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

Knight and Novice + Part 2

The Great Hall of the Abbey was indeed magnificent. I stood at the Prince's shoulder as he took the seat at the Head of the Table, usually the Abbot's, but assigned to the prince with no apparent hard feeling. The monks, carrying dishes to the table and bearing wine did not seem resentful of our presence. I'm not saying they were thrilled either, just -- accepting.

I was beginning to think that my Prince might have made the right decision in accepting the monk's hospitality, after all. Once the novice and the elder monk had left, I had reprimanded myself for my lapse of duty, and reminded myself that a day ago we had been enemies -- I'd been doing my utmost to reduce the Abbey to rubble. You do not go from enemy to friends that quickly -- and you do not dine with the people who want to kill you.

Milliardo thought differently. "You don't know these monks," he said. "By all accounts they are men of honor. I've already given my acceptance, I'm going to this banquet. And so are you, and as many of our soldiers as the monks can feed."

This turned out to encompass our entire army. The monks were going all out, emptying storerooms and barrels with abandon. The elder monk had spoken truly of their desire to make their last night a memorable one -- but I saw a few wet eyes during the meal.

As well as a few merry ones -- I put my hand over my glass as a monk bearing a wine sack passed. I would not abandon decorum the way many of my men had. Hospitable as they were, I did not trust these monks over much -- and we had still to meet the Abbot.

I frowned as my glass was taken, but turning to tell the monk I did not want a drink I suddenly lost my voice -- it was the same merry novice as before.

"I noticed you weren't drinking an' I thought you might appreciate a bit o' this," He said, filling my cup from the jug he carried. "Elderflower cordial, it won't do you no harm an' its sweeter than that water you're drinking."

I took a sip cautiously. "It's good," I said surprised.

He looked slightly offended. "That's what I told you an' monks generally don't lie, soldier."

I had to smile. "Sit a while," I requested but he was already gone, heading down the table to answer another's call for refreshment, leaving me to sigh after him.

What on earth was wrong with me that I could not say two words to a handsome novice? I watched him flit among the other guests at this uncommon banquet, ruing my lost opportunity.

I frowned as he lingered by the side of a brightly dressed youth, a performer of some sort who had taken shelter in the Abbey with the rest of the local inhabitants when our army had arrived. It was hard to get a good idea of what he was like, the fringe brushed over his face almost totally concealed his eyes. I knew nothing about him, yet I distrusted him already. It was a feeling that was tinged with dislike as the novice, laughing at some words of the performer's, chose to sit at his side.

A monk tapped me on the shoulder. "Excuse me sir? The Abbot is well enough to see you and his Highness."

I met Milliardo's eyes and we both stood. "Take us to him."

The Abbot was dying.

It was apparent to anyone who stepped into that room, the heavily perfumed air could not disguise it. It was there in the Abbot's eyes, in the sombre countenance of the attendant who kept him propped up in bed.

"Speeches tire me," the Abbot said, waving a hand toward us. "Sit down prince and general, for there is not a lot of time and much to say. I talk of the scrolls of course."

"Are they here? Safe?" Milliardo asked.

"They are as safe as we have kept them for the last three hundred years, your Highness," the brother attending the Abbot spoke reprovingly.

Milliardo nodded. "When can we take them?"

"Once you've heard what we must tell you," the brother again replied.

The Abbot nodded. "Brother Howard speaks for me. He was to be Abbot after me. Now -- " he shrugged, sinking back into the sheets.

Howard pulled the sheets up firmly around his superior's neck before turning to us. "You must know of the spells the scrolls contain or you would not be seeking them."

"Trieze seeks to use them. We cannot allow him to do so. At the moment he is powerful enough to pose a considerable menace to us and most of the free world, if he gained the scrolls it is rumoured he would be a match for any force in the land."

"Oh, he would be more than that," Howard said. "He'd be more powerful than every force in this world. But the scrolls -- there are three of them -- may only be used by certain people who are possessed of the same magic as the scrolls themselves."

I grimaced. "Not sorcerers?"

Howard nodded. "You are familiar with their kind?"

"I've had enough dealings with them to know we are better off having their species eradicated from the earth," I said shortly.

"Their existence is unnatural to be sure, but to hate them so strongly is not wise -- not when they may be the salvation or downfall of this world."

"They killed my parents," I replied coolly. "I shall think of them as I see fit."

"My General must speak his mind on all accounts," the prince apologized, nodding to the monk to continue.

"Hate can be used against you," the Abbot said suddenly. "Don't let it rule you, young one. The consequences are terrible -- " he sighed, returning to his own thoughts. A few moments later he settled in sleep.

"I will take you to the library and give you the scrolls now," Howard said. "I shall feel happier knowing they are in your keeping -- there have been rumours of Trieze's men in the area."

