The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part XII: Gorilla City and The Journey North
My control is slipping.” Darhk says as he follows Thawne’s steps through the canyon pass. The river has slowed to a calm run, but the journey is no less dangerous. Not while the moon is new and the witch lights are dim.
“We’re almost there my friend. Hold on just a bit more.”
“Easier said than done.” he huffs. “She’s learning, testing her limits and she’s determined. It’s a shame she’s working against us, her tenacity would be a boon to the cause.”
“Perhaps she can be turned.” Thawne says. “There’s more than plenty that we can offer her that the other side can not.”
“Perhaps.” Darhk replies, though he doesn’t sound hopeful. “I won’t hold my breath, however.”
Thawne doesn’t reply, carefully picking his way along the rock bank of the Dawson river. The raging rapids had calmed two miles back and they were making decent time considering that they were traveling by foot now, but Thawne knew better than to let his guard down. If Leonard and his allies even remotely suspected where they were headed and why, they could be here in very little time. With Fransisco Ramon’s abilities, the journey that had taken him and Darhk nearly a week to trek, would take them no more than a few hours.
Thawne is certain he knows how to stall them should they catch up, however, that plan hinges on getting to the memorial and restoring Damien’s body. Anything before that would force them to rely on the fact that Sara was still present and could be saved, playing on Leonard’s feelings for his betrothed. That could backfire as well though. Should Leonard not believe them, they would have to show proof, and given Darhk’s weakened state, allowing Sara to the surface long enough to reassure Leonard, would open the door for her to reclaim her body and force Darhk out.
At this point the best and only reliable plan was to make it to the Gorilla City Memorial, restore Darhk’s head to his body and then transfer his soul back into it. Thawne had gone to great lengths to keep it preserved and thankfully, the anger over Darhk’s attack on Starling, ensured that they would preserve his head just as carefully. Sebastian Blood had sent the head to the memorial with one of his men, and Sebastian had sent confirmation while they were still in Gotham, so there was nothing to worry about there, it was only everything else that was of any concern.
“We should be at the memorial by sun down.” Mick says, glancing behind him as he makes it up a sloping ridge. He leans down, offering Leonard a hand. Leonard accepts and he’s pulled up the ridge easily enough. Mick then leans down and helps the next man, who just happens to be Bartholomew.
“There’s a clearing another hour’s walk from here if I remember correctly.” Leonard says as they continue on. “The larger group can wait there, while the advanced party keeps going.”
The journey itself is simple enough, it takes a little under an hour and once there, the advanced party rests for a few minutes before carrying on. It’s another two hour hike to the entrance of the memorial and Leonard can’t seem to focus on putting together a real plan. Frustration mounts as they move forward, his thoughts stuck on one thing and one thing only; getting to Sara. He curses his decision to leave Cisco behind, despite his expertise being needed in Central more. There’s a lot more to worry about than just Sara, even if he doesn’t want to think about anything but her.
As the mouth of cave that acts as a passage into Gorilla City and the Memorial beyond nears, Leonard comes to the realization that they have no idea what they’re facing. At any point Darhk and Thawn could have picked up allies along the way, what he had all but assumed would be two against six, could very well be six against an unknown number of enemies.
“Everyone be careful.” Leonard says, keeping his voice low. “We have no idea what has happened to them between here and Central. They may not be alone anymore.”
“Agreed.” Oliver replies. “How many entrances are in the temple?”
“Two.” Mick says. “One on either side, with the front and back closed off by solid walls.”
“So we split the party. John, Barry and I will go in through the West, Leonard, you, Mick and Wells through the East. If they’re still in there and they haven’t taken on allies in the journey, we should be able to box them in.”
The group agrees and as stealthily as possible, they pick their way to the northernmost point of the city and the massive quartz temple that sits nestled in the mountain.
Thawne props himself against the altar, a feeling of accomplishment settling into his weary bones. They had arrived at the temple a few hours earlier only to meet Blood’s man. As he’d been instructed before he arrived, he has laid Damien’s body out on the ceremonial altar along with his head. Damien had taught Thawne necromancy in the years they had known one another, so reattaching his head to his body was no more trouble than a summoning spell.
Once his body was restored, Damien stripped off Sara’s armor, leaving her body clad in only her leather beneath and climbed up onto the altar to lie beside his body. The process of taking Darhk’s soul from Sara’s body to his own restored one was more complicated than the previous one. Normally, when Darhk was set to transfer bodies, his new body was stripped of its soul with a process that even Thawne thought was horrifying. Once the new body was empty, Darhk’s old body was killed, releasing his soul. A specially enchanted device was set out to draw his soul in and the device was placed with the new body. Darhk’s soul then made it’s way into its new vessel.
This time, however, there were mitigating factors. Darhk had never entered a body that he had already inhabited and while texts seemed to indicate there should be no trouble, Thawne was of the mind they should be cautious. Additionally, Sara was more good to their cause alive, so killing her to release Darhk was not an option and even if it were, this was the first time Darhk had ever shared a body, making the outcome unpredictable.
The outcome was entirely up to Thawne at this point. Damien trusted him to get the job done and done properly, but it would take intense concentration to ensure he didn’t strip Sara’s soul instead of Damien’s. The entire ritual was a long process and it wasn’t until he’d finally felt the tethers take hold of Darhk’s soul that he relaxed. With his energy mostly spent he leaned against the altar to catch his breath, keeping a careful eye on Sara. He had expended a little extra energy to force her into a deep sleep, but she was fairly angry when he made the connection and he wouldn’t put it past her to fight her way out.
