Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, other
Disclaimer: Don't own nothin' but these words
Warnings: Yaoi, lemon, violence, slavery, language, war, torture, fear of the unknown
Special Note: Dedicated to snowdragonct. You, my dear, have been this story's inspiration since almost the very beginning, and it's come this far thanks to you. Special thanks as well to Closet Goth and StandingOnTheRooftops for all your encouragement and lovely feedback.
A/N: New part, new warnings, new dedications, new threats, new dangers.
IF YOU HAVE NOT READ "In My Master's Arms", DO SO BEFORE READING THIS STORY! This one will not make much sense otherwise. Also, this one picks up pretty much exactly where its prequel leaves off, so I will NOT recap. I hate recap. Blegh.
Silence Before the Storm
Zechs Marquise couldn't quite suppress the sudden start that made his heart speed up and his skin prickle. Fortunately it manifested as the slightest twitch and not a full-body jump. "Yes, Captain?"
The captain of Division One threw a sharp salute. "Sir, I've been asked to deliver this. It is in His Majesty's hand, addressed to you."
"Thank you," Zechs said, making a gesture to dismiss the man. Cracking the seal, he read the words and felt a pulse of apprehension.
Zechs, you can expect me to arrive in your camp tonight. I have an important matter to discuss, one which should not be put off. It was signed simply, "Yuy."
Zechs hadn't heard from the castle in days. He had no idea if Relena was still in control or if Duo had managed to subdue her and destroy her influence on the king. Well, tonight would tell. It was good timing. They'd pushed through a successful raid on two large towns on Dobraia's southern border and would tomorrow morning make a strike on the tradeport Dobril. He didn't expect much resistance. Crumpling the note, he rose and headed out of his pavilion to the huge bonfire soldiers had built. He dropped the parchment into the flames. The six division captains straightened, saluting.
Zechs acknowledged with a nod. "Gentleman, we're having a very important guest tonight. I want to make sure the camp is immaculate for his arrival."
"Yes, sir!" Captain Gaischen barked. "Any idea who this guest is, sir?"
Not quite able to hide a small smile, Zechs nodded. "No one less than your king, Captain."
"King Heero!" the captain gasped, and his fellow officers echoed it. In the time it took Zechs to open his mouth, it began to spread away from the fire.
"King Heero is coming here!"
"The Black King is coming himself to ensure our victory!"
Zechs couldn't help snorting softly. "Indeed. This is probably more of an inspection, since he has a lot going on right now. But I want everything perfect. Double the ordinary patrols around our borders, make sure everything is put away, all our supplies are arranged tidily in our wagons, all the horses are brushed down and groomed, and all our weapons and armor are stacked. Also, have the pages brush down the tents. We are the Black King's Imperial Army. Our preparedness and presentation honor him."
"Yes sir!" the captain said again, snapping a salute. Gesturing to his fellows, they immediately strode from the bonfire barking orders. "You men, clean up the dinner dishes and have them put away! You men, stack that wood nice and neat!" and so on.
Satisfied, Zechs returned to his tent. He began tidying his own pavilion, smoothing down the blankets on the bed and putting his armor on its stand properly. His sword he left belted to his waist. He lit several more candles and spread out a map of Dobraia, piling all the other papers neatly in one corner of the desk. He was nearly done when the flap brushed aside to reveal Treize Khushrenada.
"Zechs," he said in that buttery smooth voice of his.
Never one for honoraries, though for some reason his usage of first names didn't come across as disrespectful. "Yes, Treize?"
A hint of a smile hovered on the ginger-haired man's lips as he strode into the room to sink gracefully into the opposite chair. "If I might be so bold, what are your intentions concerning me?"
Good question. Zechs gave a liquid shrug. "Intentions?" As if the man could mean anything but Heero.
That hint of a smile widened the tiniest bit. "When His Majesty arrives."
Zechs sank into the free chair. "I had not considered it," he lied. He had, in fact, given it a great deal of consideration. Over the last several days, Treize had proven not only a formidable warrior but a fiercely loyal one, as well. He fought right on the front lines along with the lowliest foot soldier.
"Then may I beseech you to give it some thought?" Treize inquired, folding his elegant legs. "I believe it could be said our Black King has no great love for the Council of Nine, but my only wish is to continue serving him."
Zechs raised an eyebrow. "Indeed?" he murmured. "In what capacity? Would your loyalty to him falter if he made you a foot soldier?"
Treize's lips thinned. "I believe my talents would be better spent . . . elsewhere, but no. It would not. He is my king, and you are my commander."
A small sigh escape Zechs before he could stop it. "I should warn you, our king will only take any recommendation from me into consideration. It will not sway him if he has decided your fate."
"I understand," Treize said, dipping his head in a nod. "But you are the highest ranking member of his army, so obviously he trusts your judgment."
As much as a man like him can trust another person, Zechs thought with no small degree of regret. All he wanted was to serve his king, just as Treize claimed. The difference being, of course, that Zechs knew his own mind. His loyalty would never falter, even if Heero decided to make him a slave.
