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
see chap. 1 for more notes


AN: If you need a visual image for Svale, I based her physique on Cologne (Shampoo's grandma) in Ranma 12. Though actually her personality is closer to another of Ranma's regular characters.

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 5
Wyverns and Monsters and Crones, Oh My

Quatre's religious order -former order- had been dedicated to healing. The celibacy nonsense was only one of the axioms of their art. They also emphasized cleanliness (one of the founders had been an ex-Technologist), concentration, meditation, restraint and sobriety for both patient and healer, and prayers and hymns during the process of the healing touch.

Somehow they'd neglected the importance of kisses to the practice.Trowa felt vaguely sorry for their patients as Quatre's lips soothed his once again, while warm healing power closed the ragged wound across his chest, mending muscle and stitching up skin seamlessly.

"Less smooching more healing, if you don't mind." Duo grumbled, popping up behind Quatre in complete silence (one of his more annoying habits they'd discovered in the past two weeks). "Or did you forget I'm in agony here."

Quatre jumped -Trowa winced as the normally gentle hands flinched against the wound- then looked guiltily at Duo, who was stripped to the waist and nursing his arm.

"I'm sorry! I'm almost finished, I'll be with you in a minute!"

"Right. Do I get the complete treatment too?" Duo added with a leer.

Quatre gave him an uncomprehending look. "I'll heal your arm completely, Duo, don't worry." Behind the healer, Trowa was giving their guide a long look, and Duo grinned amicably and raised his good hand in surrender before sitting down besides the shaman. His face became more serious as he glanced at the nearly healed injury.

"Man, Trowa, I'm real sorry, I've never even seen an armitager this near the road before."

"Hm. Neither have I."

Duo looked at the shaman carefully, whishing he could read the man better. "We've had the most stupid luck since we took to the road together.You must think I'm some terrible guide."

Trowa glanced at him in surprise. "No, you've kept us to one of the few safe routes through the Reg, as far as I can remember."

"What?" Quatre squeaked, looking up from his final touches to the wound. "We've been attacked nearly every day!"

"Yes, but by creatures which do not normally nest anywhere near the road. It's not Maxwell's fault they decided to.come and inspect us."

Quatre stared at Trowa, then his eyes darted towards Heero, who was a hundred feet away, gathering what wood could be found in the bone-dry gulleys of the Reg range.

"What?" Duo had been intensely curious to know why he hadn't come under more suspicion. He never thought it was because Heero was taking the fall for him. "What's Heero got to do with any of this?"

Quatre gave Trowa an apologetic glance as he turned towards Duo. "Nothing, Duo, nothing, we just-"

He stared at the arm that Duo was holding out to him, then at the suddenly hard eyes of their guide. The arm was purple from elbow to shoulder, and a welt the size of two hands curved down the slender limb, and across an inch of the exposed chest. Quatre's professional eyes told him the bone was probably cracked. He was amazed Duo had not made more of a fuss.

"I'd say that if Heero is doing anything to cause more of this," Duo jutted his chin at the injury, "I should know about it."

"I guess I owe you some thanks, Maxwell." Trowa was also examining the young man's arm as he laced up his last spare jerkin and straightened his brown leather headband. "If you hadn't shoved me out of the way when you did, you'd still have full use of your arm and I might have a hole in my chest,."

"Well, you're my client! You're not paying me, but I'm hoping you'll give me a good reference, so I don't want you damaged." Yet.

Quatre's hands covered the welt and started working on the bone. He sighed slightly. The wound was bad, the bone had splintered, and the flesh around it was swollen and tight.

"Heero's okay, right?" He muttered, judging how much more power he had to give.

"Yeah, wonder-boy is fine. I didn't think it was humanly possible to kill a rampaging armitager with a blow to the head. Which brings me back to my initial question, Barton, from which you haven't managed to distract me. I know Centre is a sinkhole of weirdoes, mystical heroes, gods and such stuff, but-"

"We don't know much about Heero." Trowa admitted slowly. "But it's likely that someone so powerful will attract unwanted attention." Duo's mouth twitched ever so slightly. "It might be a safe bet that his presence is bringing all these chaotic magical creatures down on our heads. Or it could be just bad luck. You offend any gods lately, Maxwell?"

"Nope! I'm pure and innocent! Gods like me. Maybe Heero is a closet iconoclast. Maybe the next thing that is going to come down on our heads is a thunderbolt."

"We're not near any active Source I know of, and we should be at Svale's on the evening after tomorrow."

"Svale?"

"Our destination. Hopefully she can tell us exactly how much trouble Heero is going to be. Never mind, you'll have gone your own way by then."

"Me?" Duo hissed and glanced down at Quatre. "Watch it there blondie! I don't know, maybe I'll hang with you guys for awhile. I'm sick and tired of these mountains, I could do with a break."

