Chapter Twelve- Explanations and Aches.
That’s pretty much all I have to say on anything at the moment. That, and “Who in Kernos’ name turned off the be-damned lights?”
Now…what exactly happened to me? I can remember, well, lots of things really. Very confusing things too, and rainbows for some reason. I also remember a nasty taste to my dinner—Ye Gods! I was poisoned!
Well, that explains the fact that my insides feel like I just went thirty rounds with an inhabitant of the Abyssal Planes. I suppose that also explains the, quite frankly, weird dreams I was having, a confusing amalgamation of present day views, present life memories, and past life memories.
The past life ones being the most intense. I haven’t really thought about that for, well, for years. Your own death isn’t really something you want to spend vast amounts of time pondering over. Truth be told, not only had that particular set of memories been confined to the ‘Teva: Past Lives Thereof’ section of my mind, but they had also been put in a big box. With a padlock. A big padlock. And the lid had been nailed shut.
Thanks to whatever was on those grains however, I got to relive the experience. Or should that be ‘re-die the experience’? Thinking about it, I suppose you’ll be expecting me to say something like “Well, if I had a second chance and I knew what calling a Final Strike like that would do, I’d do things differently.”
Thing is, you’d be wrong. Myri—I, and Dallian, knew what Calling that amount of power would do to us. I mean, I was verging on being a Master, I could access the smaller ley lines, but not the big ones, or the nodes, and I knew the dangers of trying to use the last two. It’s something that is—was very well covered in Mage Gift lessons. I knew that I didn’t have the control to command and contain that amount of raw mage-energy, but that amount of mage-energy was what was needed to stop the Karsites, particularly since one of them was a Black-robe, and he had an active demon with him. Not only that but he’d bound smaller demons to the power of his underlings.
All in all he was a charming person really.
Final Strike. Ominous words they are. It hurts, trust me on this, it hurts a lot. Think of the description ‘burning like a white-hot ice cube’. That doesn’t even begin to cover it. The strange thing, the really bizarre thing, about it was that even though Dallian and I were about as far south as you could get in those days, we could also see…sense Companion’s Field and the Grove in Haven somehow. We could see all of the Companions in the Field, and the last thing, the absolute last thing I remember hearing during it, my death, wasn’t the screams of the Karsites or the keening howls of the Abyssal Plane creatures.
It was the sound of the Death Bell tolling, for me, for Dallian.
Enough maudlin thoughts I think. Definitely enough of that line of thought, what it has really reminded me of is the reason why I keep those memories locked down and out of the way. That’s one area that the Heralds have the advantage over us Companions. We remember our past lives, they don’t, so no messy memories to shunt around the insides of their heads. The other advantage they have is, of course, the whole hand thing. Hands can be useful. They also have eyebrows.
Apart from the whole maudlin thing, I, and in fact all of the Companions, don’t really want these kinds of thoughts floating around anywhere near the surfaces of our minds. Even if the memories aren’t as drastic or cataclysmic as mine, or others that I won’t name, the whole past life thing isn’t something that any of us want our Chosen to even think of picking up on. As Samyel says, Companion secrets and all.
Speaking of which…I’ve figured out that it’s dark because my eyes are shut and because I’m floating still in that kind of dark space that exists between sleep and awake. You know what I mean, that feeling when you’re just awake enough to appreciate that you are asleep, or something very close to it. I should probably wake up now however.
Now, let’s take this one step at a time. Eyes open first I think, then head lifting and then possibly standing up. I’m not to sure about that last one, I’m just going to wait and see. Actually, before eyes open I’m just going to wake up a bit more and see if I’m still possessing all my bits and pieces so to speak.
With a kind of mental shake I manage to shrug off the remains of my sleepiness and batten the past life experiences back to their proper place and awareness of my surroundings floods back into my mind as I cease my inward centred thoughts.
Three people breathing, well, two humans and one Companion, and sounds from outside, normal farming sounds I presume, cows and the like I imagine. As well as the breathing I can hear a soft voice, I can’t quite make out what it’s saying, but it sounds like Samyel.
Enough of this auditory guessing game. I decide and I crack my eyes open, slowly.
As I suspected, and the rest of my body has been informing me, I am lying in one of the loose boxes in the stable, with straw, and, in fact, bales of straw positioned around me to prop my previously unconscious form into something approaching normality. The light is quite bright, it’s some point after midday I reckon, given the quality of the light and the lengths of the shadows being cast through the windows and doors.
There’s another bale of straw positioned dead in front of the entrance to the loose box I’m in and sitting on it, facing towards me, are Alexander and Samyel. Well, I say facing towards me and it’s true, their lower bodies are, but Sam is holding my Alexander close to him and now I realise that his murmured words are those of comfort and support to my Chosen, who looks, quite frankly, as bad as I was feeling before. His face is drawn and sheet white with worry and I feel an obscure stab of vague guilt as I catch sight of him and my dozy self finally cottons onto the fact that the fear-guilt-anger-worry-panic wash of emotions that I’m feeling are echoing to me from Alex.
