Perchance to Dream
A Difference of Sides
:Someone calling on you, Chosen.:
The chocolate-haired youth blinked, pulled out of his half-dream by the gentle Mindspeech voice in his head. As the words of his Companion sunk in to his fog-addled brain, Zero grimaced and sat up off of his bed, which he had visibly collapsed onto a mere candlemark earlier.
:Not another new Inductee, I dare to hope?:He thought, the words acknowledged by a silent, wry chuckle from the other end of the Mindspeech link.
:You'd dare, but I'm afraid you'd dare wrong, dear. It's not the Trainee that calls your immediate attention, though, just some gently placating. That should be some relief.:
"It is." He grinned and stretched full-body, easing the aches of his joints from all of the showing he'd been doing lately. Herald Kantil, the one usually assigned the job of familiarizing any new Herald-Trainees with the large part of Heralds' Collegium when they first arrived, was out on in the field on special assignment, so it had been left to him, the only full Herald available at the moment, to take his place while he was away.
And what a job it was. Was it only his imagination, or were new Trainees pouring in like the Spring rain? He didn't envy Kantil his job in the least. He ached all over, and that just the effect of two days of this post. How in the Havens could Kantil stand it, day-in and day-out? It would drive Zero insane in an instant to contemplate it.
Eyes almost as impossibly blue as his Companion's fell to his clothing, and he grimaced for the second time that day. His Herald's Whites, the clothing each full Herald was required to wear when on duty, were rumpled and creased, though thankfully they had still stayed their usual, unearthly white through his half-asleep tossings and turnings. He let out a half-hearted groan and pulled at the clothing, trying to manually remove the only too-obvious wrinkles. He didn't have much luck, but that was to be expected. And he doubted he had time enough to chance into a new set.
:Time to get going, Zero-love. Don't want to give visitors a bad impression of Haven, now do we?:As if to counter his own thoughts, his Companion spoke up. Sometimes he wondered if they enjoyed messing around in their Chosen's head a bit too much.
:Of course not, Chosen. We only do it to keep tabs on those that are Ours.:
:Right, right. Where, may I ask, are these people who so urgently need my attention?:He inquired with a wry expression, striding purposefully out of his room and down the long hallway, the raw sound of his boots connecting with the stone floor echoing a passage in front of him.
:Um... Front gate. For once.:
:Thank the goddesses that *someone* had the good sense to come in the *right* way for once in this place. Any idea who the other one is?:
:No, not really, but I've got a good guess. He's dressed oddly, though. His clothes are a bit ragged, but that's to be expected if he's come as far as he claims.:
:And that would be where, dearheart?:
She hesitated, then sent a terse, anxiety-filled reply.
He managed to keep walking normally, though that one word almost succeeded in stunning him into immobility.
Karse. The country that lined a small portion of the southeast border of their country; the country Valdemar had been at undeclared war with for centuries. What in the Havens could someone from Karse want, except perhaps to infiltrate their hated enemy's nation? Zero found a strange form of anxiety build in the core of his stomach, and he hesitated a moment.
:I'll be there, Chosen. No need to worry. And who knows-- perhaps this will be your time, hm?:
:I should hope not. Not with anything to do with Karse, I should hope.:He answered to her teasing, a bit of his usual humor coming to the front. He'd be on his guard for the moment, certainly, but there was no reason to be brutally morbid about the situation.
In the three and a half years that he had been here, since the day he had ridden past the entrance to Herald's Collegium, weary and half-conscious on his Companion Meren's back, Zero had never had anything to do-- though not for any lack of wanting-- with Adventures. Unfortunately for him, Adventures were for extraordinary Heralds, like the legendary Herald Vanyel and his Companion Yfandes, or for the Monarch's Own Herald in defending the King or Queen, but not for someone like him.
Normal Heralds weren't sung about and immortalized in Bard's songs. Most Heralds went about their lives trying to do good in their kingdom, without any notion of being remembered much after they passed into the embrace of the Shadow-Lover. Most Heralds didn't worry about it too much, for they saw only the power and fame that came along with an Adventure, and not the potential 'fun' that came with it as well.
Most Heralds weren't Rei Enna, called Zero by most. Zero loved Adventures, daydreamed about them, lived them in his deepest dreams. He desperately yearned to go out on one, to rescue damsels-in-distress, to meet with strange, outlandish races like the Shin'a'in or the mythical Hawkbrothers, to fight bandits and brigands in a blood-stirring battle to end all battles. His very blood was hot with the wanting.
But the opportunity had never come, had never approached it's eager host. In fact, when he had first been presented with his Heraldic Whites, just six moons ago, and raised from Trainee to full Herald, the Heraldic circle had not even sent him on the usual field journey every other Herald had to go through. It was like they were purposefully trying to keep him here, cooped up like he was now. Not to mention that his yearmates, all five of them, went out on their own field training at the appropriate time.
