Title: In the Name of Power
By: S. Arallion
Based loosely on the anime series "Trinity Blood" (originally crafted as a novel by Yoshida Sunao, character design by THORES Shibamoto; turned into manga by Kiyo Kuujou and most recently developed into an anime series produced by GONZO)
Disclaimer: All characters in this story are owned by their respective copyright holders and authorized licensors —namely, not myself. Anything you don't recognize is my fault. I make absolutely no profit from my use of these characters. -- Arallion
Part 1: The Errant Knight
Father Abel Nightroad pulled his cloak tighter around his narrow shoulders, batting away a long strand of silver hair that seemed intent on snaking around from behind him and tickling his nose. It was unseasonably cold, ungeographically cold even – if that were a word, which it probably was not, he mused absently, glad for once of the dark woolen fabric of his traveling gear. Usually he was panting from the heat at this point of his return journey. Lost in thought, he set down his bags and reached out a gloved hand to push open the gold-filigreed wrought iron gates that marked Cardinal Sforza's compound.
"Halt," a deep voice commanded from behind him, and Abel swung around, his eyebrows arched in perplexity.
Now how did this happen? Was I really paying that little attention?
He found himself flanked completely by wary-looking guards from the Bureau of Inquisition, their insignias prominently displayed, weapons not quite threatening him, but ominously readied. From the crowd, a familiar steel-blue stare pinned him to the spot, as the Chief Inquisitor, Brother Petros, stepped forward.
"What can I do for you, Brother Petros?" Abel offered before the other man could open his mouth again, allowing his confusion – and hopefully, innocence – to show. He couldn't imagine what he might have done this time to get on the Inquisition's bad side. He hadn't even cost the Vatican any damages on this trip, and was actually looking forward to seeing Caterina's shocked expression when he delivered his unaccustomedly squeaky-clean report.
Brother Petros' narrow face was even more inscrutable than usual, as he unrolled a long piece of parchment and held it before himself. "Father Abel Nightroad, it is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest, for violation of the following Holy Ordinances..." He began to read down the list, grimly.
Under arrest! The rest of the words were a blur, although he caught a mention of something that had happened several years ago when he'd first started with AX, and surely he remembered that had been cleared from his record… after all, it hadn't exactly been his fault…
Abel gaped at the Chief Inquisitor in stunned silence, until finally two of the guards moved and the glint of steel manacles caught his eyes. He took an involuntary step backward, raising his hands in alarm as weapons shifted. "Oh, come now, there's no need for that – I'll go with you, but I'm sure there must be some mistake – "
Petros rolled up the writ briskly and returned it to a pocket inside his overcoat. "I'm sorry, Father Nightroad, but it is regulation. Hold out your hands please."
Abel threw Petros his best pleading glance, but wasn't overly surprised when the man ignored it. "Ah… well, all right then…"
He winced as the guards clipped the steel circlets around his gloved wrists, and then twitched as one guard felt around the edges of the manacles, testing to make sure they were secure. The man gave him a stern and suspicious look as he covered his discomfiture with a cough. "Sorry… that tickles," the AX priest explained meekly.
Petros rolled his eyes and gave a microscopic sigh – which Abel only noticed because he was looking for it. And then, because he was looking, and Petros apparently knew he was looking, the other man's lips moved, almost indiscernibly.
He felt the blood drain from his cheeks and hurriedly shifted in his bonds to ensure that his sudden pallor was blamed on a pinch from the steel instead. So, this had nothing to do with the spurious and long-buried charges on Petros' list at all. But what on earth could di Medici expect to accomplish by detaining him, specifically? Or perhaps he'd just happened along at the wrong time…?
The voice was familiar, and welcome. Abel twisted in the loose grip of the guards to look back through the gate into Cardinal Sforza's compound, his original destination. Advancing purposefully down the walk was another man dressed in the sober black, white-trimmed garb of a priest, with the notable additions of steel shoulder plates and AX symbol gleaming in the cold, pale sunlight. A shock of copper hair blew in the chill breeze like a flag, as the emotionless voice continued. "You are required to report to Cardinal Sforza immediately upon your return. Is there a problem?" A glint of red appeared in one eye.
Instinctively Abel began to raise his hands in a placating gesture, but the soft clink of the cuffs and the tightening of the guards' grip on his arms stopped him. He settled for a rather awkward flopping motion, and interjected before the scowling Chief Inquisitor had a chance to say anything. "Father Tres! Er… it appears there's been a bit of a misunderstanding. Would you please tell her Excellency that I'll get that report to her just as soon as I can…?" Pleading. Helpless. Disarming. Pathetic. Come on, Tres… let me plant that suspicion.
Tres stared at him briefly – and he could practically feel the assessing gaze travel over his person – before nodding, eyes narrow. "Affirmative. I will tell her Excellency to expect your report… later."
