Author's Note: This is inspired by Mobile Suit: Gundam SEED by Chiaki Morosawa and Mistuoh Fukuda. However it is set in an alternate universe! Please take a short moment to leave a review, giving me an impression of your reaction to the story, critical or appreciative! Be warned, though, as it will be a magnum opus.
Once Upon A Time...
...There were two great civilizations.
Earth was divided up into several regions populated by common Humans, separated into various tribes of distinct tongue and temperament under the protection of the Alliance of Earth, a military pact between the major powers of Atlantica and Eurasia.
The Plants were a confederation of islands, inhabited by the enchanted Adepts who lived in enormous Towers, controlled by a Sovereign Council of Lords and defended by the Order of the Zodiac, a society of Guardian Knights who had sworn their lives and fortunes to protect the islands.
But these civilizations were not at all peaceful...
For many Humans hated the Adepts out of jealousy and fear of their amazing magickal abilities and many of the Adepts were arrogant, believing that they were superior beings who deserved to inherit the world.
And so in the 70th Year of the Era of Magick...
...After the wasting of the isle of Cancer, the strain between Earth and the Plants grew so great that war was declared.
Early divination led most to believe that the Alliance of Earth, whose forces far outnumbered the Order of the Zodiac, would achieve victory. However, despite these prophecies, the war became drawn out, with three seasons having already passed.
I. FALSE PEACE
On the peaceful island of Heliopolis, a grass-feathered bird flew through clear blue skies to its master, who was sitting out on a porch intently studying a scrap of parchment. It perched contentedly on his shoulder, its tiny feet kneading into the loose fabric.
"Kyra!" a voice called out to him.
The young boy looked up, his amethyst eyes searching for the voice. He smiled.
There were other people nearby, of course, mulling about the commons engaged in business or idle conversation amidst some of the street markets that had sprung up for the day.
"So here you are! Master Kato was looking for you," his friend Tolle informed him.
"Again?" Kyra asked quizzically.
"He said to bring you hence once we found you…" Miriallia, Tolle's lover, explained. "Doth he need your help with another of his rituals?"
"Damnation, I hath not yet completed the one he tasked me with yesterday," Kyra said wearily, dropping the parchment on the table. After a pause he added absently, looking toward the west. "It seems Kaohsiung has fallen."
"But Kaohsiung is not that far off!" Miriallia exclaimed, her voice full of worry. "Are we truly safe here anymore?"
"Do not worry," Tolle affirmed. "Even though this is nearer than the war has ever come to us, we remain a neutral island. Oceania would not get involved in the war."
"Well, if your sure..." Miriallia replied, eager for the reassurance.
As the two carried on, the bird, called Torii, took off into the sky as it often did. While Kyra watched its departure dreamily, he remembered something his childhood friend Athryn had told him long ago.
"There will be no war between the Plants and Earth," Athryn said. "But, though I do not think there is reason to fear, will you come to join me in the Plants soon, Kyra?"
"Kyra," Tolle called, bringing his attention back to the present.
"Huh?" Kyra said, so startled he almost fell from the rail.
"What were you thinking of?" Tolle wondered aloud but, at the boy's silence, turned back to his lover instead. "Let's go."
"Coming," Kyra agreed as he dropped to his feet.
"Move her three degrees starboard," a man shouted from atop the Marseilles, a ship entering Heliopolis' harbor. Upon the craft's complete stop, the man called out to its crew, "Furl the sails!"
"Yes Captain!" several replied, quickly scaling the rigging.
Returning to his cabin, the Captain breathed a sigh of relief. "And with that, this ship's final task has been carried out successfully. You did admirably in escorting the ship, Sir Mwu," he said.
"We are fortunate that nothing happened at sea," the burly Knight replied guardedly, his golden locks blown to the side by the wind from the open lattice. "Hath there been any activity from the Zodiac around this place?"
"I have a team watching two vessels nearby, but even if they enter the port, the Order cannot aggress against us here," the Captain replied confidently.
Sir Mwu snorted contemptuously. "A neutral island, hmm? I hath heard it so many times, I am weary of it."
The Captain laughed heartily, sharing the Knight's cynicism. "But because of that, the plan has succeeded thus far; the fact that Oceania lies in Earth's waters."
