To give everyone a quick heads up. Heralds are like "paladins" of the land and are completely incorruptable. The only way to become a Herald is to be "Chosen" by a Companion. A Companion is usually a re-incarnated Herald in the body of a pure white horse with blue eyes. They are as intelligent as humans, and can usually speak with the Herald "telephathically". Heralds have "mind-magic" (ie psionics) like Fetching (telekenisis and teleportation of objects), Empaty, Foreseeing (precognition), Mindspeech (telepathy and mind reading), Firestarting (self explanitory), and Farseeing (remote viewing) are the most common, aside from the Mage Gift, which makes someone a Magic User. Now, Heralds have different specialties, strengths, and jobs....most of them are on "circuit" (ie patrolling the kingdom with authority like Judge Dredd). When Chosen, your taken from your old like and entered in the Collegeum to learn how to be a Herald, where they take classes with Bards, Healers, and Unaffiliated (like scholors, artificers, or children of means getting and education). My Herald has some things in common with me. Here's his personal info. Next I'll post the first half of his first circuit. I'll post here when I submit to the other fanzine. Also, for a change of pace, I've done the whole thing in the first person.
Herald Mark-History, Appearance, Background
Assignment: Circuit Herald
Height: 5’11 ½
Hair: Dark Brown
Weapons: Sword (custom forged 35 1/4" overall. It has a 26 1/8" double edge blade, and a hilt designed for either one or two handed use ), Re-curved short bow, one dirk (worn same side as sword) and five daggers (two in each boot in custom sheaths, and one punching dagger hidden in back of belt)
Gifts: Fetching (powerful), Mindspeech (normal), Foresight (weak)
Appearance: Hair cut short, shaved closely on the sides, and clipped closely enough on the top to feather it back with my fingers, a splash or two of water, and perhaps some beeswax on extremely bad hair days. Physically attractive with a wide and well developed chest, chiseled abdominals, broad shoulders, muscular arms, and hard legs. Most attractive features are eyes and ready, mischievous grin. Has two small facial scars, a small vertical one on the left side of upper, lip and another diagonal one just below hairline on forehead, almost dead center.
My name is Mark, and I’m a Herald. Not a special Herald, like the Queen’s Own, a Herald Mage, or even a Queen’s Messenger. Nope, I’m just your average, run of the mill circuit riding Herald, doing the Queen’s will, and standing for truth, justice, and the Valdamarian way.
As a Herald, of course I have a Companion. Joxer is my best friend, mentor, big brother, guide, partner, and occasionally, my conscience. Like all Companions, Joxer is pure white, with deep blue eyes, and silver hooves. Unlike most other Companions though, Joxer despises the ornaments that other Companions love, like braids, ribbons, and bells. No, Joxer will don ceremonial garb if required, and then only the bare minimum. As he says, “: We work for a living:” and for that reason, much prefers his working tack and leathers. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was a reincarnated soldier of some sort, almost certainly a drill sergeant. Of course, we all know better than that. What an odd notion…huh, I’ll have to think more about that one day.
I’ve always been gifted intellectually. I’m certainly no genius by any measure, but, I can tell you that a lot of things my fellow students struggled with came easily to me.
I enjoy writing (these are all my own journals. I also do fantasy and romance stories as well), the theater (I even perform when time permits), social galas such as dances, balls, and especially Herald revelries. I must admit that my favorite off duty pastime is exploring and pushing the limits of the hedonistic nature of the Heralds. I confess, I love women, and they seem to like me, so I enjoy their company every chance, or way that I can. A running joke is that in the Havens after I die, I’ll be rewarded with a Tayledras Mating Circle, consisting of all the loveliest ladies of all time. What I can’t stand is rude behavior, unfair people, and bullies. I DETEST bullies. Also, I don’t drink. Ale, beer, wine, whisky, it doesn’t matter. I won’t touch the stuff. I’ll tell you why later.
