It wasn’t too long after Deidre started at Martindale that the Keeper sisters earned their nicknames. No one was sure if it started with the professors or the students but once it started it spread like wildfire. When Jocelyn had first heard the nicknames she had tried to conceal them from her younger sister, not wanting her to have her feelings hurt, only to have Deidre brag at dinner one night that everyone in school called them Joy and Pain. Their father had roared with laughter while their mother just sighed and shook her head.
Both sisters had come in to Martindale with the highest marks possible from their time in elementary and middle school. Both had passed their 12 year exams with flying colors and had spent their last year in middle school dreaming of the day they would enter Martindale Academy. Jocelyn spent her first year at Martindale learning everything she could during the day and being grilled by her sister every night. What were the classes like, what were the kids like, what were the teachers like? When it finally came time for Deidre to start she felt like she already knew the school. Though Jocelyn still loved her general classes Deidre was more excited about her focused track. Her grades remained high in Prophecy, Spell-Casting and Basic Healing as well as the classes they had learned they shared with The Others like Math and history (though comparisons with Aric’s lessons and their own showed that there were very big differences in their history) but Deidre was obviously restless in those classes and just biding her time until she could get to one of her Basic Fighting Technique or Weapons Management classes.
Keeping her grades high in all of her classes was due more to the well developed sense of competition that most Warriors had as part of their basic make-up than it had to do with actual interest in the class. Hyper-vigilance, speed, strength, mental and physical toughness and competitiveness, these were all parts of the gift. Just as with all of the gifts you could received all of the components or part and you could receive the parts in different strengths. For instance you could have the calling to Warrior and only have developed hyper-vigilance. There were many Warriors working in security fields among The Gifted as well as The Others that only focused on being aware of where everyone was at any point in time. The Keeper sisters had both realized the full complement of gifts when they received their callings. It was not always the case; in fact there were no other Prophets in the school with the full complement of gifts and only one other Warrior with the full complement in Deidre’s year; Calvin Springwater.
Cal came in to Martindale expecting to be the top of his class, as he always had been. Instead he spent his time there fighting with Deidre Keeper for top spot. They would alternate #1 and #2 so consistently that the other students in the grade started counting the #3 places as their own #1. Cal was fearless in fight training. His mother was a world class Healer and he had spent his days fighting with the reckless abandon that came from knowing there were very few injuries his mother couldn’t heal within hours. So while his style was more aggressive Deidre’s was more cunning. She had trained with her father, a high ranking watch commander and leader of the guard and learned quickly that she was never going to overpower her much larger father so she would have to find other ways to try and gain an advantage.
They were evenly matched in weapons and though Deidre was better at spell-casting Cal consistently got better marks in their healing arts classes. So class ratings were always in flux. Sometimes it was Deidre at the top of the list and sometimes Cal. For two years they were both aware that if grades came out and they were listed second the other would be first. Keeper or Springwater which would it be? When the end of their sophomore year came and they were finally allowed to start sparring against each other instead of just their instructors and work out dummies everyone was ready to see who would best whom in their first match. After two years of stalking each other, of competing against each other to try to be the best they were finally going to get their shot.
The match was set for the last round of the week. Deidre had noticed the gym filling up with other students as the time drew closer and closer. It seemed as though everyone wanted to be there to witness them face off. Deidre caught her sister’s eye in the crowd and smiled as Jocelyn gave her a thumbs up. Cheers for each of them came from the stands, “Go, Pain, you can do it!” “Yay, Cal!” The time for the match finally came and they squared off, slowly circling each other, each one waiting for the other to make a mistake. To get off balance in any way. The tension in the gym got to be so high Deidre thought that everyone there was holding their breath waiting for one of them to make a move. Finally Cal’s best friend Jake yelled from the bleachers, “Are you going to fight her or kiss her?” The crowd laughed and the tension broke. Deidre caught Cal’s eye and smiled, then she saw the blush starting to spread across his cheeks. Oh, well this was interesting. She smiled again and walked slowly towards him with her hands held out, palms up. As she reached him she asked, “Well?” and then leaned in toward him mouth turned up to receive the kiss. Cal blinked twice and he bent toward her closing his eyes. This was the opportunity she had been looking for. With a quick leg sweep she took Cal down to the mat and pinned him.
The gym erupted in cheers and laughter. As they lay on the mat the look of shock on Cal’s face was replaced with a wide grin. “You are a tricky one. I won’t forget that next time.” Deidre smiled and told him, “Yes you will,” and then gave him the quick kiss he had been expecting just a few moments before. From that point on they were not only the top two students in their class but they were the class couple as well. They were inseparable, a perfect couple in everyone’s eyes, or at least everyone at school.
