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Fic: The Riderless Horse, Prologue

Title: The Riderless Horse
Author: bob_fish
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Gen Fic
Characters/Pairings: Roy and Riza (friendship), Team Mustang, Hakuro, Madam Christmas. No pairings here, but is a standalone prequel to a Roy/Ed fic
Rating: R for the sort of occasional gruesomeness that comes with a murder mystery
Word count: 25966
Warnings: the non-canon character deaths you see on the summary, swears, blood and guts at about the same level as the FMA manga itself
Summary: You've only been awake for thirty-six hours, staged a coup, fought a bunch of monsters and nearly died a few times. It's not as if you've had a tough day. Post-Manga, Slightly AU from Ch 105. What if Olivia Armstrong hadn't survived the Promised Day? The final battle is over, but the struggle for Amestris goes on - and if Team Mustang were looking forward to a little rest and recuperation, they can think again. When Fuhrer Grumman dies after only a few hours in office, Roy and Riza launch a secret murder investigation. The stakes are high: not only the country's future, but the lives of everyone they know …
Thanks: to enemytosleep for her usual kickass job as editor and beta - even though this time, she was simultaneously running Big Bang so capably and efficiently. To my artists a_big_apple, dreamer1789, and almost_british for their lovely arts. I also totally owe cornerofmadness, seatbeltdrivein and havocmangawip for awesome specialist advice and feedback, and a_big_apple for draft feedback and cheerleading.
Extra tl;dr note: This fic is a part of my Wrong Turn 'verse, and a prequel to No Small Injury. However - it's gen, and can also be read as a standalone to canon if you'd like to do so.

Roy isn't exactly getting the guided tour of Armstrong Manor. Olivia Armstrong strides rapidly through the vast, high-ceilinged rooms of her family home, looking only ahead of her. Her legs are longer than his, Roy tells himself as he tries to keep pace with her. All the furniture is swathed in dust sheets. Roy looks down at the old inlaid marble floor, then up at the ceiling fresco. His mother would give her eye teeth to have a good nose around here. He'll meet her in a few hours. He hopes that her calculations are right, and that they haven't already come for her. His stomach gives a little twist of fear. He wishes she'd left on the train with the girls. He wishes the girls could send word that they made it.

It's the day before the eclipse.

If Olivia Armstrong dies, she declares, she's leaving this house to Roy. At first, he assumes she's just saying that to show how her family's traditions are just so much dead wood to her, that she's trying to stick it to her old man. It takes a few moments for him to see the unsubtly hidden message in that silly declaration.

She's leaving him the country.

The idea is somewhat mind-blowing. Their rivalry is civilised, but about matters of government, their disagreement is profound. He has never considered before that she might countenance leaving him in charge. He supposes it means that he won't have to contend with a Briggs rebellion if she dies tomorrow. If he survives. He briefly considers returning the sentiment, but doesn't. It's hardly necessary. If he were to die, she'd hardly be waiting for an endorsement from his people. She'd have her boots up on the Fuhrer's desk before his corpse was even cold.

If there was such as thing as a good dictator, Olivia Armstrong would make one - but Roy doesn't believe in good dictators. He believes in the mess of democracy: presidential elections, squabbling political parties, protests, radicals handing out pamphlets. He believes in heated arguments in pubs in which people shout out loud that the President is a moron, in a free press cruelly documenting every time a politician loses his dignity in public. This country was cobbled together from fifteen warring states, by a monster, to serve that monster's purposes - but Roy doesn't love it any the less for that. Amestris has become worth loving through her people, and her people can remake her into something better.

Roy himself spoke with Grumman a few days ago, trying to strategise about what to do next if Roy dies tomorrow - although he's absolutely not going to let it happen. Grumman was unhelpful. He offered contingency plans, but he kept trying to divert the conversation. He laughed and told Roy he was indestructible, remember that time when he was eight, and fell sixteen feet out of the big oak in University Park? Roy tried to tell him that this was a much taller tree, but Grumman laughed and told him he worried too much for someone so young.

