The Pendragon Affair, Act IV
The Pendragon Affair
-a Man from UNCLE slash fanfic by Taylor Dancinghands
Pairing: Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin
Characters: Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, various O/Cs
Genre: slash, h/c, A/U: Sentinels and Guides, Sentinels are a known institution
Warnings: m/m romance, intimacy, period terminology for African Americans (but not the n- word), tropes and themes lifted freely from The Sentinel tv show, episode 1, season 4 (Sentinel Too, pt 2).
Rating: Mature/PG 17
Length: 19,351 words
Disclaimer: I'm old, but still not old enough to be any of the creators or owners of the Man from UNCLE intellectual property. I swear, my own twisted musings are not costing those people a dime, and I won't be making a penny myself.
Summary: Napoleon and Illya are called in when airport officials in San Francisco are threatened with a laser attack on northbound passenger planes and UNCLE thinks it looks like a Thrush operation. Chasing down the villain's probable base on Mt Tam, our heroes discover that this affair involves Sentinel business too, for Mt Tam hides its own secrets —a forgotten shrine, sacred to Sentinels, which is also imperiled.
Act IV: "Should we… stop him?"
Illya hardly knew what he expected, but he was shockingly unsurprised to see an impossibly enormous snake emerge from the pool before him. It reared up, lifting its head to the same level as Illya's, challenging him with its stare and blocking his way forward. Illya's UNCLE Special was in his holster at his side as usual, but he could not conceive of using it here. Instead, Illya drew his knife and was ready when the massive serpent lunged at him, fangs gleaming in the moonlight. He sprang back, striking out with his knife at the same time, so that the creature had to lunge away.
Like a pair of dancers, Illya and the gigantic serpent struck and leapt and parried and struck again, neither able to so much as mark the other. Furiously, Illya tried to think of a strategy that would break through the snake's lightning fast defenses, when he heard his falcon cry, her voice piercing the dark sky. Moving instinctively now, Illya feinted to the left. Even as the snake lunged after him, the falcon struck from the right, driving her talons into the snake's skull. Hissing furiously, the snake threw its head up, exposing its throat, and Illya leapt forward, plunging his knife in deep..
It almost ripped the knife from Illya's hand as the snake thrashed out its death throes, and Illya's falcon screamed as she leapt away into the air, one of the snake's eyes in her beak. The creature thrashed about for a moment more, then subsided back into the waters from which it had come and disappeared.
Illya stood, knife in hand and gasping for breath, as he watched his falcon drop the serpent's eye into the pool. As the the eye struck its surface, It boiled and frothed in reaction, and the color of the glowing waters changed to blood red. Illya took it in without a blink, as fantastical as all this was. The Sentinel within him understood that he was not in the 'real' world here, and that whatever happened, he would know what to do.
The creature that appeared next, looming up from the shadows at the edge of the grotto, was a massive wildcat, the size of one of those prehistoric creatures from the ice age. Its fangs were not so pronounced as some, but they were sizable enough. It challenged Illya just as the snake had, and Illya felt not the least trepidation that all he had to fight it was a knife. He stood, knife in hand, challenged back with a snarl, and threw himself at the creature.
A full arsenal of claws swiped at him, but Illya dodged them, fighting close where they could not reach. When the beast came at him with its teeth, Illya sprang up to straddle its back, grasping the loose fur on its shoulders with his left hand, to hold himself in place. The creature screamed with rage and leapt and bucked to throw Illya off. It lunged back over its shoulder to bite at him. Illya punched it in the mouth with the butt of his knife and shattered one of its deadly fangs.
The move put him off balance and the beast finally dislodged him, throwing Illya to the ground. He recovered quickly, however, as the giant cat did not, for it paused in its assault to rub its injured face on the ground. Illya leapt upon its back once more and tried to knife it in the throat. The beast writhed like a snake and Illya missed his target, almost losing his grip on his knife. He recovered it, and managed to make another strike on the creature's mouth, breaking off another dagger-like tooth.
The big cat's scream was blood curdling, and made Illya shudder so that he lost his grip on the creature's fur once more. This time the beast was ready and Illya felt its claws rake over his back. More stitches, he thought in passing as he rolled to his feet and charged. Almost mindless in his assault, Illya seemed to have caught the big cat unaware, or perhaps its broken teeth distracted it. He plunged his knife right into its open mouth, piercing the brain and killing it instantly. The creature dissipated like smoke even as he pulled the knife back, and then Illya was alone by the pool again.