"Oh, and Tres – let her know that I give my regards to her brother." It was clumsy, really not up to AX standards, but he hadn't planned for this eventuality at all and it was definitely a way to tell what side Petros was going to come down on. Tres nodded in his usual, clipped fashion.
"Affirmative." Steel-shod boots neatly clicked together as the android turned on his heel and strode quickly back up the walk towards the building. And Petros –
Petros' demeanor was nearly as calm as the android's, and he made no motion to detain Tres – which Abel knew must have been against orders, because the guards around him actually looked more worried than he did. "Come along then," the Chief Inquisitor remarked blandly, and like a switch had been flipped, the guards were suddenly all business as if nothing at all amiss had occurred.
So. Although Petros was ostensibly doing his job, he must have enough concern about the circumstances to allow word of what was happening to leak to AX, and thus Caterina. At least that was some comfort – he wouldn't be whisked away to some dark dungeon with no one the wiser.
Nevertheless, Abel couldn't help looking back wistfully at the retreating figure of Tres as the guards prodded him into motion.
The section of the Vatican where the Inquisition did their work was not one of Abel's favorite places. It was damp, cold and decidedly lacking in windows, not to mention the interior décor left much to be desired. However, they'd passed beyond all the areas Abel was familiar with about five minutes ago and they were still walking. Currently they were moving down a long hallway lit only with sparse ceiling fixtures, with no visible side-doors or passages, only a large, arching, steel-bound door at the end. Their footsteps echoed strangely, giving the AX priest even more of a sense of foreboding.
"Brother Petros… where are you taking me?" he ventured anxiously, but was suddenly jerked to a halt by his escort. They had reached the door.
The sleek fall of steel-blue hair ahead of him shifted, and Petros' sharp features were profiled against the darkness of the rough wood. The Chief Inquisitor's gauntleted hand locked around his wrist. "Leave us," he intoned calmly, pulling a key from his coat. "I will handle things from here."
The guard contingent saluted and retreated back down the hall, as Petros inserted the large, iron key into the lock on the door. Abel stared over his shoulder at them in quiet bemusement until he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Petros watching him patiently next to the open door, with another long hallway beyond.
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?" Abel quipped halfheartedly, shivering a bit as he walked through the entrance. The build of this hall looked hauntingly familiar, sleek and chill and not at all like the rest of the complex.
"Indeed," Petros' voice echoed as the door closed with an ominous thud behind them. "You know, Father Nightroad, you could at least have done us the courtesy of leaving your manacles fastened."
Abel shot him a dismayed look and clasped his hands together sheepishly. "Sorry. They were chafing."
"Hmm." Petros didn't look amused. They continued to walk.
"Er… Brother, you didn't happen to answer my earlier question… where are we going?"
Petros favored him with another brief glance. "Nightroad, you know I can't answer that."
"Ahhaha of course not…" Abel laughed nervously, lifting his hands in a submissive gesture, then clasping them tightly together again in front of himself as Petros glared. "Right. Sorry."
"Stop apologizing," the Chief Inquisitor snorted.
"Sorry – ah, of course."
"You're doing that to irritate me, aren't you." It wasn't a question.
"I wouldn't dream of it, Brother Petros," Abel replied piously, glancing at the other priest and somewhat heartened to see a faint smirk lurking about the other's lips. In truth, he hadn't meant it that way, although Petros was so serious and he was so desperately worried by now that he supposed it had indeed been a subconscious attempt to lighten the mood.
This hallway did have doors, although not many, and they too were of a familiar design; lacking any obvious knobs or hinges, purely smooth, oddly angled depressions in the walls surrounded by steel frames. They stopped in front of one at last, and Abel gave his companion a curious look. Petros ignored it, and pressed his palm to a small panel on the wall. The depressed section of wall slid upward with a slight hiss, and the dark opening beyond lit faintly with a blue light.
Abel hesitated, although it was obvious he was expected to enter. "Brother Petros – "
The other priest avoided his gaze, bowing his head slightly. "Please don't ask me what is going on, Nightroad. If I knew, which I don't, I couldn't tell you."
"So… inside then, I take it?"
"If you would."
The incongruity of their conversation almost made the silver-haired priest chuckle, despite his situation. "There's nothing… er… dangerous in there, is there?"
Petros raised an eyebrow. "Nothing you can't handle, I expect."
Abel stared at him for a long moment, but finally lowered his gaze. "Well, then. I hope this is resolved soon."
"As do I," the Inquisitor muttered. "I'm sorry, Nightroad."
He managed a wan smile in response, stepping through the doorway. "Brother Petros?"
The door closed between them, leaving Petros to shake his head wearily as he walked away.
(Author's Note: This chapter has been re-uploaded to fix a couple of errors - Petros is now appropriately ranked as "Brother", the spelling of Lady Caterina's name has been adapted to reflect the US anime version's published spelling, and the spelling of Francesco's last name has been fixed – 'di Medici'.)