Title: Peace Children 2/8ish: Monday
Author: Zillie
no spoilers, no warnings, no archive Rating: pg13
Category: AU Fantasy, so have at it!

Peace Children + Monday

Relena lingered over her breakfast until her father's minister cleared his throat. "My lady," he said. "The heirs to the Winner, Reberba, Odin, Nataku, and Noin clans have arrived. They have not met, as per your instructions, but have been given everything they need. My lady Faiza of the Reberba is in a fury because all of her gowns were slashed during the night."

"Slashed?" Relena echoed, genuinely surprised.

"Yes, your highness. By what looks to be some sort of scythe. She is quite upset, especially since she was robbed last night."

"So I heard," Relena said. The whole palace had heard. Lady Faiza was already annoying her, and they had not even met. She sighed. "I trust you found adequate wear for her and a dressmaker? At my expense, naturally."

"The Lady Noin offered clothing. The Lady Reberba mocked it, but wore it. It is perhaps best that they have not met yet."

Relena turned her glance to the girl who was clearing her breakfast away. "Your opinions?"

The woman stacked dishes thoughtfully. "Lady Faiza is a spoiled brat, but she is far form home and not used to this place. She may improve. She looked at me strangely, but said nothing. Lord Quatre was quite helpful."

"Helpful?" Relena asked. "As in. . . you found him nice, Sally?"

Her right hand looked surprised, then nodded. "Quite nice, my lady. He thanked me, opened the door for me, and offered to carry everything. He apologized for all inconveniences. Yes -- he was quite nice."

Relena decided to suspect him even more.

"Lord Heero refused all help. He came with few things, but not as few as Lady Meiran. Both are armed."

Relena nodded. "I expected as much."

"Lord Heero bears a fine sword and several knives. Lady Meiran," and here Sally hesitated, "well, I made a list." She reached into a pocket and pulled out several sheets of paper, all covered in her small writing. Relena simply grinned and put the list aside for later perusal. "And Lady Lucrezia?"

"Reserved," Sally said. "But seemingly innocuous. She was quick to offer help when Lady Faiza's screaming reached her. She was somewhat nervous, but I believe they all are."

Relena squinted at her.

"All of them have been traveling for at least a week, Winner and Reberba for almost three," Sally clarified. "They're not so old, Relena, and they have suddenly been ordered away from their homes and their families and all things familiar to entertain a princess they have never met but who could, if they displeased her, make things very difficult for them and their clans."

"I understand, Sally," Relena said, smiling at the older woman. Sally's mother had been her wet nurse after Sally's younger brother and Relena's mother had died a few days apart. Lady Po had been the closest thing she had to a mother, and Sally, three years older but infinitely more grounded, was her closest confidant. "When will the rest arrive?"

"The Lady Wanderer is expected this afternoon," Sally told her, "Lord Dragon and Lord Marquise, and Lady Maxwell in the morning." She looked a bit uncomfortable. "Also, this afternoon, we will be receiving some. . . unexpected visitors."

Relena's eyebrows shot up.

"His Majesty King Treize heard of your Honored Father's plan and sent a few representatives of his own," Sally told her. "We received word this morning that the King's brother in law and his cousin -- who will be the duchess of Kushrenada since he assumed the throne -- will arrive this afternoon."

Relena winced. "More people? I don't know what to do with the ones I've got."

"His Highness Prince Trowa is said to be somewhat unusual, and from all reports her Grace is very similar to her cousin. In both looks and temperament."

"You mean she's manipulative, power hungry, and a royal bitch? So to speak?"

The minister shot the princess a disapproving glare, but Sally grinned. "Sounds about right."

"Wonderful," Relena said, for a minute abandoning the capable princess and just enjoying a good groan. "Just great. Oh, Sally?"

"Relena?"

"Does this duchess have a name?"

"Dorothy," Sally said. "Dorothy Catalonia." The name was familiar, and did not improve Relena's spirits. They said that the girl was at once Treize's closest confidant and the greatest threat to his throne, surpassing even the prince.

"Dorothy of Oz," Relena said. "I can hardly wait."

+

Catherine Bloom, heir to the Wanderers, was scared shitless. That was why she swept confidently into the palace, dressed like a princess, with Hanako in one arm and Hoshiko beside her. Her guards and her maid followed, the messenger, who had accompanied her back, striding ahead of her. As if he was glad to be done with her.

