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Trickster's Quest - Chapter 1
Growth of a Prince
Part 2

The pair was awoken the next morning by a loud knock on the door.

“Master Duo!  Master Duo!  The blonde mage is here—he says he wants a word with you!   About Kishi!” someone shouted from behind the door.

Duo looked up.  “All right, don’t worry, tell him I’ll be down shortly.”  Scratching his head, the thief chanced a glance at Heero and found that the boy was lying on his stomach, staring at him.

“Geesh, you’re creepy.” Duo said in a mocking tone.  “C’mon Kishi, get your clothes on and we’ll go down and talk to that bedamned mage of yours.”

“Not my mage.” Heero said, climbing out of bed and gathering his new possessions before pulling on his winter clothing.  “He’s his own free person.”

Duo chuckled.  “He certainly doesn’t act that way sometimes.” The braided boy pulled on cold-weather gear of his own.  “I’ve got something for the two of you and your friend Trowa anyway…so let’s get going!”

Heero nodded and the two boys walked down the stairs to find Quatre waiting for them.  The blonde boy saw Heero and immediately looked relieved, then went right back to looking mad again.

“What do you think you were doing?!” Quatre shouted at Heero, incensed.  “You’re lucky that me and Trowa were the only ones that noticed you were gone!  We’ve got to get back right now before someone else notices!”

“Relax!” Duo said when he reached the irate naturemage.  “I made him stay.  He had no say in it at all.”

This seemed to console Quatre a bit, and he sighed, looking at the other two boys.  “You two are so much trouble…”

“Yes, we knew that already, I assure you.” Duo said in a consoling tone.  Then he snickered, totally ruining the moment.  “C’mon, I’ve got something for you both.  Follow me.”

Curious, the prince and the mage followed him as he led them out to the stables behind the pub.  He led them in, ducking a well-placed nip from a vicious-looking black stallion. 

“Don’t worry about Shadow, he only likes to try and eat me, it seems.” Duo joked.  Shadow turned to give Duo a very nasty glare, for a horse that is.

“Gosh.” Quatre said, eyes wide.

“C’mon, this way.” Duo urged, leading the two to the end of the stables.  He pointed to two stalls.  “Go on, look.”

Heero peered into the stall before him and felt his breath catch in his throat.  At first glance the horse in the stall was nothing spectacular, but when you gave her a second glance and saw her shimmery white and silver coat and brilliant sapphire eyes, you knew you’d found something special.  Further still, the feathers littered among the hay in her stall were the final straw.  The wings weren’t visible at the moment but the feathers proved the myth.

“Duo.  A winged one?” Heero whispered, as if scared.  The winged one whickered and moved forward to sniff gently of Heero’s hand.

“Yep…took me forever to bargain her away from that Kir’a’ti trader, but I’m glad I did.”  The thief said, smiling gently.  He looked over at Quatre as he heard the desert boy’s gasp of astonishment at his own find.

In the stall Duo had guided Quatre towards stood a sturdy palomino stallion.  He wasn’t exceptionally large, but neither was he terribly small.  He was of the famous breed that could withstand many conditions without so much as flinching, and he was a very nice looking horse indeed.

“Now, all they need are good names.” Duo said.

“Tsubasa.” Heero said immediately.

“What does that mean?”

“Wing.  Or Wings.  She’s a winged one…it fits.” Heero said quietly.  Duo nodded and turned to Quatre, who looked once more at his horse and then sighed. 

“Well, he’s as golden as the gold-sands of legend…I know, I’ll call him Legend.”  Quatre said.  He hesitated, biting his lip, thinking it might be an odd name, but Duo only nodded.

“Their tack is over there.” He said, pointing to three saddles.  “I got Trowa a horse too.  She’s in here.” Duo said, opening the door to another stall and revealing a beautiful bay mare. 

Heero looked from the tack to his winged one and finally at Duo.  Walking away from Tsubasa for a moment, he walked over to the thief and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Duo.”

“What?” Duo asked.

