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fic - the faithful and the brave : 30 [novella] - the turnip patch
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fic - the faithful and the brave : 30 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  30

The Faithful and the Brave
Part 30

Duo thought at first that Heero was falling off his chocobo.  He reached out a hand to steady him, as he had many times in the last several hours, but drew it back quickly when Heero twitched, then shook his head slowly, and then jerked awake with a strangled growl in the back of his throat.

"Where --"  Heero bit off the question with a soft curse as his chocobo hopped in surprise and he had to work to maintain his balance on the bird.

"Whoa, easy there," Duo said to the chocobo, nudging his own forward so he could scratch the bird soothingly on the neck.  He glanced back at Heero.  "You, too."

"What --"

"You want Quatre to put you under?  Again?"

Heero's nostrils flared as he pressed his lips together into a tight line and worked to rein in his temper.  He could see Quatre riding not far ahead and made the conscious decision not to look at him right now.  He was pretty sure he hadn't dreamed waking up shortly before leaving Orbonne.  He remembered the stab of fear.  And fury.  He didn't remember anything more after that, and he was pretty sure Quatre wouldn't hesitate to spell him a third time if he thought it necessary.

When he thought he could control himself, he took a breath and tried again, speaking as levelly as he could.  "Untie me."

"You sure Quatre's not gonna put you under again?"

Heero gave it some thought.  "Where are we going?"

Fair question.  "Trowa tracked chocobos leaving the monastery.  Questioned some people, etc etc, we're pretty sure it was them."

"Why aren't we running?"

Duo gave him credit for not raising his voice, though it was difficult to do that when speaking through gritted teeth.  "Lost their tracks 'bout a half hour ago.  Tro's doing a bit of scouting.  There's really only one road leading out of Orbonne 'til you get to Dorter anyway, so we're just continuing on for now.  But, yanno, not too fast since we don't know that we're on the right path."

Heero looked around as well as he could, assessing the area.  Quatre and Wufei rode a little ahead.  Quatre looked like he was dozing in his seat, but surely Wufei was listening to their conversation.  Trowa was out of sight.  It was not yet noon.  The woods were quiet, nothing out of the ordinary.

The fear rose in him again.  He pushed it down with a hard swallow.  Time for that, and its cousin guilt, later.  First, he needed to concentrate on just finding his sister.  He struggled to focus.  He had no skill in the classical Libra arts, as Quatre did, nor even the contemporary Libra arts, but still, his yearning made him try to cast his senses out to find some trace of her.

His sense of failure almost disguised the tingle along his nerves.  When he realized it, he latched on to it, concentrated, and felt no, no that wasn't Sylvia...

He tried to turn his chocobo around, but had no means by which to do so effectively.  "Untie me!" he yelled.  His chocobo jumped again, alarmed, and again he had to work to stay seated.  He knew he had been secured to ensure his safety during his forced slumber, but it didn't make him feel any better.

Quatre turned around with a sigh.

"They're back there!" Heero shouted at him, before Quatre could do anything.  "I can sense the demon's magic.  It's... It's...."  He squeezed his eyes shut to grab ahold of the sensation.  "It's old.  Hours old, perhaps.  Back that way."  He pointed with his chin.

Quatre and Wufei joined them as Duo rushed in to undo the knots holding him.  "What do you sense, Heero?" Wufei asked intently.

"I don't know.  It's... dark.  Like last night, as we descended."

Quatre looked in that direction, brow furrowed.  "Yes.  Maybe."  He nodded once Duo finished his task.  "Let's go."

They trotted back the way they came, Heero in the lead.  Trowa found them and was filled in on the details.  He had found nothing of significance on his own.  They turned off the road when its course deviated too much from their goal and wove their way through the woods.

As they closed in on the position, Quatre shook his head.  "There's no one there."

"But there was," Heero muttered, slowing his pace only to approach with some measure of caution.  His arm had been freed from its sling to facilitate binding him to his seat.  He flexed his hand absently, limbering up in case he had need.

