Originally Posted: November 8, 2005
Length/Rating: 2128 words, PG, Gen
Pairing/Warnings: Spoilers for Companion mythology
Summary: Sing, sing a song, make it simple to last the whole night long… (Note: This story is a little broken and takes great liberties with the abilities of Bards and Companions. It was a fun little plot bunny, but this is not canon at all.)
“Valdemar” and other related entities are owned, (TM) and © by Mercedes Lackey. All rights reserved. No copyright infringement is intended nor implied.
Dying isn’t much fun, and I had no real desire to do it more than once, but when the Star-eyed asks, it’s a little hard to refuse…
:You’re humming it again, snorted Jayson as the Companion suddenly broke from a smooth canter to a bone-jarring trot.
“I wasn’t!” complained the Herald, as he tried to stay on. “I swear!”
:You were too.: Jayson grumbled, but relaxed the trot. :Ever since we left your family it’s been all you’ve done.: He shook his head, sending the harness bells jingling. :I tell you, that song is evil.:
Marc rolled his eyes and looked beseechingly heavensward. “I am not, you’re just imagining things Jayse-”
:Why would I imagine a song I hate:
“Because you’re a sadistic equine, and a jealous one at that.”
:Jealous: Jayson looked back over his should at the Herald. :And just why, pray tell, would I be jealous:
“Because you can’t hum.”
The woods were filled with the sounds of laughter, and one crow hopping Companion.
I kept trying to tell Her that I was just a Bard, not a fighter, or a Herald, or a priest. She just laughed and told me she knew. Sometimes I wonder if the Gods actually know what they are doing…
The Herald barely had time to dismount before he was mobbed by a small band of teenagers in Trainee’s Grays. Jayson snorted, and backed carefully out of the knot of humanity.
:My, my, seems someone actually missed you.: the Companion grinned at his Chosen, and then headed off to the Field for his own reunions. :I’ll get someone to leave the tack in the shed. Welcome home.:
Now I’m back, granted a second chance at life, for a reason that is still beyond me. A second childhood with the memories of an adult- well, teenager, is an experience I highly recommend. The only challenging thing so far has been to get used to having grass for lunch…
“Hey Marc, what’s that song?”
Marc looked up from the table, and blinked at Nerrissa.”What song?”
“The one you were just humming,” it was Nessa’s turn to look confused, “You’ve been humming it since you got back.”
“Yeah,” piped up Jessi, “sounds like some kid’s rhyming song.”
“I wasn’t humming.” objected Marc, “Did Jayson put you up to this?”
Nessa and Jessi looked at each other, and then back at Marc.
“No,” answered Nessa carefully, “We asked because you were humm-”
“I wasn’t.” snapped Marc, and stood. “Tell Jayson this isn’t funny anymore!” He glared at the two, and then stormed off to his room.
In the sudden silence, a nearby trainee started humming.
Everyone keeps wondering about the Companion’s Choice, where we seek out some worthy fellow and recruit him. The act itself is surrounded by mystery, mostly because the rest of the Companions refuse to talk. Personally, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. The moment I saw Marc, well…
“I wasn’t humming,” Marc complained to his empty room, “I wasn’t.” He glared at the single chair, daring it to contradict him. The furniture remained inanimate, which was probably a good sign. Marc sighed and collapsed back onto the bed.
“It’s not even that clever a song!” He noted to the ceiling, “It’s a basic, simplistic, moronic children’s song.” He rolled over and buried his head under the pillows. “And I can’t get it out of my head.” He muttered to himself, “But I am not humming…”
It gets lonely sometimes, being the only grey horse in a herd of pure white, flawless equines. Put me next to any other horse and I’m a spotless white, but next to them…
:I’m not humming.:
:Yes you are:
Jayson snorted, and shook his head at Roland, :I am not:
:Look, I don’t know how you do it, but you are humming.:
:Horses can’t hum.:
:You aren’t a horse!:
Marc got no end of teasing for getting saddled with me, even though it was really the other way ’round. But we manage, in fact we managed a lot better than most of the others. I may not have any of the ‘Heraldic Gifts’, but I sure as Havens have the Bardic ones…
:Hello again: Jayson responded sarcastically to Marc’s mindsend, :Finally stopped sulking:
:I wasn’t humming.:
:Neither was I.:
There was a pause.
:You were humming:
“This is serious!” Marc protested as the Dean raised an eyebrow.
“I hardly consider a children’s song a serious threat.” The Dean remarked mildly, “Even if half the Collegium is humming it.”
“But they don’t know they’re humming!” Protested Marc, “That’s the point!”
“It’s harmless.” the Dean stated, and turned his attention back to the paperwork on his desk. “Now if you don’t mind…”
Marc threw up his hands and stormed out of the office, cursing.
Within a week three fights had broken out, and peoples tempers were reaching their limits. Everyone from Blues to the Heir was humming, and vehemently denying it. Nor was the capital the only center of trouble, half the border was rumbling with the hypnotic tune.
“Maybe the song really is evil.” Marc mused, as he leaned back against the tree. “Maybe it’s some Karsite trick…”
:The only things that come out of Karse are brigidands and bad weather.: snorted Jayson, :Besides, this song is too complex for a Karsite to have invented.:
“Baised, are we?” Marc grinned, “You better not let Albrich’s Companion hear that, or you’re gonna get pummeled.”
:Well the song itself’s not magical.: noted Jayson as he deftly diverted the conversation back on topic. :I checked that out, Bardic, Herald, and Mage.:
“Maybe it’s just really bad luck.”
