A/N: This is for the 22 readers that I know have been waiting for this for two years now. Sorry about the delay. Still sorting my life out but things are finally settling down now and I'm trying to get back into writing. I miss you all.
Narrowing his eyes Rogue resisted the urge to growl, wanting to release a feral sound of frustration. Always something, with Arian it was always something and it looked like Aniol's more impulsive brother had gotten himself into trouble. Again. Well Rogue didn't really have time for this. Not today. Not when Arian's presence was urgently needed elsewhere. Closing the gap between himself and Arian's cloaked figure he grabbed hold of Arian's left arm and began to drag the reluctant boy back towards the palace. "How many?" He snapped abruptly, eyes darting around, seeking out potential threat.
"Six." Arian replied sullenly, already knowing what Rogue was asking. They had, after all, been down this route many times before, "but we can't kill them. They are civilians."
"Civilians?" Rogue glanced at Arian, raising an eyebrow in question. "How did you manage to get into trouble with civilians?" The slim figure beside him, shrugged, the black cloak upon his shoulders barely shifting with the movement. If Rogue had not been watching him carefully he would have missed it entirely. He glanced at the bundle clutched protectively to Arian's chest. "I'm assuming it has something to do with the baby?" Rogue enquired dryly, already knowing what the response would be.
Arian shifted awkwardly beneath the intensity of Rogue's gaze, uncomfortable with the look the assassin was giving him. He glanced up at Rogue, peering up at him from beneath the folds of his cloak his face shrouded but his gaze intense, daring Rogue to do something about it. Rogue, refused to be baited, shaking his head. "We'll talk about it later." He stated softly, in response to the silent challenge, resuming the task of getting Arian to the palace, alive and in one piece. "Tell me one thing though… is it you or the baby?" Rogue's gaze flicked to Arian's dark cloak which was soaked in blood, knowing Arian would understand his question.
Arian dropped his gaze, looking guilty once more before sighing. "Me." He responded softly, knowing that Rogue was not going to simply let this be. Rogue too was stubborn and Arian found it impossible to outright lie to him. Especially when Rogue took it upon himself to interrogate him. He'd yet to get it right and had resigned himself to the fact that it was far easier to be honest when Rogue started with his questions. Rogue seemed to have a sixth sense for things he fought to keep hidden. Even scarier was his determination to pull every last thread of truth from Arian's lips, using every persuasive method he had at hand and Arian had come to learn that Rogue had many.
Rogue cussed beneath his breath, using words Arian didn't even want to contemplate before seeming to calm and resume his cold and in control façade. "How bad?" He demanded roughly, picking his pace up just a touch, relieved to see that Arian seemed to have given his attackers the slip. No one appeared to be following them.
Arian, shrugged yet again. This time the gesture carried over to Rogue through touch, his hand upon Arian's elbow shifting with the movement of Arian's body. "Not bad. It just bled a lot." Arian responded calmly neglecting to mention that it was still bleeding. Rogue simply nodded in acceptance. He'd seen the fresh blood on the ground and suspected that Arian was hiding the full extent of the injury but figured if the boy was still walking, he wasn't in danger of dropping dead any time soon. The moment they arrived at the castle he fully intended to drag Arian over to a healer to have the wound taken care of, anyway. Consequently, the rest of the journey was pretty much carried out in pointed silence.
Arian was back at the castle and seated in the infirmary before he could even begin register the full extent of Rogue's wrath. Rough hands tore his blood soaked cloak from his body, discarding the fabric with ease and it was only when those same hands reached for the baby in his arms that Arian thought to protest. "No." He clung to the bundle in his arms withdrawing from Rogue.
Rogue didn't even flinch still reaching for the baby. "You need to let the baby go so the healers can patch up the damage you've stupidly inflicted upon yourself." Rogue snapped his tone cold. "I'm only going to warn you once. Don't mess with me, Arian. You're already running late and I'm not about to let you ruin what should be a good day for your country. Now give me the baby, shut the hell up and let the healers get to work."
Arian was in big trouble this time and he knew it. The very air around Rogue radiated fury and he began to dread what Rogue would do to him the moment all of this was over and they acquired some privacy once more. Maybe this had not been such a good idea after all. Doubt and uncertainty were begin to course through Arian making him dread the possible consequences of his actions, fear clouding his mind for a moment, threatening to drown him in panic, an emotion he was usually unfamiliar with.
Arian was about to crumble when the bundle in his arms shifted, pulling his mind away from the panic he usually didn't feel when confronted with Rogue's displeasure, or anyone else's for that matter. He forced the pain and fatigue he felt away with it, gathering himself to confront Rogue despite the warning he'd just been issued. He knew he'd done what he needed to do, what was right and wasn't about to let Rogue tell him otherwise. It was his duty and he was willing to pay whatever price he may be required to pay. "No." he repeated, his gaze now every bit as hard as Rogue's. "Noe stays with me."
