The Airmessens War
Disclaimer: Not mine.
The old man smiled, baring his gums at the children gazing raptly at him. "Now, where was I?" He wondered absently.
"Sir Heero was 'bout to fight the dragon Matthias!" a small boy informed him, nodding to enforce his point. Matthias smiled indulgently.
"I do believe you're right, Kurt." Looking around, to ensure everyone was listening, Matthias continued his story.
"With a mighty blow, the young Heero severed the head of the monstrous dragon, Urikna, he who no other could slay. And as he stood, covered in the blood of the monster, the boy, not much older than your brother there, Kurt." The story-teller paused, to smile at the eleven year old, leaning against the wall, keeping a watchful eye on little Kurt.
"And so, this boy, this legendary warrior, turned silently to face the army of the king. And every soldier saluted him. He was knighted there, on the battlefield, by King Treize himself. He was the youngest knight ever, and the greatest since the days of Sir Odin Lowe himself. Sir Heero became a living legend, and went on to do miracles, of which you've heard. And, not only did he win his knighthood that day, but also, Princess Relena's heart." Matthias added, chuckling to himself as he saw the little girls sighing happily.
"I'm gonna be Sir Heero's squire!" Kurt cried enthusiastically. Matthias shook his head. "Nay lad, Sir Heero of the Wings has never taken a squire, nor ever shall, I don't doubt."
"He may have to." the inn-keeper remarked softly to his companion, from where they stood, listening to the well-known tale. "We've lost so many knights in the wars, the kingdom needs every knight they can get. Sir Heero's the only knight in the kingdom without a squire now."
His companion grunted, shifting his pipe from one side of his mouth to the other. He knew the wisdom of his friend's words. The kingdom of Dastrane had been hit hard by the Airmessens wars. Ever since those creatures, those foul beings that called themselves Airmessens had dragged themselves up from who knows where, the fighting had been near continuous. Many brave heroes had died, their last sight being the face of an Airmessens. Not a fate to wish on anyone.
They weren't exactly ugly. But dying, the shepherd imagined, most be a rather emotional experience. And the Airmessens, with their blank silvery eyes, their ebony skin, and their hideous fins, were as emotionless as a stone. It would be better, he thought, to die at the hands of an enemy who revelled in your defeat, than at the hands of one who thought of you only as a figure in his head.
Allied against the Airmessen forces stood the Western Kingdoms; Dastrane, Sanq, Fabrisia, Greye, Trethllewyn and Hastros.
So heavy had been the losses of Dastrane and the other kingdoms of the West, that every single knight was forced to take a squire, sometimes more than one, to replace the fallen. But half-trained boys are no substitute for seasoned warriors. The humans were losing this war, although no one admitted it. It didn't bear saying.
No one was actually sure what the Airmessens wanted. They had no interest in gold or wealth, they did not settle in the lands they captured, and they did not seem to enjoy the conquest.
The inn-keeper was right; Sir Heero would soon be forced to take a squire. If he could pass on anything at all to his protégé, the alliance would be greatly strengthened. So far, every battle Heero had fought in, he'd won, earning him the name Perfect Soldier.
In some far off places, the Airmessens were nothing more than a rumour, a shadow on the wind. The shepherd fervently wished he were there. Or anywhere. Anywhere but war-torn Dastrane. Looking at those children, those happy, loving children, the man couldn't help but wonder, whether any of them would reach adulthood.
Sir Heero Yuy of Wing watched the two men impassively. His cobalt eyes picked up on their nervousness, as the two spies quickly reported their findings.
The Airmessens were massing to the north, and more joined them every day, swelling their ranks. They were poised to crush Fabrisia. The kingdom was still deep in mourning for the gentle king Narmons, who had died in battle, leaving his nine-year-old son to rule. It was a vicious blow to the Western Kingdoms, who had long looked to Narmons for counsel. The wise old man had reigned well for many years. He deserved better than to die at the hands of an Airmessens.
Heero clenched his fists, momentarily forgetting the quill in his hands. When it broke with a snap, he started, and looked down. King Treize glanced up, and smiled, then turned his attention back to the spies. Zechs, Treize's bodyguard, smirked at Heero, who raised an eyebrow.
