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

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 9
Intersections, Part II

Trowa tilted his head. In his mind, lines branched out from the three in the small clearing Quatre had selected and intersected those of others. Eight others.

"Svale, are your wards active out here?"

"No my boy, we're too far away from the sanctuary."

"I can shield us both." Quatre said, his voice still husky but calm.

The men were closing fast. They had to have had horses to move across the hills but they'd left them behind, or Trowa would have felt them sooner.

He let himself sink into the lines, reassured to feel Quatre's shield rise behind him. At least he didn't have to worry about his lover immediately.

Ah, there.

One of the lines sharpened as it intersected his.

His hand shot out, backhanding the quarrel shooting towards his hip. It hit the ground ten feet away, slithering with a soft rasp over the grass.

"Nice."

The man crested the hill that had protected him from sight, slipping another bolt in his double crossbow. He was only slightly shorter than Trowa, dressed in tough black and maroon leathers, light brown hair gathered in a loose ponytail. The small sweep of beard was darker, framing and hardening a face that was otherwise too soft to be swinging crossbows at people. Others drew up around him, at a safe distance, in a loose crescent a hundred feet in front of Trowa.

"What do you want?" But Trowa could already see the complex dance of intersecting lines, and had a feeling that they wouldn't be able to talk their way out of this. The lines of men were more fluid and shifting than the immortal lines of the earth, but they could still be reliable when things came down to the rub.

"You." The man pointed at Svale. "Old... " He hesitated. "... Lady." He finally concluded. Behind him, Trowa could feel Svale glare daggers. "A little bird told me that you were the keeper of a Jishin temple, to the west of here."

"I should have been your mother's keeper instead, stopped her from humping that goat and producing you." Svale ground out. Trowa heard Quatre protest quietly, but knew, like Svale, that being polite and cooperative was not going to lead anywhere.

The man smiled like a knife, clean and sharp. "I'll take that as a yes. We have a buyer who is very interested in twilight artefacts. We've got some but he wants a complete set, and we hear we can find them in your temple."

"What do you want, exactly?" Svale grumbled, eyes fixed on the leader, but her senses, like Trowa's, flickering over the seven others. Nothing special. Two of them were only partly human but whatever alternate ancestry they bore was not strong enough to register powerful magical or psychic lines. One of them could scrye and had lead the raiders to them, Trowa guessed, and they all had Technologist shields clipped to their belts. Useless against his runed bolts though. Two of them had crossbows, the others had swords or spiked clubs. They wore no armour except for reinforced leather. Quick raiders, not heavy infantry.

"We want any Jishin artefact you have. A couple of my men will take you back to the temple. I hear you have strong magical barriers around the place. We've been scrying the place and waiting for days for someone to come out so we could force you out of your shell, and you did us the honour of coming out in person, trailing after blondie here. But your friends' presence will still be useful. They will insure you come back out from that magical barrier, with my two men and all your baubles, as quickly as you can to insure they're not damaged."

His eyes flicked over Trowa's bare chest, and to Quatre, a pool of stillness in the centre of his mystical shield, and the man's smile faded slightly to be replaced by a dreamy expression. "Not too damaged... " He added with a murmur.

"If you're going to be messing with my boys anyway, why should I do what you say?" Svale barked.

"Trust me, you'll do it, and very quickly. The less time they spend with me and my men, the better for them."

A couple of the men chuckled.

"Who is your buyer and who gave you your information?"

The man's eyes narrowed at Trowa's light baritone. "Because I am eventually going to release you alive, pretty boy, I'm not going to tell you that. You can take that as my seal that we will let you go once we get what we want."

Trowa shrugged. It was worth a try. He crouched and put the crossbow down on the ground.

"Very well, looks like we're in agreement." The leader's smile was wide and sensual, staring down at the kneeling shaman, his own crossbow dipping. His gaze lingered on the bare chest again, then he blinked as he saw Trowa tug at the thongs holding his headband tight across his forehead.

Trowa cast one glance behind him -Quatre's eyes were two warm pools of feeling, and Svale nodded - then tugged the headband down over his eyes and jerked the thongs fast again, the two beads clicking together briefly.

"'Ere, thass nice!" One of the men drawled in a Western desert accent. "'E's doin' all t'work for us. Think e'll gag 'imself and tie his own hands too?"

The beads clicked again as Trowa tightened and fit the blindfold. He grabbed his crossbow and stood.

Lines darted and twisted around them all, and he now stepped into their world and let himself sink into them. Each attacker was reduced to an outline of vectors; lines of intent, the aim of a swinging weapon, a streak of anticipated movement, all leaping out to intersect with the lines of earth and with those of the other attackers in a complex mesh.

Trowa took three steps forward and to the left, instinctively putting himself at the greatest number of intersections.

"What the-" someone muttered.

