Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: The usual, Gundam Wing belongs to it's owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.
Rated R for language, lots of violence, sexual content

AN: So far the opinion seems to favour an eventual 1x2x5, so I'll see if I can work that in, but this is going to be sooo long into the fic, don't hold your breath. If you're wondering about Shinigami, well... read on (but you won't get an answer until next chapter, and you'll probably have even more questions afterwards!). This fic has several twists and turns up ahead - I mentioned the roller coaster, right? Also, a good dose of violence, starting... right about now.

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 3
At Least We Didn't Have To Wait Long...

"He's big, he's ugly and he's very strong. He's got about half a dozen toughs with him." Maxwell muttered as he walked next to the vardo. "That's all I know. I don't know if he's this Shini- person everyone's talking about. We were never formally introduced."

"Didn't he say anything to you at all?" Quatre asked him, sympathetically.

"Yes. He said, ‘Mine', and then he smiled and said ‘In three months', then he stomped on the last Knight who was still twitching, collected what was left of the man's head, and disappeared." Maxwell's face was pinched, his eyes haunted.

"I'm sorry." Quatre said automatically. He was going to add more but he had to concentrate on driving the vardo around a heap of fallen rock. They were on the main road through the Reg range, but it wasn't often used and in considerable disrepair. Trowa hoped he'd be able to get the vardo through all the way. The road would get rougher than vanish eventually, and then they'd have to rely on Maxwell to guide them along one of the few elusive safe routes out of the Reg.

"Well, I'm sure that you guys won't have any problems with him!" Maxwell gave them a grin, though he didn't look very hopeful. He tossed his braid and walked faster, past the toiling horses. He wasn't very tall, about Heero's height, smaller than Trowa. He was dressed all in black. Leather trousers, well worn and reinforced for horse-riding, a leather vest, patched in the back, black leather wrist guards, short black leather gloves buttoning on the palm, and a wide black leather thong tied several times around his forehead, fluffing out his unruly chestnut bangs, before coiling back and twisting in and out of his braid. He looked young and appealing, Trowa could see why the bandit had decided he was ‘Mine', though the reason for the three month delay was less clear. Unless it was pure sadism.

The black-clad young man trotted up to his previous position, as close to Heero as he dared. He walked beside the sombre stranger for a few minutes, admiring him out of the corner of his violet eyes.

"You're very good with that." He pointed to the shotgun that Trowa had given to Heero. "I'm afraid that this bandit and his buddies seem to be shielded against bullets, though. Are you good with that too?" He pointed at the sword that Trowa had also given to Heero, on the off chance he could use it with the same efficiency. When questioned, Heero had given them a cold recital of what swords were, so there was a good chance.

Heero said nothing.

Maxwell ­he said his first name was Duo- had been trying to get a rise out of the sombre Heero for the last four hours, since they'd set out at first light. He'd not had much success. He'd given up on Trowa the night before. Quatre had chatted with him kindly while artfully avoiding most of his questions, smiling gently. Duo would still drop back to talk to the healer on occasion, but he seemed intent on getting some response out of Heero, possibly to insure the silent man would protect him in case of attack.

Trowa's eye ran over the rocks and gulleys on either side of the mountain road before returning to the slender black figure again. He'd Walked around the young man last night, as well as taking a look at the river. The river was as bad as they said it was, no one was crossing that for at least a week and probably more. The high waters flooding the ford were one thing; the dangerous spirits and elemental power pouring out of the source and ripping through the high waters made it a death trap even for the shaman.

As for Duo Maxwell, the young man had strange lines running around him, but most of that could be explained by the shock and trauma of the past few months. Actually his mind was in remarkably good state considering. There was nothing very suspicious about him, he didn't seem to be hiding anything, and his offer to lead them through the mountains and help them face the dangers there seemed genuine enough. All they had to do was to beat off this mountain bandit who was after him and the deal would be done, and they'd save a considerable amount of time.

Trowa checked his bolts and crossbows, the large one at his back and the small one attached to his right wrist. His runic wristband was firm on his left forearm, a brown leather guard going from wrist to elbow, carved with symbols and inset with beads and stones. He had no use for the sword he'd lent to Heero, enemies rarely got close enough to the shaman for him to use it.

His remaining eye closed slightly as he concentrated; the eyelid over his other eye, covered in a film like droplets of moonlight, twitched. He could feel the mind of several animal guides around him, but in daylight, it was hard to follow their lines. He could only feel an air of menace around them. This bandit and his men knew they were here, they were being watched. That was all he could tell.

Well hopefully they wouldn't have to wait too long to sort this out.

Maxwell was cautious but fairly unconcerned as he led them carefully around another bend in the old road. Heero was a short distance behind him. Trowa was walking near the vardo, to protect Quatre. He could understand why the young braided man seemed fairly easy with the situation, after all, whatever happened, the bandit didn't seem to want to hurt him just yet. And Trowa didn't think the young man would lose any sleep over another group of travellers getting killed trying to protect him from his fate.