I am blessed (or cursed) with three Gifts. As are many Heralds, I am an average Mindspeaker, and able to “converse” easily with Joxer, or any other Mindspeaker within a nominal distance. I have a weak Gift of Foresight. I do NOT get flashes of the future or see things before they happen. Instead I get “feelings”. I’ll get “hunches” about things that that make no logical sense, but they are always right. It also helps me in a fight, when I suddenly get the irresistible urge to duck and end up dodging a blow that would have taken my head off, or a sudden impulse which would be the best way to swing at my enemy, or even give me a feeling if my aim is off with my bow. My most powerful Gift is Fetching. The instructors at the Collegeum told me that it quite powerful in that I have amazing control, especially of things in line of sight. Now smaller the object the better I can control it, both “throwing” something or “catching” something. With a thought and the occasional gesture, I can hurl rocks, dishes, or even daggers into distant targets. I once prevented a horrible accident in weapons practice when a spear slipped from a trainees hand and was flying straight at the heart of another. With barely a thought, I Fetched it into a tree about five hundred yards away. Of course, the bigger the target and the farther away the harder it becomes. I can fling people around if needed, or even suspend them in midair for a time, which I’ve come to prefer to my sword, as a man whose been flung across a room, or left hanging over a house doesn’t generally want to fight anymore, for as much as I enjoy bladework and swordplay, I really hate hurting or killing people. The biggest thing I’ve attempted was on my internship circuit, Joxer became mired in quicksand after falling from a small hillside. I Fetched him out, but the reaction headache I had later told me Fetching a Companion may be approaching the upper end of my ability. I can Fetch people with less trouble either “To” me or “Away” from me, but only in line of site. I’m hoping one day to learn to use the power to repel arrows or even stop incoming sword blows.
I am the adopted son of a middle upper class family of common blood, yet one with a massive amount of wealth. My father is a moneylender and a property owner/landlord and my mother was a lawyer, until she and father married, although she still takes clients, she picks and chooses them. They have four daughters of their own with the youngest being thirteen years my senior so I was never very close with them, as they’d all married and moved out by then. However, I felt they resented me my whole life, as I was always the baby boy. I have no idea who my real parents were. My father wanted a son to carry on his name more than anything, but my mother had grown too old to safely have more children, so they adopted me from the orphanage. It was a lot easier as I look like one of the family physically, and the adoption has always been a family secret, except when my sisters are in a spiteful mood. My mother is very domineering and controlling, and my father generally lets her have her way to avoid a headache. According to her, I was to attend the Collegeum as an unaffiliated student (or more commonly known as a Blue), use my education to earn an officers commission in the Army (as military officers are considered proper suitors for the daughters the lower nobility). My mother felt that between my commission, looks, and the family fortune, I could draw a wife from a titled yet financially challenged family, and the moment I married into the nobility, my entire family would ascend as well. Even if I only managed to become a court noble, we still had the family business to support us, and if I were lucky enough to capture the heart of the daughter of a landed noble, our families would strike an excellent financial relationship. The family plan was now set and about to be set into motion.
I couldn’t wait to start the Collegeum and my wish was granted when my aptitude tests showed I was ready to enroll at the manly age of eleven years old. When I think back, my first year as a Blue may have been the best of my academic career. I was given four classes, and took to them as a fish to water. I was especially adept at languages and history and the fact I seemed born for weapons training, just proved to my father that I was destined for a future in the Army. I finished that first year with perfect marks and let me tell you, while my father was pleased, my mother was thrilled. After all, I was just a commoner by birth, and was apparently the intellectual superior of all of those nobles, would be artificers, and the trainees of Heraldic, Bardic, and Healers, and my mother made sure everyone knew it. At the beginning of my second year my parents insisted on a full curriculum against the Dean’s advice. As a blue, I could take whatever classes my parents wanted, and even though the Dean suggested I only take four classes again, they (meaning she) disagreed, and my second year was filled completely, with six academic classes, equestrian lessons, and weapons. That year due to my class load, I was at the Collegeum a candlemark past sunrise, and didn’t leave till the sun was setting, and spent most of my evening with homework and studying. I finished that year again with perfect marks, and was among the top of the entire Collegeum in my grade average. My trouble began in my third year. I had just turned thirteen, and all sorts of things were changing. My voice changed, I started growing hair in places I never had it before, and I hit a growth spurt. I am quite serious when I say I grew eight inches that year. On top of that, my parents (mostly my mother who was still bragging relentlessly) insisted I take early and late classes with private tutors, as well as my normal classes, horsemanship, and weapons. This had me spending ten hours a day in classes, every single day, with no weekend to look forward too. Even today I don’t