Disclaimer: Love 'em, but don't own 'em.

Pairings: 13x2 (Treize/Duo), 3x4 (Trowa/Quatre), 13x5 (Treize/Wufei), 1x2 (Heero/Duo)
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Alternate reality, adventure, romance, angst, hurt/comfort

Summary: In Medieval France, Knight Heero Yuy discovers he has more than just a warrior's heart.

The Double-Edged Sword
Chapter Twenty-Two - The Devil to Pay
by Artemis

Squire Maxwell kept his promise and allowed Knight Yuy to bed him that night. The lovemaking was even more intense than it had been the previous couplings. The lovers fumbled to be free of their tunics and hose, and rolled on the straw kissing, caressing and moaning with each touch.

Heero felt more possessive of his lover in light of the Duke of Nevers' overtures. Duo and Quatre had dismissed the high nobleman's behavior as nothing more than baiting Heero, but the knight was certain the Duke had taken an immediate fancy to Duo. He had ended his pursuit once their relationship was known, but Heero wondered if this was how it would be. Would they have to defend their love from interlopers?

Duo rolled to his side positioning himself on all fours, leaning on his elbows and knees. His ass was delectably raised and enticing Heero to mount him. The knight smoothed his hand over his squire's warm, firm bottom and found entrance with his fingers, slipping one inside. He fucked Duo slowly with his middle finger, preparing him. He was more than ready to take Duo, having gotten hard climbing the ladder to the loft, but he wanted to be a good and attentive lover.

At last he knelt behind Duo, and rubbed his cock between Duo's cheeks, teasing him.

"Sir knight, please!" Duo shouted with great impatience.

They had agreed to call each other by first names, in private at least, but Heero liked the sound of his title on Duo's lips. He liked everything on Duo's lips.

He nudged the tip of his cock at Duo's ass, pressing for entrance. They both needed this so very badly that to further torment was a waste of the night. He pushed and slid inside, the length of him sinking into Duo. Glorious warmth and tightness gripped him, and Heero gave a deep moan as he settled in. His hand stretched along Duo's spine to his neck and he grasped him gently, massaging him even as he braced himself for the sex.

Heero's hips began to move, lured by need, lust and love. His cock slid back and forth, in and out, pleasuring them both. His other hand reached under Duo to stroke his cock. It was their first time in this position, and it had the amazing effect of fulfilling Heero's strong desire to possess and sate himself in this man. Duo seemed to understand it was exactly what his lover needed. Heero had had no idea sex could feel this good, mounting Duo from behind. He felt like a king, or at the very least, Duo's lord and master.

All too soon, Heero's body began to quiver with unbridled passion. "Duo..." he said, breathing hard. Then his orgasm erupted, consuming him. He leaned over Duo's back, clinging to his lover, and kissing his shoulders.

Duo came with Heero's hand curled around his cock, and in the next instant they collapsed in a heap on the straw. The lovers had only enough strength to settle into each other's arms for the night, covering themselves with Heero's cloak.

It was a warm and perfect slumber.

The next morning, Heero woke as he had the previous day with Duo in his arms. The sun's light was already penetrating their lover's roost, but Heero was in no great rush to end this quiet moment. This day could bring many things, and to hold Duo a little longer was a necessary indulgence.

Looking back on their acquaintance, Heero realized that their mutual longing had created tension and unhappiness. They had been trapped in the belief that they hated each other, making their only release angry words and hurtful deeds. But all those false feelings had washed away with Heero's confession of love. When he had spoken the words, "I love you," the animosity had melted like icicles on a spring day.

Now, his beautiful lover was waking in his arms.

Duo stretched and snuggled closer to Heero. "Good morn."

"Good morn," Heero said and smiled.

They eased into a comfortable silence, warm and half awake under the cloak. Heero thought to kiss his lover more fully awake, but he had something to say.

"Duo, about last night." He leaned up on an elbow and looked into Duo's face. "It was incredible, but..."

