The River Sanzu
Chapter 2
a Ronin Warriors / Dark is Rising fusion
by Liondragon
1224 wc ~ G ~ ?+?

Poems for the cursed. ...unfortunately they don't scan.

Bran slept a little while Will foraged. Easily as knowledge came to him, he’d discovered a love of learning it ‘from scratch’ as it were. He made a game of it, testing his in-born memory against the Book of Gramarye. Still he was tempted to tap into his Old One’s knowledge to get a handle on Japanese. At the very least he knew the meal was mostly seafood and rice, and hideously over-priced. Other than that he wasn’t sure.

He was vaguely annoyed when Bran learned to use the chopsticks right off. "Duw, what is this? It smells off." He kicked at Will, who dodged. "It’s not raw, is it?"

"No. But we can order raw if you want?" Will grinned. He was worrying at the sleeve of his shirt, fairly dying of curiosity. It was strange to see pale, lively Bran in this sparely decorated hotel room.

"I think not! What kind of place is this for a holiday? There’s not an L in this country! Oppression it is, plain and simple."

Will laughed. "Spoken like a Welshman. Out with it, you. Why are you here? I thought it would take a team of horses to pry you out of your valley, much less the country."

"Well Jane, see." Bran poked at a lovingly sculpted piece of ... shellfish?... and devoured it. "She mailed me a little parcel, marked urgent, and told me to ring her up. And it had this." He unzipped a pocket and fished out a piece of paper, which was folded around a strange rock.

It was all Will could do not to gasp. The stone from the Lost Land. A piece of the dream... Bran had given it to Jane after the last great battle against the Dark. Only Will, in all the mortal world, remembered its true origin. The others had been made to forget. "So you rang her up? And then?"

"She was a bit hysterical, for one. Said she’d had a dream. And I asked her ‘was it like the other dreams?’"

Will shivered. For years the other four — Jane, Barney and Simon Drew, and Bran — had dreamed of their parts in the battle. As time rolled between them and their childhood, they had put it down to strange coincidence and their closeness in adulthood. Sometimes they prodded Barney to write about them. Will, who knew the truth, had grown used to biting his tongue.

"It wasn’t, I take it?"

"No. No, what she told me was rightly strange, and then she said you were in danger." Bran tilted his head toward Will, who looked skeptical. After all, what could harm the last of the Old Ones? High Magic did not bother with him; Old Magic he knew on sight and avoided; and Wild Magic he did not provoke.

"A woman with long dark hair came to her. She had long robes, spread out like the Milky Way was woven in, and a golden staff. She had Jane memorize a poem or two. This." Bran unfolded the paper all the way and gave it to Will.

Winding water distantly dreams
Immortal fire consumes young greens
The swords of light from heaven bloom
The great snow mountain from earth’s gloom
A heart longs for the currents of sky
The green forest which never dies
"That makes no sense," Will said after a while.

Bran poked him with his chopsticks. "I could’ve told you that, boyo. Anyway that wasn’t the part that lit my boots on fire. There was a second rhyme. Turn it over."

Will did so, reading aloud.

"Deliver the raven boy’s charm
Lest Seeker comes to harm
Despite his disguise
The fate of silver eyes."
"Silver..." Will sat up straight. "I thought you never told her about..."

Bran was serious now. "No, Will. I never mentioned Cafall to her. If she knew of him, she wouldn’t know the color of his eyes. I checked."

They were silent for a time, the ache of it still fresh though they were years removed from that autumn day. Cafall, the dog with the silver eyes...

Will was drawn to the second poem. "This is why you came, then."

Bran glanced at him over his shades. "It’s a death omen. I’m the raven boy, you’ve called me that before. What else was I supposed to do? Jenny was clear that it was you and no other."

Indeed. For Cafall had fallen not to the lords of Magic, but to the hand of a man. Will felt numb. There was no Merriman to help him this time, and nothing in his experience or knowledge which shed any light on the puzzle. He knew that the Dark could not destroy him, if indeed this was the Dark’s handiwork. The Dark was long gone; but two evenings and a day in this country of gods had reminded him of just how much magic there was in the world.

"Besides," Bran continued, "she got Simon to buy me a ticket and clear the visa. She might’ve caught you at Heathrow herself had she been able."

"Did she, now?" Will was amused despite himself.

Bran was watching him carefully. "So you’re the ‘seeker’, then?"

Will blinked. "I guess." He reached out with his senses, but Bran remained closed. For all that his true heritage had been taken away from him, at times there was a twinge of High Magic still.

"I dream that too, sometimes. The Seeker. And what then’s your disguise?"

A burst of panic swept through Will. The Light had taken Bran’s memories, but if they returned to intersect with reality... Will did not want to take away Bran’s dreams. For that matter he did not want to try, and find that he could not.

Bran pushed the cart away and joined Will sitting on the bed. "You’re the only one who doesn’t dream. Why?"

Will looked at the solemn countenance of his friend, trying not to see the echoes of majesty from their childhood. Not for the first time he wanted to apologize, no, beg forgiveness of his Pendragon that it had come to this lie. The Old One in him reminded, as always, that this had been Merriman’s last working in the world of men. He loved Bran but he loved Merriman too.

"It’s not my place to say. Don’t ask how I know, Bran Davies," he said at last. "But yes, I am the Seeker."

"Then this is yours." Bran flipped the paper over, running his calloused hands over the words. "We ought to figure it out, then. I remember you were alright with puzzles."

"You weren’t bad yourself," Will said warmly, glad the tension had shifted, even if not removed completely. He leaned forward, gently bumping brows in the hopes of wiping the worry from Bran’s face.

Bran gave a low chuckle, then made to lie back— and in the process hit the television remote control. They both jumped as a stream of Japanese filled the room. Will stood up.

"They do read the evening news quick here," Bran said. "Isn’t there someone in town you can ask about this poem?"

But Will was rooted to the spot. "Look!"

"Budge over, if you want me to..." Bran trailed off. It wasn’t the evening news. It was a breaking story.

The shrine where they’d met had been attacked.

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