"Well boys, I would gladly give you what few Jishin claptrap I've accumulated over the years, for all the good it would do your buyer, but I'm not lettin' you play your dirty games with Trowa and young Rabbit." Svale's voice rang out in an angry creak, distracting their attackers for a few seconds. "As for your informant, I hope you didn't pay him too much for his information, cause it has several gaps. First of all, there is no magical barrier around my home, I don't know why he told you that. Second, I have so few Jishin artefacts it's almost a joke, since I study the ruins, not the crap you sell to tourists. And third... my boys ain't good bargaining chips." Trowa was moving again, the lines and vectors brushing him as they twisted around him. There. The breaking point in the mesh of lines.

He didn't wait for an attack, his crossbow whipping towards the first knot in the lines, aiming, not at the man, but at the vectors of his movements. Intersection. The second bolt had left the crossbow an instant after the first, towards the streaks of movement that was the second bowman, then Trowa ducked as lines shooting from the leader intersected his own path.

In the visible world, his bolts hissed from his crossbow, flying not at the men but at the spot where they had instinctively ducked as they saw him raise his bow their way, pinning first one then another of the archers even as they dodged. Then the shaman was crouched and the bolt from the leader's bow ripped the air over his head. His fingers leapt towards his belt and fitted two other bolts in the mechanism as he dodged the second quarrel just as easily, and he fired as he straightened. His bolt flew through the useless shield of the man running towards one of the fallen bows, taking him just as he lifted his head to spot the shaman. The bolt buried itself in his eye with a wet thunk and he fell over, still in his crouch, the crossbow dropped to the ground and his sword went flying from his hand with a dizzying flash in the sudden streak of sun trickling from a split in the wet clouds. Trowa's second bolt took out the man a few feet away from his latest victim as he stood, immobilized by panic, staring at the corpses in shock.

Vectors and intent crossed and darted towards Trowa and he moved, fitting more bolts into his bow, cranking the mechanism back with one strong arm and the stock against his hip. The first man running towards him lifted his sword. The shaman couldn't see the desperate fear in the man's eyes as the attacker realized he couldn't bridge the distance between them in time. He didn't see the attempt to dodge his bolt as the man threw himself to the ground. The loosed quarrel intersected the man's movements unerringly, slamming him to the ground, the body jerking as the metal point drove itself between two vertebrae. Trowa barely moved -the line he was following put him in the optimal place for each shot, which gave him plenty of time to dodge the bolts from the leader- the bow dipped up to pin the next man running towards him, the bolt shearing the artery in his groin with lethal aim.

The last man was upon him, though in the heat of battle he probably didn't realize he was the last. Trowa dodged left, right, crouched and rolled beneath the swing of a desperate sword, his fingers grabbing two more runed bolts from his belt and fitting them into the crossbow. Ignoring the man, who was already dead. The man gave a shout, lifting his sword in a huge backswing to cleave the shaman crouching before him - and staggering with a gasp as the leader's last shot accidentally nailed him instead of the dodging, weaving body of the shaman. Trowa twisted and avoided the falling body as he rose. His strong arms ratcheted the crossbow's mechanism back as he faced the leader.

Trowa couldn't see the man lick his lips, his gaze darting around the fallen bodies. But the lines of intent from his centre had curled back on himself, and the vectors of movement stilled, as the man reconsidered his options. Trowa swung his crossbow in his direction but left it slightly down, waiting.

"In case you're wondering why you're still sucking air through your windpipe instead of a hole in your chest, we just wanted you to reconsider giving us the name of your buyer." Svale cackled. She was lying, of course. She knew the reason Trowa had not fired at the man was because his shield was of better quality than his men's, and Trowa's bolts couldn't penetrate it.

"You were right about one thing, hag... I did pay my informant too much. He neglected to tell me the 'cute brunette' was a Nightwalker." He was trying to keep his voice calm, and Trowa could feel his lines squirm as he looked for a way out of the predicament. "I think I'll get my money's worth out of him by the end of the day, though. I'll sell what's left of him to the Almanide, he'd make a very pretty eunuch." Trowa watched the lines dart, saw the man weigh the fact that they both had two bolts ready, but that he was shielded and the shaman wasn't. "I guess I can tell you my buyer's name-" lines of intent crossed, the man was hesitating. Hesitating to lie or attack immediately. He didn't know the buyer's name.

Trowa was already dodging before the first bolt left the bow. He swung left, and the bolt whined and bucked the air half an inch from his bare chest. The second bolt was aimed straight at his heart, the raider loosed it as soon as he saw which way the shaman dodged.

Trowa raised his arm at an almost languid pace to intercept. The bolt shattered against his leather wristguard, the runes on it glowing briefly.

The man cursed and grabbed two more bolts. Trowa kneeled, steadied his aim, fired in quick succession. The first bolt hit the shield where it was weakest - invisible lines of power arcing over the sphere and intersecting just above the man's head at the breaking point. The shield flickered for just a second and in that second the second bolt darted through and caught the man in the throat.