Jayson snorted. :Right.:
“Well, I wrote home, and they said that Keli learned it from Becca, who learned it from Paul ,who learned it from a passing Bard. So that’s a dead end.” He idly picked pine needles off his brown jacket.
:Did they remember who the Bard was:
Jayson froze, and Marc turned to look at him.
:Shelly? Short, red hair, works well with children: Jayson’s ears flicked back and forth, and he pawed the ground.
“What, you know her?”
Like I said, I didn’t enjoy dying, and it had taken years before the vision of Shelly’s face had faded from my nightmares. Being a Bard isn’t supposed to be a particularly dangerous occupation, a little singing, a little spying, but certainly nothing lethal. Then I met Shelly.
“Dammit Jayse, where are we going?” Marc snapped from his perilous seat on Jayson’s back.
Shelly never did go in for the flashy effects, just for the subtle nuisances wound through the melody. I hadn’t found any traces of Bardic magic because I’d been looking in the wrong place. Wound carefully through the sub harmonics was a spell that only worked when the song was hummed, and only when a Bard was present to unknowingly supply the necessary spell power.
“So it was just a joke?” Marc asked incredulously, “It doesn’t actually do anything?”
:It depends on your idea of ‘anything’.: snorted Jayson, :The capital and half the border are close to snapping, and the song’s spreading with every humming traveler.:
“But all it does is make you hum, why didn’t she create something more…”
My death had been laced into a lullaby, calming, relaxing, paralyzing. The last thing I’d seen before the Havens was Shelly, singing quietly, and laughing. Now as I ran I sang a challenge to the sky and followed it’s echo towards my revenge.
Shelly looked up as Jayson and Marc came galloping into the town square, scattering goats and chickens into the crowd. Jayson slammed to a rearing stop in front of her, and she smirked.
“How charming, a knight on a white horse come to rescue me.” She waved her arms at the half-empty square. “Mortal battle with goats for my honor. I think I shall swoon.”
:You aren’t getting away this time, Shell,.: Jayson snorted. :Not this time.:
She squinted at the Companion for a moment and then laughed. “I thought I heard someone humming. It’s really you, isn’t it. Ha, Giftless, hopeless, talentless! And yet you’re back.” She shook her head, “I killed you once Jayse, and I’ll keep killing you ’till you stay gone.” She dropped abruptly into a barely audible humming.
“What did she mean kil-?”
:Hold on: Jayson snapped as he dodged an spell-maddened goat, and launched into a song of his own.
“Onwards to battle my brave hero!” Shelly laughed as she shifted melody to match Jayson’s attack. The goats kicked and shuddered in place, trapped between the two ‘suggestions’.
:Marc: Jayson yelped, as a goat sideswiped him, :A little back-up would be nice. I really don’t want to have to battle livestock.: He could ‘hear’ Marc snicker, but the Herald dove into the song on the next four-beat.
Slowly Marc and Jayson managed to win back control of the goats, carefully interweaving harmonies and magical undercurrents. Shelly’s smug look faded from her face, and she snarled angrily as her music turned towards the curious townsfolk.
“Help me!” She commanded the onlookers, “They aren’t Heralds! They’re fakes! Help!” Her music dulled Jayson’s coat, and shaded Marc’s face.
The villagers squinted as they looked at the pair, Jayson seemed nothing more than an ordinary white horse, and Marc a normal traveler. They moved slowly towards the pair, their steps firmer as the music took hold.
“Next time maybe you’ll let me change.” Marc muttered as Jayson started backing away from the crowd.
Don’t just sit there, SING! Jayson snapped as he dragged the song down an octave, and shook his head.
The townspeople slowed as the pair’s song countered Shelly’s haunting melody, and then stopped. They mulled in the center of the square, glancing uncertainly at first one side and then the other, muttering unhappily.
“I killed you once…” Shelly snarled, locking eyes with the Companion. The soft calming notes of a lullaby wound through the square.
It was happening all over again. Shelly, the lullaby. Every melody I threw in defense was quietly consumed by its beat. I had been given a second chance at life, and all it ended up as was a second chance at death. I could feel my legs folding beneath me, my eyes slowly closing… And then it stopped.
“Jayse, you okay? Jayse, this isn’t funny.” Marc prodded Jayson’s side with a boot. “I know you aren’t dead, now wake up!”
The townspeople had grouped around the bodies of the Companion and the bard, trying to see if they could help. One of the younger teenagers had been sent after the doctor, and the rest had been herded back indoors.
“Jayse.” Marc squatted down next to the Companion’s head. “Jayse come back. Please.”
This time it was on my terms. Not Shelly’s, not anybody’s. Mine. I stood in the shadows, and snorted. The form stirred and then sat up with a curse.
“What in Hades?” She squinted in my general direction and scowled.
:Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me
“Obviously not,” she snapped. “Where am I?”
“How?” She brushed off her skirt and glanced around the twilight emptiness.
:I sang with the song this time, not against. My terms, not yours.:
“Smug little horse, aren’t you.” She sniffed. “So now what?”
“If you ever do that again, I swear I will kill you.” Marc snapped at the groggy companion. “Don’t ever ever..”
:I get the point.: Jayson snorted, and blinked as small silver lights danced across his field of vision. Carefully he climbed to his feet, grateful once again that he had four limbs to balance on. :She’s still out:
“You would still be out if I hadn’t caught that secondary harmonic.” Marc glared at him, “What were you going to do? Spend the rest of your life as an equine vegetable?”
:Luckily I have such an observant Chosen.: Jayson blinked his eyes and tried to look sincere. :So… is she still out of it?:
Marc glared at him for another second and then grinned. “Yup, I’ll wake her up when we get back to the Collegium. “But there is no way I’m carrying her back.”