"Well then, Captain," a voice interrupted, causing the man to turn and regard five men, clean faces and bright eyes, standing at attention. They could not have been but in their teens. He saluted them as they took their leave.
Sir Mwu, after watching them depart, asked, "Why do only these disembark?"
"They hath been chosen to bear the new Armor," the Captain replied. "It would be better for those like yourself to leave quietly instead of attracting more attention. Your commission is finished."
Sir Mwu nodded and turned to leave.
Meanwhile, the Vesalius and Gamow, two warships in the Order of the Zodiac, floated just offshore, each with a dedicated team scrying the activity on the island carefully.
"Do not look so grim, Fredryck," a man scolded, obviously of great authority. His face was completely obscured by a distinctive gleaming silver helm save for his pale eyes and gently rolling blond hair which fell about his shoulders. It was none other than General Lord Rau of the House of Lecreuset. The sole representative, in fact.
"Yes…well I am awaiting word from the Council. Is it not a bit late, General?" Captain Fredryck fidgeted nervously, turning to regard his superior.
"It is late. My divination tells me so," General Lord Rau replied mysteriously through the distinctive helm, clad in the white surcoat and sash of the highest rank, besides that of the Sovereign Council itself of course. "The price we would have to pay for a mistake here is simply too great. We must act quickly ere the Alliance's new magickal armaments are moved away from there."
As they conversed, the General watched a trail of white foam carefully as it slowly expanded outward from the ship. In truth, a lone boat, made invisible through the power of their magick, on course for the harbor.
Meanwhile, near a busy carriage byway on Heliopolis, three young women were sharing idle gossip at the crossroad.
"I said 'Tis nothing!'", a beautiful young woman with fiery hair was explaining tersely to her companions. For all her threatening, however, it only seemed to inspire them to press harder.
"You lie!" they all agreed, however, ignoring her protests.
While their argument pressed on, growing louder, Miriallia, Tolle, and Kyra strode up to join them.
The red haired one, Lady Fllay, turned to regard their arrival, smiling nervously at Kyra who could not seem to take his eyes from her. "Miriallia?" she called out to the girl, recognizing the group.
"Hey!" Miriallia greeted cheerfully.
"Miriallia, hath you heard?" one of the other girls asked frantically, unable to contain herself.
"What?" Miriallia asked curiously
"Stop! Tis nothing!" Lady Fllay protested.
"She received a letter from the brilliant Sai," the other girl blurted out, giddy with girlish excitement. Lady Fllay shook her head as Kyra shuffled uncomfortably, his temperature rising. "But can you believe she refuses to tell us anything about it!"
"Enough, you two!" Lady Fllay shouted, raising her fist threateningly just as a woman with cropped dark hair, the mark of woman in arms, and two men strode up behind them.
"Step aside if you are not getting on," the dark haired woman said sternly.
"Apologies, please go ahead," Tolle replied graciously as Kyra quickly stepped aside.
Once they had passed, Lady Fllay resumed her outrage. "Now forget about it! I am leaving!"
"Wait for us!" the other two girls called hurriedly as they ascended into the waiting carriage with her, pulling their dresses up to their knees. "Onward!" one of them shouted wildly to the driver.
"A letter from Sai?" Tolle repeated after they had left, covering his mouth against the bout of dust kicked up by the horses when they took off.
"Yes," Kyra said miserably, looking forlorn.
"How exciting for Lady Fllay," Tolle continued deviously. "That sounds like a formidable rival Kyra," he teased, slapping him upon the back as he ran off whilst Miriallia started laughing as she followed behind.
"Wait…" Kyra sighed, starting off after them.
Inside the carriage, the dark haired woman, Natarle, broke the silence as she watched the city whirring by from the carriage lattice. "How peaceful it still is here," she mused. "And yet youths around that age are already being levied on the Estates."
Her companions regarded the comment with a glance, shifting in their seats. Neither spoke.
Using their magick to apport breath for themselves under the water, the pair of Knights and their Squires swam down into a secret cavern cut from the rock underneath the harbor.
"Tis alright," Tolle said to Kyra on the way. "If you will not inquire, I shall."
