Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ In which the Five ( and their dragons) accidentally convene ( Chapter 5 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Searching for the Sun Lands, a Gundam Wing fanfic by Raberba girl
Chapter 5 – In which the Five (and their dragons) accidentally convene (rough draft)

Prince Quatre glanced uneasily down at the foreign girl.  She looked so upset….  Quatre thought he could understand a young girl’s nervousness at leaving her home in order to enter the house of a much older husband.  However, she had been picked by the sultan himself.  The women of this country would have done anything to be in her place.

Then again…she was not one of the women of this country, despite her clothing.  She could barely even speak the language, so it was a good guess she was unfamiliar with the customs here.

He thought a moment, then slipped down from his horse.  It would not be proper for her to ride in the same saddle as him, or for her to ride while he, a prince, walked.  But they could walk together, and so they did, with Quatre leading the horse.

« I never had a chance to introduce myself.  My name is Quatre Raberba Winner.  It truly is a pleasure to meet you, miss. »

She eyed him warily, then mumbled, « You can call me Lena. »  If the sultan wanted to marry her because she was a princess (though how could he have known?), it would be best to keep her real name secret for now.

« Lena, » he said encouragingly, « That’s such a pretty name.  Where are you from, Lena? »

She squirmed.  « From the Sanc Kingdom, » she admitted.

Quatre’s eyes widened. « The Sanc Kingdom?  How odd…it was only just this morning that Master Chang told us about the invasion. »

Relena’s eyes immediately snapped to his.  « What? » she demanded.

Quatre in turn seemed surprised at the strength of her reaction.  « The Sanc Kingdom was conquered by Uesa.  Its royal family are all dead or missing, and– »  Quatre suddenly realized that he shouldn’t be telling an already-distressed girl that her country had been overrun.  « Perhaps it’s just rumors, » he said quickly, trying to soothe her increasingly horrified look.  « Master Chang has never trusted the reliability of those new message-spells anyway.  He says it was much more reliable to stick with–« 

Relena seized the front of his vest.  « Which of the royal family are dead? » she asked frantically.

Quatre was just opening his mouth to say he didn’t know, when the edge of a sword suddenly threatened Relena’s lovely neck.

« Get your hands off the prince, » the guard ordered.

« Um, » Quatre said uncomfortably.  « They want you to let go. »

« Not ’til you answer me, » Relena snarled.  « My father – is he alive?  My mother, and my brother!  What happened to them?! »

Quatre gaped at her.  « Lena…Relena…. »  He shoved the sword away from her and tugged his horse forward.  « My lady, please mount, » he said politely.  « A princess shouldn’t have to walk. »

o.o.o.o.o

‘Idiot, stupid, moron, baka….’  The words chanted relentlessly through Hero’s head as he made his way through the crowds.  He’d grown too careless.  He should never have let the girl come with him.  He should have made her stay with Wing and–

« Try this, Hilde-chan; it’s the best part! »

« Duo-nii…it’s burned. »

« It’s not burned, » Duo insisted, shoving the jagged-edged piece of crunchy rice in Hilde’s face as they walked away from the food vendor.  « They call it tadig.  It’s good stuff! »

« You eat it, then. »

« I most certainly will!  But not until you’ve at least tried a– »  Duo suddenly felt a rough hand grab him by the shirt-collar.

« You, » Hero growled in his face.

« Let go of him! » Hilde shrieked, beating at the assassin with her little fists; but it was a simple matter for him to hold her at a distance and maintain his grip on the thieving magician.

« I’ll pay you back! » Duo cried at once.  « Every penny, and some extra! »

« What are you talking about? » Hero said in confusion.

Duo blinked.  « You mean I didn’t steal money from you? »

« No, » Hero said impatiently.  « Oi, you’re a mage, right? »

« How dare you, sir! » Duo cried, as if highly offended.

« No mere street performer can handle fairy gold.  I need you to find someone for me. »

Duo dropped the fake indignation, and his eyes went shifty.  « Mages don’t work for free, you know, » he said cautiously.  « Not that I’m admitting I am one, mind you. »

Hero pulled the coins out of his pocket and looked at them, knowing it would not be enough.

« Nope, » Duo said at once, « definitely not a magic-user.  Good day! »  He tried to sidle out of Hero’s grasp, but the assassin only gripped him harder.  « She’s got all the money.  Find her, and you’ll get your fee. »

« Don’t make me laugh! » Duo laughed.  « Why should I trust you? »

« Because I’ll kill you if you don’t, » Hero snarled.

