Kai woke up with a yell, the events of the explosion flashing before his eyes. Breathing erratically, he looked around, but wherever he was, it was pitch black. He could sense walls out there in the darkness; thick and oppressive. He stumbled to his feet, but slipped in his panic and landed face-first on the floor. Cold metal. Beaten and rough. Definitely painful.
He took in a few gulps of breath and tried once again, this time managing to reach his full height. Well, nearly his full height, as he whacked his head on the low ceiling in his efforts. Muttering to himself, he stumbled blindly forwards, waving his hand around frantically. It finally connected with something solid, and he threw his body against the wall and began to count to ten. The room was still swimming in darkness, so he shut his eyes, trying to force his breathing to stop. After all, if he truly was sealed in somewhere, then there wasn't long before he ran out of…
He shook his head and abandoned the "close-your-eyes-and-pretend-everything's-fine" technique. Instead he leant back against the wall, squinting in the darkness. Much though everything still seemed to be moving around in his field of vision (and the blow to his head hadn't helped) he could see at least some fraction of the other walls. So there was some light.
It took a few minutes before he could make out everything, not that it really helped his situation. He was, indeed, trapped. Four solid metal walls with a low ceiling. No furnishings, though there was a window. He carefully shuffled over to it, but he was out of luck; metal bars in a criss-cross fashion, literally barring any chance of escape. Still, it meant there was air in here. As if he even needed air. Kai had long ago lost track on how exactly your body functioned in the Digital World.
He sighed angrily, and turned round, only to notice something he hadn't seen before. Tucked into the corner was a squat shape, its details unrecognisable at this distance. Slowly he made his way forward, and gradually the form revealed itself to be something alive. A Digimon? No, a human. Kai held onto the wall, his breath clouding the air before him. The other person was hunched up in the corner, arms wrapped around their knees and head buried in their lap, but the long red hair draped over their form gave them away instantly.
"Colchimon, are you awake?"
The little black serpent's eyes flickered open, squinting against the light. He rolled forwards, ending up on his belly as he scrabbled against something soft and velvety.
Something was off, and it took him a moment before he realised what it was. Looking down at himself, he could see clearly why he wasn't in fact hovering in the air; somehow, somwhere, he had devolved into his In-Training form. Now he was Wyrmon; a tiny, squat little black dragon with a curved beak and half-formed stubby wings, useless for flying and even difficult for walking on. He looked forwards, and noticed Ladomon in front of him; well, what had been Ladomon, at least. Now she was much the same as him, only with white down instead of black scales, feathered stubs and golden bands.
He tried his best to chuckle. "It's been a while, hasn't it, Lindmon?"
She ignored his attempt at lightening the situation, instead looking around. "Where on earth are we?"
It was a good question. With some effort Wyrmon shuffled off of the soft platform (which appeared to be a satin cushion of some sort) and joined his partner in trying to figure out where they were. It was certainly unexpected. Sculpted metal walls rose high, carrying engravings and embossments which showed famous warriors and great battles of the past. The floor was carpeted with deep purple and the room – whatever it was – was ornately furnished, with lavish chairs, dressers, mirrors and clocks. There were purples and blues and various hues all around the room, but aside from some of the furnishings everything was made out of the same smooth, bright metal that made the room almost painful to look at.
Lindmon blinked first, focusing back on her partner. "I don't suppose you…"
"Nope, I have no bloody idea what we're doing here."
"I figured as much." The white dragon pointed. "The door's open though. Maybe we can find a way out."
"Seems as good an idea as any."
Traversing any sizeable distance with only two stubby limbs and one stubby tail is never the most elegant or efficient means to travel, and the room, while decadent, was a little on the large side, so even helping each other it took Lindmon and Wyrmon a good few minutes to reach the (thankfully open) door.
They shuffled through, and were immediately greeted with a wind-chill from a very long and surprisingly dark corridor. It was unlit, and the bright shine of the metal walls suddenly transformed into something cold and foreboding in front of them. Wyrmon heard his partner swallow, anxiously, but she'd already moved on before he could turn to comfort her.
