Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey. The song is Furious Angels and the lyrics are the property of Rob Dougan.
I donít like this. I donít like this at all. My ears are plastered flat against my head, pure white overlaying the silver tooled blue finery of my hackamoreís headband and my nose is flaring as I repeatedly scent the air. I twitch nervously as I try to see through the mist and smoke in front of us, lit incongruously by the sun drifting high above us in a clear blue sky.
You donít say anything at all, even though you must surely be feeling the frank unease that is radiating from me, and I cast one sapphire eye covertly back towards you, blinking slightly as the sun glints off your short, black hair and catches the brown highlights in it.
Grey eyes turn down and catch my own and you cock your head to one side as your right hand shifts its grip on your sword.
ďWhatís up?Ē Your voice is soft and low, pitched for my ears only and the small band of common soldiers around donít hear a whisper.
:I donít like this.: My voice is flat and worried and I twitch my hide involuntarily, followed by a wince as the cuts laddering my hind quarters sting and protest. You lean forwards and pat the side of my neck in a comforting gesture.
ďNeither do I,Ē you confide in the same whisper. ďIt should be over soon, though Tavi.Ē
That is what I am scared of.
Like a sentence of death,
Iíve got no options left,
Iíve got nothing to show now,
They attack again, roaring out of the smoke and fog that their mage has been holding in place around the pitiful remains of our camp and the silent and watchful soldiers have roared into action, lashing out with a fury born of desperation.
We are fighting for our lives.
Iím the only mount left on our side, and as such I seem to be attracting the most attention from the attacking Ďbanditsí.
They are Karsites and this is a war without a name.
I streak across the mashed up and torn mud of the ground and we engage with the mounted men waiting at the far side of the clearing, abandoning our soldiers to their fate. Your sword whips around in your hands and I can hear the deadly humming sounds it makes, as itís silvery edge flashes above and around my ears.
I pivot and dance, lashing out with hooves and pouring the soul-numbing fear that is trying to freeze me into a series of enraged shrieks.
A Hellhorse indeed.
A wild blow catches your sword and you slip sideways in the saddle, I desperately side-step, trying to keep under you as your knees and legs crush into my sides.
:Stay with me Dash.: I insist harshly. You grunt in reply and we plunge into the fray again.
Iím down on the ground,
Iíve got seconds to live and you canít go now,
My vision is blurred by the mud and the gore splattering up into my face from my frantically lashing and dancing hooves. Weíre surrounded and thereís no way out, unless I charge at them before they tighten this circle around us and we are dead for sure.
:Tavió: I can hear the panic skirting and shredding the edges of your sending and I send back a burst of confidence that I donít feel at all. I donít even know where it has come from.
:Hold on!: I yell as I lurch forwards, crow-hopping on my back legs for a few steps, dirty silver hooves flying in the faces of our enemies. I donít know which is worse, the frustration as my hooves miss, or the gritty, wet feeling when they connect.
I think Iím going to be sick.
Weíve almost made itó in fact; we are clear of the mob that was trying to encircle us and I cast around frantically looking for the royal blue clad members of the guards with us. I canít see any and my pause proves fatal.
The mageópriestóthing throws back the ebony sleeves of his robe and points at us with both hands, harsh words screaming past his lips. A patch of darkness shivers in front of him and there is a horrific impression of teeth and fangs and other things I will have nightmares about for eternity.
:Theyíre all deadó: Your voice is leaden with shock and you are dumbly staring down at the blood stained bundles of torn blue fabric littering the churned up ground. :óI..: You havenít seen the demon.
It launches towards in a blur of speed, echoing a voiceless wail of hunger and hatred and I scream in pure fear, wheeling about and launching away from it. The impact as it hits my side sends us both thumping to the ground and I feel you jump out of the saddle instinctively, to avoid getting crushed.
Shadowy tentacles and claws grasp for me; dancing lines of fire burning along my side and I kick wildly, trying to regain my feet.
Out of the corner of my own eyes I see the stained Whites of you as you stagger to your own feet, your face horror struck and sickened and your mind screaming for mine.
ĎCause love, like an invisible bullet set me down and Iím bleeding,
Yeah, Iím bleeding,
And if you goó
But you stand there frozen and the demonís head snakes up and blank nothing eyes narrow as they fix on you, claws raking the earth as it springs.
:No!: I throw myself after it and teeth connect with a scaly tail and I heave my weight backwards, hooves scrabbling and slipping in the mud.