think I’d be able to handle a schedule like that for very long. I arrived on campus before the sun rose, ate all my meals there, and often didn’t return home until around the midnight hour, just to do it all over again. I remember that I started having trouble sleeping and my stomach would battle me when I’d tried to eat. One night I’d gone with several friends to The Compass Rose to work on a project and was given a drink by a well meaning fellow who said I’d looked like I was about to have a nervous breakdown. Before this, I’d only had the occasional light ale, weak beer, and watered wine, and never really had an undiluted drink. The cherry brandy burned my throat like fire, but made a warm and relaxing spot in my belly. I’d eagerly finished it and for the first time in quite a while felt that I could face the evening. Starting that evening, I’d find a reason to stop off at a tavern and have several drinks on my way home. I started waking up ill (I later learned the term was hung over) and learned that if I drank a bit more brandy and I’d be ok. I took to carrying a small hipflask with me to classes to carry me through the day. I thought that everything was ok, but my teachers noticed that while I was having an easier time socializing with other students, my grades were suffering. I wasn’t precisely failing, but my perfect marks had fallen to above average and average, which to them was a cause for concern. Each teacher took me aside tried to talk to me. I laughed and joked and convinced them everything was fine, at least so I thought. I’d somehow managed to make through yet another year, but my overall grades had fallen, and my mother was incensed. Not only did she insist I maintain the same amount of classes, she hired me a tutor as well. The added pressure got to me, and I started drinking a lot more. It came to light one day in the first quarter of my fourth year. A younger student, William, was a sickly young fellow. All he ever wanted was to be an engineer. One day, I was going from military history to law when William was, as usual, accosted by three of the high born Blues. Henry, the son of some court Baron or other, was the resident bully, and tormented William constantly. Henry had never given me any trouble, as we had been in the same Weapons class for two years, and he knew there were easier targets on which to vent his spleen. Henry and his two cronies went up to William and demanded something, his purse I’m guessing since that was what he’d handed over. After looking inside, they dumped the few copper coins the poor lad had into the bushes, and pushed him. He lost his balance and slipped into the rosebushes on the side of the path. He screamed in pain when he landed in them (those bushes had very long and sharp thorns). He was in tears, begging them to let him go, yet they kept pushing him back into the thorns. His uniform was shredded and the skin underneath was in similar shape. The poor lad was bleeding, and was gasping for breath in a way I didn’t like. I have no idea when I decided to step in, but the next thing I knew, I kicked the ankle out from one of Henry’s toadies and tossed him to the ground. I remember that everyone stopped in stunned silence (even William) and stared at me like I was a dragon or something. I knew that even though I was a gifted student in weaponry, I was also unarmed, untrained in hand to hand combat, and outnumbered three to one. The thing that surprised me was that I didn’t care. There was absolutely no way I would let these three hurt a defenseless lad whose only offense was that he was cursed with poor health. First, words flew back and forth, the usual insults and threats and so forth and I really did try and solve things peacefully. However, I was too young then to realize that I’d insulted their pride, and the only thing to salvage it was to punish me. It was on that day that my Gifts first manifested themselves, yet at the time I had no idea. Suddenly, everything in me screamed to duck, and I did just as a rock hurled through the air, a present from the fellow I dumped on the ground. As I stood back up, I felt it horribly important to raise my left arm, and inadvertently blocked a punch to my face. My Gift may have nudged me or I may have just instinctively taken the opening, but I snapped my head down, and smashed Henry’s other mate’s nose into a bloody pulp. Suddenly, the air emptied from my lungs as a knee met me in my stomach, and I thought I’d heard something break. I panicked, and I “pushed” mentally and to my amazement, Henry went flying backwards into the same strand of rosebushes that young William was just escaping from. It was then that a Herald, a Bard, and two Guardsmen that had been in the area arrived and took us into hand. We went to see the Dean, and I felt quite justified. He approached me without a word, and pulled part of my broken flask from my pocket, it only being then that I realized I was soaked in brandy. William was taken to the Healers, and Henry and crew released to their parents after the one fellow had his nose attended too. My actions that day were all that saved me that time I think. I was put on academic probation, and forbidden any alcohol whatsoever. My parents went through the roof, and suddenly it was coming at me from all sides. They were disappointed and hurt; my teachers looked at me with THAT look every time they saw me. On top of my normal workload, I had punishment assignments, including chores at the Colleguem. I was overwhelmed, and didn’t feel that I could talk to anyone about it. I was a man, and supposed to be able to handle whatever life sent my way. Needless to say, it was only three weeks later that I started drinking again. My grades plummeted to a hair above failing. I panicked and I drank more and chewed mint leaves to hide the smell. Finally, the end came when I showed up to class completely drunk, and ended up vomiting all over my text book, then falling asleep in it face down.
