Title: And One Go Alone Author: Norah-hunt
Summary: After the last great rising, it is not Merriman that is destined to go alone. High magic has other plans for Will Stanton, last of the Old Ones. And it is the will of the gods which Will is transported into the world of Tortall, in which Alanna of Trebond masquerades as a boy, and Roger the Duke of Conte plots to overthrow the throne. Yes, the Dark has been banished from our world, but its small wings still have some control and power in the distant places of the universe, outside of our time. It's a Dark Is Rising/Song Of The Lioness Crossover, so please humour me and read it. :p
Disclaimer: I do not own Will or Alanna or any other characters, places, ideas and concepts mentioned in this story.
A/N: Thanks to those that read and reviewed! Whoot 100 reviews!!! I appreciate the feedback. I'm starting the next chapter soon.
Chapter 13: Perceptions
It was some time before Will managed to convince Gary that he was, in fact, uninjured. Despite his protests, the Old One was led away to the healing tents. The big knight was only convinced of his squire's fitness when Will eventually removed his jerkin and showed him the smooth, unscarred skin beneath.
Still, the battle had been a harrowing experience for Will. An Old One cannot die, but Will still felt the full force of the arrow striking him. The pain had been unbearable, and the subsequent fall from the tree had knocked him unconscious. The shrill cries from the horns that signalled reinforcements were what finally dragged Will from his lifeless state. When he did regain consciousness, the agony that accompanied every breath was nearly enough to make him faint again. Drawing on the fierce strength of the Light, Will healed his wound. However, the effort of that alone was enough to keep him prone for a while longer. When he finally managed to stagger up, the battle was finished and he was been greeted by a concerned Gary.
It was now sometime after midnight, and Will, along with Jonathan and Faithful, was searching along the riverbank for Alanna. After being released from the healers, Will had searched with growing concern for a sign of his red haired friend. Finally he had found the Prince, but had been alarmed to learn that Alanna had not been with him either. Together they combed the camp until a grey haired captain of the guard found them.
"Your pardon, Highness, Noble Sir," He said, bowing deeply, "I heard that you were looking for Squire Alan."
"Yes, that is correct, captain." Jonathon replied briskly, "Have you any news?"
The soldier nodded deeply. "Yes, You Highness. Squire Alan left orders that Jem Tanner be found and held. She then took Moonlight and went looking for Big Thor – he and Jem Tanner were on sentry duty when the attack occurred"
"I see," Jonathan muttered thoughtfully, "Did you see where Squire Alan was headed, soldier?"
"Towards the trees, Highness, by the river. That was where Big Thor and Jem Tanner were stationed."
"Thank you, captain." Jonathan looked closely at the soldier's lined, tired face for a moment. "Go get some rest and food, soldier," He ordered, "It's been a long night and you look like you need it."
The man nodded gratefully and bowed once more before hurrying off towards the mess.
Jon sighed worriedly and turned Darkness towards the dark grove that Alanna had ridden towards a couple hours earlier.
"Come on," he said to Will, "We must find him."
Jonathan lit their path, a sapphire blue flame created dancing shadows that flitted nervously between the trees. Will spotted fresh hoof prints in the ground and was not entirely surprised to note the dark spatters of blood that darkened the earth beside them.
"Some one is losing a lot of blood," Will commented troubled, but did not dismount.
Jonathan nodded and urged Darkness forward. "At least we're on the right path. Let's go, the faster we find Alan, the better."
They continued north for some time and it was Faithful that finally found her; she was slumped up against the riverbank, her body still bathing the surrounding trees in an eerie, violet glow. Big Thor lay beside her, his massive form half in the shallows.
Faithful gave a loud meow and raced up to Alanna, licking her face with his raspy tongue. Jon and Will quickly followed, but Will froze when he caught sight of Big Thor's butchered eyes.
"Jon…" He said softly, and the knight, occupied with caring for Alanna, stopped his inspections and looked over at Big Thor.
"Mithros," the Prince whispered softly, taking in the man's face. "He's smiling."
It was true. A small smile played on his lips, as though he was reliving a fond memory. But the ruin of his eyes made Will clench his teeth fiercely against a sudden rise of nausea and fury.
"He's no traitor," Will choked out with certainty.
"No," Jon agreed, "He's not. No one would do this to one of their own. Help me put him on Moonlight's back; we can give him a proper burial once we take him back to camp."