"But? Was it not pleasurable?"

"It was most pleasurable, indeed." Heero brushed Duo's bangs from his eyes. "You must think me a fool, but I did not know that sex could be like that."

Duo leaned up on his elbows, bringing them almost nose to nose. "Last night was an expression of my love for you, and only you."

Heero shook his head. "I fear I was too eager to take you that way."

"I needed that as much as you." Duo grinned, but his eyes looked a little sad. "You cannot know how many nights... I wanted you."

He pulled Duo into his arms and held him close, their chins resting on each other's shoulder. "I am sorry."

"Do not think ill of Treize. He was good to me."

Heero nodded. He had seen as much. "And he encouraged me to find you."

"He did?" Duo pulled back to look into Heero's eyes. "We parted as friends, but I did not expect him to encourage this."

"He recognized my admiration for you."

"And your stupid honor," Duo said, playfully punching Heero in the arm.

"My honor kept us out of the dungeon."

"Your honor brought you to Lyon and to me."

Heero grinned, pleased that Duo appreciated his sense of duty, stubborn as it may be. "Duo, the Duke will release me from his service when the matter of the rogues is finished."

"Then you will be able to return home?"

Heero nodded. "Is it your wish to return to Valence?"

"Nay, I no longer have a home there."

Heero touched Duo's face gently as he considered his next words. By now, he was well aware of Duo's pride and his ambitions. He desperately wanted Duo at his side, but he did not want to insult him or interfere with Duo's plans.

"I would be honored..." Heero said, carefully. "If you would make your home with me."

Duo blinked. "You mean... in Strasbourg?"

The knight nodded. "There, or wherever I lay my head next to yours. That will be home."

Duo exhaled in surprise. "You astonish me, sir."

"You think me mad?"

"Perhaps a little," Duo said with a smirk. "What will your family think of me?"

"I have only one sister, and she is married to an admiral in the King's navy."

"Then... you are alone?"

Heero nodded. "Though I have many loyal servants. I am certain my chancellor, Howard of Belfort, would be pleased with your addition to the household."

Duo pulled back slightly. "Your household?"

"I do not mean as my servant," he said, taking hold of Duo's arms. "You would be as you are now, my squire and lover."

"Then, I am honored and pleased to accept."

Heero took Duo into his arms, holding him close. "Thank you."

~ ~ ~

Lord Winner arrived in the market just after dawn to meet his friends. Even this early, the place was becoming crowded with the great numbers of visitors who had come to Nevers for the tournament. The market offered something for everyone-crêpes and warm doughy buns for breakfast, ribbons the colors of knights' banners, and even bejeweled brooches. There were twice as many vendors as usual to meet the increased demand, and the market stretched beyond its usual boundaries of the town's square, down the road to the tournament grounds.

Sir Yuy and Squire Maxwell rode into the market, scanning for Quatre's shiny blond hair. Blonds were rare in this part of France, and wherever he went, Quatre Winner turned heads and was generally easy to spot.

As they maneuvered through the crowd on horseback, Duo explained once again to Heero how he had followed the rogues into Nevers and lost them in the crowd. It took him a day and one half to find anyone who had seen them.

"Perhaps we could ride to Jacques' farm and surprise them in their sleep," Duo said.

"Perhaps," Heero said, thoughtfully. It would please him to overcome the rogues without the aid of the Duke of Nevers, but he could not ignore the odds. It was best to wait until Duke Treize turned up.

Just then, he spotted Quatre standing next to a fire pit where a vendor was roasting pig.

"There," Heero said, giving his horse a gentle kick.

They dismounted and joined Quatre in purchasing slices of mouthwatering pork for breakfast. The friends stood aside where they could eat and make plans for the day in private.

"Milliardo expects us to lure them to the tournament grounds, where his men can surround and overtake them," Quatre said, licking his fingers.

