A/N: This story contains slash/yaoi/boy's love/homosexual romance. Read at your own discretion.

Of Ghosts and Moon Shadows

Part one:

"I know this isn't quite what you expected to be doing when you became Captain," Felix said, good-natured smile pulling at his lips. "But playing body guard for spoiled princes isn't a bad gig, you know? As long as you can stand fussy parties and small talk, that is. If it were me," blue eyes widening dramatically, "I think I'd go positively mad. I can only stand snobbery in short doses."

Bastian let out a soft snort as he followed his second in command down the long palace hallway - the wooden heal of his dress boots an echoing click on the pristine white marble floors. The collar of his dress uniform was starched and stiff, clasped snugly with a row of three golden buttons that had taken him far too long to do up that morning in the mirror. The shoulders of the blue and white jacket were fashionably fitted in a way that made him feel like he wouldn't be able to raise his hands over his head, let alone draw the ornate sword at his hip. He hoped that he would not have to wear this silly outfit the whole time he was shadowing the prince, or he feared that he might not do much good against assassins when he couldn't even breathe propperly.

But maybe that had more to do with nerves than the restricting jacket. He had only recently been promoted to Captain, after the previous one had decided to retire after breaking his ankle in a way that would guarantee he would walk with a limp for the rest of his life. The last Bastian had heard, he'd taken up the quiet life of a plantation owner as far away from the capital as he could get. It didn't bode well for him - this job was notorious for horribly burning out all those who attempted to keep it for a measure of time.

Bastian knew he might be a little touched in the head for accepting, but when the King himself asks you to run his army one does not simply turn him down. He knew that the reputation he'd earned on the Eastern Front would come back to bite him, but he'd not expected it to be in such a roundabout way.

"Somebody really wants that boy dead," Felix continued, as if talking more to himself than Bastian. Though, he was positive that his second in command knew that even if he gave pause for Bastian to interject some sound one way or another that he wouldn't. "I mean, I hear that that they attacked him last in the garden in broad daylight! This makes the third attack in the last two months!" The man made a little amazed scoff, tossing his shock of auburn curls. "I know the kid isn't well liked by the nobles, but he's still a prince. We all know his brother probably won't survive to inherit, so he's the only heir we've got. It doesn't make any damn sense to want to kill him."

"Felix," Bastian said, shooting the other man a sharp look before glancing back at the hall behind them. He saw no one, but that didn't mean there wasn't anyone listening. "You gossip like a maid, that mouth of yours will get you into trouble one day."

Felix had the cheek to shoot him a little grin. "Aye, so they tell me." They neared the end of the hallway. An attendant was waiting there for them there, looking like a stuffed bird in an ill-fitting gold and white suit. Felix turned to Bastian and held out his arm and Bastian clasped it with his own, giving the other man a traditional military salute. "Good luck, Bastian." Felix grinned at him. "I'll make sure the troops aren't in complete shambles when you get back."

Bastian offered the other man a small smirk. "Don't exert yourself too much on my account."

Felix laughed and clapped him on the back. "Oh, fear not, dear Captain! I will make sure to take a leisurely nap in a bed of rose petals every half hour – on your order, of course!"

Bastian rolled his eyes and bid the other man fare well before turning to the attendant. "The king summoned me - "

"I know, Captain Bastian of Gallent," The little man said with a smug smile, no doubt picking up on Bastian's clumsy knowledge of court formalities. "We've been expecting you." He then turned on his heal, and lead him through an ornate door at the end of the hallway. Bastian's stomach twisted horribly, and he fought to keep his nerves from showing.

He could keep his composure gazing into the eyes of his enemies as they slipped to the beyond, but looking into the eyes of a king left him shaking like a schoolboy after a good scolding.

It was sickening, really.

The attendant led him to a large hall. Its walls were white, with an ornate gilded molding running the length of the top. They were lined with long, floor length windows that let in the midmorning light pleasantly. The floor was the same white marble as the hallway, and there was a long carpet running the length of the room in the deep shade of purple that the nobility favored.

At the end of the hall, the king sat on his grand throne carved of some dark wood that he couldn't place. He was not as old as Bastian was expecting, only perhaps forty-five, forty-six? His hair was a tawny color and slicked back from a pale, angular face. His eyes were an unnerving shade of molten gold that, complimented with his broad shoulders draped in a cloak lined with some sort of tawny fur, brought to mind images of a lion. He was certainly one of the most imposing men Bastian had ever met, a warrior-king if he ever saw one.

In a semi-circle around the king stood his advisors. They were all seemingly involved in some kind of intense argument, judging from the hard set of their mouths and narrowed eyes, but as Bastian and the attendant came near the king dismissed them. Some seemed to be curious of him, but others glowered at him soundly. He made sure to take note of their face as they moved off to the side of the hall.