The raider staggered back, pawing at the bolt for a few seconds, then fell, half-sitting, the crossbow twanging as it fired empty under his convulsing hand. Trowa ignored the dying man's chocked death-rattle, as he quickly Walked, in his mind, the leylines around the battlefield. No others waiting in backup, and of those still alive, no more movement vectors, they were dying in stillness and silence.

Trowa sighed as he crouched, putting his crossbow at his feet again, and untied the thongs to his headband. As he lifted it from dazed eyes, light steps echoed behind him and he felt a rough cotton smock press against his back, soft blonde hair wisp against his neck, surprisingly strong arms squeeze his shoulders. He reached back and held the other body close, as he let the Sight slowly fade.

"Well, let's hope they didn't take too roundabout an approach to circle us. Trowa, stop groping Rabbit and see if you can follow their lines back to their horses. Bring them back to the sanctuary, maybe we can find some information on them. I'll meet you there."

Trowa cast a quick glance at Svale, then took Quatre's hand and led him away from the messy job of finishing off any survivors and checking the bodies for clues. The unspoken offer to let him take Quatre away from that almost made up for the old witch spying on them earlier. Well, almost.

*

A couple of miles away, the raider's informant, who'd been left behind to watch the horses, was busy looting the saddlebags now that the outcome of the fight was decided. Imp turned away from the spinning globe and the slaughter there, and went to help.

"Master, the Nightwalker won."

"Yeah, well, I didn't doubt it." Though he had been ready to teleport in and run interference if necessary, to start with. Once the fourth man was down, he realized Trowa did not need his help, and started on the second half of his plan.

"What are we looking for?" The imp upended a duffel bag with surprising strength for something so small and poked at the rather smelly contents. Underwear, especially in that state, was probably not it.

"The leader of those rats should have a couple of energy crystals they stole from that wizard in Gowergate, if they've not fenced them yet -but those he'd have kept on him. Svale will find them. No matter. I don't know what else he picked up. He's been a thorn in my side for awhile now, but he never stole any of the good stuff, or at least, nothing I was after as well."

Imp nodded. If the two-bit raider had ever managed to get hold of anything his master really required, he would have been dead long before. Still, trust Shi No Kami to kill two birds with one stone.

"Hmm, okay, this is-... here, imp, catch." Duo finished going through the leader's bags, tossing a few objects towards imp who caught them expertly and tucked them into the small sack he carried.

"Here master, don't forget the book."

"As if I would forget the point of the whole exercise." Duo sniffed as he took the book from imp. The brown silicate covers gleamed under shredded sunbeams, as cloud shadows trailed across the iron green grass of the empty hills. A flat red gem was inset into the cover, gleaming like ruby, the key of the book, ready to be inserted into the adequate holder in the inner cirque. Hopefully Svale knew how to use it. Her words implied she did. That would help reactivate the sanctuary, and then he would be able to explore the buried sections properly. If this was indeed one of the guardian nodes, and he was ready to bet what was left of his mind and soul that it was.

He slipped the book into the raider's saddlebags, put the rest back into a semblance of order, tweaked the lines around the horses so that Trowa would miss the traces of his presence, and teleported back to the sanctuary.

*

Svale wasn't bouncing up and down with excitement. She caressed the book for the third time, hands lingering over the stone set in the cover, her eyes lifting to glare at the raider's horse as if it could answer her questions.

"I still can't believe this... "

"Wow, do you think this was the Shinigami you mentioned, Svale? The one who stole the book to start with?" Duo looked over her shoulder, wishing he could read lines as well as muddle them, curious to know why she wasn't more enthusiastic.

"That goat-banging bandit? I'd be disappointed if he was. Trowa?"

Trowa shrugged, caressing the mare's forelock.

"Hmm, well, I guess he could have been. Maybe he had some help... Or maybe Shinigami sold the book to some idiot who then got it stolen by that piece of trash. More likely. No reason for Shinigami to have kept it for two years. Oh well... "

Her eyes suddenly gleamed. "Well this opens a whole lot of possibilities! I'm going to need everybody's help! Maxie, go get Heero, he's hiding in his room, Trowa-"

"Later." Trowa said, giving the horse one last pat and walking away. "I have something to finish."

"What?" Duo, Svale and Quatre said at the same time. Trowa grabbed Quatre's hand and, without looking at anybody, tugged him off in the direction of their room.

"Svale, go and play with your new toy." He said without turning around. "Duo can help you. I don't need to make any threats about keeping your nose in your book and out of our room until lunch, do I." It wasn't a question.

"Oh sure, you two go have fun and let me do all the hard work!" Svale grumbled behind their backs, as Duo leered and Quatre, trotting after the shaman, began to blush.

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