Darhk sits up, looking to Thawne with a triumphant smile. “Excellent work, my friend.” he tells him and if Thawne weren’t so exhausted he would join in on the revelry. Unfortunately it wouldn’t last as their attention was drawn to the guard Blood had sent to deliver Darhk’s head. Before they started the ritual, Thawne had sent him out to keep an eye out for Leonard and the others.
“I spotted a group of people splitting into two groups and heading in opposite directions in the city below.” the soldier said.
“Damn.” Thawne curses. “They caught up faster than I had anticipated.”
“Yes well, I’m sure you have a plan either way.” Darhk says, climbing off the altar.
“Yes, but I was hoping for a few hours to rest. You’ll have to do it instead.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“If we trap Sara in her own mind, it should slow them down while they attempt to figure out how to release her.”
“How do you know they won’t just send her body back to Central for the healers to deal with.” Darhk questions.
“Because I know Leonard better than he realizes. He’ll put her above everything else.”
“If you truly believe so.”
“I do. Now, all you have to do is lay the groundwork, her mind will do the rest, building a fantasy world she’ll have no inclination to leave.”
“You’re certain this will work?” Darhk asks.
“I’ve done it before. It's all a matter of willpower, and since I’ve put her to sleep, her own willpower is null and void at this point.”
Leonard stands at the edge of the altar. Fists clenching and unclenching at his side. He feels powerless, watching Wells cast his magic over Sara’s prone body. She looks so peaceful lying there, but he can’t help but think she’s anything but.
“We lost their trail about two miles from here.” Oliver’s voice sounds as he and John reenter the temple. It had been far too easy to enter the temple and it wasn’t long before they found out why. Darhk and Thawne were gone, but from the looks of it not long. Oliver and John immediately went out to find a trail while Wells and Barry went to work examining Sara. Mick stood at his side, a silent sentinel, lending Leonard his strength.
“Have you found anything?” John asks.
“Maybe.” Wells replies.
“Maybe?” Leonard asks, a little more forcefully than necessary. Wells doesn’t seem phased, brushing it off as he continues. “She’s definitely been cursed.” Wells explains. “The kind of curse, however, isn’t presently obvious. Every time I locate an aspect that can explain it, there’s another that doesn’t fit.”
“It’s almost like it’s multiple curses layered on top of each other.” Barry says. Wells looks up at Barry like he’s just stated the meaning of life.
“That’s it. That’s why I can’t pinpoint it.” he turns back to Sara’s body, casting over it once again. For thirty tense minutes they wait for answers. Leonard watches, his face blank as he tries to keep his emotions in check.
Eventually Wells pulls away, straightening up and letting out a long breath.
“Well?” Mick asks, sensing Leonard’s anxiety mounting.
“There’s a sleeping curse, first and foremost. The second one though… I’ve never actually seen it before, only read about it.” he explains. “It doesn’t have a name, but to put it simply, it traps the victim in their own mind, creating a fantasy, that depending on the victim's mindset could make it that much more difficult to escape.”
“Can you lift the curse?” Leonard asks.
“Yes, but the trick of the curse is that, even if you lift it, the fantasy is so complex, that they don’t have the ability to pull themselves out, even when there’s nothing keeping them there.”
“So what do we do then?”
Wells takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly, pinching the bridge of his nose. “There’s only one thing I can think of, but it’s risky.”
“What is it?” Oliver asks.
“Someone would have to go into the fantasy and convince her that it wasn’t real.”
“How is that risky?”
“The fantasy is strong, that’s why the victim can’t get out on their own. It would be strong enough to draw anyone who went in, into the fantasy as well.”
“It’s a risk we’ll have to take.” Leonard says, leaving no room for argument. He turns to Barry. “Send word to the party to send a contingent out in the direction Thawne and Darhk went. As soon as she’s free, we’ll need to move out quickly and having an idea of where we should go would help.”
It hurt, but she fought anyway. She wasn’t about to let Darhk go so easily, not now that she knew what they were planning. She was angry and desperate and she lashed out wherever she felt Thawne’s magic trying to strip Darhk away. She wouldn’t allow that, she couldn’t.
As time wore on, Sara had slowly begun to learn about her surroundings. It wasn’t long before she was testing her limits, burrowing into Darhk’s mind even as he tried to keep her out. As she broke through his walls, she began to sift through his memories, learning everything she could about him and his plans for the world. It was how he intended to ensure it happened that was most horrific, however.
At some point, she felt someone else there. She couldn’t place who it was, but she could only assume it was Thawne, a fact that was confirmed the first time he tried to pull her out of Darhk’s mind. She lashed out at the first touch of his magic, sending him out of the space, but he was persistent and despite the anger that drove her, she could feel herself tiring. She lashed out with what little strength she could muster, feeling herself take hold of something until darkness surrounded her once again.
She doesn’t know how long she is there, floating in the darkness, but before long, she feels things begin to shift and change. Darkness begins to fade and structures begin to take shape. She’s lost in the movement, forced to follow it wherever it goes. Clarity comes to her slowly, her surroundings taking shape. She knows this place, knows it better than any other place in the world.
“Sara?” she hears her name and she turns to find them standing behind her.