Disclaimer:  All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and the kigdom of Valdemar are the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.  Any spelling, grammar or canon errors are all the fault of etcetera-cat.


The skewed, bleak weirdness of the AU Valdemar of the Great Betrayal, the Traitor and the scorning of Companions is entirely the fault of Senashenta.  The truly bizarre style and layout is me.


Notes:  Sena is lovely, and wrote Reality for me as a birthday present… in a similar fashion to her writing a sequel to explain some open questions in No Tomorrow, here I am one-shotting to explain some open questions from Reality namely— just what was the Betrayal, and who was the Traitor?


Feed(back) etcetera-cat.







:Brin?  Where are you going?:


:My Call— to find my Chosen.:




:East… somewhere,:


:Be careful Brin, it’s dangerous in the East—:



The echoes of long past conversations drift and eddy around me in the brightly lit blackness of my reality.  My voice sounds so different that I hardly recognize it; hardly can recall that once I was called Brin and that I lived.


If I had a body, I’d shiver with the soul-numbing cold of the else-where here and I’d tremble with the pent up guilt and grief that I will always feel and that keep me trapped here.  I think that I will always be here.


I’m the one; the Companion who Chose—


The Companion who Chose—


Who Chose—


The ghost of a whimper caresses around me.





:Brin?  Where are you?:


:I found her, Groveborn— my Chosen, but—:


:But what?:


:I—we— need help to come back, she’s from the Empire—:





Back when I was alive and had a body and dwelt in the light I was a Companion of Valdemar and I lived in Haven and I knew a few truths.  I knew that the great might of the Eastern Empire had recently turned the glare of it’s disapproving attention on Hardorn and my home:  Those places founded— one in antiquity, one in recent history— by deserters from the body on the Empire… deserters and traitors.



Old enmities were remembered— more in the light of the fact that the Gifts had been fading, than for any really hurt— and the opening movements of a deadly waltz began.


First there were the spies that came and observed, and then there was the beginning of the bitter, hidden dance that first involved Hardorn and spread to Valdemar; a dance that we knew well from the past, that we learned to dance gracefully and well with the land of Karse.


The spies became assassins, that became bandits, that became mercenaries… that became a war rooted in an ancient perceived slight against the holiness of the Empire and the Emperor that led them.


And then, I Chose—



“—is a walking diplomatic incident!”


:Your…Chosen… is being… emphatic—:


:Linka is upset Brin— you’ve just plunged through a Gate with your new Chosen; from the Empire, of all places and—:


:I won’t… give her up, Kyrith; Killinara is mine…:


“I hope you know what you are doing, what this could mean, Companion Brin.”


:Tell Linka that I know, and that I don’t care— Killi is mine and I am hers and that is all that matters.:


:Be careful Brin, that is all I ask.:



Companions Choose people to be Heralds.  Companions can never Choose wrong, and their Choice can never be questioned, never be doubted.  Those were the truths that I grew up with, that Valdemar was practically founded on.


As a youngster, I was filled with avid interest in those Companions that went out on Call, as were all of the Companion foals; after all, it was something that we all wished for in our deepest souls.  To find the one creature in all the world that would complete us and fill our heart— how could there be anything better than that?


We grew up against the backdrop of distant war and the ever-present threat of the brooding weight of the Empire always near our borders, and we started to go out to Choose… younger and younger.


As the Bell began to ring more frequently, the Companions just older than me began to Choose; and then, those the same age as me were going out to Choose; and then—


And then I Chose—



“I don’t like this place.”


:But it’s your home now, Killi; our home.:


“No one likes me here, all those nasty nobles say things about me, about father— he’s not a bad man Brin,”


:I… I know, Chosen, but… it is difficult for them—:


“It’s difficult for me too!  You showed up and you took me away from my life and my family and brought me to the land of my people’s enemy and I’m expected to smile when I’m taunted and attacked?!”




“Sometimes I wish you’d never come.”


:But… but I love you—:


War.  Such a foul, evil word… a word that I can never escape, it seems… a word that I foolishly thought that I could banish; that my choices and Choice could chisel away at.  A unifying light against the darkness; and example and a beacon, hailed as heroic—


But… it was not meant to be.  I became bound up in her; my Chosen, when we returned.  I tried to use my own mind to shield her from the harsher realities and prejudices that she faced in Haven.  A Princess of the Empire— whose own father was the man making war on our land and on Hardorn— was not easily accepted as a Heraldic Trainee.


I chose not to see, until it was too late…



“—diplomatic disaster more than an incident!  Half the Council are veering more and more towards the xenophobic preaching of Garent and the Eastern Border land-holders and the fact that we have a Trainee who is a member of the Empire’s Royal Family—“


:Linka; you are beginning to shout,:


“I know that Kyrith!  It’s a disaster, that’s why I’m shouting!”