That's the exact problem: Grumman has known Roy since he was a child, through Roy's mother. In Grumman's mind, Roy is still about eight years old. Roy can hardly believe that after a whole career spent in the military, half of it dealing with the endless troubles of the East, Grumman still has any belief that your affection can protect the people around you. But he's old. This is obviously one of his bouts of sentimentality. Roy pushes him into making plans, but in the end he just lets him have his belief that nothing bad could possibly happen. He imagines that if it comes down to a contest between Armstrong and Grumman, things might not go well for the old man.

Olivia Armstrong strides away from him into the trees. Roy watches her go with a grin, amused at how he's riled her up. Then it flashes sharp and solid into his mind that this was the last conversation they will ever have. Might be the last, he corrects himself. Stop being melodramatic. Armstrongs and Armstrong Manor both influence one to melodrama. Everything around here is too big, too theatrical, but Roy is a Mustang: he's been taught different lessons. The first thing he ever learnt from Chris Mustang was, keep your wits about you and stay in the game.

On to Chapter One!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
*deep breath*

Apr. 5th, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
XD Hope you enjoy! 25,000 words of scheming.
Apr. 6th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
This is my holding place! As soon as I get some more stuff off the to-do list, this fic is my reward.
Apr. 6th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
Yay reward!
Apr. 10th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
I'M BACK, and my to-do list is significantly smaller.


Firstly, I never tire of your Olivia. The way you characterize her is PERFECT, and having already read her end in this universe, I am just that much more excited about this prologue.

Oddly enough, the matching scene in the manga never spoke to me this way. I never caught the implication that she was essentially handing Roy the country should she die, but now it seems obvious. (Of course, she lived in canon, and will likely continue to annoy/terrify Roy for years to come.)

And re: Grumman, something tells me he's not as hardheaded as Roy wants to believe. I SENSE FORESHADOWING.

Now to the next part...
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love writing Olivia and am self-indulgently fond of her OTT heroic demise in this 'verse, although it's also fun to imagine her annoying/scaring/turning on Roy for years.

No, Grumman is a strange combination of cunning and sappy. He's fun too.
Apr. 16th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I was about to comment on the end of your story, but decided I should go back and do it section by section. So, I really like your interpretation of Olivia leaving Roy the manor/country. That always seemed like an odd thing to say to me, considering that, um, her father was still alive. This actually makes sense, and I bet a lot of your readers had the same reaction. BTW, it's taken me this long to read your story because I was rocking out with my cousins in Wales. I swear, one of these days I am going to ex-pat.
Apr. 16th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I also loved the image of Olivia with her boots on the Fuhrer's desk. I don't think anyone can question that as canon. I always thought it was awesome that her people started addressing her as "your excellency" before the battle was even over.
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Yes, I loved that they started calling her 'your excellency' before Bradley was even dead. The Briggs Bears are hilarious. And of course she'd put her boots straight on the desk. And she would spare Roy about one snort's worth of mourning before getting on with making the trains run on time - meanwhile he of course muses over her corpse like the loveable sap he is.
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC)
Yes, when I read that bit of the manga, I totally took the request as metaphorical - especially given that Roy and Olivia's exchanges usually have more than one meaning. They are fun.

That said, I wouldn't quite put it past Olivia to actually put it in her will, just to annoy her father - especially given that Roy would blatantly give the estate straight back to the Armstrongs if she really did it, so it wouldn't rob the Armstrongs of their ancestral home for more than a day. Olivia seems a bit like a stroppy teenager with her family to me, I think she never quite got over the rebellious phase.

That's awesome! Where were you in Wales? Co-incidentally, I've just returned from Singapore and Australia, where I've been rocking out with family.
May. 12th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
good advice Chris.

Look, look I've started reading finally.
May. 12th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Great - hope you enjoy it.

And now I will have more free time to read the rest of yours!
May. 12th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
so far so good

no rush. it's all fixed up though
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )