Grass is Greener
by etcetera-cat
Disclaimer:  Everything relating to the world of Velgarth and the kingdom of Valdemar is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.  Any spelling mistakes, abuse of grammar, plot inconsistences or other nonsense is solely the fault of etcetera-cat.
Rating:  'T'.
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Chapter 14- Wonderings and Whinings.

It happened over a week ago now.  By it, I mean the mushroom incident at Ruska’s farm.  I’m glad that the only thing that can happen with that now is that each step forward in time takes me further away from those experiences.  

Seriousness from me…  Scary isn’t it?

It’s part of my way of coping however, and is by far the more practical method.  The only other one I’ve come up with so far is thus:  Run screaming at the mere sight of any type of fungus and try to hide up a tree wailing about the heebie jeebies.  I think that you’ll agree that the latter isn’t really practical as I’d most likely lose my Chosen at some point during the proceedings and probably give him a concussion.

That’d be fun to try to explain to the Healers…

‘Well you see, it happened like this; my Companion freaked out at a patch of mould on some of our travel rations and she ran around screaming, before she scrambled up this tree and I fell off her saddle and out of the tree, and broke my leg…’

I can almost hear the laughter already.  So, not going to be climbing any trees in the near future as strawberry tinted really isn’t my colour.  Now Alexander, on the other hand… but that’s a different story—

What do you mean ‘evil chuckling’?  I am not.  Sniff, sniff, I’m hurt you could even consider it.

Maybe a slightly sinister and knowing grin indicating that I’m up to something.  But I’m not chuckling.

I resemble that remark.

Sniff, sniff…grin.

I think a change of subject is in order here, I seem to be casting shadows on my pure and unblemished character.

Well, like I mentioned before, my brush with the Black Angels happened over a week ago—actually it’s more like two weeks ago now, come to think about it.  I took several more days to recover from the last effects of my poisoning, helped along by Daska.  I’ve concluded that having the pretty much exclusive attentions of a Healer can be a good thing upon occasion.

So, I’m back to my former self pretty much, and we’ve been on our meandering way to Trevale for the past few days.  I say meandering as we have to potter around all of the farmsteads that are scattered to either side of the East Trade Road.  Places like Ruska’s and the like.  Not really that exciting, which, given what form ‘exciting’ seems to prefer around us, is most likely a good thing.

The leisurely pace has been good for me though… but…would I be ungrateful if I said that Alexander’s attempts to wrap me in wool and coddle me, plus the constant ‘are you alright’ are beginning to get a tiny bit annoying?

I’m a moany old bag, aren’t I?  I blame the mushrooms.

Before we left Ruska’s a detachment of Guards and a lovely looking prison wagon—I think the designers of it were overly interested in iron and planks—arrived and picked up Mr. Shifty.  Certain Companions didn’t stand in obvious positions and absentmindedly bare their teeth as he was escorted to the wagon, oooh no.

I can’t imagine why you’re looking at me like that.

So we shall most definitely be meeting Mr. Shifty once we get to Trevale.  Well, I say we, but only Alexander and Samyel will actually see him—in the courtroom—as I think the townspeople of Trevale would have something to say if Harali and myself tried to walk in the building, even though we are Companions and all.  Silly humans.

Mr. Shifty is awaiting our arrival in the Trevale gaol.  I’m sure he’s most comfortable, excuse while I just go think ‘smelly big hungry smelly rats’ at the Trevale gaol.  Usually, of course, he would be waiting for Samyel and Alexander to arrive in order to judge him.  In this case, he’s waiting for Alex and Sam to be witnesses against him…somehow I don’t think my Chosen would be very impartial, and I have doubts about young Samyel as well.  

As Trevale is the largest town—nearly a city—on the East Trade Road, it has it’s own district courthouse and judge so we will be making use of them for Mr. Shifty’s trial, or rather, the Guard will.  It seems strange for the boys not to be in charge of the judgement process, but in this particular matter we don’t really have much choice.  We are the only Heralds on Circuit near here and it would take too long for another pair to arrive, not that I think there are any to spare…but then again, are there ever?