« …Good reason, » Duo admitted.

o.o.o.o.o

‘I am in a harem,’ Relena thought, afraid she was about to faint.  ‘They’re going to enslave me to a fat foreigner who doesn’t even speak my language, and…and…!’

It was a beautiful place, with huge open patios, the rooms filled with sumptuous furniture and vases of flowers and breathtaking art – and women, seemingly everywhere.  Five of them were fluttering around Relena now, dressing her in strange, beautiful clothes and putting up her hair and applying makeup to her face.  They chattered like a noisy flock of birds, and Relena didn’t understand a word.  What she could understand were the scornful grins and gleeful whispers and bursts of laughter.

Relena’s face burned.  Even camped in the middle of nowhere with only a surly assassin for company, she had never felt so alone.

When they called for her, Relena’s heart leapt into her throat.  She couldn’t help resisting when she was grasped by the arms and pulled along, but it was only Prince Quatre waiting for her in the corridor outside.  Relena nearly sagged in relief.

He tried to smile encouragingly.  « It’s not quite proper, but I’ve asked Father to let you enjoy the banquet before your wedding night. »  (Relena shuddered.)  « I thought you might enjoy that better than being cooped up here for hours. »

« Thank you, » she muttered.  She could tell he was trying to be nice, but it wasn’t improving her mood at all.

The banquet hall was as lavish as the rest of the palace, and filled with merry people in colorful clothes, lounging comfortably on pillows as they ate, all seeming to talk at the tops of their voices as musicians cheerfully competed to be heard.  At Relena’s entrance, those nearest turned to stare interestedly, chattering to each other as if commenting on Relena’s every feature.

« I fell so conspicuous, » she whispered uncomfortably to Quatre.

Quatre smiled and murmured back, « That’s because you are conspicuous.  It’s not often they see foreigners – and on top of that, you are very beautiful, and soon to be my father’s newest wife. »

‘We’ll see about that,’ Relena thought, though all she said out loud was, « How can the sultan be your father?  You look more like me than him. »

« My mother was from the New World, » Quatre started to explain, but was unable to elaborate.  By that time they had reached the sultan, and were suddenly busy bowing (Quatre had to guide her in the correct form) and finding places to sit.

Relena ate what was put in front of her, too preoccupied to really care whether she liked it or not.  Quatre would offer dishes of food, and she would feign delight at the taste; sometimes the sultan would insist on putting bite-sized pieces of food directly into her mouth, and commanding her to do the same for him.

At one point, Quatre asked in concern, « Princess, you don’t like the sherbet? »

Relena had been trying to come up with a way to sneak a message out to Hero.  « Huh?  Oh.  Um, no, it’s delicious!  Mmmm! »  Now that she was actually paying attention, the dessert was like sweet, creamy ice sliding down her throat, and despite herself, she eagerly dipped up another spoonful.

By this time, empty dishes were being cleared away and the real entertainment was beginning.  A troupe of brunette performers took the floor, setting up for a knife-throwing act.

« There certainly are a lot of foreigners hanging around Barandeh tonight, » a voice said musingly just above Relena’s head.  She jumped and looked up to find a young man about her age, standing very close to her as he gazed suspiciously out at the performers.

‘You’re one to talk,’ she thought.  She had once seen an ambassador who looked like him, with his raven-black hair pulled tightly back, fairer skin than the complexions around him, and dark eyes that resembled Hero’s in shape, though not color.

Quatre laughed.  « People have come from many lands today, Master Chang.  It is not surprising to see a more varied mix than usual. »

« I don’t like it, » the boy called Master Chang muttered.  « This is beginning to look too much like the prophecy in the dragon-writings…. »

« Master Chang, I’m sure any event can be found echoed in some book or another, » Quatre assured him.  « Princess, please allow me to introduce you to Master Chang Wufei, a scholar in the employ of my father.  Master Chang, I present to you Princess Relena Peacecraft. »

« How do you do? » Relena said politely.

« Peacecraft, » he repeated.  « Is it safe to assume you have a brother? » he asked, looking as if he was bracing himself for bad news.

Relena frowned at his rudeness.  « I do, in fact.  Why? »

Wufei cursed, much to her shock.  « I have to go look something up, » he muttered, and walked away.

Quatre laughed again when he saw her staring indignantly after Wufei.  « Please excuse him, princess.  He can be eccentric. »

« That’s no excuse for rudeness, » she huffed, leaning back to watch the knife-thrower.  She was a pretty girl with sparkling eyes who grinned at Relena before turning to flourish her knives at her victim.  The young man, despite his ridiculous getup and half-mask, simply gazed calmly from where he stood shackled to a painted board.

« Come on, Trowa, » the knife-thrower laughed, « this isn’t fun at all.  Look a little scared, why don’t you! »

The young man called Trowa did not answer, his expression reminding Relena a little of Hero’s.

« Spoilsport, » the young woman huffed, and threw her first handful of knives.  Relena couldn’t help gasping, and her hands flew to her mouth as blade after blade was flung at the poor boy.  Yet he never flinched or blinked each time a weapon thudded into the wood so close to his flesh; even when one knife landed too close and a trickle of blood stained his face, his expression never changed, though his female companion seemed shaken.

It made no difference to the audience, which cheered and called for more.  Relena, hands still pressed over her mouth, stole a glance at Quatre, who was looking thoughtfully at the garishly-dressed young man.  « He’s…brave, isn’t he? » Relena remarked haltingly, not knowing the words for what she really wanted to say.

« I think…that may be the wrong word, » Quatre murmured, looking troubled.  « But yes, quite impressive. »

The next performer to take the floor elicited a gasp of recognition from Relena.  « That’s–! »

« Do you know him, princess? » Quatre asked.

« Um…no, I don’t, » Relena lied, her eyes fixed desperately on the braided, grinning magician as if he could save her.  She tried to catch his eye, hoping she could maybe send him a silent message from the force of willpower alone, but it was almost as if he was deliberately avoiding her gaze.

« Thank you very much, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen! » he called out in a jolly manner.  « If I may direct your attention to this flower here in my hand…oh, whoops, guess I left my flower at home; this little doll, then!  Oops, watch your heads. »  As he spoke, the thing seemed to shift in his hands; whatever he was holding had now become a bird, which flapped swiftly around the room before dissolving in a shower of glitter that, when bits of it landed on Relena’s mouth, she discovered to be some kind of candy.  She could not tell if it was simply a magician’s trick or a work of real magic.

« Master Chang, » Quatre laughed as the young man came stalking back to them.  « You’re missing the fun! »

« Breaks my heart, » Wufei muttered, collapsing gracefully onto a pillow next to Relena and reaching for some food.

« Now then! » Duo called out cheerfully, « My next trick requires a volunteer from the audience; a lady in particular.  Perhaps…ah!  What a perfect choice! » he exclaimed when his eyes (finally) fell on Relena.  « My lady! » he said grandly, extending a hand to her, « If you would be so kind? »

Relena would have loved nothing better, but she shot a nervous glance at the sultan – who looked displeased.  He grasped Relena’s arm and said something gruff to the magician.

« My father commands that you choose another woman for your volunteer, » Quatre translated.

« Um, » Duo responded.  He could not very well insist without looking suspicious.

Relena, already in a heap at the sultan’s feet, arranged herself more gracefully and clasped her hands together beseechingly.  « I beg of you, my lord, » she pleaded, though with a charming smile to offset her desperation.  « Might you in your bounty permit me this small indulgence?  The magician does amuse me so, it would please your bride greatly to see such a trick firsthand. »

Duo’s eyes widened a bit in surprised admiration.

« It is not…proper for a man such as him to touch the bride-to-be of the sultan, » Quatre translated uncomfortably.

« Well, » Relena said slowly, « then why don’t you chaperone? »

« I am afraid I do not know this word ‘chaperone,’ princess. »

« Means you get to be part of the act, » Duo put in cheerfully, seizing his shoulder and dragging him up, beckoning to Relena to follow.  She did so, her shoulders tensed in dreaded anticipation, but the sultan made no protest other than low grumblings.

« Now then! » Duo said, arranging his two volunteers in poses he made up on the spot.  « I shall now, with my great and amazing powers, turn this lovely lady and her…way-too-lovely-to-be-a-guy companion, invisible!  Abracadabra, blahooey mancala shimoobash! »  He waved his arms theatrically and tossed a cloud of colored dust in the air, simultaneously working the translocation spell.

A few seconds later, he blinked when he realized that everyone was still staring at them, and that they were still standing in the banquet hall.  A drop of cold sweat trickled down his spine.  « Ahaha…let’s try that again.  Bippity-boppity-boo! »  The grin seemed rather fixed in place by this time, and the gesturing rather forced as he tried the trick again.

« Are you having trouble? » the prince wondered.

« Er, no!  No, not at all, my good man! » Duo chortled, all the while silently planning to blast that idiot assassin if they ever met again.  There was nothing for it but a quick getaway – except that he couldn’t translocate himself, either.  What was going on?!

« Excuse me, sir! »  And here came Hilde, dancing charmingly up to the dais, to Duo’s dismay.

« Hilde! » he hissed.  « You’re not supposed to be here! »

Ignoring him, the little girl twinkled up to Wufei, who eyed her warily.  « Hello, sir! »

« …What do you want? »

« If you please, sir!  That staff of yours seems to be blocking my master’s magic.  If you would be so kind as to allow me to relieve you of it – only temporarily, of course! » she said, looking so adorable that only Wufei could have resisted.

‘It is, too,’ Duo realized, exasperated with himself and simultaneously quite pleased with his little adopted sister.  The uptight-looking guy had a staff lying on the floor next to him that Duo could now see was made of yew, a wood that was resistant to magic.  « Brilliant, young one! » he called out to her, and laughed when she winked at him as she carried the staff away.

His magic now free, Duo pulled off the ‘invisible’ trick with renewed confidence, though, after several seconds passed and neither the magician nor the princess nor the prince re-appeared, the banquet hall slowly swelled into uproar.  « Find them! » the sultan ordered.  « And when my son and bride have been recovered, that mage will lose his head. »

Of course, neither Duo nor Hilde were anywhere to be found.  Amidst the chaos, Wufei quietly finished his tea, got up, and left the banquet hall to recover his staff.

o.o.o.o.o

Relena was disoriented when she suddenly found herself standing in a garden.  She had just enough time to notice Duo let go of Quatre with a cheery, « Good night, Your Highness! » before the world blurred again and they were suddenly standing in a darkened street.

« Run, » Duo told her, and proceeded to do so himself, dragging her as he went.

« Wait…wait, » she tried to gasp, still disoriented; but he wouldn’t stop.

« We’re kind of in a hurry, in case you hadn’t noticed, » he said irritably.  « We need to get out of the city. »

« Just let me catch my breath! » Relena insisted, jerking back.  She was getting really, really sick of being yanked around by these people.  « You can translocate, can’t you? »

« Yeah– and use up even more magic, and collapse on the outskirts of Barandeh, where the guards will find my unconscious body and detach vital parts from it.  Sorry, princess, but we’re hoofing it. »

« Why did you rescue me? » she wanted to know, when she reluctantly resumed running.  « How did you know? »

« Your boyfriend hired me. »  He came to a sudden halt, which distracted Relena from protesting his insulting assumption.  « Which reminds me!  You’ve got– »  Then he shook his head.  « Never mind.  Later. »  And off they went again.

o.o.o.o.o

He would have died rather than admit it, but Hero had never been more nervous in his life.  Wing, under cover of darkness, had approached and was now waiting just outside the city; it was Wing’s enormous companions that had shocked Hero upon their arrival, and whose presence (not to mention existence) he was still attempting to get used to.

It did not help matters when a soft voice suddenly came out of the darkness.  « And who might you be, dragon rider? »

In an instant, Hero’s knife was out and pressed to the throat of the intruder, who gazed calmly at him with green eyes.  Hero felt a knife pressed against his own belly, and cursed at the stalemate.  « Who are you? » he demanded.

« I believe I asked first. »

« I have no name, » Hero grunted.  « What you really need to be asking is which dragon I plan to feed you to. »

« I doubt Heavyarms would take kindly to that, » was the reply, and Hero froze.  Very slowly, he looked over his shoulder to find a huge red-gold head hovering near his own, turned at an angle from which to most conveniently glare at him out of an enormous orange eye.

« I see, » Hero realized.  He moved back very cautiously, and the dragon called Heavyarms stepped behind its partner and laid its tail between him and Hero.

« I’m all right, » Trowa said, patting the red-gold scales soothingly.  Hero looked at Heavyarms, then at the other dragons.  Was it possible that they were all partnered with humans?  He had thought he was the only one.

His thoughts were interrupted by a strange, far-off whirring noise – it captured the dragons’ attention as well, for all five suddenly perked up their ears and looked in the same direction.  In the next minute the strangest contraption Hero had ever seen came rapidly approaching – it was like a small wagon made of wood and metal, and it came rolling along under its own power, pulled neither by horses nor people.

It came to a halt at a discreet distance, and one of the three figures inside instantly jumped out.  « Hero-nii! » the little girl cried as she ran up and latched her arms around his waist.  « I didn’t lead ’em here, honest!  They heard the dragons! »

« Fine.  Get off me.  And don’t call me that. »  He pushed at her uncomfortably, but she grinned and squeezed him harder.

Back in the horseless wagon, Quatre and Wufei had their heads tipped back, eyes wide as they stared.

Hilde laughed at their amazed expressions.  « Whatcha staring at?  They’re only dragons! » she said mischievously.

« Yes, » Quatre breathed.  « Five of them!  I thought Sandrock was the only one. »  At which Wufei suddenly gave him a sharp look.  Quatre didn’t notice, because one of the females had lumbered over to him.  She dipped her head to snuff happily into his golden hair, and he smiled and reached up a hand to pat her affectionately on the nose.  « So this is what you were so excited about earlier.  I should have guessed. »

« He already had a dragon, » Hilde pouted.

« Yes, » Wufei murmured, frowning unhappily.  « Now the prophecy will certainly be fulfilled soon.  It’s partly your fault, you know, » he told the blue creature that was lying on its side, regarding him through half-closed lids.  « You could at least have told me there were five of you. »

« What kind of magic is that? » Trowa asked Wufei, nodding to the wagon.

« Steam, » Wufei grunted.  « I mean, it’s not magic. »

Before Trowa could inquire further, there was a sudden whoosh of displaced air as Duo and Relena materialized among them.  At once he turned to her and thundered, « Are you crazy, woman?!  Did that look like a guard to you?  Don’t ever scream in my ear like that again! »

« But he had a sword! » Relena whined.

« It was a knife, and he was only a mugger! » he said in exasperation.  « I could have handled him, but now I won’t have enough magic to even conjure a bootlace ’til tomorrow! »  He turned his back on her in a huff, then froze mid-stride.  « What are you doing? » he said in astonishment.

Deathscythe perked her ears and looked at him.  She had the tip of Wing’s tail in her mouth, which she appeared to be attempting to insert into one of the other dragon’s ears.  Wing was huddled up miserably, his ears occasionally giving a violent twitch.

« Where did you find these guys?! » Duo continued, spinning slowly on the spot to take in the handful of dragons lounging outside the walls of Barandeh.  It was a rather comical sight, since Relena was doing the same.

She immediately stopped when she saw the prince.  « You! » she gasped, and ran to hide behind Hero.  « How did you find us?!  How did you get here so fast?! »

Quatre smiled a little and nodded at his companion.  « Master Chang here is quite resourceful. »

« He has a magic wagon! » Hilde piped up excitedly.

« It’s not magic, » Wufei insisted.  « And what did you think you were doing, little girl, running off with my staff?  Or you, » he now addressed Duo, « kidnapping the heir to Barandeh? »

« I didn’t kidnap him! »

« No, » Quatre said comfortably.  « You simply whisked me – and my father’s bride – out from under the noses of the whole court, and then dumped me in the gardens. »

« The sultan’s bride? » Hero said severely to Relena.

« Almost-bride, » she replied defensively.  « And why didn’t you rescue me, Hero?  You kidnapped me in the first place, after all; you could at least have the decency to keep hold of me! »

« Kidnapped? » echoed several voices in surprise.

« She’s the princess of the Sanc Kingdom, » Quatre said slowly, and glanced over at Wufei when the scholar added, « Who went missing during the Uesian invasion two days ago. »

« You kidnapped her? » Quatre, Duo, and Hilde chorused in disbelief.  Hero, not knowing what to say, simply glowered.

« Right out of my bedroom, » Relena sighed.  « Killed the guards and whisked me away like the murderer he is. »

« The question is why, » Trowa murmured, but only Wufei heard him, and the two shared a look.