Rogue's growled in aggitation. He really didn't have time for this. He could see the stubbornness in Arian's blue/gray eyes and knew Arian could be very difficult when he wanted to be. Unfortunately, right now he didn't have time for an argument. The nobles were lined up, the ceremony prepared and Arian was already very late. Arguing would only delay them further. Knocking Arian out, sadly, was even less of an option. Rogue crossed his arms, glaring at the boy seated before him. "Okay, so how do you propose we do this then?" He demanded.
Arian returned the glare, not even flinching beneath the anger he could still feel directed towards him. This was a battle of wills and he was not about to let Rogue win. Unfortunately he had not really thought this through this far and had no idea what he intended to do with Noe. Sighing he held Noe out towards one of the healers, still glaring heatedly at Rogue. "Could you please make sure he's not injured?" He asked, his tone deceptively mild. "Thereafter I would like you to find him a nursemaid who will move into the room beside mine." Even though he worded it as a polite request, the command in his tone was clear. There would be no negotiating his decision.
Rogue narrowed his eyes but remained silent watching as one of the healers took Noe from Arian. The moment the healer stepped aside, Rogue stepped closer, reaching for Arian's left arm. Clinically tracing the blood flow, he located its source, a wound on Arian's left shoulder. Raising an eyebrow he gave Arian a pointed look. "I thought I told you not to get injured." He commented shortly, running his hands over the rest of Arian's body, making sure there were no other, perhaps more serious wounds.
"I thought red was my colour." Arian snapped in response refusing to hiss in pain when Rogue roughly began to clean his wound. "What better way to get crowned than with a little ceremonial blood spillage, after all?"
Rouge paused, giving Arian a look. He would not dignify Arian's surliness with a response. Ignoring the anger he could see in the blue grey eyes, he resumed cleaning the wound, handing the dirty bloody cloths to the healers hovering behind his shoulder, grabbing clean ones and continuing in silence. Several minutes later he turned to the healers, completely ignoring Arian. "Antiseptic." He ordered abruptly. "And make sure it stings." Stepping aside he let a healer through, marching towards a basin where he promptly proceeded to wash the blood off his hands. "I want him bandaged, dressed and ready for the ceremony in an hour." Drying his hands, he marched out, not even acknowledging Arian as he went.
An hour later, Arian was bandaged, dressed and drugged, the last of which he did not appreciate one bit. He was light headed, pissed as hell and was starting to feel like a dressed up doll, put on auction. The throne room was packed with people, all dressed in bright overdone colours, all staring at him where he stood at the entrance and the walk to the throne itself where a ceremonial priest waited seemed ridiculously long. Resigning himself to being the entertainment for the evening, a fate which he had tried really hard to flee, Arian took a careful step forward. This was followed by another and then another. He stopped when his foot encountered the first of the steps leading up to what would soon be his throne.
The moment he paused at the foot of the steps the priest began to speak, reciting a ceremony in a language long since forgotten. The verse the priest was reciting had been passed down from generation to generation while the language it was originally written in, slowly died. Now all that remained was the tradition, the meaning behind the softly spoken words long since forgotten. Reaching for a ceremonial dagger, the priest paused. Arian held out his hands in silence, palms up. He knew what was coming next. He didn't even flinch when the priest used the blade, made from silver and gold upon its length. The priest cut a symbol into each hand, at the base of his ring finger, a Y upon his left and a circle upon his right. Though small the mark was deep, blood welling up over his flesh, running down his fingers. Placing the dagger down the priest reached for two rings, one of silver and one of gold. Resuming his soft litany he slipped the gold ring onto Arian's left hand and the silver one onto his right, Arian's blood mingling with the metal. Speaking the last of the ceremony, the priest brought Arian's hands together, the two fresh cuts lying over each other to create a symbol, linking the silver and gold metal through blood.
The soft litany died away, the last few words of the ceremony echoing in the strange silence that had settled over the throne room, awe thick in the air despite the fact that not a word was understood by anyone attending. A moment of reverence blanketed Arian, the world seeming to hold its breath as it waiting for the last echo of an ancient rite to die away and then it was over. The priest stepped back and bowed, another priest stepping forward carrying a simple circlet made of silver. Arian bowed his head, waiting.
A circle for a circle
A life for a life
Brings trouble and strife
Arian tensed, the soft voice echoing through his mind, the whispered words chilling him to the bone. Glancing up, his eyes darted around the still silent room, seeking the source of the words that seemed to taunt him from the shadows but found nothing. The room remained as it had been when he'd entered it, the nobles watching him, the priests before him, Rogue hidden in the shadows. No one seemed surprised or even startled which didn't make sense. The words had been dark, an undertone of malice hidden within their depths and it seemed Arian had been the only one to hear them. Arian's stomach twisted into a knot, unease settling thick in his throat, the weight of the cool metal upon his brow a silent reminder taunting him with the burden he now had to bear.