One of the giant cat's teeth still lay on the ground before him and Illya picked it up, following a hunch, and tossed it into the pool. Once again the waters boiled, and the color shifted and blurred to a deep, glowing green. He heard his falcon cry out again, circling above and warning him of what he already knew, that another creature was coming. This one seemed to coalesce out of the very trees around them, and appeared, for a long moment, to be nothing more than a huge, black shadow. Then it growled and Illya looked up into the terrifying visage of a monstrous bear.
Illya could not say why this one terrified him as the others had not, but he knew almost immediately that he could not fight this creature. When he dropped the knife, however, it was not fear alone that moved him. This was not merely 'a' bear, but The Bear, the very spirit of his homeland, for all that he had become Alpha Sentinel in another land altogether. This creature was not challenging him, though he certainly did terrify. Illya must face him, but rather than fight him, must surrender to him, come what may.
"I cannot fight you," Illya said, raising his empty hands. "I am yours, Mother. I am your son. Do what you will."
The bear raised its head and roared, so that the sound echoed through the woods and, Illya was sure, the mountains beyond. The long, drawn-out cry was as terrifying as the creature itself, and Illya was hard pressed not to fall to his knees. When its cry came to an end, the bear dropped its head and met Illya's gaze, not fearless, but nonetheless undaunted. It gave a huff, as if in acknowledgement, then raised its massive paws to its own chest.
Illya watched, frozen in astonishment, as the giant bear opened its own chest to reveal the beating heart within. Now Illya did drop to his knees, still not in fear, but in awe at the sacrifice the creature offered him. It lifted its own beating heart out of its chest and handed it to Illya who stretched his arms out to take it. The flesh was hot in his hands as he held it, and then the bear was gone, dissipating like a mist at sunrise, and Illya lowered its heart into the pool before him.
For a third time the waters boiled and frothed. A scent rose from the pool this time, which Illya could not exactly describe as a perfume, but which filled him with the same sense of pleasure and safety and groundedness that he felt when he immersed himself in his own Guide's scent. Only in the presence of his Guide had Illya ever in his life felt what might be called reverence, but he was all but overwhelmed with it now. This place, he understood at last, was an upwelling of the very force that made him what he was, and granted every Sentinel their powers.
Here the force was powerful enough to work miracles, even to raise the dead, so long as a suitable vehicle could be found. Illya had passed that test, and now, it gradually came to him, the power to grant such a miracle was his. With that sense of reverence still filling his heart, he scooped a handful of water from the pool and lifted it to his lips. It was like filling himself with the essence of lightning, Illya thought, but instead of throwing off power and light, it was the sense of every little thing around him vibrating with life and sound and smell and color that was pouring into him. It could easily have been overwhelming, but he knew now, how to manage it, thanks to his Guide.
Manage it he could, but Napoleon would make it so much easier. Illya needed his Guide, and in a few short steps he was at Napoleon's side, lifting him into his arms, and laying his hands over his heart.
"You will live, my Guide," he spoke softly into Napoleon's ear. "There is so much Life here; I will fill you with it, and you will live.Your heart will beat…
Your lungs draw breath… your eyes will open…
Your lips will speak my name…"
Illya sobbed aloud, dropping his head against Napoleon's shoulder. "Yes!" he cried. "Oh yes, oh thank you, my Guide, you are alive; you are alive…"
"So I am…" Napoleon mused, turning in his Sentinel's arms to kiss his face and wrap his own arms, strong and sure as ever, around him. "So it worked. This is…?"
"The Holy Place," Illya finished. "It really is." Then he could say no more, and Napoleon drew him close, cradling Illya's head in his arms.
"Sshh, my Sentinel," he murmured. "I'm alive and well, and you've saved me once again. You've been brave and clever and strong, but you can relax now. We're both okay and this is a safe place."
It was mainly shock, really, Illya told himself as he got himself back under control and sniffled back the last few tears. When he lifted his head at last Napoleon had a handkerchief for his eyes, of course, and when he had done wiping them, there were Napoleon's lips, waiting to kiss away the last traces. Then his lips were on Illya's, and his mouth tasted of life and strength, but mostly just of Napoleon Solo, Illya's Guide and partner for life.
"What did I miss?" Napoleon asked when they drew back at last. When Illya blinked to focus his eyes, he realized that both their Spirit Guides had come to join them—his falcon perched on a low branch nearby, and Napoleon's otter, romping playfully over Napoleon's feet. "I remember you carrying me," Napoleon continued, gently preventing his otter from untying his shoelaces, "but I don't remember coming here."
