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Travel notes from a wandering mind

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Children of the Grave - Part 2
Gee is plotting


Things were going pretty well. They met up with Ophelia and her group on their way to the Cleave. It used to be the Cleave of the Impaler, but many of the giant tower-mounted crossbows had been dismantled and converted into Headsplitter vehicles. They were lucky enough to have a Thunderhog with them too. The Kill Master and most of his men did prefer to stay on top of their mountain, but some continued to run patrols with the rest of Ironheade.

"So you're saying they're clean?"

"For the last time, yes Lita, they're human. They're not Drowning Doom. A’course, if you want a really deep scan, you'll have to see the Kill Master for that," the healer told her.

"I will, but this really sets my mind at ease, thank you."

Ophelia just nodded and polished her swords. "See, Lita, I told you. I didn't get any vibes off them at all. They're kinda weird, but harmless," she said.

Lita mouth pursed a little bit at the subtle dig, but she relaxed. Ophelia did have the most experience with the Doom after all, though her own concern was equally valid. She was the leader, the queen, and it was her job to keep her people safe.

"Let me know if you do, okay Ophelia? I'll take off the guards, but I'm still not completely sure about them. We're still in the middle of Black Tear country, and we have to pass by the Sea on our way back to Bladehenge."

"Of course," said the young swordswoman.

Things had been fairly uneventful. The five newcomers did complain a little at the hiking, but they were trying to manage the best they could. A couple of them had been eyeing the guitars carried by a few of her soldiers. With Eddie's help in deciphering the secrets of the Titans, more of the instruments had been constructed. He and Ophelia were teaching several other Ironheade members how to play. Brian had said the guitarists of...My Chemical Romance? Or was it The Black Parade?...were quite talented. She was wary of letting them near what was a major weapon in this world. She believed they weren’t from the Drowning Doom, but still, old habits die hard. It was a little startling every time she saw Gerard. They’d probably look pretty normal once they were out of those stern uniforms and in jeans and t-shirts, but the bone-white hair was just unnatural.

Nonetheless, things were going smoothly. With that in mind, naturally it was when they passed by the accursed Sea of Black Tears that everything went wrong.

They made camp by the shore of the massive lake. Lita hated being so close, but a major storm had rolled in and they needed shelter.

"Wow," murmured Gerard.

"Well that's pretty awesome," Mikey had to agree. The road leading to it had been pretty interesting, with spindly chandeliers and the occasional noose and Gothic arches and flourishes cut out of the rocky path leading down along the canyon wall to the Sea.

The interior of the cavern resembled a cathedral. Maybe it was a cathedral that had been carved out of the rock? Who knew?

Frank snickered. "You oughta feel right at home, eh Gee?”

The white-haired singer promptly shoved him hard, then shook him a few times. "Shhh, Frank shut up! We only just gained their trust; you keep saying stuff like that they'll think we really are zombies!” Gerard paused in trying to knock some sense him. “But yeah, it's amazing here," he admitted.

It had a chilly Gothic beauty. There were elaborate buttresses and soaring panels patterned with rosettes and curlicues, like opaque stained glass windows. It was lit dimly by more purple-black candelabra bushes, tall, wide-spreading ones with a multitude of branches. Small thorny shrubs budding with black roses creeped from amid rocky outcroppings.

The entire cavern had a reddish-purple kind of cast to it. It was right in that in-between sort of color that you couldn't pin one way or another. Perhaps it was the odd lighting source, or some unique properties of the stone, or maybe even the water reflected more light than people thought; the surface was as smooth as glass, not a ripple to be seen. Frank and Ray were off trying to convince someone to give them guitars, Bob was probably bothering Mangus, the Ironheade engineer, for a look at the sound board, and Mikey was gossiping with the Razor Girls. Brian…was off doing Brian-y things. Gerard finds himself completely unable to wrap his brain around him wearing those pants. He thinks of the lean lines of Brain’s legs in the shiny black leather, and his brain comes to a stuttering halt. He’s been rather pre-occupied with their band manager lately.

"It's beautiful, in its own way, isn't it," Ophelia said, coming up behind Gerard. She kept looking out to the Sea. She’d been wary of them, of course. But she’d been watching Gerard and his friends. Despite his dark look, there was a sense about him…they would understand. She wanted to tell her story.

"Yeah," he agreed quietly, barely audible over the sound of the pouring rain outside.

