And now for the actual chapter…

A/n on a later date: Now I know that these two first chapters (2 and 3) are not my finest work, but please bare with me, things will get a whole lot better after this I promise. (Thanks to MissWendy for giving me a heads up on that.)

This is a story of heroes, reluctant and voluntary. This is a story of love, lucky and unlucky. This is a story of fate and being all that you can be, whether it be easy or not, whether it seems right or not. We are who we are and will always be, in life, in death and beyond.

A song within the forest glades

Above the mountain tops of might

Through every wall, in every nook

It will reach you with awakening

There was a thunderstorm outside… The rain poured down on the great windows of the ancient castle and the wind that roared in the treetops outside made the whole building whale. Inside the banquet hall however it was warm and lit and around on the floor young couples were dancing in beautiful gowns and tuxedos. If a stranger would suddenly find himself in this place he would most likely think he'd been moved back through time somehow, to some hundred years before. And as it happens this was exactly what Sarah and Lisa were discussing over a nice glass of champagne in the bar.

"Just look at that, " Lisa said, while absently sipping from her glass "all that's missing is some torches and candles replacing the lights and the image would be completed."

Sarah, who momentarily had sat and pondered over the possibility of going out for a stroll in the storm without ruining her dress too much once more turned her attentions towards her friend. "Yes…one does feel a bit like Cinderella, only thing missing there are some glass-slippers and a charming prince."

Lisa smirked. "I don't know what to do about those glass-slippers, I think they'd be terribly awkward to wear anyhow, but if it's a prince you're after…" She slightly inclined her head towards somewhere behind Sarah's back, who, gently turned around to see where her friends dreamy eyes had been focused.

She immediately recognized the man in question. He stood way over on the other side of the hall and seemed to be just about finishing up a conversation with someone. He was tall, well built, to say the least with chestnut hair slicked backwards. Which would really have put her off hadn't it been for the rebellious locks that were finding there way down his forehead and on his ears. "Adorable…" she whispered. And he was. Not a prince charming but royalty non-the less, a count was he and their host for the evening. Not that Sarah thought about titles as such, but this was a magical evening so why not let the fairy tale snatch you out of reality for a bit.

Sarah sighed and answered her friend. "I really wouldn't mind, but sadly enough I think he's been eying you all night, I noticed him following your every move as you danced around with David, earlier. He looked… interested…" She smiled teasingly and didn't mention with a word that she on her part had been watching the count's eyes and moves more than once during the course of the evening. There was something about him she just couldn't put her finger on, something different…out of place if you will. It made her want to know more about him in a way uncommon for her. "I think you should ask him to dance."

Lisa blushed and turned towards the bar. "I couldn't do that! This is a banquet, girls don't ask guys to dance at banquets…it's not…proper."

Sarah groaned. "It's the 21:th century for Christ's sake, who cares what's proper! Now go ask him so you don't have to sit around kicking yourself all night and above all so I don't have to hear you moping about how you should have done it for ever and ever."

Lisa threw another longing glance at the subject of the conversation, this time through the large mirror behind the bar. "Well…"she hesitated "I guess it'd be fine, seeing how it's the 21:th century and all."

"Absolutely sweetie, liberation of women and all that. And if you don't want to dance at least you can chat for a while. On second thought I think I'll go with you." The firmness in Sarah's tone successfully ended the conversation as she took her friend by the arm and led her out onto the dance floor.

She had seen the count glance their way now and again during the course of the evening, Sarah thought to herself. She wasn't just making that up so that she could see him with the protection of Lisa by her side. Well…that wasn't the whole reason anyway.

She had to admit that she had been dodging the count all evening for some reason, what that reason was however, she couldn't quite figure out.

Something else she couldn't quite understand was that if the count had been so interested in her friend why hadn't he just asked her to dance or at least come over and said a word or two? And while being on the subject of strangeness, why had he invited to this evening in the first place? Most people here, including her were all but nobility and more often than not just poor, lowly students.

