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fic - the faithful and the brave : 2 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - the faithful and the brave : 2 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  2




The Faithful and the Brave
Part 2


They had perhaps an hour of decent light left before they finally closed in on their target.  Nearly hidden beneath the gentle roar of Zirekile Falls came the sound of human voices raised in confrontation.  They moved closer quickly, then left the birds behind to continue on foot.  A chocobo was fully capable of navigating the rocky terrain around the falls, but engaging enemies from one's back while it was doing so was an unsteady prospect.

They hung back to observe the situation for a moment before proceeding.  There was an old wooden bridge spanning the modest river.  It seemed the kidnapper had been trapped while attempting to cross it, hemmed in on both ends by hostile forces.  He held the princess behind his back protectively, sword drawn to ward off those blocking his path.

"You cannot escape!" the knight at the head of one of the packs declared.  He was wearing Weyridge's colors, as were several of his men.  The rest were clad without insignia.  "Simply surrender the princess to us, and we'll let you be on your way!"

"Doubtful," the kidnapper said with a dignified sneer, his attention split between both ends of the bridge.

And as he turned his head from one side to the next, they were able to catch a good look at his face, and Quatre inhaled sharply.  Trowa looked over to him, but Quatre said nothing to break their cover.  He only touched a hand to Heero's elbow.

Heero didn't respond to the touch immediately, but after several seconds, he glanced over to Quatre and nodded tensely.

Noticing the byplay, Duo exchanged a puzzled look with Trowa, who then shrugged minutely and turned back to the situation brewing ahead.

"We don't need her alive," a second knight said to his leader.  "Let us simply kill her and be done with this."

"Barton wants her alive -- if possible.  Let's allow this traitor a few more moments to consider his options before forcing the issue.  What will it be?  You think you are doing her a favor?  Do you imagine that Weyridge will treat her kindly?  She is a pawn, nothing more."

"And do you imagine that her fate in Barton's hands will be more pleasant than that?" the man Heero had identified as Zechs responded.  "He, too, would use her only for his own profit."

"And you?  You would paint yourself as a paragon of selflessness?  Come, tell us who hired you.  Who has paid you for the use of your blade?"

"I am here only to help the princess."

"You would have us believe that you are no more than a random passerby that decided to stop and help?  Ha.  Who told you of our plans?"

"Your self-absorption is charming, I assure you.  I'll not yield, so we can dispense with the negotiations."

Noin drew her sword and emerged from the edge of the woods.  "You'll not fight alone, Sir Knight!"

"Noin!" Relena cried out, instinctively trying to take a step in her bodyguard's direction, but Zechs' arm held her back.

Everyone's attention turned in their direction as they presented themselves.  Weyridge's knight -- or was he Barton's? -- seemed startled at first, but his expression soon settled into a smirk.  "Oh, it's you.  Time you earned your pay, mercenary.  Keep her out of this."

They glanced sidelong at each other, wondering what he was talking about.  And then Odin sighed.  "I take no orders from you!  Amateurs," he added with a mutter.  "At the rate things are going, it seems you'll be keeping us from getting paid.  Why don't we show them how it's done, boys."

That was the sign for them to ready themselves, but they were startled when Odin turned his back on the knights and instead confronted Noin.

"Odin?" Quatre dared ask, re-evaluating his captain's words and fearing his new interpretation.

Their boss kept his focus on Noin, who now had turned to face him, eyes flashing with righteous fury.  "I'll take care of her.  You take care of the princess."  He made an impatient sound at their confusion.  "I only took this job to get close to the princess.  Our real job is to assassinate her.  Now get going!"

Accustomed to following the orders that their captain barked out, Heero took a few automatic steps toward the bridge before stopping abruptly and shaking his head.  "No.  This is wrong."

"What do you mean, 'no'?" Odin growled.  Of all the times for the kid to grow a backbone.  Heero had been a damn good foot soldier to date, reliably executing his part of the plan without fuss and always keeping his cool.  It was one of the reasons he'd brought the kid.  "Follow your damn orders."

He wavered for a moment before firming his stance.  "She's an innocent."

"She's a target, same as any other!"  Odin flicked his sword in a feint at Noin.

She didn't fall for it, nor even counterattack.  The mercenary may have been distracted, but she was still facing six men.  One of them was questioning his orders, but the others had yet to make their loyalties known.  The odds had not tilted definitively in her favor.  She spared a sliver of attention to evaluate the princess' position, and saw that the knights there were in no hurry to end things.

Odin snorted in annoyance.  "She's a tool, a pawn, who had the misfortune of being born into the wrong family."

Heero's eyes narrowed just slightly.  "I will not hold a coincidence of birth and bloodline against--"

"Enough!  The rest of you, get moving!"

