(Disclaimers: All of the characters belong to yours truly and cannot be used unless there's some sort of bribery involved. *nods*

Author's Notes: Well, today is the 2nd anniversary of The Minstrel Boy. Since the cast are all being jerks and refusing to let me actually hint at yaoi, I decided to celebrate with a one-shot of several important first impressions by characters from TMB. I hope you enjoy this, and for anyone who hasn't read the story that this one-shot is based off of, I suggest you take a peek at it.

~Cinaed, Born of Fire)

Original EncountersBy Cinaed, Born of Fire*-* When Lyris Met Haroun *-*

Another newcomer? Reyn mentally sighed. Well, at least that would distract the other children. He was tired of them prying into his personal life. Shouldn't they have gotten bored with him after a week? Sulking with the rest of the children and trying not to scowl, the redhead eyed his unknowing savior with a critical gaze.

The youth couldn't have been older than Reyn's own ten years, and had wide blue eyes that seemed too large for his face, his visage still betraying a roundness that suggested he had still not quite gotten rid of his baby-fat yet. He held himself with peculiar assurance, his shoulders thrown back and his head tilted at an almost overconfident angle.

A warm smile formed on his chapped lips and took up the rest of his face. Now he was all eyes and smiles. "Hello!" His voice was the clear soprano of a child who'd not quite reached puberty. "My name's Prince Haroun. I'm from Sladis, the best place in the world!" He paused, and turned his huge smile upon Reyn, as though to share his mirth with the redhead and only the redhead.

Dizziness swept over the boy for a moment. This was Prince Haroun, his most-hated enemy? This fool with such a broad grin and childish features? Reyn knew that his eyes had widened, and forced them to narrow. "Sladis is a plague upon the world," the redhead informed the newcomer, and kept his tone cold. His father had often said that, and he knew it meant something horrible, even if he wasn't altogether certain what a 'plague' was.

Indeed, Prince Haroun seemed to take it as such, for his large eyes widened even more and the smile vanished from his face. He looked—for a moment—almost disbelieving, as though certain that Reyn was jesting. "It-it is not!"

Ignoring the warning look that Lord Oxray was directing towards him, Reyn jutted his chin out in a gesture of defiance, both towards the lord and his enemy. "Is too!" he countered. "Won't be for long though. I'm gonna grow up and kill your father and then Sladis will be gone forever!"

Prince Haroun was all eyes; they stared at Reyn, shock obvious in their depths. The azure gaze seemed oddly hurt, as though Reyn had betrayed the newcomer somehow. The Sladisian prince stood there for a second, the silence stretching before them like a soundless jeremiad of what might-have-been had their two kingdoms not been at war. Then those large eyes narrowed to slits, and the prince snarled, "You'll never hurt my father!" Then he seized the wooden sword—the one that all young nobles at the castle had to wear—from his belt and rushed at the redhead.

Caught by surprise, Reyn yelped in shock and pain as the wooden sword slammed into his temple. He crashed to the stone ground, bright lights dancing in his vision. The intense lights blurred as tears sprang to his eyes, and he furiously blinked the liquid away. No Reban royal would weep in front of a Sladisian! He groped for his own sword, and looked up as he drew it from its sheath.

Prince Haroun was still staring at him. His eyes had widened once more, and he seemed shocked at his own actions. Glancing over at Lord Oxray, the Sladisian let his practice blade slide from his hand to thump on the ground, his gaze imploring, and then looked back towards Reyn when the redhead growled.

Reyn hesitated for a moment, his head still aching. He could feel the sharp sting and then an unpleasant wetness, and knew that blood was matting his spiky mane. The Reban prince tossed his own sword to the ground and threw a wild punch. It wouldn't be said that Reyn attacked an unarmed enemy! He grinned with satisfaction as Prince Haroun didn't even duck. The blue-eyed prince fell like a jousting knight from his horse as Reyn's fist connected with his mouth.

"Reyn! Haroun!"

Both children ignored the lord's thunderous roar as Prince Haroun scrambled to his knees and then threw himself at the other boy, his childish features aged by fury. The act took Reyn by surprise, and the two boys went rolling across the stone floor, scrabbling and howling at each other.