"It is dangerous to proceed without His Grace," Heero said. Everyone nodded, understanding he was speaking of Duke Treize. "We should keep an eye on our prey until reinforcements come."

"That should be on the morrow," Quatre said. "But if we wait will we offend our new ally?"

Duo threw up his hands in a shrug. "We can beg patience. It takes time to bait a trap."

Heero liked this strategy. "Agreed."

Duo wiped his hands on his rump and grabbed the reins of each of their horses. "I will stable our horses. We stand out too much with them."

Quatre nodded, and although Heero hesitated to be without his steed, he nodded as well. When Duo headed off and around the corner, Quatre gave Heero a devilish grin.

"You look well this morn," the blond nobleman said. "Duo must have massaged your jealous bones." Quatre laughed as Heero's eyes widened. "I mean no harm, dear friend."

"Nay, but you glory in my lack of knowledge in these matters."

"Ah, but you see, my opportunity is small. You are a most eager scholar, and Duo is surely a good teacher."

Heero sighed. "If your time is limited, then by all means tease me while you can."

Quatre chuckled heartily. "He has done wonders for you already."

Duo returned, and it was decided they should spend the day in the market and adjacent streets. They would locate the rogues, and maintain a close watch on them until it was safe to engage them.

Heero reminded Duo of the rules. "You will remain within a short distance of me, and not draw attention to yourself. You should conceal your braid forthwith."

Duo frowned, but he did as Heero requested, and tucked his braid under his tunic.

"When you see one of the bandits, inform me at once," Heero said.

Duo nodded. "Is that all?"


Duo spun on his heel and headed into the crowd.

"Where are you going?" Heero asked.

"To mingle. It is what I do best."

"Duo!" Heero shouted after him, but the young man only waved as he disappeared around a corner. Heero looked to Quatre for support. "Did I not make myself clear?"

Quatre chuckled. "And you thought that bedding him would make him more obedient?"

With a deep sigh, Heero pursued his lover. He was fast upon Duo, snagging him by the wrist and turning him around. The force of the move brought them chest-to-chest. Duo smiled lustily, and Heero stepped back.

"You agreed to take orders from me," Heero said, sharply.

"I did."

"Then why are you heading out on your own?"

"To get you to follow me, of course." Duo's smile radiated mischief and victory. "We are far too visible huddled together. We must disappear into the crowd."

"We are outnumbered, and must stick together."

"Quatre will not stray far."

"Lord Winner cannot identify who we are tracking."

"There is no need. They will be watching him."

"What?" Heero asked.

"Quatre draws attention by his noble demeanor and dress."

"Then we must go back..."

"Nay, sir knight. Give it time."

Heero's brow knitted. "What of your willingness to heed my commands?"

"I am not unwilling." Duo winked.

Heero felt warmth coil in his groin, and grabbed Duo by the arm yanking him away from the crowd. They settled behind a stack of wine barrels, out of sight from the busy market.

"You must end this," Heero said. His eyes were locked with Duo's and he could feel his heartbeat quickening. "We can ill afford these games."

"But you admit it is a clever plan?"

"We should have discussed it together. Instead you wander off leaving our friend vulnerable."

"That may be true, but let us not squander this moment." Duo ran his hands up Heero's arms, and leaned in to kiss him.

Heero put his hands to Duo's chest preventing the kiss. "This is dangerous."

Duo nodded, and pressed forward until Heero relented. Heero took Duo into his arms, kissing him soundly with an open mouth and tongue. Then he set Duo firmly on his feet again.

"I will make good on the promise of that kiss tonight," Heero said. "Now we must work in concert or fail in our mission."

Heero was accustomed to a league of knights and men-at-arms who were trained to coordinate their efforts. Duo was too independent and a continual challenge, but his approach at finding the rogues was intriguing, and Heero's love made him more patient of Duo.