Trowa was more concerned about Quatre, a fairly open target on the vardo's seat.

"You have your shields up?" He asked, before thinking.

"For the third time, love, yes." Quatre grinned at him, clearly not minding his lover's concern.

"Hm." That would stop a first wave of attack, but-

Maxwell was suddenly running back to dodge behind Heero. They had no other warning. Trowa felt two people scrambling down a sharp incline to block the vardo's retreat, while four others appeared on the road up ahead of them. And a fifth figure loomed beyond them, turning the bend and advancing upon them slowly.

The travellers stopped immediately. For an instant no one moved, apart from the last bandit who was still walking towards them. Trowa's eyes flicked dismissively over the other men but watched that one carefully. He was taller than even Trowa, half a head higher than most men. His face was so crisscrossed with scars it was only remotely human. His hair was creamy white and gathered in a topknot. He was dressed in dark red leather, covered in thick plates of black armour like glass. It was the armour that Trowa noticed particularly. The lines around it screamed and bent, shivering away from it. Highly magical, highly nasty, it reeked of death and blood. It wasn't a spell the shaman was familiar with, but he was willing to bet the armour was tough. A huge sword hung from the bandit's back.

One of the other men looked back and barked. "He's here alright, boss. Looks like he's trying to run away with some other suckers again."

Duo scowled at the man, a thin well-balanced dagger flickering into his hand.

"Do we have to kill these?" Another bandit finally moved, coming close to Heero with a leer. Trowa didn't need his Sighted eye to see what was going to happen and unslung his crossbow, readying a bolt and keeping his senses on the two behind the vardo who were blocking their retreat. He heard one of them snicker. Their shields could repeal projectiles such as a bullet or a crossbow bolt.

The bandit, taller than Heero, older and well-build, thick leather armour and chain protecting him, approached the brown-haired younth cautiously, his sword an unspoken threat to keep the young man still. Heero looked at him blankly. The shotgun hung loosely from his left hand and the sword from his belt, unused. When he didn't move, the man drew nearer with a sneer.

"It'd be a waste. This one is reaaal pretty." The man reached up to grab the front of Heero's borrowed jerkin. Behind him, Duo made a sound in his throat, and twitched as if to intervene, then glanced at the boss fearfully and hung back.

Heero looked at the bandit.

Then he dropped his eyes to the hand holding his jerkin.

A small frown creased his brow. His eyes were strangely blank though.

The man opened his mouth to say something else. The sword cut up through the chest, into his jaw and tore through his face as it sent him crashing over backwards. Even Trowa, who was expecting it, had not seen the beginning of the movement.

Heero fired the shotgun from the hip, left-handed. The man nearest him was thrown back by the force of the shot hitting his shield. Heero dodged another bandit's swinging sword with a minimal movement, not even glancing at the spelled blade whistling an inch past his back. The other man staggered up to a crouch, his shield still crackling electrically from the impact of the bullet, and Heero fired again, the shot shoving him off the road and down a ravine. He then swung the stock of the shotgun, still held in his left hand, into the neck of the man he'd dodged, then swung in a circle and brought the sword in a quick neat flick down through the man's spine as he staggered away.

The fourth man was already down, a slender dagger in his right eye. Maxwell was up against one of the big rocks in the road, another dagger ready, his eyes flicking between Heero and the boss, who hadn't moved.

Trowa had not waited for the first shotgun shot to imprint its echoes in the ravines and gulleys around them, he'd spun around and fired the large crossbow at the first man leaping towards him. The man was thrown back, screaming and writhing around the bolt that went so unexpectedly straight through his shield and into his gut. The other bandit reacted too late, the second bolt caught her in the chest, just under the collarbone. She fell like a stone with only a long bubbling moan. The first man was still screaming, trying to jerk the bolt out. Trowa sent a second bolt to silence him, and then turned back to the main action.

Heero's first victim was convulsing still, the only movement in the road.

The boss finally reached behind him and slowly drew out his sword. He was grinning savagely.

"It seems my little sweet thing has finally found someone with a bit of spirit." He rumbled, his voice low and twisted by the scar across his mouth, lifting one corner of his lip in a twisted half-circle. "I was getting tired of letting those rats kill useless merchants and their bodyguards." He was referring to his men, Trowa realized. "I'll be much stronger once I've killed you. Much stronger." He took one step towards Heero, then another. Behind Yuy, Maxwell shrunk back into the rock, his face pinched.

Heero, face still blank, leaned and put the shotgun on the ground, then straightened as if he had all day to meet the big bandit's charge.

The huge sword swung back and forth with a whine of cut air. Trowa evaluated its weight and frowned. This one wasn't your average highwayman for sure. His shields might be able to resist the shaman's runed bolts, and he'd lent Heero his only proximity weapon, apart from a short knife... The silent brown-haired man was facing the giant alone.

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