Disclaimer:  Everything recognisable as relating the the world of Velgarth in general, and kingdom of Valdemar in specific, is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.

Notes:  Uh… plot bunny.

Feed(back) etcetera-cat.



Davi was still sitting on the ground in a state of advanced shock when Til appeared in the distance. He watched as the Whites-clad figure stumbled and wobbled from side to side, apparently unable to maintain forward motion in a balanced fashion, before finally getting within shouting distance.  At which point Til started shouting.

"You bloody hindering great idiot!" The tenor voice was rough around the edges and Davi winced; he hadn't realised that he sounded like that. Mind you... maybe he didn't, because there were definite overtones of Tillin's own voice behind the words. "What in the name of the Seven steaming circles of Hell did you think you were doing?"

Til finally reached him and collapsed awkwardly onto the ground, limbs sprawled every which way as if she wasn't entirely sure what to do with them. "I have a complete turnip head for a Chosen!"

Davi was finding it deeply disturbing that he was being lectured loudly by a face that he more commonly saw in the bath house mirror. He'd never realised that his nose was that crooked, however.  My face looks like something sat on it…

Til continued to rail on at him, the volume she was reaching gaining attention from the not-so-nearby other Companions in the Field.

Clearing his throat was an odd sensation, and Davi was surprised that, when he opened his mouth (although, the point was, it wasn't his mouth, wasn't it?), all that came out was a rather strangled sounding whinny.

Til flung her arms up in the arm and growled. "Mindspeech, you utter, utter—“ she continued to wave her arms around, apparently unable to come up with an appropriate word, "—man!" she finally settled on.

:Uh...: Davi tried. Even the Mindspeech was different. :What happened?:

Til looked as if she was seriously considering using her newly gained opposable thumbs to strangle him. "Your crackpot excuse for an experiment with the Heartstone made us swap bodies!" she snapped, in Davi's tenor.

Davi stared at her— given that he was actually staring at his own, definitely male body, from the eyes of Tillin's very definitely female Companion body— it was nigh on impossible to disbelieve her.

"I've already fallen down three different sets of stairs!" Tillin continued, "do you have any idea how hard it is to balance on just two legs?!"

Since Davi wasn't entirely sure that he could sufficiently figure out how to stand up using four legs, instead of two, he had a pretty good idea. :I think we're in trouble.: he said mournfully.

“Oh, really?” Til crossed her— well, yes, technically his, but trying to think of it like that was making his head ache— arms and narrowed dark grey eyes at him.  Davi winced; the sarcasm was even more apparent than if she’d Mindspoken him, despite the voice she was using not being her own.


“I should think,” Til muttered.  “You know, if you were a Firestarter, I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t set fire to my tail right now.”

Davi was suddenly extremely glad that his mind magic Gifts were limited to weak Mindspeech and moderate Farsight.  Hopefully Til didn’t know how to make Mage Gift work.

Til shifted her weight about; even when she was in her own skin, she was an exceptionally fidgety person.  Now in possession of her Chosen’s body, she didn’t seem able to keep still.  Davi watched her carefully, not at all certain that she wasn’t going to smack him on the nose, then noticed what she was about to do and tried to yelp out a warning—


Too late.  Tillin’s— Davi’s— face blanched and she froze completely, before slowly uncrossing her— Davi’s— legs.  She blinked rapidly and Davi winced in sympathy for his body.

:Watch it, I happen to like everything the way it is!: he complained loudly.

Companions really did have better eyesight than humans.  Davi could see quite clearly as Tillin tensed the muscles in his jaw.

“Davi—“ she warned, raising one hand to point (slightly unsteadily) at her body, “—so help me I will not care about the bruised nose that I give myself—“

:Uh—:  Movement behind the untidily seated form of his-Companion-in-his-body had attracted Davi’s attention.  There was a Companion walking towards the pair of them.  He was male.  He was wise looking.

He glowed faintly with power.

“What?” Til demanded.

:Herald Davi, Companion Tillin… is there a problem?:

Tillin froze, grey eyes going wide with something comically akin to panic.  Davi turned her head to one side, so that he could see Dadero clearly.  He wondered, vaguely, how Til managed with a blind spot right in the middle of what Davi was used to considering as his field of vision.