They headed back to the town square and as Duo had suggested, they did not rejoin their friend. Instead, they kept to the shadows. Concerned that Quatre would wonder what had become of his friends, Heero pulled the hood of his cloak over his head and went back into the fray of the market. He sidled Quatre and whispered the plan. Quatre gave a firm nod, never making eye contact, and went about his business as though a nobleman out for an afternoon of shopping in the commoner's market. He was sure to purchase a bauble for Trowa.

The day progressed, hours passing, but only one of the rogues was spotted in all that time. They watched him eating a handful of roasted chestnuts, and pass within several feet of Quatre before wandering out of the market.

"Quatre has not attracted attention," Heero said.

Duo shrugged. "Not yet."

"We should reconsider our plan."

"Perhaps if we move closer to the jousting grounds, Lady Fortune will smile upon us," Duo said.

Heero nodded, and to avoid suspicion, paid a young boy with dirty bare feet to give Quatre a message that the shopping was better nearer the festival. Quatre looked up, confused for a moment, but thanked the boy and slowly moved on. The knight and his squire followed at a distance.

The tournament grounds were located within view of Castle Peacecraft along the Loire River. Like other streets in Nevers, the one leading most directly to the tournament was narrow and ran downhill towards the river. It was also overcrowded with peddlers, entertainers, shoppers and animals. Along the way, Duo indulged in the local cheeses, wines and pastries being sold. It was turning out to be a long day, and these small treats kept both Heero and Duo in good humor.

While they were sipping a cup of hearty Burgundian wine, Duo started to cough and sputter. Heero patted his back, thinking he had swallowed wrong, but Duo shook his head and tilted it as if to indicate something. Heero turned, scanning the crowd, and noticed Quatre with a circle of men who were gambling on a game of marbles.

"There?" he asked.

Duo nodded, and cleared his throat. "One of them is from the woods."

"Are you certain?"

"He limps."

Heero blinked, recalling that he had injured one of the bandits, but spared his life. If he had lived to regret anything, it was showing that man mercy, but at the time, Duo's life had been in danger.

"Which one?" he asked.

"Brown woolen tunic. There," Duo said with a nod. "He carries a sword."

Heero's eyes narrowed. Yea, that was the same tuck sword the bandits in the woods had carried. Heero's battle sense prickled. He wanted to strike, but the time was not right. He considered getting Quatre out of that situation, but the nobleman had a good head on his shoulders and seemed to be talking with some of the players. Perhaps if Quatre was clever, he could find out more about the men.

The sound of a galloping horse caught his and Duo's attention. They looked down the street to where a horseman was riding fast through the crowd. People screamed and shouted at the man's recklessness. At two hundred paces, Heero recognized the rider.


Duo smiled excitedly, and without warning dashed off to meet his friend. Heero watched from his place at the wine vendor's stand as Duo greeted Trowa. The young stablehand pulled back on his horse's reins and dismounted quickly. They gave each other a hug, and then walked side by side to where Heero waited.

Trowa bowed his head. "I bring good news, sir. His Grace sent me ahead to inform you that he will be here before nightfall."

Heero felt the tension in his shoulders ease. "That is sooner than expected."

"He did not delay, but in so doing he could not bring as many men."

"How many does he have?"

"Twelve in total."

"That is all?" Heero's mind raced. They suspected there were eight or nine rogues, but it would be best to have triple that number to capture them.

"The knights patrol had already left. The Duke is accompanied by Sir Chang-"

"Wufei is recovered?" Duo asked.

"He is well enough to ride, but has not yet regained full strength."

"Then the Duke should have left him behind," Heero said.

Trowa shrugged. "With him comes two of Sir Chang's Chinese companions, and eight knights and squires."

"That is not enough," Heero said in frustration.

"Then it is good we made that alliance," Duo said.

"An alliance?" Trowa asked.

"The Duke of Nevers..." Duo said.

Heero shot Duo a hard look, stopping him from revealing more. "There will be time to explain when we have more privacy. For now we are keeping an eye on the situation."