"I will be recommending that His Majesty not consider your time with the Council. You're a fine warrior, Treize, and I would like to have you as one of my officers. A Division captain, or perhaps even general. I agree that your leadership skills would be wasted as a foot soldier. But our king does not give his trust easily, and you lost it the moment you became a member of that Council."
"Then I shall just have to work hard to prove myself to him," Treize said, clapping his hands on his thighs. "Thank you, Zechs." He left the pavilion with another nod.
Watching him go, Zechs considered the last days. Treize had no official title, and Zechs had treated him as a sort of advisor, relying on his battle sense to improve his strategies. He had an excellent mind for it, and he would be a great asset to the imperial army if Heero could trust him. Smililng to himself, he supposed this whole situation was to his own advantage. Depending on Heero's reaction, Zechs would be able to see once and for all exactly how much the Black King trusted his own Lord General.
During the last several days of skirmishes and battles with the natives of Dobraia, Treize had developed a strong respect for the young Lord General Zechs Marquise. He could understand why Heero had appointed him, much to the surprise of most of the capital city. The man had a sharp mind, capable of noticing small details and coming up with plans quickly. Plans that worked. It was obvious his army respected him, too, even the older generals. It was gratifying to know that he had at least some measure of the Lord General's respect in return.
The real trial, however, was ahead. Treize knew very well his fate lay securely in the hands of the young, volatile Black King. No one could make up Heero's mind for him. Yet Treize looked forward to the young king's arrival with equal parts trepidation and anticipation. Heero was one of those rare people around whom the entire world moved and changed and flowed. He didn't have to try to twist fate. It just happened for him. He won't have to try to change the world. It changed the moment he was born.
Heero's arrival was flashy, and Treize couldn't help wonder how much of it was meant strictly to impress. A swirling vortex of light and air appeared not far from the bonfire, colors flashing and crackling. In the center appeared a void absence of light, and from it stepped the Black King. He was dressed simply in somber black broken only by his blue sword belt. Only one other followed him, and Treize was a bit surprised by the absence of his lovely little slave. Chang Wufei stepped out of the void behind his king.
Well, this was a baffling turn of events. Thanks to Zechs, there was no mad flurry to leap to attention when Heero appeared. The men were ready for it, and they fell into ranks with astonishing speed and efficiency. Treize was impressed by Zechs yet again, and he fell in beside the Lord General, knowing this visit would in part decide his own fate.
The Black King nodded to the ranks of his army as he walked between them to address the Lord General. The man and all his gathered officers bowed low to their king, each of them looking fair ready to burst with excitement to be greeted by the king himself and not some sort of emissary. Heero acknowledged them, and Zechs smoothly took charge. No hesitation or shuffling about, this one.
"Your Majesty," he said. "You honor us greatly with your presence. Morale was already high, but you have tripled it. Would you care to inspect our camp?"
The king surprised Treize by agreeing, nodding. "Please."
When Treize saw the looks on the faces of the soldiers at their king's acquiescence, the man understood at once. They were pleased beyond measure their king found them important. Treize hid a smile. Clever, clever man. No wonder he was such a magnificent king at such a young age. There was something different about him, too. That powerful aura had not diminished, had perhaps even grown stronger. But that frozen, rigid edge was gone. It made Treize burn to know exactly what had happened in Cera during his absence. And he was desperate to know if Relena was still in charge, if Heero was still under her control.
These questions swirling about in his head made the inspection seem to last forever as Treize trailed the officers. For his part Zechs completely ignored Treize, skillfully directing Heero's attention elsewhere. At the end, Heero addressed the waiting ranks.
"I'm pleased by your attention to every detail," he said, not raising his voice. Indeed, he had no need to make himself heard. His troops leaned on his every word. "This camp is obviously run smoothly and effectively. You are a credit to your Lord General and to me."
Their expressions were befitting men who had just been offered the riches of an entire kingdom. Treize resisted the urge to grin and shake his head. What was it about this handsome young man that riveted others so? As far as he knew, Heero was feared and loathed by the commonfolk. Yet they loved him and adored him. It made no sense.
"I have an announcement to make," Heero continued. "Relena Peacecraft has been executed for conspiring against the crown and committing treason. She confessed her crimes to the Royal Court, and all her co-conspirators have been executed as well. The Council of Nine has been abolished. I have appointed an advisory council consisting of several lords and ladies of court, and Duo, my sorcerer, has been freed."
Silence greeted this announcement, every man looking completely shocked. Treize schooled his expression into neutrality. Apparently a great deal had changed in several days. His head spun with the implications. Duo was freed? The most powerful sorcerer on Harboura? Obviously none dared question their king's decision.
The shock was compounded when Heero smiled. It didn't reach his cobalt eyes, but Treize had never seen Heero smile. Not like that.
"There is one more thing. Duo is no longer the only Black. I have long hidden my abilities so I would not be enslaved by the Tower. My power matches his. I am revealing this now because recently the Tower found out about my power, so it may as well be made public knowledge." The smile vanished, and his eyes became shards of ice. "Know this. I am still your king. If any of you decide to take issue with this and plot treason behind my back, I will know."
Treize sensed a terrible fear run like wildfire through the gathered men. They stared at their king through new eyes, but the Black King's words only solidified one thing in their minds.