By the time two servants dragged them apart, Reyn's left eye felt like someone had pressed a red-hot coal to it. He would have a black eye by morning. He was, however, pleased to see Prince Haroun nursing a bloody lip.

Lord Oxray was beside himself with fury. "Take them to their rooms. They'll not be having dinner with the rest of us tonight or for quite some time, if I have my way!" he said, throwing a dark look at the two boys, both of whom stared, unrepentant, back at him.

As Reyn was dragged away, he caught sight of Prince Haroun staring at him. There was a peculiar expression on his face, as though he was still confused at why Reyn had said such things. The redhead resisted the urge to snort. "I'm the prince of Reban, you idiot," he said in a haughty tone. "We're supposed to be enemies."

Prince Haroun blinked, and considered that. "Well," he said slowly, his words slightly mumbled because of the cut, "I suppose I'm going to hafta get used to wrestling then."

His emotions betrayed him, and Reyn laughed in amusement. He immediately smothered the sound and tried to choke it so that it would sound like a snicker. That didn't quite work though, for he saw a glint of hope in the other boy's eyes, and mentally kicked himself. Did the other prince actually think they could be friends? Of course, he supposed he could use Prince Haroun's stupidity to his advantage…. Somehow.

Still, Reyn couldn't resist sticking out his tongue and saying, "Reban's the best country in the world."

"Is not!"

Prince Haroun's indignant yell made Reyn smile a little, and that smile lingered on his lips during the entire march back to his bedchambers.

*-* When Zamiral Met Zadekiel *-*

Two-year-old Zamiral gazed doubtfully at the door. There was too much excitement—all the servants were dashing around and no one would pay the young noble any attention. Folding his arms against his chest, the chubby toddler pouted. Why wasn't anyone looking at him?

At last, though, he brightened, spotting his father hurrying down the hall. Not understanding the preoccupied look on Duke Zeidel's face, the boy threw himself at the man's knees, crying, "Daddy!"

"What-oh, Zamiral." The duke glanced down at his son and managed a slight smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Have you been waiting out here all this time?"

"Hey, Daddy." The little boy ignored his father's question and simply grinned at him. "Pick up?"

"Of course." Zeidel swept his son into his arms and cradled the boy who smelled of spices that the servants had freshened the toddler's clothes with. "Bet you're wondering where Mommy is, aren't you?"

Zamiral shook his head and pointed wordlessly at the door. He'd seen his mother, pale and worried, stumble into that room, but it'd been ages and ages ago. He was waiting. Mommy always came back, after all.

"Yes, she's in there, but guess what she's doing? She's giving birth to your brother or sister. You'll get to be a brother, Zamiral. You're going to have to look out for your sibling, make sure he or she doesn't get into trouble." The duke smiled softly. "But I'm sure you won't have any trouble with that, son. You're going to grow up to be a fine man and fitting heir to my dukedom."

Now, the toddler hadn't caught much of that aside from his name and the mention of trouble. His sea green eyes went round and he gazed at his father, waiting for further explanation, but Zeidel simply chuckled and shifted the boy's weight.

"Yes, you'll be a fitting heir," he murmured, almost to himself, and then glanced sharply at the door when it began to open.

A weary lady-in-waiting peeked out and didn't look surprised to see the duke and his son. She dipped her head in a polite hello before saying simply, "The duchess can see you now, Your Grace."

Zamiral was too young to realize that the look on his father's face was one of grave concern, but he did know enough of body language to feel the duke go rigid. He buried his face in his father's neck and was silent as Zeidel entered the infirmary.

"Zeidel…." The whisper was weary but held the tiniest hint of pride. "Would you like to see your second-born?"

"The babe is all right then?" Zeidel asked, his tone eager. "I'd thought…the healers had said you still had another month…."

"The child is small but hearty, Your Grace," a healer reassured him, and Zamiral peeked to see the white-haired man smiling faintly, as though recalling a similar incident at Zeidel's very birth.

"Come, let Zamiral see his brother." There was his mother. The duchess was ashen and sweat sparkled on her cheeks, but there was a triumphant smile on her lips and she was sitting upright, cradling something in her arms. Her warm sea green eyes were bright with love—for her husband and her two sons. "Zamiral, this is Zadekiel."