"Where is Lord Winner?" Trowa asked.

"Playing marbles," Duo said and snickered. He nodded to the group across the way.

Trowa's eyes lighted as he saw his lover. "I should like to join him."

Duo reached over and took the reins of his horse and smiled. "I will see that your horse gets water and feed."

"Thank you," Trowa said, looking bemused. "Normally, that is my job."

"Go on," Duo said, smiling.

Heero and Duo watched Trowa cross the street and stand next to Quatre. The look on Quatre's face when he saw him was priceless. They embraced like old friends, and then began to talk.

"I would wager that Trowa knows more about marbles than Quatre," Duo said.

"Yea, the servants play it in the bailey."

Comfortable that Quatre and Trowa would keep an eye on things, Heero and Duo took the horse to a livery by following the comings and goings of other horsemen down a side street. Sure enough, one street over was a stable. They paid to have the horse fed, watered and groomed, but were told there was no room for boarding over night.

"That will not be a problem," Heero said to the man.

As they finished their business at the stable, Duo noticed a boulangerie. "Mmm, fresh bread would do me wonders."

Heero smiled. "Go on and buy a loaf, and I will get smoked sausage at the butcher's."

Duo leaned in spontaneously and kissed Heero's cheek. "I will wait outside the shop."

Heero laughed at the speed in which Duo ran toward the bread shop. They had been eating most of the day, but nothing substantial. This would be more like a meal, and would please Duo very much. Several minutes later, they brought their bounty together to make smoked sausage sandwiches. They leaned against the building, eating in silence, comfortable in each other's company. It was one of the best meals Heero ever had. The knight was amazed at his own contentment, and he knew exactly who to thank for it. He was standing next to the man who had turned him on his head. Heero now believed that everyone should view the world from this angle.

"Have you always been happy?" Heero asked as he took a large bite of his sandwich.

Duo shook his head, swallowing. "You met my stepfather."

"What will your family do without you?"

"There are plenty of hands to keep the shop in business. Though I wish..."


"Oh, I was thinking of my youngest sister, Sophie. She is still pure of heart."

"Perhaps you could send her to a convent. His Grace's cousin, Lady Dorothy, joined one some years ago. It is the best place for maidens."

Duo was quiet, and Heero realized that despite the tension in the Blois family home, Duo was missing his mother and sisters.

"You will see them again," Heero said, putting his arm around Duo's shoulders.

Duo looked over at him and smiled.

"Now we must be away. The shadows are growing long," Heero said.

As they headed back to the thoroughfare that led to the tournament grounds, they noticed a boisterous group of men heading in the same direction. Several of the men were on horseback, but the rest were on foot. Heero and Duo followed behind them a good distance, intrigued by the unusual mix of men wearing plain woolen tunics and two dressed more elegantly. One man on horseback was dressed particularly fine, his cloak edged in ermine, a sign of royalty.

"Something is amiss," Heero said.

The group seemed headed towards the tournament, but paused when they came upon the game of chance. The crowd had swelled around the gamblers, no doubt as the stakes had gotten higher. One of the men looked up at the newcomers and bowed his head to the nobleman on horseback.

"That man..." Duo said. "He resembles the description Duke Milliardo gave us of Tsubarov."

Heero nodded. "Yea, he has gray hair and a large nose."

"Perhaps we should get closer."

"It is best we remain here."

They had settled next to an old woman selling lavender bouquets out of a large basket. The fragrant bunches of bluish-purple flowers were popular with ladies. They purchased them to keep under their noses when the stench of the streets and unwashed bodies became too strong, and sometimes tossed them to knights who caught their eye.

"I think I recognize some of the men in his company," Duo said. He was standing on his tip toes looking over the heads of those passing in the street. "I cannot be certain from this distance."

Heero sighed. He could either spend the next several minutes arguing with Duo about the merits of staying put or just let Duo have his way and save time.

