Secrets of the Bards
Rating: G
Summary: It's about bards, and that's all I'm saying.
A/N: I first wrote this for school, but now I'm posting it as my second fic. Hope you
enjoy, and please review!
Spoilers: Duh, it's an original. No spoilers!
Disclaimer: Hey! I don't need one! It's all mine!!

All her life, Handria wanted to become a bard. She knew that there was little
hope for her, because all bards in the land of Sunhoe were male. There were reports of
female bards in the countries beyond the Dividing Mountains, but such hearings were
rare and unreliable. Sunhoe was a mostly independent country, and she didn't care much
for trade.
As Handria gazed out onto her lake, the raindrops that had been promised by the
clouds started to fall. This was one of the few moments when she let down her red-
brown hair, which hung limp in the stillness of the rain. She sat on the white stone bridge
that separated her father's manor from the next one. The bridge was her place to sit and
think. She had come there from her home, where she had been trying to talk another
minstrel to take her on as an apprentice. Rejection was the usual response. It happened
too often for her to feel badly. She just felt disappointment. Bards cannot train
themselves, because they need the companionship of a master to perfect their skills and
guide them through the challenges of the Bardic Magic. Such magic is weak in
comparison to a sorcerer's, but it is a lot less dangerous. Handria wasn't the type of girl
that liked to take huge risks.
She had a real talent for music, which no one but her brother and her best friend
would acknowledge. However, Handria didn't think that counted, because her brother
was three years old and Malson was always trying to make her feel better. She was often
found strumming her harp and singing with Jiles sitting below her, his big, green eyes
wide and intent. Her parents had no concept of music and refused pay a bard to school
her in his art. They wanted to train her to be a lord's wife. Handria wasn't cut out for
such work as spinning and weaving. She had no creativity in art.
Handria was still sitting on her bridge when her best friend, Malson, came
running through the rain. He lived in the manor across from hers, and they had been
friends since they were old enough to explore their backyards. "So how did you do with
the new bard in town?" he asked hopefully.
"An absolute disaster, as usual. They don't want to take a girl along, because it
would ruin their reputation. No one thinks of the possibilities of training the very first
female bard. Sometimes I feel that I can't abide their narrow-mindedness. So many men
are too magnanimous for their own good. Why are you smiling?"
Malson laughed. "I always listen to you rambling on like this. Don't you realize
that bards travel and I wont be able to see you at all, unless I run away and travel with
you? Sometimes I don't think you look at all the consequences. You'd be pretty much
on your own, and your master probably wouldn't be your best friend, if he was really
trying to teach you something."
"I do know what to expect. I've studied bards from afar, just like you have." She
paused, and looked into his warm, brown eyes. "Why don't you consider being a bard?"
He looked at her as if she had gone mad. "Really! You have a great voice, and I'm sure
you can strike a harp. If I can't be a bard, why can't my best friend?"
"I'm not good with people, like you are. I don't think I have any trace of the
Bardic Magic."
"It only shows up when you are performing music, and you are just so into it, that
you lose yourself, but you find yourself at the same time. The only problem is, I can't
control it. That's why I need a bard master. You have never taken music very seriously,
but maybe you should give it a try."
Malson sighed. "If you say so. Do you have your harp with you?"
"Always"
Handria took the small, lap harp from it's case on her shoulder and handed it to
him. He tuned it and then began strumming a few chords. Once he had a song in mind,
he began to sing. It was an old ballad, which told of the histories of the four Great Kings,
before the war of the Seven Provinces. That was the golden age of the country, which
probably would never be seen again.
As he sang, he closed his eyes. His golden hair was plastered to his forehead in
the rain, which was furrowed in concentration. Handria watched him intently, looking
for any signs of the Magic. Malson moved deeper and deeper into the song, searching for
himself. All of a sudden, the harp began to glow. It rushed up through his arms and all
over his body. Malson felt a tingling sensation and opened his eyes. He was so surprised
by the Magic, that he stopped singing and almost dropped the harp.
