Cobalt blue eyes reflecting the flickering light of the camp fire, and unruly dark brown hair casting strange shadows against the darkness, Heero Yuy was lost in his own thoughts as he stood the first watch of the night. Or sat it, as the case currently was. Seated at the foot of a large water oak, he was somewhat comfortable leaning back against the rough bark, ready for the several sleepless hours to come. Dressed for what seemed like months in the same, dirty outfit, he wore dark colors, perfect for camouflage. A cloak with a hood hid the sheath of the sword slung on his back, the hilt normally coming up over his left shoulder like an obedient snake ready to strike when need be, and at the moment laid across his knees for easier access should the need arise.
Across the rising heat of the fire, his eyes alighted upon the sleeping figures of his companions on this crazy journey. Wufei Chang, master of the Ni Batou Ryu, or double sword style, and traveling companion to Heero, and Quatre Rebarba Winner, a second class mage who'd been ordered into his current position by 'higher authority'.
That evening, the two had fallen asleep quickly, despite the fact that Chang was a light sleeper. This journey was beginning to take it's toll on the three of them, and the evidence was showing more clearly each day.
This in mind, Heero's thoughts wandered back to little over two weeks ago, when himself and Wufei had first arrived in the city of Havrel. There hadn't even been a real reason for them to be there. Their last job was done, and they had come to the port city for a bit of relaxation.
They strolled into the large town with weapons on their shoulders, their war horses and themselves alike dusty from the far traveling and dry weather, a fresh pouch of money available for use at the nearest inn that could afford hot water baths. It wasn't long, however, not even a full two days, before a messenger was sent from the High Lord of Havrel saying that their services were desperately needed and would be heavily paid for. Even having not been in the city for some time, Heero was not too surprised that word of their arrival had reached so far so fast.
He sighed slightly.
Though thinking himself a warrior for hire was not the most glamorous, or as Wufei put it, most honorable position, still, it enabled them to live and live decently well at that. Specializing in the removal of certain beasts of the wild and magic nature, they'd handled everything from Ogres to Salamanders to an overpopulation of redcaps. Creepy little things those were. They killed people, animals, pretty much anything with red blood so that they could dip their little pointed hats in the still warm fluid to renew the crimson color, hence their given name. The two of them had even taken out an over large were-beast living too close to a village whose population was all too quickly decreasing because of it.
However, they'd never handled anything quite as big as the High Lord of Havrel put before the two of them. Just north of the main trade routes to the Eastern continent, a dragon, black a night, was killing nearly everything that passed through its newly appropriated territory.
They were having a hard time keeping trade between the cities up, and it was beginning to damage Havrel's revenue. Surprised that news of this had not spread through out the entire kingdom, they learned that Havrel's lord, and the other nobles were trying to keep it under wraps. They, however, had not sent any men to try and kill the beast. Instead, they wished for someone with no connection to their city to act, and hiring such a someone was readily possible.
This is where Heero and Wufei came in. Their abilities, such as they were, had been spread far just by word of mouth alone. Wufei was said to be able to down a troll in ten seconds flat, while Heero's abilities were less widely known, though just as talked about. He was the one who had finalized their kill on the Salamander, a fourteen foot long creature of flame and anger. If you've ever had a volcano attempt to crisp you alive, then you were close to experiencing a salamander's ability to burn and burn well. Though how it was done was not known, the fact that the beast was found lifeless after Heero's work was a major point in any way the story was told.
The both of them had high misgivings about it. The High Lord didn't want to get himself messed into this, so there was something else he wasn't telling them. To add to that, he'd brought them the young Quatre, right hand apprentice to the court mage. Why he'd offered the little blonde’s services was still a questionable mystery, as any and all dragons were immune to most magics, and that fact was widely known. Still, he'd insisted they take the proffered help, and the two hesitantly agreed to the daunting task, as the profit gained from completing it would have been enough for the both of them to retire for pretty much the rest of both their lives.
So, a mere six days after entering the city, the newly formed three had headed for the northern trade routes.
Now, nearly a solid week later, they were no closer to achieving their goal. Moving on and around the trade route, they'd found several burnt remains of what looked to be merchant wagon trains, but there was no sign of anything human living. Nor, to their surprise, was there sign of the dragon. Ferocious as it had sounded, attacking every living thing crossing these ways, they had expected to be set upon on the first day. The third eventless night passed, and they'd resorted to searching for the beast, deciding that finding it unawares was much more to their advantage than the other way around.