"Just my 'ordeal'," Illya quipped with a smile. "I fought a giant snake, then I fought a huge, prehistoric wildcat, and then there was a bear, but I didn't fight it."
"Sounds like a Sentinel Ordeal," Napoleon mused. "This is definitely a Sentinel place. I suppose there must be something equivalent for Guides, but it's not here."
"You are saying we should go?" Illya asked. His falcon fluffed her feathers restlessly where she sat as if to confirm it.
"If you're ready," Napoleon replied. "Not to rush you…"
"No, you're right," Illya said."Artos is probably still out there…"
Even as he spoke, there came a crashing in the ferns and brush on the other side of the pool. Both their Spirit Guides froze and Illya and Napoleon looked up to see a figure dusting himself off, having stumbled down the rocky face of the palisades to land just short of the pool, across from where they sat. It was, of course, Artos.
"I knew it!" he crowed, not noticing Illya and Napoleon on the opposite shore, or not caring. "I knew it was here somewhere.I've found it at last!"
"Should we… stop him?" Napoleon asked.
Illya thought about it for a moment and then shook his head. His falcon showed no sign of preparing for any attack, and neither did Napoleon's otter, though both watched the intruder with interest. "No," he said. "He has come here, so he will face his own ordeal, and he will succeed or fail on his own."
Napoleon looked dubious, but followed Illya's lead as Artos knelt beside the pool to scoop some of the water in his cupped hands. "At last," he said. "I will have my rightful powers; my birthright will be restored!"
Artos drank deeply from the waters, drawing a second handful once he had drunk the first. He stood then, looking around as if seeing the place for the first time.
"Yes… Yes! I can see, I can hear… everything!" At last his gaze found Illya and Napoleon and he started towards them, skirting the pool.
"I see you, too!" he growled. "You thought you could stop me, but now it's too late! I see everything you see, hear everything you hear…"
"Do you?" Illya asked, standing to meet him. "Do you hear the night bird, singing by the trailhead? Do you smell the skunk cabbage blooming by the creek a mile away? Do you feel the rough cloth of your shirt and trousers against your skin? Do you not feel the irritation? Is the skunk cabbage's odor not foul? Is my voice not piercing your ears? Is it not all too much?"
"Of course! I have all your powers, you Commie pinko scum!," Artos replied. "I can hear everything you can, feel everything… everything… why do my clothes feel so...? What's happening? Why can't I stop it… Why is everything so loud… so bright… Why does it hurt? It's not supposed to be like this!! Make it stop! Make it stop!"
Suddenly Artos was not advancing on them, but had stopped to tear his jacket off, then his shirt. Now he was on his knees, hands over his ears, eyes shut, shouting incoherently. He had failed his ordeal.
James and Ayisha came up out of the woods just then, as Napoleon was standing, hand on Illya's shoulder.
"That's enough of that," he said, crossing over to the quivering wreck of a former Thrush villain.
"Sleep now, Jeffery Bainbridge," he commanded, his Guide Voice more powerful than Illya had ever heard it. "Sleep now and know peace." Perhaps it was the effect of infusion of life force Illya had given him to dispel the effects of the poison, but Illya found himself rubbing his eyes, and he saw James blinking hard, as though fending off sleep himself.
"I am glad to see you are well, Guide Solo," James said. "Perhaps more than well."
"I'd say 'more than'," Napoleon replied. "And I have you to thank for it, in some part, at least."
"Indeed, we both owe you a great debt of gratitude," Illya added. Ayisha demurred.
"If we had not been here, you surely would have been drawn the the Holy Place on your own, Alpha," she said. "But we are glad to have helped."
"Man!" a new voice intruded on the conversation and Esperanza appeared with Lwazi in tow, the latter shaking her head vigorously. "Who just put half the forest to sleep?"
"Guess I don't know my own strength," Napoleon said sheepishly. "I just figured I'd need a little extra 'oomph' to get Artos to go down."
"You called him by his true name," James noted.
"Names have power," Napoleon replied. "I learned that back in Guide school. When a man like that changes his name, he generally does so to hide a weakness."
"How we gonna get him back to the cops?" Lwazi inquired.
"I'll carry him," James said. "I believe our Alphas have earned a rest."
Illya certainly thought he deserved something, but for now, simply to stand at his Guide's side once more, to take his hand and feel the vital, calming force of him, was all he wanted. He thanked James as the Sentinel slung Artos over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, and together, they walked out of the forest.
Napoleon remembered about Illya's walkie-talkie about the time they arrived back at the campground. Illya retrieved it from his jacket pocket, turned it on and called for the sheriff, but it was Kendall who answered.
