|While You Guys Were Out
Author: Martin III PM
[SF CD] Nearly all the adults at Castle Cypress have headed off to war with Iom, except for Mayfair... who has suddenly gone missing. What are a bunch of adolescents left in charge of a castle to do? Rated T for minor adult themes.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Fantasy - Chapters: 6 - Words: 22,052 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 07-24-07 - Published: 06-21-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3607193
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I guess I don't need to say this every time, since I probably won't ever write an alternate universe fic, but: this story is NOT alternate universe. As always, both praise and constructive criticism are appreciated, so post those reviews.
Those who have read my novella "Deanna and Natasha" will recognize some of the original characters. Those of you who haven't read it, and are planning to, should probably do so before reading this one, just to get a slightly stronger sense of why the characters behave as they do.
Technical Notes: The milieu of this fanfic is property of Sega. However, all the characters within are mine, with two exceptions(those who have played Shining Force CD will recognize them). This story is set during Shining Force Gaiden II(Sword of Hajya to us in the USA, and also released as Book 2 of Shining Force CD).
While You Guys Were Out
plot and script - Martin III
- Chapter 1 -
The meeting room of Castle Cypress was overstuffed, nearly every soldier and even some non-soldiers having come to learn answers. Since the usual leaders were all absent, no chairman had been declared, leaving no chance for order. The room was a cauldron of near-panicked voices calling out their concerns.
"Where the heck is Natasha, anyway? She'll know what to do."
"Theo's gone to look for her. He'll be back any minute now."
"Unbelievable! In one day, we lose our general and the Sword of Hajya!"
"Think the prince will be angry?"
"Angry? He doesn't need to be angry to punish us for a first order foul-up like this!"
"Oh man... This'll be the first time he's had to decree punishment since he became ruler. How harsh do you think he'll be?"
"Don't we have bigger concerns? We need to get back the Sword and General Mayfair!"
"Yes! We can think about punishment later."
"How!? How are we going to get them back!?"
"Take it easy, Dave."
A tall beastman bellowed this last statement, and added to his point by giving a hard rap to the wall with his fist. The walls, ceiling, and floor all trembled with the force of his blow. The corresponding shudder that went through everybody who had their feet planted on the floor silenced them. With an acknowledging grunt, the beastman stepped aside for a light-furred kyantol. Most of those present recognized him as Varmo, a mage of some skill.
"It does us no good to throw about fears and speculation like a bunch of goblins lost in a cave," Varmo said, his head raised high for all to see. "So I think we should go ahead with an orderly summation of the situation."
"But Natasha isn't here yet," someone objected.
"She'll be here soon, I'm sure. And we need some discipline to this meeting now."
No sooner had he finished saying this than Theo rushed into the room, panting heavily. His eyes were wide with increasing alarm. "Natasha... Natasha's gone, too," he gasped out. A wave of anxious murmurs went through the crowd.
"Are you sure she isn't at a different post than usual today?" Varmo asked keenly.
Theo nodded, taking another gasp of breath. "I checked all the posts. And I checked to see if she'd gone to the toilet. She's not here. Sergeant Deanna's missing too."
Varmo promptly lost control of them again, as everyone began commenting on Natasha's disappearance in loud whispers. In the midst of the commotion, Theo looked for a place to sit. Most of the people there he knew, either as fellow guards in his squad, friends from before he came to Castle Cypress, or friends of acquaintances. Among the first group was Binuto, a burly, blond-haired boy with an expression like the jagged rocks waiting at the bottom of a cliff. Theo felt bad for him because he'd lost both his parents when King Gadrios was overthrown, but his insensitiveness to other people angered him. Dave was also in their squad; a tall, lanky youth, generally friendly but very excitable. The second group included Amasia, a glossy-furred, blue-haired centaur who had been his neighbor. Her persistent efforts to make herself come off as smart amused Theo, though he hoped she'd grow out of it soon. Among other casual acquaintances, he spotted Jane, who he knew through her friendship with Dawn, a centaur in his squad. She was a lively and stunningly attractive girl, with a stream of long brown hair, a slender waist, and breasts whose maturity could not be concealed by the modest clothing she seemed to prefer. Jane patted an empty seat beside her, giving him an entreating look. With a shrug, he sat down.
"Thanks," she whispered. "Vyra's having her shoes changed, you say Natasha's missing, and who knows where Dawn is. And all this... it scares me." She scooted her chair closer to him.