Dadero stepped around Tillin and looked from the sprawled Companion, to the sprawled Herald, and back again.  :Is there a problem?: he repeated.

Til gave Davi a look that clearly said I blame you entirely for this, and shifted uncomfortably from side to side, carefully avoiding crossing Davi’s legs.  “You could say that,” she said flatly.

The Groveborn Companion twitched an ear and looked non-plussed.

Til growled audibly and resorted to Mindspeech.  :Is it still suicide if you’re not in your body at the time you stab it repeatedly?:  Tillin’s Mindvoice sounded like… well… herself.  Davi found this strangely reassuring; for one thing it meant that he didn’t sound like a girl—

—and then he registered just what Til had said, and he yelped and tried to scoot backwards.  Since he tried to use his hands, and he wasn’t currently in a body that had hands, all he succeeded in doing was in kicking himself in Tillin’s legs.  Repeatedly.


:Tillin?:  Dadero sounded utterly poleaxed, his blue eyes wide as he stared at Davi’s body.

“Yes,” Tillin said flatly, causing Dadero to blink rapidly.

:What happened to you?:

“Ask my utter turnip of a Chosen.”  Tillin glared at Davi, after a moment, Dadero transferred his attention to the actually-a-Herald-despite-the-current-theme-of-equine.

:Herald Davi?:

There was something… strangely wrong about using Mindspeech to speak to a Companion other than Til.  I don’t exactly have a choice though, do I?  Davi groaned to himself, before replying to the question implicit in Dadero’s Mindvoice.

:Um… I was trying to figure out a different way to anchor mage shields so that they weren’t interfered with by ties such as lifebonds or… um… the Herald-Companion bond, but something went wrong and the next thing I knew I was, uh, here…:  Despite Davi knowing full well that Companions couldn’t blush, he could still feel the warm fizz of embarrassment crawling all over the skin of Tillin’s face and neck.

“And I was lying flat on his back, half under the table in the Workroom above the Heartstone,” Til added in an aggrieved tone of voice.  “Do you know how many flights of stairs there are between the Workroom and here?”

:I see,: Dadero said slowly, although it was plain that he didn’t really see much at all.  The Groveborn Companion lifted his head for a moment and gazed in the direction of the Palace.  :I’ve asked Petar to find Hawkfrost and meet us out here.:

Oh, great… Davi stifled a moan.  Petar was the King’s Own Herald and Hawkfrost was the current Dean of the Mage’s Collegium— as well as being one of the most powerful Haven-based Adept mages.

Tillin managed to coordinate herself enough to cross Davi’s arms over his chest.  She continued to glare at her Chosen with narrowed eyes; something that discouraged Davi from trying to Mindspeak her at all. 

An uncomfortable sort of silence descended.  Davi noticed, with some trepidation, that— as well as the distant spots of white and blue that had just exited the Palace complex, heading their way— no few of the Companions in the Field were meandering over to have a look at what was going on. 

Til looked as if she was seriously debating battering Davi over her head with something heavy, and never mind the headache that she’d end up with when they got back into their own bodies.

Davi became aware that being in Tillin’s body gave him a few abilities that he didn’t normally possess; such as being able to hear the buzz of chattering Mindspeech from the Companions gathering a short distance away and looking on with interest.  The displaced Herald tried to hunch over, but Til’s spine didn’t seem to bend that way, and wished devoutly that he was anything other than huge and very, very white.

He didn’t know how Tillin stood it.

“Dadero, what is going on?”  Petar— a middle-aged man, hair just beginning to turn salt-and-pepper grey— demanded as he and the exotically dressed figure of Hawkfrost reached.

The Groveborn gave Davi an unreadable look, before turning his attention to his Chosen.  :Herald Davi appears to have had an unfortunate accident with a spell.:

Hawkfrost quirked one elegant, ice-white, eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest, ignoring the fact that the motion dragged the hems of his extravagant sleeves along the ground.  “Indeed?” he asked, turning his attention to look at Davi’s body, “and what kind of accident would this be?”

“Don’t ask me!”  Tillin snapped at the serene looking Adept.  “I was minding my own business whilst my utter idiot of a Chosen was messing about with things that he shouldn’t!” she unfolded Davi’s arms and jabbed a finger towards her body.

