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fic - the faithful and the brave : 1 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - the faithful and the brave : 1 [novella]
Well, let's get this party started.  I'm not as far along as I'd hoped to be before starting the official posting, but oh well.  All previous teasers reposted as one here, along with the rest of chapter one.


Current summary that's probably not nearly as temp as I want it to be: Guys fighting to right the wrongs in front of them against a backdrop of political intrigue and tangled succession, saints and sinners, the nobles and the noble.  And Final Fantasy lore.



Disclaimer: This fic borrows plot and lore from Final Fantasy Tactics, property of Square Enix.  No infringement intended.

The Faithful and the Brave
Part 1


Odin trotted out a little ahead of the others and turned around to address them.  "Orbonne Monastery is just up ahead."

"Ooh," Duo said, as they reined in their mounts.  "Are we finally going to get mission details?"

Their boss appraised them coolly, as if judging their worth despite having hired them all himself.  Duo had been with the Lightning Bolts for four years now, along with his friend Trowa, but their attitudes labeled them 'damn kids' in his mind permanently.  "We're here to serve bodyguard duty."

"High-value individual, expecting trouble, or inflated sense of self-worth?" Trowa asked, glancing at their party.  There were five of them total, not counting Odin.  Granted, they weren't considered the cream of Odin's crop, but in a crew full of specialists, it was the generalists that held the team effort together.

"A little bit of each.  A lady, so mind your tongues."  He looked pointedly at the two of them.  They were no more low-brow than the average mercenary, but though the others were of similar age, they were nobly born or trained, and therefore not a concern.  "Her knight is the one that hired us."

"Will her knight be coming with us?" another of their party, Wufei, inquired.

"The lady requires a chaperone, of course.  Don't worry, I intend to make it clear just who is in charge here."

Duo grinned cheekily.  "Us?"

"Me," Odin responded flatly, letting the finality of that one word sink in before moving on.  "Followed by the rest of you.  Let's move out."

Orbonne Monastery was an imposing structure, being both an abbey for religious contemplation and a center for religious studies, complete with an extensive library, vaults containing holy artefacts, and dormitories.  Trowa whistled softly as they approached it.  "The Church has been holding out on us."

A young blond man with a oaken staff strapped across his back pulled up beside him.  "Orbonne Monastery is said to have been built twelve hundred years ago.  Long before the current drought, and the difficulties brought on by it."

"Twelve hundred years ago?  That would be around the time of the founding of the Church?"

"Indeed."

"It took time for the Church of Glabados to gain prominence across Ivalice.  For such a grand structure, that implies they've been working on Orbonne over the years.  Not just twelve hundred years ago."

Quatre nodded with a slight smile in appreciation of the point.  "It is true, they say the monastery has grown into a bit of a patchwork labyrinth.  But it was still built well before the drought."

One of the doors to the church opened, and they immediately straightened to attention as someone assessed them quickly and professionally before emerging from the interior.  She didn't stray far from the door left ajar beside her, waiting instead for them to come to her.

Odin dismounted and initiated the encounter.  "Lucrezia Noin?"

The knight tilted her head in acknowledgment.  "Odin Lowe."

He signaled for his men to join him on the ground.  "And a handful of my best men.  How can we be of service?"

She glanced in through the door.  "The princess will be finished with her prayers shortly.  See to your birds.  Then I'll introduce you."

The others exchanged subtle glances amongst themselves as they led their chocobos to the stable block to the side of the main yard.  It could only have been Princess Relena, and with the king ill and the succession in question, it was little wonder her knight felt a little safer having additional security at hand.

Once there, Odin tossed his reins to a young monk tending to the yard.  "I'm going to take a look around," he announced abruptly to his men before leaving.

Trowa took possession of the chocobo from the monk before shooing him off to attend to duties elsewhere.  "I don't suppose one of us ought to have gone with him."

Duo shrugged as he loosened the straps on his chocobo's harness.  Until they heard one way or another what the plan was going to be moving forward, the birds would be made comfortable and given refreshment, but not stripped of their gear and settled in.  "If the boss-man wants to go on recon by himself, then the boss-man can go on recon by himself."

"I didn't catch the knight's insignia," Wufei noted.  "Do you suppose she is one of Duke Weyridge's?"

"He would be bold to stake his claim so early in the game," Quatre pointed out, giving his mount a good scratch around the beak.  A small yellow feather floated to the ground as the bird ruffled happily.  "The queen holds power yet, and very few are those who would openly bring up the issue of succession to challenge her.  Not while the king is... relatively well."

"Holy Knight of Lesalia," the final member of their party said quietly, straightening from his routine check of his bird's feet.  The chocobo thanked him with a fond head-butt to the chest.