It had been obvious that she would go to the banquet when that white envelope with writing in gold had found it's way to her mailbox, after all that sort of thing didn't happen every day…or…ever really. But why had it been sent at all, a great many students had been invited, but not all, so why these students and why her?

And that's where she tried to stop the mind flow, embarrassingly aware that she, as usual was letting her mind swirl into a maelstrom of conclusions and theories that were neither justified nor relevant. So this whole thing seemed strange to her, all right, so what? She always had to go imagining things, making a hen out of a feather and so on. As soon as she met the count in person of course she'd realise that there wasn't anything mystical about any of this, they had probably used a computer program of some sort or another to randomly send out invitations to this thing which was probably hosted just so that the count could get the joy of starting a new tradition or just make some new friends, or just plain have some fun.

Yet again, she had to stop her thoughts from tumbling around in her head. That always seemed to be her problem, she thought too much –or in some cases not at all. One or the other would always get her into trouble which right now included nearly but not completely stumbling right onto their host had not Lisa discreetly tugged her at her sleeve. With a feigned smile she focused her eyes and her mind on the person in front of them.

"Miss Ericson and the beautiful Lisa Fiskali I presume?" The face greeting them was happy and open and was lit by a charming smile. Samuel von Lescronert, as he presented himself, bowed and surprised Sarah noticed that Lisa had dipped into a deep curtsy.

Curtsy? I didn't think she even knew what that was, even less how to execute one without falling over on her nose. Sarah gazed irritably at her friend for the briefest instance before she made a small but graceful curtsy. Court manners were lovely but the thought of bowing down so low as Lisa had for another person made here stomach turn.

Meanwhile her friend had been offered the count's hand and was now slowly rising. Their eyes met for a moment and the count flashed another smile, but then their eyes turned to Sarah… And now, seeing in to the count's eyes for the first time she couldn't help but inhale with a sudden start. She felt like she should know this man, not just know of him, but really know him. He reminded her like how one might remember an old friend, misplaced but not forgotten…not really.

A memory suddenly flashed before her eyes of another banquet hall, a throne and two hawks, but before she could capture the picture, bring it to surface and understand what it meant it was gone.

"Count, " she forced herself to say with a light tone "nice to see you, again."

He blinked but other than that did not show any sign of finding her words any stranger than Lisa's curtsy. "And we really do have to thank you for the unexpected invitation… It's so seldom you get the chance to go to a real ball nowadays." Another little fishing expedition, but if the count found her words strange in any way he didn't let it show.

"Oh, by all means call me Samuel, everyone does."

Yeah, right Sarah thought, and who's everyone? As soon as their eyes met her suspicions had grown wild inside her head and now she wanted answers, that memory flash or whatever it was had shifted her inner balance in a way she did not like. But she didn't comment on it other than with a smile that perhaps was something other than friendly. "And as of the invitation, all I can say really is you're very welcome." All of the sudden Sarah realised that she had totally been neglecting her friend and she turned on that guilty thought.

"Well, Lisa what do you say, want to let the count here lead you in a wiener waltz? You see Lisa and I have decided that none of us is going to dance again tonight before we get our chance with the host of the evening," she said, again turning towards the count.

"It would be my great pleasure, Lisa…we're on a first name basis right?" For once caught without a nifty remark ready Lisa only made a small curtsy and took Samuel's offered hand. "And of course you have to promise me the next dance, miss Ericson, I can't be guilty of preventing all the young men here to make your acquaintance." And a nice joke to break the ice too, my what an actor, she thought with a smile and inclined her head in agreement. "Well if you insist," she answered with a slight laughter and then the couple danced away through the hall.