The Hawkbrother’s face went blank with shock, and Davi flattened Til’s ears as he caught the excited-sounding increase in Mindspeech-buzz.

“Par—pardon me?” Petar asked in confusion.

Tillin pulled a disgusted face.  With her Companion face, the expression (usually produced when she was downwind of Davi’s field cooking) was eloquent, with the much greater mobility of a human face at her disposal, the expression wasn’t just eloquent; it was a complete and unabridged saga.  “Davi is over there—“ she pointed in the general direction of her usurped body once more, “—scraping my legs.”

Hawkfrost blinked and cleared his throat.  “You are implying that you are not Herald Davi, you are his… Companion…?” he asked, in that special, slow voice that people used when talking to those of uncertain sanity.

“I’m not implying anything, I’m Tillin!” Til half-shouted.  Davi noticed with trepidation that her mastery of fine motor control seemed to now extend to making fairly effective fists.  He hoped she wasn’t going to get him into a brawl with the King’s Own and Dean of Mage’s.

:She is speaking the truth,: Dadero put in.  :Somehow, Davi has managed to swap his mind with that of Tillin’s.:

“How… fascinating,” Hawkfrost’s eyes had lit up, and he was studying both Herald and Companion with interest, his eyes bearing the slightly unfocused look that Davi associated with someone using Mage Sight.  “Indeed—if you look, you can see that their auras are changed; reflecting both the body, and the nature of the spirit housed in it.”

“Right,” Petar said, interrupting the mage before he could start on one of the rambling, one-sided discussions that he was famed for.  “How do we fix it?”

Hawkfrost blinked, mouth still half open and looked around at the expectant humans and Companions watching him.  “I don’t think we can,” he said cautiously.

“What?”  Tillin yelped.  “You’re not seriously saying that I’m going to be stuck in this awful excuse for a body—“


“— for the rest of my days?!  I don’t belie—“

:Tillin,: Dadero said firmly, :please let Hawkfrost finish.:

The displaced Companion scowled, hunched over Davi’s shoulders and crossed his arms once more, her dark mutterings audible as a kind of background white noise.

“Ahem, thank you,” the Adept said with dignity.  “As I was saying; I don’t think we can do anything, but I see why no reason why Davi shouldn’t be able to put everything back to rights; given that he exactly retraces whatever steps he did in the first place.”

“Oh,” Tillin said, at the same time that Davi said;

:Uh, I don’t know if I actually have enough energy left to try that.:

“What?” Tillin asked in a flat tone of voice.

:Uh,: Davi looked abashed, vaguely aware that— apparently of their own accord— this made Tillin’s ears flatten.  Feeling your ears move was a novel experience for Davi, and he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to repeat it.  :I… um… everything Feels differently, and I feel pretty drained,: he offered.

Tillin’s growl was drowned out by Hawkfrost and Petar.  “Well, that is to be expected; nor would I recommend you trying to reverse the spell at this very moment,” the Hawkbrother Adept said.

“I certainly think a good night’s sleep will do everyone some good.”  Petar significantly inclined his head towards the setting sun, which was casting long shadows over the Field and the distant Palace.  “Do you need any help?” this was directed to Tillin.

She grumbled and managed to get to Davi’s knees, then wobble her way up onto his feet, her expression irritated as she struggled to find his centre of balance.  After a moment’s more wobbling, when it looked as if the displaced Companion would fall flat on Davi’s back, she accepted the support of Petar’s outstretched arm, leaning heavily on the King’s Own.

“I don’t know how you lot manage it,” she complained, fidgeting from foot to foot; despite such movements only making in harder for her to maintain what little balanced she had.

“It’s an acquired skill,” Petar told her, switching his attention to Davi.  “I’m afraid, Herald Davi, that you are on your own balance wise.”

:Sit back on your haunches, get your front feet under you, then just push with your back feet.:  Davi, Dadero and Tillin all looked around for the source of the new Mindvoice.  A short, compact little Companion mare had detached herself from the crowd of still-chattering Companions and was watching them with her tail flagged.

Everything looked… different… through Til’s eyes, but Davi felt sure that he recognised her.