"It can be quite seductive. It doesn’t affect the demons so much because they don’t feel emotions the way we do. The tales say the Sea was created from the tears of Aetulia. She had the most beautiful voice, which gave life and nourishment to a harsh and barren world. But her song was used to destroy Ormagoden - from him came the sun, and metal, everything. In her sorrow for her part in that, she cried until she vanished into dust. Now, it wasn't all bad, I guess - if it hadn't happened, we wouldn't have the world, or music, or anything, it would just be the First Ones, the twisted creatures that lived in the dark. No Titans, no music or people."

"Just the...like, the primordial chaos. All the stories on our world start off with something like that, too. Gotta say a giant metal fire-beast exploding and forming the world is the coolest one I've ever heard," Gerard said.

Ophelia turned her head a little and smiled. "Lita did send me over here to talk to you. She believes you now, of course, but she watches out for us. Who better to tell you the story of the Black Tears than someone who was there?"

"You? Brian made it seem like a death sentence," Gerard said, already impressed with her tale.

"It kinda was. In the first war, what they now call the Black Tear Rebellion, those who drank from the Sea gained power, but went insane. They were all killed by the demons, and that forest grew over the whole area."

Gerard grew thoughtful. "No wonder it’s called the Forest of the Dead. Like...there was that one tree I saw. Down in the roots, it looked like faces, white faces carved from stone...or maybe it really was bone."

"Heh. That, among other things. Anyway, the demon emperor managed to unseal the path to the Sea. My parents fought in the first war. It...It was their idea to drink the Tears. I've faced suspicion all my life." She paused and gather her courage. "It was after a great victory. I felt betrayed, in despair, I'd never be accepted despite all the fighting I'd done for my people. But foolishly, I kept secrets, letting myself be driven away rather than tell."

This was too much for Gerard. He moved in to embrace her. "It's okay, Ophelia. You're alright now, aren't you? I know what's it's like to be the odd one out. Have been all my life, really. All of us in the band, we never quite fit in."

She held on to him for a few moments, then moved away and continued her tale.

"And so I jumped into the Sea. There was this dark copy of me, full of all the hate and anger and despair I felt. I...she raised the Drowning Doom against Ironheade. I'll always be glad that they were defeated. Eddie killed the demon emperor and saved the real me from the Black Tears. But I still remember what she did."

“We’ve all done things we regret.”

“Mhm. So, well, yeah. That’s what happens if you go in the Sea of Black Tears. The end.”

Gerard thought this over. “Yeah, that sucks,” he decided. “I’ve spent enough time in my past overwhelmed by regret and anger. Those first couple of years with our band, I really messed myself up trying to forget. I was able to overcome that, and I never want to feel like that again.”

They stood together for a while, just finding a quiet moment in their all-too-eventful lives.


That was the most intense roar of thunder Gerard had ever heard. He’d swear he’d felt the vibration in his bones.

Ophelia was the first to spot them. Several troops of Gravediggers, and two Brides. And more were coming. The camp degenerated into chaos. At least, that’s what it looked like to Gerard. There was noise and yelling and lots of running around.

He tried his hardest to stay out of the way and avoid all the blood and steel flying around. He couldn’t help staring at one of the pot-bellied Ratguts, flinching as the creature vomited up a horde of rats that headed straight for…shit, Ray!

Gerard bolted off to warn his friend, leaving the relative safety of the back of the Ironheade camp. “RAY!” he screamed, but the guitarist had already spotted the glowy-eyed rodents. He shook them off and performed a rather impressive running grab of an abandoned guitar from where it lay on the ground.

Familiar chords filled the air and Gerard quickly spotted Frank playing half behind one of the Headsplitter vehicles. Ray quickly took up the song, the notes of “This is How I Disappear” filling the air. The din was fierce, the air filled with the crackling of lightning, the noise of Razor Bows firing, and of metal hitting dirt and sometimes smacking into flesh.

Flurries of lightning bolts announced that Frank and Ray were successful in making more than just noise. And what could he do? He was just the singer. He could throw a punch as well as anyone, but when you were facing zombies…

Quick movement to his left caught his eye. Gerard whirled around to see…an old-fashioned baby carriage? The sheer incongruity stunned him for a few moments. Then the thing quivered, and a barrage of evil-looking dolls was raining down on him, and oh fuck they had teeth! He shrieked and flailed and ran for it, not even looking where he was going, just wanting to get away.