They found a dead Templar.  There was, indeed, no one else.  Duo got the body flipped over with help from Wufei.  "Well.  I think we know how he died," he announced somewhat unnecessarily.

"Quickly.  His sword is still in its sheath," Wufei noted critically.  "He had no time to defend himself.  Was he betrayed by his companions?  Not a member of their conspiracy?"

"It's a pretty crazy conspiracy.  Makes sense that they wouldn't let all of the minions in on all of the secrets.  Not that that's gonna make me any more inclined to trust the next Templar I see."

Trowa pointed off into the woods.  "Looks like the birds milled around for a while before they ran off in that direction.  Humans stayed here.  Eventually... walked over there."  He looked over to where Quatre was standing with Heero.  "Trail ends."

"Just... ends?" Duo asked with a hint of confusion.

Quatre turned to address them.  "The source of the dark magic emanates from here.  I'm not entirely certain of the nature of the spell.  It feels like... Wufei, what do you think?"

He frowned as he concentrated.  "A little bit like... summoning magic?"

Quatre nodded.  "A little bit.  But... I don't know.  Inside out, somehow.  A portal, maybe."

Heero's back was to them.  Duo couldn't see his expression, but he could see his fist clenched at his side.  He looked to Trowa and asked quietly, "Sylvia?"

Trowa indicated some of the marks on the ground, but Duo didn't do much more than glance.  He preferred urban environments.  "On her feet.  Conscious.  Resisting."

Duo wasn't quite looking when Heero punched the tree, but Quatre was instantly by his side, clucking his tongue as he lay a hand gently on Heero's forearm and tugged it away for an inspection.  "You need to stop abusing this."

Heero paid no attention to what the healer was doing with his limb.  He simply stared angrily at the innocent tree trunk in front of him as if it were the one responsible for his sister's disappearance.

"She's alive," Quatre murmured to him.  "She's strong.  We'll get her back."

"She's alive," he echoed softly, closing his eyes.  "She's strong."  He took a long, shaky breath.  "She needs me to be strong."

"That's right."

He could do that.  He would do that.  He could not afford to indulge in his angst this time.  He would not fail her.  He set his jaw with grim determination.  "I will be strong for her."

"We will all be strong for her, my friend.  You are not alone in this."

Heero looked at him, at the rest of them, and saw nothing but agreement there.  His expression relaxed marginally and he nodded in gratitude.

He nodded to Sir Noin as he approached, waiting for acknowledgment before ambling in closer for a bow.  "My Queen."

Relena had gained some level of skill in the social arts of the nobility.  Her pause before answering was longer than required for a queen acknowledging a mere knight, but fell short of being an insult.  "Sir Zechs," she responded coolly.

Her displeasure did not displease him.  It was not directed at him personally.  "May I share this pond with you, Milady?"

"As you wish."  She bent daintily to pick up another rock from the shore of the pond.

"The scenery here within the walls is not as robust as that outside, I know.  I regret the necessity of such restrictions."

"Do you?"  Her neutral answer could have been taken as a challenge, or nothing more than bored small talk.

"We have already foiled one attempt upon your life.  Best that we not tempt another."

"Perhaps if you had not executed Queen Leia," Noin pointed out blandly.  Relena had never won an opportunity to speak to the former Queen Consort, nor had her words swayed Duke Weyridge and his men from their chosen course.  Hostilities had, predictably, escalated since.

"It was not my decision," Zechs answered calmly.

"Your influence grows on Weyridge's council."  She didn't say it like she thought it was a good thing.  "Were you of a mind to change his opinion..."

Relena moved her arm experimentally a few times before letting fly with a stone.  It skipped only twice before sinking into the waters of the pond.  She sighed softly and went in search of another rock.

Zechs' brow lifted.  "Is this what they teach young ladies at Orbonne?"

"A classmate taught me.  Not well enough, I'm afraid," she added ruefully.  "I never could get it quite right.  She said it was a good meditative exercise.  To fill the rock with all of your negative energy, and cast it away from you."