:I figured that you’d want someone to make sure that he keeps you in one piece,: the mare said frankly.

Thank you, Ciero,” Til said with a sigh.  The name gave Davi the clue he needed; Ciero was the Companion to the Lord Marshall’s Herald— a stern looking woman a few years older than Davi— Betta.

:Well, come on; up you get,: Ciero told Davi.  :You’ll give Til a chill if you try to stay out here tonight.:

Stifling any kind of reply that he might have made, Davi tried to follow Ciero’s instructions.  It was a Hell of a lot harder than she made out, and merely standing up took most of his concentration.  In the background, Davi was half aware that the Groveborn was dispersing the gossiping crowd of Companions, and that Petar and Hawkfrost were supervising Tillin as they went back to the Palace complex.  Finally, though, Davi managed to co-ordinate Til’s body enough to stand up.  Once he all four hooves planted firmly on the ground, it was a surprisingly easy proposition to balance.
:I did it!: he announced, earning an eye roll from Ciero.  Then he felt the evening breeze swirling around Tillin’s tail and legs.  :Oh my Lord and Lady!:

:What?: Ciero cocked her head to one side.

:I’m completely naked!:  Davi exclaimed in a wretched tone of voice, getting that strange fizzing-sensation of an invisible blush, this time over the whole of Til’s body.

Ciero stared blankly at him; a short distance away, Davi was aware that Tillin had stopped and managed to crane his head around enough to give him an incredulous stare.  Petar and Hawkfrost were also looking at him; Davi most certainly had not mastered the knack of Companion-style limited Mindspeech.

:Of course you are,: Ciero said slowly, :that’s what the hair is for.:

:But!  Everything’s sort of… dangling… in the breeze!:  Davi tried to figure out how a Companion defended their modesty when distinctly under-supplied in both the hands and clothes departments.

“Are you implying that I… sag?”  Tillin’s outraged question easily carried through the clear air.  From what Davi could see (through the clouds of terminal embarrassment, that is), Petar and Hawkfrost were no longer having to help her stay up on two feet; they were having to forcibly restrain her from marching Davi’s body right back over and punching herself in the nose.

:Kernos,: Ciero said in an amazed tone of voice, :you actually passed your diplomacy classes?:  The mare twisted her head to look at the trio of struggling human figures.  :No, Til, you’ll only do something that you’ll regret later, when the Healers have to put your nose in a sling— you go with them and I’ll deal with him.:

Tillin’s response indicated that, whilst it had been her Chosen who had sat through the Karsite lessons, she’d also been paying rather careful attention.  Davi looked down at the ground, wondering if it would be so good as to swallow him up completely.  It didn’t oblige.

Instead, he got to stare at Tillin’s hooves from an entirely novel and new perspective.

:You know, I meant what I said about staying out here all night,: Ciero said conversationally.  Davi gave her a somewhat stunned look, and she sighed and elaborated.  :The overnight dew is more than slightly chilly and Tillin will kill both of us if you give her a cold.:

Not entirely sure if he was supposed to respond, Davi continued to stare at Ciero in a somewhat shell shocked fashion.  Despite the initial interest; it appeared that his predicament was of limited interest to Hawkfrost and Petar.  Also, Davi was struggling with the fact that having a Companion who wasn’t Tillin talking to him was more than slightly unnerving— perhaps even vaguely disturbing.

:Firstly; it’s easier for them to be quizzing Tillin at the moment, since the poor thing is lumbered with your voice, secondly; your mind’s not going to dribble out of Til’s ears if you try to talk to me, and, thirdly; you’re projecting like a an Empathic dreamerie addict.:  Ciero said in a tart tone.

Davi started in shock and belatedly managed to spin up some kind of shields; it took several attempts before he managed to make them large enough (it was bad enough having a naked bottom, without having an unshielded one as well) and permeable enough (although Ciero’s expression when he spun the shields too thick was clear, Davi wasn’t sure that he could lip-read with any degree of success) to actually be workable.