"Zadekiel?" the duke said, and raised an eyebrow. When his wife simply smiled, the man sighed. "Why must we give them such unique names?" There was a tinge of loving exasperation in his demand, for they both knew this was all the fight he'd give about their names.

"Because they are unique children," the duchess retorted, and then added, "Zamiral, isn't your brother handsome?"

Zamiral eyed the bundle doubtfully. The reddish…thing…stared back at him with blue eyes that would darken to match their father's. There were wisps of fuzz on the thing's head that were a pale coppery hue. Zamiral wiggled in his father's arms, leaning closer and straining to get a better look. "Mommy-"

He was cut off by Zadekiel opening his mouth and screaming in his face. He jerked backwards, and began to cry himself, their wails mingling as the two brothers struggled to outdo each other. Zamiral took in a deep breath and screamed as loudly as he could, shrieking even as his throat began to hurt.

Zeidel winced and held his oldest son close to him, taking a step away from the bedside. "Zamiral, Zamiral, hush…. He's only crying…. Nothing's wrong. Stop, stop, Zamiral…."

Zamiral kept wailing. He didn't like this new thing called Zadekiel. He wanted his mommy to hold him instead of it, and he wanted all the noise to just cease. He threw his head up and howled for someone to just listen and follow his silent demands.

The duke and his wife gazed wearily at one another. "That went over well," she remarked dryly, a bit of color returning to her cheeks.

Her sarcasm never failed to amuse the duke, and indeed, Zeidel smiled a little. "I suppose it could have been worse…." The two wailers increased the noise, and he winced. "At least, I hope so."

*-* When Ambrosius Met Kiet *-*

Ambrosius pouted. He didn't want to be stuck indoors, not when the waves were just right to be able to wade and collect the best shells. The six-year-old fidgeted and then cast a beseeching gaze towards his mother, who sighed when she noticed the look.

"You have to meet them, love," she said. "Maichela and I have been friends for years, and she's finally been given leave by Empress Daneel to leave the palace and come visit us. It's not often that a lady-in-waiting is allowed to leave the Empress's side, you know, and even rarer that she's allowed to bring her only heir along with her."

"Her son'll probably be stupid." Ambrosius had mumbled it, meant only to be heard by himself, but apparently he hadn't judged right about his mother's hearing, for her golden-brown eyes flashed and her lips pinched together, a tell-tale sign that she was about to lose her temper.

"Ambrosius! From what Maichela has told me about little Kiet, he's a wonderful child. Very well behaved and very friendly."

"Which means he's gonna be a troublemaker like everyone's always callin' Ambrosius," his sister said, and smoothed her face into an innocent expression when their mother turned a frown towards her. "Sorry, Mama. I'll go tell Da that Ambrosius earned a beatin' for when Miss Maichela and Kiet are gone."

The blonde glared at his sister. "Just 'cause you're two days older than me and got into that special school that one of the royals created and can read and stuff, you think so you're great! Well, I'm a Healer and you ain't and when I pass my test I'll go right to the palace and become famous and—"

"Enough!" Their mother threw her hands into the air. "Ambrosius, you will be civil to Kiet and show him around the village. Vilmaris, you need to go study. You might've gotten into the school, but you're not going to stay in it if you keep getting distracted from the texts."

Both children made a face. While Vilmaris was honored by the special selection, she loathed the scrolls that she had to bring home.

As soon as their mother's back was turned, the young girl stuck her tongue out at Ambrosius and whispered tauntingly, "Have fun with Kiet! Try not to show him how weird you really are!" Then she skipped from the room, leaving him to smolder over the injustice of her words. He wasn't weird! He slunk from the room, shoulders hunched. Ambrosius wanted to be at the beach, not here and stuck with some stupid boy he'd never met before—

"You must be Ambrosius!"

He looked up, startled, and met warm eyes of hazel. Blinking, the boy stared for a moment and then muttered, "Um, yes, ma'am…." His mother hadn't mentioned that Miss Maichela was prettier than every woman in the village combined. Her brilliant locks of orangey-red seemed like fire, twining around her golden, lovely features. Compared to her, her son was perfectly ordinary. So ordinary that Ambrosius didn't notice him at first, a silent second shadow beside the woman.