Thus at fifteen years old, in my fourth year at the Collegeum, I who was once the pride of my teachers and considered a prodigy of education, was expelled. I couldn’t handle the shame, and that very day I ran away. I lived for three years in the poor quarter, doing clerical day labor for money for alcohol, shelter, and food in that order. I frequented a small dive called The Companion’s Tail, mainly because they let me run a tab. There I met Miri, the daughter of the proprietor, serving wench, spit cook, and if you paid mom and dad enough, bed partner. She and I came to know each other pretty well and spent all of our free time together. She was a few years older than I, but seemed like she was much younger. She loved poetry, but as she couldn’t read, she’d ask me to read it to her for hours at a time. Miri and I came to care for each other in that alcohol fueled way that only two drunkards can understand, but today I realize it wasn’t love. I eventually became the cashier, because they believed in my honesty. They knew that I’d never cheat them nor steal a single penny. Eventually, they let me make a pallet in the store room, and I lived there with Miri for three years. One night, Miri had been “entertaining” a sailor who had gotten rough with her. Between her father and me, we held him for the Watch. Afterwards, I realized she didn’t look right, with a knot on the back of her head and eyes unfocused. No matter how much we drank, she said the pain kept getting worse. She asked if we could just go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, my instincts screaming at me, but had been unable to get through the alcohol. Miri lay in my arms, grey in color and cold to the touch. She’d died in my arms and I’d been too drunk to help her.
I ran out into the night, and I remember that it was pouring rain. I was lost, confused, and felt like my life had hit rock bottom. Part of me wanted to drink myself into oblivion, but my drinking had just cost that poor girl her life. Right then, I decided that I needed help. I staggered through the downpour into the night, with some intention of finding a temple to take me in, and let me dry out, in both senses of the word. As I crossed a corner, I bumped into something that knocked me to the muddy ground. I looked up, and through the rain and my own tears I could barely tell that I’d run smack into a white horse. Here I was, still mostly drunk, soaking wet, broken in spirit, and now, with a muddy backside. I made a move to get up, but the horse bumped me with his nose again, knocking me flat. It was then that I’d realized this horse had the deepest blue eyes I’d ever seen, and as I met his gaze, I felt like I was falling into an endless pool. I felt a void I never realized was there suddenly fill, and I found the love and forgiveness that I so desperately needed. It was then I heard a voice clearly as any I’ve heard speak in my mind.
:My name is Joxer, and I Choose you. I’ve waited for this day for years, and you are finally ready.:
He led me to a nearby temple, one of the local temples to the Lord of Light, that everyone knew was the God of Karse. The priest took one look at me, and hustled me into bed. The following weeks were not pretty. I shook terribly. I had a fever. I vomited so much, Joxer joking told me that my toenails had come up in the basin. Oh, by the God and Goddess did I want a drink, but that priest, or one of his acolytes were always there. A green robed healer came and dosed me with tonics to restore my body’s natural balance they said, but all I knew was they tasted horrible. I yelled, I screamed, I threatened. More than once, I made the furniture in the room shake, and things flew across the temple, as my Gifts got away from me. Luckily, Joxer was there, and every time things started flying around, he’d clamp down shields over me. Finally, I was well enough to travel. I thanked that priest with all of my heart and mounted Joxer for the first time, and he took me back to the Collegeum. The Dean was stumped as to what to do with me. He’d expelled me after all, but here I was, back again after being Chosen. I’m sure HIS Companion influenced him in deciding that as a Herald Trainee, I needed to be re-enrolled. I was given a battery of tests to measure what I’d retained of my previous education and he was pleased to note I’d forgotten nearly nothing, and I was mostly just rusty. I was issued Herald Trainee grey uniforms, and given me new schedule.
It was definitely a lesson in humility, as I was now eighteen years old, and almost always the oldest in my class. Any subject I’d tested less than proficient in, I was forced to retake, as well as the Herald specific classes. It was in one of those classes, where I studied my Gifts, which was when I’d learned what had been happening, and how I’d inadvertently used my Gifts in that long ago fight. Part of my regular schedule included a mandatory daily one candlemark session with a Mindhealer. She helped me with those deep seated issues I had, and helped me realize my drinking was just another symptom to a whole slew of other issues. She also helped me deal with the guilt I felt about Miri.
