AN: Um… not much to say, really. Sorry once again for the long delay. -sigh- Fair warning. After this chapter, things are going to get angsty and dark-ish. War and all, you know. Bleah. Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: Do I own these characters? Honestly, do you really even need to ask? If I owned GW and Esca… I certainly wouldn't be sitting here in my little hovel writing fanfics…

Specters

Chapter 10

By: Penybright

"No! It's impossible."

"Van…"

"No. Coming to grips with the fact that he… that young man is our son is hard enough to bear. And now you're telling me he's going to war; that he'll pilot Escaflowne! How? Zaibach is gone. Who, or what could possibly have that much power? There have been no signs of an army being formed. Everything is at peace.

Escaflowne is at rest. The energist I possessed was destroyed years ago. I won't allow it to be re-awakened. I can't allow that to happen. Besides, the only way to awaken it is…"

His wife sighed, a hand reaching up to touch her temple.

"The only way is to kill a dragon and take it's heart. The right of passage for a Fanelian prince." She gave her husband a pointed look. "It's how I met you all those years ago, remember? He needs an energist to operate Escaflowne, and he'll have to make a blood pact…"

"Hitomi, we can't… Not after all these years. Why?" Van gathered his wife up in his arms, holding her close. "Haven't we gone through enough…?"

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'Dragonslayer…' the voice whispered. 'Dragonslayer!'

Heero tossed in his sleep, hands clenched tightly in the blanket.

Images, so many images…People, foreign cities… a white dragon. Slowly, he approached the white beast, it's yellow eyes gleaming hungrily. His feet moved of their own will, drawing him laboriously forward.

'Dragonslayer'

He screamed as pain knifed through his body, waves of torment washing over him. The beast seemed to grin at him, it eyes glowing brighter. Something glittered in the distance, just out of sight. The glimmer caught the beast's eye as well. The pain intensified; a river of blood swirled around him.

'Dragonslayer…'

The sky erupted in fire, the flames licking hungrily at the beast. It eyes glowed ever brighter in the ruddy light. He reached a hand out to the glittering object on instinct. His body became cool, the pain melted away. As he looked up, it was to late. The white beast descended upon him, it's deadly teeth tearing into his flesh.

Heero awoke screaming out in pain. He could feel the razor sharp teeth tearing, slicing…

"Heero!"

Relena's voice brought him fully back into reality. Dazed, he loosened his death grip on the blankets.

"I…" his voice faltered.

A soft, cool hand reached up to feel his forehead.

"You're burning up. I should go get the healer…" Relena began to stand up, only to be stopped as a clammy hand grabbed her wrist. His grip was unusually strong for a person in the clutches of a ravaging fever.

"Heero, you---"

"I have to find it, Relena."

"Find what? I don't understand, Heero."

"The dragon. I have to find it. The pain will stop when I---"

The hand fell from her wrist. Relena watched Heero anxiously, afraid the high fever had affected his clarity of mind. His attention had been drawn to something he held tightly in his other hand. Looking closer, she recognized the pendant, and was shocked to find it was glowing.

"Heero, I don't think… Last time it started to do that…"

But it was too late. His hand closed around the pulsating gem. Rays of transparent fuchsia light shot out from the cracks between his fingers. It was inevitable now. Soft rosy light flooded her vision, the outside world melting away. The sensation of falling, endlessly falling… And then nothing.

Unlike before, Relena found herself quite awake and lucid as light returned to her vision. She was still standing over Heero who… looked fine? Relena blinked, confused and wondering if she was dreaming.

"How… What…?"

"Where is he?"

"W-who?" Relena asked, still quite dazed.

"The king. I need to speak with him. Now."

"I don't know. There was a commotion, and he ran off. Heero?"

"Stay here. I need to speak with him, alone."

Relena's protests were cut off with an icy glare. Heero was already out the door before she could summon an argument to stop him from his course of action.

"Just don't get us into anymore trouble than we're already in," she mumbled under her breath, sitting on the edge of the cot.

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Van stiffened as he heard a muffled fracas outside.

"Stay here," he soothed, gently setting his wife back against the pillows. "I'll go see what the problem is."

Van shut the bedchamber door behind him, heading out into the study. He hadn't made it halfway across the room when the door was thrown open violently, the wood connecting jarringly with the stone wall. A palace guard fell to the floor with a loud thump, his weapon skidding across the floor to stop a few feet before the King.

Looking up from the guard, Van was met with the sight of Heero standing in the doorway. His eyes were dark pools of anger, his jaw set, and his stance that of a man who was ready for a fight. In that instant, Van was very much reminded of himself in his younger days. Fists clenched at his sides, Heero stalked forward, his objective clear and unwavering.

"What is this thing?" Heero demanded, thrusting out the softly glowing pendant. "Why do I have wings, and why the hell was I brought here!"

"That, is my pendant."

"Hitomi! You shouldn't be out here," Van warned, stepping over to come between his wife and the angry young man.

"It's all right, Van. He's angry and confused. He wants answers, and he deserves any that we can give him."

Van sighed, knowing his wife was right. But still…

"If you would calm down, we'd be happy to answer your questions…" Van seemed to struggle with something inside himself, " son."

"Welcome home, Alastair Gamaliel de Fanel," Hitomi murmured, her vision of Heero blurring as tears threatened to overcome her.