Chapter 4

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
About a kingdom on a mountain,
And the valley folk below.
The mountain people had a treasure,
Buried underneath a stone;
The valley people sought that treasure,
Sought it for their very own.

~One Tin Soldier
words and music written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

Duo and Heero were among the first to arrive at the door. The entrance was carved out of oak with elaborate designs, depicting the times when dragons still roamed the Earth several hundred years ago before they suddenly disappeared entirely. The couple looked at each other grimly before pushing it open.

Already inside were the king and queen, as well as Treize. Two others, one blonde and one brunette stood next to them. Duo gave them a wide smile and held out a hand. "Hi, I'm Duo Maxwell, Chosen of Shinigami. This guy here is Heero Yuy, Chosen of Tsubasa. He doesn't like to speak much. It's a pleasure to finally meet you two in person."

"Same to you," Quatre said, giving him a smile and idly wondering how he could say it in all one breath.

"Hn, baka," grunted Heero as he latched onto the end of Duo's braid. The doors behind them opened and the last of the Chosens stepped in, Wufei and Meiran.

"Aa, we haven't been properly introduced yet. I am Treize of the Khushrenada Empire. May I be graced with your names?" he asked, bowing to them. Meiran eyed him carefully and spoke before her husband got the chance.

"I am Chang Meiran, wife to Chang Wufei," she said. Meiran turned to face King Mirialdo. "May we begin the briefing?" she asked.

"Of course," the king said. "As you know, all of you have been summoned by the Guardians to protect this kingdom. Although you are small in numbers, your powers will make a big difference when combined with my own mages."

"Recently, problems have been occurring in the south and west at the very edges of the kingdom. Gradually, they began moving inward. I have a hunch that whoever 'they' are, they are trying to corner this kingdom and destroy it that way since we are at the far northeastern edge of the country. I have sent troops over there and managed to stall them for a bit but not long enough. My army can only be stretched so far," he explained.

"I have a sinking feeling that it is the kingdom across the ocean who is attacking us. Our peace treaty with them is a fragile thing and anything can destroy it," Mirialdo said.

"We will do what we can--" Heero began but was interrupted by a white faced guard who ran into the room.

"Your majesty, come quickly!" he shouted. The king quickly followed him and told the Chosens to go as well. They traveled through the hallways of the palace at a brisk walk and emerged in the back courtyard where seven large dragons sat curled up around each other.

"By the Gods! Where did these beasts come from?" Mirialdo said, not taking his eyes off of the dragons.

"We d-don't know, y-your highness. They j-just f-flew in!" said the shaking guard.

Behind the king, the 7 Chosens stood watching in awe as the magnificent beasts rose and stood in a somewhat straight line in the large courtyard. They were roughly the height of two tall men standing atop the other's shoulders. Mesmerized, they stepped forward one by one, walking to the dragon which seemed to call to them the most. The king told them to stay back but his words were left unheard.

Heero stood in front of a pure silver dragon which had an ebony crest on its forehead. The dragon looked down at him with an amazing amount of intelligence in its cobalt blue eyes. There was something that shouted familiarity at him but he couldn't put his finger on it.

:I am Wing,: said a voice in his mind.

The violet eyed angel looked at an ebony colored dragon with a silver crest which stood out sharply. Familiar violet eyes peered at him curiously.

:Deathscythe at your service,: chirped a voice.

Triton was gawking at the fiery orange dragon with forest green eyes. He had never seen such a magnificent animal in his life. The beauty of the unicorns could not compare with the dragon. He knew the other Chosens were as dumbstruck as himself. A beautiful golden crest was atop the graceful head.

:Heavyarms,: the dragon said curtly.

Quatre stared at the golden dragon in wonder. Perfect golden scales covered a powerful body. Turquoise eyes, identical to his own he surmised, looked at him with an alarming amount of intelligence. An orange crest glinted in the sunlight.

:My name is Sandrock,: said a soothing voice.

The two yosei stood in slight astonishment at the two dragons curled around each other, one a deep blue, the other a dark green. Dark knowing black and brown eyes stared at them with the same expression on their own face. A feeling of déjà vu swept through them.

:Our names are Shenlong and Altron, respectively,: said a pair of female and male voices.

Treize, the calmest of the seven, stood before a deep red dragon with eyes the same cornflower blue as his own. It was slightly unnerving that such an animal could be so silent. All of the dragons, he observed were the size of a four story house easily. He felt like an ant next to them.

:You may call me Tallgeese,: a voice informed him.