Slowly they shuffled along, only just able to make out where they were going thanks to a few dim lights about every hundred metres. Before long, the lavish furnishings had given way completely to cold steel. Well, nearly. The two dragons were still dragging themselves along a smooth, fancy carpet, and here and there were signs of decadence. A mounted suit of armour. A bow-fronted cabinet full of old scrolls and books. Several unsettling portraits and old photographs, of Digimon of old that neither of them could recognise. Most of it still seemed regal, save for the occasional torn painting, shattered ornament, or roughly scrawled graffiti proclaiming "Our Sovereigns Lied".
And there was something else.
"Hey, wait a minute."
Wyrmon held out a wing and pointed towards one of the walls, causing Lindmon to stop and wriggle towards it.
"What is it?"
"Look at the wall; doesn't it seem like there's something in the pattern?"
Lindmon squinted, her eyes two beady points of light in the silvery gloom. "I guess so…yeah, it looks like a mural of some kind."
"That's not a mural. It looks almost natural."
"This is metal, Wyrmon. Someone must have set all this up."
"If you're telling me they did all that, they went to an awful lot of work." Wyrmon scoured the wall before him, which was covered from top to bottom in strange Digicode, and crude drawings, laid out to look almost like an equation. His eyes settled on one of the drawings and he wriggled forwards to get a closer look. "Don't some of these look familiar to you?"
"These what? The drawings?"
"I could swear this one looks like Vulpimon."
"The one over here looks like you." Lindmon looked to her left, and pointed again. "And I'm next to you. And Placomon over there. And…"
She trailed off, but Wyrmon was already looking just above her, where scattered around were six distinct humanoid figures. It was unmistakeable. Their partners, right down to the detail on their faces, as if they'd been petrified and built into the wall itself. Wyrmon noticed Lindmon's sudden unease, and quickly cleared his throat, his voice echoing out in the corridor. "It seems like we're all here. I think we're all the way down the corridor."
"Well that's stupid. Someone has a lot of time on their hands."
"Whoever it is seems to know all about us."
Lindmon let off a somewhat dignified snort. "I wish they'd give us a clue somewhere down the line."
"Should we carry on? Maybe we can find them."
Lindmon looked back, her eyes wide and innocent, conflicting with the cynicism in her voice. "Let's do it. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for a reason."
The two carried on, making slow but steady progress down the corridor. Wyrmon was just making a comment as to the seriously confusing nature of the Spokes and how he'd never find himself living here, when the two finally reached a break in the corridor. One way lead down another dim passageway, the walls covered with the same runes over and over again. The other opened up into another room, very similar to the one they'd left earlier.
Not identical though. There were different furnishings and several ornaments, parchments and mysterious relics lining the walls.
There was also a Digimon inside.
Kai grunted as he struck the metal frame again and again, causing a clanging sound that reverberated around the tiny chamber with every hit. For a moment it seemed like he was getting somewhere; that the bars of the window would pop out at any moment, but every time he stopped he could see that his efforts were in vain.
He sighed, biting his lip against the pain in his shoulder and arm as he leant against the wall. While he'd always fancied himself good with his fists, sheer brute force had never been his strong point. Unfortunately it was all he had to work with; no weapons, no Digimon, and even his D-Nexus had gone missing. He and Eloise were alone in the tiny sarcophagus, and as the hours wore on, it had begun to get to him.
He glanced behind him, noticing Eloise still wrapped up in the corner. She had moved though, now looking just above her knees, her eyes looking almost grey in the dim light. He braced himself, sucked in his breath, drew his body back again and brought it forwards onto the window with another clang. This time the force pushed him back and he fell onto his rump, letting out a long, pained breath.
"How long are you gonna keep doing that?"
Kai glanced to his left briefly, giving a grim smile which he knew the girl couldn't see. "Hey now, I can still go for a while."
"It's useless. That thing's completely solid."
"Nothing stays solid forever."
At this Kai leapt to his feet again and brought his entire body forwards, crashing awkwardly into the metal. He yelped in pain, but the yelp quickly turned into a brief shout of joy. "Aha! It's moving!"
"No it isn't."
"Oh, why are you being difficult? Honest, it's…" Kai reached out, giving the metal bars a cursory wiggle. "It's…not moving. Damn."
A small chuckle. "Told you."