Together they hoisted the body of a man once so boisterous and kind onto the nervous mare's back. Moonlight sidestepped a bit as the smell of blood so near wafted into her nostrils, but she soon quieted after a few gentle words from Will.
Jon looked at him wonderingly for a moment. Will was murmuring too softly to make out his words clearly, but they didn't sound like Tortallan. With a small shake of his head, the Prince turned back to his Squire. Gently he examined her, careful to be discreet. With a curse, he noticed the blood soaked fabric of her tunic.
"Damn!" He muttered, as he examined the deep gash on her arm that still was sluggishly leaking blood. "Why couldn't you stop and see a healer first before rushing off to do something stupid?"
With a deep breath, Jon summoned his Gift and blue fire welled in his hands, and then raced from his fingers into the wound. Sweat beaded on his brow as Jon worked on knitting the damaged muscles back together. When he was finished, the skin on her arm was smooth, but Jon knew it would ache for months afterward. It was a serious injury and she had lost a lot of blood; magic couldn't fix everything.
"How is he?" Will asked from his post at Moonlight's head. He had all three of their horses' reins in his hands.
"I healed his arm," replied Jonathan, getting to his feet and shaking perspiration from his eyes. "But it was a nasty cut and the genius here just had to go out after Thor before getting it properly looked after."
He bent down and gently lifted her in his arms. Faithful meowed in protest as he was dislodged from his post – directly on her chest. Jon slid her onto Darkness' back before mounting himself. Will handed him his reins then mounted Emma, keeping control of Moonlight.
They rode slowly back to the camp, with Jonathan in the lead with Alanna and Will following, leading Moonlight with her heavy burden. When they arrived at the main camp they were greeted by a group of people whose facial expressions ranged from curious to extremely concerned. Duke Roger was among those that waited.
"Cousin!" the Duke cried upon catching sight of Jon. He strode forward and began to speak heatedly. "Why in Mithros' name did you leave the camp like that? There may still be Tusainians lurking about – our patrols have not had the chance to thoroughly comb the area. It is not safe."
Jonathan eyed him coldly, "I went in search of Squire Alan, your Grace. And if you will notice, I did not go alone."
Will urged Emma forward, coming into clear view as he stepped into the pool of light shed by the torch that Roger carried. Duke Roger's eyes narrowed as he saw Will and his mouth formed itself into a thin, grim line.
Old One. The words echoed arrogantly through Will's mind.
Rider. Will replied silently, grinding his teeth as he glared at the Dark Lord.
Jon looked on in slight surprise to see his cousin and Will locked in a vicious contest of glares. He nudged Darkness forward a step.
"As you can see, cousin," He said clearly, "We found Squire Alan. Though I have healed his injury, he still needs rest. Perhaps we may be able to continue our conversation on the morrow, your Grace."
With difficulty, the Duke dragged his gaze back to Jonathan, who sat fully armoured atop his black stallion. Alan, who rested limply before him, was pale and one sleeve was stained completely red with blood. The strange cat, Faithful, crouched tensely on the youth's lap and regarded him steadily.
"Yes," the Duke rejoined smoothly, composure regained, "Both you and your Squire must be weary. Come, return to your tents and let me return to the Fort. There will be plenty of time tomorrow to discuss this night's events."
They nudged their horses closer towards the edge of camp, where the rest of the group had been waiting, slightly apart. Jon looked at them closely; none of them seemed to have noticed the odd exchange between the Duke and Will.
Duke Baird, who had been standing near to the rear of the party, suddenly pushed himself forward.
"Highness," the chief healer asked, "Have you any wounded?"
"Squire Alan was injured, but I healed his arm myself." He glanced back to where Will had dismounted and stood standing with the two pairs of reins in his hands.
"Both Squire William and myself are fine, but I'm saddened to say that we found the soldier known as Big Thor dead before we arrived."
The Prince's words drew a murmur from the gathered soldiers. Big Thor had been well liked and popular; his presence would be sorely missed. A few of the big man's friends stepped forward and claimed his body. They would take him and see him properly buried. Wearily, Jonathan rode towards his large tent and the smaller, adjoining one that was Alanna's. He brushed aside the flap and gently deposited his still unconscious Squire on his bed. Faithful, who had been following on his heels, nimbly jumped up onto the bed and settled himself down beside Alanna. Smiling slightly, Jon left them and went to see to his horse.