"That will be all." Treize dismissed the informants, who bowed and scuttled out of the room. "So, Yuy. What is your opinion?" Treize questioned him. Heero was known for his tactical skills, as well as his swordsmanship, equestrian ability, sheer strength, and everything else.
Heero considered. "Sending all our troops to Fabrisia would undoubtedly end the problem. But it would leave all other fronts open to attack. Moving Greye's cavalry to..." Heero studied the map on the table before them, "...here, would greaten our chances immensely. Although the odds would still be against us."
Treize made a sound of approval, and even Zechs nodded grudgingly.
"Following this route further, placing Fabrisia's remaining forces at the neck of this pass, and the mouth of the Jerichin River will tip the odds, this time in our favour." Treize nodded to Zechs. "You heard the man. Get to it." He ordered. Zechs bowed, and shot Heero an evil glare over Treize's head before he left.
"Now, Heero," said Treize slowly. "You're what? Nineteen now? And you've been a knight for eight years, and never had a squire." Heero opened to his mouth to protest what he knew was coming, but Treize raised a hand.
"Hear me out Heero. I know you don't want a squire. I know having one would slow you down. But if you can teach your squire anything, anything at all, it would help the war effort. Which is your duty."
Heero resisted the urge to groan. Treize knew just how to push his buttons. For the sake of his country, and his mission to save it, he would do anything.
Treize smiled, seeing Heero had already resigned himself to his fate. "Excellent. As you should know, almost all of the suitable young nobles have already been assigned to a knight. The only one left is..." he pauses, to check a piece of parchment "Duo Maxwell, foundling son of the Lord of Maxwell. He's around your age, but has had no formal training. All yours Yuy."
Booted feet clattered down the stairs, and a slim braided figure shot out of the door at their foot and into the gardens. Behind him, he could hear the thundering feet of the most evil creatures on earth; his cousins. For the past month or so, he had had blissful peace, as the cousins were shipped off to their new knight masters. But now, they were back for a flying visit.
"C'mere you little gutter rat!" jeered the harsh voice of Gerohn, the eldest. Duo winced. Every day, whether intentionally or not, someone reminded him he was not truly Lord Maxwell and Lady Helen's son. He was just a foundling, a baby abandoned in the stables, and taken in by the kind hearted couple.
Ducking under a low tree, and dodging in between the bushes, Duo zigzagged his way through the castle gardens. And up, and over the wall, and down into the village. Duo changed his course, heading for the blacksmith's.
"Morning Milton." Duo greeted as he strolled into the building. "Ah, Duo. G'morning. Fine day, ain't it?" the huge, burly blacksmith remarked without turning around. Duo grunted his agreement, as he looked curiously at the items sitting in the smiths water barrel to cool.
Picking one up, he asked "What're these?"
"Oh, those things? Forgotten what they're called, but they hook under Airmessens armour much better than a sword. I'm making 'em for your cousins." Duo dropped the thing back into the cooling barrel. He didn't want to think about his cousins right now.
"Lord Maxwell wants to see ye, lad." Said a lilting voice. Duo glanced at the voice's owner.
"Thanks Mac. I'll head up now, I 'spose."
Trudging up the hill towards the portcullis, Duo turned and walked backwards, smiling gently as he surveyed the town of Maxwell. There was the baker's, the tailor's, the village green. Mrs Mindle's house, the merchant's villa, and of course, Maxwell Church. Duo had been found by the priest there, a distant relation of Lord Maxwell's. Father Maxwell was the kindest man you could ever hope to meet, although he was getting on now. 'Not long for this world' Mrs Mindle had said. Duo only hoped Father Maxwell would be able to live out the rest of his life in peace. Not much chance of that.
"Duo!" called Lady Helen. Duo spun around, beaming at his foster-mother. "Your Father wants to see you. It's important. Go in." she nodded encouragingly.
His footsteps echoed as he passed through the stone corridor. Hearing his father's voice as a low murmur to his left, Duo turned, pushing open the thick wooden door. "Father?"
