Author: Maldoror
AU fantasy fic. 1+2 for now. Minor character death (past).
Rated PG-13 for some violence
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing characters, or any other anime characters for that matter (sigh). I'm using them here for the sheer fun of it, and am not making any money off of them in any way..

Two Halves + Chapter 1
Found

A fire still burned in the north quarter of the ravaged capital of the kingdom of Sanq. It had been burning for three days now, and no one, not the worn out soldiers, the ragged and beaten citizens, the exhausted mages or the decimated guards cared to do anything about it. The only people who might have cared -the people who had lived in that pleasant neighbourhood in the sheltered arm of the river- had all been killed by the magical blast that had turned the block into an inferno. Any survivors had fled the capital in despair.

That despair was gnawing at the guts of the man staring out the palace window at the blaze he was unable to stop, as he had been unable to prevent its murderous cause to begin with.

So many dead... so many fires...

The man had been crowned Milliardo Peacecraft, King of Sanq at the age of twelve. He had tried to reign in peace with his neighbours, including the small kingdom to the north, in mountainous and magical terrain, full of secrets and powerful sorcerers. The kingdom of Lin was ruled by a house that was brother to the house of Sanq, several marriages had been arranged in the past to try to strengthen those bonds. They had only opened the door to claims to the throne of Sanq by their new king, Treize.

Treize had come down on the peaceful neighbouring kingdom like an avalanche, capturing half of it in a fell swoop, and chasing the young king before him. The next decade was one of war. Lin had little man power but strong sorcerers, the best among them being Treize himself. They conjured fiends of hell as their guards, and used powerful mage blasts to level fortifications. The kingdom of Sanq had always frowned on black magic. White magic defended the Sanq troops but helped only a little against the violent forces arrayed against them.

Many had died.

The man known as Milliardo had rallied. He'd drowned his peaceful nature in the blood of battlefields. He'd taken a new name to lead his soldiers; Milliardo was the name of a kind king who'd lost his throne, his capital, most of his country. Zechs Marquise was the name of the war leader who'd fought back.

He'd won back his country. Three days ago, Treize and his cronies, driven back to their own mountainous frontiers, caught between troops and a deep gorge, had unleashed one last burst of magic that had finally consumed them, and Zechs was now the victor by default, and once more ruler of his land. Alone.

Odin Lowe, the stoic war-master who'd led his troops to final victory, stood slightly back from his king, leaving him in peace for one of his rare moments of depression. He knew that in a few moments Zechs would once more be a king, a commander, an assured leader. But right now, in this palace that Treize had occupied for years, in which he'd held and murdered Zech's queen, he allowed his friend a moment of solitude to mourn.

A moment that was brutally interrupted by the door slamming back. Both men turned in surprise to see the usually calm and genial Father Maxwell panting in the threshold. Maxwell was a priest but also the strongest white mage of the kingdom of Sanq, Zechs' old teacher, and his only other friend beside Odin.

"Zechs... " the older man caught his breath, and looked with growing wonderment at his king. "Milliardo... we've found him!"

*

The convent was intact, a slight distance from the walls of the city. Its courtyard had been used as infirmary by both sides of the conflict and left unharmed by tacit agreement. It was still full of wounded soldiers, those that were still too weak to move to the city. Broken bodies lay on pallets and beds, sisters, brothers and a few priests attended them. Only one place had been left untouched by the press of war; a small elegant house in the middle of a tree-shrouded garden in the centre of the complex. The home of the resident noble and head of the convent, known simply as her Ladyship.

Zecks strode through the courtyard as quickly as he could, cloaked and cowled. Normally he would mingle with the men and women who had fought and been wounded for him, but not today. Today, only today, he would allow himself to be selfish. His heart was hammering so loudly he could barely hear the groans and sighs of those around him. His vision blurred over the courtyard, the wards, the garden, the house, the dark room, the stern face of her Ladyship waiting for him in a carved high-back chair in her study. His heart gave a jarring thump as he saw her face, her expression.

This wouldn't be easy.

"Where is my son?!"

It came out in a rush. He stared at the woman who had raised his beloved Lucrezia as if she were her own daughter, and had accompanied her charge as chaperone from their distant land across the sea. The woman had seen Lucrezia murdered because of his war, his and Treize's. She'd lost two 'daughters' to their conflict, he remembered, facing the searing desolation in those eyes. He'd heard that Treize's consort, Lucrezia's half-sister, Une, had died as well. Lucrezia had been captive at the time, and had only survived because of Une's intervention on Treize. Lucrezia had not survived Une by more than a day. She had been executed -murdered- a few hours after giving birth to his, Zechs', son.

