Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ In which Captain Noin tries to stay alive ( Chapter 2 )
Chapter 2 – In which Captain Noin tries to stay alive (rough draft)
The first thing she became aware of was an aching pain throughout her whole body. Lucrezia Noin, captain of the royal guard, opened her eyes and gingerly lifted her head.
What she saw was a nightmare under the shining sun, a field of corpses and those who would be better off as corpses. The bodies were being picked over by birds and other vermin, and by people–
Noin quickly shut her eyes and dropped her head again, her heart pounding. Those soldiers sorting through the aftermath of battle had been wearing enemy colors. Uesa had won victory – the Sanc Kingdom was done for, and so was Noin if the enemy discovered her still alive.
Carefully, she cracked her eyes open again to get a better look around. A pang of sadness struck her when she saw Aries lying silent and still where he had fallen. She remembered now that while she had been riding the wyvern, he had been blasted out of the sky; the reason she felt so bad now was because she had had to leap clear before he hit the ground.
Pushing aside her grief, steeling herself against the sight of her friends and subordinates, now dead and mangled almost beyond recognition, Noin concentrated on crawling her way undetected out of this sea of death.
The sun was just starting to set when Noin finally reached cover. Painfully, she climbed to her feet and slipped into the lengthening shadows of the palace walls. Making her way around, she eventually came to a side-door and cautiously slipped inside.
The stench in the room was little better than what it had been outside. Noin raised a fist to cover her mouth as she surveyed rows of groaning men, lying on cots or makeshift pallets around her. This room must have been hastily turned into a sick bay. Hearing footsteps in the hallway outside, Noin quickly dropped to the floor facing a wall and pretended she was a wounded soldier as well. Frankly, her clothes were so filthy and bloody that she blended in fairly well.
Someone entered the room, a woman by the sound of her rather irritated voice. « …and I’ve certainly got better things to do than answer summons from the enemy. You see this room? You see all these people? They need help, and apparently I’m the only one around here who can help them. In fact, why don’t you help, young man? Put your butt to better use than guarding me all day; go fill this bucket with hot water – HOT water, make sure it burns your hand when you stick it in, » she added sarcastically. « And when you come back, I’ve got rolls of cloth you can tear up for bandages. »
« But…Madame Healer…. »
« You trying to cross a mage, boy? Now get going! »
« Y-Yes, ma’am. »
Noin listened carefully for the sound of the enemy soldier leaving, then rolled over and hissed urgently, « Sally! »
The young healer jumped and nearly dropped the armful of supplies she was carrying. « Noi– What are you doing here?! You’re dead! »
« Not yet, » Noin said grimly. « Sally, I need your help. »
« I’ll say you do. » Sally was already in motion, grabbing a blood-stained Uesian war-cloak and throwing it over Noin’s shoulders. « Take your coat off, girl, it’s got the marks of Peacecraft all over it. »
« You’re asking me to shed the signs of my allegiance? » Noin said indignantly, crossing her arms protectively over her chest, where her ribbons of office were displayed.
« Noin, » Sally said in exasperation, « you’re not Prince Milliard, so stop acting like him. You want to get cut down before you take two steps out of this room, or you want to live long enough to fetch the prince? »
Noin hesitated, but had to do as Sally said in the end. After she pulled off her jacket, Sally quickly combed her hair back and tied it into a rough ponytail with a ragged strip of cloth. She laughed a little as she explained, « That hair of yours is always in your face; I’m hoping no one will recognize you if it’s pulled back. Just in case, though…. » She grabbed the hood of the cloak and flopped it over Noin’s head. « Step careful, Noin, this place has been overrun. I have to get to work before that guard comes back, but go to the kitchens; some of our serving maids are still there. »
« Sally, » Noin said urgently, « the royals. Are they all right? »
Sally looked at her sadly. « No. They’re not. » As she opened her mouth to explain further, they suddenly heard the Uesian soldier returning. « Go, » Sally hissed, and pushed her away.