"Pull your hood up," Heero said, turning to Duo and helping him with the hood. He looked his lover square in the eyes. "Do you understand the term reconnaissance?"

Duo rolled his eyes.

"Do you?" Heero asked in all seriousness.

"Yea," Duo said.

"Good. You will see what you can and return here without drawing attention."

Duo gave a firm nod and darted away. Heero watched his squire's cloak flutter with his quick movements around the traffic, and was pleased to see Duo pull it about himself more securely, concealing his sword. Duo lighted at the opposite side of the circle from Quatre and Trowa. He kept his head tilted down and his hood pulled to his eyes.

Heero counted in his head 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7... gauging how long Duo was spending with the gamblers. He would give him to the count of 100 before pulling him back by the scruff of the neck if possible. He heard a great chorus of laughter and some hoots from the men, but it was getting more difficult to see as passersby continued to be drawn into the excitement of the game.

From this spot on the side of the road, Heero could see very little of what was happening, and had lost sight of Duo. His heartbeat quickened, and he searched around him for a better vantage point. At last, he found a wooden crate filled with carrots. He dumped the carrots onto the ground and turned the crate over to stand on. A second later, there was a man yelling at him for spoiling his carrots.

Heero reached into the leather purse at his belt and tossed the farmer a silver coin. "I beg your pardon," he said.

The man's mouth dropped open. "You can dump more of my crates if you like, good sir."

Heero might have laughed if he was not so preoccupied with trying to see his lover amid the crowd, but he was aware that the coin's value far outweighed the carrots'.

From his new perch it was evident that the gambling circle had grown. They were standing three and four deep, leaning over the players at the center of the ring, who were crouched or kneeling and barely visible. Duo had disappeared into the group, perhaps squeezing between the larger men to get a closer look.

An angry shout broke the merriment of the gathering, and was quickly joined by more shouts, and arms with fists raised above the onlookers heads. Suddenly, Duo came stumbling out of the crowd and a break in the circle opened up, revealing one of the players getting to his feet and lunging forward.

Heero leapt from the wooden crate and towards Duo, who all but fell into his arms as they met in the middle of the road. "What...?" Heero did not have time to finish the question as the gambler and his posse came storming after Duo.

"Run!" Duo said.

There was no time to think. Heero grabbed Duo by the hand and pulled him through the street, weaving between pedestrians and mule-drawn carts. The shouting intensified behind them.

"What did you do?" Heero asked as they ran.

"He recognized me!"

Heero looked askance at his lover as they ran through the traffic. Duo's braid whipped behind him. "Who?"

"The rogue... from the woods!"

"Damn it," Heero said with a growl.

Once recognized, the man would not relent. He and his comrades would want to snuff out any threats, no matter how small. Normally, Heero would have turned and drawn his sword, but they could not engage the rogues without Duke Treize's forces, and they had been warned against such action by the Duke of Nevers.

They were heading toward the tournament grounds, and Heero considered leading the men into the jousting arena and the Duke's waiting snare. If they could not shake them, he might have to submit to needing the Duke Milliardo's aid.

The knight and squire ducked inside a cabinet maker's shop, catching their breath as they peered out the small window onto the street.

"Can I help you?"

Heero turned to see a man sitting on a bench, carving a decorative edge on the back of a chair.

"Pardon our intrusion. Do you have a back door?" Heero asked.

The man blinked, and then nodded.

Heero squeezed his hand and realized that he was still holding Duo's. He turned to his squire and nodded. "We need to find our friends."

Duo grinned, and they set off through the shop and out the back. There was a small fenced yard behind the shop where raw wood was stacked in piles. It was quiet here, away from the crowded street, but they were not alone. Many locals had laundry strung behind their houses and shops, and on nice days, such as this, sat outside working on their crafts and other wares to sell.

By now, it was nearly nightfall. The evening sky was shades of orange and purple, and Heero prayed that meant reinforcements would arrive imminently. He reluctantly let go of Duo's hand, leading him on the narrow path behind the buildings. They were headed back to the point of discovery, but that seemed the likeliest way of finding their companions and eluding confrontation. Their pursuers would never expect them to double back.