Wufei and Quatre shared a quick look and silently took their places by Heero's side.

Duo and Trowa had been watching the proceedings with some level of detached bemusement, but now they turned to each other, came to an understanding with a tilt of the head and a casual shrug, and joined the others in a show of solidarity.

Noin was satisfied with this outcome and wasted no further time questioning it.  "Protect the princess!" she shouted, and it was as much a battlecry as it was a command as she began her assault.

The five of them fell back as Odin gathered his power to him, sending a shiver down their spines.  Noin's power chased it with a tingle across their skins, and it eliminated any hesitation that they might have felt at leaving her alone to her opponent.  It wasn't wise to be caught in the middle of a duel between a Holy Sword and a Dark Sword.

They hurried toward the bridge, and the knights, sensing the tide was about to turn against them, pressed their attack.  Men on both sides of the bridge advanced upon their prey, but their approach was limited by the narrow span, and further still when water from the falls jumped forth and coalesced into an ice wall stalling the knights on the far side of the bridge.  It would not last for long, but Wufei's swift action had bought Zechs the reprieve he needed to protect the princess.

Now it was the knights on this side of the bridge that were fighting on both flanks, but they were seasoned men, and knew their job well.  So too did the five that stood against them.  Quatre held back to weave a protective spell around the princess while the others made their attacks.



He's alive.

It was, at this moment, perhaps more important to keep his mind on his task, to keep himself alive as he fought his way to the bridge.  But every glance he caught between dancing bodies and flashing swords, between each parry and strike, brought Heero one step closer to confirming what he still wasn't quite certain he believed.

Zechs.  He's alive.

The man in question ran his last opponent through, and neatly kicked the body off the side of the bridge.  He glanced back at the princess, spoke a few quiet words to her, then stationed himself near the beginning of the bridge in a guard position.

The knights from the other end of the bridge had chosen to climb down the banks and ford the river rather than try their strength against the wall of ice that still protected the princess' back.  Heero was the first to greet them.  "Archer!" he called out to his allies, spying the man perched atop a rock mid-river, raising a crossbow.

The bolt was released, aimed toward Trowa's back, but an invisible force nudged it off-course, and it flew past and skittered along the ground harmlessly until it struck a rock and came to a rest.  With Quatre having done his part, Wufei did his own, preparing his own ranged counterattack as the man reloaded.  Being the closest at the time, Duo kept an eye on the mage and any who might think to attack him during the casting.

Heero turned aside his opponent's blade, and in that moment before taking advantage of the man's unbalance, he glanced over to Zechs.  The ice-blue eyes that met his were unexpectedly cool, assessing.... Challenging, even.  It left Heero disoriented, and he nearly flubbed his counterattack.  He quickly put it from his mind and re-focused his attention on ending the battle as soon as possible.

Their combined efforts accomplished that goal.  As Noin came up to join them, face drawn in exhaustion, Quatre looked past her and frowned.  "Odin?"

She wrinkled her nose in disgust.  "Fled, that traitorous coward.  Used two of his own allies as distraction."  Without further commentary, she approached the bridge, where Zechs was helping the princess back to ground level.  "Your Highness, are you alright?"

"Noin!" Relena cried in relief, disengaging herself from the knight at her side with a modicum of decorum before moving to her bodyguard.

Noin fell to one knee, her head bowed.  "I failed you, Your Highness.  I invited a viper into the nest."

"Oh, Noin.  It's not your fault."  She held a hand out to her bodyguard and convinced her to rise.  "You couldn't have known."

"Nevertheless.  I put your life at risk."

Quatre stepped in to assist.  "Even had Odin not betrayed you, these knights would still have attacked, and he..."  He looked over to Zechs.

Relena followed his gaze, and smiled welcomingly.  "I am in your debt, Sir Knight."

"Indeed," Noin said warily, taking a step forward.  "But tell us your name, Sir Knight, and under whose colors you ride."

The tall blond ignored the women for a moment, and looked over the others.

When their eyes met, Heero saw the same challenge there that he saw earlier, and it tempered any joy he might have felt at seeing his old friend alive.  "Zechs."

"Heero."  His smile didn't quite reach his eyes.  "Finally decided to stop letting your brother do all your thinking for you?"

"You know each other?" Noin's hand twitched toward her sheathed blade, fearing another deception.

"Yes," Wufei answered shortly, his attention moving quickly from the clenched fist at Heero's side spasming open, to Zechs' disdainful gaze.  "How do you come to be here, Zechs?  And why did you kidnap the princess?"

"Kidnap?" Zechs responded mildly.  "I think I was saving her from the wicked intentions of your former boss."

"She would have been safe within, without your interference."