Meren was certainly supportive of his rather unusual obsession, though. His Companion was supportive of him on all things, but this she seemed to be very adamant about-- yet she never protested when they didn't send him out for the required last bit of Herald training; not a word escaped her. He suspected a working of undermining rank in this whole mess, but none of his concerns could be proven, or even given the slightest bit of evidence. It was just too cleanly done, all of it.
He was eighteen-and-a-half now, and not as stupid and ignorant as he'd been when he had arrived here, but still people seemed to somehow pull the figurative wool over his eyes, and he didn't like it one bit. It was a source of reoccurring irritation for him, and it seemed even the Companions were in on it, for Meren wasn't talking; she who was the well-known gossip of the unnaturally white more-than-horses called Companions.
But... an Adventure? Coming out of Karse? Meren was grasping at loose straws, if even half of what Zero knew about that strange, magic-opposing land was true. From the time since he'd arrived he'd always heard, and so supposed, that nothing came out of Karse but brigands and bad weather. It was a crude generalization, but he'd heard that in Karse they believed Companions to be Demons and Heralds to be Demon-Riders; which they were certainly *not*, but Zero never heard of any from Karse doubting what their holy Sunpriests told them. And so far, the only events he had knowledge of Karse about were stories of hired bandits and dark-turned mercenaries attacking border villages under secret order to make it look like a regular bandit attack. Underhanded tactics, all of it, and just what underhanded Karse would use.
And now he was being confronted by a Karsite. What did this all mean? If it was some sort of political matter, he should hand the whole thing right over to the King's Own Herald Sayder, he knew that.
Zero found himself wondering if he had been asked for, specifically, or if the man had just requested the presence of a Herald in general-- and two halves of him warred on which he desired it to be. On the one hand, he wouldn't have to stumble headlong through whatever problem or crisis or whatever was wanted of him; on the other, what if this was, indeed, the start of an Adventure-- one that hopefully wouldn't get him killed like so many others written of in Bard song.
Yeah. Me, on a real Adventure. Keep dreaming, Rei. Maybe you can imagine it into reality; at least *that* would be more plausible.
A sharp, biting wind brushed swiftly against him as he made his way down the stone pathway toward the main gate of the Collegium, ruffling his eternally-messy chocolate-brown hair and causing a layer of tears to sheen his bright eyes. He paused and glanced over his shoulder as the chiming, bell-like clatter of Companion's hooves reached his ears, a soft smirk gracing his features as he spotted Meren. How he knew it was indeed his Companion and not another was a had always been a mystery to him and most likely every Herald that had ever lived thus far; he just somehow knew, and that was enough.
The Companion's silver-white coat shone in the tinted sunlight of near-sunset, clear blue eyes fixed intelligently on him and her back bare, mane dancing in the breeze. She had most likely come over from Companion's Field, if Zero knew her. Meren had probably been flirting with any available stallions, as usual.
:I was doing no such thing.:his Companion shot back indignantly as she caught the direction of his thoughts. She snorted at him to make her point, then promptly nuzzled his chest, causing laughter to bubble up in Zero's throat. He grinned and scratched her nose, and Meren gave him a contented sigh in return, before reached up and nipping at his hair playfully.
:Oh, go on, you. No more time for stalling. I'm sure that the newly Chosen one is as frightened as the rest of them are when they first arrive, and being made to wait isn't helping any, I'd wager.:
Zero nodded and the two proceeded down the stone path at a brisk walk, he laying a warm hand on her neck for a sort of moral support.
It wasn't long at all before they reached the four waiting for them just inside the front gate; two humans and a Companion stared at them as they approached, the looks from the humans bordering on the verge of 'rude', as the horse led by one of the humans stared placidly at the stony ground. The youngling next to the Companion-- or rather, leeched onto the Companion-- had shoulder-length blonde hair, with muddled blue-green eyes that were so wide as to be almost comical. Her face was rather plain; not ugly, but with no really outstanding or distinguishing features. She couldn't have been any more than fourteen years, and barely looked even that.
:Was I ever really that young?:he asked of Meren with a bit of astonishment. He couldn't remember ever being that small in his entire life.
:Oh, I assure you, you have been much, much smaller, Chosen. However, I don't believe you ever grew out of being that young.:with those words came mental flashes of memories spanning his years as a Trainee; practical jokes, pranks, times when he had fallen asleep in class because he had been up all night planning a joke on someone he believed deserved it. Meren laughed in his mind as he fought to hold in his own laughter, not wanting to seem degrading or mocking in front of his visitors.
