Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end) Gundam Wing is copyright of its respective creators and all distributors of their work and used without permission.
Alternate Reality, yaoi (male/male relationships), mature content, semi-darkfic
Pairings: 1x2/2x1, Rx2/2xR... yes, you heard me *Rx2/2xR!*! ^_^ And other highly unorthodox combinations
Note (1): This is a draft. <ducking thrown objects> It's barely proofread, okay? ^_^;
Note (2): This fic is a bizarre fusion of GW, Vampire Hunter D, and... <massive sweatdrop>... Utena. It was inspired by: (1) the exquisite trailer for the new Vampire Hunter D movie I saw at Otakon 2000; and (2) some of Abra's E-V-I-L mental images! Yes, Abra, most of this is YOUR fault! :P
Force of Arms
A Gundam Wing fanfic by Madamhydra
Short Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end)
Gundam Wing is copyright of its respective creators and all distributors of their work and used without permission.
All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are
Come on Baby
Don't fear the reaper
Baby, take my hand
Don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly
Don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man
-- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by HIM
-- originally by Blue Oyster Cult
The grizzled warrior slouched on his rough hewn, pelt-draped chair and surveyed the large mountain cavern that served as his throne room with a single world-weary eye. Well over two centuries ago, he had been born Dekim Barton in the Wolf clan, but now he was known simply as the Beast Lord, master of the Weres. Ignoring the unmistakable sound of battle and slaughter, Dekim gradually came to a distasteful, but inescapable conclusion.
He was tired. Tired of constantly fighting off upstart challengers. Tired of living on and on, while his friends died in the innumerable wars, disease, or simply old age. Tired of having no one to trust, no one to drink with, no one to talk to. Tired of defending his right to own Shinigami.
(Hard to believe that it's only a been less than a century since I defeated the Great Dragon Shenlong and claimed Shinigami for my own.)
He had assumed that he had killed the damn reptile, but recent rumors hinted that the Dragon still lived and had simply been licking its wounds all these years.
Dekim felt a familiar surge of annoyance. That blasted Dragon had owned Shinigami for untold centuries, but instead of taking advantage of the weapon's power, the Dragon has simply hidden Shinigami away, just as it had hoarded all the gold, magic items, and knowledge it could lay its greedy claws on.
(Isn't that just like a damn dragon. If Shenlong wasn't willing to use Shinigami, then it should go to someone who would. After all, what the hell is a weapon for? It's a tool, not a damn wall decoration! But nooo... and after I took the damn thing, I had to spend the next 40 years beating off the Dragon clan. They're so damn obsessive about their stupid honor.)
Those four decades had been called the Beast Wars because of the ferocity of the fighting between Dekim's Were clans and the outraged Dragon clan.
(Hah! Put them in their bloody place, too.)
Dragons were formidable opponents, no doubt about it. But they had two big weaknesses. First, they bred very, very slowly. Second, Dragon babies were actually rather easy to kill... if one could get past the protective females.
Dekim smiled nastily, exposing sharp white teeth, as he recalled the numerous expeditions he had led into dragons' nests to decimate both eggs and young. The mother dragons had certainly tried their best to defend their children, but maternal instinct had been no match for Shinigami's power.
He scowled, as he often did when he thought about Shinigami. Dekim couldn't escape the feeling that the weapon had very much resented being taken away from Shenlong and the subsequent slaughter among the dragon females and young only seemed to make matters worse.
Why did the weapon have to be so difficult? A weapon was a tool -- nothing more or less. He didn't mind having an intelligent weapon, but it should bloody well do what its wielder wanted, instead of having a mind and opinions of its own.
Oh, Shinigami had obeyed Dekim's direct orders, but that was all. He knew that the weapon had immense potential, but it was a constant struggle to get anything more than the bare minimum of compliance from the damn thing. If Shinigami had been any less powerful, he would have thrown it away in disgust.
Perhaps even more aggravating was the weapon's constant pretense that it was a living entity, complete with emotions and feelings. Admittedly, he had taken pleasurable advantage of Shinigami's human form on frequent occasions, but it didn't make the playacting any less irritating.
