Caveat Emptor

Disclaimer – I do not own Gundam Wing. This fic is written purely for non-profit entertainment purposes.


Relena walked through the throng of people, noticing the unabashed stares of the many who turned their heads to catch a glimpse of her. Perhaps it was merely because ladies of her station were not seen in this sector of the markets that her presence prompted such attention. Or perhaps it was due to the tall, silent guard that kept a constant vigil by her side.

"It is your beauty," her companion said as if reading her thoughts. She smiled in return. Trowa rarely spoke, but when he did, it was only to lend a voice to truth. He was not like some of her acquaintances that idly paid such compliments.

"My lady," the soldier's voice lowered as he continued. "I do not feel that it is wise for you to be seen amongst the slave vendors. The merchants here are not like those you would normally deal with."

"Trowa, I have nothing to fear. Not when I am escorted by one of Caesar's finest guards." She watched his jaw set as his eyes continued to rove over the crowd – no doubt searching for any signs of danger. She had not lied; he was one of the best, and often assigned to keep watch over her when she went out.

The dusty marketplace twisted into large knots of commerce, alive with a thousand different sounds. Merchants shouted their wares amidst numerous wooden carts, and vendors plied their trade. The young woman observed all, her expression mild and purposely appearing unaffected by the bustle of the crowd. Inside, however, sadness tore at the depth of her heart. All around her, human souls were being sold like chattel; human lives were being treated like they were dispensable. What had drawn her to this corner of the market at all?

She stopped a moment, to gaze at an odd little man whose wares were obviously more suited to the Gladiator trainers. The slaves were all shackled together in a line, a motley bunch of warriors – dirty and barely clothed to show off their muscles. Various scars upon their bodies told of lives that had already seen too many battles.

The little man, his hair long and grey and a beard that grew pointed on the end of his chin, leered at her and limped in her direction.

"Ah, my Lady, perhaps I can interest you in something? A new addition for your… private collection perhaps?"

Trowa moved in front of her, his hand on his blade. The old man gave an unsettling cackle. Allowing herself to be ushered away, she froze, as what she had thought was a mound of tattered rags stirred.

On second glance, she realised that it was indeed not rags, but a man. He was crouched on the ground, and unlike the other slaves, was restrained not only with wrist and leg irons but also a thick iron collar around his throat , which was chained to a solid post. As she stepped closer, the man lifted his head and glared at her through his thick mane of dark brown hair. His dark blue eyes flashed dangerously at her, and he bared his teeth, not unlike the wild animal he was being treated like.

She gasped; the sense of sadness, and even some guilt, choking the air from her lungs. What could have happened to bring a man to this? His face was certainly not unattractive, but his bottom lip had been split and a large bruise ran down the left side of his face. On closer inspection, she saw that his hair was crusted with dried blood and the tattered shirt he wore did little to disguise the fresh lash marks across his back.

"Please," she whispered, as she crept towards him "I mean you no harm."

Extending her hand, she touched her fingers to his forehead, starting slightly as he flinched. Before she could do more, however, an arm grabbed her waist and she found herself being dragged backwards.

"You would be wise to stay away from that one, My Lady," the little man cautioned. "He is quite mad. You would have no use for him. Quite a waste of your coins."

She frowned at him, as she glanced towards her escort. Folding her hands, she gave the merchant her most regal stare.

"Who are you to suggest what I have or have not use for?" Her tone was deceptively serene.

"Oh course, My Lady," the man simpered. "I would be honest and say that I would sell him to anyone if it meant I would see the back of him, but I could not live with myself if this wretch were to harm such a fine lady as yourself."

"Name your price. My welfare is none of your concern."

The man glanced nervously at Trowa, who appeared somewhat uneasy himself.

"I could not possibly accept payment for him."

She frowned at him, her displeasure obvious.

"I will not be denied. If you will not sell him to me here, then I ask you to bring him to my home and my brother will arrange payment."

"Your brother, My Lady?"

"Yes. You should not have any trouble remembering his name. Just go to the palace on the hill and ask for Caesar."

The old man visibly blanched, as he stuttered his acceptance. Turning back to her new acquisition, she touched her fingers against his shoulder. As she began to move away, she heard his words - soft, yet still menacing.

"I will kill you."