I blink and slowly, with much considering of the matter, raise my head from the thick layer of straw. The slight movement catches Samyel’s attention and his surprised glance flicks over me and he pauses before grinning and shaking Alexander.
:Ow.: I rasp in Broadsend, completely oblivious to the fact that as well as Harali, who is in the box next to me, and my Chosen, I am also sending to Samyel.
At my dulcet, as a blunt wood-saw going through oak, tones Alexander jerks his head up and fastens me with a haunted stare as Harali ‘hrrmmmphhs’ in surprise and sticks her head over the lowered divide between our respective loose boxes.
“Teva!” Alex almost shouts and flings himself away from Samyel and across the gap between us with no semblance of co-ordination in his movements and the previously hopeless expression on his face is chased off by one of inarticulate joy.
Hitting the ground with a muffled thud, he scoots across the bedding of my loose box and flings his arms around my neck as I raise my head up properly and blink again.
:The one and only.: I croak with weak good humour, still not really registering the fact that I’m Bespeaking Sam as well. His reactions of sitting bolt upright and giving me shocked stares aren’t quite obvious enough cues for me to pick up on.
Alex concentrates himself on running his hands over my head and neck and through my mane whilst whispering…well ‘sweet nonsense’ is the only phrase I can come up with at the moment, into my ears.
I twitch my hide and shift my weight slightly to get more comfortable and turn slightly to look up at ‘Ali.
:Fancy meeting you here.: I send to her. My Mindvoice still raspy. Trust me, it is possible to croak and rasp with your mental voice. Currently I sound as if I’ve been smoking pipe tobacco every day for the past forty years.
Harali returns my look and glances briefly over at her own Chosen, who is still staring at me with a slightly stunned expression, before flicking an ear and returning her attention to yours truly.
:Indeed. Glad to see that you’re back in the land of the living, you near gave me a heart attack!: Harali’s sending is laced with humour and Sam nods with agreement.
“I think that applies to all of us.” He adds, Harali is obviously sending to both him and me.
I snort softly and nudge Alex’s shoulder. :Back off for a moment sweetie, I need to stand up.: My Chosen rocks back on his haunches and unwillingly removes his hands from my mane and I shake my head and concentrate on mobilising my limbs.
Both my front and hind legs feel stiff but I manage to make it to my feet without too much lurching around.
:Oh, that’s better.: I sigh, still with a distinct croak, as my blood rushes down my legs and announces itself in the muscles and skin of my lower limbs as the prickling of pins and needles.
Once it’s obvious that I’m settled on all fours Alex returns to his position of wrapped around my neck, our faces pressed together. I sigh with contentment and nuzzle at my Chosen.
:So, what exactly happened to me?: I ask after a moment, causing Samyel to blink again.
Harali whuffs and shakes her forelock out of her eyes. :You tell us.: She says soberly. :We were eating dinner and you suddenly went all—weird—on me and started staring at the wall and then you…moaned out and collapsed.: ‘Ali fixes me with a worried look. :Seriously Teva, you just—went down. It was scary.:
Alex obviously can’t hear what Harali is saying, as she’s being a good Companion and not Bespeaking everyone in the stable like certain other white horses in the immediate vicinity. Cough, cough, innocent, cough. He pulls away slightly from me and looks into one of my sapphire eyes. “I just felt, s-something, a dizzy feeling off you and then nothing, you cut me off somehow.” He says in a soft, husky and worn voice. “Then Harali shouted for Sam and we ran out here in time to see you—you collapsed…just f-fell over and we couldn’t reach you.”
Alex gulps. “I was s-shouting and calling f-for y-you but you w-wouldn’t—couldn’t answer m-me…” His voice is unsteady and he sounds, and feels close to tears and I feel the sharp spikes of fear he felt as he remembers the terrible sight of me going down like so much lifeless white horse-meat.
I stifle a shudder at his memories and wordlessly send comfort and love down our bond and press my head against his chest again, briefly.
:I was poisoned?: I don’t really direct the question towards anyone in particular and it is Samyel who answers me.
“Yes, the grains you had were laced with a weak solution of Black Angel mushroom extract, as was the entire contents of the feed bin.” Sam pauses for a moment to rub one hand between his eyes. “In fact, all of the food in the feed store had been doctored with Black Angels.”
Alex shivers slightly and his fingers close convulsively on my mane for a moment as I jerk my head up slightly with surprise.
:How in Astera’s name did—who?: My sending isn’t particularly coherent or sensible. Then again, how coherent would you be upon finding out that you’d unwittingly eaten Black Angel mushrooms?!
Harali nickers to catch my attention. :Luckily there is a House of Healing near to here, before Trevale. Sam and I ran there for a Healer once it became apparent that you were really sick.: I blink silently at her, really not wanting to think about how close to death I came. That goes some way to explaining my grim hallucinations and why I was dreaming of it.
As usual, remembering my deat—that day, long ago, sends an involuntary shudder down my back and unfortunately the Alexander-limpet still attaches to me picks up on it.
