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fic - the faithful and the brave : 31 [novella] - the turnip patch
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fic - the faithful and the brave : 31 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  31

The Faithful and the Brave
Part 31

Duo stood and sauntered unsteadily up to the knight's table, taking his tankard with him.  "Come now, Sir Knight.  You are not enjoying my friend's show!"  He gestured vaguely over his shoulder to Trowa, who was juggling to cheers and calls in front of a small crowd of the inn's patrons.  "Will you lay a bet?  How many more will he be able to keep in the air?"

The knight frowned irritably, but pointedly ignored him.

"No?"  Duo slumped into a chair next to him.  "Not a betting man, then.  Alright, fine.  Not like betting's a virtue.  Say, you're one of 'em Templars, ain't ya?  What's one of you's doin' in a place like this?"

In truth, the knight was not out of place.  There were many inns and taverns in the trade city of Dorter.  The man fit in to the solidly middle-class common room, aside from the scowling silence.  The room was modestly populated with men and women with honest jobs, unlike the fine establishment where Duo had made his bed last night.

When the Templar said nothing, Duo continued unfazed.  "Quiet type, too, eh?  All you Templars like that?  I ran into one of you a couple of days back, too, and he was just as quiet.  You fellows sure are a cranky lot."  He made use of the tankard in his hand.  "Maybe he was a friend o'yours, eh?  He wore the crimson armband.  Dark hair, short, tiny little mustache.  Pretty pale... Well, that last bit may have been on account of him being dead and all.  Come to think of it --"

That grabbed the knight's attention.  "Where?" he demanded.

"Huh?  Your friend?  Uh, outside of town somewhere."

"Where?" he growled again.

"Err... in the woods?  South?  Or was that..."  Duo rubbed his nose thoughtfully.  "It was near this rock.  I remember this rock.  It was just past this rock that looked like... man, what was it?"  He snapped his fingers clumsily.  "Yeah, thought it looked like a lopsided dick!  Or wait... maybe it was... hey, what's that thing called?  When your cock's all standin' crooked-sideways?  Like --"

"How far south?" the knight barked.

"South?  Umm... There's this bit of a fence with three trees clumped at the end, see?  And then past that, where the road does this bit of a wiggle, and then... uh..."  He faltered a bit when the knight glared darkly at him.  "Uh.  Sorry.  I'm a landmark kind of guy."

The Templar grabbed his arm and dragged him to his feet.  "Was he alone?"

"Whoa, hey now!"  On the other side of the room, Trowa performed a flourish that set off a hearty round of cheers from his crowd.

"You will lead me to him."  He pushed Duo in the direction of the door.  "Was he alone?"

"Sheesh."  Duo bumped into a stool on his way out, and tripped a little over the threshold of the exit, but glanced nervously at the knight's hand on the pommel of his sword and walked on in compliance.  "Uh, well, aside from the scavengers, ya mean?  Yeah.  Should there a'been more?"

The knight pushed him toward the public stabling yard down the block and snapped at the hand on duty.  "Boy!  My bird."  He glanced distastefully at Duo.  "And one more for this one.  The lowliest of your stock will do."

"Aw," Duo whined.  "Do I gotta go with?  Look, I told ya, there was this cock.  I mean, rock!  A rather cocky rock, I guess.  Heh heh.  But, uh... fence!  There was that fence, too, right?"

"I trust your directions not one bit, you wretched thing."

"Wretched?!  There I was, jus' having a drink, jus' tryin' ta be friendly, and you go and abduct me!  Who's the wretch, eh?"  The stable boy walked up and presented him with the reins of a chocobo, its yellow feathers looking drab and bedraggled.  "Oh my, you poor thing.  I guess you're the wretched one here, eh?"  He scratched the poor bird kindly on the neck, up to the crown of its bowed head, and received a plaintive kweh in response.  "Don't those meanies here take care of you fellas at all?  You better see to your own bird, Sir Knight, make sure he's nowhere near such a sorry state."

"Oh, no, mister," the stable boy protested quickly.  "We take care of the birds in our care!  Jus' someone dropped off this bird in this sorry state and--"

"Enough!" the Templar interrupted impatiently.  He had no interest in the good repute of the stable.  It well suited his purposes that such a sorry chocobo was available for the renting, for he had no desire to spend any more of his well-earned coin on his addled-witted companion than he had to.  "Get on.  Now."

