No. Escaflowne not mine. Allen Schezar not mine.
But, Lady Gabriella and other Asturian guards are mine.

~*~*~*~
~*~ Allen Schezar ~*~

She called me by my full name, or simply 'Schezar'. Never 'Allen'… unless she was particularly touched by some fickle emotion, be it well or ill…

Our first meeting was not pleasant…

~*~*~*~

"That is your new teacher…"

"*SHE'S* my *WHAT*…?!?!"

The maroon-haired woman whipped her head towards me, her eyes on fire as she pinned me with a fiery glare. Her arms crossed at her chest, one shoulder leaning defiantly against a pillar that contrasted her figure so, her legs crossed lightly at the ankles – she was the image of complete distaste.

Well, I was not fond of her either, returning her open-faced aggression with one of my own, eyes narrowing; a hand reached for my scabbard, a thumb just under the hilt should it be required for a swift unsheathing of my blade.

The two of us, barely acquainted knights, forged an instant storm-cloud between ourselves.

"Gabriella, please… You've not even been introduced…!" came the plea of the gentlemanly Knight that stood by her. She turned her ferocious glare towards him instead, "Oh please, don't tell me you're giving me another hellish *BRAT* to take care of…!!"

"He's not a hellish brat," my escort admonished lightly, then pointed to knights on the practice field, "None of them are… You *know* that…"

"Pah!" she spat viciously, "The 4 boys under me are the most pathetic beings ever to hold a sword…!! I begin to think they should be given more suitable weapons—"

"I dread to ask, but what would you suggest…?"

"Blunted toothpicks, else they *hurt* themselves…"

"*GABRIELLA*!!" her superior snorted half in mirth, half in indignation, "Those boys love you, and like it or not, I *know* you love them too…"

"Hn…" she grunted, leaning back against a pillar as she continued to watch her 'boys' on the field of bountiful green. "Alright, I give, Sir Jarquis. Who is he…?"

"His name is Allen Crusade Schezar VIII," the silver haired man was quite proud to announce, bringing me reluctantly forward by the shoulders, "I would like you to take him under your wing…"

She hissed as if scalded, "You canNOT be serious, old man… *ANOTHER* INSE—"

"He's a boy, Gabriella – with potential…!" a tired sigh, "Please, I would not ask you if I thought you unable…"

She gave me one last cool scrutiny. I tightened my hold on my sword. She tsked, turning away, "I don't want him…"

"But *WHY*?!?!"

~*~*~*~

… it seemed I was 'an arrogant bastard[1] easily blinded by emotions', and I looked 'like a woman'. I was deeply insulted… but indeed, she was quite correct in her accusations…
I was proud of myself, perhaps a little too confident… I was fatherless… and with my hip-length hair, young roguish eyes, and thin malnourished build, I may as well pass as an unblossomed flower…
Then again, I did not like her either – she seemed a haughty woman with a quick temper and a poisonous tongue, demanding instant respect instead of wanting it given freely…

Her lessons were hard…

~*~*~*~

"What do you mean, you've *NEVER* heard of the Alistair Raids…?"

"I mean exactly *that*," I returned, every word said through a gate of gritted teeth, "My education *ceased* when my mother passed on…"

"The Asturian Pride War…? The Conquest of Lands…?! The history of the Gazoot[2]…?!?!"

"No," I answered, rolling my eyes as she turned away from me, hissing as she massaged the bridge of her nose, "No. No. And what's a gazoot…?"

My classmates chuckled quietly behind me.

The Crimson Terror (such an appropriate name at the time…) whirled around and took a deep breath, "A *GAZOOT*, young man, is Asturia's representative animal…!!" She snatched a book from one of her ominous shelves, screaming, "How could you *NOT* know what a *GAZOOT* is?!?!"

I had scarcely thumbed the book she slapped into my hands, when a heavy crash sounded on my side of the table. Those sharing my lessons suppressed their laughter again, and I found the reason a moment later. Wide-eyed at the pile of books beside me, I glanced up to my instructor, "27 books…?!"