"How is it," I asked, as we travelled down the corridor, "that you and your men don't seem to resent us? We defeated you -- "

"But you could not have done so had the Lord not wished it. We were meant to be defeated now -- perhaps we are no longer the ones to protect the scrolls?" He shrugged. "In any case, come tomorrow I intend to offer my services to you, your Highness, to do what I can to see the scrolls remain safely with you as I know a good deal of my brethren will do. We -- "

He stopped as we rounded a corner. A monk lay still on the floor before us, a vivid crimson stain at his forehead.

Our guide knelt. "Brother Maxwell," he said grimly, standing a few moments later. "He was on duty guarding the scrolls." He hurried us down another corridor. "This way, and by heaven may we be in time!"

I drew my sword as we fairly ran down the corridor, the Prince doing the same. However, Heaven -- or something -- must have been on our side. We reached the library to find a fierce battle ranging -- between a monk and two of my soldiers and the rag-tag performer I'd noticed at the banquet.

I paused, unsure of who to support.

Brother Howard did not hesitate. Spreading his hands wide, he cried out a sentence unintelligible to me but which had immeditae effect -- all 4 combatants fell senseless.

"There," the monk said, wiping his forehead. "Let's bind them and see if we can't get to the bottom of this once they wake."

"You do not have to look farther to get to the bottom of this than the scars on their necks." Apparently the performer wasn't as stunned as we'd thought.

"Who are you?" Howard demanded. "And how did you shake off my spell?"

He laughed as he stood. "I'll admit that was more than I gave you monks credit for," he said. "But to one like myself such magic is the thing of an instant. I'll repeat, look to their scars."

I pushed aside the tunic of the soldier nearest me to reveal a familiar rose tattoo.

"Trieze's men."

"Infiltrating our army?" Milliardo released the other soldier with a look of disgust on his features. "How could this have happened?"

Howard shook his head sadly as he bound the other monk. "I've known Brother Jarvis for many years now -- I'd never have picked him for a traitor." His eyes narrowed as he turned to the performer. "And what was your part in this?"

"Merely someone who was, fortunately for you, on hand when this took place," was the response. "If I could have a hand with this bookcase?"

The case had been apparently toppled in the fight. Howard exclaimed as we lifted aside the shelves to reveal a prone body beneath them.

"Not Duo!"

It was the novice. I knelt by his still form, lifting his tunic aside to check his neck. "No tattoo," I reported. "He breathes normally."

"That's a relief," the performer took the still body across his knee, uncorking a bottle from his pocket and holding it in front of the novice's nose. A moment later, the novice coughed and began to recover.

"Ow -- what hit me?"

"The bookcase," the performer said laconically, stowing the bottle away. "How do you feel?"

The novice winced. "Like I've got the hangover of the century," he said, his rueful expression giving way to one of alarm. "But -- the scrolls! Where are the -- "

"Look at your feet."

Duo laughed in delight. "They're safe! But we've got to take them to Brother Howard -- "

"Brother Howard is here," Howard said, stepping forward. "Duo, lad, what happened?"

"Ow -- " the novice stumbled as he stood, a hand going to his head. "Didn't Brother Maxwell tell you? He went to get help -- " he paused. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing lad. Tell us what you know of this."

"Not much to tell really. Trowa was telling me about some of the places he's been when all of a sudden he stopped and asked me if I knew where that monk -- that was Brother Jarvis -- was from because he had a feeling he'd seen him before, up to no good. I said he was just Brother Jarvis, but Trowa was sure it was the same man, so we followed him. Turns out he was going to the library, an' we met Brother Maxwell coming out. Even though he was on guard duty then, Jarvis had offered to take over for a couple of hours so he could go down to the banquet and get something to eat. Then we knew he was up to no good because Brother Jarvis never does anything for nobody." The novice paused briefly for breath and then resumed. "So we went in and Jarvis was just removing the scrolls from their hiding place an' boy, was he mad to see us. When Maxwell reproached him, he threatened him, and then the soldiers turned up -- they must have had a deal or something. Anyways Trowa here attacked them. I was supposed to guard the scrolls while Brother Maxwell went for help but," the novice shrugged ruefully, "I didn't do a very good job of it, getting squashed by the bookcase an' all. "

A hand rested on his shoulder. "You did fine," Trowa said. "Getting underneath the bookcase was a good move tactically even if not done voluntarily -- it took two of us to get you and the scrolls out."

"I guess," Duo looked around. "Where's Brother Maxwell? He should be here by now."

"Lad," Howard said. "Come here." He drew him into a corner.

Milliardo nudged me. "Recognise either of these men?" he indicated the still unconscious soldiers.

"No," I said.

"So they might not be our soldiers -- Trieze's men might have borrowed uniforms of ours."

"Whoever they are they've been unconscious a long time," I knelt beside one. "I'm no expert but this pulse does not feel too healthy."

The performer knelt swiftly by my side. "Damm him," he said. "I should have known he would do this. Damm him and his cursed sorceress!"

"What's the matter?" I asked alarmed by his vehemence.

