Bardic Student Vanyel

Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, I simply play with them to soothe my poor little heart after reading Magic's Pawn.

Chapter One:

Vanyel struggled out of unconsciousness, dizzy with pain and faced with a Healer standing over him.

"Well, lad, how many fingers am I holding up?"

"Four," he croaked. "Why? What happened?

"What happened is that you, young man, suffered some serious head trauma. I don't know what goes in that arms practice of yours, but you might want to lay off a bit. I was only holding up two fingers. I'm going to have to probe your head for more serious damage."

"As long as you can do something about the pain, I don't care," Vanyel stated, closing his eyes.

Long minutes later, the Healer sat back with a decidedly odd look on her face. "Lad, are you…musical?"

"I was. With my arm…will I be able to play again?"

"I think so, yes. Lad, have you heard of the Bardic Gift ever?"

"Bards have Gifts?"

The Healer chuckled. "I guess that answers that question. The Bardic Gift helps Bards affect their audiences. Have you ever been able to make people feel or act a certain way by playing music?" She looked at Vanyel intently.

"I don't think so. Why?

"Hmm. I'd heard that blunt force head trauma could sometimes awaken dormant Gifts, but I'd never seen it happen before. Gifts and head wounds are not my specialty. Childbirth is. Vanyel, you have a cracked skull and a broken arm, but more than that, I'd say that the force and the pain awoke a latent Bardic Gift in you. You might want to get yourself to Haven."

Vanyel's heart leapt. To be a Bard! Then he remembered his father and it sank again. Withen would never let his heir become a Bard. It would be easy enough to prevent. All it required was keeping Vanyel away from any Bards that might pass through. "My father…" he began weakly.

"Ah," the Healer stood. "Well, you won't be good for anything but lying in bed for weeks yet, even with potions. Head wounds take a lot of energy out of you. Drink the mug by your bed, there," she nodded at it, "and you can go to sleep." She left the room.

The next time Vanyel fully woke from his fever dreams, it was to his sister sitting on the edge of his bed, dressed in traveling clothes. "Lissa," he croaked out.

"Oh, Van, I'm so sorry, but Father's making me leave now. I don't want to leave you, but—"

"But if you don't leave now, you'll never get out of here," he interrupted. "I understand, Liss, truly. One of us has to get out of here."

"Oh, Van. I promise I'll find some way to get you out of here too. Maybe when I get to Haven…"

"I trust you Liss." Vanyel managed a weak smile that lasted until his sister turned and left the room. Then the tears came. The only person in the entire keep who cared for him as a person was gone.

Weeks later, Vanyel sat in his hidden instrument room, testing the damage done to his hand. He'd lost a considerable amount of feeling in the fingers, even with the Healer there. The Healer had said something about music…or was that just another fever dream? I wish I could remember. It's all hopelessly muddled up in my head now. I can't clearly remember anything that happened in those three weeks except for Lissa leaving, and even then I don't remember much except that she's gone.

Raised voices in the library caught his attention. It seemed his Father was intent upon his plan of sending Vanyel off to Haven, out of the way.

"He's nothing more than a perverted little nancy-boy!" Withen roared. "A catamite who's not fit for anything. I've tried to have Jervis beat him into a real man, but it doesn't seem to have stuck, especially not when he runs away from his arms lessons because of a broken arm. Maybe Savil can do something about the boy."

A catamite? I suppose it's just as well I never took that minstrel up on his offer or you'd have proof. For an aching moment Vanyel thought of the oh-so-beautiful minstrel Shanse, who had taught him new songs and would have taught him other things as well, if Vanyel had accepted his invitation. But he'd been too scared of his father finding out. Just because I care for my appearance and don't want to bed the girls in Mother's bower I'm not a real man? He thought in disbelief. I know I'm not what you wanted, Father, but I thought you at least cared for me. But now you want me out of your sight so that you can find some way to install Mekeal as heir instead. Well, Haven can't be worse than here, and it's better than the priesthood, although it could still come to that. At least they have Bards in Haven. I just won't let anyone get close to me. He thought about his Aunt Savil, the one he was being sent to. They had been mutually unimpressed by each other on their first and only meeting, where he'd been dismissed as nothing more than a pretty face. Well, she's a Herald. Maybe she'll be easier to live with than Father. At least she'll be more cultured than the people around here. And there's got to be some reason why Lissa worships her the way she does. Even if it's just because she's in the habit of defying Father. Hopefully that will extend to defying any orders he sends about me. Well, if I'm to be packed off to Haven, I'll do it on my own terms. I won't be sent there looking disgraced. I want to make a new start there, and I can't do it if I arrive looking like a prisoner. I know that's what Father expects. He'll try to keep me off my guard at all times. Well, he can't do that if I'm prepared. Vanyel continued with his plans, determined to outwit his father when it came to his jailing.