Author's Note: Still on a roll: four days, four uploads. It'll be interesting to see how long my inspiration can keep coming at this rate. I wonder when I'll start actually getting reviews on these things? Ah, well. I'm not going to take it personally, because I know that although there is definitely a cult following for the Coldfire Trilogy, it's a very small cult following. I'll just be patient, and keep on posting anyway. If even one person is enjoying my fics, then that's reward enough for me. That said, PLEASE REVIEW! I'm dying for feedback!
Warnings: Mild slash, nothing explicit. That's a first for me.
Disclaimer: Lamentably, I still do not own the Coldfire Trilogy.
A.N.2: This was so much fun to write. It combines what are possibly my two favorite things in the world: the Coldfire Trilogy and Blind Guardian. I wonder... maybe I should do one with my fav Blind Guardian song, A Past And Future Secret, as well? Anyway, this takes place during the journey through the rakhlands, except that clearly Damien and Gerald don't hate each other nearly as much as they pretend.
The five questors were sitting around the campfire one night, shortly after midnight, enjoying a rare moment of camaraderie. They had stopped early, because according to Hesseth they would have to cross the territory of a particularly aggressive clan very soon, and it was best to tackle that when they had a whole night ahead of them. For some obscure reason of his own, Gerald had stayed with the group as they set up camp: though Damien grumbled about his lack of assistance, in reality he was pleased that Gerald had remained at all. He'd cut out his own tongue before he admitted to that, though - and to make sure he didn't slip, he'd promised himself he wouldn't even speak to Gerald. As it worked out, he wasn't really speaking at all.
Somehow, the conversation had worked itself around to music. Ciani was arguing with Senzei, who claimed he didn't see the value of music outside of casual entertainment. "Narrative ballads are an excellent source of historical fact, you just have to view the lyrics through an appropriate filter." Ciani insisted. "That gives music a significant research value as well."
"There can also be a very meaningful message in the style of a piece of music, and the instruments used in the composition." Gerald said, catching everyone off guard: the Hunter hadn't spoken before then, just listened. Much like Damien. The adept's silver eyes glittered as he leaned forward slightly, his expression surprisingly intense. "Music isn't just a matter of stringing notes together: it's a work of art, of expression, just as much as painting or sculpting. Maybe more so."
Senzei normally didn't speak much around the Hunter, but frustration made him reckless. "And what exactly do you know about music?" he asked a bit sharply.
The Hunter treated him to a rather knife-edged smile, and Senzei quailed. "One of my hobbies during my time as the Neocount of Merentha was composing." Gerald said coolly, relaxing back against the steeply sloped hillside they'd camped in the lee of. Damien allowed himself a moment to admire the man, the soft shimmer where the firelight struck his golden hair, the alabaster perfection of his skin, the way the light reflected in his dazzling mercury eyes. Gerald was beautiful, in every sense of the word: with each day that passed, Damien found it harder to focus on the evil lurking beneath that lovely veneer, and more and more tempting to just respond to the man's undeniable charm. "Of course, the Church buried that fact as soon as I was out of the way - they created a fictional bard and attributed all my works to him. Lucius Cantavo, I believe was the name they came up with."
Ciani nearly choked and even Damien's jaw dropped. "You're the Lucius Cantavo?" he spluttered, forgetting his determination not to speak directly to Gerald. "As in, the one that wrote pretty much every decent ballad in the Revivalist period?"
Too late, Damien caught what he'd said. Gerald actually smiled, though, and that made his slip more than worth it: attractive as he was already, when Gerald smiled, he was breathtaking. "I wasn't quite that good, but thank you anyway." he said softly, a strange look in his eyes. Damien's stomach flipped over as he wondered if Gerald had guessed something was up; the Hunter just looked back at the others, though, and continued as if nothing had happened. "It was my musical talents that first attracted Gannon's attention, actually: I was fairly well known around Merentha, and he stopped by one of my concerts on his way through. The rest is, as they say, history."
Ciani's eyes shone with interest, but she shot a brief glance of consternation at Damien before turning back to Gerald. "That's amazing! Do you still play?"
"Of course." Gerald smiled again, at Ciani this time, and Damien felt a sickening bolt of jealousy shoot through him. He tried his best to fight it down, though: he had absolutely no right to be jealous... especially considering he and Ciani were technically still an item. If he should be jealous at all, he should be possessive of Ciani against Gerald, not the other way around. "In fact," the Hunter continued, "I believe I have a few instruments packed among my belongings: since we are going to be here for the rest of the night, I could give a demonstration..."