"Don't worry," Theo said, trying to stifle his awkward awareness of what a mismatched pair they made. Jane was possibly the most beautiful human at Castle Cypress, while he - with his flattened nose, cleft lip, and face peppered with yellowish bumps - was unquestionably the ugliest. She was a nice girl, though, and he resolved not to depress her with his sense of inferiority. "This'll all sort itself out soon. His Royal Highness and General Mayfair can handle anything."
"I hope you're right." She pointed at the beastman and said, "Who's he, anyway? I never saw him before just now, when he scared us all into shutting up."
Theo squinted. "I don't know. Hey, Garu," he called to a dwarf a few seats down. "Do you know who the beastman is?"
"He's called Halron," Garu answered, looking about him nervously. "Dantom's nephew. He doesn't get out much."
"Dantom's nephew? Who's his mother and father?"
"I dunno. Who cares?"
Theo sat back in his chair and gave Jane an apologetic shrug. She pinched her lip thoughtfully and said, "You don't think they've been judging Halron just because of who his uncle is, do you?"
"They shouldn't be," Theo said, hovering on the brink of righteous anger. "His Royal Highness declared Dantom absolved of all his crimes."
"QUI - ET!!!" Halron bellowed, again bashing the wall to command silence in the room. This time, he seemed actually angry. He glared around the room, daring anyone to start whispering again.
Varmo again stepped forward and intoned, "I think we're all clear on what the situation is, so may I suggest that we have three tasks to attend to? First, we need to try to figure out what made our leaders and the Sword of Hajya disappear. Second, we should settle on a plan for dealing with these losses. And third, since our leaders are missing, we need to appoint a temporary leader."
"How about Irinod?" a centaur spoke up. "He's one of the few adults left here who knows about war, and he's so... so clear-headed all the time."
Varmo fed the centaur a gaze that made him shrink back. "I said, 'And THIRD, we need to appoint a leader.' It's critical that we first figure out what's gone wrong."
Most of the room seemed to be developing a fear of speaking up. Theo noticed that Binuto, however, was as impassive as ever. Brushing away the dangling vines of his overgrown hair out of his face, Binuto said in a tone that was almost bored, "I heard General Mayfair yelling something about a thief. Maybe she went after him."
"Hey," Amasia said, emboldened by Binuto's example. "Did you guys see that hole in the rampart? Not the big one - the little one on the north side? Well, the debris was on the outside. That could've been the thief breaking out."
"That's one powerful thief," Dave put in. "He didn't even bother using the big hole that the Iom army made!"
"The Iom army?"
"There was clearly an attack from Iom," Varmo said. "The big hole in the ramparts has the bodies of Iom troops all around it. But we have to consider that the Iomite attack might have come after the theft."
"That's a good point," Amasia said. "How do we tell?"
"Did anyone here see the Iom army's attack?"
"Then it must have been General Mayfair and the other missing people who fought them off. They couldn't have chased after the thief and then fought back the Iom troops... so it must have been the attack, then the theft. Or both at once."
"The thief must be one of the Iomites who broke in!" Dave exclaimed. "The attack was just a distraction, to give him his chance!"
"You're jumping to conclusions -"
"Now hold on a minute," Garu interrupted. "You said General Mayfair and the others went after the thief. Shouldn't they be back by now, then?"
"Something must be keeping them away," Dave said gravely. "It – It has to be that the Iomites captured them!"
"Oh, get real!" Jane snapped, getting halfway up with her wrists resting on the table. "We're trying to figure out what's going on, and you're just shouting out whatever stupid idea pops into your head!"
"I'm being stupid? Don't see how well the Iomites planned this? They waited until King Nicholas was gone, they broke through our walls, and they distracted the guards so that they could steal the Sword of Hajya. Why couldn't they have taken General Mayfair, too, if they had surprise on their side? You're in hopeless denial, and it's not helping!"
"Sit down, you two," Varmo said. "The exact reason General Mayfair and the others are gone doesn't matter. Either way, we don't know how to get them, or the Sword of Hajya, back. What we need to do is find a way to keep this from happening again. We need to make Castle Cypress secure."
"But how?" someone asked. "Besides rebuilding the wall and being more watchful for the enemy, what can we do?"
"Excuse me." Theo turned his eyes to the speaker: His Royal Highness's personal servant, Yeesha. She was standing, and her piercing eyes ran over each person in the room. "We're letting our panic, our fear for ourselves, tell us what to do. We have to keep faith in Prince Nick! He's defeating Iom even as we speak. The Iom army can't keep attacking Castle Cypress for much longer. The only people in danger are our missing troops. Even after we've won, they may still be lost! We have to save them before -"
"Sit down and be quiet, Yeesha!" Varmo snapped, stunning her to silence. "No one gave you permission to speak. You think just because you were with His Royal Highness when he fought against Woldol that you're better than the rest of us. You may be His Majesty's personal servant, but you're still a servant! So sit down and don't speak unless you're spoken to!"
For a moment, Yeesha's eyes burned back at Varmo, and Theo thought she was going to rip his head off. Then she lowered her eyes, and sat back down without a word. Neither her face nor her body betrayed a single hint of emotion.
"As I was about to say," Varmo resumed, "...I happen to have a number of ideas - good ideas - for protecting Castle Cypress from the enemy that is upon us. If you will all listen for a minute or two, we can make our home a safe place to be again."
Thoroughly disgusted with the direction Varmo was headed, Theo turned from him to look at Jane. She was trembling in her seat.
"Hey," he said to her softly. "Are you alright?"
"I - I don't like this." She looked back at him, and an idea seemed to strike her. "Could you... take me out of here? Please?"
"Sure." She really seemed upset; Theo hoped he could get her out before she broke down. They quietly slipped out of their chairs, away from the crowd. "Let's get you some fresh air."
Jane had been hoping for a chance such as this, a chance to be alone with Theo. She could have asked him to study with her or something anytime, she supposed, but she wanted things to happen between them naturally. This way was much better, not merely more natural, but wonderfully chivalric. As they headed out of the room, she quietly slipped her arm through his. To her pleasure, he didn't let it go.
"Could you take me to the west tower?"
"The tower?" Theo frowned. "I think you'll feel better if we get out of the castle entirely. Let's go outside - to the garden, maybe."
That was a bit disappointing. The outdoors didn't have the privacy they'd have in the tower; there was less chance of something happening. She accepted it, however, and they headed out of the castle. The main gate was closed at the moment, of course, since most of the guards were at the meeting. A side door with a spring latch that only opened from the inside became their exit route. They walked through the quiet field towards the garden.
Shaking her head, Jane commented, "I've never seen a kyantol act like that. They're usually so... peaceful."
"He had no right to talk like that to Yeesha," Theo said. "She's done more for Cypress than a useless stick-in-the-mud like him could ever hope to do. And she's his elder, too."
Jane nodded. "I'm shocked that she put up with it. It wasn't like her at all. I've seen her tell creeps like that just how much their words are worth before."
"She's been like that for a few weeks now, though. Doesn't question orders as much, or anything. For about as long as Deanna's been here." Theo's face twisted into something between a smile and a grimace. "Maybe his attitude is contagious."
"That reminds me. He and Natasha are both gone... I'm worried that maybe he went after her."
Theo looked at her, plainly confused. "What do you mean, 'went after her'?"
"He's in love with Natasha."
Scratching his head with his free hand, Theo said, "How do you know this about him when I don't?"
Jane giggled. "You're funny when you act dumb."
He smiled back. "Well...?"
"I hang out with Natasha more than you do." Her face turned serious again. "I felt bad for Deanna already. If he puts himself on the line for Natasha..."
"...sooner or later he's going to find out she's in love with His Royal Highness."
"Yes." She gazed at Theo, charmed that he understood. "I don't like it when people in love get turned down."
"Natasha, too. She may have decided to go after His Royal Highness."
"Oh! ...I never thought of that."
"It would explain why she hasn't come back after catching the thief." He shook his head. "What a mess. I wish they could've left us a note, or something. Thanks to Varmo, we're probably leaving them to make it on their own."
"He can't tell us what to do," Jane said fiercely. "He's not our leader. Irinod's going to go in there and take charge soon, and I'll bet he sends out a rescue party for Natasha and the others."
"Yeah. I guess you're right."
"Oh, I wouldn't be too sure of that." The aged, wizened voice came from an unseen location to Jane's left. She jumped, and grabbed Theo's arm tightly.
"Alright, who's there?" Theo's voice was firm and bold, and inwardly Jane gave a dreamy sigh.