"Yesss," she hissed, grabbing the first and hitting me at the back of my skull, "And you will finish them by tonight—"

"*WHAT*?!?!"

"—because I expect you to know *WHAT* to study, thus it should not take you too long…"

My jaw would've dropped again, if not for her scathing voice, "Oh please, Schezar – stop gasping at me like a d*mned boiled fish…!!"

I swallowed my surprise and quickly brought back my anger. She merely raised an eyebrow and continued with the lessons…

The burden was pushed onto me every night, I reading furiously by lamplight.

A week later, I was admitted into the infirmary for eye-strain and sleep apnea…

~*~*~*~

It was weeks later when I heard she was dragged into the infirmary within days after my admission into the medical chambers. It seems that she had stayed up with me, to 'watch that I don't burn her precious books' should I fall asleep…
Actually, she stayed to watch over me, lest I burn myself if I nodded away…

Her training on the field was hardly any better…

~*~*~*~

"PAY ATTENTION, *SCHEZAR*!!!"

I grunted from where I had fallen, spitting out the soil and grass that had wedged itself past my mouth. Before I was done, I was dragged to my feet – right into the wrath of an angry serpent…!

"You are not using those pretty blue eyes of yours, boy," she hissed as she grasped me by the collar, a quick hand flying to my temple. I winced. "I am *trying*, Lady Gabriella…!!" I countered heatedly, the hate for her burning with a vengeance. From the corner of my eye, I saw her other knights step back with apprehension.

"How dare you lash that tongue at me, *SCHEZAR*…!!" she spat, my last name drawn out with venomous emphasis as she shoved me to the ground again. "Remember, boy – as easily as I agree to shelter you here, I can throw you back out to the wolves…!!" I glared at her, in an attempt to challenge. She turned away, "Don't try that face on me, you *ROGUE*… I have no eyes to watch you…"

She hollered for her other Junior Knights to continue our practice session, not giving me a backward glance. Eventually, she dismissed my companions for the day. However, I was to continue dueling well into the night. Overhead, the rain began to pour…

~*~*~*~

Of course, if I had used my eyes as she so 'lovingly' directed, I would have seen that as I swung my sword furiously against the lashing wind and pelting rain, she was there also… Watching me, with concerned eyes…
No matter how many nights she made me practice by myself, collapsing finally with fatigue, she was there. The next morning, I always woke up in my own bed, properly wiped and dressed down. I made no mention that I knew she carried me to my chambers…

My Lady… My Guardian…
Because despite her hard façade, her cold demeanor, her scornful remarks and violent temper while disciplining us, Lady Gabriella… truly… cared…

~*~*~*~

"Stay *AWAY* from him, you *FIEND*!!!" the female Knight hissed as she threw herself between a towering giant and a cowering boy, "Don't you dare touch my Bori—"

"*YOUR* BORIS?!?!" came the slurred shriek as the giant pointed a meaty finger towards the whimpering lad protected behind the wings of his teacher, "How *DARE* you lay claim on *MY* SON…!!!"

"No *SON* should be *ABUSED* by his *FATHER*, Mikel…!!!" she shrieked fiercely, swatting his hand away from beside her face, "I've given you countless warnings—"

"I listen to no *WOMAN* regarding the upbringing of *MY* BOY—" the obvious father leered, his hands reaching for his sword.

"You LEAVE that sword in its sheath, Mikel!! Do *NOT* tempt an Asturian guard to answer STEEL WITH STEEL[3]!!"

"Then ANSWER the calling of your BLOOD, *WOMAN*!!!" the man dared as he pulled his sword away from its scabbard, the blade glinting in the sun.

His opponent shook her head, "The nerve, Mikel…" Her hand darted to her hip, where an elegant sheath swung freely. Jerking her head towards the back, she gestured to her charges, "Joseph, Jean-Luc – take Boris and get him out of harm's way…"

"Yes, Lady Gabriella. At once, Lady Gabriella," two boys standing beside me rushed to aid the fallen brother behind our shared tutor.