Zechs stared at her for a few seconds before bending to find his own rock.  The pickings were not generous, but he found one that seemed acceptable.  He contemplated it for a long moment.  "And with each skip, picture the negative energy getting farther and farther away from you."  He sent the rock across the surface of the pond.  It lasted three hops.

"Oh," Relena said softly in surprise.  "Have you also...?"

"I, too, have never been quite so good at it... as he."  He turned to her with a peculiar twist to his lips.  "By any chance, was your classmate named Sylvia?"

"Why, yes.  Sylvia..."  A light gasp betrayed her sudden realization.  "Of course.  Was she your friend's... sister?"

He nodded.

"I pray that he is well."

Zechs pursed his lips on his thoughts before speaking.  "You know he has been condemned as a murderer and a heretic.  Best you keep your sympathy for him to a minimum."

"Condemned, yes... As the murderer of a man that betrayed me.  By an institution I know to have ulterior motives.  An institution you serve."

"He once served a man hired to kill you."

"And he chose to help me, instead."

"And have I not chosen to help you, My Queen?"

"You have chosen to help yourself.  By your own admission."

"We can help each other.  Let us channel your frustration into something more potent than a rock skipping across a pond.  There is to be a formal dinner tonight.  Lords Townsend and Venti have been honored with seats beside you.  I am certain that you will be able to demonstrate to them your value beyond being a mere figurehead."

"That was not the seating arrangement, last I heard."

"Such things are subject to change, Milady."

His influence had grown on Weyridge's council, as Noin had said.  And Zechs was open with her, only up to a point.  If Relena had thought there was anything to gain from questioning his goals once more, she would have.

Her days on the road with Heero and his companions seemed so quaint in comparison to today.  And so straightforward.  Little wonder she thought of them with such fondness.  She thought back to Heero's kind words of faith in her, spoken without desire of anything in return, and nodded to herself.  "Tell me what you know of Lords Townsend and Venti."

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8 comments or Leave a comment
tanuki02 From: tanuki02 Date: April 23rd, 2017 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Selena is really in a difficult situation. I think Zechs is underestimating her ability to work around him and his agenda. And I hope the guys are able to rescue Sylvia! Plus find out more about the truth of the Zodiac stones and St. Ajora.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: April 26th, 2017 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
It may be more like Zechs overestimating the righteousness of his own cause. =p
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: May 1st, 2017 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like the interaction between Relena and Zechs. I wouldn't be too trusting of him, either.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 3rd, 2017 07:42 am (UTC) (Link)
She might have been more trusting of him, this handsome, righteous knight who's saved her life and wishes to change the world... if we hadn't started this story with him kidnapping her. =p Oh, and working with Duke Dermail.  Oh, and showing up on Weyridge's doorstep under false pretenses...
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: May 4th, 2017 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's something seriously wonky with LJ back-dating EVERYthing, because I KNOW you just posted this a day or two ago. >_>
The mental picture of Quatre zapping Heero off to la-la land over and over while they run down the road is just kind of priceless. ^^;
But glad they are on the trail and Heero is going to be reasonable.
And MY isn't Relena growing up?
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 7th, 2017 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha, I wish I posted this just a few days ago... that would mean I could reset my timer and I'd be in the clear for another couple weeks. ^^

Quatre is both ruthless and a brat. ^^'' He's lucky Heero is fond of him.

Nothing like a little thought of Heero to firm up Relena's resolve.
tyreling From: tyreling Date: May 24th, 2017 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
This is another great read.

I especially love the part where Quatre zapped Heero and Trowa whispered "so hot" lol. There are more favorite scenes, like the action ones--where they fight demons and guards--and then the obligatory Heero/Duo pending relationship scenes :D , I wish I can pinpoint them specifically.

The dialogues are as always so great. They flow so freely and don't sound boring at all. I'm very impressed when politics is the choice of topic.

Overall, I'm happy I clicked your on-going series.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful work. :D!
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: May 28th, 2017 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)
If you look closely, I fear you will see that I am presenting a mere impression of politics, rather than actual politics. ^^
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