Calvin’s family was not as happy about the match at first. They had a long history of while not exactly arranged marriages at least highly suggested ones. The wife they had hope Cal would choose was the daughter of a local politician that showed promise to be a very gifted Spell Caster. Marriages among the Springwaters and their friends were always between two different classes of called. They felt this was the best way to keep a good blend of gifts in the family. Some of the older families had practiced this for generations. Even though the gifts of the parents seemed to have no real relevance on the gifts of the child. The Springwaters themselves showed this, the Warrior child born to the Healer and the Spell Caster. Other families, like the Keepers, had abandoned the old practice and turned to what they called love matches. Sometimes this meant couples with different gifts and sometimes it meant they had the same.
After a few years of watching Cal and Deidre together the Springwaters realized that he had made up his mind and that no one would ever make him as happy as she did. And as they got to know Deeds (as Cal called her) they also realized that they could not have selected a better match for their son. It also helped that the young woman they had chosen for his match had also chosen someone else for herself. There were no explanations or awkward conversations needed between the parents. Just a smile and shrug as they watched their children live their own lives with their own choices.
When Cal and Deeds first announced their plans to marry there were many among their friends and family that worried a pairing between two Warriors would end in heartbreak. Tempers would flare, patience would be tested or the ever present possibility of an early death loomed. Deidre wasn’t worried. The life of a Warrior was a hard one, she had already lost friends from school and her father had lost many friends and co-workers as well. The possibility of an early death was something that all of those called to be a Warrior understood. Acceptance of death was almost part of the gifts.
Soon after they announced their engagement Deidre sought out her mother to ask the one question she did struggle with, how was she always so calm when her father left on patrol? Being the wife of a Warrior she knew that every time he left the house he could face untold danger. How was she able to stay calm and centered and never show her worry to her children? There had never been a point in Deidre’s childhood where she could remember her mother ever worrying about her father returning from work safely and it had always made her and her siblings feel as though they had nothing to worry about either. Deidre wanted to know how to project that sense of calm if she and Cal ever had children. Even though she knew that each and every time she and Cal walked out of the door it could be their last. When she asked her mother just smiled and told her she should probably talk to her sister.
Instead Deidre went to her Aunt Dot. “Did you tell Mom how Dad would die?”
Not looking up from her desk Aunt Dot said, “Always an interesting conversation starter, aren’t you, darling?”
Deidre was not to be swayed, “Did you?”
“Fine, we will leave the chit chat for later.” Dot put the paperwork she was reviewing to the side. “What have you been taught about prophecy regarding death?”
“Any vision of the future is just one possible outcome. Even the act of telling the vision can set in motion a series of events that would change the outcome. Prophets are not fortune tellers who can pick a vision of the future out of thin air and so knowing when or how someone will die is not a possibility. Death is unpredictable and true visions of a person’s demise are unlikely to happen more than a few days before the death occurs.”
“Very good. You remember your lessons from prophecy class very well. So knowing that why would you think I could tell your mother when you father would die?”
“Because I also know that there are many things about being a Warrior that only other Warriors know.”
“Always a smart girl.”
“So? Did you tell her?”
Dot pulled the paperwork back towards her, “Conversations between sisters are just that, conversations between sisters. Did you have anything else?”
Deidre smiled at her aunt, “No, I just wanted to know how Mom was always so calm, I believe I do now. Thank you.”
“And will you be having a conversation with you own sister?”
Deidre shook her head, “No. I know that Cal loves me truly, if this weren’t true either you or Joy would have told me by now. I know that I love him. I know that no matter how many years we have together they won’t be enough. I don’t want to know anything that would make me act differently, greedy with his time or mine. I know enough to know that we are meant to be together and any time I have with him would be better than time without him. That’s all I need.”
Aunt Dot stood up and walked to her niece. Hugging her fiercely she said, “Always a smart girl.”
The day of the wedding dawned bright and sunny. Friends and family had come together to celebrate their union and Deidre was a nervous wreck. She hadn’t expected to be. She and Cal had been a couple for years. Ever since their days in Martindale Academy. They had stayed together through their advanced training and through their apprenticeships with The Guard. They had grown up together, trained together, made all of their future plans together. The wedding was a mere formality at this point, they were already bonded in every way they could be. But she was still nervous. Standing in front of their family and friends making a vow to Cal, showing her most vulnerable side. And that was really it. She was always the strong one in the family. Warriors weren’t good with the softer emotions. Sure they had them, felt them, but they didn’t like to show them. And today it was all about letting others witness them and that was more terrifying than anything she had faced in her training or her brief time with The Guard.
Her sister Jocelyn would be standing for her and Cal’s best friend Jake would be on his side. They would be making their vows to help guard the couple and keep their relationship strong. The idea of someone else guarding the two Warriors had made them all laugh. Especially as their guards were a Prophet and a Healer, though some argued that having a Prophet who could warn off arguments before they started and a Healer to patch up training wounds were two good choices for a Warrior marriage.
