Lucrezia Noin was not a patient
sort of woman.
In all fairness, she had not been raised to be that way. She was, after
all, the Lady Noin, heir to one of the nine Clans of Sanc. She had been
raised to command, to hold grudges, to maintain the power and pride of
her house. She had not been raised to sit on her ass in the capital while
those she had, only a month before, considered enemies were out saving
"Is there still no word?" she demanded of one of Quatre's soldiers.
What was the man's name? Walker?
He bowed politely. "Indeed there is not, my lady. Forgive me."
"What have you to do with it?" she snapped, then forced herself
to calm down. "I apologize," she said curtly, and hurried away.
There had been no news since the five boys had crossed into Odin land.
Four days. She could not imagine that anything would have happened to
them in Heero's own lands-but four days without word was simply beyond
She found herself in the Chamber of the Weapon. The false scythe lay there,
"It ain't half about to move."
Her head jerked up. The boy called Mace-who looked four years younger
than the nine she knew him to be-sat idly on the floor. His relaxed pose
was disturbingly similar to the way that Duo had sat in this same room
just a few weeks before-right before he had killed a man. She felt a shudder
run through her body. "No," she said, recalling his question
belatedly. "I suppose not."
"You're Lady Noin, ain't ya?" he asked.
She inclined her head. Yes. She was.
"The Tree said you knew things," the boy continued.
"The Tree?" she repeated.
"Aye, and that's what we call that Lord Forest," the boy told
her seriously. "He ain't smart enough to be a whole forest. He's
just one tree."
Noin fought to hide a smile.
"But he said you were real smart, and that you came from a place
with a lot of books."
She nodded again. "There's a university in my home city."
"I've seen the university here," he said, standing. "Bunch
of idiots standing around arguing about if they exist or not. They're
hardly ever worth stealin' from, they are. Spend all their money on drink."
"Who do you steal from?" she asked, curious.
He smiled. "Whoever I can." He turned to look at the Weapon.
"It' ain't much to look at, is it?"
"Perhaps not, but it is the protector of our country," she said,
her voice hushed as if she truly was in the presence of the Weapon. Of
"Aye," he said, staring at it. He turned to her. "The Tree
said you might have some good books."
She tilted her head, studied him. "Do you like books?"
He nodded, a touch dreamily. "Poe used to bring me books, after she'd
been out," he said. "I'd always read them until I could remember
every word before I sold 'em."
"Well," she said, "you can't sell mine. And you're not
allowed to steal from me. And I want you to teach me how to pick pockets.
"And I can read all your books?"
She bit her lip, then nodded. "You have my word." It might not
be saving the country but at least she would have something to do. Mace
grinned guilelessly. Gentry. They were so very easy to manipulate.
He woke in the middle of the night; the fever seemed to have burned itself
from him, to have burned everything from him but the clarity of purpose.
He rose from the bed, staggered over to where he knew his sword rested;
he could feel it from across the room. He put his hand on the cool blade
and felt the strength inside him swing like a pendulum, finding its right
place in his body.
He was alive.
The courtyard was dark, lit only by the moon and the stars and the pricks
of light in the sentry towers. He threw his head back and drank down the
His lover's voice did not surprise him. "I've been waiting,"
he said. Under the moon he was insane; he was free. His sword in his hand,
he was free and he was alive. "I've been waiting for you."
Duo looked worried. "I have to get you back to bed," he said.
"Not this time," Heero said, coming closer, dropping into a
guard position. "You can't always just ask and have me jump into
bed. I want to fight."
Duo came closer, his empty hands outstretched. "Heero. . . it's late.
We'll fight in the morning."
"You're humoring me," Heero said, watching the other boy closely.
It was like when he had fought Wufei; he could feel time fitting itself
into patterns. "But you don't have to anymore. I understand."
"What do you understand?" Duo crooned, coming closer still.
In a second he would lunge and try to disarm his lover.
"I understand this," Heero said, and moved before the other
boy could. He swung his sword; there was a clashing noise as it met the
scythe that Duo brought to block it. "I understand why you wouldn't
fight me before."