Their king was not human.
Heero turned to Zechs as casually as if he'd just declared the sky blue. "Now, is there somewhere we may speak in private?"
"My pavilion," Zechs said, gesturing the way. He dismissed the other officers with a nod.
"Khushrenada," Heero said in a frigid tone, not looking at the man as he fell in beside Zechs, "you come as well."
More than ready for the waiting to be over, Treize obeyed. He couldn't read Wufei's expression, the beautiful man's posture relaxed and poised. The four of them seated themselves around the table in Zechs' pavilion. Finally Heero's eyes landed on Treize, and they were as deep and clouded as a bottomless pool. For an uncomfortably long time he didn't speak. Then,
"I know full well why Relena sent you here," he said, his voice positively dripping with frozen hatred. "Care to explain yourself?"
"If I may, Your Majesty?" Zechs cut in gently. At Heero's nod, he continued. "Treize did bring with him a supposed letter from you, stating the Imperial Army was to return to Cera at once. He did not, however, attempt to convince us of its legitimacy, and when I gave him my refusal to obey the message, he chose to remain with us and fight in your name."
Heero's eyes bored into Zechs. "Your recommendation?"
Zechs paused, but Treize sensed it was only to formulate his thoughts and not because he didn't have a recommendation. "I won't lie and say I trust him implicitly. Am I correct in assuming he was never part of Relena's plots?"
"You are," Heero confirmed.
"Then my recommendation is that you allow him the opportunity to prove his true loyalty," Zechs said.
Now those incredible blue eyes oriented on Treize once more. The Black King appeared to mull it over. "Wufei is proof that being on the Council of Nine does not automatically mean you entertained the notion of dethroning me," he said presently. "Swear to me you never took part in any plot, directly or indirectly, against me or my crown."
"I swear," Treize said simply.
Those blue eyes consumed him, then Heero blinked and nodded, breaking the spell. Perhaps literally, Treize thought a bit dazedly.
"You may remain a soldier in the Imperial Army," the Black King said. "Zechs, I leave his postion to you, and you will accept full responsibility for him. I trust your judgment."
Though he was good and controlling himself, Treize could still see the pleasure flicker over Zechs' countenance at the words. "Yes, Your Majesty. May I now inquire as to the nature of your visit?"
Heero half opened his mouth, then he closed it again and gave Treize a withering look. "Think you this is some circus performance put on for show? You're dismissed."
Perhaps, Treize thought wryly as he took his leave, the Black King hadn't changed all that much.
Heero waited until Treize was outside the pavilion to place a simple-yet-strong ward-barrier. Now no one would be able to hear in, whether by using magical means or by simply eavesdropping. "I'm making a few changes in Corai's political structure," he began, "and one of them will directly affect you. Trowa Barton, Quatre Winner, and -" he nodded to Wufei - "Chang were all instrumental in bringing Relena's plotting to an end. I have created unique positions for them all which I believe will best utilize their particular talents."
Zechs nodded, looking interested and keeping an open mind. He could tell his Lord General was a bit stunned by the changes in his king, but he considered them all for the better.
"Chang will be joining you as a political advisor," Heero continued. "He will answer to you and me and no one else. There will be times when you will have to deal with politics of other countries. That is where Chang will come in. As a former member of the Council of Nine, he will have unique insight into the political workings of any official body and should be able to provide you with invaluable observations and advice. He will also keep you in constant contact with me should you need authorization or to communicate something important to me."
Zechs inclined his head in acceptance.
"Let me make myself perfectly clear," Heero said after a slight pause, able to feel Zechs' doubt. "You are the Lord General of my Imperial Army. I have never once regretted that decision, nor do I expect to at any time in the future. Chang does not outrank you, he does not even have an officer's title. He is a political advisor. That is all."
The doubt disappeared like smoke. "Thank you, Your Majesty," Zechs murmured, now overwhelmed by his king's trust.
Heero flashed a dry smile to Wufei. "Chang understands this, as well," he said. "The campaign on Dobraia is the perfect time for you two to get to know each other, determine if trust can be established and if you can work together. If you cannot, be honest and I will reassign Chang elsewhere. Do you both understand?"
Both men nodded. Satisfied, Heero rose. "Then I will return to Cera. Duo decided it would be wisest if I informed the other kingdoms of my abilities before the Tower can spread the word themselves. One more thing, Zechs. When you return, I will have taken Duo as my consort." He allowed the tiniest amused smile. "You will have a new queen."
Wufei snorted. "Don't let him hear you say that."
Zechs completely relaxed, feeling at ease in his king's presence . . . probably for the first time in his life. "I'm glad that you've found someone to love," he said, and both his voice and his heart were sincere.
Heero nodded, his own heart warming just at the thought of his beautiful beloved. "I once believed it could never happen. I certainly never expected it to be Duo." He insists I saved his life, but in reality he saved mine. "Tell me honestly, Zechs. Does it repulse you to know I am a sorcerer?"
"No." No hesitation. "You are my king."
"Good. I bid you both a pleasant evening." His exit was far less dramatic than his entrance.
He'd already made his point.