The wet drops on his nose distracted him. The Bride hadn’t been far behind the possessed pram. Gerard felt the cool rain from her accompanying storm cloud patter gently on the dirt. Fuck fuck fuck these were the ones to stay from. He could see some of the warriors at the edges of the cloud caught in her lethargic effect.

He sprinted for safety. In a corner of his mind he mused that he wasn’t feeling any of the torpor associated with the Brides. The rest of it was filled with thoughts of get the fuck away from the zombie in the wedding dress!

His dash from danger was interrupted by a multitude of squeaking at his feet. He shrieked. Oh MOTHERFUCKER the RATS! He shook them off and fled from them and their now-gaunt keeper.

And straight into the arms of another Bride. They twirled with the inertia of Gerard’s rush, stepping into half of a waltz. Her bony fingers latched onto his wrist.

He was gasping for breath. “You don’t have to do this. Could you please let me go? I don’t really have a problem with you, though it’s not cool that you’re trying to kill our friends and all…”

“Would you bury me, would you carry me to the end?” he heard her say in a quiet falsetto.

He was getting frantic now, as she dragged him towards the Sea of Black Tears. The first Bride joined her, taking Gerard’s other arm, as if he were merely escorting two charming young ladies to the ball. Oh god, what he would give to have Frank right here, but he was just Gerard and all he had was his words.

“…It can’t be healthy for you to remain so attached to a wedding dress, all women need to have self-worth and tying that solely into a romantic relationship is very mentally unhealthy and…” his desperate ramble was cut off as they shoved him into the Sea and held him under the surface.

The water was pulling at him. The cool hands on his arms drifted away, as if releasing a paper boat of wishes into a stream.

Oh. That was interesting. It felt lighter than water, like a soft breeze, he could just fly away into the soft darkness…but then it was dragging him down, currents of black water and equally black emotions pulling him down into the depths. It was filling his mouth and trying to curl down his throat and into his heart as he floundered, reaching out for his friends.

Wouldn’t…wouldn’t they be there? They’d always been there, even before…before, during those awful times, oh, he hadn’t felt this fuzziness in a good few years, it had been so comforting then but now he knew he had to fight against it, he’d done it before, he’d quit the drugs, the drinking, he was free…where were they?

A calloused palm grabbed his. YES. The water had no hold on him. He’d defeated the sorrow and blankness before, and he’d do it again. Other hands fought the dark tendrils in the water and pulled him out from the deep.

Bob dragged Gerard into shallower water. All of them had run into the lake to retrieve their friend with no thought for the danger, but the drummer got there first. Three familiar sets of hands helped them both onto the shore. There was a snag when Frank tripped on a rough patch on the bottom, making them all fall backward into the Black Tears. The water was only about knee-deep at that point, so though they got wet, they were able to stagger free of the syrupy-feeling water with little difficulty.

Gerard shivered as his band huddled around him. He tried to take a slightly deeper breath and he choked, spitting out brackish black liquid. “Ugh.” It wasn’t even quite like water, feeling heavier, maybe like mercury or some shit.

“Dude, I thought you could swim,” Bob commented, the teasing words a contrast to his soft concerned tone.

Gerard glared weakly at him. Then he coughed, more dark mucus coming up. He kicked some of the shore’s sludge in the drummer’s direction.

“Fuck you, this ain’t a day at the beach,” he rasped after he was finished coughing up what felt like half his lungs.

“Fuckers, MOVE!” People scattrered in the face of Brian. No one would want to be between the fire-starter and his friends.

“Oh Christ they were in the lake!?” he exclaimed in disbelief when he saw the damp musicians. He shouldered his way into the huddle.

“Fucking hell, Gerard, you okay?” he asked him, hugging him tightly. Brian let him go only to hold onto his shoulders and peer worriedly into his face.

“You look like crap, Gee,” his brother told him. “You…you haven’t looked this bad since…the time we came back from the first trip to Japan.”

“Yeah, well, it felt like it there.”

Brian went cold all over. “Shit.”

Suffice to say, the band’s dip in the Sea did not go unnoticed.

“Who the fuck could’ve thought? They weren’t attacking us, they were keeping us busy! They herded him away and a couple of Brides grabbed him and dragged him in,” Brian growled.

Ophelia gaped. “What!? They’re not supposed to do that!”