When Ambrosius finally did notice Kiet, it was only because of the boy's condition. It seemed that Kiet had been dragged kicking and screaming to their remote village as well, for he wore a slight, sullen frown. He had thin features and, compared to the children of the village, was rather dark. All the villagers had milky white flesh that never burned but freckled instead. For a second, Ambrosius thought the other boy had bruises under his eyes, and then realized they were just shadows from lack of sleep.

"Welcome to our village, Miss Maichela," Ambrosius said, trying to be polite. "Mama is in the other room—I can show Kiet 'round if you want."

Hazel eyes warmed at that, and Miss Maichela chuckled, the low whispery laugh making Ambrosius instinctively smile. "Why, thank you, Ambrosius, but Kiet really ought to stay with me—"

"I want to go with him," Kiet announced suddenly. The sullen look on his face had slipped into his voice, and there was an almost nasal quality to it despite the fact that he already spoke in the practiced, fancy way of nobles.

Miss Maichela looked startled, and almost a little worried. "Oh, sweetling, I really think you should stay with me—"

"I don't want to be stuck listening to you and your friend. Ambrosius can show me around. I want to see the village." Kiet shot her a defiant look, his hazel eyes darkened with annoyance, and Ambrosius was surprised to see the boy's mother flinch.

In an instant though, Miss Maichela recovered, and smiled at her son. Only Ambrosius' intent gaze on her face could see the worry lines by her eyes as she said, "Oh, sweetling, if you insist. Just…try not to get angry, please?"

"I won't," the boy assured her, flipping a wayward strand of burnt umber out of his face. "Ambrosius knows better than to anger me."

Resentment immediately stirred, and Ambrosius had to fight back a sharp retort. Who did Kiet think he was, making comments about someone he'd just met? The boy kept silent and tried to keep his irritation from appearing on his face.

"Maichela!" Ambrosius' mother threw herself at her best friend, all smiles, and Kiet looked disgusted as the two women immediately began to chatter on about how it'd been years and how was Lord Altinor doing and was Freyola really going to marry that foreigner….

Kiet turned his gaze upon Ambrosius, and the sullen look was replaced by impatience. "Come on." He waved a hand. "Anything exciting here?"

Ambrosius felt his features darken, but managed a calm, "We could always go to the ocean. It's perfect timin' for collectin' shells." At least he could still collect a few pretty shells, even if Kiet would put a damper on things.

The other boy pursed his lips and looked doubtful. "Sounds boring to me."

"It ain't! Trust me, you can find all kindsa shells here. Gold ones and blue ones and green ones and—"

"Fine, fine, let's just get out of here." His impatience obviously growing, Kiet cast a glance towards the door that led towards the white beach. He followed at Ambrosius' heels, and walked far too close for comfort, his hot breath hitting the back of the blonde's head. "Where's your father, anyway? I wanted to see him Heal somebody."

"He's off fishing. When there's nobody needin' his magic, he goes out and fishes with the rest of the villagers," Ambrosius explained and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. As if his father would Heal someone just for the amusement of this haughty boy!

"Oh." Kiet sounded disappointed, and then said in a disinterested tone, "Don't you have a sister?"

"Vilmaris is studying. She got into the School of Couriering." Ambrosius gritted his teeth a little. It was still embarrassing how his sister had scored so high on that test and gotten accepted at the school while he had had one of the lowest scores in the entire village.

The other boy was silent for a moment, save for the sound of his light breathing. "School of Couriering?"

"Yeah, you know, she learns how to be a messenger for the Court and all that. When she's twelve she'll get to go to one of the noble's homes and work for him. If she's lucky, she might grow up to work at the Imperial Court." The ocean was now in clear view, the sunlight dancing across the bluish-green water as the waves lapped against the pristine white sand. Ambrosius would never tire of gazing at the sea.

"That sounds boring."

Ambrosius bristled at the boy's tone and whirled to face him. Even if Vilmaris picked on him, she was still his sister! "It's an honor! Unlike you who was born in the Imperial Court, some of us commoners hafta work to reach there!"

