Chapter Fifteen- Bullies and Bangs.
My newest plan is thus: Grab hold of Harali, Alexander and Samyel and bang their heads together until the three of them see sense, or at least tell me what’s happening! I don’t like being in the dark, despite the fact that I spend the majority of my life there so… I should be used to it by now… I guess.
Actually… there are several flaws with that plan, the main one being that I am not overly gifted in the hand-and-arm department, which severely limits my ability to grab people and bang their heads together… I also suppose that even if I did still have arms—and hands—I’d still be a tad stuck with my plan as there are three people whose heads I want to knock together, and as far as I’m aware, the Gods haven’t created a species of three-armed people yet.
So what do I do now? I wonder to myself, as I gaze at the wooden wall of the stable in a vaguely disappointed fashion. I’m alone in the stable, Harali having disappeared off to find a field a few minutes ago, and Alexander and Samyel being shut up in the Courthouse as Mr. Shifty’s trial starts today.
It’s the morning after we arrived at Trevale and from what I can see out of the stable doorway, it is looking to turn into a reasonably glorious day; the sun is climbing slowly into the blue sky and there is a fresh breeze curling around the buildings that, as well as carrying a variety of scents that have their origin in the busy nature of the near-city of Trevale, but a tantalising hint of outdoors, and green, growing things.
A walk. I decide, besides, I need the exercise, and I don’t really see any point in standing around in this here stable, bored out of my—admittedly rather small—mind. I suppose I could eavesdrop on the Court proceedings via a rather handy person by the name of Alexander Malken, but I really don’t want to live those set of events again, from any perspective. Once was more than enough, thank you very much!
After briefly burying my nose in a bucket of water I turn and amble slowly out of the loosebox in which I have been standing, and head out into the cobbled yard that occupies the space between the stables, the outer wall of the inn and two sides of the actual building.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a stable hand sitting on low stool, his lap full of tack that he is obviously in the process of cleaning, jerk his head up in momentary alarm as he sees what looks like a very expensive horse—me, in other words—wander off of her own accord, until he clocks the—not too obvious—white-and-silver colouring and leaves me to my own devices.
The gate to the yard is partly open, so I nudge it further and stick my nose around to sample the air and take a gander at the activities happening in the street outside. Not a lot appears to be going on, even the expected bustle of a usual day in a market town is less than I would have thought…then again, a fair few people are probably cluttering up the public galleries in the Courthouse, as it’s not often that a case like this comes along for them to avidly ogle at.
Not that I’m at all a nosey missus when it suits me, oh no… not this Companion… cough.
It really is a nice day again today, I feel sorry for the boys, cluttered up indoors as they are, but at least they’re doing it for a good cause—namely defending this particular white horse’s honour.
Within short order I have wandered my way through Trevale for a fair distance, and am… starting to get a tiny bit directionally challenged… I think maybe I should go find some nature, as there is only so much interest one can get looking at the outside of shops and other such buildings. I can feel Harali as a kind of point of blue-white light in my mind, she seems to be in a field on the far side of Trevale to that which I am currently in.
Oops, might not be going to find her right at this minute then.
Well, that looks as good as any… I decide to myself as I clatter past a large church—I’ve figured out why I’m not being bombarded by sticky children, they’re all in compulsory lessons at the moment—and catch sight of a flash of green on the far side of an open main gate in the town walls. I meander along the road, nodding in a friendly fashion at the gate-guard, who calls a greeting to me, and pause momentarily to take stock of my surroundings.
The road stretches out in front of me, curving slightly between crop fields to one side of it, and what looks like Trevale’s common grazing pastures. There certainly seems to be a multitude of different farm animals scattered around the grassy area. From the position of the sun, I’m guessing that this is the north end of the town.
Which means that the wide road I can see curving around to loop into the woodland just to the north of the common is the direction we will being going after the boys have finished being all Heraldic at Trevale. Actually, that woodland looks rather inviting, and since I’ve got nothing better to do, I walk off the road and onto the common.
There’s no real fence around the common—it is land for everyone after all—but the assorted sheep and cows know where the food is, so they stay pretty much put with only a little supervision from the few peasants performing shepherd duty.
All of whom give me curious, and somewhat puzzled looks. Honestly, I really am going to get ‘I am a thinking being!’ written on my flanks…maybe not in tattoo ink, but definitely in something that stains… like elderberry juice maybe.
Now that’s something to file away to ponder at a later date: What would withstand the bleaching effects of my ‘m’ word usage the longest?
