Author: NortheasternWind PM
A young Dhaos learns the hard way why most sorcerers are twice his age.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 3,921 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 1 - Published: 09-11-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6317441
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
If I owned Tales Studio, Narikiri Dungeon X would get localized and I'd know what actually happens in it.
I'm seriously debating whether putting this up is a good idea, since there's no record of my constantly-changing Derris-Kharlan head-canon on this site yet, it sucks anyway, and it's kinda "So what does this have to do with Tales of Phantasia," but there is... little to no Dhaos love on here, which is incredibly surprising considering how unrealistically pretty he is. And everyone who must be going "He's not evil Cress/Cless is just stupid and blah blah blah TIDAL WAVE."
So here you go. Feel free to ask me random questions. Title is a term from Keiiii's webcomic, Haru-Sari. And yes, I'll get back to work on Troubled Waters and Clockwork Mansion soon, I swear.
The southern province of Adamya was often praised for its easy-going inhabitants and beautiful stretches of flat grassland, perfect for farming and raising livestock. That was the main income of this area: it fed the rest of the nation, and while the citizens seemed to care little about the politics and goings-on in the eastern province of Lireo they were very patriotic and brooked no insult to their country. In the southernmost part of the region lay the Lake of Norn, the largest body of freshwater on Derris-Kharlan, and south of that the Sacred Forest, in which the Giant Kharlan Tree was rumored to dwell.
It was over these crystal shores that a pair of young blue eyes glided, stunned into silence by the beauty of it. He'd never seen so much water in one place: there was that small lake a mile out of his hometown that his father would often take him to, but this one stretched on farther than he could see. Waves lapped lazily at the coarse, rugged beach, taking the sand with them as they retreated back into the water. Gulls cried out every few seconds, as though this were an ocean instead of an absurdly large pond, hungry for their next meal. There was no other side to cast a reflection, and the surface gleamed and sparkled in the sunlight.
Maybe I'll go to the other side and look for the Giant Kharlan Tree, the young man thought. I'd just go around the whole thing and see.
Behind the boy, who could not be older than thirteen, something snorted.
The boy jumped to his feet and scrambled towards his horse, a young black stallion clearly unimpressed by the sight of the Great Lake. The sudden action brought his headache from earlier roaring back with a vengeance, but he could ignore it until he'd made sure the unpredictable equine wasn't angry.
"Satan, how did you get out of the stable?" the boy asked suspiciously. "I hope you didn't do anything to the stablehand." He gestured towards the lake. "Look, isn't it beautiful? Maybe we could go swimming sometime."
Satan only snorted again, shaking his head free of the boy's friendly hand.
"Impatient to leave? So am I, but you if you keep trying to escape you'll get hurt." He took the lead- he'd brought it with him on a hunch- and attached it to Satan's halter, carefully turning him around to lead him back to town. He cast a final, longing glance at the beautiful lake. "My headache was gone until you arrived, but since I doubt I'll get it to go away again we'll go get you tacked up and leave."
For about a month now, Dhaos had been getting migraines increasingly often until there was an almost constant throb in his skull at any given time. At first he'd done what any child would do and complained to his parents, but as they became more and more frequent he decided he would simply have to grin and bear it. His parents did not need his whining. Riding only exasperated the problem, but he'd brought Satan with him, and now he had to deal with it.
"Satan, if you don't start behaving I'll have to get another horse." he said wearily, inducing another snort in response. Dhaos would not trade Satan in for another horse no matter how difficult Satan became, and they both knew it: he loved horses too much, and Satan's breeder had been a cruel and abusive caretaker interested only in the money a pure black stallion would net him. "I don't think I'd trust you enough to ride you into battle."
Dhaos' father was the captain of the Royal Knights: a position of much honor, never inherited by birthright. Nonetheless, it was traditional for the captain's son to try for the spot, and so the young Dhaos learned to ride at an early age, and had some skill with the lance. His father had been determined that he would enjoy his childhood, however, and forbade him to so much as touch the Wishblade, the captain's beautiful spear.
It's too bad you wouldn't let me learn, Dhaos thought grimly, or this mess would never have happened.
"I can't have you stopping on me just because you want to fight the other stallions." he went on. "You listen well enough when we're just riding, but I'm willing to bet you'd leave me high and dry if things started getting chaotic."