A sudden shock traveled through all of them as their seven-way bond was strengthened between them. A soothing voice compiled of seven voices was heard in their minds.

:We are the Powers of the Chosens,: the dragons said in unison.

 

Hours later found the Chosens all alone with their dragons, forming a bond that would eventually become stronger. They would have liked to have had time to get used to flying and riding their new mounts but the time was not meant to be.

A mage-scout had caught a message from another scout on the outskirts of the kingdom, requesting help. The unknown enemy had attacked a city which was still recovering from another confrontation so was not able to defend themselves properly.

King Mirialdo would have sent part of his army, but they wouldn't have gotten there fast enough, even with horses which were faster than the winds. He decided to give the Chosens their first mission. The dragons, they found out, were able to fly at least ten times faster than the horses so the Chosens were sent on ahead to do what they could about the many soldiers trying to take over the city.

 

Duo laughed with joy as he felt the wind whip through his hair. His hands were holding onto the tufts of hair which began from the top of the dragon's head and ended somewhere at the beginning of its back. He loved flying and on his dragon, he was much faster. They had saddles made as soon as possible but the leather makers could not possibly make them within a couple of hours. So they had to ride bareback.

Along his lifebond, he felt Heero's nausea. :Not enjoying the ride, koibito?: he asked.

:You are too smug for your own good, Duo: came the slightly weak reply. Duo's amusement quickly turned to concern when he heard how bad Heero's mindvoice sounded.

:Are you okay? You can turn back if you want,: Duo said worriedly.

:No, no, I'll be fine. I'll have get used to it won't I?: Heero said.

:Just--be careful, Heero. I don't want to lose you now that I've found you.:

:You won't. You will have to be careful as well. There it is, our destination.: Heero said, tone suddenly serious.

:It doesn't look too good,: Duo commented. Opening his shields, he contacted the other Chosens. :Alright people, this is it. I wish you all the best of luck and be careful! After this we can celebrate.:

:The same to you, Maxwell,: came Wufei and Meiran's reply.

:We must protect this kingdom,: was Quatre and Triton's comment.

:I certainly will be doing my job with absolute precision,: Treize said.

:Good, ganbatte!: Duo told them before diving. Of all of them, he was the most experienced in flying, although only Heero knew that fact. Other than Heero, none of the others had ever been this high into the air. Levitating took a lot out of a mage and moving took some more. It was not a frequent method of travel, especially when teleporting took less energy and less time.

Duo mentally told Deathscythe to release a steady stream of fire to keep the soldiers at bay. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Heero doing something similar. However, the tactic did not work. The soldiers merely left the dead and wounded and stepped over them. The angel cursed silently and gasped when he spotted a green ball of fire, similar to the one he had shown Treize appear in the dragon's fist.

He grinned and let the ball loose. It decimated an entire line of soldiers and yet left the buildings intact. Duo did like to show off his control of his mage powers. A frown appeared on his face again when that, too, did not stop them. What was so frightening that the soldiers would rather face their death than turn back and retreat? There was no way for him to defeat them with the odds looking at him now.

The angel needed more power but that was an impossibility. During the entire time, he had begun glowing a bright silver color and had clenched his eyes closed. When he opened them, he had to blink several times in surprise to get used to it. Duo was looking through his dragon's eyes! The dragon obviously had abilities that mages and angels alike did not have. Also, the dragon had a farther range. Through Deathscythe's eyes, he saw the soldiers and spotted the blankness in their features. Also, the fact that some of the soldiers were not very--human did not bode well with Duo's psyche. They were the stuff of nightmares. Things with more teeth and claws than brains.

Where were these monsters coming from? Were these soldiers being controlled? If so, where was the mage that was doing the manipulation? There were no mages to his knowledge with enough power to control an army across the spans of the seas. Actually, none that was mortal so the mage had to be somewhere nearby.

Who had the strongest Sight? he thought to himself. Deciding to confront the situation head on, he opened his shields and contacted the other Chosens. :Minna-san. I need the help of a mage with the strongest Sight. I have found out that these soldiers are being controlled.:

:Controlled?: Treize gasped.

:We're on it,: Wufei and Meiran answered. Within a few moments, the request for the location of the mage was answered. However, the mage was under heavy shielding so the couple would have to pool their powers. They only managed to get a vague location.

:It's our only chance at this point and I think we better seize it before it falls out of our grasp. Once we get the controller, his dolls will fall,: Duo stated.

Quatre intervened in the conversation to suggest a plan. :Triton, Treize and I will provide the distraction. Wufei and Meiran can lead Heero to the mage while protecting his back. Duo can make sure the three get there.:

:Sounds good enough. Let's go people! We have some people to save!: Duo shouted enthusiastically.

Triton, Treize and Quatre immediately fell behind to cause as much havoc and chaos among the enemy soldiers as possible. Wufei and Meiran stretched their powers to the limit and then reached out to each other with mental fingers to unite themselves. Heero and Duo attacked the seemingly endless amount of soldiers to keep the pair from being wounded before they managed to find the mage.

:We have him! He's on a mountain ledge about fifteen kilometers north of this place.:

Duo cursed. There was no way Heero could get there fast enough while fighting through the mass of soldiers and the elf was not powerful enough to teleport both himself and his dragon to do away with the enemy mage. He himself wasn't powerful enough either. As if Heero had heard his thoughts and wanted to prove that even the impossible could be accomplished, his dragon began to glow a blinding blue color.

The levels grew to such a point that he had to shield his eyes. When he opened them again, Heero was gone. Duo began to panic but a wordless reply from his lover assured him that he was well. The angel continued fighting. Several moments later, there was a huge explosion on one of the mountains. The soldiers around them seemed to disappear. Black mist leaked out of the armor and collapsed with a loud clang. The hideous beasts that were fighting by their side evaporated into smoke.

In less than a minute, the army around them was reduced to nothing but piles upon piles of empty armor. Eventually even that, too, vanished, leaving no trace but the destruction around them. Duo maneuvered Deathscythe down onto the ground, looking through his dragon's eyes, trying to spot Heero.

There loud roar in the distance, preceding the dark elf's entrance. :Thought you got rid of me, ne?: Heero said to Duo.

:Never,: Duo replied with an image of his exuberant smile.

"Let's go back to the palace. We deserve a rest after that battle," Heero said to the other Chosens. Six heads nodded in agreement and they took off to the sky, riding on their beautiful yet dangerous dragons.

 

Heero gritted his teeth as Duo rubbed in a creme on the numerous burns on his body. His lover was not happy and it showed in the manner of which he tended to his wounds. Although he had the power of Healing, he couldn't Heal himself. So Duo helped him dress the wounds.

"Itai!"

"I told you to be careful, but no, you had to go straight into the fire that the mage threw at you. Wing has nearly indestructible skin, you don't!" Duo shouted at him. Tears gathered in his eyes as he wrapped gauze around Heero's arm. A steel like grip on his arm stopped his hand.

"Gomen ne, koibito," Heero said softly. He tugged on Duo's arm to bring him closer. Reluctantly, the violet eyed boy went to him and buried his head into the crook of his beloved's neck.

"All my lovers left me or died of old age, I don't want to lose you too," Duo said.

"I would blame it on my instincts but it's not a suitable excuse, there is no excuse for what I've done. I was raised and trained to let nothing stand in the way of a mission. Lifelong lessons cannot just be thrown away," Heero murmured.

"I..I know. Just don't die on me, okay?" Duo sniffled.

"I promise upon my honor. Is that enough for you?"

"Hai, I know you don't break promises," Duo said, settling himself more comfortably against Heero. The elf breathed in deeply and nuzzled the soft chestnut strands. A knock on the door disturbed their quiet time.

"Dare da?" Heero yelled.

"Hee-chan no baka. They don't speak your language here," Duo mumbled sleepily.

"Who is it?" Heero repeated in the common tongue.

"Prince Quatre of the Prislani Elves would like to hold an impromptu meeting in his quarters. I was sent to notify you," the guard said.

Duo groaned and got out of bed with Heero following swiftly behind. The elf threw on his hooded robe and threw open the door. The guard was patiently waiting at attention for them. Leading them down a corridor, he stopped at an ornately carved door and knocked on it. It opened and a blonde opened it.

"Oh, thank you, Jaysin," Quatre said to the guard. To Duo and Heero, he said, "Come in."

They walked in and found Meiran and Wufei sitting together in a corner. Treize was leaning against the wall with an expression one could only describe as being contemplative. Triton was sitting on one of the loveseats, waiting for Quatre. Duo and Heero chose the two single seats that were placed side by side.

"So, why did you call?" Duo asked, a bit peeved at having his private time interrupted. Heero squirmed slightly in his seat, trying to find a comfortable place to sit without irritating his burns.

"I wanted to ask if something...peculiar happened during the battle with your dragon," Quatre asked.

"Not really, except that I began to see through Deathscythe's eyes. I don't count that as really strange, well by my standards anyway. Doshite...I mean, why?" Duo asked.

"Now that you mention it, something did happen between my dragon and I. Wing teleported us all the way to the mountain. I don't have enough power to teleport a creature that big that far," Heero remarked.

"I have a theory for all of this," Treize intervened. "My lady was doing some training with me, physical, mental and magical exercises. I may have some Elven blood but not really enough to have really strong magic. My powers are that of a low Journeyman class although I can build rather powerful shields."

"In one of my practices, my lady threw a wave of lightning at me to test my shields. She said that I began to glow red and a vague form of a dragon replaced me for a moment. I supposedly destroyed her attack. She is also a Master-class mage," Treize said.

Wufei and Meiran began to hyperventilate. Everybody looked at the pair. Something seemed to have distressed them. Meiran was the first to recover her breath so she began the story.

"A-As you know, I am the heir to the House of Shirin and Chang through marriage. On the day our clan was celebrating our being Chosen, someone named Dekim Barton attacked us," Meiran said in a dead voice. Wufei took her hand in his and kissed the back of it.

He continued. "There was an annihilation of our entire clan. Men and women, both young and old were slaughtered in the bloodshed. We were the only ones left," Wufei said, clenching his eyes shut to stave off his tears.

"Yosei have the highest amount of Journeymen-class mages than any other species. There are Master-class mages but not many. Every once in a while, an Adept-class is born. Coincidentally, there were two, myself and Wufei. It was rare in itself so our families took it upon themselves to join us together in marriage. We were handfasted as soon as we finished our magical training," Meiran said.

Wufei provided the rest of the story. "Dekim Barton was a man that was already slightly insane and very power hungry, which are two very dangerous combinations in anyone. He lived just outside the boundaries of the Dragon Clan. He only had Mage-potential as far as anyone knows. He searched high and low for ways to unlock his potential but nothing would work. I had heard that someone had his channels blasted open, completing his conversion to insanity."

"He claimed to be the Chosen of the enemy we fight, Epyon. Dekim did not have much control over his powers so it made him a deadly weapon. He knew the basics of shielding and calling on the elements but that was it. The man was a powerful Adept-class mage. Our clan was a peaceful group so we never did have many enemies. We had guards but because we were celebrating, they were a bit careless."

"Dekim destroyed half of the village before anyone managed to confront him. But he was too powerful. The madman had destroyed the Master-class mages before he made a crater out of our village. In a bout of madness, we charged at him."

"I felt my magic levels skyrocket but I paid it no mind. I remember becoming bigger and stronger, towering over him. We had become dragons," Wufei finished.

"Wait, you mean to tell us that you turned into a dragon?" Triton said in disbelief. Wufei and Meiran nodded curtly.

"I believe that our dragons are merely extensions of ourselves. How can you explain our odd stories. My rapier cannot augment my powers from a low Journeyman-class mage to a high Adept-class mage. Those dragons out there have mage type powers," Treize said.

"It does make sense," Heero said reluctantly.

"You said you had a theory," Quatre chirped.

"Ah, yes. My theory. I believe that when our powers come to a high pitch, we may merge with our dragons. After all, as I said before, they seem to be an extension of ourselves," Treize said.

"It's something to think about but it doesn't seem to be right somehow," Duo said, yawning. He laid his head on his aisuru's shoulder.

Heero looked at the clock on the wall to see that they had talked way past midnight. He put an arm under Duo's legs and lifted him up. "It's getting late. I think we should continue this discussion tomorrow. Good night," he said before carrying Duo out of the room.

"Good night. I think we should follow his example. Shall we, Meiran?" Wufei said. He got up and held a hand out for his wife. She gave him a tenuous smile before taking it.

"I think I shall retire to my quarters as well. I wish you a good evening," Treize said before leaving.

"Come on, Little One. I think it's about time we rest. It's been a long day," Triton said as he wrapped his arm around Quatre's waist. The blonde put his head on Triton's shoulder as he let him lead them to their bedroom.

 

The weeks passed and the seven Chosens were no closer to solving the mystery of their dragons. Attacks came nearly daily, testing their strength and weaknesses. Each battle was a challenge to them, physically and mentally, as well as magically. Everything, except maybe the kitchen sink, was thrown at them.

Then again, with the frequent attacks, they may have thrown that in as well. Rarely would they be able to have time alone as they were too busy helping the people clean up the destruction left after each attack. Each clash with the enemy seemed to rise in difficulty. The soldiers became more intelligent as they became even more deadly.