Mind you, I can’t really imagine any Herald being impartial around something to do with an injured Companion, they tend to go up in flames and develop ‘stares of death’ with which to pin people to walls and other available objects.  Sometimes those chaps in Whites can be useful to have around, you know.  

Shall I hie myself back to the present, or shall I continue this internal ramble?  The latter I think… Rambling and daydreaming being what I do best, of course.

Well, what to ramble about now?  My Chosen, I think.  To backtrack slightly in terms of colour—specifically to a certain shade of red better known as ‘strawberry’—I shall talk my internal commentary’s jaw off about a subject near to mine heart, mainly as it is near to my Chosen’s heart… ahem…


Excuse me while I just go drag my mind out of the cesspit it is currently hopping around in squeaking ‘heart?  Is that what it’s called now?!’

Lord and Lady, I can’t even win an argument against myself.

Bad Teva!  I’m picturing myself waving a finger under my own nose, believe it or not it’s a very effective method of self-scolding.  Being scutty-minded about your Chosen is not nice!  Behave silly horse!  Especially since nothing is happening!

I know!  Believe me, I know!  Frustrating, isn’t it?  Daft humans…I thought we—in a figurative sense of course!  Get your mind out of the cesspit thank you very much!—were making some real progress, especially in the light of the sight that greeted me when I first woke up after the mushroom incident.  But nooo, that would be sensible and we obviously can’t be having with that around these parts.


Things are…exactly how they were before, really.  By that I mean, bugger all is happening with Alex and Sam, pardon my Hardornen.  Oh—Alexander is still doing fairly good strawberry impressions at regular intervals, but Samyel seems to be totally blind to the fact that my Chosen is…well… he’s got a bit of a…ahem…

I’m not going to complete that train of thought, the light at the end of the tunnel is showing rather disturbing things.

Basically, this all boils down to one word:  Men!  Get the emphasis right and that one word can speak volumes—libraries, in fact.

No, I’m not about to hiccup, I’m giving you a wise and meaningful look.


Yet again returning to the topic of strawberry tints, the sun is beginning to set and is staining the dusky clouded sky a deep red and burnt orange, and from what I can see of ‘Ali and Samyel, turning us four into statues of living ruby.  Or Players pretending to be Bards.

I can smell smoke on the wind I believe.  I think to myself and stretch out my neck to taste the breeze.  Harali blinks at me before mirroring my actions and snorting slightly.

:Hearth fires and charcoal stoves.:  Harali shakes her head slightly, setting her bridle bells to jingling in a counter point to our chiming hooves.  :I hope we get there soon.:

I bob my head in agreement.  :Oh, indeed!:  I reply and look backwards at Alexander and Samyel.

:Wakey, wakey.:  I couple the sending with a slight mental nudge aimed specifically at my Chosen.

Alex blinks and I can feel him fix his eyes on my ears.  “Hmmm?  Yes?”  He asks with a slightly puzzled voice.  I know why of course, he’s spent the last several candlemarks in a half trance that monotonously riding seems to induce.  Not just him either, as far as I’m aware, it happens to most of the Heralds at least some of the time.  They really do have it easy with us Companions around you know.

:We’re nearly at Trevale.:  I widen my sending to include the others, without really realising what I’m doing.  Bad habits starting there, once you start Bespeaking someone, you have to remember not to Broadsend to them that little bit harder, and you are looking at the Queen of Scatterbrain here.  :I’m surprised you can’t smell the smoke from the cook fires and furnaces, Harali and I certainly can.:

Samyel has stopped freezing and trying to pop his eyes out and roll them around the floor every time I send to him now, but he still starts slightly in the saddle when my dulcet tones prod metaphorically at him.  See what I mean about Heralds and riding in a trance?  He collects himself before replying.  “Well, of course you ladies would know first,” he teases, “Companions are all-knowing, after all.”