Duo cooed at the chocobo for a few more seconds before asking its pardon and mounting up gracelessly.  "That okay, m'new feathery friend?" he asked solicitously as he settled himself.  "I dun weigh too much, do I?"

"Shut up," the Templar ground out, grabbing for Duo's reins.  "We're going."

The knight rode toward the South gate with icy silence.  Duo followed along complacently, occasionally breaking into a soft drinking song.  Once outside the city gates, Duo screwed up his face in concentration and decided they had about half an hour of riding to do before he had to start keeping an eye out for his landmarks.

Once Dorter was out of sight, the Templar seemed to calm down just slightly, reassured now that the fool riding beside him appeared to be obeying his demands.  Duo let the tight silence between them relax a bit before making rambling conversation that the knight mostly ignored.  His chocobo made a fine conversational partner, though.  It appreciated the attention.  When that got boring, he hummed a tune he had heard last night in a tavern, and tried aloud to remember the words to a song that had been popular in Bervenia last year.

The road did a bit of a wiggle, and Duo led them off into the woods, speaking idly of the hazards of forests at night.  The Templar perhaps experienced one of those hazards himself as he passed beneath the boughs of a sturdy tree and felt a wave of disorientation hit him.  He swayed in his saddle and he shook his head irritably as if to avoid an annoying fly.  It seemed to work as his perceptions stabilized.

A man stood in the path ahead of them.  The image wavered lightly, a trick of the moonlight through the branches above perhaps, before settling into a familiar form.  "Mueller!  What's this?  This fool assured me you were dead!"

Mueller cocked his head to the side.  "Fool?"

"Yes, this --"  He turned and found his annoying companion had disappeared.  "Where has he gone?"

"You ride alone.  Have you had too much to drink?"

"No, I --"  He shook his head again and dismounted.  "No matter.  Where have you been?  You're two days late!"

"There were complications."

"Were you able to capture the Kushrenada bastard?  Surely he was no match for five Templars on the Church's own ground."

"The others rode off with him.  Took my bird for him, in fact."

"Ch'.  I don't care that they were Dermail's own men.  Those 'brothers' of ours had quite a chill about them, didn't they?"

"Shall we go after them?"

"Aye, let's show them they can't just toss us aside."  He paused, then muttered a mild curse.  "Two days ahead, and you without a mount.  We'll never catch up, not unless the bastard is giving them a hard time, and they aren't the type to put up with that sort of foolishness for long.  Orders were only that he be taken alive, after all."

"Think we we can cut ahead of them?"

"No, surely they'll make port the day after next.  Damn them for leaving us behind so brazenly.  Can they really be so eager to show off their prize to Lord Dermail?"

"Hm, now that you mention it... I think they might have been discussing some alternate destination as they rode off.  Where else do you think they might deliver their prize?"

"Where else...?"  He scowled off into the distance as he thought.  "Dermail did take quite an interest in interrogating the heretic himself.  But they'd have to have ridden past Dorter on their way north.  Gods curse the lot of them!  Gods..."  A sudden dizziness came over him, darkening the edges of his vision.  "What..."

There was a sound behind him.  He couldn't turn around in time before something thumped him on the head and he fell over.

Wufei prodded the man cautiously with the staff to make sure he was unconscious.  Behind him, Duo was helping Quatre down from their tree.

"Sorry," the mage apologized to the rest of them.  "I was about to lose him."

Trowa shrugged.  "I got the easy stuff out of him.  More would have taken a bit more fishing."  Another minute more of the spell would likely not have been of much assistance.

Heero stepped out from behind another tree.  "A beating might serve well enough."  He eyed the fallen knight darkly.

"He wasn't a part of their plan."  Wufei passed the staff back to Quatre to lean on.  A spell to confuse the senses was not so difficult, but to focus it so finely was an impressive feat.

"He might know more than he thinks he does."

"Who's Dermail?" Duo piped up to divert things.  "The guy's name rings a bell."

They had convinced Heero of this more indirect method of interrogation with talk of Templars unlikely to be cowed by a direct application of force.  No doubt the flame of his righteousness would only burn more brightly if confronted by a heretic.  But there had been an unspoken agreement amongst the others of their party that it would surely be a wise idea not to tempt Heero into anything that his sister would disapprove of.  The tension rarely left him, even in his occasional bout of despondence, but his irritability had grown all the time they had spent in Dorter.  The Templars no longer had need of him, but the Church still considered him a wanted man.  He had been forced to lie low while the others searched for clues.  He had not enjoyed it in the slightest.