That was all it took. Ciani was practically begging almost instantly: Damien had heard her talking about Lucius Cantavo before, praising the finesse of the musical arrangements and the philosophical depth of the lyrics. Damien had already made enough of a fool of himself this evening, so he wasn't going to say anything, but he remembered taking a year-long course in Fine Arts in school, for extra credits. He had studied more styles of music than he cared to remember, and the final assignment had been a full thesis on a historically significant bard of each student's choice. Damien had picked Cantavo: he'd been fascinated by the way each song held two levels of story, the obvious narrative and the deeper level of meaning hidden just beneath. Damien was partly amazed and partly disturbed that, decades before they met, Gerald had already wormed his way into nearly every aspect of Damien's life. Despite his unease, though, Damien was dying to hear Gerald sing - and it was a good thing Gerald went to fetch his harp from his horse's saddlebag when he did, or Damien might have joined Ciani in begging. Senzei was shaking his head in disbelief, and Hesseth was watching with considerable amusement.
It turned out that somehow, Gerald had found room in his saddlebags for a lavishly detailed folk harp. The instrument itself was a work of art: it was carved of some kind of glossy, jet-black wood that Damien didn't recognize, and nearly every inch of it was loving worked with elegant lettering in one of the old Terran scripts. Gerald settled himself back against the soft grass, briefly checked the tuning on the instrument, then began to play.
It was the most beautiful thing Damien had ever heard. Gerald's voice was mellow and warm, a vibrant tenor: though it was nearly imperceptible in the Hunter's speech, Damien could just make out the faint traces of a lilting northeastern accent in Gerald's singing voice. The Knight sat frozen, spellbound, as Gerald's achingly sweet voice filled the dark night.
Would you believe in a night like this:
A night like this, when visions come true?
Would you believe in a tale like this,
A lay of bliss, a praise in the old lore.
Come to the blazing fire and
See me in the shadows,
See me in the shadows...
Songs I will sing of runes and rings:
Just hand me my harp, this night turns into myth.
Nothing seems real,
But you soon will feel
The world we live in is another skald's
Dream in the shadows,
Dream in the shadows...
Gerald's slender hands danced over the harp, pulling the most beautiful sounds imaginable from the rippling strings. His head was tilted back slightly, eyes closed, expression more relaxed and unguarded than Damien had ever seen it before. Even Hesseth seemed enraptured, her scorn forgotten in the magic of the moment. Damien couldn't have looked away from Gerald if his life depended on it: he was mesmerized by the Hunter, and by the music that adept was creating, the haunting strains singing across the empty plains.
Do you believe there is sense in it,
Is it truth or myth? They're one in my rhymes:
Nobody knows the meaning behind the weaver's line -
Well nobody else but the Norns can
See through the blazing fires of time: and
All things will proceed as the child
Of the hallowed, will speak to you now.
See me in the shadows,
See me in the shadows...
Songs I will sing of tribes and kings:
The carrion bird and the hall of the slain.
Nothing seems real,
You soon will feel
The world we live in is another skald's
Dream in the shadows,
Dream in the shadows...
Do not fear for my reason, there's nothing to hide -
How bitter your treason, how bitter the lie.
Remember the runes and remember the light:
All I ever want is to be at your side.
We gladden the raven, now I will
Run through the blazing fires: that's my choice
Cause things shall proceed as foreseen...
As the music slowly faded, the spell was broken: the night was quiet once more, except for the soft chirp of distant insects. Gerald lowered the harp and opened his eyes, fixing Senzei with a look sharp enough to impale the unfortunate, dumbfounded sorcerer.
"That, Mer Reese, is how much I know about music." With that, Gerald rose, tucked the harp back into its place among his other possessions, and vanished into the night.
As if his departure were some kind of signal, everyone burst into conversation - everyone but Damien. He just sat there, frozen, feeling as though he had somehow disconnected from the world. All he could hear was the lingering notes of Gerald's song, echoing teasingly just beyond his reach. He knew it was sheer madness, but for the last verse, when Gerald's voice softened and grew even more passionate and strong - it had almost felt as if he were singing just for Damien.
After a while, the bickering between his three companions started to shred his nerves. He stood up abruptly, muttering something about needing to stretch his legs, and practically bolted.