At the makeshift stables, Will was also currying Emma and Moonlight. Jon nodded to him briefly before getting to work on his own horse. He knew that if he wanted he could have a hostler do this for him, but there was something soothing in the rhythmic rasp of his brush as he cleaned sweat and dirt from Darkness' coat. So much had happened tonight, and although Jon had been in skirmishes before, he was still reeling from it. Surprisingly, his mind kept returning to that strange incident between his cousin and Will. He had never seen his cousin look at someone like that. It was, frankly, unnerving.
He stopped his work for a moment to look over at Will, who was similarly preoccupied with the various tasks of currying a horse.
"Will," he called hesitantly, slightly unsure if he wanted to broach the topic with the boy.
The young Squire looked up from his work. They hadn't had a chance to change yet and Will still wore his blood soaked leather jerkin and tunic. Jon, himself, still wore the sweat soaked padding that he wore under his armour, having quickly removed the majority of metal plating while he dropped off Alanna.
"Er," he said lamely, playing for time. "I, uh, I was wondering what, er, happened between you and my cousin, Duke Roger."
Jon felt the heat rise on his cheeks as Will stared back at him expressionlessly.
"Happened?" The Old One repeated with only mild interest. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand, Prince Jonathan."
Will bent over to pick up his basket of brushes and took the chance to hide his expression as he thought furiously. Jonathan was edging onto dangerous ground. He was extremely perceptive, and it could prove extremely awkward if he asked too many questions. Will didn't want to have to modify his memory. His stomach churned uneasily at the thought. He straightened and the Old One looked back expressionlessly at Jonathan.
Faced with Will's blank stare Jonathan felt his embarrassment triple and doubting thoughts began to creep into his head. Maybe he had just been imagining it… after all it had been such a long day: first the strain of a long string of strategy sessions, followed by the major attack, and lastly Alanna's disappearance. O Mithros, he hoped he hadn't offended Will or made him think he was daft. His toes curled at the thought and despite himself, Jon began to babble out excuses.
"O, don't worry about it… It was nothing – just a long day, you see. Yes, I'm rather tired, and I just thought…"
Jon abruptly closed his mouth as he realized he was gibbering.
Will smiled and brushed his brown hair from his eyes, in a gesture Jon had begun to see as habitual.
"You're right," He said, still smiling. "I'm sure it was nothing. Good night, your Highness." His tone was pleasant, but his eyes made it clear that they were finished discussing the topic.
Will gathered up his tack and left the stable, leaving the Prince to think over the day's events as he absently cared for his mount. Yes, of course it was his imagination. But still, Jon couldn't help but wonder at how quickly and effectively Will had dismissed the issue. Maybe there was something, after all. But I won't be asking Will like that again anytime soon. The Prince thought, and then chuckled as Darkness turned his long head back to gaze at his master before nipping him playfully on the sleeve.
Jon pushed the Squire from his mind has he gently rubbed his stallion's forelock. If there is something, it can't be that urgent. Afterall, Will is only a Squre.
The next morning Will came to Jon's tent to visit Alanna after caring for Gary's belongings. To his surprise, Sir Myles was there, sitting quietly beside the sleeping red headed form. Faithful regarded him with apparent disinterest from his comfortable roost on the bed. The Old One bowed respectfully and addressed him formally.
"Sir Myles, it is an both an honour and surprise to meet you here." Will began, "But I would have thought you to be at the Fort. Is that not where the Duke of Conté discusses strategy with his commanders?"
The slightly shaggy knight smiled and gestured to the chair beside his. "Good morning to you, Squire William." He said, "Please sit down, and I will explain why Prince Jonathan and your Knight master have gone to the Fort, while I remain here."
Will sat down, feeling slightly exposed. He had never been alone with this man; Alanna, Gary or Jonathan had always accompanied him. Although Alanna rested on the bed beside them, her unconscious form would offer no help or support right now. They had also usually met in a more formal setting, in which Myles was the teacher and Will was the student. His keen intellect and astute observations had not gone unnoticed by Will, and he hesitated, wondering how to react to being alone with this shrewd, perceptive man.