"You may recall, your boss was working with the enemy.  How simple it would have been to allow one of the knights to slip past your defenses in the heat of battle.  I, on the other hand, meant her no harm.  Your princess can attest to that."

"She was unconscious when you carried her away," Heero pointed out flatly.

Zechs turned toward Relena and bowed elegantly.  "My apologies, Your Highness, but there was no time to explain.  Duke Barton's forces were closing in on all sides, and it was important that you escape safely."

"Barton's men... wearing Weyridge's colors."  Quatre frowned as he considered it.  "It is well known that Weyridge leads those who support the princess as heir, however unofficially, but to make such a bold move in that direction at this point would be treason against the crown.  Was this underhandedness intended to precipitate a confrontation?"

"That appears to be the scenario as Dekim Barton wrote it," Zechs answered unconcernedly.  "Or quite possibly Treize, don't you think, Heero?"

"I wouldn't know," Heero replied evenly.

Zechs' smile in response was thin.  "You should leave the princess in my hands."

Such a suggestion did nothing to alleviate Noin's suspicions in the slightest.  "What would you do with her?"

"I would do what you cannot."

"You speak, and yet say nothing," Heero observed.

"Perhaps.  What would you do with her?  Where will you take her?"

Heero hesitated, and behind him, Noin did the same.

"Duke Barton would not make such a move without the crown on his side.  You've made many enemies today.  Would you seek asylum for the princess with Duke Weyridge?  Such an action would only play into Barton's plans and reinforce the image that Weyridge was behind the attacks today.  He would order you all killed simply to prove that you are not his own men."

Noin frowned, plainly displeased with this laying out of the facts.  "There must be somewhere..."

Zechs swept a measuring gaze over their party before tilting his head ever so slightly in acknowledgment.  "I'll leave her with you for now.  Pray convey her to safety."

Relena straightened, took a step forward.  "You have my thanks, Sir Knight.  Sir Zechs."

He bowed and turned to leave by way of the bridge.

Heero stood conflicted for a moment before calling out.  "Zechs, wait.  I... had not thought we would meet again.  But I am glad we did."

Zechs paused, though he did not turn back.  "I will not say that a higher power saved me for any particular purpose that night... but purpose I have found, nonetheless.  I think our paths shall cross again, Heero."

They said nothing more to each other as Zechs departed, and it wasn't until he was across the bridge before Heero's attention returned to the others.

"Where shall we go?" Noin put forth the question to the whole group.

"Lionel?" Quatre suggested.

She nodded after a moment's thought.  "Yes.  Lionel is held by the church.  They're neutral in this matter.  We should be safe there."  She checked the princess over once more to prepare for travel.

"It's decided, then," Wufei said, moving back toward the tree line, where they could fetch their chocobos.  He stopped after a few steps, after he noticed the two members of their party hanging back, watching the festivities with a nonchalant air.  "Trowa.  Duo."

Quatre lent his smooth hand to the matter.  "Trowa.  Duo.  Your assistance in this matter was appreciated, but not... anticipated."

"Heero wasn't wrong," Trowa remarked, somewhat offhandedly.  "I'm not sure I espouse the random offing of innocent bystanders.  No matter how blue their blood."

"Odin is too mercenary to choose to avenge himself upon you without reason -- or pay.  But should you cross his path, you will likely feel his grudge."

"Yep, pretty sure we burned that bridge."  Duo tacked on a bit of a righteous nod.

Quatre glanced over his shoulder at the others.  "It seems we shall be escorting the princess to Lionel.  Will you join us?"

Trowa and Duo exchanged glances again, much as they did when deciding to join this impromptu rebellion, and ended up nodding with the same insouciance.  "At least until something better comes along," Duo added.

"Of course.  We shall have to endeavor to set the bar quite high, then," Quatre responded solemnly, meeting Trowa's eyes for a moment before going back to confirm their travel plans with the others.




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Comments
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: December 14th, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had a feeling from one of your comments that Zechs wasn't going to be a totally bad guy. I still don't trust him, though. He's too sneaky. I like the way Trowa and Quatre are already developing an attraction. :-)
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: December 15th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Zechs will be playing his cards quite close to his chest in this one...

It's never too early for Trowa and Quatre to be attracted to each other. ^^
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: December 15th, 2013 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
*sigh* So, no kicking of Zechs. Yet. I can live with it. Got a feeling things could be a bit muddled with this lot. ^___^

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: December 15th, 2013 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, it's kinda hard writing Zechs without crossing over the line of total d-bag...
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: December 15th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, that was a complete game change of a part! Gonna have a few twists and turns, are we? :D
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: December 16th, 2013 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, it is based on a video game plot... which mostly means it probably won't make much sense. -_- Half the time I spend staring at the screen, it's because I'm trying to make the darn thing make sense.
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