:Finally,: Ciero cast her eyes skywards.  :If we could please make a start for the Stables—: she took in the pitiful sight the Davi-in-her-best-friend’s-body made as he stared down at her hooves with an expression of near-terror and stifled a groan.  :Here’s a hint; don’t try and stand on one leg.:

:I’d figured that out, thanks!:

:Well, at least you’re talking to me.:  Ciero rippled her hide in a philosophical shrug and started walking towards the Companion Stables.  :Why don’t you tell me how you got into this mess, hey?:

After a moment of indecision about which foot to move first (front or back?  Left or right?), Davi hesitantly managed to follow after the short mare.

:Uh, I was trying to modify my mage shields so that they didn’t block out Tillin during something like a fight and… something happened when I tried to touch our bond with magic.:

Ciero looked sideways at Davi.  :Remind me to ask Til if she actually found a brain in your head.:

:Hey!:  Davi said in an offended tone of voice, only to be met with a pointed look.

:Look, no offence— after all, my best friend Chose you, so you must have some redeeming qualities— but you’ve managed to hijack your Companion’s body and get her stuck in yours.  You’ve got no grounds for getting on your moral high-horse—: Ciero gained a wicked expression, :—or Companion, as the case may be.:

:I’m glad I can’t normally hear the rest of the Companions if you all have such dire senses of humour,: Davi said with a sigh.  Ciero appeared to ignore him, instead looking over at the Palace.  Somewhat to his surprise, the increasing darkness as dusk well and truly fell made little difference to the clarity of his vision.

Companions really did have much better eyesight than their human counterparts.  Which is something, he imagined mournfully, that Til is going to add to her list of ‘reasons to kick my Chosen in the head’.

Ciero sniffed.  :Well, at least you seem to have got the hang of walking.:

Which, of course, brought Davi’s attention firmly back to the fact that this body expected him to be able to operate four— four!— legs in synchronisation.  He promptly forgot which one went next and ended up falling flat on Tillin’s nose, rump sticking gracelessly up in the air.

:You know, I kind of promised Til that I’d keep her nose in one piece,: Ciero was looking at him with something close to astonishment.


:Here’s another hint; noses are not noted for their effectiveness as spades.: 

Davi struggled back into something approaching a standing position, and trailed slowly after Ciero as she led the way to the Stables.  The whole walking thing seemed to work best if he tried not to think about it; something that was aided by the fact that Davi was having to concentrate mightily hard in order to not respond to Ciero’s baiting.  He wondered how Betta put up with her.

Finally, they clattered across the flat wooden bridge that connected the Field to the yard in front of the Stables, and Ciero made for one of the side doors, glancing backwards to check that Davi was still following her, occasionally.

Probably thinks that I’ll fall in the Terilee without proper supervision, Davi thought darkly then narrowly missed barking Tillin’s side on the door frame.  Horse turds.

:Over here,: Ciero jerked her nose to the left, and stepped into one of the many semi-private, straw-bedded areas that made up most of the Stables.

Davi was glad to get into the dubious shelter of the loose-box like area, away from the interested gazes of the other occupants of the Stables.

Water, Davi was surprised to find out, smelt an awful lot more… well, watery, if you were a Companion.  The small trough fixed to the wall of the loose box seemed to be calling Davi’s name and he gravitated towards it and gazed longingly at the smooth surface of the water.  He was thirsty.

Ciero twitched one ear and gave him a sideways look as she investigated the contents of a bucket hung in the corner opposite the trough.

Davi ignored her and concentrated on the water…

…the water that went up Til’s nose nose, in Til’s eyes and seemingly everywhere except for down his hijacked throat.  :Ah!:  Davi jumped backwards, sneezing violently and blinking.  He became aware that Ciero was laughing at him.  Loudly.

:You know, Tillin really won’t appreciate it if you drown her,: she said.  :I should probably also give you the hint that— as well as being unsuited for excavation purposes— noses are not noted for their water carrying capacities.:

Davi wondered if it was against the law for a Companion— uh, displaced Herald— to kill another Companion.  He approached the water trough cautiously, and managed to get a drink this time.

Ciero gave the mental equivalent of a yawn and shifted herself into one corner of the loose box, standing hipshot as she allowed her head to droop and her eyes to close.  Apparently, she’d had enough of Davi, then.

The displaced Herald looked down Tillin’s nose at the contents of the second feed bucket.  It smelt appetising to his Companion’s body, but Davi wasn’t entirely sure that he liked the look of it.