Brian hmmed. “But the Doomed have been running around on their own for a while. Could’ve learned some new tricks.”

“But that’s not what they do…” she repeated, sounding doubtful.

“And she’d know,” Lita confirmed.

Brian’s words had set the young swordswoman to thinking on the recent battle. “We…we got a lot of them, but most…most just retreated,” she realized.

“What they’re supposed to do means shit, either way they apparently decided I needed a bath in the Black Tears,” Gerard spoke up hoarsely.

Lita whirled around at his words, the point of her halberd inches from Gerard’s chest. He made a tiny “meep!” and froze. She examined him critically. He wasn’t any paler than before, no glowing eyes. She relaxed marginally. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” she told him, face stern. “You guys aren’t too bad, I’d hate to have to kill you.”

Gerard had nightmares when he finally slept. Inky black swirled around him, he tried to fight it but it just kept pulling him down, creeping over skin that had paled to icy blue-white.

We never wanted it to be this way,” he heard the Bride whisper in his ear.

His own scream woke him up. It was gratifying to hear his own breath. He wasn’t underwater, drowning in despair.

Mikey blinked at him in the soft darkness of night. “You okay?”

Gerard sighed. “I guess. I had a dream…a nightmare, I was drowning and no one was there to pull me back.”

Mikey snuggled in to hug him. “As long as it doesn’t get like the Paramour again, I think we’ll make it through.”

Gerard hugged him back.

After the Black Tear incident, Lita insisted on getting back west as soon as possible. The newcomers seemed unaffected, but the war was still fresh in everyone’s memories. The master healer, the Kill Master, would be able to tell them if the Black Tears had truly taken them. He and his men had taken an oath not to harm others; the name was to discourage intruders.

"Well hey there, beautiful," greeted Kill Master when he saw Lita. "What lovely trouble are you in this time?"

Ray did a double take when he heard the grouchy healer speak. He made a noise resembling a squeak.

"Ray, what's up?" Mikey whispered.

"Mikey. Does the...Kill Master, seriously, that’s what they call him? Oh my god," he muttered. "Does he seem familiar to you?"

The skinny bassist squinted at the man they'd apparently needed to see, according to Lita. “Not really.”

“When we get back I’m making you listen to all my Mötorhead albums.”

“That’s cruel and unusual, you ass, and you already made me do that when I first started learning to play...something about unique technique, I still have flashbacks to that sometimes. So, what, he remind you of someone?” Mikey said, jerking his head towards where Lita and Kill Master were speaking.

“You could say that!” the guitarist hissed. “He looks exactly like Lemmy!”


“Oh geez, I’ll explain later!” Ray said in a rush as they were urged forward by several Razor Girls.

The Kill Master pulled down his sunglasses and eyed them critically. “Don’t look like much, do they? Thought you were taking care of those depressin’ ones Lita, you wanna keep this lot as pets or something?”

“No. They said they’re not of the Drowning Doom. They’re from Eddie’s world. Brian knows them, says they’re a band. One of your men did check them earlier, but that was before they ended up taking a dip in the Sea.”

The Kill Master gave a disbelieving snort. “I’ll believe it when I see it. An’ you want me to check they ain’t Drowned in disguise, izzat it? Not a very good cover they got there, if they are. But alrigh’ then."

The healer cracked his knuckles and began to play a heavy melody on the bass in front of him.

The five band members felt an odd sensation sweep through them as the bassline echoed through their bodies.

The master healer played for just a couple of minutes.

"No need to worry that pretty head. They're as human as any one of us. Maybe a little bit wonky, but it's the same sorta thing I get offa Brian. They're definitely not one of those packs of gloomy 'mothers you're still getting out east."

Lita nodded, and Ophelia let out a small sigh of relief.

"You were right," she told the other woman with a small smile of encouragement.

"Good. Definitely didn't want to be wrong about this kinda thing." Ophelia continued a little hesitantly. “I kinda like them. Their music’s pretty good.”

Meanwhile, Mikey had wandered off without anyone noticing, as he does. Hell, they were on top of a fucking mountain and surrounded by an army, not like he could go far.

Then he saw something he recognized in this fucked up hardcore fantasy world: a bass guitar.