“We can’t accept these…” Heero said.

“Hey, if you don’t take them, they’re gonna die, because I am NOT going to feed and water your animals for you.” The thief replied.

The prince sighed.  “You have to allow me to repay you somehow…” Heero said quietly.  He seemed to realize something and pulled a necklace out from under his clothes.  On it, a silver cougar stood rampant on a sapphire blue shield-shaped field that was ringed by delicately worked feathers and oak branches of silver…the royal crest of Marenia.

Heero gently unhooked the clasp and fastened the chain around his friend’s neck.  Duo opened his mouth to protest but Heero simply finished fastening the chain and then lightly smacked Duo’s chin, making his mouth close.

“No arguments whatsoever.” Heero said, his face grave, but a bare spark of amusement in his eyes.  Soon, the three boys broke into a laugh, forgetting the very serious events coming up soon in their expression of happiness.

-~-

Later that day, Heero stopped by the stables for yet another glimpse at Tsubasa.  He thought that while maybe the constant check ups were more than a bit obsessive, he had quite a good reason to act that way.  The winged one was magnificent.

A snort from one stable over turned his attentions to Trowa’s mare.  After some quick mind-to-mind with his new horse, Trowa had looked up, his emerald eyes holding an expression of pleasure as he explained that Trick, for that was her name, had been a carnival horse.  Since they had roots in the same place, they’d get along well.

Heero had to admit, Duo did a lot better than most people gave him credit for.  He turned back to his own steed and smiled in the stall at her.  He recalled the tales of winged ones showing their wings, but by now that was all a legend.  Oh, they looked ethereal enough, with their shining silvery-white coats and sparkling blue eyes, and it was true that you could occasionally find pure white feathers sprinkled amongst the straw in their stalls, but if they truly had wings, they hadn’t been seen in a while.  The winged ones originated in the deserts, where the first ones had been found by groups of inquisitive tribesmen.  Only the highest ranking of the tribesmen could afford to keep the sleek horses, and that remained true even today.  Also, though the occasional winged one was brought in for a member of nobility or royalty, the main bulk of them remained in the deserts.  No one knew why it remained so; it just did.

Heero sighed, favoring Tsubasa with one more pat on the nose, then left.

-~-

A scant four days later, Heero stood in the first shrine outside the hall of spirits, where knights and kings proved their worth.  The hall had two doors, and if all went well, he would emerge from the one at the far end.  If things didn’t go well, the mages would be collecting his body from the bare stone floor of the magic-infested room.

He licked his dried lips; since the day began he’d not had anything to eat or drink, nor had he slept.  It was a constant battle against your instincts on these days.  He looked up at the door.  Once he entered it, he would not be able to speak, or scream, or even cry out, no matter what happened.  If he did, the magic would come undone, and he would never become knight or king.  Not only that, but he would die instantly.  It was a sobering prospect.

At that moment, the mages stopped their chanting and stepped apart.  The huge door swung open, and behind him, Heero could sense the presence of his friends.  Adjusting his white tunic, he moved into the hall. 

The door swung shut behind him.

-~-

Meanwhile, just outside the palace, at one of the smaller gates, Duo was patiently waiting for a group of skeptical guards to verify the quality of his royal crest necklace.  He’d just thought of something and decided that it merited going to the palace to check over.  Patting his black stallion’s neck, the thief watched the guards as they argued with one another.

Finally one came out and handed the necklace to Duo.  The gate opened slowly and he guided his horse through with one hand, using the other to refasten the necklace about his neck.

Don’t worry Heero, I’m comin’, buddy!

-~-

Heero noticed first off that the hall was dark, and silent to boot.  He walked a little ways before light suddenly sprang from everywhere, and yet nowhere at all.

Then, without warning, spectral figures appeared.  They pleaded with Heero to save them, to help them, and to alleviate their pain; they cursed him for killing them, for bringing their deaths upon them; they had every comment under the sun, and soon their voices blended into a babble, a prevalent word becoming a hearty chant.