I cast a steady look up at the Herald, who has a slight, unrepentant grin hovering on his face and I get the impression that ‘Ali is treating her Chosen to a jaundiced look, mentally speaking.

:Yes, we are.:  She says after a long moment and picks up her pace to a just-over trot, which I match after a stride or two, causing Alexander to shift his position in the saddle to accommodate the change of speed.

Hmmm…  I think maybe there’s something brewing around here.  Harali sounds slightly peeved at her Chosen, I wonder why?  She hasn’t mentioned anything directly to me and I’m not exactly the best at picking up subtle signals unless I’m concentrating, rather than wandering around inside my own head having conversations with myself.  That habit predates the mushrooms, so I can’t blame them.  


I’m sure I’ll think of some way to shoe-horn them in there somehow.  I am a legendary Companion, after all. 

I might have to see if I can get ‘Ali to spill the beans once we’re bedded down for the night.  Maybe I can help…if nothing else I could give Samyel a kick.  Not a hard kick you understand, just one to illustrate matters clearly.  If there is anything to be illustrated clearly…I’m getting ahead of myself as usual.

Our increased speed brings us into sight of Trevale within half a mark, or rather, into sight of the town walls.  Being the largest settlement between the capital and the Border, Trevale is rather similar to Haven, but on a smaller scale.  Like Haven, it has a town wall that meanders around the oldest parts of town and contains all of the municipal buildings and the large houses, and—like Haven—the town has outgrown it’s defences and the land leading up to the wall, from the farmland and common grazing, is cluttered with a mismatched collection of wood and brick buildings.  On the west side of Trevale, most of these buildings seem to be workshops and what looks like the animal markets.

Luckily the fact that it’s evening means that most of the businesses are shut for the day, so there is a minimum of heavy traffic on the road, and the usual miasma of smells that pervade cattle markets and the like aren’t too offensive to our noses.

That’s one really strange thing, in my current form the smell of manure isn’t nearly as offensive as I can remember it being when I was human, conversely, the smell of blood is much more distasteful to my current nose than it was to my human nose.  As best as I can guess, it’s because I basically am horse-shaped, and as such and a pretty strict vegetarian, meaning that although the ‘emissions’ of other plant-eating animals are pretty moot, whereas the smell of blood is down right foul.  The funny thing is, I can remember eating meat—and enjoying it—when I was Myri, in fact, I was a regular carnivore if I remember rightly.

As we near the town the road grows proper stone paving out of the dirt and dust which Harali and my hooves clatter across, the chiming sound echoing around us and announcing our presence more effectively than a town crier.

As we pass through the maze of the livestock markets the sunset highlights the many motes of dust in the air and our bouncing passage stirs up the air and surrounds and trails us in a cloud of glimmer.  The few workers still around look up from whatever they’re doing as we pass and either wave or call out greetings, which our respective Chosen acknowledge with waves or nods of their own.

In a very short space of time we reach the actual town walls—nothing like as massive or old as the ones around the Palace and old city of Haven—and are met at the open gate by a pair of blue-clad Guards.  Harali and I draw to a square halt in front of the Guards and I blow out my sides in a low snort and toss my head slightly to clear my forelock from my eyes.

Harali blinks and stares briefly at each of the Guards before turning her head and examining the town wall in either direction.  Sam frowns slightly and looks at the back of her head with what I’m guessing is irritation before turning his attention to the Guardsman standing at his left stirrup.  I really do wonder what has happened between them.

I turn my attention inwards and ponder this problem and possible solutions, or at least, ways for my to find out what the problem is so I can stick my nose in and stir vigorously.  This quite naturally means that I totally zone out of my surroundings and therefore don’t hear a word of the conversation that Samyel—and Alexander—are having with the Guard, other than a kind of buzzing in my ears.

So when Harali moves off through the arched gateway I stare blankly at her white rump for a moment as Alex jiggles my reins and then start after her with much twitching of my hide.  The Companion equivalent of blushing, excessive hide twitching is.  The Guards are giving me rather odd looks as I clatter past them and I speed up so that I am close behind Harali.