:I thought that the Monarch’s Own Herald was supposed to be fair and impartial and coherent.:


:Sniping at my Chosen will not help anyone Brin.:


“Garent is using this to turn people against the Heralds— we’re the fewest that we’ve ever been for years and we keep on losing more to this damned war that her father is propagating against us—“


:Killinara is not responsible for her father’s actions— it is nothing to do with her!:


:Let us probe her mind, then.:


:No!  She is mine, isn’t that enough?:


“No.  It isn’t, Companion Brin— her presence here is undermining the Heralds and until we trust her, we can’t— we won’t risk ourselves—risk Valdemar—for her sake.”


:Groveborn; I can’t believe that you are condoning this—!:


:I am sorry Brin, but Killinara is too much of a risk to be an unknown quantity.:



That was the final argument, I think.  The little squall that let out into the oppressive calm before the storm.  Killi was ostracized by the students of all the Collegia— by all of the resident Court of Queen Kyrin, and I… was avoided by the other Companions.


Not hailed as a hero at all; but acknowledged with dark whispers as the harbinger of something risky, something dangerous.


My strident claims that she was mine, my true Choice, fell on unwilling to heed ears.  Linka, Kyrin’s Own Herald was adamant that my Killi was probed to ascertain her worthiness and to ensue that she was not a risk to the Heralds and to Valdemar.


By this point, I was completely wrapped up with my Chosen— I thought that I knew her inside out, and that the shadowed, hidden fractions of her mind contained nothing more important than childhood memories and embarrassments.


I was so, so wrong…



“But why?


:Because— they… I…:


“You’re just like they are— you believe all those whispers that the nobles say—“


:No!  How could—  I brought you here Killi, how could I doubt you?  You’re mine and I’m yours—:


“I don’t want to hear it Brin, I don’t believe you.”



I wrapped us tighter together, hiding from the awful truth that the Heralds and Companions had been declining in numbers for years— ever since the Mindmagic began disappearing, and that the fewer Heralds there were, the easier targets they made for the nobles and commons who had reason to dislike or mistrust them— reason to loathe the fact that the Heralds were always the closest to the Crown.


I tried to hide us both from the controversy and the doubt that our bonding caused.


I tried to hold onto my fracturing dream of us being hailed as heroes and peace bringers—


And I ignored the dark spots in Killinara’s mind—



“Why here?”


“The Grove is the most private and sacred place in Haven, we will not be disturbed here, as we might be in the Palace.”


:I cannot believe that you mean to go through with this— this— horror, Kyrith.:


:It is necessary, Brin; once the MindHealer has ascertained that Killinara is truly your Chosen and means us no harm, then it will all work out.:


:My word is not enough?  My heart’s words are not enough for you?  You must have Linka invade my Chosen?:


:I am sorry, Brin.:



I curl in on myself in the dark space as I recall a flashback memory of that miserable tableau in the Grove in Companion’s field.  Myself standing close to my Chosen, hurt and anger radiating from my every line; Killi with her arms wrapped about herself, face dark and sullen; the radiant perfection of the Groveborn, next to him his Chosen— Linka the MindHealer— the pair of them flanked by Queen Kyrin, her husband Taltin, their son and one Heir Yassi, and their respective Companions.


I cry out soundlessly, trying to reach out somehow to the pictures in my memories, trying to change the past.  Trying to change the fact that I’m the Companion that Chose—


Linka’s face creasing up in concentration, Killi’s face glazing over, then spasming in pain.  Linka crying out— an explosion of foreign, dark power—




The shock as the power reverberates into my mind and soul, shaking me lose from reason and leaving me stunned and unable to do nothing but watch as the long-hidden dark magic leaps from it’s hiding place inside Killinara’s mind and uses her ruthlessly and efficiently to— to kill the Queen and Taltin and Yassi—


And I can do nothing but shake with a soundless wail as my world crashes down around me.


I’m the Companion that Chose the murderer—


—that Chose the Great Betrayer—





“Kyrith— help me—


:You will stop this now!:


:Get away from my Chosen!  She’s mine— only mine— always mine!:



The hot, wet feeling of tears is the only thing that I can feel in this, my own personal hell, as I watch Kyrith lunge over the convulsing form of his dying Chosen to strike at Killi with flashing hooves and I see myself lash out at him— maddened and pain ridden and only able to comprehend that someone is attacking my Chosen.


Light… shadows… blood, and the screaming— always the screaming and the deep thudding finality of the Bell spelling out it’s message of doom and ending.


I am the Companion that Chose the Betrayer.


I am the Companion that was responsible for the murder of the Valdemaran Royal Family.


I am the Companion that Chose the downfall of the Heralds—


I am the Traitor that killed the Groveborn—


I am the Traitor, surrounded only by the echoes and the whispers of my memories, trapped in the darkness all alone—



:We’ll be together—:


“For how long?”


:As long as there’s anything of us, Killinara.:


“Forever and ever?”

:Yes Chosen, forever.:


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