Death.

Just as the prince thought he’d have to scream to make them stop, they all fell silent.  Eerily silent.  Just then their ranks parted and a pitiful voice cried, “Make way for their majesties, the king and queen!”

Heero’s blood froze.

Sure enough, his worst fears were confirmed—it was his father and mother.  His father, with his light brownish-blonde hair, and his mother, with her long, straight black hair…they looked perfect together.  He almost opened his mouth, but stopped himself at the last second, remembering the spells.  It was just as well, because at that second they started to break his heart.

In truth, Heero had always been a very quiet individual and stoic, not taking to crowds very well—until he’d met Duo.  But then, his very own parents—or their spectral forms—started to tear his newly found and formed emotions into so many piles of ragged scraps.  Heero’s gaze just grew colder and harder, rather than becoming pained, however—he was responding to the tragedy by closing himself off.  His parents didn’t look too pleased with this, but anyone could bet it was from the fact that he WASN’T breaking down, rather than hiding his emotions.

Just then, his parents looked up at the ceiling and another figure dropped down, wearing a long black cloak.  He extended one arm in a pleading gesture, and Heero was sickened to see that it was rotten, eaten away by infestation and gangrene.  Then, when he pulled back his hood, it was all that Heero could do not to shout in terror and pain.

It was Duo—or it had been Duo.  The boy’s eyes were gone, the shallow sockets they’d rested in turned into masses of bloodied, scratched, destroyed tissue.  His face was covered in festering scratches, and his throat was slashed, stagnant liquid oozing from the putrid flesh.  It was all Heero could do not to collapse to the floor upon seeing his friend in such a state.

“Heero…” Duo said in a gurgling voice.  He shouldn’t have been able to talk—the back of his throat could be seen through the slashes on the front.  And yet, he spoke, in a voice that was broken and had a strange slur to it.  The apparition turned his eyes on Heero.  “You did this to me.”

Heero had the greatest urge ever to scream his lungs out but he did not.  Only the reminder of what would happen if he voiced even the quietest whisper made him remain silent.

At that instant, a sword dropped from the ceiling of the hall.  It was bright, shining silver; the grip leather dyed a marvelous blue and the pommel-stone a royal blue sapphire.  It was a fantastic weapon, and Duo kicked it at Heero’s feet.

“Pick that up…and do battle!” Duo spat, drawing a sword made of bone and obsidian.

It was all Heero could do to remain silent as battle was started.

-~-

Those people that had moved to the exit chamber of the hall to await the end of Heero’s trial had been waiting almost an hour when the heavy door finally swung open.  The prince stumbled out, clutching a deep wound in his arm with one hand as the wounded arm itself gripped a sword possessively.  A healer, her movements sure and gentle, moved forward to tie up the wound.  As soon as she did, Heero removed his hand and faced the crowd.  One of the council members foisted a shield upon the boy, which Heero barely managed to catch on his good arm.

“Heero Yuy-Maren, I present you with this shield, and pronounce you a knight of Marenia!” the older man shouted.  The small crowd in the chamber set up a fantastic cheer for the new knight.  Then, the councilman took up something else and gently placed it upon Heero’s head.  It was the royal crown of Marenia, and it looked as if it had been made to fit Heero—but in fact, the thing was simply reeking with magic.  The thick silver bands and shining sapphire stones contrasted beautifully with Heero’s dark hair and grayish-blue eyes, as richly as anything in any picture. 

“I also pronounce you King of Marenia!  We will always offer our allegiance to you, our king!” the councilman shouted.  The group in the chamber shouted even louder than before at their new king. 

At the moment, the king himself was lost in a torrent of emotion, feeling, sight, and sound.   He felt the sensation of drawing water into his roots, as any tree or plant might, the rock-solid feeling of being a mountain, indestructible and immovable.  He rejoiced in the pure clean feeling of flight as a bird—

A feeling jolted him back.  It centered on his shoulder blades and throbbed in a peculiar manner.  He groaned, rubbing a hand across his forehead, and turned to the councilman.