The horse shook his head, either trying to assure its master that it would never abandon him in such a dangerous situation or simply wishing to break free of the lead. In any case, it was yanked right out of Dhaos' hands, and he snatched for it hurriedly for fear his horse would run.
"Well, you're always bugging me to get out and ride with you, so here we are. Ugh..." The boy closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "My head hurts... Wait a moment..."
The equine snorted in irritation as Dhaos took a knee for a moment, cradling his pounding skull in both hands. "Nnngh... Had it coming to me, didn't I...?"
A light nudge from Satan brought Dhaos back to his feet, and off they went again, plodding unhurriedly towards the coastal town. It wasn't very far from where Dhaos was born at all, but he was young, and with his constant headaches was forced to stop often and rest lest he fall off his horse. Satan would probably kick him in the ribs to try and wake him up, which was not a thought he relished.
Strange... Everything had suddenly gone frosty and unclear. The youth groaned and pawed at his eyes, but no amount of rubbing would dispel the frost; he could not see. He couldn't even see town, though he was sure Satan would at least lead him back to it eventually. His heart fell. This had never happened before. He hadn't bet on having another complication to deal with, besides the persistent headaches.
It wasn't... getting worse...?
"Wonder if white magic does this too." he mumbled to no one in particular. "How useless... Helping other people like that, only to hurt yourself..."
"Some people would not mind."
The blond's head snapped forwards, and after a short wince and a blink to clear his vision Dhaos' eyes came upon his newest acquaintance. The man's figure was tall and had a deep voice to go with it, but other than the general color scheme- violet, it seemed- the rider's eyes would not work well enough for him to discern much else.
"Good afternoon, sir." he greeted gruffly, rather put off by being caught so off his guard. "Er... What were you saying...?"
"My answer to your question." he said simply. "No, white magic will not give you a blinding headache as I'm sure you have now, but even if it did most people who know it would not mind. They would only be concerned for their allies' well-being."
Satan shook his head restlessly, causing Dhaos to spend a second calming him down before turning back to the stranger. "That makes sense. But I would think an ear-splitting headache would only distract you in battle."
"It would distract you." was the matter-of-fact answer.
Dhaos scowled, and his horse must have sensed his mood, for he snorted again. The stranger strode forward and carefully took the lead from Dhaos' hands.
"Here. Let's go back to town."
His handling of Satan was firm, but not rough, and the usually hot-tempered animal bowed to his will with no argument. Dhaos was impressed: clearly there was still much to learn.
"Do you like animals?" Dhaos asked. The man shook his head.
"Not particularly. But I've some skill with mounts, though not horses."
They started back again, the imposing stranger leading Satan and Dhaos trailing at his heels. He felt rather sour about having his horse lead around for him, but made no argument: now he wouldn't have to see to get back. That was, assuming this man wasn't leading him somewhere other than town...
Dhaos shook his head. They were heading in the right general direction, and besides: Satan wouldn't let anyone hurt him.
"Is white magic easier to use than black magic?" the youth asked, figuring he would make use of this man's knowledge.
"No." was the answer. "In fact, it is much harder. It takes months to build a village, and only a day to destroy it."
"Then why wouldn't it give you a headache?"
"It is as you said before." His companion sounded amused. "Healing others at the cost of your own health is often counter-productive."
Dhaos would have given him a flat look, but he was staring at the man's back. "Then why did you argue with me? There was no need."
"I believe you were the one who started the... 'argument,' if indeed it could be called that."
The blond boy decided not to dignify that with an answer.
"So why does black magic give the caster constant migraines?"
"Usually, it will not." answered the stranger. "Most people who use magic have no magic-related problems with their health whatsoever."
Dhaos grunted. What a pointless answer.
"However..." The man's voice became grave. "The more excessively you use your body's mana, the more your body speeds up its mana production to counteract the loss. Therefore, sages and sorcerers must train often, or their mana will build up and cause 'constant migraines.'"
"Wouldn't that only exasperate the problem?"
"Not if you know what you are doing. In any case, most people who know black magic are constantly fighting for their lives, eliminating the problem entirely."
Something clicked in Dhaos' head. That would explain everything...
Dhaos' vision had cleared up some for now, and he could see the stranger more clearly. He had auburn hair that fell to his chin and stuck up in a few odd directions. As he turned to pet Satan's long neck, Dhaos saw that his eyes were a dull, yet fierce crimson, bearing the mark of experience. Despite his every appearance pointing to one who fought and killed for a living, Dhaos found himself trusting this man, and walked beside him easily- though he had to quicken his pace to keep up with the man's long strides.
