Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ In which Zechs finds interesting things in the Lost City ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Searching for the Sun Lands, a Gundam Wing fanfic by Raberba girl
Chapter 3 – In which Zechs finds interesting things in the Lost City (rough draft)

‘They call themselves Uesa’s finest, and yet they’re nothing but superstitious cowards when it comes down to it,’ Zechs thought in disgust.

So here he was, tramping through the underground ruins of the Lost City, completely alone because  not a single one of his men would come down with him.  When Treize found out, he would have their hides for sure.  The new king of Uesa may have had his own reasons for allowing Zechs to remain masked and relatively free, but he did not trust him, and rightly so.

Why was he thinking about politics when there could be danger lurking around any corner?  Zechs returned his attention to his task, and to keeping alert.  There was no telling what he might run into here, this place where no human being had set foot in hundreds of years.

The city may have been underground, but it was by no means dark.  The very rock of the walls emanated a steady glow, the source of which was still a mystery.  If it was a spell, it was an unbelievably powerful one, to remain unfaded after all this time; or if it was some kind of unfathomably advanced technology, the means of duplicating it had long been lost.  Or it could simply have been a natural characteristic of the rock.  Whichever it was, it was useful, and Zechs had no inclination to question it.

The streets were laid out in an orderly manner, but by this time they had been choked by debris.  Zechs had to pick his way, since even the light from the walls, his torch, and the occasional surface shafts was not enough to make the place easy to see.

He smiled a little as he mused over the riches he must be walking obliviously past.  It was clear that in its heyday, this city had been a rich one, constructed of granite and marble with precious jewels encrusting the very doorways and windows; but he had neither time nor desire to search for treasures.  He was a prince, not easily impressed by gold or gems, and despite his impatience with the behavior of his men, he himself felt the silent chill of the place keenly.  He wanted to complete the mission and get back out of here as quickly as possible.

One thing, however, did give him pause.  One of the side-streets came up to a rock wall, and continued on as a sort of tunnel.  This was not unusual; what caught his attention was the heavy gate that filled the opening, now leaning askew, and the large plaque that stretched up the wall to its right.  It was written in the language of the ancients; Zechs curiously tried to read it, but all he could make out were the words, five, king, war, and sun.  It was a pity so much of the language had been lost.

Zechs was startled by a sudden sound.  It was not loud, but deep – a sound like wind, like breath, as if some enormous creature had exhaled.  Shaken, Zechs backed away from the gate and forced himself on.  ‘Get Treize’s blasted proof and get OUT,’ he told himself firmly.  He did not hear the sound of that breath again.

Unfortunately, it was quite a while before he found what he was looking for.  The old palace wasn’t difficult to locate, but it had several treasure rooms, and almost all were hidden.  Every minute he was wishing more and more strongly that he had someone, anyone, to keep him company; someone whose footsteps would echo beside his own, whose voice would fill this terrible, suffocating silence.

And then, when he opened the last door, he was suddenly desperately glad he had come down here alone after all.

Treize had been right, there was a Metal Man hidden in the Lost City.  What he hadn’t guessed was that there were two of them.

Zechs circled around these marvels, these giants shaped like men, only made of metal; clearly they had never been alive.  But they had been animate at one point, that was the important thing; Zechs could see the joint mechanisms, the ingenious way they were designed to mimic movement.

He reverently reached up to the face of the closest one.  Zechs was a tall man, but even he had to stretch up on his toes to reach.  He half-expected the empty, glassy eyes to come to life at his touch, but (thankfully) nothing happened.

Enough of this.  Zechs reached for the thing’s odd little chest plate, engraved with its name in the runes of Old Uesian.  Baruji.  He managed to detach it, but with some difficulty; and then he stared worriedly at the mass of strange tendrils growing out of the back, as if it was a man-made plant.  He hoped he hadn’t damaged it.  Too late now, in any case; he carefully wrapped it in a soft cloth and put it in his bag.

Then he turned, almost greedily, to the larger and bulkier of the Metal Men.  Its chest plate read « Libra, » and Zechs had a much harder time getting it out.  When it finally burst free, Zechs was quite alarmed to see a tiny, bright dot of light blinking on and off near the thing’s neck.  His fingers tingled hotly, as if they had been licked by a wyvern.  But the sensation soon faded, and Libra did not move, so Zechs decided to just leave.

For many nights afterward his dreams were haunted by that spark of light, so uncanny in its brightness and regularity.

He did not retrace his steps exactly; he knew the general direction to get out, but there was no necessity to leave by the exact same path he had entered.  Which is why he hadn’t noticed the courtyard on the way in.  He wished he had, because it was much easier to walk through; most of the debris was around the edges.

Including a humongous statue that looked somewhat out of place in this wasteland of dead riches.

Zechs, looking at the stone figure of a wyvern, wondered why it was carved to look so fierce if it had been meant for a town square.  It was caught in a moment of breathing fire; the rocky flames arced across the courtyard in splendid detail, broken off a few feet out; its claws were spread rigidly; its eyes were squeezed almost shut in furious concentration.  Zechs did not envy the children who had had to walk past that thing, when the city was still active and bustling.

