Author: girl_starfish
Rating: pg13
Pairings: 1+2
Disclaimer: Don't own characters of GW.
Warnings: AU, yaoi.

Knight and Novice + Part 1

I lean back against the tent pole, looking out of the doorway at the scene beyond. The Abbey of Galloway is a beautiful building, built from warm rose granite, a rare stone for hereabouts. Its early morning, the mist not yet cleared, and in this light it looks beautiful, like a mysterious jewel.

The rough trench dug in front of it and the lines of soldiers awaiting orders to attack spoils this effect. The orders they're awaiting are mine.

"Well, Heero," the drawling voice of my prince says behind me. "The siege continues."

"It does, your highness," I answer neutrally, awaiting the rest of it. "You said I would have the Abbey in one week. It's been four days now."

Growing impatient again? No wonder. My prince tires of this provincial battle. He would rather be leading his troops against his real enemies, rather than trying to separate a few monks from the precious scrolls. But there are rumored to be secrets contained in those scrolls that Treize is seeking so here we are.

"A week is not four days, my lord," I reply.

"So cool. I wish I had ice in my veins like you do Heero. How can you stand this so calmly knowing what was written in the last reports from the West? Treize's army is on the move -- what target will he pick this time?"

"It would be wiser for him to chose a place to restock and winter his troops rather than add to his reign of destruction," I noted. "He'll be running low on supplies. His practice of firing the towns he conquers rather than looting them won't be helping that much."

Prince Milliardo stared at me. "Always the soldier I see. But I can't wait for Trieze to run out of food Heero. I need results."

"When have I ever failed you?" I asked, stung. "This Abbey has not been defeated once in three hundred years! I told you I would break their seige within a week; that should be enough."

"Excuse me, my Lord General? Your Majesty? There is a messenger come, from the Abbey." A soldier bowed at the doorway.

Milliardo and I exchanged glances.

"Summon my priate guard," Milliardo ordered the message bearer. "Tell them to meet me at my tent, along with my commanding officers. Heero, fetch the Abbey's messenger to my tent in twenty minutes."

I nodded, going in search of the aforementioned messenger. I knew why Zech's had sent me to fetch him, he knew my like of getting a chance to observe anyone whilst they were unaware of who I was. My impressions of people were usually spot on.

The monk sat on a rock a short distance from our campsite. Five of our soldiers sat in a semi-circle about him, weapons at the ready. Despite this, the monk sat calmly, hands folded neatly over the white flag he held on his lap. Just behind him stood a youth, just barely out of boyhood, leaning on a longbow. Neither showed any outward sign of fear.

"So," I said, joining the group. "I understand you have a message for us?"

The monk nodded. "I bear an offer of conditional surrender to your master," he replied.

I nodded. "I will take you to his Highness."

The youth stepped forward to assist the older monk in rising off the stone. He moved with difficulty, I saw. Wounded?

"Rheumatism," the monk explained seeing my gaze. "It ails me in cooler weather. That's why I have the lad with me. He's one of our novices. You don't object?"

I eyed the longbow coolly. "Not as long as you both keep the conditions of a truce."

The novice laughed. "You've got nothing to fear from my arrows, sir." He unhooked his quiver from its belt by his side and held it out to me.

I took an arrow from it and saw that the sharpened metal head had been removed, leaving only a rounded wooden tip. I passed the quiver back to the youth. "Very well then."

He laughed again and I saw he had a merry grin and dancing violet eyes.

My chest tightened inexplicably and I realized he had spoken to me.

"Pardon?" I gulped.

"My arrow? If you please?" His tone was teasing, and I saw with a start that I'd not handed the dart back to him. As I corrected this, our fingers brushed slightly . . .

I drew away. "Follow me," I said stiffly.