Rumours of his son's survival had haunted him for all these years. He'd never believed it entirely -how likely was Treize to allow the survival of a rival to the throne? - but had let himself fall for the rumour again and again to avoid going mad at the thought of having lost everything he ever held dear. When the tide of war had turned against the evil sorcerer-king and he'd taken control of town after town, Zechs had started to search for the child. A boy, he'd been told, with blue eyes and his mother's dark hair. His heart had ached for that small evanescent hope, that little life. And now, unbelievably, it might be within his reach. He just had to face down the woman who had saved the child and kept him hidden for five years, the woman who'd lost everything to his conflict.

He'd meant to be a bit more diplomatic about it...

"I apologize, your ladyship." He breathed, trying to calm down. He could feel Odin behind him scowl, but Father Maxwell had taken a step nearer, his steady presence soothing. "You understand-" of course she did, who wouldn't. "Please, tell me. Is my son- is he really here?"

The stern-faced woman stared at him as she slowly stood. She had the dark colouring of her distant nation, slanted dark eyes and hair, now streaked with grey, curled under a veil. Her simple black dress hung from her wiry frame. He realised the stiff skirts were trembling ever so slightly; amplifying the tension that seemed to emanate from her in visible waves.

"Yes, your son is here. I've already called the nurse. They should be here shortly."

Zechs said nothing. Because it was obvious from the way her eyes were gleaming that there was an almighty catch here somewhere.

He knew the woman hated him. Right or wrong was beside the point. Because of him, Lucrezia was dead. She'd been sent from her distant land with her half-sister in attendance to see if they were compatible for a marriage alliance, and they'd fallen in love, despite of the war raging all around them. Une... had chosen a different path, one that led to the one who appeared to be the stronger ruler, to Treize. Lucrezia had been hurt but he had promised that he would always be with her, would love her whatever happened.

Then she was gone, captured during a raid. He would have killed the world for her, but he had failed her and she had died. Nothing would ever change that. And the old woman staring at him so hatefully knew that.

But he couldn't see what she was planning. He knew his son was alive and in these walls. Even if she decided at this last minute to try to hide him, he would tear the place apart -he would rip open the world!- to find him. So why was she waiting with bated breath, staring at him almost in hunger? Why was she handing him the only thing he still desired as if she expected it to cause him the worst of pain?

A small door opened (Zechs heard Odin's hand shift to his sword hilt instinctively) and a round plump nun came in, hands out and dragging-

"What- who is- which-?"

"Why are there two of them?" Father Maxwell asked calmly and quietly, to give his king time to compose himself and stop stuttering.

Her ladyship turned slowly, casting her eyes over the nun, smiling and bobbing -she was obviously very simple- then dropping them to the two small boys clutching her skirts. She looked at them with a blank expression, no love or tenderness, nothing, beyond a slight pain.

"One of them is your son." She murmured. She made a sharp gesture with her bony hand. The small boys stumbled forward, obviously used to obeying those hard hands.

Zechs and his men stared in complete bewilderment. The presence of two boys was confusing enough. But seeing them stand side by side... they were identical! Both had light brown hair, blue eyes -deeper than Zech's icy colour, they were Lucrezia's beautiful speck of night sky- round childish faces, the same nose, the same chin...

Zechs had personally spoken to the woman who had helped his wife through childbirth in her chamber/prison in the palace, who had bathed his infant son, handed him to a kind but unknown nun in a desperate attempt to save his life, then stayed with Lucrezia until the men from Treize had come to drag her away to her final resting place, cutting her throat near the grave they had dug next to the one made ready for their Lord's consort. The nurse had miraculously survived, and had been able to tell him about his wife's end, his son's beginning, and his disappearance. She would have told him if Lucrezia had had twins. So who...

"Which is my son?"

"And who is the other one?" asked Odin sharply.

"The other one is the son of Une."

The words fell like a gravestone into the shocked silence, then-

"What?" Odin's hand flew to his sword as he glowered at the boys. "Une? That means Treize's son? Which one is he?!"

"Which one is his highness?" Father Maxwell gasped.

Her ladyship paused, staring at Zechs, her nostrils flaring as if scenting blood, and something like a smile passed her lips as she whispered:

"I don't know."

[chap. 2] [back to Maldoror's fic]