I wrote this for and because of Ceris_Malfoy who left me some rather interesting comments. So thank you for that. Have a story.
A cappella (Italian for "in the manner of the church" or "in the manner of the chapel", also see gospel music and choir) music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way.
Of Gaudete, I prefer the Steeleye Span version for it.
I own nothing. Not beta read.
The once great and noble house of Graham had fallen into ruin, the only two highborn left having any claim over the meager lands and title were Will Graham and his father Lord Graham. Plagued by bad alliances and crushing debts, Lord Graham's choices were few if he wished his head to remain atop his shoulders or have a roof over his corpse. At a loss and desperate, he offered up his only first born son to the highest bidder.
Even dwindled down to nearly nothing, the Graham's still had a long sought after gift, one that was borne solely into their bloodline. While Lord Graham did not retain any of his ancestor's legacy, his son Will had been born with it in spades, the dark haired, blue eyed man one of the last true seers of the Seven Kingdoms.
It was a great and terrible gift that allowed Will to become any person, to know their hearts true desires and how to obtain them. He was a man no one could lie to or mislead because of this, their motives, deceptions, and plays for power seen through their own eyes, played out in his head.
Such a gift came at a price though. Its uniqueness removed Will from the rest of humanity, the young lord more comfortable in the company of animals than his own kind. He was not touched by others because he could not bear it, and he would not dare to look into the eyes of another if he could help it or else be burdened with all their secrets and inner whisperings. As much as it damaged the young lord, it also made Will a precious and rare thing.
"A thing I have been reduced down to." Will muttered bitterly into his cup, watching as all neighboring lords and even few interested visitors from Kings Landing took their turns and made their offers with his father, bartering his life away. Hiding himself away in a darkened corner of the hall, Will tried to distract himself from his own auction by identifying the collection of house sigils in the room, any noble of merit having his house's representation present on bright fields of embroidered silk.
Most notably present were the Crawfords, Lady Bella and High Lord Jack conversing with his father presently. It was more than likely that he would be returned with them to their keep by the day's end. For as long as Will could remember, Jack had always held a longing fascination for Will's gift. He was not the type of man to pass up an opportunity like this. Will shuddered at the thought. He respected Jack and his lovely wife well enough but Will already knew that the High Lord was planning on using him to further his own political position at court, which meant Will would be looking into the hearts and minds of people he had no desire in becoming. Jack would have no qualms about ruining Will for what he believed to be the greater good. His family was famous for such quests, represented by the concept on their own emblem, a severed arm on a field of deep blue.
The arm had once belonged to a loyal vessel of the house, a scout whose name had been Miriam Lass who had lost her life while on a secret mission for her Lord. She was captured and tortured, with only her arm sent on ahead as a message. The scout remained loyal until her demise though, allowing the Crawfords time and leverage to defend their lands and defeat their enemies. Her sacrifice was honored to this day by the Crawfords.
Lady Bloom was here as well, though Will had yet to speak with her, her yellow rose the only flower worth noticing. It was probably for the best anyway. At the most, they are tentative friends, Alana one of the few people Will spoke to and with. She was lovely and kind, but not rich enough by far to afford him his freedom.
Most surprisingly among the banners though was the effigy of an crimson apple in the shape of the skull, made all the most apparent on a field of black. The House of Lecter was ancient, its foundations built on the blood of the First Men. Members of the house were rarely ever seen in public though, the Lecters secretive and mysterious behind their castle's walls. It had been a common turn of phrase in the courts that 'Lecter did not go to you. You went to Lecter.', and with good reason. Though enigmatic, the Lecters were a family of healers, the caliber of which held no equal. The common folk believed that Death's own hand itself could be stayed by a Lecter's touch. That or redirected.
Healing was not the only thing the family was famous for, their words 'It is pork.' seeming nonsensical to the uninformed. The story behind that short phrase was made from the Others, the legend whispered more than it was told about the fate of a little girl who was fed to her brother who was a child himself at the time. The thing about little boys though is that they grow up to be men or in this case, monsters. The men who had committed this atrocity were found and dealt with accordingly but not before they had a last meal. When they asked what kind of the meat they were eating was, the condemned were told 'It is pork.' as they sunk their teeth into the flesh of their families.