Since he was watching an apologetic Quatre, he didn't catch the slight glint in Trowa's eyes as the shaman looked at the braided head bowed before him.

        *

The sun was setting on the Reg mountains behind them as they followed the road that curled through the foothills. They'd encountered no further problems and had made good time (Duo had decided to give them a break -an armitager, imp? In Nai No Kami's wretched name, tone it down a bit! Or give a fellow some warning!)

They cut off from the road at a stone marker, worn and beaten down to a stub by time. Trowa led them through rolling grass hills for several hours, until one hill in particular reared above the rest.

Duo's steps faltered as he caught sight of the ruins crowning the perfectly round height. Grey stone reared up and fell like organic waves, around a few central buildings which were more or less standing.

"What.is that?" He asked quietly, though he knew.

"Don't worry, it's been deactivated. Pretty much. Svale knows what she's doing. Most of the time." Trowa led them unerringly to the outskirts of the stone temple.

Duo looked around carefully, but the place did seem dead. Well, the stone circle was. He could feel a distant Source like a dim heartbeat rustle far beneath the mound. Duo scratched his head. A dormant Source under an ancient Jishin sanctuary. Who the hell was Svale?

"Trowa! Rabbit! You're back!"

Duo nearly dove out of the sanctuary again, and Heero dropped down in a defensive crouch. The voice was a screechy wheeze just above their heads.

A- Duo looked closely, yes, it was human- a tiny crone, about thigh-high to Quatre, was leaning on a staff over twice her height as she perched on top of one of the stone ley-markers around the sanctuary.

"Svale!" Trowa turned with a smile. "We found what was at the end of your line. And a few other things as well." His eyes carefully avoided a skittish Duo.

"Well then come on in!" The crone leapt off the stone with the agility of a goat - ah, that's what she reminds him of, Duo realized- long silvery hair floating out behind her. She dashed along the ground like she was on wheels beneath the black garment that covered her to her toes. The staff marked her progress as she disappeared among the fallen stones in the direction of the house.

Duo fell hesitantly in step with a grinning Quatre.

"Er, what is that?"

"That's Svale. You'll get used to her."

"Erm. Rabbit?"

Quatre's grin widened. "My name is Quatre Raberba Winner. But Svale will make a bee-line for the most embarrassing part of any person's name or habits and stake a claim on it. As I said, you'll get used to it. I don't know what she'll call you..." He snickered.

"She called your boyfriend Trowa." Duo muttered, not sure he was liking this.

"Well, Trowa and her have been friends for many years. He's older than he looks." Quatre shrugged.

"I'm pretty sure she's not older than she looks." Duo muttered, remembering his brief glimpse of a face that was not so much wrinkled as ravined. "Centre's not that old."

"Duo-" Quatre's gentle reproof was interrupted by their arrival at the door of one of the smaller buildings. It had been part of the sanctuary once, but had been worn down and then considerably shored up by beams of wood and mortared bricks and stone, until it had lost its fluid organic lines and looked like a run-down shack. Firelight cheerfully waved at them from the interior, and a smell of stew invited them in.

"So, what have we here?" Svale reappeared as they settled around a table. "What did you find at the end of the line? And why'd you bring back a couple of hotties?" Duo found himself pinned to his seat by a beady black eye. Hottie.? Must be some kind of local dialect. Right.

"We found Heero here. I'll give you the details later." Trowa said easily.

"Hmmm." Svale leapt over -pretty agile for such a relic- to where Heero was sitting. She circled around him as he sat stiffly in his chair, without any trace of curiosity or embarrassment on his handsome face.

"Cute!" Svale finally concluded. "What is he?"

There was a short silence.

"We were hoping you could tell us, old woman." Trowa said patiently.

"Oh right, why didn't you say so!" The crone bounced onto the table as if she were on springs and leaned forward until her nose was almost touching Heero's, who looked back calmly.

"Hmmm." Svale muttered, looking into Heero's eyes for a long moment. "Ve- ry interesting."

"Yes?" Quatre asked, breathlessly. Duo leaned forward, curious.

"They're not actually blue, more of dark grey shot through with a bit of teal and light purple."

Silence. Trowa sighed.

"Anything else?" Quatre asked patiently.

"Hmmm." Svale leaned forward and prodded Heero's arm. She muttered under her breath. She made an imperative movement with her finger. "Come up here and sit on the table, junior. Here on the edge."

Heero obeyed without question.

"Right." Svale walked around him on the table, carelessly kicking an empty cup out of the way. Duo's hand shot out and caught it automatically. He thought he caught the slightest glint from Svale's eyes in his direction, but she seemed perfectly concentrated on Heero.

"Hmmm." She prodded Heero in the waist, leaned to put a wrinkled ear on his back and listened to his heart for a minute. Then she scampered to the edge of the table, hoisted her staff and brought the end to rap gently against his knee.

