TITLE: Green Rider chapter two: Dead Rider
DISCLAIMER: not mine, ain't getting paid. That gos for Gundam Wing and the book "Green Rider" by KristenBritain.
ARCHIVE: If you want to, but let me know where first ok?
FEEDBACK: HELL yeah I want feedback good or bad =) either is good.
WARNINGS: Death, ghost, and I donno what else, read and find out.
{...} voice of a ghost
"..." something said
//...// thoughts

Duo Maxwell awakened to the chitter of waxwings and chickadees. Above him the, th esky opened up like an expansive dusky canopy that winked with stars, and the moon hung low in the west.

Duo groaned. He lay at the edge of a fallow farmer's field, behind a hedgerow, and his back wasn't taking it well.

He pushed damp hair away from his brow. Everything was wet with dew and his clothes stuck to him like a second skin, a cold and clammy one too. He remebered aloud why he was here

"To get away from Selium"

His own voice startled him. Aside form the birds, the countryside was wide open, empty and silent. There would be on tolling of the Morningtide Bell here, nor would there be the all so familiar sounds of his fellow students in the dormitory building getting ready for a new day of classes.

He stood up and shivered in the chilly, morining spring air. Well at lest he was "away" from Selium, and would get father with another days walk. He gathjered his blanket and things, stuffed into his pack, stepped over the hedgerow, and began walking. He careied little more than a hunk of bread, some cheese, a change of clothes, and a gold cross, that he wore at all times- the only thing precious enough to him to carry away, all the other things where lefy back at the school, in his hast to leave Selium.

He walked briskly to get rid of teh chill, the gravel of the road crunched beneath his boots. The rising sun, with its bands of orange, red, and gold, drew him east.

As he walked, the grasses of farm fields transformed into thick strands of fir and spruce blotting out the newly risen sun and darkening the road.

He entered the edge of the Green Cloak, an immense wood that grew thick and wild in the heart of Sanq. The more tame borders marched in snatches and thickets right down to the shores of Ullem Bay and the foothills of the Wingsong Mountains. The most part of the wood was dense and unbroken, save for villages and towns that made islands of themselves in its interior, and the occasional woods roads that, from an eagle's view, he thought, must cut though it like a scar. Duo walked until his growled. He sought out a warm patch of sun surrounded by solid, cold shade. He washed chunks of bread and cheese down with handfuls of water, from a gurgling stream next to the road. Duo half-turned, gazing back down th eroad that with in a day's walk would end back at the school. His hands tighened into balls and he clenched his jaw. He would show the dean.

//Kick me out of school will you? Lets see how you like faceing Dr. G, my guardean// He grinned imagining Dr. G rainting at Dean Geyer, who would be shrinking in his chair. Then his shoulders sagged and his grin fated. He had no control over G what if he agred with the dean that his punishment was just?

He kicked the ground and sent pebbles sitting across the road.

//Gods, what a mess// he sighed as he walked on He hoped to reach Corsa before the dean's letter did, so he could tell G his side of the story first. Either wat he would be in deep trouble.

He jammed his hands into his pockets, and with head bowed, he ambled along on the rutted road at a reluctant pace.

He startled a baby squirrel sitting on an old lightning-racked stump. It pipped and squealed, abd bristled it's tail out. It darted from one side of the stump to the other, as if too frightened to decide which wat to go.

"Sorry I scared you, little one" Duo said softly. Chittering, the squirrel dashed into some of the underbrush and scurried noisily though the leaf litter of the forest floor, sounding like some much lager beast.

Duo walked on humming an off-key tune, but when the sounds of the squirrel did not fad but in fact, grew much louder, he froze.

The racket shattered the peace of th ewoods. Trees and shrubs shook as if some wild creature- many times biger than the squirrel- thrashed in the twined braches and undergrowth.

Crazed catamounts and rabid wolves played though his mind. He hadn't a weapon with which to defend himself, and he coun't run either, his feet seemed to have taken root in the ground.He drew a ragged breath. What ever the nameless beast was, it charged his way, and fast.

It burst from the woods in an explosion of branches. Duo's breath hissed in his throat like a broken whistle.

The creature loomed huge and dark in the tree shadows. It huffed with great wheezings though flared nostrils like some infernal demon. Duo closed his eyes and stepped back. When he looked again, a horse and rider, not some evil dragon og a legend, staggered onto the road. Twigs and leaves fell from them to the ground. The horse, a long-legged, dark chestnut, was lathered with sweat and huffed as if from a hard run. The rider slumped over the chestnut's neck. He was clad in a green uniform. Branches had lashed trails of blood across his white face. His broad-shouldered slim frame twitched with fatigue.

He half dismounted and half fell from the horse. Duo winced as he saw the two blcak-shafted arrows impaled in his back.

"Please......." the rider beckoned him with a crimson glove. Duo took a step fowared.

The rider was the same age as Duo. Black hair was plastered across his pain-creassed brow. Ebon black eyes blazed with fever. With the two arrows in his back, he looked as if he had fought off death longer than any mortal should have.