Hilde marched up and planted herself between Hero and Relena, spreading her arms as if to protect the princess.  « Don’t come near her!  You’re a bad man!’ she declared.

« I’ll say, » Duo muttered.  « And here I thought you were some romantic lover, tragically bereft of his sweetheart and desperate to get her back– »  He suddenly gasped.  « Speaking of which, where’s my money? »

Hero nodded at Relena, who glanced at Duo in confusion.  With an apologetic little smile, he held out his hand expectantly.  « Pay up, er, Your Highness. »

« Excuse me? »

« Hey, I don’t work for free, you know! »

« You’re charging me for the rescue? » she said in disbelief.

« Hey now!  Gotta make a living, don’t I? » he said defensively.

Her eyes narrowed into dangerous slits.  « I have nothing.  My jewels were taken from me in the sultan’s palace.  And by the way, that was a really lame rescue. »

Duo was staring at her in growing outrage.  « You…you’re broke?  You can’t be!  You’re a princess! »

Relena meaningfully turned her pockets inside-out, showing them to be empty.

« Argh! » Duo whirled and grabbed Quatre by the shoulders, shaking him.  « You, then!  Give me my money! »

« You would be wise to take your hands off my employer’s son, » Wufei suggested, beginning to twirl his staff pointedly.

He never needed to use it, however, because at that moment Sandrock pressed her huge forehead ever so gently to Duo’s comparatively tiny one.  There was nothing threatening in her expression, but Duo got the point at once – she could crush him with the merest pressure.

« Okay, okay! » Duo gasped, backing off.  « Keep the jewels, then! »  He rounded back on Hero.  « You better get used to me, buddy, ’cause I ain’t letting you out of my sight ’til I get my fee! »  Hero rolled his eyes, picked up his pack, grabbed Relena’s hand, and attempted to head in Wing’s direction.

Relena didn’t walk with him.  « Hero, I am not moving until I have your solemn promise that you’ll take me home. »

« No, » he said simply, and tried to drag her after him.

« No! » she shouted, and dug her heels in.

Impatiently, he picked her up, but had only taken a single step when he found his path blocked.  « Move, » he said.

« I will not allow you to carry this woman away against her will, » Quatre said quietly.

« No, » Relena said bitterly.  « But you’d stand peacefully by when a woman is married to a total stranger against her will. »

The prince looked at her in surprise.

« Look, » Hero said impatiently.  « You can’t go back home.  It’s overrun, and you’d be a prisoner of Uesa.  Believe me, they are not kind captors.  Your father’s dead, your brother, by all accounts, can take care of himself, and your mother is in no position to help you.  I don’t know who Howard is or what the fae want with you but I…I’ll make sure…you don’t come to harm in their care. »  He thought, uncomfortably, that he at least owed her that much.

« Howard? » Duo exclaimed in surprise.

« The fae? » Wufei said suspiciously, and Trowa’s eyes narrowed.

Then they all went quiet, because they realized that Relena was crying.  « I want to go home, » she said brokenly.  « Please, I just want to go home…. »

« Don’t cry, princess, » Hilde said softly, reaching up to take her hand.

Awkwardly, with his arms full of crying princess, Hero asked Duo, « This Howard…do you know him? »

« Yeah, man!  They say he’s old as the hills, used to be a dragon breeder – they say he started the rebellion before coming back here to hide from some prophecy. »

« What rebellion? » Quatre said in confusion.

« You have a dragon partner, and you know nothing of the rebellion? » Trowa said in surprise.

« His Highness has never been to the New World, » Wufei said shortly.  « I don’t know how his dragon found him, but I’ve suspected for some time that he might be one of the Five. »  He glanced at Quatre as he added, « In fact, it’s the only reason I secured a job in the sultan’s palace. »

« What? » Quatre said, staring at him.

« Is he trustworthy? » Hero asked the mage.

« Who?  Quatre? »

« Howard. »

« What about Howard? »

« Is he trustworthy. »

« I don’t care! » Relena shouted.  « I’m not going! »

« You have nowhere else to go! » Hero shouted back.

« If I may make a suggestion, ladies and gentlemen. »  All eyes turned to the sound of the new voice, a woman’s, which was strangely harsh and musical all at once.  The owner of the voice was a beautiful woman who literally glowed as she stood among them, her body giving off a soft light.  Her garments were strange, made of incredibly thin material, yet opaquely covering her body in luscious folds.  Her long, fair hair streamed freely down her back, mingling with gossamer wings which, now folded, flowed almost down to her ankles.  The sight of her was breathtaking to the humans, and her fey magic caused more than one of the dragons to sneeze.