"Trieze," he said shortly. "These men are ensorcelled -- it's a common trick of his. A tool that falls into the hands of the enemy is of no use to him -- so he destroys it."

"He's doing this?" I stared at the three men. That much power --

"It's the tattoos. He can only work it through them," Trowa said. "I'm going to cast a healing spell. We might still save them."

I looked to the corner where Duo clung sobbing to Howard's neck. By all rights, someone should be looking to him --

"I don't like this business at all Heero," Milliardo said.

"You've got the scrolls," I told him.

"All this for these pieces of paper," Milliardo said picking up the parchment. "Makes you wonder if its really worth it."

"I hate them."

We looked up to see the novice glaring with tear stained eyes at the scrolls. "I'm glad they're being taken away -- I hope I never have to see them again!"

"Be careful what you wish for," Trowa observed idly. "You never know when these scrolls might be of use to you."

"I don't care," Duo said fiercely. "If it weren't for them, Brother Maxwell would still be here!"

"That's no way to carry on in front of a prince," Howard scolded to him. "We know you're upset, but that's no reason to behave churlishly."

Duo said nothing, but his expression spoke volumes. Spirited and stubborn -- I had to get to know him somehow --

"Can you fetch healers for these men?" Trowa asked of Howard. "If they recover we can question them of Treize's plans."

Howard nodded, leaving immediately.

"What do you plan to do with the scrolls, your Highness?" Trowa asked suddenly.

Milliardo blinked. "Return with them to my castle, of course."

"If I might make a suggestion?" The performer went ahead without waiting for the Prince's permission. "Entrust them to me. Trieze will learn of your win here and direct his attention towards you -- and he has great resources at his disposal. Why not let him think you have the scrolls, while in reality -- "

"Letting you have them?" Milliardo was faintly scornful. "I don't know who you are -- I don't even trust you."

"Allow me to change that," Trowa drew something from a hidden pocket and tossed it to the prince. "This speaks for me."

"My father's ring -- " Milliardo said, turning it over in his hand.

"And not just any ring. Look at the inscription."

"To whom I owe my life and lands -- " Milliardo stared at the lanky youth. "That was you?"

"I see I am known to you after all," Trowa bowed. "You may call me Trowa."

"But -- you're so young!"

"Appearances -- like many other things, your Highness, -- can be deceiving. If I may, might I have my ring back?"

"Of course," Milliardo nudged me, who was examining it suspiciously, to return it.

I handed it over reluctantly. "I imagine this ring would be very valuable to you."

"It has its uses," he replied neutrally.

Duo snickered. "Planning on giving it to your lady love?"

"You must be feeling better," Trowa commented blandly. "About the scrolls?"

Milliardo hesitated then nodded. "I'll give you two of them -- after all -- "

"They're no good unless the three of them are together," Trowa nodded. "And might I make a suggestion of where you keep the third?" He bent over to Milliardo and whispered something to him. The Prince actually smiled.

"You know -- I like that."

Howard had returned and as a bevy of monks attended to the three fallen conspirators, signalled me over to him.

"You wouldn't mind doing us a favour and seeing the lad to the infirmary, would you? He's had a bit of a shock an' of course, getting hit by a book case won't have done him any good."

Milliardo frowned. "My general is too busy to run errands -- "

"I don't mind at all," I replied, my arm already around the novice's shoulders. "I'll see you soon, your Highness."

"You don't have to do this," the novice said, as I helped him down the corridor. "I'm perfectly capable of getting to the infirmary by meself -- even if a bookcase did fall on me."

"It's no bother," I said. "Besides, I enjoy your company."

We reached the corridor where the monk had been killed. Someone had placed a cloak over the body. I hoped to hurry the novice past it, but he paused.

"Is that -- ?"

"Yes."

He let go of me to kneel unsteadily and slowly lifted the makeshift shroud.

He dropped it with a choking sob. "He didn't deserve that!"

"Few people do," I said.

"But he was such a good person! He was never grumpy with us novices even on the days we misbehaved the worst -- an' he listened to all of our stories, no matter how busy he was! Why did this have to happen to him?"

I pulled him back upright, and timidly put an arm around him. "He believed in a better place -- after death I mean?"

"Yeah -- " the novice blinked tearful eyes at me.

"Then don't think of how he died. Think of that."

The novice was silent after that, save for giving me instructions to the infirmary.

"Thank-you," he said as we reached the door. "You've been kind -- that means a lot and thank-you doesn't quite seem to be enough somehow."

"It's enough for me," I said. Gingerly I reached out on hand to touch a long strand that had fallen loose from his plait. It really was soft -- I drew my hand back quickly.

"May I -- see you tomorrow?"

"Sure. I mean I'm not going anywhere." The novice shrugged.

I bowed to him. "Goodnight."

"Wait." I turned to see him twisting his plait over in his fingers. "I don't know what your name is."

I smiled. "Heero."

"Heero, huh?" The novice smiled. "Goodnight Heero."  

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