Author's Notes: This story contains spoilers for the entire game. If you haven't finished it and at least most of the side quests, I would highly suggest not reading this story until you do it will spoil you all kinds of rotten. Also, this story will contain shounen ai/yaoi implications. If that's not your thing you probably shouldn't be here. Standard Disclaimers apply as usual. ^_^
Castle in Spain
Chapter Three - Top of the Food Chain
Tidus awoke slowly, his mouth tasting of so much dust and his legs aching as if someone had spent all night kicking them, which wasn't so far from the truth. He spared a glance towards his abused legs, noting absently that Seymour had tangled his bare feet with in the cuff of his shorts at some point during the long night.
He raised his gaze to the boy who slumbered a few feet away, his head pillowed against his arm. His hair had come undone during the night and lay across his face like a veil, obscuring his features. It was strange that he'd become so accustomed to the boy's presence when they'd only been together less then a day. Waking up to find him there didn't even rate a one on the shock-o-meter, but then he'd been painfully reminded of the boy's existence all night long.
They hadn't had much to say to each other after Seymour's quiet words the previous night. They just sat there, Tidus running his fingers through Seymour's hair until the boy finally darted out from beneath his hand and laid down on the hard ground. Taking a note from the other boy, Tidus had laid down as well and fallen almost instantly to sleep. Then, of course, the kicking had begun as Seymour wound his cold feet through Tidus' bare legs. Tidus hadn't even noticed the boy's feet were bare until that moment. It was difficult to understand why the boy had had no problem walking as they had with no shoes.
Tidus glanced down at those bare feet, sitting up carefully to examine the soles, which were pale and strangely unmarked by their long walk the previous day. He ran a finger across the pale skin, grinning as Seymour twitched his foot away from the touch. "Ticklish, huh?" An evil smile consumed his expression as he pinned Seymour's feet between his knees and shifted his fingers feather-light across the soles. "I'll teach you to spend the entire night kicking me."
Seymour's soft laughter caused him to glance towards the boy. The laughter was so easy and free, so utterly unlike any sound he'd come to associate with Seymour Guado that it was almost like he was looking at a completely different person. Seymour's blue eyes peered out at him through the thin curtain of his hair, "Don't do that."
"Do what?" Tidus replied innocently, continuing to trace his fingers across the bottom of Seymour's feet and smiling as he was rewarded by another spurt of surprised laughter.
"St... Stop!" Seymour laughed, sitting up and batting Tidus' hands away from his bare feet. "I said not to!"
"Like that's gonna stop me?" Tidus grinned, using one hand to fend off Seymour's hands while continuing to trace the fingers of the other across Seymour's feet.
"I'm going to kill you if you do...don't knock it off!" The summoner shrieked, his harsh words rendered meaningless by the laughter which continued to spill forth from his lips. His long hair swept around his face, framing his pale features as he finally managed to free his feet from Tidus' merciless grip and retreated backwards, curling his legs protectively beneath him. "You're awful!"
"I don't want to hear that from someone who kept me up half the night bruising my shins." Tidus grumbled, unable to keep the smile from his face. Seymour gave him a menacing glare, batting at the hair that hung in his face. After a moment, Seymour's hair seemed to take on a life of it's own, curling away from his face and styling itself back into the twin tails in which it usually hung. Tidus watched the display with wide eyes, "Wh... What the hell?"
"What?" Seymour replied, frowning.
"What is... with your hair?" Tidus asked, scooting slowly away from the summoner as if he were afraid those blue tails were going to reach out and strangle him at any given moment.
"What? What about my hair?" Seymour's frown deepened, confusion shining in his blue eyes. He obviously didn't think anything of the fact that his hair had a mind of it's own, but then what was one more creepy, bizarre thing in the twisted paradox from which Seymour Guado was constructed?
"Your hair is possessed."
"My hair is not possessed! It's just the way it is!" Seymour cried, pushing himself to his feet and stomping off in the direction of the mountains. "Stupid human, it's your stupid blood that makes it act like that anyway," he grumbled irritably.