Four pairs of eyes concentrated on Heero's complete lack of leg movement. Heero's eyes were on Svale and he was beginning to frown.

"Hmf!"

Quatre barely had time to shout- Svale lifted her staff again and brought it with a full-strength crack against Heero's knee.

No-one noticed if Heero's knee actually moved since his lightning punch propelled the old crone full-force against a nearby wall which promptly collapsed in a rain of bricks and old mortar.

"Fuck!" Duo gasped. "Fuck, Heero, you just killed the old woman! Trowa, Quatre, Heero just killed the old-"

Quatre was struggling to his feet, worried, while Trowa was holding him back with a resigned look on his face.

"Hotcha!! Now that is what I call a man!"

Duo spun to look at the heaving, shaking pile of various masonry. The staff shot up through the debris, then Svale jumped out, showering dust and bits of stone into the living quarters. She shook her head and grinned toothlessly like something buried in a pyramid for many centuries. Heero stared back with slightly widened eyes.

"Junior, I don't know who the hell you are, but if I was a hundred years younger, I sure know where you'd be spending the night! Hooya!"

"Svale, if you were a hundred years younger, you'd be four hundred and sixty.nine." Trowa said, eyes flickering briefly in concentration.

"And your point is?" Svale dug some mortar out of a wrinkled ear and scooted back over to where they were sitting. Duo made a strangled noise at the bottom of his throat.

"Ah, who's the other cutie?" Svale leapt up on the table again, ignoring a glowering Heero. Trowa snagged an arm across the corner of the table and forced Duo back in his seat before the braided youth could make a run for it.

"This is Duo Maxwell. We ran into him in the Reg. He guided us through."

        A wrinkled old face and a yellowy eye invaded his vision. Svale smelled of old parchment and young cheese. "Wow, he's even cuter than the other one! Trowa, what are you trying to do, give an elderly lady a heart attack?"

Trowa sighed again and shifted his hold until he was leaning full force against Duo.

"Hey there, kid!" Duo fought against Trowa's hold with a nervous 'whoa!' as Svale leapt on to his lap. "You know, I might live in a hovel but I'm actually pretty rich! Wanna marry me?"

"Trowa-a!" Duo mewed as he squirmed. The old witch was pinching him in the waist and seemed intent on heading south.

"Svale, be polite." Trowa said calmly. Svale grabbed Duo's chin with wiry fingers and turned it this way and that -he didn't like it but preferred her hold there than on whatever previous destination she had in mind for her hands before. She did the mummy grin again.

"Lovely, just lovely. Please tell me this is a present for your old friend Svale, Trowa darling."

"No, he's just someone who's been helping us." Trowa said quietly, now standing to keep Duo in place. Besides him, Quatre was laughing helplessly.

"Ma'am-" Duo started.

"Oh, and so polite too!" Duo recoiled as a wrinkled digit pinched his nose - and another one, hidden from Trowa, pinched him on the chest in an area that was bound to make him celibate for the foreseeable future. The more polite hand dropped to the thongs holding his black leather vest closed and gave them a hopeful tug. "You didn't answer my question, junior! Want to make a lady really happy? More importantly, think you have the stamina for it?"

"Aren't you supposed to be concentrating on Heero?" Duo tried to keep his voice from quaking as he fought off the ruder hand. He realized he was blushing furiously, something that hadn't happened involuntarily for a long time. "He's the one Trowa found, I'm just an ordinary-"

"Nothing ordinary about a fine stud like you, boy! I think I'll keep him, Trowa! Can I please keep him? Please?" Svale's hands dropped his vest's laces and darted to the thong around his forehead. "I'll call him Max and he can sleep in my bed! Can I-"

Duo surged to his feet with a hiss like an angry cat, swatting Svale's hands away from the thong holding his hair back, so hard the old crone fell off the table. Trowa staggered as muscles he didn't know the slender young man had arched against his hold and shouldered him away.

"Hands off the hair, lady!" Duo took a few steps back, falling into a defensive crouch.

"Lady?" Svale hopped back onto her feet completely unharmed. "Lady?? I'm in love! No-one's called me that since-"

Trowa caught her in mid-air, picking her out of her intended Duo-full-body- tackle. "Okay, that's enough, old woman. Leave Duo alone."

"Duo? Duo? Even his name is cute!"

"Whatever. Why don't you give us something to eat then put your overactive libido to bed -alone- and let the younger generation get some rest. We've had a tough trip."

Duo, who would have preferred the armitager at this point, settled his clothes again and wondered if it wasn't too late to head back to the mountains. Not that he could leave Heero behind. No, he needed him too much. But damn, this wasn't going to be fun!

[chap. 4] [chap. 6] [back to Maldoror's fic]