It was rumored that the Lecters still follow that tradition though this is said very quietly.
Will didn't know whether to feel horrified or impressed that he had caught that much attention. He almost wished he had not missed the announcement ceremony now, having like most never seen a Lecter before. The House of Lecter was a buyer though or here to gawk so it was still someone who ranked poorly with Will.
"It is a small wonder they don't pull back my lips back to check my teeth." Will sighed, glaring at anyone who dared to come near him. Most of the crowd did their viewing from afar. Will couldn't say he blamed them. He certainly didn't think he looked impressive, a pale, tired looking man dressed in frayed clothing that smelled like dried sweat, dogs, and fear.
"Talking to yourself is not a healthy pastime." said a voice too near Will for his liking. He turned in surprise to find a man standing next him, one he had never seen before. That wasn't saying much though. If he could help it, Will paid very little attention to other humans, preferring the company of his hounds, the other thing his House was famous for breeding.
"It is when one's self is the only source of intelligent conversation." Will grumbled into his wine. He shouldn't be drinking, especially when his father wanted him to make a good impression on their 'guests', but Will wasn't feeling too generous toward the people looking to buy him. He didn't get along well with other people at the best of time, why should he fake it now and give a false impression?
The man smiled as if amused, giving Will a chance to study him in side glances. The stranger was very well dressed, his clothing obviously expensive, made from Essos silk and Dorian leather. He was an older than Will but no less fit. Even in repose, Will got a sense of coiled strength coming from him. There was something else there as well though, a feeling of foreboding that nipped at the edge of Will's senses, both normal and other. There was definitely more to this man than he seemed, a darkness lurking about him. It bothered him, Will feeling his nerves twitch in response.
Curious and throwing caution to the wind, Will made himself look directly at the man. It was a rare thing for the seer to do. His gift only came truly alive with eye contact and direct observation, forces beyond Will's control stripping away secrets from anyone he laid eyes upon whether he wanted them to or not. Sanguine eyes met his ocean storm own and the world fell away to a midnight wood covering in snow. Instead of a man, a stag stood before Will now, but not the simple creature of the wild wood. This stag was prey made predator, its fur accented with inky black feathers. Tall, statuesque, and with antlers like daggers that wetly dripped blood, the stag regarded Will back with dark fathomless eyes, breathing out mist that chilled Will's skin.
Will gasped as he suddenly became aware again, back in his father's hall with the man who was now holding him upright. He was too close, one hand gripping Will tightly at his waist while the other pressed itself to his forehead. "You have a fever." the man informed him, pressing Will's body flush to his own.
"I run hot." Will muttered, despite himself leaning into the cool touch that gauged his temperature. "Are you always so forward?" he asked, but made no attempt to free himself. He knew that this man would like to feel him struggle and Will wasn't about to give him the satisfaction..
"You should be grateful. I could have let you faint and crack your skull open on the floor." the man pointed out, calm and collected, too much so for someone in Will's presence. The seer tended to unnerve other people with his presence alone and yet this stranger was embracing it.
"It wouldn't be the first time and I doubt it will be the last." Will admitted. Being a seer took its toll upon his body, the visions that ruined his mind left his body sweating, weak, and boiling hot to the touch.
"Is fainting common for you?" the man asked, his cooling touch moving from Will's forehead downward to cup his jaw. It kept Will from looking away.
"Ignorance does not become you, sir. You know what I am and what I can do. It is why you are here after all, along with everyone else." Will snapped to be met with a narrowing of eyes that left him trembling. This was not man he wanted as his enemy, the once light grip on his side growing hard and bruising.
"There are side effects to my condition. Fainting is the very least of them." Will muttered in survival and self defense, letting the man see his embarrassment. It seemed to work, the stranger's irritation softening back to open curiosity, his touch gentling along with it.
"What else is there?" the man prompted when Will remained flushed and quiet.
"Nightmares, sleep walking, fevers, sweating. I am a delightful collection of fears. I pity the idiot who ends up owning me." Will glared but it was weak, his misery crumbling his anger around the edges into something more akin to sorrow.