"Enough, Tolle!" Kyra said tersely as they turned the corner and arrived at the gate of the expansive Morgenroete workshops, probably the largest employer on the island from the sheer diversity of occupations which it offered. Kyra himself was only interning there under its Master Artisan, his recognized natural gifting ensuring him a position in the local Academy alongside his other talented friend Sai, the son of a wealthy landowner determined to use his means to propel the boy into prestige.
Crossing through to a familiar laboratory, they were met by shelves full of the special instruments used by the artisans who laboured there. Alembics and retorts were scattered everywhere along with scrolls and dusty manuscripts piled up high, some in sprawling heaps pushed back into the corners.
The smell of molten steel and musty fire filled their senses as they waved goodbye for the day, separating to reach their various stations. The work was alright, if a bit monotonous. But they paid well enough.
"So you finally decided to come today, Kyra," Sai said smugly as he emerged from one of the many passageways wearing a tan robe over his otherwise unimpressive garments.
Kyra grimaced at the tone. Just as he was about to join Sai, however, he noticed a cloaked figure slouched against the wall in the corner, their face obscured by shadow. They kept their head down and said nothing, which to Kyra only increased his curiosity concerning the strange visitor.
Tolle made his way to their friend Kuzzey, another apprenticed craftsmen who worked there. "Who is that?" he asked the boy furtively.
"The Master's guest'," Kuzzey replied wearily. "She was told to wait here."
"Where is the Master?" Kyra interrupted.
"Ah, I hath been keeping this for you. A tome, I believe," Sai said, ignoring the question. "They passed it out the day you missed."
Kyra shook his head, distracted.
"Let us hear about the letter first!" Tolle demanded suddenly.
"Letter?" Sai asked confused, looking to Kyra for clarification.
"Nothing!" Kyra shouted angrily, motioning to silence Tolle furtively.
The cloaked figure in the corner scowled, trying the door to Master Kato's study. It was locked!
As the Knights and their Squires swam through the secret underwater cavern beneath the harbor, gradually the hull of a large warship came into view just above the murky waves, illuminated by the dim lights of several torches.
Nodding to their compatriots, the Knights joined arms and closed their eyes, leading their fellows to do the same exercise in order to keep their focus. Suddenly the torches above went out as a tiny ember of flame flashed amongst them and began streaking to the surface amidst a billow of steam, its size growing with each passing heartbeat.
"The time has come," General Lord Rau announced. "Raise anchor and make for Heliopolis! Signal the Gamow to accompany us."
As the well trained crew hurried about their various tasks, the Vesalius began picking up speed, cutting through the sea amidst a surge of white foam as the waters parted before it, approaching the small island fast.
From one of the towers which overlooked the harbor, a member of the island patrol was frantically shouting to his companions, pointing to something looming on the horizon "Those ships look like they belong to the Zodiac," noticing the distinctive architecture. They are nearing our coast! Halt!" he shouted, waving his arms.
"They are not stopping," another warned nervously.
"This clearly violates our neutrality!" the guard bemoaned fearfully.
"But what could they possibly want with us?" the other wondered aloud.
Such a flagrant disregard could only mean one thing: the war had come closer than ever.
Once the Vesalius and the Gamow reached the harbor, General Lord Rau gave the order to deploy. As drawbridges were dropped to the sand, scores of Knights and their Squires rushed down onto the shore from atop their warhorses; assembling into tightly-knit companies, lances poised forward and charing up the unguarded coast unopposed.
"If we destroy the mines, we will ensure they never oppose us again," Captain Fredryck remarked knowingly to the General over the din of their hooves thundering up the steep shore.
The General could not restrain a private smile, as if he was privy to a secret joke. "Remember tis only a diversion," he reminded the eager Captain.
Sir Mwu barged into the Captain's quarters, his expression hard. "The enemy?" he asked curtly.
"Two ships are blockading the port. We hath confirmed the presence of Zodiac Knights. They are clearly laying siege," the Captain replied.
"Hath Luke and Gale prepared my armor?" Sir Mwu asked, dashing off hurriedly upon receiving a nod in the affirmative.
Above the pool in the secret cavern, the soldiers were in a frenzy upon hearing the news. Scores of officers ran about in the dark frantically to carry out their various orders.
"Dalida get to Lieutenant Murrue and inform her of the situation immediately ere they are caught by surprise! Everybody else raise the anchor and let us set sail from this place with all haste," the Captain barked.