By the time I have found somewhere in my rather cluttered mind to squirrel that little ponder away, I have made it across the grass and am at the edge of the woodland. It looks…not fully tamed… but certainly nice and friendly. You know what I mean… winding paths and trials, lots of different sized trees, and not an over-abundance of monotonous underbrush obscuring everything. From what I can see, this place seems to go in for the ‘leaf litter and loam’ style of ground coverage. This, of course, suits me fine as it means minimal slogging through brambles and the like.
In fact, I’m going to be extra-lazy, and take one of the convenient looking trails.
Within short order, I am far enough into the woods that all sight, sound and smell of Trevale is hidden behind a far more pleasing vista of varied greens and grey-browns with splashes of bright woodland flowers, the sharp, mossy smell of woods that I love so much—hence why the Grove and the other groves in the Field are my retreats of choice—and the quiet sounds of the inhabitants of the area getting on with their daily business… birds singing and the like I mean.
There’s another sound too… in fact, if I prick my ears up and listen, I’m sure I can hear—
I can! What timing! I think happily to myself and begin to track the sound of running water. Just as I was getting thirsty too… Maybe life has decided to make it up to me about the mushrooms? Within short order, and without even having to leave the path—if I had pockets, I’d be keeping fate in a back one at the moment—I find myself at the edge of a medium sized stream, just at the point at which a fallen tree, combined with a slight kink in the contours of the land have created a miniature waterfall. Which explains the water-type sounds, obviously.
I stick my nose happily in the cold water and drink my fill, before casting a conspiratorial look around.
Well, why not? Snicker. Paddling time!
With a silent squeak of amusement I lope down the slope, past the waterfall, and pick a nice shallow, and sandy spot to indulge in another of my favourite pastimes… Paddling. Derri could hardly keep me out of the Terilee when I was a foal, not even dire threats of ending up with permanently wrinkled legs and a snarled, weed infested tail could keep me out of the water.
Speaking of water, this is very nice, although rather on the cold side, so I’m going to keep moving I think. Have you ever noticed how much differently you walk in water? This stream only comes halfway up my lower legs, but I’m still swinging my legs at all kinds of funny angles to move myself along. That’s another game I used to play as a foal, seeing how long I could do a particular kind of walk in water—like having to lift your hooves right out of the water with each step, or just shuffling along.
Of course, the latter of those—which I’m doing now, just for the record—kicks up all the base silt and sends it swirling around in the most interesting patterns and shapes as the current catches it. If you’re quick, you can also catch sight of any flat fish that you disturb. The disadvantage to this activity is that you end up with rather muddy lower limbs and then have to go whicker entreatingly at a groom…or in my case, Alexander.
Who is bound to have all kinds of things to say about this when I tell him. Oh well.
I manage to amuse myself by alternately shuffling, trotting, walking and generally moving down the stream for an inordinate amount of time—the phrase ‘simple pleasures for simple minds’ is fairly applicable I believe—and it’s not until I’m almost on top of the source, that I notice the distinctly unnatural sounds now pervading the—formerly—calm green atmosphere.
Definitely not of animal origin; I can hear several human voices ahead of me, just around a sharp bend in the stream I am now standing statue-like in. Schooling must be over... or they’re too old for lessons…I think irrelevantly to myself before the particular tone of the voices hammers its way through my exceptionally thick skull. Several jeering and taunting, and one defensive…
I do not like bullies.
I slosh my way to the edge of the stream, and when I make it onto the bank and continue on the path, at a pace that can only be called ‘outraged stalking’. If I were of a feline persuasion, my tail would be fluffed up and I’d be hissing like a boiling kettle.
I round the corner, and am confronted by the view of the homespun-tunic covered backs of at least five young men….over fifteen and under eighteen, age wise I’d guess. They all have that look about them that shows that they’re not exactly over-endowed in the brains department, but were at the front of the queue for muscles and narrow-mindedness.
Their target, from what I can see over their thick heads, is a fairly short looking boy, of the same age as them, I’m guessing, but he was apparently not at the front of the muscles or bulk queue.
My internal commentary is derailed when my ears finally succeed in notifying me of what the leader—who I have mentally tagged as the twit-in-black—is actually saying.
“—don’t like perverts like you around here—“ …and he raises his arm, hand balled into a fist, as the others chuckle in an approving fashion, the sixth lad flinches back in anticipation and my mind is momentarily overwhelmed by the similarities—
—sleeting icy rain, inarticulate fear, shields I can’t get past—screaming my anger at the iron-grey sky—the meaty thud as Baren hits the wall and slides down it—
My legs lock in place and I utter an audible, and loud, growl—despite the equine throat not being the best suited to such things—and idiots one through five whirl about in surprise, twit-in-black with his right arm still cocked.