"I assume you use magic?"
"Yes, and I have for some time. Though I refrain from casting the more destructive spells, as I am rather prone to mana poisoning myself."
"The condition I just described, of when one's body possesses too much mana."
"Ah." The young rider's eyes fell on the sword tied to the man's belt. "You are a swordsman."
"Indeed. Forgive my lack of humility, but I believe my skill has few equals in this world."
Dhaos thought immediately of his father and thought he could come up with a few people who would be a match for this person. "Who taught you?"
The man's smirk was almost audible. "My father taught me the basics, but much of what I learned was gained through experience."
"So you wouldn't have needed him."
"You must always have a teacher when learning a new trade, especially in warfare." The stranger gave Dhaos a grave look over his shoulder. "Every weapon and every skill has its own simple tricks, and certain hitches that cannot be learned through mere experience without hurting one's self, and must be taught and memorized with assistance. Mana poisoning is one such example."
Dhaos' hand trembled now, as he listened to the man's words, and he held it out to stroke Satan's mane for something to do with it. Satan sensed his agitation, and in a rare show of pity nudged his hand affectionately. This did not go unnoticed by the observant stranger, however.
"Black spots in the eyes and lethargy are both common symptom of mana poisoning." he said knowingly.
Dhaos focused on Satan's beautiful black coat. "Black spots?"
The man nodded. "Not entirely round, but we call them spots for convenience. They swirl about in the irises over time."
The man stopped, and turned around to face Dhaos head-on. His face was impassive as he spoke, and his voice hardened.
"Mana poisoning is invariably fatal if not treated."
The boy shrugged. "Oh. Well."
There was a long silence. Satan paced restlessly.
"And... why should I care?"
"Because you know you have it." the man scolded, his voice hardening further. "You simply have not learned, until now, what it was called."
"How would you know I have it?" Dhaos demanded, unable to keep his irritation out of his voice. The tall stranger smirked.
"You keep your hair over your left eye." he said smartly. "But you brushed it out of the way while you were leading your horse earlier, and the spots in it are now clearly visible."
Dhaos froze in his tracks. He had brushed his hair out of the way, hadn't he? Accidentally removing the only cover for his affliction he thought he would need... He'd been too slow to correct or even notice his mistake. How embarrassing...
"What's it to you?"
"The fact of the matter is that you are too young to be using magic." the man said severely. "Because you do not use it on a daily basis as you would were you fighting for your life, your body now has too much mana, and it is reacting accordingly."
"Oh?" Blue eyes narrowed. "What if I just practiced more often, like you said?"
"That would only make it worse, since you have no training."
"I can learn on my own."
"There are some things experience will not teach you until it is too late." The swordsman turned away from him. "Let's go. I will bring you back to your parents and inform them of your condition."
"How do you know they don't already know?" challenged Dhaos.
"Because otherwise they would not let you out of your sight." the stranger responded patiently. "But mostly because I have spoken with Princess Adina, and she has no idea where you are or why you have run away from home."
Dhaos rocked back in surprise. His mother, a cousin of the current king, did not leave home nearly as often as his father did, and Dhaos often forgot that she had any significance outside of his relatively sheltered existence.
"Your parents have run themselves ragged searching for you." the mysterious stranger admonished. "It's about time you went back and assured them of your safety."
"I don't want to go back." Dhaos growled, reaching for Satan's lead. "Give me that-"
But it was held out of his reach. "No. You are going home, where your parents can take care of you."
"I can take care of myself!"
"You are only safe because there is not a single person in the province of Adamya who does not recognize your face." the man said harshly, turning back around. "Every child has threatened to run away from home, and those who do are often back within hours. Every parent in this region knows what it is like to strike out alone for the first time, and your little sojourn has been made extraordinarily easy by those who understand how you feel. If you were anywhere else, you might be as spent as your parents."
Dhaos grit his teeth. "I can take care of myself."
"You know, your little sister was crying the last time I saw her."
"You can't guilt-trip me into going back." the younger male spat, though he realized with a pang that he'd never been apart from Ailis for longer than a few hours at a time.
The swordsman looked amused. "You won't go back? Then at least tell me why you left in the first place, so I may tell your parents."
"You don't want them to know why?"
"There's no need."