"You shame yourself by drawing your blade against a Knight of Caeli, Mikel…" the golden-eyed female growled, taking her own sword from its scabbard. The metal shone brightly to answer the gleaming steel that issued this challenge.

The one called Mikel charged loudly as he thundered towards the smaller female. She held her ground, waiting for an opportunity. Unlike the angry bloodlust shining in her adversary's eyes, the twin pools of liquid gold lay quiet like an unadultered lake. Closer, closer…

She dodged his attack easily, sidestepping him like a cat. He swung towards her. She ducked and parried. He swiped for her legs. She leapt to the air. He growled and aimed high. She somersaulted and drove an elbow to the back of his neck…

The fight was over before it had even begun…

"I gave you fair warnings, Sir Mikel Knight…" she declared, landing beside him in a crouch and rising to her feet, "I believe you have crossed the line far too many times."

"He is still my SO—" he hissed, attempting to grab her ankle.

She beat him there, the tip of her blade pressing painfully against the bulge of his throat, "You should not further try my patience, Mikel… I *do* have limits…

"GUARDS!!!" she shrilled, not looking back. A handful of men came to pick the larger man off the ground, one personally guarding the fallen sword. The leader glanced meaningfully at her, "Lady Gabriella… you may sheath your sword…"

She glared at her enemy, the firelight still flickering in her amber eyes. Then with a contemptuous growl, she slammed her blade home. "Guard him well. I do not tolerate mistakes…"

"Yes, Lady Gabriella…"

The female Knight stormed past the pillars towards the small gathering of boys just behind my rigid frame, stunned by the unfolding events. It was a while before I turned behind me to see what consequences followed…

My heart leapt to my throat.

"Boris…!" she soothed, kneeling down to embrace the unmoving child. "Oh, Boris…" her voice so soft… so tender, stroking his back lovingly, "Come away from your fear, dear child… Your father will harm you no longer…"

The boy shocked beyond reality suddenly broke down completely, sobbing like a baby in his mother's arms. He wrapped his arms tightly around his teacher, and never let go…

~*~*~*~

I learnt then that Lady Gabriella was a self-proclaimed demoness…
But,
She was a self-proclaimed demoness, because she cared… And nothing – not the Council nor the King nor even the hovering spirit of Death – could take us away from her hands…

We were her knights….
No. We were her sons

~*~*~*~

"Joseph Cassia Le'maire, Daniel Marq D'daunte, Allen Crusade Schezar, Jean-Luc Kristen Stewart, and baby Boris Knight…" her mentor read as he stared at her, replacing the parchment, "My, my… you *have* been busy, Gabby…"

She shrieked, slamming her fist on the table, "How many TIMES have I told you NEVER to call me that *PREPOSTEROUSLY* CHILDISH name EVER AGAIN?!?!"

"Gabriella, please…! My precious table…!!!"

She slapped her forehead.

"Goddess…!! As if I hadn't *ENOUGH* aggravation in my life as it is…! How *DID* I let you talk me into taking in these *MAGGOTS*…?!?!"

He burst out in laughter, "But think, lovely Gabriella… These maggots, as you call them, are you pride and joy, are they not?" She opened her mouth to protest, but he beat her to it, "Else, you would not want them officially secured under your authority as their Legal Guardian…

"Almost as if you wanted to be their … second mother…"

Her mouth shut abruptly, her golden eyes still retaining its hard look. Then, it shone with another familiar gleam, her lips curling into a crooked smile, "So my secret is revealed…"

The snow-white head of her mentor was thrown back with a wholehearted laugh. Approaching us as we stood in a line, he patted us each upon our crowns, "See how loved you are, boys…" Slinging an arm over Daniel and I, he gleefully commented, "Soon, you'll be growing soft on them, Gabby…"

She leapt from her chair, "Oh no, I will *not*! They were put under my name to stay in line, not to be *CODDLED* and *SPOILED*…!! Do not *TWIST* my intentions for them…"

Jean-Luc, an orphan from birth, suddenly raised his head, tears streaming from his eyes. It was so like sweet Boris when he was upset…

"Thank you… Lady Gabriella…" he mumbled, smiling weakly.