He was quite the brilliant dancer, Sarah thought as she stood, sipping from the glass with campagne that she had just picked up off of one of the trays circling the room. A tad too brilliant, perhaps. Granted, he was a count, but formal dancing like tonight wasn't that usual, nowadays even in the nobility. And then there were the eyes… She just knew she had to speak with him again because over creative imagination or not, the image that had fluttered into her mind as she had met that starlit gaze had simply been too vivid and the feelings too real…

Hang on a minute, feelings? Yes, actually, now that she thought about it Sarah realized she had experienced some pretty powerful emotions during that brief moment of, reminiscing, it had felt like reminiscing… The longer she thought about it the more details were coming into view in her mind… Another throne, no, not just two thrones, but three and one…one that had been vacant for longer than most people could remember. Remember, remembering… She was suddenly thrown in to a maelstrom of images and impressions, a man dressed wholly in black silk… He had not spoken for a year and a day, everyone is waiting in suspense for the throneguardianoath…a turqoise, silky dress…you look beautiful sweetie, it matches your eyes…laughter…fans…a game card slowly floating through the air, a broken sword falling to the floor…someone is crying…

Startled Sarah opened her eyes, in front of her stood Samuel. Was the dance over so soon? Something was tickling her memory, but she couldn't catch… He brought his hand up to her cheek. "You should never cry at a banquet, my lady…it brings heartache…" She looked down on his hand. Had she been crying? "I have to go now… D'vina di tren' e' lovo…" When she looked up next he was gone. Do'vina di tren' e' lovo, she thought spiteful and grieve struck at the same time, she didn't even know what that meant. Or did she? Another memory came swirling to the surface, faint, distant, a vow or a gift. She didn't want it, had not expected… No one is safe, no one… Remember that, Queen of Souls…

"Sarah!" She looked up with a confused look on her face. "Guess you didn't get a dance…huh?" Lisa sighed… "Well, at least I did… God he's charming and so handsome, don't you think? And look, he gave me a rose, isn't that just to die for…"

"Yes, handsome…"

"What? That topic hasn't been up for 15 minutes now, Sarah, helloooo is anybody in there? Looks like someone got more smitten with that blueblood than me even, you're so out of it."

"Why I…" Sarah started, but then she had to make a halt. Get it together girlie, what the hell's the matter with you? Too much champagne or what?

"Oh, nothing…What did you say?" Didn't really make a lot of sense either, but at least that sounded somewhat coherent…

"What did I say…well apparently I've been standing here for a quarter of an hour just speaking to myself, would you like me to start over again from the top?" Despite her reproachful question, Lisa smiled with her whole face and she must have noticed that everything was still not aright with Sarah because she took a firm grip of her friends arm and dragged her off to their joint bedchamber.

"Oh, what a night…" Sarah sighed as she closed the door to the lush bedchamber. She had decided to stop her reverie for the moment.

"So you've awakened now…in perfect time for socializing with your pillow."

Sarah threw one of said pillows on her friend and in a matter of minutes the two were engaged in some heavy pillow fighting ending with both of the young women collapsing in two heaps of convulsing laughter.

"I'm dieing" Sarah moaned while gasping for breath and trying to crawl up upon her bed.

"Yeah you're one to complain, suites you well for starting it, but look at me, I'm just about buried here…" Lisa laughed as she lay under the three big pillows that Sarah had bombarded her with.

"Well, at least you're a gracious looser" Sarah chuckled as she finally managed to settle herself upon the bed.

"Who the hell are you calling a loser, huh? You up for some more punishment." Lisa challenged and simultaneously threw away two of the giant pillows. Following that were another ten minutes of fighting, but soon the two friends were fast asleep.

And outside, in the covering dark, a lurking presence emerged from the shadows. He had been standing on that very place since he had first disappeared from within the ballroom, but now time had come that he was on his way again…

"Do'vina di tre' e' lovo, kiva, me miran, kiva…" the man whispered out into the night, then he pulled up the hood on his strangely medieval cloak, swept one end of the fabric about and was, gone…without a trace.

"Kevina… Rivana, droto! Wake up Rivana, arise!"