As the clash of weapons and the battle cries grew louder, Dekim's right fist tightened unconsciously around a thin, yet sturdy steel leash. The chain trailed off the chair arm onto the floor, then disappeared into the dark shadows behind Dekim's wooden throne.
It was the night of the new moon, but the darkness did nothing to slow the attack on the Were-clans' mountain stronghold. As he watched his and his allies' forces relentlessly advance, Lord Milliard Peacecraft felt a mixture of smug triumph and annoyance. The triumph came from the knowledge that it was only a matter of time before the Were-clans suffered crushing defeat. The annoyance came from the knowledge that the victory was only made possible with assistance of his sister Relena's undead forces.
Turning his head, he scowled as he watched his younger sister, clad in a flowing black hooded robe, as she calmly accepted a message from one of her zombies... or was it a revenant or a lich? He had no idea. They all looked the same to him -- shambling, half rotting, and reeking of decay....
As if reading his mind, Relena looked up at her brother and smiled faintly. She seemed to find it vastly amusing that her brother found the undead so repugnant. Then again, Milliard had the same reaction to her cousin Dorothy's goblins, lizardmen, and trolls. He apparently viewed anything nonhuman with total contempt. Not that he treated the human scum that made up most of his personal army with anything resembling respect.
Milliard said in a snippy voice, "I'm surprised that you even bothered to show up. I thought you would have preferred to stay in that precious library of yours."
She replied mildly, "And miss the grand finale? Hardly."
Her brother did seem to have a decent rapport with his officers and left them with the responsibility of keeping the lower ranks in order. She got the impression that Milliard disliked magic, probably because he had rather limited magical abilities of his own. The only one of their little cabal that Milliard felt truly comfortable with was Lord Rose.
Unlike Milliard, Dorothy, and herself, Rose was not a Peacecraft. At first he had been a competitor in their quest for Shinigami. But in the end, the Peacecrafts had realized that it would be better to work with Rose rather than against him. The elegant Lord Rose brought many useful skills to their shadowy alliance. Milliard was an excellent warrior and tactician, but Rose was both a peerless strategist and spymaster. It was his information and planning that made this final attack on the Beast Lord possible.
She glanced over at Rose, his face hidden behind a silvery mask as always. None of the Peacecraft knew what Rose truly looked like. Naturally she was curious, but she wasn't about to risk antagonizing a vital ally just to get a peek at his face. She didn't care whether he was the most beautiful man in the world or an absolute toad. All she cared about was his competence.
A few feet behind Lord Rose, she saw Dorothy, who was concentrating on a large faceted orb in her left hand.
(The necromancer, the sorceress, the warrior, and the strategist,) she thought. It was an odd, yet lethally effective alliance, as the Beast Lord was learning to his great cost.
Dorothy suddenly looked up and smiled wickedly at her colleagues. In a triumphant tone, she said, "We've finally broken through. The path to Dekim and Shinigami is clear."
Relena gazed up at the black, starless sky, a closed lipped smile on her pale face.
The night was still young. There was plenty of time.
An hour later, Relena and her companions stalked into the large cavern. The path to Dekim's throne room had been easy. Much too easy. They were all scanning the surroundings with both natural and unnatural senses, but there was no hint of an ambush or traps waiting to be sprung. As far as she could determine, there was only one person in the vicinity.
She had not survived for so long by making careless assumptions, so she carefully looked over the Beast Lord as he lazed on his chair. Dekim appeared to be completely unarmed -- except for his natural shapeshifting abilities, of course -- and there were nothing in the room that obviously resembled a weapon. So where was Shinigami?
Relena was certain that the Beast Lord would keep his most powerful weapon close at hand. Unfortunately, the information about Shinigami and its abilities was hopelessly obscured by legend and time. It was very possible that Shinigami could be masquerading as something as harmless as a ring... or a lamp... or Dekim's leather vest. It could be absolutely anything.
Milliard's voice rang clearly through the near empty chamber.
"You know what we've come for, Dekim!"
The grizzled Beast Lord chuckled malevolently. "Oh yes, I know. You're after Shinigami, of course."
Dorothy said in her cool, precise voice, "Well? What do you plan to do about it?"