« Who are you? » Hero demanded.

« It is perilous to speak so discourteously to the fae, » Wufei warned.

« You’re a fairy? » Hilde said in awe.

« Allow me to introduce myself, » the woman said pleasantly, though there was something sharp and unsettling about her eyes.  « I am a princess of the Unseelie court, and you may call me Dorothy. »

« Unseelie? » Duo said suspiciously.  « Aren’t they, like, the bad fairies? »

Dorothy laughed.  « Well, it all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?  In my case, I am actually here on behalf of the Seelie, for I have been sent to live among them for a time as an ambassador and as an expression of goodwill. »

« So you’re a hostage, » Trowa observed.

She surveyed him coolly.  « If you like.  Though, as you can see, I am no prisoner. »

« If you’re a fae, » Hero said urgently, « do you know Jay? »

Dorothy smiled.  « Jay…now he has something that belongs to you, young dragon rider, is that not so? »

« I did what he told me, » Hero ground out.  « I got him the princess.  I need my Gundam back. »

« Gundam?! » Trowa, Duo, and Wufei gasped simultaneously.

« What’s a Gundam? » Quatre and Hilde wanted to know.

« Now – Hero, is it? – you haven’t quite completed Jay’s mission.  You were told to keep the princess out of Uesa’s hands and deliver her to Howard. »

« You have a Gundam! »  Duo pounced on Hero.  « Give it to me!  I need it! »

« He doesn’t have it anymore, » Trowa said disgustedly.

« But he will get it back, » Wufei murmured, « when the Peacecraft girl is taken to the mountains. »

There were suddenly three pairs of greedy eyes on her, and Relena glared back at them.

« But what is a Gundam? » Quatre pleaded.  He knew, somehow, that it was important.

« Now, now, no need for all this fuss, » Dorothy said soothingly.  « Jay simply wanted the princess in a safe place.  She will do well in the care of the fae, your Gundam will be returned, and you will be free to carry out your original mission, Hero. »

Hero’s arms tightened on the princess.  He didn’t want to hand her over to this person, but he needed his Gundam back badly.  « I…. »

« I want to go home, » Relena said strongly, this time to Dorothy.

« Poor dear, of course you do, » Dorothy said soothingly.  « Unfortunately, you must see how returning you to the Sanc Kingdom would be impossible at this time – but if you come with me, you will no longer be a prisoner of this man, and we will be able to let you communicate with your family. »

« Don’t trust her, » Trowa said quickly.  « She’s Unseelie. »  He did not completely understand what was going on, but that much, at least, was clear.

Not to Relena, though.  « Do you promise? » she said eagerly.  « You’ll let me talk to my family? »

« Through magical means, yes. »

Relena tried to wriggle free, but Hero’s grip on her was unbreakable.  « Let me go! » she said angrily.

« I need to complete my mission, » he said slowly.

« And you have! » Dorothy said encouragingly.  « The princess will be safe, and you will get your Gundam back.  See? »  She held up something that looked like a tiny metal box.  Hero stared at it, not realizing that his arms had gone slack until he reached up to catch the Gundam that Dorothy tossed to him.  Then he realized that he was able to do so because he had unconsciously let go of the princess, who was now standing next to the fae.

He took a step toward them, but was assaulted by Duo.  « Give me that! »

« Get off, » Hero snarled.  By the time their tussle was over and Hero emerged triumphant, Dorothy and Relena had vanished.

To be continued….

Author’s Notes:  I still haven’t decided yet what pronouns to use for the dragons.  I’m sorry it keeps switching between « it » and « s/he, him, her, etc.; » I’ll fix it in the final draft.

« Translocation » is a word Diana Wynne Jones uses in her novels, like a fantasy term for teleportation.  Tadig is the Persian word for the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pot.

There are several mistakes in this chapter, but I don’t have time to fix them right now…. *wince*  I also get the feeling that the story is coming off racist, so I really need to work on that…which is stupid, considering my own cultural heritage. *shakes head*  I think I’m making up the yew thing.  I swear, I am so out of my depth with this fic.

In which Hero loses Relena
In which Zechs is a bit upset