Itís going to be enoughó
Skidding through the mudó fire burning at my mouth and dripping acid down my throat andó
It has to be enoughó
Screaming and wailing and itís me doing it andó
Itís not enoughó
Dash. You canít be dead. It canít be real.
But the crumpled and torn body hitting the ground tell my stunned eyes otherwise, as does the sudden, wrench at my inner self and the gaping hole tearing my soul in two.
An arrow whistles past my nose and buries itself by my hooves and I raise dull eyes to focus on the Karsite soldiers advancing on me. I donít care any more; youíve gone DashÖ Youíve left me alone. I want nothing more than to die.
Furious angels will bring you back to me,
Will bring you back to me,
No one knows about this. If I donít tell someone no one will know and thereíll be more attacks like this.
I have to get away.
I donít want to get away.
I turn my grief and despair and anger into a shout. A shout that rips out through my throat and shatters the air around me like my soul has been shattered. I buck and rear and kick and bite and fling myself forwards. Men fall beneath me and I donít care about the sickening sounds rising from beneath my hooves.
Not any more.
I break through their line and I run. My tattered soul trailing behind me as blood streams from the cuts all over me, creating a crazy crimson patchwork over my ghostly hide and irrevocably staining my battered and ruined tack.
Youíre a dirty needle; youíre in my blood and thereís no curing that,
Hey, and I wanna run like the blood from a wound to a place you canít see me,
ĎCause love, like a blow to the head has left me stunned, and Iím reeling,
Yeah Iím reeling,
The air is burning its way down my throat and into my lungs as I take great shuddering breaths and stumble towards the Border. The shouts from behind me, and the bizarrely normal looking countryside around me, fails to register with my flat and crazed blue eyes as I fall into the past.
If I donít, I stop and I wonít be able to start againÖ
How could you leave me behind like that Dash? Come back. I want you to come back now.
A commotion in front of me, and I raise my head and drag my attention into the present long enough to focus on the dirty men blocking the road in front of me, just past them is the Border.
The men are clad in rough, homespun woollen clothes, but the way they hold their weapons speak volumes. They are soldiers. Karsite soldiers, like the ones that killed the guardsó killed you.
And if you goó
Furious angels will bring you back to me,
I bare my teeth and shriek, a furious angel charging them down. The scatter as they realise that I wonít stop, but then clot up around behind me, trying to slash my legs and disable me so that I canít get away.
Red ribbons winds down my legs as I wheel about on my heels and lash out with hooves and teeth, catching hold of limbs and faces and sending their owners crippled and to the ground.
A foolish human manages catch hold of one of my reins and yanks my head sideways. His cry of victory is cut short as I snap at his face before flinging him beneath my bloody hooves, the already knife and sword-cut leather of the once-blue hackamore gives way in several places and cascades to the ground after him a clatter of discordant bells.
A short, ugly massacre and I have ploughed my way past them and the scrubby patch of land marking the Karse-Valdemar Border is directly ahead of me.
Pain flares up my legs and down my flanks from the myriad rips and cuts to my hide as I bull forwards. Common sense wants me to slow down and limp, to make allowances for my terrible injuries.
I ignore it, Dashó because youíve gone and I canít get you backó and break into a juddering canter.
Youíre a cold piece of steel between my ribs and thereís no saving me,
Hey, and I canít get up from this wet crimson bed that you made for me,
That you made for me,
ĎCause love like a knife in the backís coming down and Iím bleeding,
Yeah, Iím bleeding,
You were thirteen when I found you, and I was eight. You were wearing your Midwinter festival best and had just come out of the Temple of Kernos in your village, after the morning service. I was waiting in the snow covered village square, a light dusting of snow settling on my bright and new blue tack, and creating a faint shading of off-white amongst my mane and throughout my slowly flicking tail.
You werenít the first out of the Temple, no. You and your parents and your two sisters exited with a rush of other people, all laughing and chattering and wishing each other a happy Midwinter as they pulled scarves tight around necks and hoods close to cold-sensitive ears.
A small crowd was gathering around my statue like form as I fixed sapphire eyes on your tousled head.
:Dash,: I caught your attention with that single word and your head shot around, ignoring your fatherís words as he tried unsuccessfully to gain your attention.
I paced forwards, the fresh snow creaking faintly under my silver hooves and stopped in front of you. I donít think you noticed, but your motherís hands flew to cover her mouth and your father stared at me with shocked brown eyes as I spirited his only son away.