Dekim stood up with impressive swiftness. He smirked as he watched his four opponents stiffen warily, then said, "No doubt you expect me to spit defiance at you and dare you to take Shinigami over my dead body. That's why you attacked tonight, right? The legends told you that Shinigami may only change hands at the peak of the full or new moon."
Resting his hand casually on his sword hilt, Lord Rose said smoothly, "Are you trying to persuade us that's not true?"
"Far from it!" Dekim said with a rough chuckle. "It's quite true...." Baring his fanglike teeth in a wide grin, he added, "...as fair as it goes."
The Peacecrafts and Lord Rose stared back at the Beast Lord with icy calm. They were all too experienced to be easily provoked by his unsubtle taunts.
Planting his scarred fists on his hips, Dekim announced, "Well, I think you're in for a shock or two."
Relena raised a fine blond eyebrow, but said nothing.
"You see, you're certainly not the first to try to take Shinigami from me. You're not even the hundredth. It often feels like I've been challenged practically every other new moon or full moon for the last hundred years. And I find that I've become very weary of this game."
Milliard sneered. "Are you trying to tell us that you've decided to give up? Just like that?"
With an eloquent shrug, Dekim said, "Basically... yes. I QUIT."
His last words, spoken with particular emphasis, seem to be addressed not so much to his opponents, but to some unseen listener.
"Do you take us for fools?" Dorothy purred dangerously.
"Your opinion doesn't mean a damn thing to me. I'm telling you the simple truth. Do what you like with it." Dekim suddenly gave them a malicious grin. "There's just one thing...."
Rose murmured, "Of course."
"Oh, I won't lift a finger to stop you. Shinigami's all yours...," Dekim grinned in vicious triumph, "But he can only belong to one of you."
"What are you talking about?" Relena said, her icy blue eyes narrowing.
"You guys obviously formed an alliance to get Shinigami. In return, I suppose you all agreed to share Shinigami's power equally." Dekim smirked at them. "But that's not how it works. Shinigami belongs solely to one individual. I really wish I could stand around and watch as the four of you tear each other apart fighting over the big prize."
"Why? Why are you just giving up without a struggle after all these years?" Rose said evenly.
"I'm sick and tired of this whole bloody world! It's not much consolation, but I take a particular pleasure in knowing that the ones who succeed me -- namely, the four of you -- are a thousand times more vile and corrupt than I could ever be."
Dekim abruptly turned, reached into the shadows behind his throne and dragged a slim male figure into the dim light.
The young man was dressed in nothing more than a scanty leather breechclout. The unruly mass of knee-length, silken chestnut hair cascaded over his shoulders and nearly obscured the inordinately massive iron collar encircling his slender neck. A short steel chain leash dangled from the collar, trailed down his sleekly muscled chest, and ended in a leather wrist loop that hung tantalizingly between his knees. Combined with brilliant amethyst eyes, he had a stunning feral beauty that left all four of them flushed and short of breath.
Gripping the youth tightly by the collar, Dekim laughed harshly at the effect his captive had on his challengers.
"But before I go, I'm going to show you where Shinigami is."
The Beast Lord yanked the unresisting youth to him and gave him a rough, bruising kiss. As the young man passively allowed Dekim to ravage his perfectly shaped mouth, the Beast Lord lifted his clawed hand, then plunged it into his captive's chest.
But instead of a spray of blood, ribbons of black and green lightning erupted from the young man's chest and coiled up Dekim's arm. The Beast Lord broke off the kiss, then abruptly yanked out an impossibly long black sword from the youth's body, just as if he was pulling it out of a sheath. Green and violet sparks flickered, buried deep within the blackness of the blade.
The Peacecrafts and Lord Rose inhaled sharply. None of them doubted that they were gazing upon Shinigami.
Clutching the sword with one hand, Dekim leaned toward the violet-eyed beauty, who seemed both unafraid and completely unharmed by any of the Beast Lord's actions. The older man growled, "You've never forgiven me for taking you away from your last owner, eh? Well, I demand one last service from you, then you'll be rid of me for good."
He grabbed a handful of tangled chestnut hair and wrenched the young man's head around, forcing him to look at Relena and the others.
"Take a good look. One of those four will be your new owner. May you serve him or her as *faithfully* as you served me," the older man spat bitterly. Dekim tossed the young man aside, then lifted Shinigami. The weapon suddenly rippled, changing from a long bastard sword to a short, brutally efficient looking dagger.