He sighed, quietly.  It was going to be a long night.


It had, as Davi had prophesised, been an exceptionally long night.  He had managed to fall asleep, but only after spending a good quarter-mark figuring out how to get Tillin’s body to lie down without inadvertently sticking her head through a wall… or anything equally ridiculous. 

And the whole scenario of having swapped bodies with my Companion isn’t utterly ridiculous?  Davi sighed loudly.

Getting up again had been a trial and a half; he had the straw in Tillin’s mane and tail to prove it.

:Aren’t you going to eat anything?: Ciero looked at him out of one large blue eye.

Davi grimaced internally.  Dinner last night had been more than ever wanted to experience when it came to equine cuisine.  :I’m not hungry.:

:Suit yourself,: Ciero shrugged.  :Dadero says that Tillin and the others are waiting for us at the Collegium Entrance to the Palace.:  Without waiting for a reply, the mare shook her head and led the way out of the Stables.

Instead of thinking about the mechanics of quadrupedal locomotion, Davi concentrated on the fact that, unlike yesterday evening, it was pretty much quiet inside his mind this morning.  Davi tried to covertly eye up the Companions that were standing around in the Stables and yard as he trailed after Ciero.  They certainly looked like they were talking with each other— and no few of them turned to watch him with frank interest— but he couldn’t Hear the buzz of Mindspeech that he had yesterday.


:We’re filtering you out,: the mare said, before he could articulate his question.  :You didn’t seem to be comfortable Hearing us; and we are not accustomed to having Heraldic eavesdroppers.:

:Oh.:  There didn’t seem to be much else to say to that, and silence reigned until they reached the nearest entrance to the Palace-Collegium complex.

The dark-wood double doors were open, and waiting just inside the doorway were several figures.  Davi recognised Petar, himself (wearing a thoroughly disgruntled expression), and an assortment of mages; dressed in either Heraldic Whites, or in golden-brown mage robes.  Hawkfrost, today in a green ensemble, stood to one side of the group, his arms loosely crossed over his chest, as he leaned against a wall.

:Well, this is as far as I’m going,: Ciero announced, coming to an abrupt halt.  :Remember that you bruise easily Til, so no hitting yourself.:

If Tillin replied, Davi certainly wasn’t privy to it.  He heard Ciero’s badly stifled snort of laughter, however, and flinched.  Having spent that past fifteen years with Tillin in his head, Davi was well aware of her short fuse and… direct… method of dealing with matters that lit that fuse.

“Good morning, Herald Davi; if we could proceed?”  Petar nodded in the direction of the mages.

“Yes,” Hawkfrost straightened up and uncrossed his arms, “we have decided that it would be best if you tried to recreate the atmosphere in the Workroom just prior to yesterday’s… incident. We shall observe from outside of the Workroom,” he indicated himself and the other mages.

:Oh, okay,: Davi said uncertainly, half aware that Ciero had vanished off into the gardens surrounding this end of the Collegium.

“Well, come on then,” Petar gestured with one hand then turned to lead the way.  Hawkfrost fell into step next to him, and the six other mages followed behind; leaving Tillin and Davi to bring up the rear.

After eyeing himself up uncertainly for a moment, Davi managed to remember what he needed to do in order to prompt Tillin’s body into movement, and sidled through the doorway.  This time he was vaguely pleased that he managed to navigate a doorway without nearly removing Tillin’s left flank.

The Field was, obviously, covered in grass; the yard in front of the Stables was packed-down gravel and sand (as were the paths that wound around the Collegium and Palace) and the interior of the Stables was deeply bedded in straw and wood shavings.  This meant that walking on the stone-paved ground floor corridor inside the Collegium was the first opportunity that Davi had had to experience the novelty of feet that could double as a musical instrument.

In the enclosed space of the brightly mage-lamp lit corridor, the chiming was almost disconcertingly loud.  Davi wobbled as he tried to adapt to every footstep eliciting a distinctive sound; something that was not at all helpful to his ignore-them-and-they’ll-work method of leg control.

:How in the Havens do you put up with this racket?: Davi asked plaintively.