“Are you alright?” He asks, a hint of panic colouring his voice and he looks slightly desperately into my eyes. “I can get the Healer if—“
:I’m fine.: I hasten to assure him. :Just remembering some bad dreams I had. Honestly, I feel much better now.: I hastily add as Samyel starts forward slightly at Alexander’s inquiries.
Samyel seems to have gotten over the shock of my continued inclusion of him in my Mindspeech sendings and he manages to calmly reply to me. “Never-the-less, I believe Healer Daska would like to know that her main patient is up and about.” With that he turns and walks out of the stable door, obviously going in search of the afore-mentioned wearer of Greens.
:Main patient?: I ask Alex curiously.
“Daska was the one who discovered what had poisoned you, and she tracked it back to the feed shed on the cattle barn.” He informs me as he returns to absent-mindedly running his fingers through my mane. “After she stabilised you, she went hunting for the source of the poison and found that all of the dairy cows are suffering from prolonged exposure to Black Angel mushrooms.”
So it was pure accident that I got a dose of it then. That’s somewhat relieving, at least I don’t have to be looking out for nebulous enemies under every bush and tree.
Whilst Alex is explaining this to me ‘Ali reaches out a thin tendril of Mindspeech, below anyone’s Hearing threshold, except for another Companion, me, in other words.
:Yes, ‘Ali?: I reply as I sigh and lean into my Chosen’s ministrations.
:I’m glad you’re alright.: She says simply, and I get a faint impression of the worry that she’s been feeling for the past few—however long I’ve been out. Actually, I don’t know how long I was out for, and I say as much to Harali. :Uh, four days.: She informs me after a short pause.
:Dear gods.: Is all I can really think of to reply to that and I feel her silent assent, then a spike of curiosity.
:What did you mean when you said ‘bad dreams’ just now?: She asks tentatively.
I look consideringly at her for a moment before posing a question of my own. :What was—do you remember much about your past life?:
Harali blinks in surprise and snorts softly. :Bits and pieces,: she admits, :but I don’t really like thinking about it. Did you…were you remembering you past life?:
:You could say that.: I say dryly. I even manage not to totally drown those four words in irony, by some miracle. Sigh. :Although it was more related to my…death…than my life.: I don’t like the ‘d’ word, can you tell?
:Your de—death?: Harali starts with shock, both mentally and physically. :Heyla, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—:
:It’s fine.: I interrupt her to assure her.
:If you don’t mind me asking,: ‘Ali asks cautiously, :How, when did you…?:
:A long time ago.: I tell her with slight amusement. :Lineas and Baires were still around, for one thing, as was the ‘m’ word.:
Harali blinks surprised looking blue eyes at me. :That was after my ‘last time’: She admits slowly. :Old age years before the whole Karse mess happened.: She adds after a moment, answering my unspoken question. :Was it—: She asks obliquely.
:The Karsites?: I finish for her. :In a manner of speaking.: I shift my weight slightly and nudge Alex’s hand up towards my ears. They itch.
:I was a Courier between the front lines and the Lord Marshal’s encampment and the reserve forces. We were running some information back to the Lord Marshal when we…ah…encountered a group of Karsites that had gotten past the Border somehow. Priests, mages, some soldiers and… demons.: I sigh as the memories twine cold echoes of the past around the edges of my mind. :There was no way that the reserves could mobilise in time. I was a Herald-Mage, we charged them and I called Final Strike.: I say it in a few words as I can, even though I’m talking on the ‘Companion only’, so to speak, level, I definitely don’t want any hint of this to get back to my Chosen.
Harali shivers and twitches her hide, dislodging a slight cloud of dust around herself. :Brrr.: She sends. :Scary.:
I reply with a mental nod of agreement and refrain from adding ‘painful, too’ to her statement. There’s stating the obvious, and there’s just being plain silly.
‘Ali’s eyes go blank for a moment and she turns her head slightly and gets that characteristic ‘listening’ look about her. :Sam says Daska’ll be here in about half a mark, she’s got to help the farm hands finish dosing the cattle.: Harali blinks and informs me. :They got lower doses than you, you know. You got one big hit of it.:
:Tell me about it!: I reply. :My guts certainly are!: I fall silent for a moment as I consider something and then I send a mental grin to Harali, along with the image of Sam and Alex I got when I first opened my eyes.
:Hmmm?: Harali looks at me with slight confusion.
I giggle slightly at her. :Maybe I should be incapacitated more often!: I send, still on the ‘Companion only’ level. :It seems to have helped them pair along a tad!:
Harali blinks at me and gives me a slightly startled look, as if she’s momentarily worried that the mushrooms have scrambled my brains. Not that there’s a lot for them to scramble. No one would notice any difference anyway either. Snicker. Then she joins me in laughing weakly.
There are better ways to get over nearly ‘d’ wording, and there are worse ways. I like humour however, and this particular white horse is going to stick to her own remedy. The past is the past, and all that.
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