"Aye, Captain!" Marshal Natarle, now dressed for battle, replied as she ran off to carry out her own orders.
But as the magickal ritual was completed and the Squires finished their spell, the globe of fire shot out of the water and expanded rapidly, vomiting flame everywhere and setting the soldiers and materials alike in its vicinity ablaze. The sealed air around the warship was quickly filled with thick dark smoke.
Nodding to each other as they regarded the devastation above, they quickly swam out, back toward the waiting boat above.
On the beach near the harbor, Sir Mwu and his Squires, Gale and Luke, were pressed in battle by the advancing cavalry of the Zodiac.
Gale tried in vain to bring the assailants down from their mounts with his bow, but the haste of their steeds and the enchantments woven about their Armor proved too strong and they easily withstood them.
The few ships anchored in the harbor had begun firing their cannons at the Vesalius to no avail. Their simple munitions could not penetrate the powerful wards cast upon its hull.
With uncanny speed, Sir Mwu fired off a rapid succession of arrows, felling one enemy Knight in a weak spot in the throat and maiming another in the ankle, unhorsing them to the ground.
"Gale!" Sir Mwu shouted as his Squire was cut down by an enemy Knight's dirk amidst a scream of pain as the horse rushed by.
Turning his bow longways, he pulled back four shafts, quickly intuiting a path ahead through which to send them, their poisoned tips piercing several weak spots in between their plates as they met their marks, felling their victims in a matter of heartbeats. There were few archers in the world who could hope to match such a feat.
There are too many...
A Knight rushed by atop his seed, the tip of his lance glancing off Sir Mwu's pauldron. Whiling around incredibly fast, he garroted the Adept's neck in the string of his longbow and pulled him from the destrier, snapping the bone. Rushing forward, Sir Mwu vaulted atop the beast, grabbing the reins and riding off in through the woods.
He already knew what they had come here for. And his occupation remained to ensure they did not secure it.
Laying prone on a hill overlooking the city, four Knights and their Squires had gathered around a silver-haired one scrying the activity below, his eyes closed.
"Just as the General predicted," the Knight mused upon opening his icy blue orbs.
"Frighten them a little and they shall reveal themselves, hmm?" his blonde companion said. "They are pretty dumb, being Humans and all."
"As expected of you Sir Yzak," the Knight's Squire beamed. "It seems you hath found our treasure."
"I know not the ship's present fate," Dalida explained breathlessly to Lieutenant Murrue just outside the gates to the Morgenroete workshops.
While they conversed, however, several enemy Knights came bounding down the hill, the Squires covering their descent with a flurry of arrows whilst the Knights conjured blinding flashes and called down a blast of fire against them from afar, quickly setting the area and its gates aflame and filling the air with the acrid smell of ash.
"Damned Zodiac!" Lieutenant Murrue spat as she dove to the ground for cover, the blast biting into her skin palpably.
"Leave this place!" she ordered the mercenaries standing around her, unsure of what to do.
"Understood," they replied quickly. Gratefully even.
Inside the Morgenroete workshops, Kyra and his friends were hastily fleeing through a dim passageway upon hearing alarm bells ringing throughout the city. At length, they exited into a corridor and found several people running down the stairs in terror.
"What is happening," Sai asked them.
"Who knows," one replied, following behind.
"We are being attacked by the Zodiac!" another shouted hopelessly. "Warships hath entered the harbor! You all should get out of here too."
Suddenly, Kyra noticed the stranger in the cloak take off running down the other hall out of the corner of his eye. "Hey, wait!" he shouted after them.
"Kyra!" Tolle shouted.
"I will join ye later!" Kyra said, casting a quick reassuring glance over his shoulder to which Tolle could only shake his head in confusion.
As they neared the workshops, the four Knights, leaving their Squires to prove themselves against the feeble guards with their simple weapons, caught sight of three wagons being hastily loaded with various pieces of Armor.
"Raze the workshops and destroy all the equipment that we cannot carry off with us," Sir Yzak ordered. "The scrolls we recovered said there would be five of them. What about the other two?"
"Leave that to Sir Rusty and I," another Knight replied beneath his helm, just behind. "Your party can take those three, Sir Yzak."