His somewhat… generally… dressed body paused slightly as Tillin turned to look at him (not having the advantage of the peripheral vision that Davi had right now), then continued to stalk after the mages and King’s Own, both of Davi’s arms outstretched, the fingers of the left one trailing along the wall.  “You get used to it,” Tillin said flatly.

Davi watched her cautiously.  She was making him looked like a displaced carnival high-rope act.

She wobbled past an open doorway, momentarily bereft of support for his left hand.

A displaced carnival high-rope act with vertigo.

The party ahead of them clattered down the short flight of stairs that delineated between the old and new parts of the Collegium building.  Davi stopped dead in Tillin’s tracks, her ears flattening as he eyed the wide stone steps with misgiving.

Tillin grimaced and shifted herself about, so that she was bodily leaning Davi’s body against the wall, arms splayed, as if Tillin was afraid that the wall might try and run away.  Slowly, she edged one foot forwards at a time, negotiating the first step at a speed that would have made a arthritis crippled old washer woman look like a trained athlete.

Really bad vertigo…

“I don’t know what you think you’re looking at,” Til growled, not looking at her body.

Davi belated realised that he had to navigate the steps as well, and he stifled a groan.  Tillin’s idea of using the wall for support seemed like a good one, and Davi leaned heavily against the other wall and began to advance slowly down the steps.

I don’t want to imagine what we look like.

Once the stairs had been safely conquered, Davi and Tillin trailed after the rest of the group.  Davi searched for something to break the silence between his Companion and himself.  :Um… how was your night?:

“Bloody awful,” Til said shortly.  “Do not speak to me about door handles, or shoelaces, or buttons, belts, cutlery or the interfering nature of both Heralds and mages.”  A significant pause.  “And definitely do not ever speak to me about toilets.”


“Not ever,” Til’s tone of Davi’s voice was final, and the displaced Herald decided not to pursue the subject any further.

He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know, in any case.

Two further staircases (the one with the curve to it was particularly unpleasant to navigate), and rather more in the way of corridor than Davi remembered there being, and they finally reached the door to the Workroom.

Both he and Til heaved sighs of relief.

The mages and Heralds stood to either side of the door and looked at both Herald and Companion with expectation.  “We will let you go in alone,” Hawkfrost reiterated, before touching the spell-locked door handle, causing the thick iron-bound wooden door to swing inwards on its hinges.

At the opening of the door, the scattered stones in the walls that had been keyed as mage lights began to emit a soft, white glow.

“Good luck,” Petar said soberly, Dadero will be monitoring you, as well as the mages, so we will come and help if you require it.”

“Hmm,” Tillin grunted in a non-committal fashion and stamped into the small room, slumping Davi’s body untidily in one of the high-backed wooden chairs that, along with the much scarred and battered circular table, were the only items of furniture.

Davi swallowed nervously and followed her into the room, barely managing to fit her larger body through the small doorway.  Once he was inside, he heard Hawkfrost close the door with a click.  As soon as the latch caught, the layered general shields that were built into the very walls of the Workroom sprang into being.

Til glared at him from under lowered eyebrows.  “Well, go on then; make with the magic.”

:I…uh…: Davi shifted from side to side slightly.  :I don’t know if I can access the ley in your… um… body.:

“You can.”

:But, um… I know that Gift channels are predominantly in the spirit and mind, but there is a physical component, particularly with Mage Gift channels and I’m not sure that you—:

“You.  Can.”  Tillin bit off each word, and Davi blinked at her in surprise.

Tentatively, he extended his strangely altered perception of the world and found, with no little surprise, that Tillin’s body did indeed possess Mage Gift channels.  :What…?:

“It’s not your concern; just get on with it and put us back the right way round,” Tillin interrupted him, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

:Right,: Davi sighed and closed Tillin’s eyes.  It was easier to do this if he could forget just what predicament he was in.

Beneath them, the Heartstone was an incandescent beacon of power, the ley lines radiating out from it also glowing with (relatively) controlled force.  Davi carefully insinuated himself into the run-off from one of the smaller lines and began gathering power.  It felt… different… from usual.

:Companions are built differently to humans,: Til’s Mindvoice was soft, brushing at the edge of Davi’s awareness.