"Hey! Wait up! Where are you going?!" Tidus called, pushing himself to his feet and jogging after the annoyed summoner, still chuckling quietly.
"We have to go, stupid." Seymour grumbled, slanting a glance at the taller boy. "You don't have time to sit about gawking at my hair. They're coming."
"Who's coming?" Tidus asked, obviously confused. He actually stopped, starring at Seymour in surprise until the summoner snatched hold of his wrist and kept walking. "H...hey!" Seymour was actually much stronger then he looked and no problem just dragging the protesting Tidus along with him down the road, ignoring him completely. "Seymour!"
"Shut up," Seymour ground out, walking a bit faster. "The phantoms are coming."
"Why are you so freaked out about it? You said the phantoms don't really notice us!"
"No, I said the phantoms USUALLY don't notice ME, idiot. You they seem to have no problem noticing. They don't seem particularly fond of noise in general and you're loud enough to wake the dead." Seymour hissed, tightening his grip on the blonde's wrist. "They're angry. They're very angry and that will mean nothing but bad things if they catch us."
"H... how do you know?" Tidus asked, wincing at the pain Seymour's grip was beginning to cause him. Seymour actually came to a stop at that, turning to face Tidus with such abruptness that Tidus very nearly slammed right into him.
"I know, Tidus, because I can hear them." Seymour hissed, jabbing a finger against Tidus' chest. "You'd be able to hear them too if you'd stop running your yap long enough to listen." As if summoned by Seymour's quiet announcement, Tidus heard low moans coming from somewhere in the distance. "I've been hearing them since a little before dawn. They roam the lands closest to the mountains, playing a strange game with the snakes. They want to cross the mountains, but the snakes will never allow it. Those who venture too close are eaten and disappear, but the others seem to have been corrupted somehow from just being near those mountains. They have become something other then what they were. I didn't want to tell you before in case we managed to slip by them unnoticed, but I doubt that's an option now. They know we are coming and they know you are something different from them and they want to play with you."
"Why me? What about you?" Tidus asked softly, earning a snicker from the taller boy.
"You're warm," Seymour responded simply, lifting his free hand to stroke chilled fingers across Tidus' face. Somehow Tidus had never before noticed how cool Seymour's skin was to the touch. "You're always so warm and they're always so cold. Like I am cold. They'll want you for their own."
"Want me? I'm not some kind of coat, you know!" Tidus exclaimed, darting back from Seymour's touch and glaring at the younger man.
"I didn't mean it that way." Seymour commented, shrugging his shoulder vaguely. "Let me put this to you in a way I'm sure you'll understand. Snakes eat phantoms. Strong phantoms eat weak phantoms. Want to take a wild guess at what tasty morsel all three varieties enjoy?"
"Nice. And where exactly do you fall on the meal ticket planner?"
"Good question." Seymour replied, giving a small enigmatic smile before turning and continuing towards the mountains, Tidus' hand still enveloped in his firm grasp.
The closer they came to the mountains, the darker the earth beneath their feet seemed to get. As if it were soiled somehow by the evil of those which had tread upon it's surface. And those who had tread upon it's surface were indescribably evil. If Tidus had doubted Seymour's warning before, he certainly didn't now. He could practically taste in the air, growing ever thicker with each step they took. He caught sight of the phantoms of which Seymour spoke in the early afternoon, just the briefest glimmer on the horizon but it was enough. Enough to know that the creatures which roamed the plains nearest the mountains bore not even the slightest resemblance to those which Tidus had seen shortly before he'd run across Seymour.
They were dark, shadowy figures looming in the distance and Tidus was rather thankful that he couldn't make our their features. Seymour's steps became more hesitant with each passing hour and by the time they were within the shadow of the mountain the blue-haired summoner had slowed practically to a stand still. "This was a bad idea." He murmured starring up at the hissing, slithering mess before him and the dark shadows which seemed to be dancing about directly in their path. "This was a very, very bad idea."