Ciani didn't even notice he was gone.
Beyond the firelight, Damien's night vision adjusted surprisingly fast. On a hunch, he skirted the base of the hill - and sure enough, he found Gerald standing several hundred yards from camp, out of sight around the curve of the hillside. The Hunter was staring up at the blueish white half-sphere of Domina, his expression pensive but not cold. He looked almost... wistful.
Damien moved to stand next to him, unsure why he had come but feeling an overwhelming need to be near the adept. They stood in silence a moment, then Gerald spoke, his voice low and soft.
"It's been centuries since I had an audience who truly appreciated my talent." he murmured, addressing the cool night air. Damien smiled a bit, heart suddenly beating just a little bit faster.
"I had to write a thesis on your work for the final assignment in Fine Arts. I always wondered what it would be like to hear those songs performed by Cantavo himself - there are so many modern 'interpretations' that no one really knows what they were originally supposed to sound like."
Gerald glanced over at him, a faint smile crossing his face. "And did it live up to your expectations?"
"Definitely." Damien said fervently, and Gerald chuckled. The Hunter glanced back toward the camp, just a flicker of firelight through the darkness, then back to Damien. "The others don't seem quite as impressed."
Damien forced a grin. "I guess I just have an ear for music."
Gerald shook his head, faint smile still lingering. He was silent a moment, considering, then he said softly, "They didn't even notice when you left, did they?"
Damien winced a little. Yes, he was drifting away from his companions - more with each day, it seemed - but he had been hoping that the Hunter wouldn't notice. He shrugged awkwardly. "They're just busy arguing." he muttered, staring at the ground. Even to his own ears, it sounded hollow and rather forlorn.
He started when he felt cool, slender fingers brushed over his arm and the Hunter's voice spoke close to his ear. "You don't have to pretend with me, Vryce. You know I won't judge you."
Startled, Damien looked up sharply, to find Gerald much closer, standing right next to him. He stared into the adept's silver eyes, finding genuine understanding there. He swallowed, hard. Had he truly been so transparent?
"I know, Vryce." Gerald murmured, his tone low and almost... intimate. His slim fingers continued trailing gently along Damien's arm, the touch surprisingly soothing. "I've seen the way you act around them - you feel like you have to pretend to be the perfect archetype of a Church Knight, and you're right. If you ever stray from that mold, they'll tear you apart like wolves. You feel it's your duty to protect the Lady Ciani, but that spark isn't there anymore, is it? I'd say it was gone long before this started, too. You don't have to keep that pretense for me, Vryce. I understand."
Damien stared at him, stunned. After a moment, he asked hoarsely, "Why are you doing this? You hate me - shouldn't you be trying to make my life miserable, not help me?"
Gerald laughed softly, his eyes suddenly almost incandescent. "I never said I hated you." he whispered, before he leaned forward and caught Damien's lips in a soft, tantalizing kiss.
Damien froze, but he couldn't bring himself to pull away, though he knew with absolute conviction that he should. Kissing Gerald was every bit as wonderful as he'd imagined; the adept's lips were cool, but somehow not as cold as the rest of him. His mouth was sweet and soft, a pure sweetness like new-fallen snow. Damien gave up fighting and let his hands clasp the Hunter's waist, pulling him close.
They stayed that way for a long time, reality held at bay by a shield of desire as they reveled in simply being so close to each other. Finally Gerald pulled back a little, his eyes flashing like diamonds in the moonlight as he reached up to trace the lines of Damien's face, smiling. "I never hated you, Vryce - and if I read you correctly you never truly hated me. I understand why you have to pretend for your friends... but shouldn't we at least be honest with each other?"
Damien smiled too, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from his heart. "Sounds fair." he said softly, smile widening as the Hunter wound his arms around the priest's neck and pulled them still closer together. Gerald smiled back at him, a hint of mischief in his gaze.
"Good. In that case... you do realize that there's still a few hours before sunrise, and no one's going to miss us?"
Damien laughed. "You know, for someone who's lived about a thousand years, I would have thought you'd have more patience." he said with a grin. A mixture of amusement and exasperation flashed in Gerald's eyes, and he wound his fingers through Damien's hair and yanked the priest into a far fiercer kiss than those that had gone before.
Pulling back to catch his breath, Damien grinned at him. "On the other hand... why not?"