The five of them stare at me with sullen shock, as number six cracks open one of his involuntarily closed eyes, and his expression takes on a cast of incredulous surprise and slight hope.
“What’s that ‘orse doin’?” One of the one-through-five idiots pipes up uncertainly.
“Tha’sa Companion ya stupe!” Twit-in-black pales as he hisses this, and looks surreptitiously around for my Herald.
Ha! Some luck sonny-boy! I think to myself. He’s back in Trevale, but you can bet your worthless hide that he’s going to know about this little set up!
Another one of the five opens his mouth, as if to ask twit-in-black about the lack of Heraldic-type personages in the area, but twit silences him with a numb shake of his head, as he returns his eyes to looking at me.
What the hell do you lot think you’re doing then? I demand to the inside of my own head as I prepare myself momentarily, and then level a malevolent blue glare at each of the five in turn, causing them to flush a hot red, then pale and gain very worried expressions.
Good. I snort, breaking the silence and making the group jump in panic. Have you notice, I’m not Bespeaking? I’m angry, but not kill-people angry. Close though. A stiff legged stalk forward, and I’m level with twit-the-first, my head raised above his, as I continue to glare down at him for a long, and above all menacingly silent period of time.
When I judge that he’s about to start watering the moss beneath his feet—so to speak—I jerk my head around and stab my nose in the direction of Trevale, before giving him, and the other four another pointed look.
And don’t you even think about running away! If you do, it’ll be a glooping for the lot of ya!
When they don’t move, I allow another low rumble to echo through my throat and I gleefully watch them scatter…or rather stumble away… for some reason none of them seems to be too keen to turn his back on me… which, of course, means that they keep on walking into trees and tripping over rocks and logs. Evil cackle.
As the noisy departure of the five twits fades into the distance, I turn my head and get my first good look at lad number six.
He’s standing off to one side of the small clearing that I’ve only just noticed we’re in, and he has short light brown hair and dark-brown eyes, set in a pale face. In build, he’s scarily like Alexander… skinny, but not as tall as my Chosen, and he’s standing oddly, all his weight resting on his right leg.
Well of course he’s hurt you daft horse! I berate myself. As if the bruises that are starting to show aren’t obvious enough evidence for you!
“Umm…” He clears his throat and gives me a hesitant look, as I pull myself out of my ramblings and stare at him with momentary surprise. “Thank you, I guess.” He looks at me oddly for a moment, and then blurts out, in one breath: “Idon’tsupposeyou’relookingformeareyou?”
Hunh? I give him a puzzled look and mentally rewind and play that sentence at a slower speed.
Oh! Lady bless! Umm…Oops… I think guiltily when I’ve figured out what he’s trying to ask me. I shake my head slowly and gesture with my nose in the general direction of Trevale.
“I thought so.” He says softly, with a hint of regret.
Yes, kicking myself in the rear now. Please form an orderly queue…
The boy—I don’t even know his name—wraps his arms around himself and stares at the ground briefly. I watch him, before stepping forward and nudge him gently in the shoulder with my nose.
I’m sorry. I say silently as his gaze meets my own blue one and he smiles weakly.
“I suppose—I guess I’d better get back home…” He steps forwards, or rather starts to, but the moment he puts pressure on his left leg the blood drains from his face and he hisses in pain. I whip my head down to stare intently at his left ankle. I think it’s badly sprained… not broken, but he still can’t walk on it.
Well. That leaves one option.
I turn and shove him gently towards my left side as soon as he’s finished catching his breath.
“What?” The puzzlement is plain in his eyes. “You want me to…? But, I’m not your Herald!” Men! They have to make things difficult, don’t they?
I give him a flat look and gesture with my nose at my back again, before folding my legs underneath me and sinking to the ground. Well, come on. This is no time to be silly! Just be thankful I’m only bossing you around via signs! It could be worse! I could be talking!
After another moment of hesitation he hops the short distance between us, stifling grunts of pain, and carefully sits down on my back. Once he’s sat, he shifts, so that his right leg is lifted over my poll and he is properly astride my barrel, hands nervously onto the base of my mane.
With a glance cast back to check that he’s settled, I slowly—and possibly even gracefully!—rise to my feet again. As soon as I have gained all four hooves on the ground I whicker with satisfaction, and set off at an easy walk with a flick of my tail.
It’s odd to be carrying someone bareback again—heh, it’s basically odd that it’s not Alexander on my back—but I quickly adapt to the altered feelings and pick up my pace slightly to a slow trot. I can feel—you know, I wish I knew what his name was—tighten his grip around my barrel with his legs and wind his fingers tighter into my mane.
