Title: Enemy of My Enemy part 05
Author: Em (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Warnings/Labels: AU, fantasy, OOC, weird, angst, shoujo/shounen ai in the works, original characters of the minor sort, etc.
Archive: www.gwaddiction.com, under Lys ap Adin, et al.
Enemy of My Enemy
[16 May 1243 Post Alliance]
Quatre pouted over breakfast. "I'm telling you, I was cold last night," he protested.
Busy with the food, Trowa shook his head. "Then you should carry more blankets in your gear. I'm not going to let you sleep in my bedroll whenever you claim you're cold."
"You're making this very difficult for me," Quatre announced.
"Good." Trowa smirked. "Maybe you'll give up?"
"No chance. Your ass is mine, even if you don't know it yet," Quatre said comfortably. "More coffee?"
"So, what are we going to do today?" Quatre inquired, refilling the ranger's cup. "Something unpleasant for me, I expect."
Trowa frowned. Truthfully, he was beginning to run out of creative tasks to inflict upon Quatre. "We're ... moving camp."
Quatre grinned. "You know, Tro, whenever you start running low on chores, I can give you a few ways to keep busy."
"That won't be--what?" Trowa stopped as the expression on Quatre's face went from a leer to a still, concentrating mask.
That was all the warning Trowa received.
*Two... why on earth are there two of them?* Hirde wondered, using all her skills to observe the two men and their camp. *And which one is Winner?*
Of course, the blond was wearing clothing that wasn't very suitable for forestry--he looked rather like a tropical parrot--and he also had a slight accent, one a little more refined and culture than his companion's. The conversation itself clinched the matter. Winner was the blond, and his companion was probably just another conquest.
*Well, at least I know I've got the right guy,* Hirde thought grimly. *Sorry, Mister Winner, but you've bedded your last lover.*
She lifted her right hand, palm up, and concentrated, evoking her favorite weapon. *So this is what it feels like to be an assassin...*
Hirde lobbed the small blue sphere of light at the campfire.
Trowa's eyes widened as Quatre blurred into action, leaping to his feet and bounding across the distance between them. "What--?" His breath whooshed from his lungs as Quatre tackled him. "Quatre, I told you I'm not--"
The campfire exploded, reflecting in blue eyes that were no longer laughing. "I know you want me, Tro, but now really isn't the time." the words were carefree, but Quatre wasn't smiling anymore. Somehow, the grim expression on his face unnerved Trowa more than the exploding campfire had.
Quatre rolled off Trowa, coming smoothly to his feet, drawing his rapier and scanning the surrounding forest.
Trowa climbed to his own feet, looking about warily.
*Damn it, how does he do that?* Hirde frowned. She was reasonably certain that she hadn't made any noise... But then Winner was known for his uncanny ability to "predict" the future. *Just stay grouped together like that, boys, and it'll all be over soon...*
"Split up," Quatre hissed. "Another blast like that'll take us both down if we stay this close." Suiting action to words, he immediately began edging away from Trowa.
"Just who are you, anyway?" Trowa snapped, moving away from the blond.
"How do you know that this isn't from someone you've pissed off?" Quatre retorted.
"I don't have that many enemies! Just a few poachers who don't have the resources to hire a wizard."
"Oh, so it's all my fault, I see..." Quatre made a face. "Make it through this alive and I'll explain."
"I look forward to it."
*Of _course_ they're not going to cooperate with me,* Hirde thought wryly. *Fine. Should I concentrate on Winner or Bang-boy?*
She hesitated, then forced the words of the fire spell to the fore of her mind.
*Wizards. I hate wizards,* Trowa decided as the gout of flame streamed out of the trees to his left. One part of his mind noted how Quatre acted a moment before the fire actually erupted, while another part of him was tracking the source of the peculiar blue flames before melting into the underbrush himself.
*This must be the reason the bastard's still alive,* Hirde thought, frustrated. *How the _hell_ does he _do_ that?* She shook her head as Quatre reacted before her attack, and immediately followed the stream of fire with a rain of ice arrows. *I'd better end this fast, I can't keep evoking at this pace...* "Where'd the hell Bang-boy go? Shit..."
"My name is Trowa," a level voice told her, before something solid connected firmly with her temple.
"A woman?" Quatre was outraged. "They sent a woman?!"
Trowa, having dragged the unconscious wizard out of the forest and trussed her up, gave Quatre an amused look. "You don't have to sound so insulted."
"But--a woman? They just don't care about me any more," Quatre mourned.
Quatre's eyes went empty again. "My beloved sisters."
Trowa blinked. "About that explanation you mentioned..."
"It's going to take a while, isn't it?"
Quatre nodded. "Yeah."
"Then we'd better sit down, hadn't we?"
Quatre sat, drawing his knees into his chest and wrapping his arms around them, in a strangely defensive posture. "You never did ask me for my full name."
Trowa shrugged. "You obviously didn't want to tell me."
"I'm Quatre Raberba Winner." Quatre waited, watching Trowa's reaction.
"..." Trowa paused, obviously trying to find the right words. "As in...?"