And that brought them to the current happenings. Aimlessly searching such a vast area was beginning to wear at them, and an early night was decided upon to keep their strength up. Heero had elected himself the first watch of the night, as he felt no real weariness, and after a small, hot meal of cooked rabbit, the other two had retired for the night.
They had tethered the horses a short distance away, both the warriors’ destriers and the mage’s fleet Arabian, and they munched contentedly on the lush grass they were able to reach on the several feet of tether afforded each of them.
Their soft whickering reached him over the low crackling of the fire, as well as those of his sleeping companions. The small mage, during this time, had endeared himself to the other two by no real action on his own part. He had a bright, cheery personality that had managed to dredge some life out of the other two, even so far into their search, and the three had grown to be quite good friends, though one could not tell simply from watching them. Quatre could sweet talk a mad bear into allowing him to pet it, as Wufei had so artistically put it.
The young blond mage was supposed to be capable of a high degree of magic as well as having a likeable personality. He knew the two warriors were skeptical that he had any real help to offer, but as he refrained from using magic needlessly, there was no real way to show them until his aid was needed.
Said blond mumbled in his sleep, and turned his face towards the fire, the flames casting a deep red hue to his childlike face.
And what about the Sword's Master, Wufei? Him and Heero had met more by circumstance than anything. Wufei was master of the Ni Batou Ryu, a style of swordsmanship that required years upon end to completely master. One was given the title of Master when the apprentice could beat his own sensei. Then a pair of swords were forged from the finest and hardest tempered steel then known to man, completely fitted to the new master, blessed in fire and in blood before ceremoniously bequeathed unto him.
The young, dark haired warrior had completed the arduous training required in a remarkably short nine years, beginning when he was five and continuing until he'd finished a mere four years ago and earned his own twin blades. Those hard times had bred him into a silent, inward thinking young man who didn't have much to do with anything or anybody. Honor was his life, and he'd strived to live by the codes set down in the Ni Batou Ryu. That same honor bound devotion was how he'd met Heero.
A year and a half after he'd received his own blades, Wufei was chartered to be a body guard for a high noble who feared an assassination attempt would soon occur. Even though Wufei's training included everything there was to know about death, he still was unable to stop the noble from taking foolish chances which eventually wound up killing him. Somehow, the widow managed to pin the blame on the sword master, and he was thrown into jail. Of course, not until after he'd thoroughly beaten down several of the palace guards without seriously injuring a single one was he taken to the lower dungeons, shouting "Injustice!" the entire way.
Heero, at the time himself a guard in the place, had seen and heard all the transpired, and began to think that such a one as this Wufei Chang should not be held prisoner for simply trying to do what he was hired for. So, doing what he did best, Heero stole the dungeon keys, and freed the sword master that same night, an uncharacteristic thing for him to do, as duty was what he first served. However, he had not regretted what at the time he’d began to think of as a foolish and ill placed attempt at escape.
Neither one not really people for much talk in the first place, they had seemed to suit each other immediately, taking their cues simply from hand signals and eye movement one would shoot the other. They were out and gone from the place before the alarm was even raised, and managed to collect their current mounts from so gracious a host before doing so.
Later, they'd agreed on working together, and had been doing so ever since, creating the perfect killing pair.
Heero's eyes moved from across the fire to the closer side, cobalt blue falling on the sword on his own lap.
Heero was a soldier, plain and simple. He'd been trained, as Wufei, from a very young age, but he'd not been able to continue with it after the 'accident'. It happened on the eve of his fifteenth birthday, and had completely screwed his life over. If fact, he'd not been able to continue with normal life period. His entire understanding of the world had been turned completely upside down. He was shunned from the academy he was enrolled in, and his adopted parents refused to let him anywhere near the lands he would have inherited when he came of age. That's why he wandered, doing these odd jobs that the occasional person in need of protection required, for a fee of course. He didn't tell people what he was when they hired them, and they never questioned the seemingly normal looking young man trained to kill if need be. And yes, he had killed, but he did not relish the fact.
A sudden noise out in the inky black that surrounded the flickering light of the small camp fire brought Heero's awareness back to the here and now, silently cursing himself for getting so lost in the past. It didn't matter any more, or so he told himself over and over again.
Now, his eyes narrowed slightly as he peered out into the night, cobalt orbs piercing the darkness with a clarity that rivaled a feline's night time abilities. The slight sound came again as he listened, and had probably been going on for some time. Heero had just been too preoccupied to hear it. He cursed himself again, and saw a flash of eyes some distance away from their camp spot.
Something was out there....