Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
Standing on the Edge of Nowhere.
The moon is bright tonight— even I can see that— and the reflected silver glory of the sun is bathing the Field in monochrome brilliance, highlighting everything with sharp edges and soft black shadows. A slight breeze is stirring the air, making the trees of the Grove rustle and whisper their secrets to each other and the grass ripples in a silent dance.
It looks like the place that dreams are spun.
I love it here.
In the distance I can see the shadowy bulk of the Palace-Collegia complex, a few windows still glowing with muted yellow lights. From their positions, I’d say that they belong to assorted trainees, rushing to finish the work that they didn’t manage to complete during the day. Or rather— if they are anything like Jalli was— rushing to complete the work that was given a week ago, and has been languishing un-noticed on a corner of the desk for the past six days.
Mathematics used to be Jalli’s downfall, many were the nights that I’d be staring sandy-eyed at a wall, whilst he stared sandy-eyed at messy piles of scribbled notes, trying to make sense of the fractions and alphas and other assorted delights.
That was a long time ago, and now it lives only in our shared memories, edges blurred and content fragmented.
I think that I’m the only one currently out in the Field, the wind swirling around me in endless loops as I look up at the sky again, ignoring the stark silver shape of the moon and turning my concentration to the thousands of actinic white points that are scattered across the dark soul of the night sky. It is exceptionally clear tonight and even the fainter stars are making their glimmering presence felt, bare smudges in the sky that fade the closer in the sky you get to the moon.
As eyes of shadowed blue stare up at the endless wonders above me I find myself drifting backwards, as memories surface and make themselves known once more.
This is the furthest I have ever been out of Haven— I have been travelling at a canter or a lope for four days— and I am well and truly in the countryside now. The Waystation I have found for the night is perched at the top of a small hill, surrounded on three sides by a copse of birch, ash and rowan trees, the fourth side open, giving me an unrivalled view of the patchwork land spread out in front of me in varying shades of grey and shadow, illuminated by the silver of a full moon and the rarefied glimmer of a sky full of stars.
Only one thing could make this any better, and that should be resolved soon— I’m getting close, very close, to the place where my Call is drawing me. In fact, if I had kept on going when the sun set, I could have arrived tonight— this place and the fiery descent of the sun seduced me, and now the moon and the imperceptible waltz of the stars have me willing captive. There’s no rush, and I want to remember this distant perfection forever.
It feels like I’m standing on the edge of infinity.
The wind is picking up strength slightly, and I can now hear the gentle burbling as it caresses the surface of the Terilee, pushing up ripples of the silvered-black looking water and creating a succession of disparate images.
The lights at the Palace have gone out, and wisps of faerie-mist are starting to gather under the Grove trees and there are moving shapes, silently heading towards me.
I wake up to what looks to be a perfect day— the sky is a burnished shade of blue, highlighted only by faint strokes of pale clouds riding high and the fields before me have regained their daytime hues of gold and green.
Stretching my neck and legs causes the bells on my hackamore to chime in counterpoint to my movements. This time I manage not to jump with surprise, although the first morning after I set out I near gave myself a fit when I woke up and shook my head and all these bells started clattering in my ears!
Since this Waystation is at the top of a hill, I have to walk for a ways before I can slake my thirst— having hooves being rather limiting in the well-usage area— but luckily there is a small stream winding around the bottom and I waste no time in burying my nose in the cool crystal water, before flicking my tail and looking down the dusty road consideringly.
The Call is definitely stronger… well, it has been getting stronger for the past five days or so, but this seems different somehow. As well as the tugging at the depths of my soul I can hear whispering at the very edge of my mind, nothing that I can make out if I concentrate, but if I let my attention wander then little bits of information trickle through.
It’s rather frustrating, truth to tell, and I keep my pace to an easy trot as I head northwards along the road, trying not to anticipate the bits of knowledge too much.
I blink and break my stride as the name metaphorically smacks me between the eyes, and before I can fully recover, an impression of a boy—short, skinny and with dark red hair— joins the name in swatting me between the ears and I really do stumble this time, kicking aside clods of earth as I veer off to one side of the road before regaining my balance and sensibilities.
A gusty sigh and I shake my head violently, bells chiming wildly and look down at my hooves… or rather, the fetlock deep dust that my hooves are hidden beneath.
Lovely. Just marvellous… The thought trails off as the realisation of why precisely I’m standing in a dusty rut finally waves hard enough to catch my attention.
Ooooh! My Chosen-to-be is very nice looking indeed— and close.
Very close indeed.
An excited whicker and I waste no time in hopping out of the rut-like ditch and hastening along, ears pricked and dark sapphire eyes sparkling with anticipation. It seems like an age before the farm-steading rears up on my right, gate pulled closed across the track leading to the farmyard.
My ears go back and my head goes down and I lengthen my stride, the sound of my hooves reverberating dully on the dirt road as I bear down on the wooden bar gate, shoving off at the last moment to sail through the air.
The other side of the gate is paved in flat, grooved stones and the noise I make as I clatter to a landing and continue into the yard garners plenty of attention from the inhabitants of the farm, but the only one I notice is emerging from the kitchen door of the house and he has light blue eyes and red hair—
:Jalli!: I exclaim gleefully and prance towards him, watching in amusement as his expression goes blank, followed by fast moving bemusement.
“You— how—?” His voice has broken, with a slight burr in it that indicates that it has only recently broken, so I guess he’s about fourteen years old.
I also guess I’d better stop confusing the poor lad.
:I Choose you, Jalli. I am Melidi:
Whatever he was about to say doesn’t make it out of his mouth as I catch his sky-blue eyes with my own night-blue ones and twist—
—and with a spiralling song that echoes from my deepest self I feel, for the first time, complete.
We stand there and stare blissfully at each other for the longest time—
Standing on the edge of forever.
It’s hard to believe that day was so long ago, and that so much has happened since I pranced into my Jalli’s life. I doubt I could do anything approaching prancing these days. Mind you, neither could Jalli, the pair of us have lived too long, and seen too much.
We’re one of those rarities amongst the Heralds and Companions— one of those depressingly few pairs that have lived to a ripe old age. In our time Jalli and I have seen Circuits and Runs, feuds and peace treaties— the life of a Herald, and he loved every moment of it, as did I.
And now it comes to this—
A moonlit night in the waning of summer and I am standing in the Field with the silent breeze playing with the rising wisps of mist around the Grove and tugging at my mane and tail.
Jalli is asleep, his sleeping mind twined around mine, our breathing synchronised and slow. With wry amusement I observe that our collective aches and pains are also synchronised— I can feel the grumbling ache of the old knife wound on my Chosen’s arm, as I’m sure his left hip is aching in memory of the silvered scar that traces across my rump.
The wind is dying down.
Part of me is slipping, falling away.
I don’t realise what is happening at first, but the lack of the steady beat that I have felt since that perfect day so long ago confirms what the quietly yawning nothingness in my soul is telling me.
I take a deep, shuddering breath, and bow my head for a moment, when I raise it the vague shapes around me have resolved into Companions.
All the Companions in the Field, not looking at me— although I can feel them all in my mind— but looking into the ebony shadows of the Grove.
A low moan as the wind gusts suddenly through the Field, and the secret whispering of the trees is joined by the quiet finality of the Bell.
:Goodbye.: My final word, spoken calmly around the growing emptiness inside me, and I lift tired eyes to look at the distant perfection of the sky one last time. The silver of the moon fades, until it’s just the glittering of the thousands of stars meeting my gaze and then, they too, fade away to darkness.
And I’m left—
Standing on the edge of nowhere.
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