The Beast Lord sneered openly as Rose and the others tensed in expectation of an attack. Then, without another word, Dekim plunged Shinigami into his own chest.
In eerie silence, a wave of utter blackness spread from Shinigami, then expanded until it completely enshrouded the older man. For a brief moment, a black man-shaped figure stood before the wooden throne, then it disintegrated into powder.
Shinigami hovered in midair, then without a sound, it fell onto the small pile of dust that had once been Dekim Barton, the Beast Lord.
The young man gracefully rose to his feet and brushed his hair away from his face. He walked over to Shinigami and picked the dagger up before Relena and the others could react. Brushing the dust off the blade, he turned to face them, then slowly clasped the weapon to his bare chest as if embracing it. As he gazed without emotion at Relena and the others, they could clearly see Shinigami vanish, almost as if it evaporated into thin air. Dropping his hands to his sides, the young man spoke in a low, vibrant voice that was husky with disuse.
"Who lays claim to me?"
Far on the other side of the Were-clans' cave complex, a young brown haired woman flung aside a curtain and said breathlessly, "Trowa! Catherine! We've got to get out of here!"
The two young cubs, a two year old male and a slightly older female, sat up in their blankets and blinked in confusion as their frantic mother ran over to them. She tucked on under each arm and carried them out into the hallway.
"Those filthy monsters are massacring every Were they can find! They're killing all of us!" she muttered to herself.
Her cubs were too young to fully comprehend their mother's words, but they understood her urgency. They quietly allowed her to carry them down the winding tangle of corridors. On several occasions, she was forced to stop suddenly and backtrack as her escape route was cut off by marauding troops of trolls or ghouls.
Soon she came to the horrified realization that she was being ruthlessly herded into a kitchen area with no exits. Her green eyes swiftly scanned the blank walls for any hope of escape. Perhaps she could hide the cubs in a cabinet or chest...? Then she saw the trash chute... not big enough for an adult, but just big enough for a cub.
The walls of the chute ran straight down, but they were rough enough to provide claw holds for small nimble paws. She scooped Trowa and Catherine onto the counter and pointed out the chute.
"You've got to climb down as fast as can. Don't stop for anything! And when you get out of the hole, run away and hide! Do you understand?"
Catherine sniffed and wrinkled her nose. "Smells. Dirty." She gazed doubtfully at their mother who frequently scolded them about getting their fur messy.
Her mother smiled tearfully at her children and whispered quickly, "It's okay this time. Just go." Hearing the shuffle of enemy footsteps, she quickly gave her cubs one last hug before shoving Catherine into the trash chute, followed by Trowa.
She watched to make sure they were on their way, then quickly hid the trash chute under a pile of bowls and pots. As the heavy footsteps reached the door of the kitchen, she took a deep breath and whirled to face her opponents. Goblins. Twenty of them. Heavily armed.
There were knives lying around the kitchen, but she choose to use her most dangerous and vicious weapon... herself.
She bared her teeth and snarled. Her slender body swelled with muscle and sprouted thick brown fur as claws erupted from fingers and toes. In a few seconds, a petite female human had become a six foot tall bipedal wolf. She was on the small size for a Were, but she would be no easy prey. And in order to buy her cubs as much time as possible for their escape, she would make her attackers pay dearly.
Saliva splattered nearby counters as she tossed her head and gnashed her teeth. Then with a primal howl of rage and loss, she lunged for the goblins.
Back in the throne room, the young man who now spoke for Shinigami patiently waited for an answer.
Milliard stepped forward and said, "I claim...."
He turned and stared at his sister as she brushed her hood back.
"What did you say, Relena?"
"I lay claim to Shinigami," she coolly retorted.
His eyes narrowed dangerously. "How dare you interfere...!?"
"Dare? After all these years, you should know better than to ask that question, brother."
Before the argument could become more heated, Dorothy turned to Shinigami and said quickly, "What happens if there are two conflicting claims?"
Shinigami said impassively, "There is a Duel to determine ownership. Whoever desires me most shall have me."
"And if one refuses to participate in this Duel?" Milliard demanded sharply.