Actually, it was much too big to be a wyvern; Zechs might have said it was a dragon from the shape, but it wasn’t quite that big.  Very unusual, though.

In fact, too unusual.  Zechs stepped over to it to get a closer look.  The detail was remarkable, each scale was outlined perfectly – he even noticed, with astonished admiration, to see a few realistic touches, scales that had chipped or been knocked out of alignment.

« What a beauty, » he murmured, laying his hands on it.  « I wish you were alive, my friend; the Sanc Kingdom needs a guardian like y–« 

Zechs suddenly jumped back.  The stone under his hands had seemed to ripple and come to hot life.  He watched in utter amazement as the dragon-thing flooded with color, shifted its great body, and completed its roar of flame across the square.

Zechs had been wrong, ludicrously wrong.  This thing was no statue, carved out of stone by human hands.  It had been born a live creature, imprisoned by some enchantment for all these years.

The dragon-thing growled low and deep, filling the whole place with echoes and causing the rocks to groan and shift ominously.  « Stop that, » Zechs called out sharply.  « You want to make the roof collapse on us? »

Faster than Zechs would have thought possible for such a huge creature, the head swiveled his way and focused on him with terrifying attention.  « You! » a voice seemed to bellow in his head.  Or…not so much a voice, as a pure thought, translated into words by Zechs’s own brain rather than by the sender.  « You, you, YOU!  At last you are here, and I am too angry to greet you properly! »  It raised its head to roar at the ceiling.  « Where is she?!  The little magic-woman who tried to enslave me?! »

It took Zechs a minute to figure out what the dragon meant.  « Magic-woman…a sorceress? »  He looked around, and for the first time noticed an ancient pile of charred bones resting where the original flame would have ended.  « That must be what is left of her.  I suppose you must have killed her just before you were caught by her spell. »

Snarling softly (which was of course still loud enough to echo in Zechs’s bones), the dragon-thing lowered its head and snorted into the bone pile, scattering it to ash.  « Got her, » it thought/said in fierce satisfaction.  « Got her. »  Then it suddenly swung back to Zechs.  « How long ago? » it demanded.

Zechs’s tone was cautious as he answered, « This city is maybe a few hundred years old.  We don’t know exactly. »

The dragon-thing breathed out a black cloud of satisfied smoke.  « Good.  Not too long, then. »

Zechs just barely kept his jaw from dropping.

« And stop calling me ‘dragon-thing’! » it suddenly snapped.  « I am no dragon.  And no–  NO WYVERN, EITHER!  WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR, YOU TWO-LEGGED MEAT-CHOP!!!! »

Zechs could not help backing away from the dragon-th– the beast’s sudden anger.  « What are you then? » he challenged, disgusted with the shakiness of his own voice.

The beast exhaled wrathfully again before answering, « I am ——-«  and Zechs suddenly bowed over, clutching his head in pain and only just able to keep from crying out.  When he was able to look up again, the THING was eyeing him with something like disgust.

« Fragile human.  Listen with your little nub-ears, then. »  This time it emitted a croaking noise, as if it was trying to speak.

Zechs frowned.  « Tallgeese? » he repeated, approximating the sound as best he could.

« The last, » it agreed.

Zechs bowed in introduction.  « I am Prince Milliard Peacecraft of the Sanc Kingdom. »  It never even occurred to him to give his false name.

« I already know you, Peace-prince.  Don’t you know the prophecy? »

Zechs was about to answer that he did not, when he suddenly remembered that plaque he had been unable to read.

« What?!  You humans go to all the trouble to make an eye-language, and you FORGET it?! »

« We did not do it on purpose, » Zechs pointed out.  « Are you saying that I am mentioned in a prophecy? »

« The Peace-prince who makes war, the Five, the return of the king who will lead us home…if you do not know this, then you have lost much. »

« Then tell me again. »

« No.  Not now.  It will take too long, and your minions are about to leave you for dead. »

‘The men,’ Zechs realized.  He had entered the Lost City about an hour after dawn; the day must be nearing its end now.  He had to get back.

« I will take you back, » Tallgeese said, almost slyly, and Zechs got the sense that it was relishing the thought of seeing his men dissolve into terror at the sight of it.

« All right, » Zechs agreed.  Tallgeese would make getting out of this place quicker, after all, and Zechs was not adverse to giving the Uesians a hard time.  He climbed up Tallgeese’s outstretched wing and settled on its shoulders.  Then they were surging upwards, through one of the surface shafts and back into the late afternoon sunshine.

To be continued….

Author’s Notes:  You might note the first of my unintentional Narnia references in this fic.  After I wrote that bit about Zechs waking the dragon, it suddenly reminded me of that scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where Aslan awakens the stone giant.  I have loved Narnia since childhood, and its images are so ingrained in my subconscious that you’ll see them leak out into my writing from time to time.

In which Captain Noin tries to stay alive
In which Hero loses Relena