"Does that mean you're staying here?" Tidus asked, his mild attempt at humor failing miserably as one of the dark figures turned and he got his first glimpse of the horror, which Seymour had only briefly hinted at.
It was a horrid thing. A pale being which seemed to be grinning at them with it's gapping black mouth. Where there should have been eyes there were terrible scars, lips were replaced by bulbous flaps of skin, which flapped gently in an unseen wind. What little hair it had seemed to have no order or pattern to the way it had been attached to it's too-large head. Even with all the monsters he had seen on Spira, Tidus found himself almost taking a step back from the sight before him.
If Tidus were disturbed by the creature's appearance, Seymour was down right terrified. He shivered, clinging to Tidus' hand and retreating backwards until he was flush against the older boy's chest. "I am not afraid of the things in the dark," Seymour murmured, though Tidus was unsure what the words meant. If they managed to cross the mountains alive he'd have to remember to ask.
"So, what do you think? Should we run?" Tidus asked quietly, forcing his gaze from the monstrosity before him and directing the question against Seymour's ear. The summoner twitched slightly, shivering again before shaking his head in refusal of the plan. Tidus sighed, "Let me guess: You have a better idea?"
"Of course I do," Seymour grumbled, regaining a bit of his humor as he released Tidus' hand and stepped towards the phantoms which were now slowly making their way towards them. "I clear a path then you can figure out how to get yourself over the mountains without getting eaten by the snakes."
Tidus frowned, "What do you me... H-Hey!"
His eyes widened as the ground beneath him began to rumble. Seymour was speaking beneath his breath again in the same low, strange language he'd used when he'd performed the bonding ritual. Tidus was thrown to the ground a few yards away from where Seymour stood as the ground trembled, groaned and bucked wildly around them. He watched in dumbstruck silence as Seymour's voice got progressively louder, his hands coming together almost in prayer as the ground shook and the phantoms screamed.
It was with no small amount of shock, that Tidus realized exactly how powerful Seymour actually was. It was a power that Tidus had never seen used by the Seymour he'd known in Spira. That Seymour had been a full-fledged summoner and a powerful magician, but his magic had been the same magic used by LuLu and several of the others. Normal and relatively safe. This magic seemed to light the air with danger. A danger as old as it was powerful. With a final shout, Seymour thrust his clasped hands into the air and a blinding white light flashed, forcing Tidus to shield his sensitive eyes from the blaze. When he could see once more, Tidus was amazed to discover that the phantoms were gone, the snakes were hissing like crazy, and Seymour was sprawled across the ground like a broken china doll.
"Shit!" Tidus exclaimed, pushing himself to his feet and rushing to the fallen boy's side. "Seymour! Hey! Hey! Wake up! Are you all right?!"
"Hmm?" Seymour asked vaguely, turning his head in Tidus' direction. He seemed somewhat surprised by Tidus' presence. "Oh... Tidus. Are you still here?"
"Of course I'm still here! Where'd you think I was going?" Tidus grumbled, checking the summoner gingerly for any sign of injury.
"The mountains. The light scared them off, but they'll be back soon." Seymour yawned, batting at Tidus' searching hands with the slow motions of someone without the energy to truly protest much of anything. "Better hurry."
"This mean I'm gonna have to carry you?" Tidus inquired, narrowing his gaze at the younger boy. "You're not light, ya know."
"Quite the little do-gooder aren't you? Leave me here, stupid." Seymour grumbled, batting Tidus' hands away with a bit more spirit now.
"Who's the stupid one here? You want me to leave you lying here for those phantoms? I don't think so." Tidus grumbled, thrusting his arms beneath Seymour's body and lifting the protesting summoner into his arms.
"What are you doing?" Seymour murmured, his eyes drooping a bit lower as he wound heavy arms around Tidus' neck.
"Who knows? Shut up and go to sleep. If you're lucky we'll be on the other side of these mountains when you wake up. If you're unlucky..." Tidus trailed off, preferring not to voice the alternative.
"The snakes are going to eat you," Seymour yawned burying his face against Tidus' shoulder.
"I figured you'd say something like that."
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