"Maybe a couple more times…?"
"Look, if you're going to work on an escape plan can you at least keep it down a bit? You're giving me a headache."
Kai leaned against the wall, and folded his arms. "At least I'm actually trying to escape. Help us both escape. You could be of some help."
The girl's head slumped forwards, and she let out a sigh. Kai was about to remark again, when all of a sudden she stood up, walked over to the window and used the bars to hoist herself up a few centimetres, peering as far as she could outside.
"What are you doing?"
The girl dropped down. "Yeah, about the whole escape through the window thing? You realise we're hanging a few hundred metres above solid ground, right?"
Kai opened his mouth, and shut it again.
"That's what I thought." The girl ran her fingers through her hair, slumping back down against the wall. "I suppose at least it's cooler over here. Not that there's much difference."
Kai put his hands in his coat pockets, staring at the window once again, as if it had been the one deceiving him all this time. Then he sat down next to Eloise, letting out a sharp wince of pain as he hit the floor.
Eloise looked up. "What is it?"
"Tailbone. Obviously I fell over stupidly."
"Just a little." Kai gave a chuckle. "Still, it's not a complete loss. At least you're willing to talk again."
Even in the dark he could feel Eloise's reproachful gaze. She shuffled a little away from him, planting her head back in her lap. Kai simply stared ahead into the darkness.
"Come on, Eloise. You can't stay doing this forever."
"Look, nobody blames you. Honestly. You haven't done anything wrong."
An angered grunt, but still the girl said nothing. Kai looked around the darkened room, considering doing something like counting the rivets in the walls to pass the time, but decided against it.
"Shall I have another go at the window? Maybe it'll work this time."
"You try that again and I'll kick you in the tailbone."
Kai folded his arms. "I'm sure I can find another way to annoy you."
Eloise shrugged her shoulders. "You know, I think I preferred you when you were all silent and brooding."
"And I definitely preferred you when you weren't."
Slowly the girl's body unfolded in the darkness, laying her legs out before her and staring at Kai, her eyes giving him a puzzled expression that he couldn't quite place. He shrugged. "Look, I know things have been a bit messed up. Trust me, I know messed up. I can't promise I'll be any help. But the least we can do is talk about it. We've got nothing else to do."
Eloise huffed. "Yeah. Right. Talk." She sighed, suddenly aggressive. "Okay, fine. We'll talk. What do you want me to say? I don't know when you decided that we're all going to be okay, but in case you haven't noticed we're trapped, we haven't the faintest bloody idea of where anyone else is or even if they're alive, and somehow we should be able to fix all of this with the power of bearing our feelings to one another. Does that sound about right? Not to mention that this whole thing is my fault anyway, which is going to make this all so bloody pleasant."
"Eloise, I told you, it's not your-"
"STOP SAYING THAT!" Eloise yelled, her voice echoing around the tiny chamber and making Kai jump back. She sat back, hunching her shoulders. "Everyone's saying that! Everyone keeps saying that, like the more people say it the more it isn't true. Okay, maybe I didn't mean to do any of it. Maybe it was all down to Rinkhalmon and that blue bastard. But it was my attack that broke the seal and it was my hand that shot Aaron through the bloody chest, so I think we can assume that if it wasn't for me he'd still be alive." The girl looked up, her eyes glistening. "You can keep telling me it's not my fault until the end of the world, but that still won't make me forgive myself."
She forced a wide smile at the boy sitting next to her. "There. Does that tell you why I'm feeling so shit at the moment?"
Kai's words caught in his throat.
"That's what I thought. Looks like we don't need to talk anymore then."
There was silence in the chamber for a couple of seconds.
"Oh, for crying out loud, Kai, why are we still on this?"
The boy raised his hands, defensively. "Okay, okay. I was trying to make light of the situation. I suck at it, I know that. I'm sorry. I also can't say anything on what you've done. Like...there's nothing I can say. But I'm trying."
Eloise grunted, her head hanging low. "Look…I'm sorry. Really I am. I shouldn't be getting angry at you. I'm just furious with myself."
"I can see that."
There was the hint of a smirk on the girl's lips, before she rolled her eyes. "I honestly don't know why you're bothering with me at the moment."