Bastian and the attendant stopped just shy of the marble steps that lead up to the throne, and he alone dropped to his knee, head bent. The attendant cleared his throat, and announced "Captain Bastian of Gallent." He heard a little murmur ripple through the crowd of advisors at his name, and he bit back a sigh. The attendant then turned and strode out of the room, leaving a brief silence in his wake.

"Rise," The king said, his voice soft but commanding in a way that made it feel as if it were filling the room. Bastian did as he was told, and the king locked eyes with him – gold boring into gray. "I assume you know why I have summoned you?" He asked, leaning his chin upon his hand.

"Yes, your Highness."

"Then you know the gravity of the task in which I have assigned you." The king continued, eyes seeming to intensify as he spoke. "My son is well versed in sword play, but these attacks are getting more and more brazen every day. I cannot sit idly by while these things continue to happen. So I want you to figure out who is behind these attacks. But keep in mind that the preservation of my son's life is of the utmost importance. You should be willing to give your life for him, if need be. Is that understood?"

"Yes, your Highness."

"Very well," The king said, the hard lines around his mouth seeming to soften a little. The king made a little beckoning motion, and a servant girl Bastian hadn't noticed scurried over to him. "Carlotta, fetch my son, will you? He will be in the blue room."

"Yes, Milord," she curtsied and promptly scurried out of the hall. There was a long silence that followed her exit. Bastian shifted his weight from one foot to another, wondering if he would look like a fool if he attempted to make small talk. But, before he could open his mouth and no doubt say something he regretted, the door at the back of the room opened and in stepped a figure.

Bastian sucked in a breath at the sight of the boy. The second prince was given the rather ugly nickname of the "Courtesan Prince." Not only because he was incredibly beautiful, so the rumors said, but also as a slander against his mother who had social-climbed her way to becoming the second wife of the king. The second queen, Evolyn, was a mystery. No one knows where she came from - some said the barbaric northern mountain tribes, other said from the mysterious forests of the east. There was even a wild rumor going around, a hushed whisper to be shared behind a fan or in one's ear, that the second queen was actually a fairy that had used her magic to secure herself a place in the king's bed.

She started out as a dancing girl that a noble had brought to the court as amusement for the midsummer ball. The king was thoroughly taken by her heart breaking grace and captivating beauty that he demanded for her to become a part of his court immediately after the festivities were over. It was only a scant few months after she had moved to the castle that they had started a courtship, and an even scanter few months after that that the king had taken her hand in marriage. The court had been outraged, naturally, but the king had made up his mind. It was said that the king first wife, Marie, was so outraged by the whole ordeal that she couldn't be coaxed from her chambers for he weddings, or for the five days of feasting that occurred after it. The second queen only held her set for a few years before she died of sleeping sickness, but the second prince was still the subject of scorn for the legacy she left behind.

Prince Tristan looked like his mother, or as least as far as Bastian could glean from the tales. The boy wasn't especially tall and his body was slender to the point of being almost effeminate. His skin was pale like smooth porcelain, with eyes a striking golden green against the mane of crimson hair the spilled down his back in soft waves. The style of it was decidedly unfashionable but it gave the boy an exotic touch that complimented striking coloration.

The prince was dressed informally – or as informally as a prince could be. The white shirt he wore was buttoned all the way up to the collar and paired with an obviously expensive purple silk vest with a repeating fleur-de-lis pattern stitched into it. It was fashionably fit, emphasizing the slender curve of his waist. The prince's breeches were tan in color, and spotlessly polished black boots came up to his knees.

Bastian had hoped that the rumors of the Prince's beauty were exaggerated – that he was only a mildly handsome monarch with a tragic backstory that the maids had romanticized beyond comprehension. Bastian felt like he was drowning. It was like boy's very aura had come crashing in the doors as he stepped through and hit him square in the chest. It was to be expected, though. He had known his preferences since he was old enough to understand what attraction was. He was quiet about the whole affair, not because he was ashamed but because it was his nature not to make a show of his personal life, but he had never had a lack of willing partners. It didn't hurt that he was considered a war hero, either.

He always did have a terrible weakness for the slender, pretty ones.

Gods above, he was in trouble.

Upon the Prince's entrance, the advisors all sketched a bow – some more reluctant than others. He followed suit, bowing a half beat behind them. When he straitened up, he saw that the prince was smiling at him. It wasn't a large smile, it was just a soft up-turn of his lips that made Bastian unable to look anywhere but his mouth. Taking a breath, he cleared his throat. "I am Captain-"

"Bastian of Gallent," The prince finished for him, a laugh coloring his voice. "I do believe that everyone knows your name, Captain."