"Now," Myles began, once he saw Will had settled. "I am not up at the Fort because no new strategies are being planned today. It will be a day of review, going over what happened in last night's attack. As I myself am no warrior and have very little insight to contribute, I pleaded weariness and asked to remain at the Falls for the morning. They also agreed that it would be a good idea to leave someone in command here until Prince Jonathan returns. In the evening, I my presence will be required when a formal report is sent to the King, but until then I may remain at camp." He glanced over Alanna, "I also wanted to watch over him."
Will nodded, relaxing slightly. "That makes sense. I hope Alan recovers soon. He was unconscious when Jonathan and I found him by the river. Has he showed any signs of waking?"
The knight shook his head. "No, and from what I've heard from both the Prince and Duke Baird is that it may be two or three days before he wakes up. He overreached himself last night and his body has shut itself down in order to recover."
He turned a sharp eye on Will suddenly, "And how are you, young Squire?"
Will shrugged. "Well enough, Sir Myles" he said with a note of finality in his voice.
The knight nodded to himself at that, as if having some private thought confirmed. It made Will feel uncomfortable and he hurriedly hunted for a change of subject, but the shaggy knight beat him to it.
"You know, Will" Myles spoke thoughtfully, "We have some strange legends in this country; legends about those that ruled here before us. Did your old knight master teach you any?"
Will shook his head mutely, uneasy and wondering where the knight was going with this.
"Well, I didn't really expect it. Not many remember the old tales any more. Anyways, the legends tell of an ancient race of immense power and wisdom. They called themselves the Old Ones."
Will stiffened, his body suddenly tense and every sense alert. On the bed Faithful stretched, meowed thoughtfully, then settled himself back down on the bed. Sir Myles continued as if he hadn't noticed Will's reactions.
"They have left us proof of their existence: immense ruins and strange artefacts of a powerful and magical nature." His eyes flicked over to where Lightning rested against a chest. "Alan's sword is one such artefact."
Will bit the side of his cheek hard and strove to keep his face expressionless, but his heart raced as he stared at the mild, slightly unkempt looking knight.
"But they left behind more than objects - they left writings. The manuscripts are very hard to decipher. There are written in a language as strange and foreign as the Old Ones themselves, but I have managed to read it. And the more I read, the more intrigued I became by this race of ancient beings. At first I thought that they were terrified of aging, but recently I have begun to think otherwise. Do you know what I think, Will?"
"I would not presume to know what a scholar such as yourself thinks, Sir Myles." Will answered, pleased that his voice was steady.
The knight gave a small chuckled. Will was unsure if the depreciating chuckle was directed inward, or at himself.
"Yes, of course." He said with a trace of irony, "Well, I will tell you what I think. This race of Old Ones weren't afraid of aging, they couldn't age. They were immortals that wielded a magic different and much more powerful than the Gifts of our people today."
He gave a small pause before continuing. "The scripts also tell of another race, opposite to the Old Ones in every way. While the Old Ones were of the Light, their enemies were of the Dark. The manuscripts document parts of their never ending war, but the words are cryptic and often unclear. Our legends say that one night the Dark surprised those of the Light and drove them from these lands and that the coming of the Youngest would signify the Dark's banishment from our world."
Will could stand it no longer. He rose to his feet and nodded politely to Sir Myles. "I thank you for this information. It has given me much to think over, however, I wonder if we could continue this discussion later this afternoon. That is when we are supposed to learn Tortall's history, is it not? And I'm afraid I am required elsewhere. My horse must be cared for and exercised…"
Sir Myles rose as well. "Yes, I should think we will continue this conversation later. Good day to you, Squire William."
Will sketched a hasty bow before walking quickly from the room. Myles reached over and thoughtfully rubbed Faithful's ears as he watched the Squire's retreating form.
"I wonder…" He said musingly. Faithful pressed his head against Myles' hand and purred encouragingly.
"Yes… I wonder."
In Emma's stall, Will rested his forehead against the smooth fur and hugged her neck in a loose embrace.
"O Emma," He murmured in Old Speech into her mane, "He knows, or at least suspects. First Jonathan and now Myles. What is it about these people that make them so perceptive? And how did he guess? Did he see the arrow?"
He remembered his brother, and his own actions to sooth his troubled mind. White plume moths.
"Can I trust him?" He asked the placid horse, "Or will I have to make them both forget…"
He leaned back and looked into the liquid eyes of his piebald horse. "O Emma, what am I going to do?"
The plot thickens… doo doo doo…
Thanks for reading. Please review.