"I'm the only son. He's pretty old-fashioned most duchies tend to ignore the gender when it comes to the heir. Winner is different. I'm the youngest child, but my father believes that only a man can effectively rule. So my sisters were passed over in my favor. They're very bitter, of course, and all my life they've made that very clear to me."
"If you're the heir..."
"Why am I running around in a forest by myself?" Quatre smiled tiredly. "When I was about eighteen, Iria--she's the oldest, by the way--made her first attempt on my life. I couldn't take it any more, so I left. As it turned out, I have a real talent for life lived by one's wits. Of course, I'm a disgrace to the family name, but I gave up caring a long time ago. Every once in a while, I have to deal with that--" he pointed at the unconscious woman "--but, by and large, I prefer it to life in Chanth."
"I can see why you didn't want to tell me." Trowa looked down. "What do we do with her?"
"I usually kill them." Quatre almost laughed at Trowa's shocked expression. "But even I wouldn't kill a defenseless woman."
"'m not that defenseless," she slurred.
"Maybe not, but that's beside the point. What's your name, wizard?" Quatre inquired.
"Evocationalist. Shit. People always assume I'm a wizard," she grumbled. "Hirde Schbeiker."
"Iria sent you? Or was it Kalia this time? This is hardly Darima's style, so I'm guessing it wasn't her... Jisla, maybe?"
"Iria, you got it right the first time. I'm curious, what are you going to do with me?"
"Strip you naked and leave you tied to a tree."
Quatre held up a hand. "Joking. Although it would be funny."
Hirde sputtered. "Kill me if you want, but at least leave me my dignity!"
"So how much is Iria paying this time?" Quatre asked casually. Hirde named the sum, and he winced. "There went Kalia's dowry." He stared off into space. "I'll give you half again--and your life, of course--if you do me a favor."
"I don't want to get involved in your family's politics any more than I already have," Hirde spat.
"How unfortunate for you, because at this point, you no longer have a choice." Quatre fished a chain out from beneath his shirt and pulled it over his head. Holding it up, he allowed both Hirde and Trowa to inspect the ring dangling from the chain. "This is my personal seal. My father had it designed for me when I turned sixteen. It's the only one of its kind in existence. Deliver this to Iria. Let them think that I'm dead."
Hirde was quiet for a long moment. "You don't want to do that. You don't want her to end up taking over."
"It's her right, she was born first, and I don't want it." Bitterness flitted across Quatre's face. "Let them fight one another like dogs, I don't care. Dodging assassins, while invigorating, becomes annoying." He got up, rummaged through his pack, and removed the pouch containing the booty he'd stolen from the baron of Far Reach. "This should cover it, and more. Think of it as a fee for having to put up with Iria again. Untie her, Trowa."
"Just do it." Quatre dropped the seal and payment in front of Hirde and turned away. "Don't argue, please?"
Trowa looked at Quatre, then at Hirde. "What if... you could stop it for good?"
They set out before sunrise, fearful that the Catalonian occupation force would send detachments to eliminate those who had escaped the previous day's bloodbath. Cathrine sent the remnants of her tribe south in one wagon, giving them instructions about their destination that Sally didn't quite follow.
Truthfully, very little made sense to Sally anymore. What had started out as a grand adventure had swiftly degenerated into a nightmare, and she hated it. Sleep had only come after much tossing and turning, and her dreams had been stalked by the horror of the memories... Several times she had woken. During the last, she had heard Cathrine's muffled sobs. Somehow, it became easier to sleep once she had moved her bedroll closer to Cathrine's and reached out a hand to the other woman's...
"They don't like each other very much, do they?" Sally commented, watching the stiff backs of the Dragon Lord and Lady.
"I think they can barely stand each other," Cathrine replied. "But arranged marriages are like that, sometimes. I'm glad mine wasn't."
"Eh?" Sally looked at Cathrine, who shrugged. "I had thought--"
"No, it was arranged, but he was good to me, so I didn't regret it too much. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't... and it looks like they didn't."
"Yeah... have they even spoken to each other since last night?"
"No. Bedded down on opposite sides of the fire, too, if you noticed."
"Oh, I saw... Where are we going again?"
Cathrine shook her head. "To see if there's a reason why it's called Dragon Keep."
Sally puzzled over that for a while. "You don't mean--"
"He seems to know what he's talking about, and, frankly, I don't have anything to lose."
Wufei, listening to the quiet whispers behind him, wondered why he had felt it necessary to invoke their aid the previous evening. He and Meiran were more than capable of making the journey by themselves... Perhaps it had been the kindred bond of loss that had provoked it. Or maybe it was just that he didn't want to spend that much time with Meiran without a relatively neutral third party there to mediate. Yes, that was probably it. *I'm weak.* Wufei sighed. At least Cathrine had been generous enough to provide more appropriate clothing, although the choice of white had seemed to appall her...
Meiran wore white, too.