"Well, because you stayed with me when I was going all 'woe is me, I suck at everything'. I figured I at least owe you the same."
There was a pause, and Eloise twisted around, looking Kai directly in his ice blue eyes.
"Say that again…please…"
Kai bit his lip. "I meant because you stayed with me while I was hurting. You didn't leave me then and I'm not going to leave you now."
The girl let out a genuine chuckle. "That's what I thought you meant."
"At somepoint, we need to work on your tact."
The boy looked at the ground, poking the soles of his shoes. "I know. Trust me, I know."
Lindmon shuffled forwards just a tiny bit, trying to get a better view of the Digimon that stood facing away from them. It was slowly meandering around the chamber, which appeared to be full of ornaments from days gone past.
It was an odd entity, to be sure. From the rear it was seemingly an array of rods and joints, moving around without a single squeak or creak. It had an inordinate number of spindly, mechanical legs, all darting around, in and out from each other, causing the Digimon to move slowly and impossible smoothly slowly around, the spiked ends of the legs making thousands of little clicking sounds on the metal floor. Further spindly limbs hung in front of the creature, occasionally reaching out to run a clawed hand along the walls, or to examine one of the many trinkets lining the rooms.
The creature turned, revealing its face to the hidden onlookers. Not that it had a face. The front of the mysterious Digimon was a huge, ornately patterned shield plate, studded with stones and etched with gold. It had no face or features to speak of, though with the intensity of its stones it seemed like it was staring right through the two In-Training Digimon, who both backed away. Two smaller shields hung on thin spindles either side of the main one, each bearing their own pattern; one of shining chrome and glistening gold, and the other of beaten steel and cold silver.
Lindmon and Wyrmon stared at the behemoth for so long that they didn't notice it was looking at them until it spoke; a voice like wind over pipes, or the singing tones of movement over glass.
"I see you're awake."
Lindmon let out an 'eep' and tried to scurry away, but Wyrmon held her and shook his head. "I don't think we're in danger." Even as he said it though, his voice died to a whisper, not certain he could back up his own words.
Ever so slowly, the oddity moved towards them with a grace and elegance unbefitting of the several legs working overtime beneath it, like watching a swan from both above and below the water's surface. It finally stopped in front of them, revealing just how large it was; a good fifteen feet tall. Two of the front claws opened and clacked together, before the entire assembly tilted forwards ever so slightly, in a movement that could only have been a bow.
"I apologise for distressing you. My name is Forsetimon. My humblest salutations."
Wyrmon nudged the shivering serpent next to him, and the two of them crawled out, feeling very small in front of the metal goliath.
"Where are we?"
Forsetimon shifted slightly. "You don't know?"
"You have been here before, although admittedly in a different area. These are the Spokes. Well, what remains of them. Many of the passages were destroyed by the Fire Kingdom but many others still stand firm and untouched to this day, though I'm afraid none of them are inhabited these days."
"The Spokes...I guess I can kinda recognise it." Wyrmon looked around. "This place always gives me the jeebies."
"A shame. This was the archive of all knowledge of the Digital World. I find it fascinating."
Lindmon cleared her throat. "Pardon me, but what are you doing here, exactly?"
Forsetimon turned, his legs leaving little scrapes in the metal floor as he gestured into the room. "Merely exploring. Every day I find new things. You could call me a curator of sorts; I collect old knowledge and ensure it is preserved."
The little white dragon looked to the side. "Looks like quite a collection."
"So much ancient history. Some of which you might know of; the Spokes Rebellion, the reign of Dallurmon…even your own exploits."
"Us?" Wyrmon cocked his head to one side. "Why on earth would we be here? Was it that Phoukamon? Were they watching us this whole time?"
Forsetimon turned back, and gave a silent shrug. "Phoukamon watches, and the chronicler used to record, but I am the preserver. There is ancient code here; code which records the actions of the Digital World from way back to its conception."
Wyrmon puffed out of his beak in an irritated fashion. "I never got how this place worked."
"Nevertheless, you have witnessed its kind before. The great behemoths which hold the very knowledge of the world."
The black dragon thought for a second, then gasped. "An Obelimon? We're in one?"