"Then I'll guess." He smirked again. "Lord Eirian is a famous warrior, and like any child you wished to follow in your father's example. But he would not allow you to learn to wield a weapon, and forbade you use of the magic tomes in his study; you could not get your hands on the Wishblade no matter what you did, so you turned to the next best alternative: stealing the tomes under the guise of studying."
Dhaos would not answer. So far, all this man had proven was that he was an insanely good guesser.
"You have an affinity for magic, and so in the short time your father was away on business you picked it up quickly." he continued. "You practiced as often as you could, and soon you were better at it than most people a decade your senior.
"But you had no teacher, and you could not have known that your secret mission would make you ill. You seem to be intelligent enough: when the black spots appeared in your eye you had no trouble connecting it with your furtive use of magic, and rather than risk your father's disapproval you ran away from home without a word to anyone. Am I correct?"
The young mage took a sudden interest in the grass underneath his feet. This man... Who was this man? He'd guessed Dhaos' story and motives with such ease it was almost as though he knew already. He could feel the auburn eyes keeping him under intense study, and Dhaos was beginning to feel trapped.
The sound of Satan giving him what must be his tenth snort of the day reached Dhaos' ears. "Most people would sympathize with you, but that is a pointless reason to endanger your life."
Dhaos took a step backwards and looked up, a new fire in his eyes. "I can take care of myself." he said for the third time. "It's alright. Just tell everyone I'm okay, and that'll be it."
"That will not 'be it.'" the redhead reproached grimly. "As I have said, you will die if you do not reverse the poisoning, something you cannot do alone."
The blond could think of no answer to that; he only stepped backwards again, shaking his head. "I've come this far. It would be pointless to go back now."
"It's never pointless to stop doing something foolish." said the man. "Especially if it will eventually cost you your life.
"Go home to your parents, Prince Dhaos. They are despondent."
"Please don't take me back."
"I'm afraid that is not possible."
"Please." Dhaos repeated. "I've never seen my father angry, and he's never hit me before... And I'd rather keep it that way."
And now his last confidence was betrayed. Dhaos had never known unhappiness as a small child: his father did his best to be home as often as possible and his mother showered him with love, and the children in town neither knew nor cared that he was better off than they; they played The Wind Blows in the streets together, and kept each other's secrets, and when Ailis was born she and Dhaos would go off together without fear of any danger. Disapproval was only the mild scolding whenever the young Dhaos ate dessert before the main course, or broke something by complete accident. Dhaos had never done anything so against his father's wishes that the older man threatened to knock all the dust out of his clothes if he disobeyed, and it was the thought of his father's disappointment that had really driven Dhaos away from home.
"You can tell him everything," Dhaos said, "But please don't make me go back and face him. Please."
The swordsman fixed him with an unyielding, expressionless look, and Dhaos was forced to look back at his feet to avoid that piercing gaze. His vision was blurring again, but this time the cause was immediately apparent: he could feel the moisture in his eyes.
"You will have to face him eventually, Dhaos." the man said, in a voice much softer than Dhaos had been expecting. "You cannot run from your mistakes forever. No matter how hard you try, they will catch up to you, and when they do it is your decision what comes next. Will you face your father by your own free will, or must I drag you back to him by force?"
The young prince gave no answer. The man laid a rough hand, calloused by many years of holding a sword, on his shoulder.
"If it makes you feel better, I doubt your father will be angry." he said. "Once he knows why you've run away, he will be more concerned with your well-being than with your momentary lapse in judgment, easily excused by your youth."
"I'm not a kid." Dhaos muttered. "And you don't know my dad."
"You give up on people too easily." The man straightened. "Where were you planning on going if not back home?"
After a few moments, the prince decided this was a relatively harmless question. "Across the lake." he answered. "Or just around it, on Satan. I was going to look for the Giant Kharlan Tree."
"Were you?" That smirk was back. What an irritating man. "Well then, let's make a deal. If you will consent to return to your parents, then I will take you to the Giant Kharlan Tree sometime."
Dhaos blinked. "So it really exists?"
"All legends have some root in reality. It just so happens that this one is unusually accurate with its facts." The tall redhead held out a purple-gloved hand. "Deal?"
"Good. Let's go."
Dhaos shook the outstretched hand, and let his fall to his side. The experienced man turned away from him again, and went back to leading the unusually quiet Satan back to town.
"Are you sure you don't like animals?" he asked flatly, starting to get a little jealous of his ability to get the stallion to cooperate.
He could almost feel his companion's smirk. "Yes. I'm sure."