Quatre smiled.  "Ah, thank you, Heero.  You're quite right."

"Church knight," Trowa translated.  "Figures."

Wufei cleared his throat softly.  "You're thinking of the Divine Knights of Murond."

Trowa stared at him blankly.  "There's really a difference between divine knights and holy knights?"

"Divine Knights are blessed by the church.  Which is based in Murond, of course.  The Holy Knights do not pledge themselves to any church or saint, but rather, to the sword, as their proper name implies -- Knights of the Holy Sword of the Royal City of Lesalia.  On the other hand, they have a long history with the crown, but despite their name, they are not bound to the crown.  The fact that there is a Holy Knight serving as bodyguard to the Princess Relena does not necessarily imply that she is King Peacecraft's preferred heir."

"Wait, so who is the heir right now?" Duo asked straightly.  "I know the king is ill right now, so that's excuse enough not to press him into officially deciding it, but they had, what, ten years before that to figure it out, didn't they?"

"They were politely ignoring the issue."

He made a politely disgusted sound.  "What, because he's been in ill health for years?  Didn't want to make it seem like they were too eager to get rid of him?  Well, that hardly helped the situation."

Quatre intervened diplomatically.  "It's true, the line of succession was muddled when Queen Leia bore a child to the king.  This makes Princess Mariemaia's claim to the throne by blood greater than Relena's, despite Relena being designated heir first.  But I feel most nobles were never concerned.  The king naming his niece to the succession was always viewed as a contingency plan.  It was reassuring at the time, with the queen failing to carry a child to term.  But since the successful birth of Mariemaia, Relena has been living out of sight in a monastery.  It's only been recently that her name has been surfacing as a claimant with legitimate precedence to the throne."

"In other words... you people way overcomplicate things for yourselves."

He chuckled.  "You could say that."

"But hey, if you can't overcomplicate matters of succession, what can you complicate?"

"Thank you for being so understanding."  Quatre gave him a small, ironic bow.

"Enough."  Heero interrupted them with a single soft word.  The others followed the direction of his gaze and saw their captain on his way back.  Without further conversation, they released the chocobos into the corral and gathered by the gate for orders.

Odin jerked his head toward the chapel, and they met by the door.  After one long look, he approved them and led them within.  Noin came forward as they approached, stationing herself halfway down the central aisle to halt their advance.  For a few moments, they stood there silently, save for the muted creaking of their armor, and then the princess praying at the altar raised her head and stood, absently smoothing down the front of her dress before turning to greet them.  She was elegant and regal in bearing, but the modest white dress with its blue shawl and lack of ornamentation did nothing to distinguish her as royalty.  "Welcome to Orbonne Monastery."

"Your Highness," her knight started.  "These are the ones I told you about.  Sir Odin Lowe, and some of his men."  She frowned faintly, apparently interpreting her lady's soft exhalation as a negative one.  "They have an excellent reputation."

"Of course, Sir Noin," Princess Relena reassured her knight with a small smile.  "Surely, I intend no disrespect toward your ability to judge the merit of these men.  I only wish such precautions were unnecessary."

"Alas, our political clime is not swayed by such gentle wishes."

"What are your plans?" Odin asked, his gruff tone masking a certain impatience.

Noin turned to him with pursed lips.  "Everyone knows that the princess is here.  We will need to --"

Outside, a chocobo squawked, loudly enough to be heard within the church.  Noin glanced to the men, unfamiliar with the habits of their birds, and got all the confirmation she needed from the tense looks they exchanged.  She directed the princess to a location with more cover as the others strode quickly outside.  The glare of the daylight slowed them for only a moment before their vision cleared and they saw the knights crossing the yard.  Ten of them, wearing the insignia of the Order of the Southern Sky -- Duke Weyridge's men.  One of them glared irritably at the agitated chocobos in their corral, but otherwise, they approached with weapons sheathed and expressions neutral.

The princess' new bodyguards put themselves on alert, but bided their time, studying the strangers carefully as they waited for the situation to clarify itself.  They trusted their birds' judgment that something was amiss.

"Halt," Odin said as they came within engagement range.  "State your business here."

The knight at the front of their party responded.  "Our prayers are between ourselves and St. Ajora.  Better that we ask you to explain your actions."

"The chapel is occupied at the moment.  You'll have to come back at a later time."

"I see.  And who, pray tell, could be within that warrants the protection of six men?"

"That is none of your concern."

A second knight spoke up.  "Could it possibly be the Princess Relena?"

Another of his companions played along.  "I believe you are right.  The princess, surrounded by a band of ruffians attempting to hold us at bay while they execute their nefarious plan against her person."

"By the saints!  We had best see to the princess' safety, wouldn't you say?"

The first knight drew his sword with a feral grin.  "Indeed."

Trowa met the first attack by virtue of the range of his glaive, but the others were not long after, each according to their own style.  Odin and Heero met their three attackers head-on, sword clanging sharply upon sword, while Duo deftly deflected the strike coming his way with one long knife and darted in for a quick counterattack with his second.  The mages naturally kept to the rear, wielding the spells they had started preparing as soon as the confrontation seemed imminent.  Wufei caught three of them with a circle of fire, and Quatre cast a confusion on the remaining two, bringing them to a stumbling halt as their senses re-oriented themselves in all the wrong ways.

Not long after the initial charge, Noin emerged from the chapel.  With judgment swift and sure, she wielded her Holy Sword skill against two of the men dancing with the flames, sending out a wave of pure force with the swing of her sword that tore up the earth between her and her targets on its way to slamming into the men hard enough to throw them off their feet.  Leaving them for the moment, she caught up with the one man that had managed to escape Wufei's fire, and sliced at him before he had a chance to attack Trowa from behind.



Even in one of the chapel's back rooms, Princess Relena could hear the faint sounds of battle from outside.  Steel struck steel, interspersed with the occasional yell.  She clasped her hands before her and closed her eyes, silently asking forgiveness of the old monastery for being the cause of such violence in this hallowed place.

One of the office's two doors opened.  She looked up, and did not recognize the tall knight that entered, but there was something about him that made her uneasy.  She backed a step away from him unconsciously.  "Who are you?"

The knight swept into a respectful bow, touching his fist to his heart, upon which was the design of some lord or another, but she was not well learned in such things.  "Your Highness.  You are not safe here.  We should go."

"Who are you?" she demanded once more, edging closer to the door behind her.  Noin had mentioned no other allies aside from the six already met.

The knight held his hand out to her.  "I am on your side.  Whereas those fighting outside see only profit in you -- in your life or your death."

"I somehow doubt your intentions are any more noble."

"Alas, I have come to the conclusion that none of us is truly noble.  Nevertheless, I wish to see you to safety, Your Highness."

"Yes... Perhaps I shall seek out safety elsewhere."  Her hand finally closed around the doorknob behind her, and she jerked the door open and fled toward the chapel.  Knights as a rule did not move quietly, but they could move swiftly.  She heard the leather and armor closing in behind her and tried to run faster, but she was caught before she could get through the next door in her path.  She cried out as a hand captured her around the wrist.  "Unhand me!"

The struggle was brief, and ended with him casting a powder in her face that had her crumpling into his arms with a whimper.  "Forgive me, Princess, though in truth, the blame lies not with me, but in your blood, and in this wretched system that values it."



Noin heard the cry from within.  "The princess!"  She shoved her attacker back and ran toward the chapel doors.

Taking advantage of the distraction she inadvertently created, Heero slipped his sword through his opponent's defenses and dispatched him.  Being the one closest to Noin and the chapel, he ran after her to provide assistance, slowing on his way only to deliver a disabling blow to the man Noin had left behind.  That left the battle lopsided in their enemies' favor, but he would trust in the others' ability to handle it.

Noin was no longer in the chapel when he entered, but he followed the sound of her frustration into the offices behind the altar, through one door and then another, hurrying when Noin shouted out in inarticulate anger.  He caught up with her as she was looking out over the mezzanine balcony onto a lower level.  She pounded the railing with her fist before running down yet another hallway.

Heero peered over the railing himself before giving chase, and saw what Noin had seen, a knight striding away calmly with an unconscious princess in his arms.  He had only paused for a quick glance to better comprehend the situation, but he was caught by the fall of blond hair tied back into a neat tail, the tall and proud posture.  Heero ran down the length of the balustrade to get ahead of them, and managed to see the man's face before they disappeared through a door.

"Zechs?" he whispered to himself incredulously.  As the knight's red cape swished out of sight, Heero shook himself out of his stupor and followed the path that Noin before him had taken.  "Zechs!"

Several doors later, he emerged outdoors beside Noin, just in time to see the knight riding away into the forest on chocobo-back with the princess, on the other side of the old monastery's cloaca.

Noin ran a few token steps in their direction, but there was clearly no crossing the wide waterway without difficulty, let alone catching up with one of the speedy birds on foot.  "Dammit all!" she cursed, standing still only long enough to recover some breath before moving to return to the monastery's front yard with haste.

With a glance over his shoulder, Heero followed her wordlessly.

The balance of the battle had shifted in the defenders' favor some time ago, and it was clear that they were wrapping things up.  Noin stalked right up to the last man standing and drew her sword on him.  "Where is he taking her?"

The knight appeared puzzled for a moment, but then he summoned up a weak grin, though he kept his eyes on the length of blade pointed menacingly at him.  "I don't know what you're talking about, milady."

The blade did not waver.  "Do not toy with me.  What does Duke Weyridge want with the princess?"

His smirk solidified.  "I'm sure he has his plans, milady.  Why don't you find him and ask?"

Her eyes flashed, and a tingling on his skin was all the warning he got before lightning arced off of her blade and finished him off.  Noin barely spared him a glance before moving off to the stables.

"Wow," Duo observed mildly to the others.  "She's got even less charm than Heero does."

Wufei snorted.  "Don't get between a Holy Knight and her holy duty."

"We need to follow him," Heero declared.  It was neither suggestion nor command, but a statement of certain fact, and he quit the battlefield for the stables almost as abruptly as the Holy Knight before him had.

"Hmmm."  Duo shook his head, even as they all got moving.  "Nope, she's still got less charm."

"What happened in there?" Odin demanded as they headed for the birds.  "Who took the princess?"

Heero was not quite as prompt in his response as he often was.  "He wore the mark of the Southern Sky."

"A lone knight?"

"All that was necessary," Quatre observed irritably.  "With his compatriots causing quite the distraction in the front yard."

Heero finished with his report without prompting.  "He rode off with an unconscious princess into the Araguay Woods.  We were unable to give chase on foot."

"We'll have to track him."  Odin looked over to Trowa, who nodded.  Almost as an afterthought, he turned to Noin.  "Unless you have some idea of where he might be taking her."

"I do not," she answered tersely, tightening the strap on her saddle.  "Weyridge will want her alive.  Preferrably cooperative.  We have that much in our favor.  I do not believe he would bring her directly to his stronghold.  There is time yet for subtlety in this dance of heirs."

Duo waved a hand in the direction of their recent encounter.  "Uh, that wasn't subtle."

Odin pulled himself astride his chocobo's back.  "We're not here to discuss politics.  Let's just find the girl.  Unless you have other plans, Trowa here is my best tracker."

Noin nodded and mounted up.  "Let's go."

They circled around to the back of the monastery, where they were able to pick up the trail easily enough.  The chocobo's large feet left distinct imprints upon the earth, and there were no wild chocobos dwelling in the area.  The farther they got into the woods, however, the more there was to obscure the trail on the forest floor.  That, combined with the chocobo's naturally long, loping gait, slowed their pace, but they had hopes of gaining ground a bit later in the day.  A chocobo was not well-built for carrying two.



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Comments
ronin101 From: ronin101 Date: November 16th, 2013 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fantastic! So exciting to see another post and about your novella, too!

But, uh...."old monastery's cloaca." Having raised birds for many years, I think you mean cloister?
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 16th, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Naturally, when I write novella, I feel like I should be writing more Haven. When I write Haven, I feel like I should be writing Novella. -_-

Birds have a cloaca, out which waste flows. Monasteries can also have cloaca, out which waste flows. In Latin, the cloaca is a sewer. In olden Rome, the Cloaca Maxima was the rather impressive sewer system there, one of the earliest examples of a sewer system, as I recall. Hence, the cloaca is also a term for the outlet for the waterways that might run underneath a structure like Orbonne Monastery. /random
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: November 16th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I got it right! ^___^ Don't know why I know that, but I do.

Exciting! I do want to kick Zechs in the shins a few hundred times, but plot-wise... cool! He doesn't have that much of a head start... can they catch him, though? O_o

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 17th, 2013 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)
What, cloaca?  Our vocabulary word of the day?  I'm just a classics junkie myself, after which I noticed the word continued to have modern usage.

Oh come on... you don't know a thing about Zechs.  What if he's a good guy? ^_^ (you'd probably still want to kick him. ^^')
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: November 17th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have all sorts of odd words twiddling around in my head. Used to read the dictionary for fun. Yeah, I was (am) weird. ^___^

Well, of course I want to kick Zechs. Doesn't everyone? ^_o

But if he does turn out to be a good guy here, I will minimize my kicking. ^___^

sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: November 28th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Noin doesn't. At least not normally... but she certainly appears to want to kick him now! :D

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: November 28th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the original version, the Zechs character pulls a Heero and punches the princess in the stomach to knock her out.  I wrote that at first, but then thought, wow that's super-uncouth, even for Zechs! (or perhaps especially for zechs...)
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: December 14th, 2013 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
The most interesting part of this to me is the fact that Heero recognized Zechs and didn't share that information. I want to know why!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: December 15th, 2013 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, let's just say Zechs was probably the last person he expected to see there.  He probably doubted his own eyes.
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