He murmured something like agreement and instead concentrated on calling to mind just what the sequence of events had been yesterday.  Once he was sure that he had matters fixed in his mind sufficiently to be able to perform them backwards, Davi dropped the shields he had been keeping around himself, relying on the Workroom shields to contain any… mess.


:What Davi?:

:I’m really sorry…:

Faint sensation of surprise, then, :I know, Chosen.:

Bracing himself, the Herald gripped hold of the blue-white line of his bond to Tillin in one ‘hand’ and used the other to snag hold of a thread from the pool of ley energy that he had accumulated.  I hope this works— Davi centred himself, pulled ‘Tillin’ as close to himself as he could and then twisted

It was like being a rat and being caught by a terrier; the whole world seemed to be blurring and juddering from side to side, spinning over and over in a way that made the ceiling the floor and the floor half a candle mark past noon last Tuesday.  Davi thought that he was screaming, but he couldn’t entirely be sure as barely contained mage energy flared and sparkled around him, adding to the disorientation and sense of falling-flying.  It wasn’t that it hurt per say, it was just that— he— thought that he— was— going— to— pass—



Oh.  My.  Lord.  Kernos.  Davi’s head felt like a Companion in hobnailed boots was dancing on the back of his skull.  It felt like the entire inside of his head had been squeezed through a narrow pipe and then the resultant good scraped up and thrown from the top of a very tall tower.  On to spikes.  Big, pointy spikes.

In short; it felt like one of the worst headaches that Davi had ever experienced.

Willowbark, he thought faintly, I need lots and lots of willowbark—

:Stuff that—: Tillin’s voice, sounding as awful as Davi felt, :—give me wheatsmut.  Give me pure wheatsmut cut with poppy extract and give it to me now.:

Davi cracked open one eye and groaned as the soft light of the Workroom mage lights lanced straight into his brain.  He appeared to be lying flat on his back, half under the Workroom table.


his back?  Davi cracked open the other eye, and almost sobbed with relief when he realised that, instead of having a large blind spot, he just had lots of little dancing you’ve got a killer headache spots.

“I’m me again!” his voice cracked on the last word, as his head announced just how ridiculous the idea of speaking actually was.

:That’s nice…: Til sounded dazed and it took Davi a moment to remember how to work his own neck muscles (the headache wasn’t helping in the slightest) to turn his head to the side he thought he could sense Tillin on.

The Companion mare was lying flat on her side, also half under the Workroom table, an expression of acute suffering plastered over her long, delightfully equine face.

“You’re you,” Davi said inanely, “we’re both us again!”

:Yay…:  Tillin’s reply was drowned out as the door to the Workroom suddenly clattered open and a positive hoard of clattering feet piled in.  Possibly, they had people attached to them.

Davi stifled a moan as the air was filled with the excited babble of mages who have found something new to obsess over in an unhinged fashion.

“I’ve sent for a Healer,” Davi managed to roll his head far enough in the other direction in order to squint blearily at the King’s Own, who was bending over to look under the table at them, hands braced on his knees.  “They should be bringing some poppy extract for you.

:Yay…:  Til’s rather incoherent sending was louder this time, and Davi felt like joining in with her.  The prospect of strong painkillers was infinitely attractive at the moment.

He managed to shuffle-roll his way around so that his head was lying next to Til’s, his face pressed to the bridge of her nose, the faint tickle of her breath warming the front of his chest through the gaps in his shirt where Tillin had been beaten by the buttons.  “I think I want to sleep for a week,” he confided to her softly, ignoring the mage-babble in the room-at-large.

:I wouldn’t object to that,: Tillin agreed.  :We’re certainly not going to get a Circuit any time soon.:

Davi managed to summoned up a faint feeling of curiosity, if not the words.  Til managed to understand what he was not asking, though.

:You have no idea what those mages are like with their questions,: she said faintly, :I had to threaten to bite them before they’d leave me be last night.  They’re going to follow us both around for months now.:

Davi sighed.  “Sorry,”

:You stick them in place, I’ll push them in the river, okay?:

Despite the pain of his headache, Davi smiled and managed to sling one arm over his Companion’s neck, aware that both she and he were losing the battle against unconsciousness.  “Okay,” he agreed sleepily, then closed his eyes and waited for the Healers to arrive, the sense of Tillin warm in his mind once more.

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