"Sheriff's got his radio off," he explained. "Did you say you've got Artos?"
Illya replied that they did, and that he was alive but unconscious and Kendall let him know that he'd send the sheriff to meet him and call off the manhunt. It was as Illya was putting the radio away that Napoleon laid his hand on Illya's back, surprised to see his partner flinch and to see his hand come away wet.
"Hey, what happened here?" Napoleon asked, regarding the blood smearing his hand.
"Oh… I wasn't sure how much of that was real…" Illya remarked. Napoleon gave him a perplexed frown.
"You remember I told you that a I fought a huge, prehistoric wildcat?" Illya explained. "It apparently wasn't real enough to rip my jacket…"
"But it does seemed to have ripped your back up," Napoleon commented. "Well, I guess it's stitches all around." He held up his forearms, where the bleeding had mostly stopped, but now his shredded jacket was stuck to his cuts with dried blood, which wasn't exactly comfortable.
Kendall and a few of the other searchers could be heard approaching in the dark at last, along with Tam and 'Mundo, who greeted James and the rest of their pride with relief.
"What did you do to him?" Kendall asked, shining his flashlight down at Artos, slumped on the grass where James had laid him, his only sign of life being the occasional twitch.
"Put him to sleep," Napoleon answered. "He'll probably need to be sedated when he wakes up. I imagine he'll he'll have excessive sensory sensitivity for the rest of his life."
"And… how did that come about?" Kendall asked once he'd directed two of his colleagues to assemble a stretcher from the camp's first aid supplies.
"He drank from the waters of the Sentinels' Sacred Pool, and was found wanting," James answered solemnly. "His condition is entirely a result of his own actions."
The words hung like an epitaph over the group as they watched the pair of deputies shift Artos' prone form onto the stretcher and carry him away.
"And what about the boy, Frankie?" Illya asked as he watched them depart. "Do you have him in custody?"
"We do," Kendall said with a nod. "You'll have to ask the sheriff about the details, but several officers saw him attack Agent Solo here, so there was no question about what he had done."
"You should have his knife tested for poison," Napoleon added. "Whatever he put on it nearly killed me."
"Poison!?" Kendall said, alarmed. "I'll make sure that gets passed along. Last I heard the kid was confused and despondent. The social workers apparently have him on suicide watch."
Illya shook his head in dismay. "I'm sorry to hear that. The boy is only partly responsible for his actions, but he will have to live with them for the rest of his life."
"I doubt he'll ever be fit to serve as a Guide to any Sentinel now," Napoleon said sadly. "Artos is to blame for that."
"Still, a successful hunt, and the danger to our Holy Place is no more," Tam pointed out. "We can go home now, yes? My classes will be starting again in a couple of weeks."
"Yes, our sacred watch is concluded, my brothers and sisters," James said. "Your work and sacrifice here will not be forgotten."
"The watch may be concluded," said Ayisha, "but our work is not quite done yet. We promised the sheriff that we would clean up our campsite."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," said the sheriff, just coming up the hill to join them. "I'll be holding you to your promise of restoring your campsite to its former condition, and I also want to know about what Miss Louisa Clay here plans on doing now, and where she's planning on staying."
This remark was met with blank looks all around, except for young Lwazi, who frowned in fierce indignation. "Don't be calling me by my slave name, mister," she demanded. "My name is Lwazi Kenya!"
"Whatever name she calls herself," the sheriff said, "she's a runaway, and a truant. I may let the illegal camping business pass, but not this."
"I ain't going back home," Lwazi declared, arms crossed. "Momma's boyfriend hits me all the time; says I tell lies, that I cain't be no Sentinel."
"Sheriff Richardson," Ayisha said. "Surely there must be some place else she could go? Perhaps her grandparents'?"
"My gramma'd take me, but she ain't got no place."
The sheriff gave a long suffering sigh. "Look," he said. "If your agency is willing to sign for temporary custody of this minor, the social workers will probably go along with it. There's a someone from Child Protective Services waiting with my wife down in the parking lot. She's the one you want to talk to."
"UNCLE has a standing policy of assisting any civilians who were instrumental in the success of any UNCLE operation," Napoleon replied. "We'd be happy to take temporary custody, as well as assisting Miss Kenya's grandmother in finding more suitable accommodations… if that is satisfactory to you?" Napoleon turned to Lwazi.
"Oh… um, yes sir… Guide Solo," she replied. "And thank you."
"Our pleasure, Sentinel Kenya," said Illya with a smile.