“I’m going to go to my room now.” He announced.

“Of course, your majesty.  Be sure to attend the feast at seven bells.” The man told the new king, smiling at him. 

Heero didn’t notice the smile.  His shoulders were killing him.  He nodded and moved out of the room, hunched over and moving in a stiff stride.  He wandered the halls, feeling a terrible desire to jump out of a window for a reason he couldn’t place.  It made him sick—his head spun with desires and ideas and thoughts he couldn’t name—he had a feeling they were all centered around the crown on his head and the pain in his shoulderblades.

Just as he felt the pain and the thoughts would swamp him, a dark figure darted out of the shadows and supported him, bracing him close and securely.  He saw a flash of violet and black and felt the coolness of snow-chilled leather against his skin.

“Where?” Duo whispered into his ear.  Heero didn’t need to ask which where Duo was talking about; he knew.  Torn by shards of pain and emotion, he gave quick, broken directions to his room.

Duo supported the king through the whole palace to his room, and once inside it, delicately removed Heero’s sword, shield, and crown, which he placed on a table in the main room of Heero’s chambers.  As soon as the crown left his head, Heero felt a great lightness in his thoughts, enough to make him giddy.

A voice drew him back.  “It’s your back, isn’t it?”

Heero looked at Duo, astonished.  “How…how did you…?”

“Not now.” Duo ordered, a bit sternly.  “Do you keep bandages in here?”

Heero nodded towards a chest in the corner.  “What’s wrong with me?  What’s going on?” he asked shakily.

“You’ll find out soon enough.  Quiet.” Duo said, grabbing the bandages and Heero’s washbasin and putting them on the table.  He gently but quickly pulled off Heero’s tunic and shirt, leaving him only in pants, then grabbed the king’s hands.

“You’re going to be in great pain here in a few seconds.  Don’t worry about it.  It’ll fade away quickly, you hear?  And no matter what runs through your head, if anything does, remember that I’ll be here.  I am not going to leave you.” His friend told him seriously.

Just as Heero opened his mouth to demand an explanation, the pain in his back increased greatly.  His eyes watered even as a choked cry of pain tore itself from his throat.  Just as he thought he couldn’t bear any more pain, it increased even more greatly.

This time Heero couldn’t bite back a scream.  It felt like a wildcat was tearing at his back from the inside.  He had a faint sensation of the skin stretching before it tore in a frantic almost-explosion of skin, blood, and…feathers.

Feathers.

Heero almost failed to notice the bloodstained feathers floating around in his delirium of pain.  When he did, he also felt something very heavy hanging off of his back.  And felt that it—no, they—were attached to him.  In a very serious way.

He flapped.  He flapped his wings.

His wings.

His pain-filled shout lowered to a brief, broken series of curses.  He heard Duo’s voice speaking quietly, filling his mind with a cool calmness. 

Heero sighed and oh-so-slowly leaned towards the source of the voice.  Duo caught him in a reassuring hug, peeling his gloves off as he did so.  Once his gloves were disposed of, he ran his hands over Heero’s back soothingly, hugging the other boy as he did so.  He used his magic to soothe the feverish skin and heal it, reuniting torn tissues and guiding them to the bases of the great feathery wings.

Heero rested his chin on his friend’s shoulder, allowing himself a long, shuddering sigh of relief.  He felt Duo rubbing his back gently, and closed his eyes.  Despite the very recent pain, it was bliss.

That is, until the events in the testing hall returned to Heero’s mind.  He reluctantly peeled himself away from Duo and looked at the boy up-and-down, as if to reacquaint himself with the thief. 

Duo’s violet eyes, whole and untainted, glittered with concern and worry.  His face was unmarred, the skin whole, and his arms, visible now due to the absence of his long gloves, were unbroken and smooth.  His throat was whole, and perfect—

Perfect?  Where did that come from? Heero wondered fleetingly as he watched Duo step away and walk over to the washbasin.