Her eyebrow twitched at the sight of such a raw display of emotion. She wound down from her defensive stance and came by to touch our cheek, lingering longest upon Jean-Luc and Boris, our new youngest brothers…

"You are welcomed… My sons…"

A heartbeat later, "Call me Mama or anything vaguely maternal outside these doors, and I swear, I'll slaughter all of you in your sleep…!"

Much joyous laughter echoed for long hours yet…

~*~*~*~

She treated each of us as her own, I supposed, once we learnt to forgive her harsh authority. Outside our shared parlor, she was just as fierce and sharp towards us… but within private company, we saw the true woman that embraced us within her protective wings…
She was there for Joseph when his weakened sister passed us during a difficult birthing, the bawling babe nursing from her own breast…
She was there for Boris when they finally took his abusive father away, leaving him with neither birthright nor aid to face the world amongst unkind faces, scouring records for nights on end to find him forgotten relatives, no matter how distant…
She was there for Jean-Luc when he woke up screaming, lost memories since his amnesia plaguing him in the depths of the night, comforting him until he fell into exhausted slumber upon her lap…
She was there for Daniel when he breathed his last defending the Council library against the raging flames… Naturally mute, he could give no warning, and so was alone for so long… She took it upon herself to grant him a proper burial and mourned his loss honorably…

Rewards from her were few and far between… however, its priceless value made up for its absence…

~*~*~*~

"MARQUIS!!!"

The familiar command was immediately obeyed, the quartet of us falling away from the practice field and rushing to greet our teacher.

"Yes, Lady Gabriella…"

"On your feet…!!" she growled, a hand on her hip, "I have some important announcements to make… But first," she stood by her first student and whacked him upside, "JOSEPH, your defense is lacking strength – an enemy could quell you within minutes in a duel…!! And for the sake of the Mystic Moon, stop *SWINGING* your sword in such WIDE arcs, where the enemy may strike midway… Have you no SHAME, *BOY*…?!?!"

"I regret my faults, Lady Gabriella," came the automatic response as the knight bowed, "It shall not happen again…"

"I have sent word to the Council regarding your progress," the female Knight began, a stern look towards her fidgeting knight. Then a wry smile broke on her face, "They've agreed to promote you two ranks forward. You will be beginning your new tutelage under Sir Liam beginning the following week…"

The chocolate-crowned boy broke out into wide-mouthed awe. "P-promoted…? T-two ranks f-forward…?"

We as his brothers were grinning like mad monkeys on sugar[4]. "CONGRATULATIONS, JO!!" "You make us most proud, brother Joseph…!" "Indeed, this is great new—"

"Did I give you insolent *RATS* permission to MOVE…?!?!" came the barking command. We immediately returned to their positions in line. Lady Gabriella muttered something under her breath as her elder chuckled lightly at her d*mned authority and her boys' faithfulness. "Joseph Cassia Le'maire, I hereby relieve you of your duty to me, Lady Gabriella Daniel Marquis, Knight of Caeli. Now go – pack your belongings and seek Sir Liam… I do not want to see you in the morning…"

Our usually calm leader could not help crying a little. "I thank you, Lady Gabriella… for everything…" before leaving, he indulged in a light peck to his teacher's cheek, to her cringing chagrin. He disappeared just as swiftly before she could swat at him.

"AS FOR THE REST OF YOU!!!" she shrieked, pointing a deadly finger to one of us. "*JEAN-LUC*!! WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY FOR YOURSELF, JUMPING UP AND DOWN LIKE A SPOILED MUTT?!?!"

"Um…? I've got fleas…?"

She slapped him soundly on the temple. Her elder coughed rather politely behind her.

"The NERVE you have, Jean-Luc, it's a wonder you have not *DIED* under my care…!!!" She held his shoulders, "Back straight, head up, stomach in. Stop slouching and grinning like a fool that swallowed the cat that swallowed the canary[5]…!!" She tugged at his sword, "I gave this to you not to jab around like the baton you used to carry, but to fight like a knight, Stewart!! Can you at least do it right…?!?!"

