The End of Innocence Part 2
Quatre shouldered the staff that he'd fashioned for himself and peered across the dark courtyard. It looked like only one guard was posted and he was half asleep. Of course, who knew what he'd find inside. And he had no clue as the where they were keeping Duo. He hoped that he could just slip in, rescue his cousin and slip back out, without running into too much trouble. Although, he'd trained to fight, he'd never actually done any fighting. And he didn't think he could actually kill another human.
Slipping quietly along the wall, he crept up behind the sentry. Hearing a sound, the man turned in time to see the blonde swing the staff. Crack! And he slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Letting out the breath he was holding, Quatre continued along the wall until he reached the small door leading to the kitchens. Opening the door a crack, he looked in. Empty. He crept out quietly, starting to cross the dining hall.
He'd gotten no further than mid-hall, when the front doors flew open with a crash. Hiding himself behind a tapestry, he heard a voice ring out with an odd accent. "Well, it seems that everyone sleeps while bandits knock the guards unconscious!"
A wild scrambling of feet could be heard as the sleeping soldiers jumped to their feet. Quatre peered hesitantly out from behind the tapestry to see two men standing in the doorway. The one that he believed to be the speaker, was an odd looking sort. Sleek, black hair pulled back into a tight tail, golden skin and almond shaped black eyes. Behind him stood another, with unruly dark brown hair and blazing cobalt eyes, the guard that he'd struck down draped over his shoulder. Stalking in and tossing the injured guard to the floor, the cobalt eyed one sneered. "Such a sorry excuse for soldiers, letting one of your own get struck down with out you even knowing of it!"
So intent was the blonde on the two at the entrance he never heard the sound of approach off to his side. Suddenly strong hands dragged him out from behind the tapestry causing him the drop the roughly made staff in his surprise. "Unhand me!" He cried.
The one holding him only tightened his grip, his intense green eyes studying the blonde from behind a shock of brown hair that fell over one eye. Narrowing his eyes, he proceeded to haul the struggling boy across the dining hall.
"What have you there?" The odd looking fellow asked.
Holding the blonde with one hand, he glanced around at the assembled men. "Get me D'Lacey." He stated.
"You heard him." The man with the golden skin roared. "Find D'Lacey and tell him he's to be here immediately!"
Looking back down at Quatre, the green-eyed man spoke. "What were you hoping to accomplish here young Winner?"
Quatre gasped. He knows who I am!
"I believe the Viscount asked you a question." The cobalt-eyed one growled.
His wide sapphire eyes fell on the two, now standing in front of the man they addressed as, Viscount. Viscount! This was the new lord. The man I'm ordered to serve. Who would take my father's place within this hall! Before he could answer, the man with the cobalt eyes cocked his head and suddenly stalked off towards the stairs.
"Heero, where are you going?" The Viscount questioned, frowning.
"I heard something, I'm going to check it out."
"Just be careful, my friend." His green eyes swung back to the frightened blonde. "Now, you have two cousins, I believe. It would be in their best interest to tell us where they are."
"That's why I'm here." Quatre gasped. "Duo's still here. I was trying to help him."
"And the girl?"
"Never!" He spat. "I'll never tell you where she is!"
"There's no need."
The Viscount and Quatre looked to the door, where the foreign man held the dark-haired girl by the back of her dress. She struggled wildly.
"Bastard! Let me go!"
"I found this one sneaking across the courtyard." He snorted. "And not very quietly about it either."
"Very good, Wufei." The Viscount started when a loud string of curses erupted from upstairs. Literally dropping Quatre, the young man spun around to see the grey-eyed D'Lacey land at the bottom of the stairs, a stream of blood flowing from his lip.
Heero stood at the top of the stairs, his hands on hips, his eyes full of rage. "This vermin was making use of one of the young men of the hall." He ground out. "And none too gently I might add. We'll be lucky if the boy lives through the night."
Hilde gasped and went rigid in Wufei's grasp. "Quatre?" She asked, seeing all the color drain out of her cousin's face.
The young blonde swung his foot back and kicked the Viscount in the leg, surprise more than pain causing the man to release his grasp. Instead of running for the girl or the door, as they would expect him to, he fled towards the stairs. As he reached the top, he was caught by Heero, who held him and waited for the Viscount to approach them.