"You act as if you are being sold into slavery." the man shook his head.
"That is what this is, isn't it? My father loves his lands and his title more than my freedom. Someone has to pay for his mistakes and a son's duty is to obey his father and serve his house." Will said bitterly.
"You are still a free man. You could just leave. You are educated and you do possess a very unique gift." the man said sounding bored now, like Will should have already considered this course of action. He met that indifference with a sour look.
"Don't patronize me. My gift is a curse that ruins my mind and my body. I have only the comfort of madness to look forward to." Will gritted out the words because truths hurt even more when uttered aloud in front of a witness. "Anyway, where could I go? Who would have me? Who would bother to care for a raving lunatic while I recover from my visions? I am alone."
"You are alone because you are unique." the man said thoughtfully, looking at Will with a new intent that was strong enough to make the seer feel uncomfortable.
"As are you." Will spat back, his fear making him rude.
"Explain please." the man asked. Though his tone never rose in volume, it did gain an edge.
"I see you, though I do not understand my vision of you." Will said softly, ignoring how the man was hurting him again, hard fingers pressing into his flesh.
"What do you see?" the stranger asked, curious but cautious as well.
"A stag with raven's feathers surrounded by the coming winter and endless night whose horns are dipped in blood. Something deadly with teeth pretending to be prey." Will told him honestly, hoping that the description would be bizarre enough that the man would lose interest in him entirely and let him go. Will's hope soon fell into ruin. The man's answering grin was a skull's expression of too much bone and teeth to reassure.
"I wasn't aware you and Lord Lecter knew each other?" said Jack Crawford, reminding Will that he was still being embraced by a stranger in front of everyone assembled here in the hall.
"In truth, not at all. I was merely offering my support for our dear Will. He was feeling unwell. I simply wished to see no harm come to him." Hannibal explained in smooth tones, dry and cool as silk. Will shivered as he was released from his cage of flesh, though he was certain his trembling would be misinterpreted by everyone present. He found he was not allowed to go far though, Lord Lecter keeping a firm grip upon his shoulder.
"I thank you for your assistance. I would hate if Will were to injure himself before he made it back with us to the keep." Jack grinned wide and victorious, confirming Will's earlier prediction. The thought of leaving with the Crawfords made Will feel ill and he favored the idea of unconsciousness, fleeting reprieve that it would be.
"So you have come to a final decision already, Lord Graham? I will remind you that you have not heard my offer as of yet and I have come a very long way to make it." Lord Lecter ignored Jack, his full attention upon Lord Graham. The underlying severity of the personal insult against a house spoke for itself as the air became thick with tension. His father's surprise was shared and echoed by everyone else, the lord and ladies exchanging looks, whispering to one another in the pitch of a dull roar. Will fervently wished that the ground would swallow him whole.
"Nothing has been made official as of yet. I wasn't aware you had any interest in obtaining a seer for your house though." Lord Graham picked his words out carefully. The Crawfords were a long time friend and political ally but the Lectors were stronger in all areas that mattered than either of their houses combined. An affront, whether intended or not, could mean war between them all, one that Lord Graham knew his already weak house would not survive. Everyone present knew that Lord Lecter could simple take what he wanted instead paying for it if he were denied. "I must warn you though. Lord Crawford has already made me a very generous offer for my son."
"Ah but you will not be able to refuse my own. Unlike everyone else here, I intend so much more for someone so unique. I am willing to pay a generous dowry on top of your asking price." Lord Lecter said with a slight smile that chilled Will down to his core. The seer realized that fainting might be a viable option for him after all. The iron grip digging into this shoulder called for some refrain on the matter though.
The hall met the announcement with a stunned silence, one that was only broken by Lord Graham himself. "A dowry is meant for a bride." he said slowly, not wishing to offend if there was a misunderstanding.
"Fitting, seeing how I intend to wed sweet William."
All the rest was white noise, the hall falling away from Will as he looked past Lord Lecter to the stag that loomed over them all, dripping blood like rain onto the snow.
"Come and see." the stag told him in winter words that sounded like icy ponds giving underfoot. Will nodded back, his future never clearer before to him than it was now. He saw the design of his vision, the truth that lay behind it all, and despaired.