if he'd made the right decision.

"Home, then," Seth repeated. The word tasted foreign in the dingy light of Nebris' cell. Home was… he didn't know what home was. There was Guude and the compound sharing meals by the fire surrounded by friends and their stories from the day. Home was also a foggy memory—not even a memory but the sense that a memory should be there. Would he even like it if he were to go 'home'? Would he remember who he was before this mess or would he be landing head-first into a life as strange as this one used to be?

There was also BTC and the others: friends who chose to stay behind. What would happen to them? No matter which path he took, there were people to lose. He was not ready to take sides, but yet, here he was. Forced into the choice whether he wanted it or not.

"So once we go through, there's no coming back?" Seth asked. He had to. They had to come back for the others. He put on a hopeful face. They'd go through the portal and find a way back here. They'd come back for the others and show them that Guude was right. And maybe one day, if the sly devil hadn't already found a way to escape, they'd come back for Nebris too and put all his mistakes behind them.

Nebris shrugged, giving an ambiguous hum. "I guess you'll just have to go and find out," he said, violet eyes burning. "If you do come back, though, be sure to give me a visit. I get lonesome here when I'm all by myself."

"We'll be sure to," said Guude. He offered Nebris a sincere smile. "Wouldn't forget you for the world."

Nebris put a hand to his chest in mock appreciation. "I knew you loved me all along."

"You wish."

"Oh but I do"

Guude snorted out a laugh. "I'll believe that the day you actually go and kiss me," he said with a teasing grin.

"Eh, worth a shot," said Nebris. He stretched his arms up as far as they'd go and yawned. "You leave tomorrow, then?"

Guude nodded. "We leave as soon as the skeletons finish burning."

Nebris' expression darkened and he found himself staring at the floor. "I s'pose this is it? The big Goodbye."

"I'll miss you too," Guude said with a weak smile. "Goodbye and good riddance? Something like that."

"Something like that…"

Etho, who'd fallen silent throughout Nebris' exposition, finally spoke up as the trio readied to leave Nebris' cell. “Take care, Nebris," he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling into a sad smile, "and do try to keep out of trouble."

"I make no promises," Nebris said with a wink.

The two shared a forlorn look as Guude and Seth slipped out of the building, Etho having promised to follow them shortly afterwards. Finally alone, Etho breathed in slow and steadily. The small object clutched in his fist burnt cold against is skin. He held it tighter, still unsure of his decision.

"You're never gonna let me go about that scar of yours," Nebris said. He rolled his shoulders and stretched himself out like a lazy cat. The cold floor offered little comfort, but he'd make what he could of it.

"Nope. But maybe one day you'll learn not to stab first, ask questions later," said Etho. He brushed the scar that ran down his left eye: a remnant from the first time he met Nebris. They'd come a long way since then—bitter adversaries to friendly rivals to whatever this was now. Companions? Protectors? An ill-defined closeness with no time left to work out the rest? It didn't matter now. All that mattered was that they were leaving and that Nebris was to be left behind.

"And you say I never learn." Nebris' smile was fond, the familiar rhythm of teasing a necessary comfort in the confines of his prison.

"Oh shush."

"And maybe you don't learn either," Nebris said, nodding down at Etho's closed fist. Infuriatingly perceptive as ever.

"Maybe I don't," said Etho. He loosened his fingers around the key but made no move to release it.

"Is this you proposing we run away together to frolic in the hills for the rest of our days?" Nebris said with a wry smile.

"You wish," Etho said with a chuckle.

"That's what everyone says. Maybe they're not wrong."

"No," Etho said with a sense of finality. "I meant it when I asked you to stay out of trouble." He placed the key on the floor and pushed it towards Nebris.

"And I told ya, I make no promises."

Etho huffed dramatically, but left the key where it was. "I know," he sighed, "but a guy can always hope."

"Yeah, hope... That's a thing that people have," said Nebris. He tugged at the hem of his shirt and looked down at the key. When he looked up again, his expression was unreadable. "Anyway, you should probably head out now, before you start getting all teary-eyed. Oh Nebris! I hate to never see you again. How will I ever survive?" he said, voice rising in a poor imitation of Etho's.

"I'm sure I'll get by without you," said Etho. He shuffled awkwardly and eyed the door with distaste. "But as much as I hate to admit it, you're right. I don't want to start the big day half asleep, do I now?"

With leaden limbs, Etho finally stood up and made steps towards the door. Just as his hand landed on the handle, Nebris soft voice cut through the silence. "Good luck," he said, "though I doubt you'll need it."

When the door closed with a click, Etho rested his head against it and closed his eyes. The dark of the night swelled like a thick cloud and the cold prickled at his skin. A lone skeleton clattered its bones in the distance. He wanted to go back. It would be so easy to slip back in so they could escape to 'frolic in the hills' as Nebris had suggested. But the others—they needed him, and no selfish want would override that.

He turned his back to the cell and didn't give it a second look.

~ ~ ~

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Date: Saturday, January 7th, 2017 10:51 am (UTC)
yamina_chan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamina_chan
That's an interesting turn of events.
I can only agree with Nebris and wish them luck. All of them. Including him.

Not knowing makes it hard to continue, so perhaps with possible answers on the horizon, things will get set in motion.

I enjoyed this chapter. =)

(And you might want to change the _underscores for italics_ out for the dreamwidth version.)

Date: Saturday, January 7th, 2017 12:47 pm (UTC)
yamina_chan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamina_chan
See, I intentionally didn't say anytthing about a happy turn of events XD
I wish them luck and I wish them that they will find answers; both things they will need.
- I doubt it will be that easy.

Also, I just saw that the AO3 version has a Chapter X out of X Chapters. I don't know if that is new or if I just always missed that since I read the story here and not there, but that is definately good information to have.
I'll be looking forward to the next chapter; whenever it'll be availible. ^^


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