"What do you want done with him, Trowa?" He asked.
Hard green-eyes swept over the blonde. "Lock him in one of the rooms and post a guard. We're all tired, tomorrow we'll make a decision as to what to do with them." He sighed wearily.
Heero nodded as Wufei grabbed Quatre and pulled him and Hilde down the hall to one of the unoccupied rooms. Turning to Trowa, "I'd like permission to attend the other boy."
Trowa raised an eyebrow at his friend. "Is he?"
"I believe he's the other cousin, but he's not in good shape."
"I find it a bit unusual that you'd want to play nursemaid someone."
"I find it strange too," Heero replied. "But there's something about him."
"Is it him...or your own past?"
Heero glowered at Trowa, refusing to answer.
Trowa shrugged his shoulders. "Fine. Do whatever you want. You know I've never stopped you...even before."
"Yes, I know." The cobalt-eyed man stated, turning to go back into the room that he'd just evicted D'Lacey from.
Quatre swore under his breath as he peered out the window at the ground far below.
"I'm afraid there's no way out of here, Hilde."
"It's alright." She answered simply.
He turned and looked at her. She raised her head and looked at him, her blue eyes bright. "I won't leave without Duo. You know that."
"But, we could escape and come back for him."
"No!" She jumped to her feet and slapped him. "Do you see where that got him the first time. They said he might DIE, Quatre! Damn you! You and he are all the family I have left. Are you so bent on your defiance that you'd take that away?" She cried.
He sat down on the floor and stared at her. She's right. He's where he is right now because of me. If I hadn't left, then we'd have been away from here long before they got here.
Not saying another word, Hilde sat beside him and leaned her head on his chest. "Quatre, I love you. You're as close to me as my own brother. Don't make me lose both of you. Please." She said quietly.
He put his arms around her and leaned his head against the wall. "I'll do what I can, Hilde. But I can't guarantee that I won't try to get away from here, once we know if Duo's going to be alright. I can't stay here and watch another man take my father's place."
She nodded slowly. "That's all I ask for now."
Heero sat up and dropped the cloth in his hand into the basin of water, now pink with the young man's blood. Damn that D'Lacey! There was no need for such brutality. He lifted the boy and forced his mouth open, pressing a small bottle to his pale lips. Pouring some of the cloudy liquid in the chestnut haired boy's mouth, he used his other hand to gently massage his throat, causing him to swallow reflexively.
Lying him back on the bed, he pulled the blanket up and tucked it around him and sat back. The laudanum would help with the pain and keep the young man sleeping but Heero had a feeling it was going to be a long night regardless.
Running his fingers through his hair he got up and walked to the door. Opening it, he looked around, surely there must be servants here. Winner had been a wealthy man. Just then he spotted a young girl, of about fourteen, picking her way across the downstairs chamber. "You." He said quietly.
Her head shot up, her green eyes wide with fear, but she obeyed the unspoken command and climbed the stairs to stand in front of the fierce looking young man.
"What is your name?"
"Nan, milord." She answered, her voice wavering.
"Nan, I require some wood to keep this chamber warm. Can you find someone to fetch some?"
"Then see to it, and bring a bottle of wine also."
She turned and fled back down the stairs and disappeared into the kitchens.
A short time later a soft rap at the door interrupted Heero's silent musings. "Enter."
The door swung open and a young boy, of about sixteen, slipped inside carrying an armload of wood. Setting it down in front of the hearth, he stood and turned to Heero. "Nan will be up shortly with the wine, milord. Do you require anything else?"
"Bran. Thank-you." Heero said, turning back to the silent boy lying in the bed.
Bran raised an eyebrow and shook his head as he walked out the door.
"What is it?" Nan asked, coming to the top of the stairs carrying a tray with a bottle of wine and a small plate of food. She'd known that the young warrior had spent all evening caring for the young master and hadn't eaten.
"He thanked me." The boy said wondrously. "For doing my job, he thanked me."
"I think," She said quietly. "That maybe these people aren't as bad as we were afraid they might be."
"But they've still taken the young master's place here."
"Yeah," She replied, stepping up to the door. "At the Duke's bidding. It's not like they came and took it." She raised her hand and knocked on the door.