His father, a tall, regal, and balding man, looked up, smiling absently. The scholarly Lord Maxwell generally wanted nothing more than to be left alone with his family, and of course, his books. "Duo, my boy. I have some... interesting news. You've heard of Sir Heero Yuy?"
Duo nodded. Of course, who hadn't heard of the legendary knight, the hope of the kingdom, not to mention the human race?
"Well, it seems that King Treize has ordered him to get a squire. And you're the last... one....left." Lord Maxwell looked down at his hands, as they twisted a scrap of material, while Duo tried to absorb this new information. His foster-parents had tried hard to keep him out of the war, to give their son as peaceful and normal a life as possible. Duo wanted to help out and do his bit, but he was given no choice.
"Oh..." said Duo softly. "When am I leaving?"
Lord Maxwell sighed. Deep down, he'd been hoping Duo would have at least tried to rebel against his fate, which seemed to be to die at the hands of an Airmessens. It broke the man's heart to think of his bright, shining son dying somewhere on a battlefield.
"Tomorrow, at first light. Your war-horse and weapons will be supplied by your new knight-master. We... your mother and I.... we won't be here for your departure, a village in our province has been raided, and we must try and help the survivors. We leave tonight... we want to give you this, before you go." Lord Maxwell reached into his pocket, drawing out a silver chain, and on the end of it, a small, ornate cross.
"Oh, Father..." Duo couldn't believe this was happening. That cross was his Father's, he wore it everywhere. Duo had never seen him without it. "No, Father, that's your cross, it-"
"Duo." Said Lord Maxwell softly, his voice firm. "It is yours."
Duo swallowed as he felt the weight of the cross around his neck. He leapt forward ad hugged his father. "I'll... I'll see you again?" he asked desperately. So many of his friends had left to fight, full of courage and hellfire. And so many never returned. Duo had no wish to join their ranks.
"We'll see, son. We'll see."
Duo stared glumly at his horse's mane, as the drizzle drifted lightly around him, wreathing his head in mist. It was a glum, cold kind of day. A day for endings, Duo thought.
Idly, Duo wondered about his knight-master. He was reputed to be a hard man, although not being much older than Duo himself. They said he never showed emotion. They also said the princess of Sanq was besotted with him. And that, really, was all Duo knew, apart from countless stories. Heero Yuy was the stuff legends are made of.
And if I'm lucky, I might get to be the idiotic squire. Lucky me, Duo though glumly.
"Master Duo? We'll reach the palace by nightfall." A bustling servant informed him. The man was a tailor, travelling to Ferith, Dastrane's capital, to work for the king. Duo nodded his thanks to the man. "Is... is Sir Heero likely to be there, do you think?" he asked hesitantly. The tailor shrugged. "I don't know, Master Duo." The man replied, somewhat irritably. How could he be expected to know the whereabouts of the Western Kingdoms most famous knight?
Duo returned his attention to the mane of his horse, finding it preferable to the man by his side, who had begun rambling on about some cousin he was to stay with in Ferith.
Heero strode silently into his room, cobalt eyes sweeping over the Spartan area. A bed, desk and candle. Everything on the desk was ordered into neat piles, and clearly labelled. He hesitated as his gaze passed over the adjoining door. After tonight, his squire would live in there.
Having been raised alone, Heero had never been forced to share his living space with another. Even on campaigns, and in war-camps, people had preferred to squeeze a few extra bodies into a very small space, than share with him. It was understandable. Heero had a reputation for being tough and ruthless, with zero tolerance for failure or weakness. A well-deserved reputation.
Heero sat at the desk, pulling a sheaf of parchment toward him, and taking a quill and inkpot from a drawer. Hours passed, as the young lord of Wing organized the well-being of his province. Only after the candle had melted four notches, did Heero stop. And then, only because of the timid knock on his door.
"Ah, my lord," began a mousy looking man in the livery of a servant, as he cautiously opened the door. "Your squire is here, sir."
So, whatcha think? I'm kind of toying with this idea, to see if anyone likes it. I apologise for the shortness of the chapter, but I really don't want to keep going with this if no one's going to read it. Please review.