"The very first of them. The most in tune with the world and the first to feel the effects of its fall. Yet even in death, its body remained bound tightly around the world tree, noting down everything that has happened." The curator bent down, as if about to whisper. "So yes, that is how I know all about you, and your journey."
Wyrmon looked up. "If you know what's happened, do you know where our partners are?"
Forsetimon turned to Lindmon, who looked away. The golem stood high. "I do. In fact I can take you to them if you so wish."
"They're here? Are they alright?"
"They're safe. I'm sure they'll be happy to be reunited with you."
He extended a couple of claws down to them, which they reluctantly climbed onto.
"It's not too far, but sadly I'm not the fastest walker."
Lindmon glanced at Wyrmon. "In this form, neither are we. Please, lead the way."
Forsetimon hoisted them up onto the upper rim of his shield, giving them just enough support to prevent them from falling, and set off, his legs making nary a sound as he ambled ever slowly through the labyrinthine tunnels.
Eloise looked up from her lap, focusing on the ceiling for a minute or two. She sighed, and plonked her head back down again. Kai turned to look at her. "What was that for?"
"I thought I might have heard something."
"Newp." The girl sat back, her arms folded across her chest. "Come on, somebody must have put us in here. There must be someone around."
"Well…the Digital World has its ways sometimes…"
Kai blinked, aware even in the darkness that Eloise was giving him "the look". He coughed. "Sorry. You're right; there'll be somebody around somewhere. We wouldn't have been plucked out of the sky and put in here if it wasn't for a reason."
"Oh yeah…that…" Eloise brushed her hair from her eyes. "I hope the others are okay."
Kai thought for a moment, then nodded. "They will be."
"How can you be sure?"
Eloise blinked. "What?"
"You've all been resilient. Heck, I guess so have I. No matter what happens to us we still manage to bounce back from it." He coughed again. "Aside from…you know, forget I said anything."
"Resilient, hm?" Eloise placed her head on her fist, looking blankly forward. "You know, when you brought us here, I had this feeling, you know, that we'd get through this all by sticking together, and working as a team and with the power of our friends on our side."
"Well, we kind of have, haven't we? I mean we've supported each other all the way through."
"I just thought it would be more – I don't know – obvious. Like 'by the power of friendship you now have this new power to take down the bad guys' or something." She became aware of Kai now giving her "the look", and slammed her fist down on her knee. "Alright, I know, it's stupid. That much I've figured out. We only got this far because we're resilient and ungodly stubborn."
"Don't forget lucky."
"Oh yes, of course. An insane amount of luck. All the luck in the world, only to run out of luck just when we really needed it. Luck's a bitch."
She planted her cheeks in her palms, staring into the darkness. "I guess it was naïve of me to think it was anything more than that. That if I just hoped really, really hard, then everything would be alright."
"There's nothing wrong with hope."
Eloise smirked. "All the hope in the world apparently couldn't beat a longbow and a parasite in the head."
"Ah jeezus…" Kai sat back hands in his coat pockets. A though struck him, and he undid the zip and placed his hand inside the inside pocket.
"Oh you've got to be kidding me…"
"What is it?"
Eloise looked at the boy, who pulled something small, black and shiny out of his inside pocket. Not his D-Nexus. The girl's eyes widened as he held his phone out to show her, the chrome edge showing in the dim light.
"How the bloody hell have you kept hold of that all this time?"
Kai pressed a couple of buttons, shrugging as he did so. "I suppose I forgot about it."
"It worked before. That's how Kent found out about…you know, what you did."
"Thanks for the reminder." Kai pressed the power button, and the screen burst into life, showing his messages. Eloise leaned across. "You know, if you had that all the time, did you ever contact your family?" Kai looked at her, and she retracted. "You know…your aunt and uncle or anyone like that? Just to let them know…" Her face fell. "Sorry. I never asked, did I?"
"What are you sorry for?" Kai held the screen out, tapping the screen where there were several bars with a line through them. "For whatever reason there's no signal here."
"There's no signal in a world made up of data and communications?"
"I don't get it either." Kai pulled the device back. "Trust me, I tried. If there was any way we could contact our world, I would have told you."