"Sorry." A bald head with wrinkled blue eyes and a long grey-and-white beard poked out from between the bushes. "Didn't mean to frighten the young lady. My manners have all gone to pot working out here." The old man - a dwarf, if the level at which his head was poking out was any indication - had a wide-brimmed hat in his hands. He stuffed it on his head and retreated back behind the bushes. "Sorry for eavesdropping. I'll head down to the sundrops, where I won't disturb you."
"Wait!" Jane dove after him, pressing though the bushes until she emerged on the other side. Brushing greenery from her hair, she asked, "What did you mean?"
The old man twitched an eyebrow up at her, trying for a moment to understand what she was referring to. Then he said, "Ambition is found in every race. Even kyantols." He hefted a pair of shears and resumed pruning the bushes. "And kyantols aren't troublemakers. If young Varmo is trying to take charge, then he means to be a leader. There's no other way of it being. And I'll bet he can rouse a rabble a lot better than an old warhorse like Irinod." He brushed away the clipped branches that still dangled from the bushes. "Remember, it's mostly young folks at Castle Cypress now. They'll want a young firebrand, not an old prune."
Theo, who had followed her through the bushes, said, "Excuse my manners, sir. My name's Theo. This is Jane. We're both guards here."
"I'm Eruminshus," the dwarf replied, shaking his hand. "Feel free to call me Eru. Guards, huh? I guess I'm the guard-ener, then." He chuckled, and turned back to pruning his bushes.
"Sorry to have bothered you..."
"Ah, no! Don't mind me. My manners have gone to pot, as I said. I just need to get my work done, is all. Talk away. It takes my mind off my job."
Jane hesitated a moment, then said, "Why are you still out here, just trimming bushes? Aren't you worried about what's going on?"
"Heh. I'm too old to live much longer, anyway. Seen too much death and sorrow in my time to worry about the possibility of more. I know how terrible that must sound to you young people, but that's the way of it being." He sighed. "The general is a lovely lady, though. Hope she comes back safe."
"Doesn't it bother you that Varmo doesn't intend to send out a rescue party for her, then?" Theo asked.
"Only in and of itself. I'm sure Varmo will be a decent leader in most things."
"Irinod would be better," Jane said sharply.
"True enough, but Irinod will never win the leadership of a bunch of youngsters. That's just the way of it working. No point fretting about it." He turned his head briefly to smile at them. "But you can't fool me into believing that you two only talk of such elevated subjects. Weren't you discussing love before I broke in on your conversation?"
"We were just worried about Natasha, and Deanna. Do you know them?"
"Natasha, yes. Deanna, no."
"Deanna's pretty new here," Jane explained. "But he's in love with Natasha, and she says she couldn't ever be interested in him, and of course she's already in love with Prince Nick..."
"With the king?" For a moment, the dwarf's shears halted, frozen in the open position. "She thinks she can compete with Mayfair?"
There was a pause, and then Theo said, "You think His Royal Highness is interested in General Mayfair?"
"Oh, I'm pretty near certain of it." The dwarf wiped the sweat from his brow. "He admires her. I've heard him say as much to Gyan. And then, there's the fact he's appointed her as general."
Jane frowned. "What does that have to do with -"
"Well, surely she's fit for the job, but why didn't he let her work her way up? Because he's testing her ability to lead, that's why. Sort of a trial Queen of Cypress, if you take my meaning." He brushed away more dangling branches. "King Gadrios appointed his wife to general a couple months before proposing to her. And Nicholas has always followed in his father's footsteps as close as he could. It's not hard to see where he's going with Mayfair."
"If I were him, I'd marry her whether or not she makes a good leader," Jane said in a huff.
"I'm sure His Royal Highness is just thinking of what's best for us," Theo said, putting his hand on her shoulder. "The woman he marries isn't just his wife; she's our Queen."
"Well... It isn't very romantic," Jane ventured, sneaking a glance at the hand on her shoulder. This is the first time... he touched me without me touching him. Oh, I've got to store this moment in my memory...
"I don't know if I always like it when things are romantic. Look at what romance has done to the others. It's like a bad chain: Deanna to Natasha, Natasha to His Royal Highness, His Royal Highness to General Mayfair. And for all we know, General Mayfair to someone else."
"Ah, you're looking at the sword as half dull, young man," the dwarf said, setting aside his shears. He waddled over towards a bed of flowers, Jane and Theo following him. "At least you two are happy together, yes?"