“Duo? How did you know?  What just happened?” Heero asked hoarsely.

“You’re a wingcarrier, that’s what happened.” Duo replied, his voice soft.  “And I knew because I’m one, too, and if you’re a wingcarrier you can see other potential ‘carriers.  It’s a trait.”

Heero looked dumbstruck.  He’d heard of the wingcarriers.  They were noble, true, and just souls that had hidden wings with which they could get closer to the gods, or so the legends said, in any case.  They were very rare these days…

“I found out when I was seven.  I was living in Maren city then, same as now, except then I didn’t even have a room at the Dusty Dragon.  I was homeless; it’s true, except I was in a gang of sorts.  A bunch of children, myself included, lived on the streets.  One kid led all of us.  He was my best friend; his name was Solo.”  Duo’s eyes took on a sad light.  “That day when I was seven, Solo got shot by a kid from another gang.  A crossbow bolt straight to the chest…he died in my arms and my grief was so great that it acted as a catalyst for my wings.  They’re triggered by great magics or very strong emotions, you see.”

Heero nodded slowly.  He hadn’t known much about Duo’s past, and felt very honored to know now. 

Duo dabbed water at the bloody feathers of his friend’s wings.  They were beautifully white and huge, just as he’d imagined they’d be in Heero’s case.  He swallowed, suddenly feeling strangely inadequate.  Before him was the king of his country, a powerful knight, and he trusted him implicitly.  It made Duo’s breath catch in his throat.  He put down the cloth and walked in front of Heero, dipping a bow and straightening on his usual grin.

“Well, my king, I suppose I’d better be off and let you get on with your kingly duties.” Duo said quickly.  He turned to leave and felt a slight jerk on his braid.  Half turning, he saw that Heero was holding on to it.

“No…please don’t go.  Stay.  Please?” Heero asked, the pleading very evident in his blue eyes.  “And don’t call me king, call me Heero.”

Duo couldn’t help but laugh.

-~-

Later that evening, after the feast, Heero and Duo stood on one of the walkways that opened into the gardens.  All of the castle guards and staff had been cleared from this area at Heero’s request, so the two boys would stand uninterrupted.  Heero wanted it to be that way.

The moonlight washed over the plants in the garden and the boys themselves, bathing everything in a particular shade of ethereal silver, the moonlight itself bouncing off of the snow and lighting the garden beautifully.  Jerking his mind back to the subject at hand to keep himself from going off on a poetic tangent, Duo turned to Heero.

“I’ll use my magic to keep us warm.  Take off your shirt, and sprout your wings, just as we practiced earlier.” Duo told his friend, initiating the heat-spell even as he did so.

Heero felt himself grow warmer and he pulled off his shirt, tossing it aside and bracing his arms in front of him as he sprouted his wings.  The bones popped slightly and the feathers, clean now, glistened in the moonlight.

Duo took a deep breath, then pulled off his own shirt and braced his arms, starting the process of sprouting his own wings.

The popping of bones was much more pronounced this time, and muscles long unused screamed in pain, knots underneath the thin tracery of skin and feathers protesting their movement to the knight sky.  Glossy black feathers swept over Duo’s back as he folded and unfolded his wings, a grimace evident on his face.

Heero rushed over to his friend.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Oh yes, I’ll be fine.  I just haven’t used my wings in a while, that’s all.” Duo assured his friend, stretching his wings a few more times for good measure.

The king stared in awe at his friend’s wings.  Though his own were pure white, Duo’s were the exact opposite—glossy black.  Darker than a crow or a rook, they made the night sky look a mocking shade of blue in comparison. 

“Well, shall we fly, or not?” Duo said teasingly, pouncing from the ground and flapping his wings rapidly to take to the air.

Not to be outdone, Heero followed, not as agile as his friend, but learning quickly.

-~-

A scant hour later, Heero could fly much better than many novices—which was saying something.  The sight of the two boys chasing each over the garden, laughing and shouting, snow landing on their wings and almost instantaneously being brushed away as they flew, was a breathtaking one.