:My name is Tavi and I Choose you Dash.:
And that was it, you were under my skin and I was delightfully under yours and we were together and it was going to be forever and everó
And if you goó
Angels will run to defend me,
To defend me Ďcause I canít get up,
Itís very simple, this bond between a Companion and their Chosen. Once it is formed it is for life, and if it is lost then all is lost. I canít survive without you, and you couldnít have survived without me.
But youíve gone, Dash. Youíve gone and Iím still here and thereís nothing keeping me tied to this world but insanity and the furious angel called duty, and it wonít let go, not yet.
:Someone! Anyone!: I cry into the darkness as I continue my stumbling run through deserted farmland and nothing land. :Please!: I sob with crazed relief when a stunned voice responds. Not long now Dash, not long nowÖ
:Tavi?: Akilan. My shattered mind pulls the name from my memory as the male voice echoes in my head.
:Karsitesó attackedó: I choke on the words and keen with grief as I stumble, my hooves catching on the rough ground that I see through burning and blurred eyes.
:What?!: Akilanís Voice sharpens as he concentrates on my Sending and I gather enough strength to shove what I know, some of what Iíve just experienced into his mind. Notched and torn ears prick as I hear the sounds of Karsite pursuit catching up with me, underscored by the undulating wail of the demon.
:Hold on Tavi! Weíre coming!: A surge of energy jumps between myself and the Companion stallion, lending new strength to my dying body and I lurch forwards at a faster pace.
Iím as cold as a stone,
I should stop. Why am I still running? Thereís nothing for me to run to anymore, Dash. And if I stop the Karsites will kill me and then Iíll be gone from this cold and empty place and Iíll find you again.
Canít feel anything anymoreÖ the stone dark and impenetrable nothing that your absence has left in my heart, in my soul, has spread out and it is now threading itís way through my limbs and trickling over my hide in the wake of my slowing blood.
I can feel the life fading from me,
Air whistles through my nose as I limp to a halt and turn to face the advancing Karsites. The demon gibbers and dances at the end of the spell-leash that the mage-Priest is using to keep it tethered. I bare large, blood stained teeth at them in defiance and manage one more howl of rage as my tail raises and flags. The wind tugs at my mane, trying with little success to make the gore-matted and mud coated hairs move.
The Priest snarls and releases his demon and it streaks towards me. I tense and prepare to rearó I donít know whyó but an arc of brilliant blue-white light flashes over my head and impacts with the shadowy evil a few feet before it can reach me.
It twists and writhes in the incandescent flames, keening with an unholy voice and its master convulses with backlash. The Karsite soldiers stare in shock as their Priest collapses and suddenly the sky overhead is dancing with arrows and is filled with the thunder of hoof beats and there are horses carrying blue-clad Valdemaran Guards streaming past me. Akilan is leading them and his Herald is surrounded by blue-white mage-fire.
I shiver and my hooves slip in the muddy ground.
Hey, Iím down on the ground,
Iíve got seconds to live and whatís that that waits for me,
Waits for me,
My legs have given upó Iím giving upó not even the nothing numbness could keep them working and I am collapsed on the ground. My vision is blurring and I catch occasional hints of the vicious battle happening in front of me.
:Tavi!: The pure voice calls me back somewhat and I focus with difficulty on the white figure barrelling towards me as dark and royal blue figures dance after black and gold and grey in the background.
My senses are fading fast, but I can feel Akilan and his Chosenís appalled horror at me. The Herald slides out of his saddle before Aki has come to a stop and is at my side, frantically trying to stop the tracks of living red.
:GodsóTavió: Akilanís Voice is hushed. :Whereís Dash?:
ĎCause love, like a sentence of death left me stunned and Iím reeling,
My soul-self shudders and I cry out with pain and fear and loneliness. :HeísÖ theyó killedó:
They killed you Dash and Iím so alone and so lost and I need you with me. Youíre part of me and I canít survive without you.
Akilan and Esist, his Chosen, are crying the tears that I donít have the control for anymore and I faintly feel a pair of arms surround my torn neck as a soft nose presses against my forehead.
And if you goó
My eyes are open, but I canít seeó
Staring wide sapphire eyes.
Some part of me shivers and relaxesó
Furious angels will bring you back to me,
Iím coming to find you Dash.
Will bring you back to meÖ
Please be waiting for meÖ
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