"Is it supposed to do that?" he asked. His was clearly in a state of shock.
"That's the way it happened to me, so I guess so." She smiled. Malson was very
shy and modest. She was glad that he had the Bardic Magic. It could help him get over
his insecurity, which seemed so childish on a fifteen-year-old boy. "Are you interested
now?"
"Yes. I mean, I didn't think that there was anything particularly special about me.
I'm not much good as a landholder, like my father, and I was never good at weapons
work. This is amazing! I actually have talent!"
Handria laughed. "You are too hard on yourself. You've bested your father
hundreds of times in both governing and swordplay. I've watched you. Now I want you
to go into town and ask that bard to take you in as an apprentice. He can't possibly refuse
you."
"What about your harp? I don't have one."
"You can have mine. I'm sure I can get another one somewhere. You would
need it more than I would."
Malson paused and looked at Handria with his warm eyes. "I'd better go now, or
I'll think twice about it later. You wouldn't be able to go with me."
"I know."
That was all she said, but it always remained with Malson in all his travels with
bard master Tissam. Malson left with him the next day, leaving Handria all alone with
her brother as her only company. She somehow managed to acquire a new harp, which
she treated with the utmost respect and care. Since that spring, Malson traveled around
Sunhoe, learning the art of a bard. Tissam was a very good teacher, who was matched
with an equally good learner. Malson worked hard through his training, and finished in a
year and a half. Most bards take two years or more, but he was an exception.
Handria sat in her chamber and looked in the mirror. She stood in a long,
lavender gown with a silver belt and silver jewelry. Light purple chrysanthemums
adorned her hair. She was going down to celebrate her birthday feast with her family and
the local nobility. She was almost dreading it, because most girls got marriage proposals
on their sixteenth birthdays. Her parents had been actively looking for a match for her,
and she didn't want to be the wife of a stranger.
Nonetheless, she was going to her party, and she was going to look nice. She
stared into the mirror and the attentive blue eyes stared back at her. "There is nothing I
can do," she told herself. "I'm going to face this, head-on."
Just then, Jiles came in. "Handria! There's a big surprise waiting for you
downstairs! It's…"
Handria cut him off. "Don't tell me, you little rascal, or it wont be a surprise!"
She looked at him fondly, wondering how he was growing up so fast. He would be five
in almost two months. They sped down the corridor and down the stairs to the banquet
hall, where the candles were being lit and the food was being laid out. Everything was
almost ready, and the dinner guests were beginning to arrive. Handria instinctively
looked around for someone she knew.
Then, she spotted him.
Malson had come back from his travels! She ran to meet him and gave him a
quick hug. "When did you arrive? Why didn't you tell me?" she inquired.
"I came back early this morning, and barely had time to rest and refresh myself.
Also, I wanted to surprise you." He smiled charmingly, and hugged her again. "I missed
you so much."
"I missed you too."
She stepped back to get a better look at him. The way he stood suggested a more
confident look. He was stronger from travel and fresh air. "How did you do?" she asked.
"I have completed my training, and I am a full bard. That means I can also train a
new bard." He looked at her with mischievous eyes. She looked back at him, confused.
"Don't you get it? I want to train you. You can become a bard, after all!"
Handria looked at him in disbelief. "Really? We could be bards together? Yes!
Of course I'll train with you!" She hugged him again, and held him tight.
"Attention, honored guests!" cried Handria's father. The whole crowd turned to
face the raised platform where her parent's were standing. "After many years of
argumentation, my wife and I have finally decided who is to be the lucky man to marry
our lovely daughter!" He smiled out onto the audience. "I present to you, Lady Handria
and her husband-to-be, Lord Malson!"
"What?" chorused the couple together. They both knew that there was no use
arguing with their parents, but they would still feel awkward, being best friends.
Fortunately, no one heard them.
"When is the marriage to take place?" asked one of the crowd.
"Tomorrow afternoon, my friends, and you are all invited!"
This will take some getting used to, thought Handria and Malson together.
Nevertheless, the future looked bright.