Kiet glared at him. "Still sounds boring. Who wants to run around with messages? If I was her, I'd want to do something exciting." He smirked a little. "Isn't she the same age as you? Why aren't you in the school if it's such an honor?"

The young boy felt his cheeks burn, and narrowed his eyes. "I don't want to be a messenger," he said coldly. "I'm gonna do something better."

"Like what?"

Ambrosius floundered for a moment, and finally snapped, "I don't know! I just ain't found my talent, s'all! I can Heal and stuff, but I dun wanna be just a Healer."

"You can Heal?" Kiet now looked at him with much more interest than he had in the past few minutes. "Do it."

The blonde blinked. "Huh?"

"Heal me." The skinny boy stuck out an insistent arm. "Now."

Ambrosius just stared at him for a second, and then threw back his head and howled with laughter. "You…think…I can just Heal you?" he sputtered between heaving giggles. "You're not injured…stupid…so my powers ain't gonna wor—"

Kiet slapped him hard across the face and he stumbled, falling onto his butt in the warm sand. His cheek beginning to sting, the blonde stared stupidly up at the other boy. The hazel-eyed boy glared down, and something in Ambrosius went cold as he noticed that the whites of Kiet's eyes had taken on a reddish tinge. "Heal yourself then!"

"I-I can't. Healers can't Heal themselves," Ambrosius said, cradling his throbbing cheek. "Why'd you hafta hit me?" The demand came out more mournful than accusative, and the blonde mentally sighed at himself.

The boy with reddish-yellow hair began to pace in front of the sitting youth. "I wanted to see some magic. I want to see some magic! I never get to see anything in the Imperial Court—everyone runs away from me except for Cais and Maik and my aunt always makes them stay away too—and I just want to see some magic!" He screamed the last statement and then stopped pacing, his entire body quivering with pent-up emotion.

Ambrosius stared at the other boy, momentarily forgetting his stinging cheek. Tentatively, he stood and put his hand on the other boy's shoulder. Kiet shuddered a little at his touch but didn't pull away. Being sure to keep his eyes open so that the other boy could watch, Ambrosius concentrated, feeling the magic stir within him. He let it twine through his fingers and into the other boy's veins, searching out any old injury. At last, the magic found something and recoiled for a moment—Kiet had an extremely weak heart, one that was frantically and wearily pounding to an erratic beat.

"What's wrong with your heart?" Ambrosius asked.

Kiet was staring at him, all sullenness replaced by awe. "Your-your eyes are purple…."

"What's wrong with your heart?"

"I…It's weak, and my…um…temper doesn't help it any."

Ambrosius suspected there was much more to that, but he didn't press, instead letting his magic caress the other boy's heart and slowly strengthen it. At last, the magic retreated back within him, and he smiled at Kiet. "See? Magic! Your heart was awfully weak. Why didn't your mother have a Healer take care of you?"

Kiet's gaze flickered away, and Ambrosius remembered the way Miss Maichela had flinched beneath her own son's glare. Perhaps…perhaps Miss Maichela had not wanted his weak heart to keep beating…. Perhaps she had wanted him dead.

"Anyway, I'm pretty sure your heart'll keep beatin' for a while now. Da says I'm a right good Healer, even if I ain't book-smart like Vilmaris. I…." He paused as a wave of dizziness swept over him, and then another. He should've realized that a kid like him wouldn't be able to handle healing a heart that wouldn't have lasted another year!


The blonde smiled weakly, trying to reassure the other boy, whose eyes were beginning to turn red. He squinted, confused, and then realized why Kiet's temper was so feared. The blood vessels were beginning to burst from the intensity of the boy's emotions. Unable to help it, he instinctively touched a finger to the boy's cheek and healed the broken vessels. "Calm…down…. I'm just…tired," he whispered, watching in morbid fascination as Kiet blinked and a bloody tear trickled down his face.

"Ambrosius, I'm sorry for hitting you. I- Ambrosius?"