He pouted adorable, "I can try…"

"Especially if you're going to join the Royal Guard beginning next Fall season…"

"The Royal Guard…?! ME?!?!" he beamed, "YOU GOT ME A PLACE WITH THE *ROYAL GUARD*?!?!?!" He proceeded to pounce of the already irritated tutor, "OH THANK Y—"

"Don't you even dare, JEAN-LUC!!" she warned, a palm facing him to stop him from advancing. "All I ask from you is that if I relieve you, you'll promise never to pester me ever again…"

"But I'm your personal migraine-on-legs…" he whined cutely.

"Don't START with me, STEWART!!!" she hissed. He jumped back into his place and nodded.

"Jean-Luc Kristen Stewart, I dismiss you as a former student to me, Lady Gabriella Daniel Marquis, Knight of Caeli…" she declared, her sword touching his shoulders as he knelt. Then tapping it on his head, she added, "Now, shoo…"

He grinned and left, then came back, hugged her from behind, and ran away again.

"*JEAN-LUC*!!!"

"BORIS!!"

"Yes, Lady Gabriella. I am present, Lady Gabriella."

She circled him, "You're a disgrace to your sword, a poor warrior unsuited for the actual field…!" Rolling her eyes, "Though I find no fault in your studies to blame you…" She sighed, watching his downcast eyes. She tilted his chin upwards, "Look at me, boy…

"Tell me truly, if I could give you anything in the world, what would you want…?"

"I-I… I would want to go home, Lady Gabriella…"

She smiled. She nodded, "Then you may, Boris… I shall be sad to see you go, but you were brought here against your will. You do not possess the heart of a knight or a soldier, dear Boris… So I grant you your heart's desire…" She brought him close to her and gave him an embrace, "I free you, Boris Knight, from your post by my side. The word of Lady Gabriella Daniel Marquis, Knight of Caeli…"

"I-I can… go…?"

"We have the letter for your release, Boris…" Sir Jacquis came forward instead, handing him a note, "The Council has approved of your short-term service. You may leave the capitol whenever you wish…"

"Thank you, Lady Gabriella…" the shy knight flew back into his mentor's arms, then the other's, "Sir Jacquis…" Sniffling, he bowed and backed towards the palace, "May the gods bless you…"

"Go…" the elders urged. The boy nodded and turned to his room, crying happily.

I watched my brothers' dismissals, apprehension mixed past my outward joy. Unlike them, I had no past achievement within Asturian records or present amazing traits for her to boast. And with her constant disappointed chidings, my future seemed too bleak to think about…

She turned to regard me, her last charge, "*Allen* Schezar."

~*~*~*~

Aoi Akiko rambles:
If you wish to view the illustrated version of Mentor mine, try

h t t p : / / w w w . g e o c i t i e s . c o m / a o i _ a k i k o / m m _ 0 1 . h t m

I have been led to believe that in Escaflowne, a moon = a day, and a color = a month. If I am wrong, then whack me over the head. If not, then... try not to get confused as you read the ficlet...

[1] bastard
Just to clear the air for some people. The word 'bastard' has been used virtually *everywhere* when someone curses, but according to the dictionary, it literally means a 'fatherless child'. *nod* Allen fits the category... um, grammatically, at least...

[2] Gazoot
No. This animal does *NOT* exist, whether on Earth or on Gaea. Yes, I made it up. Why the weird name...? *grin* It's an inside joke *giggle*

[3] "... Do not tempt an Asturian guard to answer steel with steel!!...'
We saw this in episode 2/3, where Allen tells Van not to draw his sword, otherwise he shall have no choice but to answer the challenge. *bows* Summimasen desu, I'm trying to put in some things that are canon to the original Escaflowne series...

[4] ... mad monkeys on sugar...
[5] ... grinning like a fool that swallowed the cat that swallowed the canary...

I *know* you're out there, you BKBK you...!! This was all *your* fault...!!