"Welcome to Herald's Collegium," he managed after a moment of pulling himself together. Hopefully his pause didn't seem too odd to them. "I am Herald Rei, but you can call me Zero. After all, everyone does anyway," he grinned self-depreciatively at that, rubbing the side of Meren's neck. "This is my Companion Meren, and it is apparently my job, at the moment, to show you--"
:Saphron,:Meren supplied. :And her Companion's Jerald.:
:Thanks again, dearheart.:
"--Young Saphron around, with Jerald's permission, of course," he continued smoothly, glancing into the impossible blue eyes of the Companion. He was obliged after only a moment, during which he supposed Jerald was silently explaining what exactly was going on to his new Chosen.
"But he's coming with me, or no," Saphron announced, clinging stubbornly to her Companion's side. Zero grinned at her and nodded silent acknowledgement; judging by her clothes and accent, she was probably from the Border, perhaps even one of the Holderkin, and wasn't at all used to seeing many new faces-- unless they happened to be those of attacking bandits. He didn't think that would count much in her acceptance of strangers.
"Of course he is!" Zero exclaimed overdramatically, looking severely appalled. "Why, it would be such a shame if we left him all alone while you're having so much fun, don't you think?" he winked at her, and received a shy smile in return. "Although," he continued blithely, "I don't know if the King would appreciate hoof marks in the halls very much, so perhaps we can drop dear Jerald off at Companion's Field at the very end of the tour, so I can show you your room without getting into trouble myself?" he made his eyes as pleading wide as possible, directing his gaze solely at her. Saphron giggled and nodded, probably happy that she had a whole room to herself; those on the Border weren't exactly known for great prosperity, especially with the war with Karse going on.
"Well, okay then! It's settled," Zero's expression lapsed into a characteristic grin as he inwardly congratulated himself at handling another farm-fresh Trainee in so little time. Oh yeah. He was good.
Now-- Clear blue eyes darted over to take in the rather daunting form of the girl's human companion. He wasn't all that tall, but the way in which he carried himself made him seem taller than he was. His hair was a dark ebony, his skin the bronze of those of the southern border. Dark brown, almost black, eyes peered curiously at Zero beneath bushy eyebrows, as broad hands held tightly and securely to the reigns of the horse he had obviously brought with him from his home. There was no doubt that this man was from the border, and by the looks of him he was one of the common farmer-types found there.
Zero's gaze wavered back to the little girl. :Meren, do you think you could persuade Jerald to perhaps occupy his Chosen's attention for a few moments while we speak?:
A purely mental snort of contempt that he would even doubt her abilities to do so reached him in a split-second, and he grinned. There was nothing like playing fun at your Companions expense.
:We'll see about that soon enough, Chosen:she retorted smugly, and Zero had no doubt she'd get back at him for his jest in her own time. It was a little on-going game between Chosen and Companion. He smirked inwardly at her and turned back to the problem at hand.
The man was still staring at him rather rudely, but Zero pretended not to take any notice of it; in the Borderlands, they didn't see Heralds but for once a year or so, if even that. There just weren't enough Heralds to go around the whole of Valdemar year-round.
"I understand you seek the council of a Herald of Valdemar?" he inquired, following the formal speech the Heralds used for guests of Haven and the Herald's Collegium. The man looked him over for a moment, obviously a bit surprised that he, who looked so young, was a Herald, but the faintest trace of a trusting smile washed across the man's features as he fixed his gaze back on Zero's face and began to speak in Valdemaran, with an accent that the chocolate-haired youth could only guess to be of Karse.
"Lord Herald, need Haven's help we do, for a strong enemy it is we face."
Well, I'm slowly building up the plotline here. What does everyone think? I'm trying to keep Zero as IC as possible, but also remember that he has had three years to mature since the last chapter (that's right, three years... It is three, isn't it? O.o). He's still Zero, just a bit more... mature and learned, I suppose. ^.^ There will be explanations about what happened during that time span later on. He'll still act as hotheaded as ever throughout the story, though.
Again, I welcome any feedback, good or bad, on this story, because I know how hard it can be to create a believable fusion/crossover. Please, if you see any mistakes, don't hesitate to point them out so I can edit them out.
poetisa-- ^.^ Thanks so much. I'm glad you like it. And the questions will be explained as the story goes along. I hope to get out new chapters faster than I usually do, if at all possible. Tri-- I try. ^.^; And here's more for ya. ^.^
Also, for those of you familiar with the Valdemaran world and timeline of events, this is set after Oathbound, Oathbreakers and Oathblood, during the reign of Herald-King Roald in Valdemar, so Tarma and Kethry might, perhaps, make cameo appearances throughout the tale. Most definitely a few Tayledras-- better known as 'Hawkbrothers' in Valdemar-- will, and perhaps even a bandit and a sorcerer or two. ^.^ You'll see what I mean. Till then--