He sat back, scrolling up and down through old messages aimlessly. "It seems so long ago now. Whoever it was sending me the message for help, and all the bullshit that came with that." He sighed. "I should never have come here. There must have been easier ways to sort my life out. It definitely wasn't right of me to drag you guys with me."
Eloise looked up. "That turned out well, didn't it. Humans in the Digital World. I guess they just don't mix."
"Hey, at least you stayed for a noble reason. I was a selfish bastard; I was just trying to fix myself the whole way through." He smirked. "Funny. I guess if I hadn't dragged you with me, I'd still be slashing trees somewhere while the Fire Kingdom took over the rest of the world." He looked at the girl, smiling. "If nothing else, you saved me."
Eloise opened her mouth, but couldn't think of a counter. She simply saw the boy grinning sincerely at her, and felt her own face crack.
Forsetimon walked smoothly and quietly through the corridors, the lights glinting off of his chrome exterior. Wyrmon and Lindmon hung on either side of him, balancing their bodies on his two side shields and staying silent, merely watching as they passed room after room of ancient oddities. When Forsetimon did speak, it took the both of them by surprise.
"There you are."
Wyrmon peered over the rim of the smaller shield. "Our partners?"
"No, we're not there yet. The Spokes is a large place." The mechanical being stopped, and pointed at one of the walls. "I mean there. That's where you first appeared; where the Obelimon first foretold you."
The twin dragons looked up in wonder, at the etchings over every inch of the battered metal. Even in the dim light, they were clear, but about half of them were indecipherable; strange symbols that seemed to shift around, and lines that merged into shapes that went nowhere. But still, there they were. Clear images showing the nine Rookies over the continent, accompanied by the elemental symbols. There, in the centre, were the twin serpents they had been when this had began, intertwined, with their heads together.
Lindmon let out a small whistle. "It's kind of spooky. Like we're being watched all the time."
Forsetimon raised and lowered his body slightly, almost like a shrug. "Yggdrasil watches over us all, no matter what form they take. The Digital World knows as far back as the first communication or signal."
Wyrmon cocked his head. "Why were we chosen?"
The great shield began to move again, but slightly more ponderously this time. "How do you mean?"
"The Digital World's had chosen Digimon before, partnered with humans to save the world. I'm just wondering how we were all chosen this time; did the Obelimon do it?"
Forsetimon was silent for a minute. When he spoke, it was almost hesitant, like he wasn't convinced of his own words.
"The Obelimon themselves didn't choose you; I know that much. They were scribes; nothing more. But the Digital World is constantly alive and constantly changing. Don't ask me how – my friend told me this a long time ago – but it knows when it is in danger, or when the balance of power is shifted. We are all a part of the world; it only makes sense that it can choose the best of us to fight at any time."
"The best of Digimon?" Lindmon exhaled incredulously. "I'm sure there were better choices than us. We never even wished to join the war."
"Maybe not. But to win, the elements needed to come together and fight back as one." Forsetimon turned a corner into a far darker passageway, his chrome body providing some light. "The Digital World needed element bearers. You two were more in tune with the elements of Light and Darkness than any other. And you had a connection with one another; for most Digimon, Light and Darkness would pull them too far apart. To wield the elements, you needed to be identical in strength, lest one wrest control over the remaining elements." He held out two claws in front of him, opening and closing them in turn. "Creation and destruction. Equal and opposite."
Lindmon looked over at her companion, who was listening intently.
"It was the same with everybody else; the world chose the best carriers for each element. Earth, patient and sturdy, with a knowledge of the past; that was Trilomon. Velocimon was driven and persistant; he could carry electricity. Chromon was insightful and pure. Pikamon, hopeful and lively. Everything fit into place." The great shield shifted downwards slightly. "It's just a shame that not everything held together."
Lindmon felt a knot in her stomach. She was about to reply, when Wyrmon piped up. "And what about our partners? Were they chosen as well?"
"That's more complicated. Kai was chosen, but Phoukamon needed to establish the link. If not with him, then somebody else. But he replied, and the vortex was sent towards him."
Lindmon looked up. "So none of the others were meant to come?"
"There were six of you left. You needed six humans. It's cruel, but that's the way, unfortunately."
Forsetimon turned again, gingerly heading down a sloping corridor, this one with great gouges taken out of the walls. "The Digital World has no control over the human world. There are some patterns; usually only children and adolescents are summoned, due to their bodies being most readily able to adapt to the changing Digital World. But your partners cannot be chosen as you were. Some things remain down to fate."
"But their likenesses are on the walls..."
The metal entity swayed a little. "As I said, it's complicated. Maybe they were brought together that day by something more. The Digital World has no more control over the human world than they do over us, but maybe something's out there that could influence them both."
Wyrmon looked up. "The...Interface?"
"Possibly. Possibly even beyond that." Forsetimon sighed. "This was never my strong point. The chronicler knew the most about the Interface; maybe he would have known. Perhaps it was just random, or perhaps you were all chosen to fight together by some higher being."
The little white serpent looked away, biting her lip. "Maybe it could have been anyone. We could have called anyone else…"
Wyrmon looked over at her. "What's done is done. We had no control. Nor did they."
"You're right." Lindmon looked up, her eyes glistening. "Maybe if we had, then the partners we'd chosen wouldn't have ended the world."
Wyrmon looked forlorn, but it was Forsetimon who spoke up. "You seem to hold resentment over the humans."
Lindmon sighed. "That's not right. I don't…maybe I do. I don't know. I spent all this time fighting with them, and yet…I hate what they've done. What's happened to the world because of them."
Wyrmon looked away. "Lindmon, please, you know it wasn't their fault."
"Wasn't it?" Lindmon's eyes glanced over the marvellous carvings on the walls once again. "All this history, all of the accomplishments of the Digital World, and it's on the verge of disappearing. No, they didn't mean to do it. I can believe that. But something of this scale? I don't think I can call it an accident anymore. They've ended the world."
Forsetimon paused, his front legs scraping gently along the ground. "If they hadn't, what of the world then?"
Lindmon closed her eyes. "I don't know. As I said, we never even wanted to be part of the war. We were going to hide away in Silicon City, away from danger. Was that so wrong? For so many Digimon who went there looking for refuge, is it so terrible that we were going to do the same?"
Wyrmon suddenly felt very tired, hanging his tiny body over the rim of the shield. "We never got a choice, did we? It was all planned far away, without giving us a say." He sighed. "I never enjoyed fighting. Look at me; a Digimon of destruction, ashamed of my heritage. Maybe you're right, Lindmon. We should have stayed safe."
Forsetimon gave a strange whistling sound. "And even then, the war was brought to Silicon City. Even then, you wouldn't have been safe. If not from the humans, then from the Fire Kingdom. At the very least, the city still stands."
"It does?" Wyrmon peered over the rim, trying to look at one of Forsetimon's gems. "How can you tell?"
"The Digital World has its secrets. A few of us are entrusted to keep them. I have my methods. But trust me, the city is safe. For now, at least." His left shield shifted slightly, catching Lindmon's attention. "As for what you said earlier, about never wanting to join the war? I'm afraid that was down to the Digital World as well."
Lindmon sniffed. "Destiny is a truly awful thing. It brings us misery and brings the humans misfortune and the world suffering."
"Destiny tries us in ways we never wished for." Forsetimon shuddered, ever so slightly, so gently that the two dragons didn't notice. "But destiny must be earned. So many have fallen away from their destiny due to weakness, or something much darker. Very few ever fulfil their full potential. But the path set before you is complete; you will have a chance to atone for the mistakes you made."
"You must. The world will right itself, one way or another. You will have a chance to take your world back."
He stopped, and the twin dragons peered at the great door in front of them, emblazoned with the seal of Metal and four distinct insignias, the likes of which neither dragon had ever seen before.
"Once, this was where something terrible was released. Despite the greatest of attempts to prevent a massacre, it failed. But that was the old world. Now, perhaps, this too will become a place of atonement…"
The sound woke Eloise first, and she sat up, cupping her hands over her ears as if to drown it out. She became aware of a weight on her shoulder, and turned to see Kai leaning against her. Blushing in the darkness, she was about to push him away when the sound occurred again, this time causing pain. Kai jerked awake beside her, limbs flailing, yelling. "Wahwazzat?"
Kai looked around, but there was no change in their surroundings. "Was that you?"
"No, it…I don't know what it was…"
The sound happened a third time, and this time it hung around; a sharp, metallic ring resonating throughout the chamber. Eloise looked over at Kai, her face scrunched up in concentration and pain.
"You don't think-"
She never got to finish, as the chamber suddenly jerked into motion, rising up. Both tamers were sent tumbling to the ground and sliding all over the place as the ancient mechanism pulled them up unsteadily, into the unknown place above. Eloise's hand flailed out, catching onto Kai's coat, and the two of them held onto each other as they were sent this way and that, still in near-pitch blackness.
Then the movement stopped. A new breeze hit the two tamers, and they stood up, aware they could now reach their full height. As they stared around, lights began to fade on around their new location, displaying it in all its ornate glory. Great, sweeping curved steps, intricate carvings, and four great pedestals, with the architecture somewhat marred by huge gouges and scorch marks from a time and a story long before. Eloise walked to the edge of their old chamber, and looked over. They were still suspended high above the ground, and the hole they'd appeared from was wide; far too wide to jump to the nearest ledge. They were literally suspended over the abyss, with no way out.
"I don't like the looks of this…"
"Eloise, over there!"
Kai pointed, and Eloise turned to see one of the doors behind one of the pedestals slide open, revealing a mechanical creature that ambled inside, taking his place.
Kai was about to question the new arrival, when he saw two familiar (if slightly smaller) white and black figures hop down from the creature's two smaller shields. "It's them! It's Ladomon and Colchimon…I think…"
Eloise rushed forwards, her face cracking into a smile as she grabbed the bars. "I'm so glad you're alive."
Wyrmon peered up at the suspended cage, before glancing angrily back at Forsetimon. "What is this? Did you do this?"
Forsetimon sighed; a rush of eerie jangling that seemed to slowly grow in intensity. "I can honestly promise that I have told you the truth. However, regrettably I have had to withhold a couple of details. I needed to bring you here. You needed to see this."
Two spindly arms reached behind the two smaller shields, and for a second the metal seemed to ripple. When the arms came out, they were holding two tiny devices. Lindmon gasped. "Where did you get those?"
"It's true I am a curator. I preserve the history of the Digital World. But I also ensure its balance, and I will punish those who destroy that balance. I am the true judgement; the voice of the Digital World itself, and I am here to sentence two who should never have come."
Lindmon's eyes widened, and she held out an impossibly tiny wing, but Forsetimon ignored her, instead climbing the rest of the steps until he stood atop the pedestal, right at the level where the two tamers were suspended. Lindmon and Wyrmon watched from afar, both feeling impossibly small, as Forsetimon placed the two devices before him, next to each other.
"Kai MacLaurin. Eloise Young. For the past several months you have wielded the powers of Light and Darkness; the two most powerful of all base elements in the Digital World. You were tasked with saving this world, and you have failed."
Eloise backed away, stunned, but Kai grabbed the bars before him, gritting his teeth. "Please, we didn't-"
Forsetimon's voice roared out like a hurricane through windchimes, causing both tamers to clutch their ears as their prison swung pendulously. Forsetimon laid two claws on the bench before him, his gems glowing with vivid, swirling colours.
"I've heard and seen enough. Your partners testified about you. Due to your actions and your desecration of the elements you were entrusted with, the threat once sealed was released upon this world. Together, you broke the very boundary between worlds, calling upon powers you had no right to wield."
Eloise gritted her teeth against the constant noise, clutching the bars so tightly her knuckles were white. "Please…"
Forsetimon either didn't hear, or didn't listen. He stood tall, taller than before, as his claws slowly embraced the great metal pedestal, multiplying in length and number, pushing his body up until he resembled a tower, staring down the two accused. The haunting sound continued, Forsetimon splaying his shields as coloured lights danced around the ancient courthouse.
"I hereby try you for bringing about the death of the Digital World."
Behind him, Wyrmon and Lindmon backed away, as the great iron judge before them expanded, becoming more alien by the second. Eloise and Kai could only watch as Forsetimon made contact with the ceiling, his column-like body splitting open into two vast, serrated claws that hovered above them.
"Your sentence will be death."
TO BE CONTINUED…