"Heero. . . you're sick. . . I can see it in your eyes. They're glittering."
"I won't let you kill me," Heero breathed, his words a vow.
"You can fight me; it'll be all right. I will not let you kill me."
He stepped back, lunged and was blocked again. "You cannot kill me."
At first Duo was afraid, hesitant, but as Heero showed no signs of weariness
or weakness his strokes grew stronger. There was a joy to it, Heero discovered,
something he had never known before. A feeling of knowing his body, of
controlling every part of it, of controlling it so much that he could
control everything around it. He flexed his fingers and felt the wind
move against Duo's hair. He shut his eyes and lunged again.
Duo blocked; there was a laugh. "Do you know," the other boy
panted, "how long it's been? Since I've been able to fight someone.
. . like this?"
Heero opened his eyes. "You've been waiting for me."
Duo slid the scythe around the sword, pushed it to the side. Heero let
it go, heard it clatter to the ground. He laughed and stepped forward;
Duo came to meet him. They kissed in the moonlight and it was like drinking
There was, of course, the expected reaction when Heero came down to breakfast
the next morning; his mother and fathers would fuss over him. "Are
you sure you're completely well?" his mother asked.
"Asa, don't fuss," Lowe ordered as he scrutinized Heero. "Though
she's right-you do look a little pale."
"I feel fine." He did; the world seemed to have toned itself
down a little, and the only thing that felt different than usual was the
strength that lay in his bones.
The Odin-his father-offered him a bowl. "I saw you last night."
"Fighting, that is." Odin looked him over. "You've improved."
Lowe perched on his husband's lap. "Who were you fighting with? That
"He's a skilled warrior."
"I would have him as my second in command," Heero said quietly.
"I thought as much." Odin smoothed his hand over the hair of
his second in command; Lowe leaned back into the caress. "He is from
"You could do worse," the Odin said finally. "Much worse."
"Though I must say that Winner boy is quite pretty," Lowe said,
looking down to where Quatre sat with Wufei and Trowa. "I don't suppose
he can fight?"
Heero was surprised to find that he wasn't sure. "I don't know."
He followed his father's gaze to the slender blonde; it was something
worth finding out.
And then Duo stormed into the hall and everything else was forgotten.
"The bastard," he choked. "The bloody bastard. Aye and
he's no brother of mine!"
"You found what you were after?" Heero asked intently.
Duo's face was red; in his hand he held Solo's latest communiqué.
"Aye, and he says that if I've eaten my fill of Odin food and perhaps
sampled a few of the weapons-and he's sure I have- that I should head
over to Dragon lands, for I'll not find anything else here."
Heero was somehow not surprised.
"Does this remind anyone else of those scavenger hunts we used to
go on as children?" Quatre asked, his face tired. "You follow
the clue to one place, pick up what you're after, and keep going."
"But we have picked up nothing here," Wufei said, glaring at
the paper Duo held as if that would make a difference. Heero's fingers
flitted to his sword; he wasn't entirely sure of that.
My lady Meiran:
We arrived at Odin with some trouble; Heero fell sick on the road. He
and I were fighting-he defeated me and then fell to the ground. Duo came
running, even before I had a chance to call out. Not fifteen minutes later
he had Heero on a horse in front of him. He bid us follow him with all
speed, and then rode off, his body around Heero's. The two seemed almost
weightless for the speed of the horse. Heero was. . . ill. I hope to never
see you in such a condition-I trust you are well? In any case, we arrived
a day and a half behind Duo and Heero, which means that they made a four
day trip in little under a day. Heero was sick for a day after we arrived,
and we all worried. Except Duo. He spent half his time off searching the
villages. I began a letter to you then, but looking back I see it is full
of meaningless words. In truth I am not sure this letter is much more.
Heero's fever broke sometime last night; he was with us at breakfast this
morning. We are to leave at first light; we head for my homelands. The
most direct route to Dragon lands is through Nataku; I will think of you
when I see the scope of the mountains. I trust you are well; I pray with
all my heart that you are well. I hope to see you before too many more
days have passed by. Until then, and beyond, I will remain
[part 2] [back to