He didn't even think if it might possibly be booby-trapped or whatever, which was entirely possible with how things were here. Here was an instrument, and he knew how to play it. They were all completely out of their depth, and he'd find what comfort he could in little bits of familiarity. Finding Brian had settled them to no end. Brian would help, he'd take care of things.

He settled the strap over his head, and started strumming out the notes to "Disenchanted.”

He didn’t notice the slight glow around him. But someone did.

"Oy! What're you doing there?" a gruff voice yelled.

"Oh my god, we fucking told you, we're a band! Fucking sorry we weren’t able to pack our instruments before our SURPRISE TRIP INTO ANOTHER REALM. Gimme back that goddamn guitar and I'll fucking show you what we can do!" Frank yelled.

The healing music of the bass flowed over them and to the others nearby.

"Wow," Gerard said in quiet awe, and pride of his brother. Whatever he was doing, they felt better. Not as tired, less frustrated.

“Not bad,” said Kill Master.

"Well then," Ophelia said. "I told you. The Doom can't play, they're fucking dead." She cast a sidelong glance at Lita. "Oh, don't you bring it up. You know very well I wasn't. Guess there really is a difference."

Eddie looked thoughtfully at them. "Well, let's get you guys some guitars."

Ray critically examined the instrument he was given. There hadn’t been time for that when they were attacked by the Sea of Black Tears. Looked standard, of the common shape. He picked at the strings. They rang out clearly, not tinny at all like he'd expected. "No need for amps, huh? Cool."

He started off with one of the riffs on "Mama" and head-banged in time, skipping to the solo on "I'm Not Okay" and then segued into Metallica. He closed his eyes and rocked out.

When he was done with the impromptu audition, Eddie was staring at him. The ground around Ray was marked with scorch-marks and soot.

Gerard looked like an anime character, his eyes were so wide.

"Wow. Ray. What. There was lightning. LIGHTNING that you summoned from the heavens oh my god, and then you were at the center of a meteor shower, and then the meteors turned into firebirds that EXPLODED!”

Suffice to say, after that they had a lot more freedom.

Gerard came across Mikey cooing over something cupped in his hands. He was feeling a lot more at ease once he got into casual clothes.

"What you got there, Mikes?"

His brother turned to face him at the question, looking slightly startled. His face went a little sheepish. He opened his hands to reveal a spider. A big spider.

"Those other bass-playing dudes get guitar strings from these little guys, isn't that cool, Gee? They told me not to disturb the spiders, but seriously, this one must've crawled off on its own. I found her huddled behind my bass." Well, it wasn't exactly his, but he had claimed it as his own, and since he had shown a clear proficiency with it, it's not like the Thunderhogs could take it away.

Gerard examined the spider. It was approximately tarantula-sized, but smooth rather than fuzzy. Unlike the shiny chrome spiders he'd seen by the Kill Master's abode, this one was a matte black. It's abdomen had a little skull-like pattern in silvery chrome.

"Huh. Must be a mutant."

"They won't even miss her, the other spiders probably thought she was a freak," Mikey cooed over the Metal Spider. "But now you can live with me," he smiled.

"Better not let Frank see her," was all his brother said at this oddly adorable display.

"Her name is Kitty," Mikey decided, still preoccupied with his new pet.

With Mikey in possession of a bass they could finally set up a practice session. They’d been transported here in the middle of the tour and they all felt wrong not doing anything with music. And hey, you never knew with magic, they better not get rusty just in case they were returned to Earth as suddenly as they’d arrived here. Frank and Ray weren’t giving up the guitars they’d grabbed when the Doom first attacked. They kept losing their tuning, but it was better than nothing.

Even Bob had cobbled together a set of drums. They’d been passing through the jungle when they’d spotted the plants. There had been a glint of tarnished-looking brass visible in the shade under a grove of young trees. Drum kits grew right out of the ground, cymbals and all! The Zaulia had helped harvest and shape the new set, mainly the one named Yula. The others were mystified as to why since the warrior women tended to keep to themselves. It probably had to do with the time Yula had carried off their drummer, the nape of his coat held delicately in the teeth of her Metal Beast like he was a kitten. She’d returned him the next morning in the same manner, Bob looking somewhat dazed but quite satisfied. Yula herself was quite pleased.

“Robert is quite talented,” was all she’d said. They all made noises of agreement. Best drummer they’d ever had, definitely.