My uppermost thoughts as I led them towards the Prince was anger -- the boy had laughed at me, and I'd reacted like a churlish boar, most unfit behavior for the Prince's General. As we neared the Prince's pavillon, laid out in the royal colors, I turned my thoughts to more politic matters. The monk had spoken of conditional surrender, acting confidently, his bearing not in keeping with one defeated. They meant then to lay their hopes on the Prince's reputation as a man of honor, I guessed.

I nodded to the guards either side of the tent and raised the tent flap. "Enter and deliver your message," I instructed the monk. "The prince has agreed to hear you."

The monk nodded and accompanied by the youthful novice stepped inside the tent. I followed them, leaning against the back of the tent so I could observe the proceedings.

Zechs looked well as he always did, sitting below the royal crest and wearing a plain signet. He looked his noble best, dressed for campaign rather than courtly life. It was a picture not lost on out guests, I think as they both knelt -- or rather as the monk, assisted by the novice, attempted to kneel.

"Age excuses mere courtesy," Milliardo said, from his seat, smoothly. "Stand and state your business with me, esteemed father, I shall not take it any less."

The monk sighed in relief, standing. "So speaks a true king. In the name of the Abbot and of the brotherhood and people of Galloway, I greet you your Majesty, and wish upon you the rewards of a just and prosperous life."

"I thank-you," Milliardo replied, "and welcome you and your companion. Though we meet under less than auspicious circumstances, I venture to hope that this meeting may result in outcomes favourable to both parties."

I listened with half an ear as further pleasantries were exchanged, testing the water so to speak. The monks seemed inclined to be courteous, that at least, boded good -- but they had not the servility of surrender either. My eyes drifted to the novice, his interested gaze flicking over the furnishings and occupants of the tent with equal curiousity. His eyes meeting mine, he winked.

I stared at him.

"My Abbot has charged me to bring you this offer," the older monk got to the point at last. "We acknowledge ourselves to be outmatched by your force, and will lay the abbey open to you for your word you will harm none of the occupants therein."

"You have resisted your rightful ruler!" one of Milliardo's lesser general's spoke up. "For that you are traitors and deserve death."

The monk answered coolly. "The prince is not King yet. Furthermore we believe we are justified in resisting who we will -- the Abbey charter, if you please, was written by a King of the Blood, and commands us to surrender the scrolls to no one unless we see fit, not even a King of the Blood."

"How dare you address the Prince in this impious manner!" The general drew his sword only to be waved back to his seat by Milliardo.

"I'm aware of the terms of your charter and will accede to your request -- provided the scrolls are turned over to me intact."

The monk nodded. "We can do nothing else. Also Your Highness -- many civilians took shelter within the Abbey. We request they be allowed to leave unharmed."

Milliardo nodded. "Anything else?"

"No, your Highness."

Milliardo raised an eyebrow. "You will not plead for the retention of your land?"

"What's the point?" the monk surprised us all by shrugging calmly. "Our order was founded to protect those scrolls. For three hundred years we have done so. Now we are obviously unable to continue that charge. There is therefore no reason for our continuation on this land."

"I see." Milliardo looked at me. "I will consult with my advisors. Please remain outside as we make our decision."

The monks bowed and left the tent. I looked away as the novice passed me, feeling rather embarassed and unsure why.

"Well, my august general? Your opinion?"

The prince pulled me from my confused thoughts. "Their offer seems reasonable enough. What is this charter they speak of?"

"The Abbey charter, their founding document. There is little in it that the monk did not outline. They were brought into existence by my ancestors in order to safe guard the scrolls Treize now seeks. Monks take a pledge to protect these scrolls, and are taught fighting as well as some spell craft in order to better guard it, as well as fulfilling the usual duties of an Abbey."

"But aren't monks usually opposed to spell craft?" I asked.

"My ancestor was very wily," the Prince smiled. "Who better to guard the scrolls than those who would never on their lives deign to use them? And who would suspect an abbey of monks of aiding and abetting the preservation of books of magic?"

"Who indeed?" I remarked drily. "They seem to have been pretty well undisturbed here. Would it not have been better to have let them lie here?"