Jane blushed. To her keen disappointment, however, Theo was unperturbed as he replied, "Oh, we're not a couple. Things were getting scary in the meeting room, so I was taking Jane outside."
Picking up a watering can, the old gardener remarked, "Ah, I see. A random act of gallantry."
"Well, no... Jane asked me to. And it's not like I could refuse."
"It's a pity," the dwarf said, sprinkling water over the flowers. "I was just thinking I might let you take a few of these, to put in the young lady's hair, or something."
"Well, we're not a couple."
"But we could be, couldn't we?" Jane said eagerly, taking hold of his arm. "I mean, we get along well, don't we? It's an honest mistake."
"Um... I guess so."
The old gardener put in, "Why don't you two try it for a couple weeks? If neither of you is involved, that is."
Theo quickly answered, "I don't think that's such a good idea." Jane could tell that he was being shy rather than outright rejecting her, however, and was not discouraged.
"You could help me study tomorrow," she said. "C'mon, it'll be fun. ...You don't mind being with me, do you?" This last question was a dirty trick, she realized, but playing nice was getting her nowhere.
"No! But... as a couple... I mean... Don't you think it'd be awkward?"
"Well, don't think of it like that. We'll just be... hanging out together. A lot." She turned to the dwarf and his flowers. "We could help Eru do the weeding... if that's alright with you, sir?"
He nodded. "There's plenty to go around. You can start over by that corner."
Standing and picking at his clothes, Theo muttered, "It's a silly idea."
Jane shrugged and went down on her knees before the flower bed. "If you don't want to hang out with me, fine. But I'm still giving Eru a hand."
Theo stood there a couple moments longer, watching her yank at long weeds, pulling them loose from the stagnant earth. Then he wordlessly knelt beside her and joined in her toil.
Jane smiled; she'd read him correctly. Though Theo was too shy yet to spend time with her, he couldn't refuse to pull weeds for a kindly old dwarf.
After a half hour or so, Eruminshus announced, "That's quite enough. I thank the two of you for the help. And the company. Now run along."
"Uh... you're welcome," Theo said as he stood, clearly startled by the old gardener's apparent rush to get rid of them. "It was very interesting talking with you."
"We'd love to do it again," Jane added. "Wouldn't we?"
Theo nodded. "Absolutely."
"Always a pleasure to pass down some of our history. To know I'm still good for something besides tending shrubs, understand? You're welcome any time you want to visit." Eru pointed. "That's the way of getting to the shed with my tools. I'm there at least thrice a dozen times a day. Find me there whenever you please."
Theo gave a polite goodbye, begging pardon as he hoped to get back to the meeting before anything major was decided. Jane suggested they meet again the next day. Theo agreed and took his leave. Jane, however, lingered.
"Thank you so much," she whispered, and squatted down to place a kiss on the gardener's forehead.
"Ah," he said, smiling slightly. "Bad luck to thank the matchmaker before you're married. Like counting unhatched eggs."
Jane shook her head. "Married? I'm not even thinking about that yet."
Once she was gone, Eru gave a happy sigh as he continued with his work. Indeed, he had seen much death, sorrow, and hardship over his years in the Cypress army. But the simple joy of a fair maiden's gratitude remained the same.
Theo opened the door to the meeting room, only to find it occupied by just two people: Binuto and an unfamiliar centaur. The latter was furiously writing on a piece of parchment, while the former sat back languidly in his chair, studying the walls.
Not eager to talk to Binuto, Theo addressed the stranger, "What's going on?"
The centaur looked up. "The meeting's over. Varmo was elected leader tempore. We're meeting same time tomorrow to hear the details of his plans."
"What!? I missed the vote?"
"You didn't miss much. It was almost unanimous."
Theo dropped into one of the chair, supporting his head with one hand.
"It still bugs you though, doesn't it?" Binuto said in a needling tone. "To know that you were eloping with your girlfriend while the fate of your comrades was being decided."
"Jane's not my girlfriend, Binuto. She just needed some fresh air."
"Ah," Binuto said simply, with an obvious loss of interest.
"Anyway, you should talk. I'll bet you voted to abandon them."
The centaur took a look at a tiny piece of parchment on the table and announced, "Binuto voted for Irinod." He lifted up the paper with Irinod's name on it, and said, "This is your handwriting, right?"
Binuto stood up from his chair, straight and tall. "If you two will excuse me..." He walked from the room.