Noin decided that she really, really hated having to skulk around her own home, shrouded in a cloak, trying desperately to avoid the notice of her enemies, who happened to be over half the people she saw. « Sally wasn’t kidding, » she muttered. Well of course she wasn’t; they had just lost a war. Was there any chance, any, that the king was still alive, that the queen and princess had somehow escaped and were not at the mercy of cruel captors? Noin felt sick at the thought. If the prince knew about this….
But he didn’t. That was Noin’s job, to find him and bring him home.
However, she couldn’t do that empty-handed. She reached the kitchens at last, where Uesian soldiers lounged and grim-faced servants went silently about their work. It was a far cry from the busy, cheerful place Noin had once enjoyed visiting, to catch a bite to eat or joke with the head cook. Whom she couldn’t see, by the way. Probably one of the many palace staff members who had been killed or dragged off for interrogation.
Deepening her voice, Noin barked gruffly at one of the serving-girls, « Food. Beer. Hurry up. » The girl gave Noin a disgusted look, but did not dare disobey. Noin dropped onto a bench, not bothering to hide her exhaustion, and noticed with a little smile that the girl, whose name was Mary, vengefully spit into the bowl before she brought it over. Mary wordlessly dumped the stew and the mug of beer onto the bench next to Noin, then turned to leave.
Noin grabbed the girl by the hip and plunked her down onto her knee. « Keep me comp’ny, girlie, » she grunted.
« Hey! » Mary said angrily, trying and failing to get up. « Let go of me, you–«
« Where is Princess Relena? »
Mary’s mouth dropped open.
Picking up the beer, Noin tipped back her head to take a drink, not taking her eyes away from Mary’s. The girl gasped as Noin’s face became more visible.
« You’re–! »
« Sit still, wench, » Noin quickly ordered, again adopting her attempt at a man’s voice.
« Uh…erm…stop it, » Mary stammered, rather unconvincingly. Then she whispered urgently, « Don’t eat the stew! I spit in it! »
« Forget about that, » Noin hissed. « The royals, where are they? »
Mary bit her lip, her eyes visibly moistening. « The king’s dead. Queen’s been captured. But…. » She hesitated, and Noin spooned up a bite of stew, too hungry and preoccupied to care about its questionable contents.
« Go on. »
« Um…. » Mary looked uncertain for a minute, but then her eyes steeled for what she had to say. « She’s gone – no one knows where. Aeris said she was taken just after the fighting started. »
Noin chewed automatically, not tasting it at all. The princess had been missing since this morning? « Taken? »
« A man killed her guards and took her. »
Noin froze for a minute, struck by a fresh wave of grief. Those had been her own men. Noin herself should have been at Relena’s side, but with Uesa’s unexpected attack and the prince being gone, Noin had been sorely needed for the battle. She should have been glad that apparently at least one of the princess’s maids had survived, but Noin didn’t know them the way she knew the soldiers she had trained from boyhood.
Forcing herself past the pain, Noin managed to ask, « Colors? »
Mary hesitated. « None. He was all in black. » She paused, and added slowly, « He might not have been from Uesa. »
Now Noin was torn. The Sanc Kingdom sorely needed its prince – its new king – in this dark hour. Yet the princess needed Noin even more. Should Noin head for Uesa, to give her grim message to Milliard? Or should she search for Relena? The prince, after all, was safe for the moment, and he would hear of his country’s defeat soon enough. Besides…it gave Noin chills just to imagine the terrifying look on his face, if he were to discover that Noin had chosen to abandon his sister for the sake of some petty (in his eyes, at least) mission.
« I need supplies. And…Aries is dead. »
Mary looked at her sympathetically. She knew how the soldiers could get attached to their wyvern mounts. « Go around to the pantry; I’ll get you what you need. And the Uesian mounts that couldn’t fit in the stables are being kept by the south wall. »
Noin nodded. Then, noticing the way the enemy soldiers were leering, she said worriedly, « I’m sorry, Mary…. »
The girl smiled and guided Noin’s hand to her skirt. Undoubtedly it gave a certain impression to onlookers, but Noin smiled to feel the outline of a knife hidden in a pocket of the girl’s clothing.
« I’ll be fine. Go on, captain. » She tugged Noin’s hood back down over her forehead, then hopped off her lap and went back to work.
To be continued….