They’d set up in a clearing just outside the walls of Bladehenge, the main human settlement. Gerard could tell everyone was feeling better with their hands on instruments again. There would always be time later on for exploring; that giant guitar statue across the plain looked pretty cool. It was kinda like living inside an album cover.

He hummed and warbled, warming up his voice while his friends played some experimental chords and fills.

They just jammed for a while, playing verses from Three Cheers, adjusting to the new instruments. It wasn't the best, but it didn't suck either.

"Hey, let's try Black Parade," Gerard called to the rest of them.

Bob counted them in.

The song felt kind of...raw. With no piano the intro was a little less gentle, but still powerful. It was an odd feeling, playing their music in a land that had never seen it before. But they were a band, this was what they did. In an unfamiliar world, they could at least have that much.

When they'd finished a shimmering wave of light blue energy snapped out from in front of them and sped off into the distance. The grasses around them didn’t even ripple.

"What the hell was that!?" Bob exclaimed, for it was after the last boom of the drums that the energy had raced out from their position.

"I don't know," Frank said. "But I don't think Lita would be happy about it."

Deep below the surface, in a realm of magma and fiery stone, the Guardian of Metal took note of a sound. It was a single low note reverberating through the ground, so low that no one else would notice it. No human would, anyway.

Oh, well now. That was certainly intriguing. A corner of his mouth quirked into a smile. Those humans certainly kept things interesting.

About a week after their arrival, they went to the Screaming Wall. The Kill Master had given them the all clear, and as they didn’t have much better to do, the members of My Chemical Romance stayed with Lita’s troop. It’s not like any of them were exactly eager to go gallivanting into a strange realm where they didn’t know anyone, the landscape and the wildlife were quite hostile, and oh yeah, they didn’t really have any survival skills to speak of.

The Wall was a massive narrow cliff that jutted out into the ocean. Getting to it could be hazardous, as the only path to the bottom went around an active volcano. But this volcano tended to ooze lava rather than explode violently. As long as you watched for the lava flows, you’d be fine.


“Ah shit, no wonder they call it the Screaming Wall,” Gerard complained as he waiting for the ringing in his ears to subside. It was composed entirely of speakers and amplifiers, which Ironheade quarried directly from the cliff face. It went off periodically, perhaps triggered by seismic activity from the neighboring volcano.

“Indeed,” said Lita with a hint of a grin. “Now, the path is fairly narrow where it ends by the ocean, so you’d better stay around here while we harvest new amps. Try not to get attacked by gulls.”

Naturally, Frank immediately went to investigate the large empty nests made out of cables clustered near the cliff edges, not far from the path. Ray tried to keep him from climbing into them.

Bob was looking out over the ocean, wondering if he could spot some of those drum-kit plants from up here. They only grew in the jungle and by the beach, apparently. The Zaulia had been great in helping him assemble one, but some of the drums didn’t sound quite right yet.

Then he saw a large winged shape swoop over the sea and snatch a sizeable fish right out of the water.

“Guys, look!”

The large bird turned out to be some sort of eagle, but it was oddly shaped – more angular than it should be around the head, and the wings were strangely curved on the leading edge, with squared-off feathers.

“Aw shit, a robot eagle, that’s fucking awesome!” Bob exclaimed. He squinted at it. “Pretty sure I saw that on an album cover somewhere.”

“Hey, you think they nest around here?” Gerard wondered. He wandered off to look for some.

What happened next took mere seconds.

He knew birds of prey liked to nest in high places. Some of the taller trees that grew off the beach below were nearly even with the path they were on. He wasn't that far from the edge when the Screaming Wall went off, sending a pressure wave across the bay and down the cliffs.

Maybe it was the vibrations or the new volcanic rock was too fragile, but suffice to say, the edge crumbled away, rocks skittering to the sandy coast below. He barely had time to scream before he dropped like - well, a rock.

His friends dashed over to the edge, several members of Ironheade running ahead to make sure the footing was solid. Apparently only the edge had been covered by brittle new rock.

The cliff side was irregular and bumpy, and scraggly shrubs made of cables grew out from the cliff wall, hiding what was below. They knew the beach was a good hundred feet below them, at least.

They gaped for a moment, and then Frank was running down the path to the beach.

Brian's heart twisted when he saw Gerard lying on the beach, his white hair a beacon on the black sand. Frank and the others ran up to him.