He was of Sanq, Duo was certain, though the green uniforms were far rarer than the blck and silver of the regular militia.

"Help...."

Each step he took was unsure. He knlet beside him, not sure how he could aid a dying man.

"Are you of Sanq?" the rider asked

"Yes"

"Do you have love for your contry, and your knig?"

Duo paused, What a curious question. King Treaze was reatively new to the throne and dou himself knew little of his policies or methods, but it wouldn't do to sound disloyal to a dying servant of Sanq. "Yes"

"I'm a messenger...Green Rider." The young man's body spasmed in pain, and blood dribbled over his lip and down his chin. "The satchel on the saddle...important message for...king........life or death. If you love Sa....Sanq and its king, take it to him."

"I...I....." one part of him wanted to just walk away.. but he could not just do that, he was not one to just walk away from ANYTHING, and a part of him felt drawn to his need. And so that drawing took over.

"Please," He whispered "You are-" The last words where lost as blood gurgled in his throat and sprayed onto his lips, but Duo thought he caught the breathy 'the one'.

//The one what?...the only one around?..the only one to take the message?// Duo's mind raced

"I..."

"Dangerous." He shuddered.

Everything around fell silent in an sudan hush, as if the world held its breath for his decision.

Before Duo caould stop his-self ha said "I'll do it"

"You s...sw...swear?"

He nodded

"Sword....bring it to me."

The hores shied form Duo, but he caught his reins and drew the saber from the saddle sheath. Its curved blade flickered in a patch of sun as he held it out before him. He knlet beside the rider again.

"Put your ands around the hilt," he rasped out, when Duo did he placed his hands over Duo's. It was then that Duo saw the gloves were not dyed crimson, not originally. The rider choughed, and more blood fleckede the corners of his mouth.

"Swaer......swear you'll deliver.....the message......to King Treze.......f...for love of country."

Duo could onlystare at him wide-eyed.

"Swear!" the rider said whith all of his stringth. It was as if he was looking upon a ghost rather than a living man. He would not allwo himself to die until he swore the oath.

"I swear.....I'll deliver the message for the love of my country."

Although he had sworn, the Green Rider was not yet ready to die.

"Take the brooch....from my chest...It will iden..." he squeezed his eyes shut in pain till the spell passed. "Identify you as a messenger.....to other Riders." The words were gasped as if he were forcing air in and out of his lungs by sheer will to extend his life. "Fly....Rider, with great speed, Don't read m......message. Then they can't tor......torture....it from you. If captured, shred it and toss it to the winds."

Then, because his voice had grown so faint Duo leaned down to hear his final words. "Beware the shadow man."

A clod chill ran though Duo's body. "I'll do my best" he told him. But there was no response from the messenger this time though his eyes still stared at him. He gently pried the Ridersfingers from his hand and closed his eyes.

He had not noticed the winged horse brooch before now, but now, pinned over the dead rider's heart, it glowed golden in the sun. Absently he wiped bloody finger marks off her hands onto her trousers and then unclasped the brooch.

A curious sensation, not a all unpleasant, as if all her nerves sang in unison, tingled thoughtout her body. Thegold warmth of the sun embraced him, and drove the shadowy chill away. Terer was a fluttering like great whit wings beating the air, and the sound of silver-shod hooves galloping......

Moments later, the sensation receded, and he relized the sound was his own excited heartbeat, and the sun had risen sufficiently to widen the patch of sunlight he now stood in. Nothing more. He pinned the brooch to his shirt. He then sencsed, like a breeze whispering though a hundred aspen trees, invisible lips that seemed to mummer 'Welcome Rider'.

Duo shook his head to clear it of such fancies, and turned to practical matters. What to do with the messenger's body? He couldn't just leave it lying there in the middle of the road exposed to carrion birds and passersby...could he?

He wounld not want to stumble across a body in the middle of the road during his trazels, it just was not right to leave it there.

He was shocked at how light the rider was...//Boy he and that horse must have been able to fly//

The body was not all that heavy, but how would he bury him, he had not packed a shovel. It seeemed wrong to leave the body out in the open, but....he had to try. Then as if a voice said to him 'Don't waste time', he backed away from the body and took up the reins of the horse. And still he hesitated. The least he could do was leave the saber with the messenger, to show how bravely he had died. But what if he net up with the people who had strucj him with the arrows? He would need some kind of defense, even if a saber wasn't ant good against arrows. Practicality won out, abd he slid the blade back into its sheath.

The messenger had told him to fly, but running the horse to his death would serve no purpose. He would walk him and mount up only when he seemed at least partially recovered.

The horse was a sppry-looking beast. His legs were long but thick: obviously he had been nred to run fast for distances with no thought to aesthetics. His neck reminded Duo of some long-necked wild beast he had been told about, from back in the voyages. The horse's charse chestnut hide was crisscrossed with old scars.

"I wish I knew your name" Duo said to the horse as they walked along.

The horse curved his neck to look, not at Duo, but behind him. Ge glanced back, too. The messenger's body gad already fallen behind a bend in the road, and there was nothing to see besides the pointy shadows of spruce trees shrinking as the morining progressed.