Pushing it open, she slipped in and set the tray on the table. "I've brought your wine, milord." She said. "And some food, in case you get hungry. I'm afraid it's not much, just some bread, cheese and dried apples, but it'll fill you up."
He looked up at her. "Thank-you Nan."
She walked hesitantly over to the bed and gasped at the sight of the young man lying in it. His face was bruised and cut and she could see bruises running along his neck like someone had tried to strangle him. Reaching out, she brushed her hand along his brow, her eyes filling with tears. "Will he be alright?" She asked.
"I don't know. I think he'll live but beyond that, I don't know. You were friends with him?"
"No, I'm a servant. I don't claim to be friends with the members of the family, but...." Her voice caught. "But, they were all so kind to us. None of the household ever suffered under their care."
"And they are now?"
"Yea, we have. At least on this day we have."
Heero scowled at the choked tone of her voice. "Have you been..."
"I have to get back to the kitchens, we have a lot of preparing if we're going to feed everyone tomorrow." She said abruptly, turning away.
Heero, touched her hand. "Look, if anyone's been hurt, it was not our intent. And the people who are guilty of such crimes will be punished. The Viscount won't stand for the abuse of anyone here, either past or future." His eyes softened just a bit. "And I'll do all I can for him." He said nodding towards Duo.
"Thank-you milord." She whispered before slipping back out the door.
In the chamber he had chosen for himself, the young Viscount in question was slumped in a chair gazing wearily into the hearth. He didn't bother to look up as Wufei, slipped into the room and came to stand by him. The two both stared silently into the fire as the logs crackled and popped.
"Well," Wufei started as one of the logs split open and sparks flew up the chimney. "It looks like our longed hoped for peaceful life may have to wait a while, eh?"
Trowa looked up at him. "Yea, we're going to have our work cut out for us here. In one day, D'Lacey managed to terrorize everyone here and in the village. And destroy half the holdings in the process."
"Lucky for us that Winner's coffers were well stocked. There's plenty of funds to rebuild the damage."
"What about the damage to the people, my friend." Trowa sighed, his green eyes sliding back to the mesmerizing dance of flames. "How will we repair that?"
"That will take time. But eventually they'll come around. Will you kill him?"
Trowa didn't answer immediately, instead turned the question over in his head. Finally, he spoke slowly. "I am so tired of killing. Of blood and death. I'd hoped that, now that it seems the Duke's lands are finally at peace, I wouldn't have to raise a sword again. But, it seems that I must have one more person's blood on my hands."
"What about the next time that the Duke calls upon your sword? What will you do then? You know his opinions of such things, Winner paid the ultimate price for refusal. No matter how much he values you, he won't hesitate to do the same to you."
"We'll just have to find a way to make it work won't we my friend?"
"Let me do it." Wufei's eyes were dark and earnest in the firelight.
"Let me take care of D'Lacey."
Trowa stood and placed a hand on the man's shoulder. "No. I was the one that sent him, I'll be the one to dispatch him. I'll bear the weight of his crimes before the people. I won't ask anyone else to shoulder that."
"What will you do about Winner's son and the other two?"
"I don't know." Trowa replied simply, thinking about the two he'd encountered in the great hall. The girl was comely enough and of decent birth, he was sure he could find a husband for her. He had known of her father, Schbeiker. He had been a good man, who had died too young. His widow had quickly remarried in order to provide a home for her infant daughter and in less than a year had presented Maxwell with a son. Both parents had been murdered when the boy was just a year old and Winner had taken his sister's children under his roof to raise along with his own motherless son.
The other two, he didn't know what to do with. Winner's son was a proud, strong young man. He didn't feel right in pressing him into servitude, as the Duke had suggested. But, neither could he turn him loose. Somehow, there had to be a compromise that could be reached.
The other boy, Maxwell's son. It was doubtful that he'd even be alive long enough to worry about.
Laudanum was an opium derivative used as a sleep aid and pain killer. Liquid in form, sometimes a brownish color and sometimes a cloudy, white. It was usually mixed with a drink such as wine but sometimes was given straight to the severely injured. The widespread used of laudanum resulted in there being a large number of opium addicts right up until as recent as the late 1800's.
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