Or at least Chang Wufei Sha-n-ro thought so.  The dragonbound leaned easily on the neck of his dragon, Dha-n-ro, as he looked at the aerial dance below him.  The dragons and their ‘bounds had only arrived that evening after a long period of hard flying with very few rests.  However, some disturbing emotional activity had woken them from their sleep in the forests outside Maren City.  This proved to be it. The two boys moved in perfect harmony; they were a split soul in two bodies, apart, yet together.  Perhaps not able to see it for themselves because of their typical human blindness, but it was true, nevertheless.

-Look at the ties, my Wufei.- Dhan rumbled in his mind.  Wufei obligingly closed his human eyes and looked through Dhan’s dragon ones.  The view was sharper, clearer; small details popped easily into focus, and ties could be seen easily.  The white ones between him and his dragon partner; the silver one between him and his human partner Meiran; various other colored ones throughout the palace below—

--and a bright golden one between the two flying boys.

Wufei recoiled, slamming viciously back into his own body.

“Great-shining-gods-of-all-dragons!” he hissed.

Dhan rumbled, a sure mark of dragon humor.  –You do know what it means.-

“Of course I know what it means, you great scaled twit.” Wufei said irritably to his dragon.  He rubbed his partner’s neck scales as he continued to watch the scene below unfold.

-~-

Below, Heero felt a surge of feeling, not in the slightest unpleasant, course through his being as he watched Duo fly.  His gaze softened somewhat, then hardened as he realized what he could do. 

Flying quickly, he dove towards Duo, forcing the other boy closer to the ground.  When they were both barely skimming the ground, Heero swooped up slightly and then down again, tackling Duo and sending the both of them sprawling upon the snow.

Duo laughed, his rich tenor voice almost sparkling in the night air.  “Oh gods, that was a good one.  What possessed you to…” Duo stopped.  He saw something in Heero’s eyes.  A hopeful, soft, caring look, directed straight at him.  Duo gasped as he realized that Heero wanted the same thing he did, and that it would never work out.

“Heero—no.  You…you have to marry a princess, and have an heir…” he said weakly.  He felt sick, so sick.  How could he have missed it?  He felt terrible.

“Shh.” Heero said, leaning down to whisper in Duo’s ear.  His breath tickled; Duo couldn’t help but shiver at that.  “I can always will the kingdom to somebody.  I don’t want some princess.  I want you.” A delicious bit of emphasis accentuated the last word as Heero slowly raised his head to look into Duo’s eyes, then leaned down to place a soft kiss on the thief’s lips.

Duo gasped and closed his eyes as Heero kissed him again.  He felt the king’s fingertips twining among the feathers of his wings, and let himself go.

No holds barred; nothing held back.  Neither one cared about the snow.

-~-

Chang Meiran Sha-ti-reh observed the scene with a caring look on her face, unusual for her, but understandable.  She couldn’t understand how anyone could be harsh-hearted at anything like that.  Oh, true, she knew some people were, but she still couldn’t understand it.

The fire-red dragon Dha-ti-reh moved her wings slowly, careful not to disturb anyone, especially not those in the garden below.  Not that they’d notice anyway.

“Dhati, what do we do now?” Meiran whispered.

-We go back to Dhan and Wufei and wait, that’s what.- Dhati told her ‘bound matter-of-factly, then flew off to join the black dragon and his ‘bound.

-~-

The next morning, Heero awoke in his own bed, smiling at pleasant memories of the night before.  Just as he was sorting out events and almost ready to decide to spend the whole day doing nothing, a knock sounded on the door.

The king sighed.  He should have known that this was going to happen.  He dressed quickly and then grabbed his sword and shield, belting both on.  Only then did he go to answer the door. 

It was a courier.  “Sir!  Sir!” he gasped.  “Somethin’ to report sir!”

“What is it?” Heero asked in his coolest tone.

“Dragons on the castle towers!  Two of ‘em, sir!” the man gasped.