"The one who declines loses any claim to me. One who is unwilling to fight for what he or she desires is undeserving," Shinigami said flatly.
"What type of duel?" Rose inquired as he watched Relena coolly returning her brother's furious glare.
"Combat by arms or combat by power. The challenged chooses the form. The Duel continues until one surrenders or is incapable of continuing." Shinigami turned to Milliard. "You stated your claim first." It then turned to Relena. "You are the challenger."
Milliard smiled coldly. "Arms or power. Let me guess. Physical combat or magical combat, hm?"
"Yes," Shinigami confirmed in emotionless tones.
"And it's my choice." With a faint smirk, Milliard turned to his sister and said, "It shouldn't surprise you that I pick physical combat. And while you're undoubtedly a skilled necromancer, you're hardly my match at swordplay. So I strongly suggest that you give up now before you annoy me further, Relena *dear*."
There was a disturbingly confidence in Relena's smile as she calmly replied, "I don't think so. Challenge accepted, brother." And with those words, she stripped off her long, concealing black robe. She was not wearing the usual dress or tunic underneath her robe. Instead, she wore boots, black leather pants, and a matching jacket over a silk shirt. Over her shoulder, she carried a sword.
Dorothy and Lord Rose exchanged quick, significant looks.
As Relena smoothly drew her sword, Milliard scowled and followed suit.
"Have you taken up swordsmanship in your spare time between raiding cemetaries for corpses and brewing noxious potions, sister?"
She ignored his insults. Without taking her eyes off her brother, she said to Shinigami, "I'm ready."
"I'm ready as well," Milliard snapped.
As soon as Shinigami spoke, steel rasped against steel as Milliard tried a quick, vicious thrust that, if it had succeeded, would have ended in his victory and probably Relena's death. However, Relena parried the attack without noticeable effort. Milliard took a deep breath to control his temper, then started on a series of teasing moves designed to test his sister's skill.
Relena refused to be lured or provoked. She moved with graceful efficiency, like a master swordsman with decades of practice. She was patient, apparently in no hurry to end the fight.
Dorothy and Rose could see that Milliard was becoming steadily more impatient. His attacks become more serious and more aggressive. And when Relena continued to deflect his attacks with almost contemptuous ease, his attacks got decidedly more risky.
Finally, instead of simply parrying her brother's thrust, Relena abruptly counterattacked and drew first blood. The stinging wound on his forearm only served to infuriate Milliard. Normally a cool and calculating opponent, his long-festering resentment and annoyance with his sister made him take foolish chances in an effort to even. He moved close, locking blades and trying to use his superior weight and strength to force his sister backwards or to the ground. But for some reason, the manuveur wasn't working, no matter how hard he tried. In frustration, he stealthily went for his dagger, then plunged it hilt-deep into Relena's stomach.
With a shockingly powerful shove, Relena pushed her brother away. But instead of gushing blood and collapsing in pain from the mortal dagger wound, she merely smiled. However, this time, she showed her teeth... and her fangs.
Lord Rose inhaled sharply.
Relena reached down and pulled the dagger out of her stomach with only a tiny wince. Without the slightest effort, she snapped the dagger in half with one hand, then tossed the pieces aside. Then moving with inhuman swiftness, she advanced on her brother, wrenched the sword from his hand, and knocked him to the ground.
Before Milliard could blink, he found himself sprawled on the floor, defenseless, with his sister's razor sharp blade pricking his throat. He froze. "How... how did you...?" he sputtered.
"How did I become so strong? How did I become so skillful with a sword? How did I become a vampire? Is that what you're asking me?"
As he simply stared at her, Relena purred, "You assumed that I spent the last few months holed up in some library, pouring through dusty books and scrolls, didn't you? But in reality, I was busily engaged in capturing and experimenting with a rather powerful vampire. A vampire lord, to be precise. The details are unimportant, but suffice it to say that my experiments were entirely successful. And now I recommend that you surrender, brother dear."
He gulped, his Adam's apple grazing the tip of her sword, and snarled between gritted teeth, "Why don't you just kill me and be done with it?"
"Because I can use someone with your skills. I may have Shinigami, but there's bound to be some initial resistance to my authority. How does the title of General or Warlord sound?"