"Alright, I shall leave that to you then," Sir Yzak replied, taking off in a sprint, his enchanted sabatons granting him haste.
Upon seeing the invaders, several of the soldiers, mercenaries from the mainland by the looks of them, hastily released the bolts from their crossbows at them, for which the Knights simply used their magick to weaken the ground where they stood, opening up fissures swallowed them whole.
"What are you doing?" Kyra demanded suspiciously when he had at last caught up with the mysterious stranger. "They told us to find shelter!"
"Why did you follow me?" the stranger demanded irately. "You should make haste and leave!"
Suddenly the building began shaking violently as pieces of stone crumbled and fell around them, filling the air with dust and blowing the stranger's cloak from her head.
As the smoke cleared, Kyra caught sight of her face for the first time-fierce garnet eyes framed by jagged blond hair. She was a woman! "A girl," he stammered.
"Well what did you think I was until now?" the peculiar girl spat angrily.
"Well…" Kyra stuttered uncertainly, just as the building began shaking violently once more.
What is going on out there?
"Forget it! Just leave," she shouted wth renewed urgency. "There is a matter I must learn the truth of."
"Where shall I go?" Kyra said, pointing back the way they had come in dismay. "I cannot get back that way anymore." Suddenly, taking charge, he took hold of her arm and pulled her down another hall, adding breathlessly, "This way!"
"Let me go you fool!" she protested. As her gaze settled ahead, however, her thoughts took a darker turn. "I hope it does not come to this," she muttered to herself.
"It will be alright. We shall be saved," Kyra tried to reassure her as they ran. "There shall still be some shelters open yet."
Amidst the raging battle in front of the workshops, Murrue was discharging bolts from her crossbow as quickly as she could, their tips piercing any enemies foolhardy enough to show themselves. But the Knights were not even bothering, simply phasing their munitions through their cover.
At that untimely moment, Sai, Kuzzey, Miriallia and Tolle emerged from the building, horrified to find a battle taking place before them.
Kyra and the mysterious blonde haired girl at last emerged from the collapsing hallway into the open air only to find two wagons piled with strange weapons which the young man could immediately sense had been endowed with magickal properties. Also inside, however, were Zodiac Knights battling what Kyra surmised had to be foreign mercenaries, their skin unaccustomed to the strong island light.
The girl suddenly sank to her knees in horror upon seeing the wagons. "Just as I thought, the Alliance's new enchanted armaments. Father you hath betrayed us all!" she screamed.
Whipping her head round, Lieutenant Murrue aimed her crossbow in their direction on instinct.
Kyra gasped upon sensing the threat. "This is dire," he said, grabbing the girl's arm and dashing forward to avoid two bolts as they slammed into the wall behind them.
Murrue lowered her crossbow surprised. Her senses were so raw right now, she could have shot at anything which stirred. "Children?" the Lieutenant said in disbelief.
"Tis no use crying," Kyra said sternly to the blonde, pulling her away. "Just flee!"
After the dust had cleared, Sir Yzak smirked, now clad in one of the enchanted suits of Armor stolen from the wagons. "Impressive is it not, Sir Dyarka?" he mused to his blonde companion, examining the argent hue of the new vambraces. The magick within the suit seemed to surge within him, exhilarating him.
"Alright, let us depart!" Sir Dyarka called out unamused, his head covered by its own beige bascinet.
"Sir Nycol!" Sir Yzak scolded impatiently, looking behind him at the pathetic sight.
"Please wait just a bit more," Sir Nycol pleaded, his Squires still fitting him with the new sable plates from yet another suit. "Just a few more moments."
"What about Sir Athryn and Sir Rusty?" Sir Dyarka inquired of his compatriots, noting the strength of the light. "They are late."
"They shall be alright," Sir Yzak assured him. "We are to bring these three back immediately. Do not get killed ere we hath brought them to the General or who can fathom what punishment there shall be to endure."
Nodding to each other, they ran off in the direction of the harbor.
At last Kyra and the girl reached the nearest shelter. Panting heavily from the run, the boy rapped on the door wearily.
"Is there still someone out there?" a voice asked in surprise.
"Yes, my friend and I… Please open the door!" Kyra replied breathlessly.
"Two?" the voice hesitated, still not opening the door.