Ambrosius kept up his smile. "Don't worry. I just…need…sleep." He breathed out the final word, his eyelids shutting on their own. He stumbled forward, the sand suddenly shifting beneath his feet, and felt the other boy catch him. Kiet was trying to say something, but the world of dreams was calling, and the blonde couldn't understand a word. He kept up the smile though, even as his head drooped and came to rest on the other boy's chest. Ambrosius wondered if they were close enough to home for his mother to hear Kiet's shouts, and then wondered at nothing and everything as he was finally pulled into the land of dreams.

*-* When Peador Met Koichi *-*

Peador Ahmad remembered all those minstrels singing of those in exile and praising hermits as romantic heroes. They had never mentioned how lonely it got in the forest, surrounded only by trees and the occasional animal that a man could stumble upon.

The former knight sighed, and glanced around at the clearing where he'd built his tiny home. He had just finished clearing enough land to start a small garden and had enough firewood to last for a couple months at least. Well, at least he was starving or anything of that sort. He was just…lonely to hear someone's voice other than his own.

Running a dirt-encrusted hand through his thinning hair, he pursed his lips. "Well, I suppose that I shall have to get by on the supplies that Claudia manages to smuggle to me until the crops prosper…." He'd taken to talking to himself, the sound of a human voice and the mention of his sister both soothing him in their own way.

It was the silence that was going to drive him insane. Not the thought that the people of Reban and Sladis were dying needlessly because their rulers wouldn't listen to reason. Not the indignation of being exiled for stating his own opinion. Not the lost prospect of turning the young prince against his father and bringing peace to the two nations. No, it would be the silence that got to him and drove him mad.

"Well, I suppose that I shall never know quite when I have fallen from the edge of reality," he said almost cheerfully, slapping his hands against his tunic in a vain attempt to get some of the dirt off. Planting crops really did get a fellow dirty. He wondered if any of his fellow knights had ever attempted the task. Probably not.

An odd sound met his ears, and he frowned. It sounded almost like a bird screaming that her nest was being attacked, but there was an odd texture to the sound that he'd never heard a bird use. It almost sounded like a babe's wails. He stared in the direction, and then shook his head. There couldn't possibly be a child in these forsaken woods. Still, the sound persisted, and Peador found himself wandering away from his abode and venturing to locate the sound.

"What in all the gods…." The former knight stared at the wailing child, who could be no older than a year. He was clad in only a blanket that was slipping precariously as the babe writhed and screamed. His dark brown skin was a shade that Peador had never seen, and the exiled man whistled softly to himself as he moved to pick the child up. "How did you get here, little one?"

The babe went silent at the touch of a human hand, turning his eyes upon his savior. His eyes seemed almost golden as the sunlight caught them, and Peador found himself spellbound. "You have the riches of the world in your eyes, do you not?" he murmured to the lost child, moving to cradle him in his arms the way he would have if he'd been allowed to bring his own newborn son from the palace. "Poor child…. Were you abandoned here?" He could think of no possible explanation.

The little boy wiggled in his grasp and made a plaintive noise, scrunching up his face and waving his arms.

"What is wrong?" A rancid smell answered the man's question, and he recoiled a little before chuckling. "A very nice introduction, child. I suppose you will have to stay with me. I would be killed on sight if I tried to take you to the nearest village, and your parents probably will not be back for you…. I suppose I could leave a note by the place where my sister leaves the supplies, but…." He was being selfish, but he wanted a companion. Besides, the boy would be able to go out into the world when he was old enough, properly educated and skilled in defensive moves. "In any case, let me get you something clean to be wrapped up in and I shall see if I have anything a babe can eat."

The babe cooed in agreement, and Peador's laughter filled the forest as he carried the little boy back to his home. The minstrels had always sung of exiled heroes. They had never mentioned one who'd found a babe and raised him to manhood. Somehow, he didn't think it was romantic enough. No minstrel liked to sing about a former knight changing diapers.

"What shall I call you?" he mused as he gazed down at the child. "You ought to have a very special name…. Well, I had a close childhood friend named Koichi. He had gold hair, you have gold eyes, it works…." Peador paused. "Well, not really, but that is quite enough of a connection for me." He stepped into the clearing.

"Welcome to your home, Koichi."

The End