Slowly, I began to heal. I started to socialize with others again, and even though most of them were younger than me, there were a few my age. There were even a few Heralds around that were year mates of mine from when I was a Blue. Again, Weaponry became by best subject, but this time, I learned archery, which is absolutely essential of every Herald. I became very good at an obscure style of swordsmanship, one that either involved one or two hands, but with a lighter blade. I was also given basic training on two handed fighting, with a sword and a dirk, but honestly, I’m not very good at that. My time in the Poor Quarter wasn’t totally wasted as I’d become a decent knife fighter, and as such was adept enough with daggers to warrant carrying them. However, it was truly inspired when my Gifts teacher and Weaponsmaster got together and taught me to use my Gifts in combat. Mindspeach can’t really be used as a weapon, but my Foresight COULD warn me of an impending blow, or the time to strike. However, that Gift isn’t under my control, but my Fetching is. My Fetching Gift is quite powerful, and my control is impressive to quote my instructors. I was taught to fling objects at targets, fling targets around, and use my environment as a weapon. I was also taught that in theory, I could Fetch myself and maybe one other as a last ditch means of escape, but I have no desire to put that to the test.
I spent two years at the Collegeum as a Herald Trainee, and those were the happiest years of my life. I learned that I didn’t have to drink, no matter what. I learned that I could trust people, and not everyone had an agenda for me, and I learned a great deal about myself. I also learned about personal boundaries, a lesson I use with my mother constantly. In the middle of my second year, I went down to visit my parents. The Dean had sent word about what happened, but informed them I couldn’t have any visitors. When Joxer and I arrived I was assaulted by my sisters first and their children (many of whom I never met), before mom and dad made it outside. My father venerated Companions, and didn’t hesitate at all to invite Joxer into the house via the back doors (they are double glass doors into a huge family room). My mother started after an hour, telling me it wasn’t too late, and that as a Herald, I was now even of rank to marry royally. She started naming potential prospects before Joxer prompted me to put my foot down then and there. I would NOT be marrying to elevate family status. I would NOT be taking the family business. I was going to be a Herald, serving Valdemar. She was stunned, and my sisters dismayed, but I saw a hint of a smile on my fathers face. That night, as I was leaving my father pressed a bag of gold coins in my hand, which had always been how he’d shown his love. Now, being a Herald doesn’t pay well, and a Herald Trainee barely at all, so I was quite grateful. I’d tucked some away, bought an item or two for myself, and divided up the rest among all my year mates, of all uniform color. Everyone was able to enjoy something, and those smiles made my day.
The day finally came. I was called before the Heraldic Council and informed I was ready and had earned my Whites. They also made it clear that the vote was NOT unanimous, and as such I needed to prove myself as a Herald. I was informed that I would be riding circuit with Herald Jenna, and that we drew the longest circuit on the map. My intern “year” would actually be just over two, and that its one of the rougher circuits out there. Somehow, my parents had heard of my elevation, and set up a celebration for me at the family house. I was stunned to find that every single one of my year mates were there ( I never thought I was very popular), as well as full Heralds, some Healers I know, and two Bards, both vying for attention. My parents finally presented me with my “graduation” gifts. They gave me ten sets of exquisitely made, yet regulation cut Heraldic Whites (five warm weather and five cold weather), two magnificent cloaks (a short one for summer and a long full length fir lined for winter), two tailor made pairs of boots (each boot has two dagger sheaths sown inside with a cover flap), a set of four daggers for the boots, as well as a “katar” (a punching dagger) with a belt sheath designed to ride the belt, a parrying dirk with an engraved blade, and finally, a custom made sword, forged to very specific specifications, built specifically for my particular blade style. I have no idea how they knew, but it was the finest blade I’d ever seen in my life. They’d also given me a re-curved short bow, one designed to give me a stronger draw that I could shoot from Joxer’s back. By this time, tears were freely flowing down my cheeks and I didn’t care. As I left the party heading back to my room part of me was nervous thinking about riding this circuit, but mostly I couldn’t wait. I only wished that Jenna would hurry so we could go.