Sam is still darting irritated looks at ‘Ali’s head and ears, his posture in the saddle seems very stiff and Harali’s gait seems very choppy and odd.  I also have that strange fuzzy-blank feeling in the back of my mind that means that Harali is—not exactly blocking me—but is having a private conversation with her Chosen.  Given their attitudes, argument is possibly a more accurate description of the intangible words zipping between the pair of them.

Oh dear…

:Where are we heading?:  I snake a thin thread of Mindspeech out to my Chosen and wait for a comment about my lack of perception… which doesn’t come, instead I feel Alexander start in the saddle and catch a wisp of—something, an emotion—before he ‘tunes in’ to me.

:What?  Oh, to the inn that we’ll be staying at Teva.:  He trails off and I sigh in irritation of my own.  Why do I get the feeling that I’m missing something here?

:What is wrong Chosen?:  I’m not at all willing to stay in the dark down here you know.

:N-nothing.:  He said that too quickly for my liking.  

No, I’m not paranoid.

I raise a mental eyebrow at Mr. Malken and let my disbelief splash over him.  :I don’t believe you.:  I add, just for emphasis.

:I—really, it’s nothing…:  Alexander insists weakly and I can feel his eyes darting around, looking everywhere except—everywhere except at a certain Herald not a million miles from here.  

Aha!  Internal Teva jumps up and down and points wildly at this observation.

:Nothing my tail.:  I send back without really thinking.

Oh dear, what happened to diplomatic and caring Companion?  I think she ran off and joined a travelling carnival.

Alex twitches and I feel a wave of heat roll over my—correction, his—body, culminating in a blush.  :Teva…:  Alex starts to say something to me, but then trails of as if unable to find the right words.

Yes, I know, kicking myself over here already.

Before I, or my Chosen, can think of anything to say to break the slightly awkward silence Harali stops outside a large, well lit building.  The inn, I’m guessing.  As Alex and Samyel dismount I cast my gaze upwards and squint at the sign hanging from the front of the building.

I think I can make out—yes I can—the stylised figure of a stooping bird picked out in gold on a green background.  The name of the inn is below the picture; ‘The Sunhawk’.  That’s an odd name for a drinking establishment, mind you, there have been a surfeit of name changes of pubs, inns and hostels in the past year or so.  According to Derri it started in Haven and has gradually spread outwards and was started when Prince Roald came back from is hunting lodge in the White Foal mountain range with tales of the people he had met from Rethwellan.  The, now King, Stefansen and a host of others.  Apparently one of the mysterious Shin’a’in—a warrior bound to her Goddess…I believe the Shin’a’in term is Kal’enedral—and a mage from one of the southern kingdoms.

Roald’s Companion, Gaska, said—when they arrived back at Haven—that it was funny watching Roald’s face and utter astonishment at Adept Kethryveris’s demonstration of her powers right up until the point when he realised that he was going to have to spend a sleepless night blurring and burying Roald’s memories of the magic.  Gaska is a Companion who likes his sleep.

All this is a very roundabout explanation of an inn sign, but I think it’s fairly interesting.  From what I’ve been told, and seen through the eyes of a certain Heraldic trainee, Haven is now positively brimming with ‘Sunhawks’, ‘Swordsworns’ and a host of other names.  Quite a few places were glad to change their name, and it certainly is easier to find places as the number of ‘Windriders’ and other Herald and Companion themed names was getting fair ridiculous. 

Well, in the time it has taken me to meander my way through that, the innkeeper has put in an appearance and is, in fact, walking off to the right of the building.  Harali starts after him with only a glance at her Chosen, who quick-walks after her.  My Chosen looks wistfully after the Herald, before following.  I trail along behind them with the increasing suspicion that there are several things happening here that I’ve not been aware of.

Bleeding mushrooms.

Looks like there’s going to be at least one investigation going on around here that this particular white horse is going to have a starring role in…


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