"Oh my god, he's breathing, thank fuck. He doesn't look smashed to pieces, but who the fuck knows maybe he got like internal bleeding or something. I don't know what falling off a cliff would do! Fuck, is one of those Thunderhog guys around?" Frank rambled.

Gerard frowned and opened his eyes. "Ow. What happened?"

Bob stared. "You fell off the cliff," he said deliberately.

Gerard wiggled his fingers. "Um. Kinda feels like it, but I don't think anything's broken?" His clothes sported several rips, but there was no sign of blood.

He sat up and Ray's eyes widened. "Umm, Gee, there's something on you. And it ain't sand."

"Oh my god," he heard Mikey say.

Everyone staring at him now. He'd been stared at before but getting it from his friends was unusual. Frank's eyes were wide.

He sat up, feeling a little bruised but not too bad for having gone over a cliff, but...

His friends hovered around him, Brian closest of all.

"You okay Gee? No homicidal thoughts?" he asked.

"What? No. No! The hell just happened?"

"You went over the cliff, and now you've got claws, and I think wings too."

"WHAT!" Gerard looked up at him, eyes wide in shock. Then he looked down. He stared in horror at the matte black covering his hands. This darkness was softer than any gloves he'd ever worn, absorbing more light than any black he'd ever seen. The shadows traveled up his arms, ending in tendrils that curled by his elbows. It seemed as close to his skin as tattoos were to Frank's, but at the same time it was over his skin and not in it. He flexed his hands and it felt like he wasn't wearing anything at all, just a hint of a silky whisper on his skin.

Hey, pants made of this would be really comfy, came the unbidden ridiculous thought.

"Gah." The fingers of the shadowy gloves ended in neat, slightly curved talons. Good for digging into things, he thought vaguely. Rock maybe. And flesh.

The same soft blackness flowed around Gerard as he stood shakily. Fans of black poured down from his shoulders, making a sort of translucent cape that shifted restlessly in an intangible wind as he watched. He startled, making a couple of comical aborted half-turns, almost like a dog chasing his tail, trying to catch the delicate material.

Meanwhile, Lita had readied her halberd at the first swish of the black wings.

The cape flared into wings, taking on a more bird-like shape as her blade swung within slashing distance. Ray flung out a hand by reflex, and a translucent silvery shield sprang up around them, shutting Ironheade out. A few people tried to bash at it, but the light just condensed a little where they’d hit, and remained solid.

Gerard looked a lot like a startled magpie, Mikey mused in the part of his mind that wasn’t freaking out.

Brian swallowed. "Oh no."

"I thought you said you weren't of the Doom," she hissed.

Gerard looked up, fear evident in his eyes. "Wha....I don't know what happened. Oh my god, what is this stuff?!" he tried to peel off the gloves, but his fingers just skated over it like it was too slick to touch. He tried scraping it off on a rock, but the claws just left deep gouges in the stone.

“Lita, no, please!” Brian begged. “I don’t know what happened either, but there’s no way he’s evil! You know the Doom better than I do, even, if there’d been anything in Gerard, something would’ve shown up before now.”

Brian grabbed Gerard’s head, staring into his eyes. The singer kept still, mouth open in surprise. Brilliant sparks flickered in steely blue eyes, fierce and protective. Gerard’s knees went a little wobbly.

“Same color. Not possessed as far as I can tell. Nothing’s glowing,” Brian informed the queen of the humans. His face grew cold. His hand lingered on Gerard’s shoulder. Tiny blue-white sparks glinted around his fingertips. He was furious. “Now stand down. If anybody’s gonna take care of them, it’ll be me.”

Gerard tried to calm himself. He took several deep breaths. Judging by how the rest of Ironheade was lowering their weapons and backing off, Brian had things well in hand. That helped a lot more than any deep breathing. The wings faded into tatters and then disappeared entirely. The ‘gloves’ dissolved too.

“Guys. Seriously. What the hell just happened?” the shaken singer asked.

“You fell off a cliff,” Bob informed him.

Gerard looked up at the sheer rocky slope above them. “Yeah, think I got that, thanks,” he replied dryly.

“Guess your dunking in that lake of emo left something behind after all,” said Ray, voice quavering a little from shock.

The singer glared at him halfheartedly for the “emo” crack. He was still hanging off of Brian and didn’t want to let go just yet. But he couldn’t really argue, it was true.

Gerard wasn’t the only one. Just the first. Shadows and wings and force fields, oh my.

Part 3


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