"Dermail is the leader of their order," Wufei answered.  "To think that their conspiracy goes all the way to the very top..."

"They already had the Cardinal of freaking Lionel.  That wasn't high enough for you?" Duo scoffed.  "Anyway.  Port.  To Murond?"

Trowa agreed, but shook his head.  "That's where a normal Templar like this fellow might bring a prisoner.  But it seemed unlikely that the demons would bring Heero to the Church's headquarters for a confession, not when they clearly had other plans for him."

"North of Dorter... Templars would be absurdly conspicuous in the desert," Quatre said confidently.  "Farther north."

"The mountains of Bervenia?"  Wufei discarded the idea as soon as he spoke it.  "A few townships.  Popular with the geomancers and the chemists.  Nothing more."

"I was thinking farther still.  Into Fovoham."

"Riovanes?  Yardrow?  Yes, there are people in those parts that might merit a visit from the Lord Templar."

Quatre nodded.  "He had a personal interest in Heero.  No doubt he is in the thick of things.  So we've a lead now.  And a target."  He stepped deliberately between Heero and the unconscious Templar, breaking Heero's terrible stare.  "It's not so late that we can't at least put some distance between us and this fellow, make it north of the city.  Let's get going.  Before he wakes."

Heero fixed him with a hard glare before he looked away and scrubbed the murderous intent off his face with a weary hand.  "Not that you couldn't just spell him back to sleep."

Quatre smiled sweetly at him.  "Don't be silly, Heero.  I reserve my sleep spells for my friends.  Men such as this get this instead."  He tapped the knight none too gently with the butt of his staff.

Duo cleared his throat to hide a laugh.  "Uh, guess that's my sign to rob this guy blind."  He bent to attend to the matter.  He really only needed to stage a robbery, but no sense in not being thorough about it.  "Hey, Tro, wanna give that bird I rode in on a little TLC?  Looks like he could use it."

Heero watched Duo at his work with only a fraction of his attention.  "Quatre," he said at length.

"Hmm?" the mage answered.  He had been watching Trowa at his work with some fraction of his attention.

"Thank you.  For... that spell.  You likely stopped me from doing something... hasty."

Quatre smiled and merely nodded.

"Such as... hurting Duo."  Heero met Duo's eyes briefly before glancing away.  After a moment, he firmed up his courage and remade contact.  "My apologies.  I should have said so earlier."

Duo had not been expecting to get an apology for that, late or not, so he was content.  Well, no, perhaps he did expect it, because Heero did have a habit of apologizing for the obscure and mundane.  "Nah, don't worry about it.  You were upset."

"That is a terrible reason to strike out at one's friend."

Duo was so pleased at being so named that it was up to Trowa to murmur the proper rejoinder.  "I'm sure Duo will find a way for you make it up to him."

Heero found himself suddenly discomfited.  "I'm sure he will."

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4 comments or Leave a comment
tyreling From: tyreling Date: June 6th, 2017 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Trowa's words sound like an omen now hahahah. I hope Duo and Heero do make up for that fight. heheheh.

For a moment I was wondering why there was a new character Mueller but then I realized it's a magic spell all along. I don't know why I'm even surprised.

Thank you for sharing this story. I've now read and re-read most for your stories and feeling really, really depraved hahahaha. Guess I should go re-read Haven.

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 8th, 2017 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that spell was a tricky one.  Without it, the boys would probably have had to beat the information out of the guy, and then murder him, and that wasn't really where I felt like going just now.

Huh, normally people get 'diabetic' after binging on my stuff, not 'depraved'.  But I'll take it. ^^
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: June 10th, 2017 01:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Magic is so freaking much fun. Makes me want to AU some universe where magic exists, but making up the rules would just be a pain. Poor abused Chocobo... I hope they do right by the little guy. ^^; And keeping in mind that these five did not all start out together, this part rather points out the changes that have been happening. Nicely done.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 13th, 2017 05:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Could just have a potter-like universe where the rules don't make any sense. =p I think just sitting down and making up rules out of thin air could be hard, but making up rules that can support some set of situations that comprise the rest of your plot details doesn't seem as bad.  Probably doing that anyway for background details and all the rest.

Speaking of rules... I'm totally pushing the disposability and ubiquity of rental chocobos for my convenience. ^^
4 comments or Leave a comment