"Yes," Kyra said impatiently, tapping his foot as he looked around for any signs of danger.
"We are already full," the voice apologized. "But there is another shelter just west of here. Can you make it over there?"
Kyra turned his gaze west over the ruined battlefield. It did not appear to be too far.
"Then at least take one of us, a girl!" Kyra pleaded.
"Understood. We are very sorry!" the voice replied, finally releasing the latch and throwing opening the door.
"Go," Kyra told the girl.
She looked unsure for a moment. Shaking his head in exasperation, he grabbed her shoulders and shoved her through.
"No!" she protested.
"Just go!" he replied. "I shall go to the other one. Everything shall be fine."
After the door was bolted after her, Kyra took off running west in search of the other shelter.
As he ran back through the armory, however, Kyra noticed one of the enemy Squires aiming his bow at the woman from before. "Look out behind you!" he shouted frantically, trying to get her attention. The Lieutenant dropped down, rolled and fired straight behind her, sending the Squire scrambling for cover
"That boy just now… Why?" Lieutenant Murrue muttered, blowing a disheveled brunette clump out of her eyes.
But while she was distracted, another of her fellow soldiers was impaled by an enemy arrow. She dove forward, letting a bolt fly, which struck the enemy clean in the head. He was dead ere he hit the ground.
"Come hence!" the Lieutenant shouted to Kyra.
"I am heading for the shelter to the west," Kyra explained. "Do not worry about me!"
"The only thing there is ash!" Murrue countered.
While Kyra was thinking over her words, the ground afore him collapsed into a sinkhole, its treacherous slope almost catching him in their grasp as he struggled to maintain his balance.
"Come here," Murrue urged once more. This time Kyra obeyed, running as fast he could.
Just as Kyra reached her, Hamada, who was pressed hard alongside Lieutenant Murrue, shot a lucky arrow in between the plates of Sir Rusty's armor, felling him.
"Sir Rusty!" his fellow Knight cried, charging with wild abandon as he let several arrows fly from his own, striking Hamada in the gut and losing his helmet from the dash.
"Hamada!" Lieutenant Murrue shouted when he fell to the ground, his chest flowing out into a small crimson pool beneath him.
Just then another arrow found its away into Murrue's shoulder, its tip piercing the tender flesh around her bone. She collapsed, dazed from the blow. Kyra struggled over to her quickly, supporting her with his body.
Out of bolts, the enemy Knight drew a wicked dagger and came running toward them with murder in his eyes. While he could hath probably cast a sufficiently destructive spell, it seemed this Knight sought the satisfaction of killing those who had felled Sir Rusty up close.
When Kyra laid his eyes upon his face, however, he was horrified. "Athryn?" he asked in disbelief.
The Knight halted, absolutely dumbfounded. "Kyra?" he said in confusion..
All around them flames from the siege roared high into the air unhindered, their crackle clouding all other sounds from the surrounding island and spewing thick dark smoke into the air. Under such conditions, the day looked as night.
Kyra stood up to regard his childhood friend. But in that moment whilst Sir Athryn was distracted, Murrue drew her dagger, poised to fling it into the Knight's exposed face. Just before she could, Sir Athryn saw the glint of the blade, however, and quickly retreated, leaping high backwards while brandishing his blade warily.
"We must...take this Armor far from here," Lieutenant Murrue strained, gritting her teeth. "Please, help put it on me."
"You are wounded!" Kyra protested. "Your shoulder needs mended or it will tear."
"We cannot suffer this Armor to fall into the enemy's hands," the Lieutenant repeated. It was clear that she would not be deterred, no matter how grievous her wound.
"I will wear it then," Kyra said finally, if only to get her out of that place. All the smoke was afflicting her with a fit of coughing and he began to feel the scratch in his throat himself. "Help me put it on."
Murrue looked at the Armor and then Kyra. "Fine," she said as she began handing him various pieces and components, colored in opaque and azure, and indicating where they were to be worn.
Sir Athryn looked on from afar, his vision obscured by all the smoke. His mind was too upset for a proper divination, so he gave up and returned to his present task, arraying himself in the remaining suit of Armor.
*For extremely powerful spells of large scope (as in the present case), the casters will often join together in order to share the burden on their spirits as well as multiply their ability to raise the necessary energy.