Heero sucked in a breath.  He should have known.  “All right, lead the way.”

“Yes y’majesty!” the courier said reverently, turning and leading the way off down through the corridors.

-~-

Within minutes Heero was outside the palace looking up at the towers.  The dragons had decided to coil themselves around two of the largest towers.  This was a problem, because those towers were very high as well, which rendered normal speech impossible.  Heero decided on a course of action quickly and pulled off his tunic, shirt, and shield, then sprouted his wings.

People around him gasped as he flapped his wings, flying upwards.  Snow drifted down gently and he soon began to feel chilled, but kept going.  Soon he reached the larger of the two dragons, the black one.  His ‘bound was leaning against the tower itself, standing on his dragon’s neck like it was a walkway.  The dragon turned one giant amber eye on Heero, and then looked forwards again.

“Greetings!” Heero shouted.

The ‘bound paused for a moment, and then returned the greeting.  “Greetings to you as well!”

“What brings you to Marenia?” The king shouted back.

“We come to bring a message to the king!” the ‘bound replied.

“I am he.” Heero replied, as calmly as he could in a shout.  He watched in mild amusement as the ‘bound’s eyebrows went up slightly and he turned to stare at the back of his dragon’s head.  Obviously they were communicating silently.  At last the ‘bound turned back to him.

“I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir king.  Let us find a place where we may speak with more ease.” The ‘bound shouted.

Heero nodded and led the dragon down to one of the larger practice courts.  He noted, with amusement, that the court barely accommodated the dragon.  He landed and gently pulled his wings back into his body even as the ‘bound slipped down from his dragon’s neck, his black silk clothing making the slightest of slight whispers as he landed on the ground and pulled a long, curved saber its place hanging from his belt.  The ‘bound knelt and placed the saber in front of him in one fluid motion.

“Forgive us for our abrupt appearance, it was necessary, I assure you.  I am Chang Wufei Sha-n-ro and I speak for the Black Dragon that is Named Dha-n-ro, so that his voice will not shatter the sky and make the mountains move.” Wufei said in his most noble voice.  It was a legendary speech that had been used to introduce dragons and their ‘bounds for as long as they’d been around.

“I welcome you both to this unworthy land of Marenia, the home of the cougar and the ever-deep forests.  What brings you to my land?” Heero replied.

Wufei looked around.  “Ears may hear things easily out in the open.  Perhaps we could to go a more private place?”

Heero’s curiosity was piqued.  “Of course.” He said.  He proceeded to lead the ‘bound up through the palace, amused to see that Dhan was following their progress by peeking through windows.  The dragon seemed to have a sixth sense about exactly where his ‘bound was at any given point and time.

After a bit of walking, the two boys arrived at Heero’s chambers.  The king insisted that the ‘bound be seated as he poured wine for both of them.  Once both were seated, Heero motioned for Wufei to continue.

The ‘bound sighed, running a fingertip around the rim of his wineglass.  “Gryphons.  Zarisnian Gryphondancers have been spotted in the west of your country.” The black-haired boy took a long sip of his wine.  “They’ve discovered magicpure.”

“Magicpure? In MARENIA?” Heero questioned, even as his brain started running along trails of thought at mad speed.  Although most individuals that used magic were born with that particular gift, magicpure was a substance that, even in very tiny amounts, could grant any object, animal or person it was used on enough magic power to be lethal.  It could change sides in a war; it could start wars; it had even ended some wars.  Fortunately, it was extremely rare, and if there was magicpure in Marenia, it needed to be contained and controlled.

“Where?  How much?” Heero asked.

“There’s enough to dip two dragons.” Wufei said quietly.  He saw Heero’s eyebrows go up in unabashed shock.  “And it’s underneath Port Lunos.”

Heero’s expression went from shock to disgust and then to fear.  “Dear gods, no.”

“Yes.” Wufei said, sadness entering his expression.  He took one more long sip of his wine.  “To get this magicpure, Zarisnia will kill the unicorns.”

-~-



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