"My lady, welcome to the palace," a woman -- girl, really, barely older than Catherine herself -- said, sweeping forward. "I am Sally Po, her highness's -- oh!"

Hanako had yawned.

Catherine smiled. "My two companions are rather tired," she said. The woman was still staring at Hanako, so she sought to clarify herself. "The two companions? The messenger said I was allowed them."

"Yes," Sally Po said, a bit weakly. "I had just. . . not expected. . . they're, um, quite lovely."

"Lion cubs," Catherine said. "Their mother was too large to bring."

"I've never seen lions before," Sally Po said, then seemed to remember herself. "I will arrange for food and bedding for them. I'm sure that the stables -- "

"Oh, no," Catherine said cheerfully. "They'll be much happier with me. As for food, just raw meat will keep them fine."

"Yes, my lady," Sally Po said, summoning a servant. "Raw meat will be brought along with your food. May I show you to your room?"

A blaze of trumpets cut off Catherine's answer. "His Most Royal Highness Prince Trowa of Oz!" a herald announced, and Catherine forgot how to breathe. She barely heard the nod to Her Grace Dorothy Catalonia -- she was entranced by the sight of the tall arrogant boy striding in. He skimmed the room disdainfully, his eyes not catching on her. Those eyes. . . so green. . . could it be? "Triton?" she whispered.

The prince's eyes swung back around, and he looked her up and down. The dress she had been so proud of suddenly felt dowdy, and it was, compared with the clothing he and his companion wore. She was aware of Hoshiko on his jeweled leash and Hanako, squirming in her arms, and she must be covered in lion hair. And it was Triton.

"Your highness!" Sally said, rushing forward and sweeping a deep curtsy. "Your grace! You made excellent time!" She glanced quickly at Catherine. "May I present the Lady Wanderer?"

Catherine managed to curtsy, somewhat clumsily. "Your highness, your grace," she said. Triton.

"Lady," the prince said, nodding and then looking around. "We obviously came in the back door," he said disdainfully.

The girl beside him smirked. "Just your style," she whispered.

"We will see the king now," Trowa said, ignoring her.

"Of course, your highness," Sally Po agreed. Catherine watched her escort them from the grand front hall -- the back door indeed! -- and then sat down. Her legs were simply shaking too hard to stand any longer. Surely -- surely -- he could not have forgotten her! Triton! She still remembered how he had cried when his mother died -- when the king had decreed that he must return to his father in Oz -- how he had clung to her and begged her to come with him. And now...

"My lady?"

She raised her eyes to the servant, desperately trying not to cry. "Yes," she said, and realized that she was sitting on the floor. She stood and took a calming breath, and followed the servant to her rooms.

+

Relena studied the prince covertly as he and her father exchanged pleasantries. She wondered what it was like, being him. She remembered him vaguely, from when he was little -- he had a pet squirrel with him when he had stopped here on his way to Oz. He had let her pet it, but had said little. Now false compliments dripped from his lips like overripe fruit fell from a tree. She reminded herself that since she had seen him -- and it had been ten, eleven years -- he had been groomed for a throne, lost his father, and then lost his throne as the result of a character assassination and a rejection from the people he had considered his own. They said that after his father's death, when he was fourteen, he had taken to excessive drinking and whoring. He was seventeen now, and she thought there was something jaded about him. But, she readily admitted to herself, compared to her, everyone was jaded.

His attention turned to her. "Princess Relena," he said, and kissed her hand.

"We welcome you back, Cousin," she said. She racked her brains -- no squirrel would still be alive -- but he had -- yes. "We have looked forward to your arrival. Tell us, do you still play the flute?"

His eyes went blank, and she wanted to yank her hand back. Only years of training kept her face polite. The cold nothingness that radiated from him was. . . she wanted to cry.

"His highness does not care for music," Dorothy put in.

"That is truly a shame," Relena murmured for his ears alone. She remembered the way he had played the flute, with a loneliness that no seven year old should know, a loneliness that she at five had not understood for years. "We welcome you," she said again, and tugged her hand just a little. He let go and rose from his bow. And thanked her. His eyes were still dark. Relena felt cold and a little scared.

As he and the duchess left the audience chamber she moved Trowa Barton up on her mental list.

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