"Missives from Trieze's spies were intercepted, revealing he knew the location of the scrolls and would make an attempt on them soon," the same lesser general who had threatened the older monk, sneered. "Although one would expect the prince's head of army to be aware of such a fact."

I looked to Milliardo who met my gaze frowning. "It would appear Treize's missives are not the only ones being intercepted."

"Your majesty, if Treize knows as he must of our intention to claim the scrolls before him, he is not likely to tamely sit by and let us take them," I said. "He will try something."

"I know, Heero," Milliardo's hand rested on his sword hilt. "I'm sure of it. But we must get our hands on the scrolls as quickly as possible. Do you see anything amiss with the monk's offer?"

I considered this slowly. "No, not unless they also teach lying up at that Abbey. They both seem to be who they say they are."

"Then unless any of you esteemed gentlemen have an objection I shall accept their offer."

As it turned out the lesser general was unhappy about not being able to try and quarter even a single monk. As the debate raged on inside the tent I moved to the door where I could see the message carriers.

The young novice was assisting his elder onto a rough seat in the form of a horse trough. As I watched, he asked something of a young soldier standing nearby. As the warrior turned away from the novice I signalled him to come to me.

"What did the novice want?" I asked.

"He merely wondered if I could fetch the elder a sup of water, sir. Is that all right?"

I looked over to the two, waiting patiently by the trough. The novice was again looking round interestedly at all he saw. "Fetch the Brother a proper seat," I said, "and a skin of wine from my tent. And send someone to find the novice something to eat."

The soldier saluted and left. I turned to find Milliardo watching me amused.

"I didn't know you had so much respect for the cloth, Heero."

I shrugged.

After many more pointless discussions, Milliardo stood. "I have heard all of your opinions," he said firmly. "Now let us meet once again with the emissaries."

Monk and novice stood politely as the prince left the tent. I was pleased to see my ordered had been followed. Both looked comfortable. After only a few polite speeches, Milliardo got to the point.

"I have decided to accept your offer of conditional surrender. Inform your Abbot, and bear him my best wishes."

"Of course, your Highness," the monks bowed as Milliardo returned to his tent, most of his general's following him. I paused on the threshold of the tent. The novice had selected a dart from his quiver and was now preparing to fire it. For what reason? I wondered. The elder saw my puzzled look and laughed. "My old legs will not make the walk back a quick one," he said. "So the lad will inform the others of the news. Red for bad news, blue to show a favorable outcome."

I saw the knocked arrow had a blue ribbon tied to it, that was tossed in the breeze as was the novice's thick plait. He raised the longbow, measured and fired, so quickly I almost missed it.

The arrow rose, rose, and fell --

"I don't believe it!" one of my soldiers exclaimed. "I swear that went over the Abbey Walls!"

"I'd be surprised if it didn't," the novice said, composedly. "Not with the headwind giving me a boost."

I watched as he was surrounded by eager questioners, willing to try the bow for themselves. Since the adoption of crossbows, real archers have become rare.

He displayed good humour as he fielded the questions playfully, showing a ready grin and displaying teeth that were white. There was strength in that slender body, not ill-attired in the rich brown habit. He had something else, too -- a hale, cheerful air -- like a summer flower. And I would much have liked to have run my fingers through his hair.

I meant to step forward and add my voice to those praising his skill with the longbow, but some sudden fear transfixed me. Before I could right my senses, the monk tapped me on the shoulder.

"It was the mind of the Abbot that should our offer prove satisfying to you, that you and your men might join us in a banquet. It will be the last night we spend in our Abbey for most of us -- we intend to do our best to make it a merry one."

I nodded. "I will pass the message on."

"Thank-you." He caught the braid of the novice as he went past. "Enough of your skylarking. Time we were on our way."

I almost forgot to give the Prince his message, so engrossed was I in watching them leave.

[part 2] [back to girl_starfish's fic]