*I wonder how she feels... At least I had no close relatives in my clan... just a few cousins. But her entire family was there, to see her married... Heh. No wonder she's silent.*
Wufei stole a glance at Meiran. He would have said something, had even opened his mouth, but words failed him. There was nothing to convey adequately what he felt--that he was sorry, sorry that he'd been stubborn about keeping their clans isolated from the rest of the world, that he was sorry about her family, that he was sorry that he wasn't the husband she had wanted...
*At least I'll be able to extract some sort of justice for this atrocity.*
*I didn't want _that_ to happen.*
*I just didn't want to marry him... I just wanted him and his stiff-necked clan to wake up and realize that they weren't alone in the world.*
*I just wanted to be able to live my own life.*
*I didn't want them to die.*
*I didn't want that.*
*I didn't mean it.*
Meiran shook her head. There would be time later, for the guilt and the mourning. For now, she had to be strong, strong so that she and Wufei and the two strange women cold deliver justice for their lost kin.
He was making time on Shinigami. Heero was so tired that the thought barely made an impression on him, but nonetheless, it was true. If what he was forcing out of various confused peasants was true, then he was perhaps half an hour behind the braided man.
*When I catch him, what am I going to do, fall asleep and hope I hit him while I'm falling flat on my face?*
He snickered at himself and steadied himself in his saddle. *With any luck Shinigami will be exhausted, too... I _am_ impressed, not many people could sustain this...*
It was still dark--the sun hadn't even begun to think about rising.
*Maybe this is an endurance contest... Heh... Amazing, the things that you think about after this many hours of not sleeping...*
*I need a nap...*
He almost missed it, in his sleep-deprived haze.
Too damned late.
He would have cried, but all his tears had left him years ago. So he just sat, cradling Sister Helen's head in his lap, staring vacantly down at her face, which was serene even in death. Were those his fingers smoothing the grey-blonde curls framing her face? It must be so, because there was no one else alive to be doing it...
He was too late.
"You probably prayed for them, right up to the last, didn't you?" he whispered, letting his mouth ramble on and on, so that his ears wouldn't have to listen to the silence. "Yeah, you probably did, that was your style, always repay evil with good... I was a bad student, wasn't I? I gave evil for good. I never meant to, I'm sorry... I wish you'd never taken me in. Maybe you all would have stayed safe that way. I tried to protect you, but I guess Shinigami just isn't the guardian type, eh?"
There was a sound beyond his own voice, breaking the silence. Horse's hooves. He lifted his head tiredly, wondering who would be abroad at such an early hour.
The figure was slight, and wobbled as it dismounted its horse. He blinked, and recognition slowly dawned as Heero Yuy staggered through the darkness.
The assassin lowered his head, waiting.
Smoke, still lingering in the morning air, tainting it with the charred odor of burnt wood... and something else.
Blood and death, the stench of it overlaying everything else. Heero reined in his mount, almost involuntarily, the soldier in him forcing him to stop and investigate.
Then he saw the horse, sweat soaked, its sides still heaving, its wind all but broken, and he stopped fully. The saddle was empty, so he dismounted, looking about for... something.
The early morning darkness concealed most of the more horrific details. Heero was glad he couldn't see more than the faint outlines of what must have been until just recently a large, rambling house... He didn't have to look closely at the small sad figures huddled here and there to know that there had been a slaughter in this place, the massacre of dozens of innocents.
Sickened, disoriented, wishing that he would just wake from the nightmare, Heero stumbled and wove his way drunkenly forward. Through the gloom he saw a figure, this one alive--the assassin, holding the body of a woman and stroking her hair with infinite tenderness. He looked up once, obviously seeing and recognizing Heero, but returned his attention to the woman.
"I'm going to kill you," Heero said, eventually, fumbling to a halt an unsteady few feet away.
"Go ahead, I don't plan on stopping you."
Heero blinked. That wasn't the sort of reply he'd expected. "Oh... do you mind if I wait? I don't think I could lift a sword right now."
"...what happened here?" Heero asked, after a few minutes of silence.
"You want the long story or the short?"
"The short for now."
"I work for Zechs Merquise... and Treize Khushrenada. They kept my loyalty by holding this orphanage hostage. As long as I performed my missions, they got to live. I failed to kill your duchess and they died for it." The assassin sighed. "I'd guess the Specials came here yesterday morning, around breakfast time, and eradicated anything that moved, and the burned the place to the ground."
"Yeah. If you don't mind doing me a tremendous favor after I'm dead... Kill them. Please."
Heero tried to sit, but ended up collapsing in an ungainly sprawl. "You didn't like working for them."
"Hell, no. I have a knack for causing death, so what? Doesn't mean I want to do it for a living. It was all about blackmail... I wish I could cry. Maybe it wouldn't hurt so bad, then."
"I have a better idea. Why don't you help me kill Zechs Merquise and Treize Khushrenada?" There was a flaw somewhere in that logic, but Heero was too tired to care anymore.
"Enemy of my enemy, huh?" The assassin shrugged. "Whatever. You can always kill me later, I guess..."
"That works for now. It's Shinigami, right?"
The braided man cringed. "Gods, no. Call me Duo ... Duo Maxwell."