Bastian shrugged to cover his embarrassment, trying very had to keep his face neutral. "It is still polite to say it, Your Highness. "

"Tristan," The King interjected, voice laced with mild disapproval. "Do try and be nice to him, hmm?"

Tristan smiled one of those little smiles again. "I will try, Your Highness."

The king made a little noise of disbelief before waving his hand in dismissal. "Now, go on, get the good Captain settled in. But remember, I want you in the great hall for dinner tonight with Lady Beatrice and her family."

Tristan nodded and bowed again. Bastian copied him, before following the boy out into a hallway adjacent to the one he entered in. They walked down the hall in silence for a long moment, Bastian captivated by the way the boy seemed to move so effortlessly. That kind of grace was rare, and it left Bastian wanting to see the boy in combat. Would it be unseemly to challenge him to a sparring session? He was willing to bet that with him, it would almost be like dancing.

"Milord – " Bastian started, but the prince put up his hand to silence him. He turned around to face him, the crimson curls of his hair catching the in the light streaming in through the window. "If you are to be accompanying me wherever I go, then I must lay down a few rules to ensure that you don't drive me mad." The boy said, looking up at him with his striking eyes.

Bastian nodded.

"The first is that when we are alone, call me Tristan, or if you must, call me Prince Tristan. I find formality tiresome at the best of times, let alone constantly." The prince shrugged, before turning and continuing off down the hall. "Secondly I don't know if they informed you, but I have a fairly strict schedule I keep during my days. I have lessons until midday, and after that I have swordsmanship with master Foalan until mid afternoon. After that I have a few hours of down time before dinner. The only times I am not held to this schedule is during the summer and winter feast days."

Bastian quirked an eyebrow. "Your father keeps you on a pretty busy, doesn't he?"

The boy shrugged once more. "I suppose," He said, turning down another hallway that looked exactly the same as all the others. Bastian wondered briefly if he would ever learn all the winding hallways of the palace like everyone else seemed to. "It's in father's nature to be meticulous in all things. If I am to be king one day, gods forbid, I must be knowledgeable in many areas." Tristan stated simply.

They reached the end of the hallway, and the prince pulled open the double doors and ushered him in. "Father thought as a precautionary measure that we move my chambers to a different part of the castle." He said, as he glided into the spacious room and promptly draped him self on a chaise near an ornate marble fire place. The far wall was made almost entirely of floor-to ceiling windows the let the after noon light drift in lazily. He was fairly certain that one of the windows acted as a door that led out to the small balcony that he could see beyond. Near those windows was a grand bed draped in deep purple bed hangings. Past that was the chaise in front of the fireplace, and directly to the right of that was a moderate sized bookcase with a small desk stacked high with books and burnt-down candles.

There was another bed against the wall Bastian was closest too. It was modestly draped in a fine burgundy blanket, with a trunk made of some dark wood at the foot. His things, which had been taken from him by a group of servants as he entered the palace, sat waiting for him on the floor just to the side of the bed.

Bastian felt his stomach plummet.

"We are sharing a chamber?" He asked, trying very hard to keep his voice neutral.

"Of course," The boy said, looking up at him from the chaise and raising a finely arched eyebrow. "What if I were attacked during the night? I think that even a mighty warriors like yourself would be hard pressed to make it over here in time to stop the assassins from cutting out my throat."

"I see," Bastian said, feeling almost like he had just been scolded. "Of course."

His pride thoroughly thrashed at the hands of someone several years his junior, Bastian went about unpacking his bags. The first things to be put in the trunk were his clothing. He had packed his nicest pieces, but around all of the aristocrats and sharply-dressed servants running around he felt shabby. Bastian bit back that embarrassment – he wasn't there to parade around the castle like an over stuffed parrot. He was there to make sure that the Prince lived to see the assassins, and hopefully whoever it was that was behind the plot, hanging from the gallows.

He would leave the pomp and finery to the nobles, then, and wear what he wanted.

Protocol be damned.

Half way through putting away a few books, the prince spoke up. Bastian could feel those eyes on him, like physical weight on his back. "In the Eastern war," Tristan asked, his voice hesitant. "Did you really rain white fire down from the sky like they say?"

Bastian's hands stilled on the lip of the trunk, back stiffening. A flurry of images assaulted him – blood, gore, death. Men's bodies being eaten by crows and other carrion, the crack of sword colliding, rage bursting forth until suddenly there was the unmistakable feel of fire burning at his finger tips, consuming everything in it's path.

As soon as it had come, the images faded, leaving his stomach churning. Bastian took a breath, and tasted bile.

"They exaggerate," He said softly, "It was never anything as glorious as that."