Milliard bared his own teeth and hissed, "And if I refuse?"
Relena loomed over her brother and said sweetly, "Then I'll kill you right now, then turn you as a zombie so you can polish my shoes and lick my bathroom clean."
"How *dare* you!?" he roared, momentarily forgetting the sword brushing his jugular vein.
"What did I say about asking me that question? The choice is simple -- serve me alive or serve me dead. It's your choice, brother." She added, "I can be very generous. How does eternal life sound?"
Milliard hesitated, then grimaced before nodding carefully. When Relena removed her sword from his throat, he sat up and said accusingly, "You've become a cold and hard woman, Relena."
Sheathing her sword, she replied, "It was inevitable. In a way, all this is your fault. It was originally your idea to start looking for Shinigami, remember?"
He glared up at her. "Perhaps, but all of you agreed to it! You were as tired and frustrated as I was! Tired of preaching, begging, and coaxing people into pacificism. And what thanks did we get for our efforts? For every person who believed, ten people scorned us... mocked us... persecuted us. We lost everything... Father, Mother, the entire Sanq kingdom because we tried to bring peace to this miserable world!"
Relena murmured, "I know. If people refused to embrace peace willingly, then perhaps peace needed to be presented more... forcefully. That's why we all agreed to look for Shinigami."
She suddenly lifted her head, her pale face looking like carved marble. "But over the years, I've come to believe that humans don't want peace. Humans are nothing more than animals. They crave conflict and violence. All they understand is dominance and submission." Relena smiled cruelly before continuing.
"Well, I will show them the error of their ways. When I'm through, humankind will be begging and praying for the peace they used to scorn. And when I'm ready, I'll give them peace. Peace on my own terms. It will be the peace of the grave," she said with a soft, chilling laugh.
Relena turned and walked over to confront Dorothy and Lord Rose.
"Will you challenge me or serve me?"
Dorothy glanced at Milliard, then at the beautiful young man who spoke for Shinigami, then finally returned her gaze to Relena. She curtesied gracefully and said, "I know that I am no match for you, so consider me at your service, Relena...."
(...for now.) The words were unspoken, but both Relena and Dorothy knew they were there.
Lord Rose's answer to Relena's question was simple, but eloquent.
He turned his back and walked away.
Relena watched him go. Unlike her brother, Lord Rose had both devoted followers and probably contingency plans. At the moment, she couldn't afford the trouble his death or disappearance would cause. But later, when her power base became established, Rose wouldn't have the luxury of walking away from her.
Behind Relena, Dorothy said quietly, "You knew. That's why you stole the vampire lord's power and knowledge. You knew of the Duel all along."
Relena glanced at the sorceress. "Don't try to tell me that you were totally ignorant of the Duel, either. If I could piece together the clues, I'm certain you could. And no doubt made your own plans."
"I had an educated guess, but nothing more, Relena," Dorothy replied with a casual shrug.
With matters apparently settled, Relena walked over to Shinigami. The young man sank to his knees before Relena and bowed his head. She surveyed her new possession, an object powerful enough to make her Queen of the World. Eventually, she reached out to touch the ugly collar around his neck. She frowned slightly, then with a single effortless motion, she ripped the massive iron collar in two with her bare hands. The heavy pieces hit the floor with a loud clank.
With surprising gentleness, Relena lifted the young man's chin until he was looking up at her. She said softly, "Do you have a name you prefer?"
He blinked those amazing violet eyes, then smiled tentatively, as if to try out a nearly forgotten statement.
"Duo. Please call me Duo."
Keeper of Duo's Dark Side ~~~ Duo no Seishi
Co-Keeper of Duo's Scythe & Bat Wings
Co-Keeper of Little Grim Reaper Duo
Keeper of Saitoh's Sex Life ~~~ Saitoh no Koibito
The Full Disclaimer
All rights and privileges to Shin Kidousenki Gundam Wing are trademarks and property of Sunrise, Bandai, Sotsu Agency, and associated parties. The characters of these works are used WITHOUT permission for the purpose of entertainment only. This work of fiction is not meant for sale or profit.
Original portion of the fiction included here is considered to be the sole property and copyrighted to the author.