“Do you have Cal’s ring?” Jocelyn asked Deidre preparing for her part in the ceremony.
“Oh shoot! Cal still has both the rings, would you go find him and get his back please? Or does it matter if Jake is holding both rings? You could just get it from Jake when the ceremony starts, right? That would work. Or should you go get them now?”
Jocelyn started laughing, “I will go get the ring now. You just try to calm down. You are wired so tightly I’m afraid you might explode during the service.”
“I’m fine, I’m really just fine I just…” As Deidre realized she was still talking too fast and too loud she smiled at her sister, “How about I try meditating for a little bit? I will sit here and wait for you to come back with the ring. And I promise I won’t explode while you are gone.”
With that Jocelyn started off to find Cal. She wasn’t surprised to find him pacing outside the reception hall. “I see you are as calm as Deidre.”
“Joy!” Cal ran over to his almost sister-in-law and grabbed her hands, “I have my ring still and you need it, and I wasn’t sure if I should send Jake to find you or just have him hold it and…” Jocelyn started laughing, “That’s why I’m here. I swear you are like two peas in a very nervous pod!” Cal smiled, “I didn’t expect to be nervous I’ve always known I wanted to marry Deeds, but now that it’s happening it seems like a much bigger step than I thought. We are bonded after today. Bonded for life.” And with that a giant grin broke across his face, “Best thing ever.” With that he reached out and placed his ring in Jocelyn’s hands. As she closed her hands around his and wished him luck today she was hit with a vision like a bolt of lightning in her head. She almost stumbled with the force of it. “Joy? You okay?” Cal’s grinning face changed to concerned.
“No, no, I’m fine. I just tripped a bit, that’s all. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to stay upright during the wedding.” And with that she walked away from Cal and headed back toward her waiting sister.
When she got out of site of Cal she took a minute to gather herself back together. Cal and Deidre were going to be very happy. They were going to have one daughter that they doted on. And Cal wasn’t going to live to see 35. How was she going to stand and promise to guard and protect this marriage knowing that Cal would die so young? She hadn’t seen his death. She had no idea how it was coming. She just knew that it was. Jocelyn checked her watch, she had just a few minutes before she was to stand in front of friends and family and swear protection on this union and she didn’t know how to do that now.
As she was trying to get her racing thoughts under control her Aunt Dot came around the corner, as soon as Jocelyn saw her aunt the tears started to flow. Aunt Dot wrapped her arms around her niece, “Shh…”
“Aunt Dot, it’s just…”
“I know, child, I know. Tell me what you saw.”
As Jocelyn talked she told her aunt that she hadn’t really seen anything. There was no real vision. Just the knowledge of what was to come. They were going to be happy and have a daughter and Cal was going to die. Aunt Dot looked at Jocelyn and asked her, “And if you tell your sister this what will happen?”
Jocelyn stopped and thought, “I don’t know. I don’t know that it will change anything. Or it might change everything, I don’t know.”
Then Aunt Dot told Jocelyn about the conversation she had had with Deidre when she and Cal got engaged. “So you see? She doesn’t want to know. She knows the risks of marrying a Warrior such as herself, but you saw they will be happy. And there will be a child. Stealing those things from her to try and change the outcome of Cal’s destiny would be unfair to all of them. Keep their joy in your heart. Know that that is all we can ask for our loved ones, that they are happy. And then be there for her when she needs you later, because she will.”
Jocelyn and her Aunt walked together back to find her sister and prepare for the wedding. Outside the bridal room Jocelyn’s Aunt gave her a hug and wiped the tears from her face, “Go freshen your makeup. Smile. Be happy that you have seen this marriage will be a good one. Hug your sister.” And with that Aunt Dot left Jocelyn to face her sister alone. She was still unsure of what she was going to say to Deidre, how she was going to handle knowing what she did. She wasn’t sure she was as strong as her aunt. Being a Prophet meant knowing things and keeping secrets. It always had. But keeping them from her sister was always difficult.
As Jocelyn opened the door she heard her sister practicing her vows, “…and I will stand by your side and walk through the world as your partner for as long as we are able for you are my heart and my breath and….”
Deidre saw her sister watching her and saw the tears in her eyes. “Are they too corny? We said we would write our own vows but I am not really great at this. How do you tell someone what they are to you when they are everything?”
Jocelyn walked over and hugged her sister tightly, “Oh, Deidre, just like that. Just like that.”
Then the knock came on the door, “Ladies, it’s time.”
Jocelyn smiled at her sister, “Ready?”
“More than ready.”
And with that Jocelyn knew she would never say anything to her sister about what she had seen. Let her life reveal itself in its own time. But she couldn’t wait to meet her niece.