Seven Chosens can only stand against so much even if their powers were amplified by the weapons their Guardians bestowed upon them. In one such skirmish, the Chosens were up against odds that were threatening to overwhelm them.

 

Treize grunted in pain as one of the energy bolts from the soldiers managed to hit him. His fellow Chosens were all fighting and did not have any time to spare him. He conjured up some levin bolts the same time his dragon did and threw it at the enemy as a blast of fire erupted from Tallgeese's mouth. Things were not looking good.

:Where are those soldiers? They were supposed to be here half an hour ago!: he sent to the others.

:They got sidetracked," Quatre informed him.

:We can't stand much more of this!: Wufei shouted as he dodged an attack.

:We still have to stand up and fight! At least until our backup arrives,: Meiran said.

:I agree. Come on, let's take as many of these goons to the Underworld!: Duo cheered as Deathscythe let loose a steady stream of green fire. His war whoop was heard even over the explosions of power.

His companions shook their heads slightly in wonder. Their cheerful friend always managed to pick up their spirits at the best times. They jumped back into the fight with renewed vigor. However, even gaining their second wind, they began to tire quickly.

 

Heero dodged wildly at the storm of mage bolts but some managed to get past Wing's defenses and clipped him in the wing. Panic rushed through his veins as he felt his dragon begin to plummet. Vaguely, he heard the anguished scream of his violet eyed angel, shouting his name.

There was no way he was to give up. If he was going down, he was going to go down with flourish. He gave a wordless cry of remorse to Duo before he upped his power level to a point where he had a minimal amount of control. He would destroy himself and the soldiers in one blast. Hopefully, his lover would be able to find someone else who was worthy of his affection and forgive him for leaving so soon.

The elf began glowing a deep prussian blue. Wing glowed as well and he felt an enormous amount of power rush into him. Heero clenched his teeth as he rode the wild energy. He didn't have much time left, he had to let it go. The dragon below him suddenly disappeared. He opened his own wings to stay up in the sky.

 

Duo watched as a dark blue column of light appeared where his Heero was just moments ago. Wing seemed to disappear, leaving Heero freefalling to his doom. There was no way he could get there in time and the soldiers around him fought back even harder. He tried to fight his way through the barrage of attacks aimed at him but it was too late.

The blue column increased in size, swallowing up the soldiers and destroying them at the same time. He knew then that Heero had released his full power upon them. An attack like that had a survival rate of almost nil. Anger, sorrow, pain and hate ran through his system, clouding his judgement in reasonable attacks and logic.

The mage who controlled the monsters they were fighting was nowhere to be found. He/She was obviously a high powered Adept-class mage from the amount of soldiers he/she conjured up and also due to the fact that even Wufei and Meiran's powerful Sight, they could not detect them. The warriors attacked him relentlessly but Duo could care less. The other Chosens were the same, having felt the passing of their comrade at arms, driving them to their limits and beyond.

He closed his eyes and called upon all the magic he possessed, vaguely wondering where his mount went, and unleashed it upon the soldiers just as the others did the same. Silver, green, gold, red and light blue beams of light enfolded each Chosen, destroying the enemy fighters around them and yet, still they came. They felt themselves changing, becoming more powerful.

A dragon's roar in the distance broke them out of the self-induced trance and six pairs of eyes opened to greet their enemy with a toothy grin.

Where there were once six Chosens riding atop dragons, there were now six even bigger dragons. Another roar greeted them and one by one, each dragon let loose a roar of their own. In the distance, a familiar silver dragon stood hovering in the air, as if waiting for their transformation to be complete.

:Shall we show them who's boss?: came a voice that they thought they'd never hear again. A curt nod from each dragon answered the statement and they flew into the fray.

An inferno enfolded the soldiers, killing them as fast as they came. Sight, having been augmented by the transformation, enabled Wufei and Meiran to spot the controlling mage nearby. Having thought that she would prevail over her predecessors, she had hid near the battlesite. As one, they focused their flames upon that one point.

The last thing the female mage saw was a rainbow of magic conjured flames coming straight at her. And then, she knew no more. With her death, came the disappearance of the mystical army of soldiers.

Seven large dragons descended upon the ground and shrunk in size until they reached that of a human. Each one fell to his/her knees, energy exhausted and unused to the transformation. Unconsciousness crept upon them, sending them into an unwanted darkness. That was how the remaining backup troops found the Chosens, collapsed upon the battleground.

 

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