"Do you think Quatre and Trowa followed us?" Duo asked as they turned onto a side street.

Heero shook his head, not sure how Quatre would have reacted.

They came to the busy road where they had been, and stepped out from the shadows of the buildings. Heero turned his head, scanning for danger, and his breath caught. He could not believe it. The man they suspected to be Sir Tsubarov was on horseback barely fifty feet from where they stood with a group of twenty men surrounding him.

It also happened that Heero and Duo were closer to the tournament than they thought. They had not realized how far and fast they had run. Heero nudged Duo to step back and they would try another route, but just then they were spotted.

"Look there!" a man shouted.

The lovers bolted back down the path they had come.

"By my troth, I only counted eight rogues in Nevers!" Duo said as they ran.

That was an interesting observation, but based on the fact that both Duke Treize and Duke Milliardo were dealing with rogue bands there would have to be a fair number of them to cover such a large region. Could this mean that Sir Tsubarov had gathered all of them in Nevers to taunt the Duke Milliardo and ruin his Joust of Peace?

There was little time to think, but Heero made the decision to go in the direction of the tournament. If they were cornered there was a chance that Duke Milliardo would intercede. They ran a good distance, staying behind the shops and homes as long as they could, but eventually they had to return to the main road. Slowing their stride, the pair began to look for access to the road.

To their shock, several men came running towards them, having cut through a garden at the side of a residence. The men drew their swords in a threatening display.

Heero grabbed Duo by the sleeve and pulled him inside another building. They moved through the rooms quickly, and belatedly realized it was someone's home. The family was gathered around a wooden table near the hearth having dinner. Their eyes widened, and one of the daughters screamed on seeing the two men.

"Our humblest apologies," Duo said, pausing to give a bow.

"Come on," Heero said, gritting his teeth. He tugged hard and Duo nearly tripped over himself to follow.

In the next breath, they were outside on the main road. Tsubarov and his men were waiting.

"Enough with this cat and mouse game," the elderly nobleman said.

"What do you want from us?" Heero asked, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"One of my men," Tsubarov said, nodding to the man Duo had identified, "Has a complaint with you."

Heero blinked. "What sort of complaint?"

"He claims you attacked him, laming him."

"I attacked him?" Heero nearly shouted the words, so taken aback by the preposterous lie. "I spared his life, but not before his band of thieves tried to extort a toll."

Tsubarov shook his head. "Why do men quarrel over taxes? It is such a waste of time."

Just then, the other men came through the house to stand behind Heero and Duo. Now the lovers were blocked on all sides.

"Compensation is due," Sir Tsubarov said.

"I agree. It is due to me!" Heero said.

Tsubarov chuckled sarcastically. "It is your word against his, but he has the injury to prove his tale."

Heero shook his head, unsure where this conversation could lead. Was he expecting him to hand over his purse of coins? "If he is certain of his righteousness, then he should take it to a judge."

The gray haired nobleman snorted in disdain. "That pompous Duke of Nevers? He has little regard for the plight of commoners."

"And you do?" Duo asked.

Before the nobleman replied, they were distracted by pushing and shoving at the edge of the group. Then the sweet reverberation of steel being unsheathed rang in the air. All eyes focused on the commotion and suddenly Heero caught a glimpse of Lord Winner with his sword drawn on the crowd of men. What was he thinking? But the diversion was exactly what Heero and Duo needed. Heero drew his sword and in an instant turned on the men behind him, slashing one in the arm. Duo drew his sword next, and Heero prayed he would follow his lead.

Twenty against three were the worst kind of odds. With no choice and his lover at his side, Heero's blood pulsed in his veins, giving him the courage and strength to face one hundred thousand.

on to chapter twenty three

back to fiction

back to artemis fiction

back home