Hmm…Obviously not any kind of rider then, are you? I wonder what your name actually is? I can’t keep referring to you as ‘lad number six’, even if it is to only myself.
A lightening ahead of us announces the fact the we are reaching the edge of the woodland, and indeed we have, emerging on the same patch of common grazing that I found this morning. I don’t drop my pace and continue bouncing along as the pair of us collect even more curious and down-right surprised looks than I did this morning.
Pfft! I can’t think what they’re staring at!
I continue at this pace as I pass through the town gate, my hooves announcing my passage with their distinctive chiming on the paved and cobbled road and wind my way fairly directly back to the inn which we’re staying at.
As we approach the still-open gate to the stable yard, I abruptly slow to a calm walk and chime my way across the now deserted yard and right into the stables. There’s no one around…good, I really don’t fancy explaining this to all and sundry until I figure out exactly what it is I’ve done.
Luckily there is a mounting block in the stables, so I don’t have to lie down again and instead walk up to the block and stop, blowing my breath out and puffing up my cheeks. Lad number six awkwardly clambers off my back and down the block so that he’s standing in front of me.
I nicker at him and he smiles tentatively. “Thanks.” He says. “Umm… do you want me to… I mean you’ve got mud—?” He breaks off and coughs in embarrassment as I give him a puzzled look and then cast my sapphire gaze down to my legs.
True to what I said before, my lower limbs are indeed covered in a drying dust of former stream-bottom, as if that isn’t enough, I have managed to gain some novel looking stripes along my barrel and belly from when I lay down…
I do have the Gift of Mud Attraction.
I look back up with a guilty expression and nod emphatically. If he’s offering to groom me, I ain’t complaining! He smiles and then looks around.
“I guess you have your own kit?” He volunteers and I nudge him over to the tack stands and tool box where mine and Harali’s kit is hanging. The lad looks over both of the blue tooled saddles and his attention is caught by the name glyphs carved by the pommels. His lips move silently as he deciphers the text. “Are you called… Harali?” He asks, turning to look over hi shoulder. I snort and shake my head, in lieu of having any eyebrows to sceptically raise at him. “Oh… Teva, then?”
He turns in time to catch me nod and strike a noble… if rather grubby… pose and wink broadly at him. He stifles a gasp, and it half turns into an almost giggle.
Good. I decide. I’m good at cheering people up. Preen.
He rummages in a likely looking saddlebag—also with my name on it—and produces a handful of assorted combs and brushes and I sigh in approval.
In fact, it turns my brain off. Not that it take much to do that! So I barely notice what the lad is doing until he steps back, and I realise that he’s finished.
Heh, observant horse.
“There you go… Teva.” He says as he sits down on a bale of straw. I shake my head, in a vain attempt to get my forelock out of my eyes and look at him with—I hope—an obvious question in my eyes.
So what’s your name then? I can hardly call you Lad number six, can I?
He seems to understand what I’m asking and raises a hand to touch his chest. “You want to know my name?” I nod my head vigorously—sending my forelock back into my eyes—and he looks somewhat incredulous. “It’s Vadi.” He says quietly and I whicker in approval.
Now…how do I get you to tell me what all that in the woods was about? I wonder with slight frustration. A quick mental feel around shows that Harali is still in a field and the boys are cooped up in the Courthouse, and look set to be there for the rest of the day.
While I’m being nosy, I take a quick mental squint at Vadi, and am pleasantly surprised. He’s got slight Mindspeech and an awakening Healing Gift. Come to think about it—
Dippy horse! His clothes are all green-grey coloured! He must be apprenticed to…to Daska, or one of the others at the House of Healing…it’s only about a quarter-mark’s walk away as it is…
Aren’t I an observant Companion? No…well, yeah, I guess you have a point there, but still! Unfortunately, Daska doesn’t have Mindspeech, and besides, she’s in the Courthouse too.
Well… It’s time for some consideration… On one side, there’s the fact that Vadi isn’t even Chosen, and the Silence, and the amount of trouble I’ll get in… On the other side, there’s the fact that I’ve Bespoken not only other Heralds, but also totally unGifted idiots—and while not Chosen, Vadi does have Mindspeech… plus, I was never much of one for total conformity…
I think that I do. I decide, after consideration. Besides, I’m a right nosy animal too, and I want to know what’s going on! Maybe this is because I’m so out-of-the-loop with what’s gone on between ‘Ali and Sam recently—never mind what’s going on with Alex and Sam.
While I’ve been having my internal debate on comparative morality, Vadi has been absently picking shining white hairs out of my assorted grooming implements. Well… I’m not entirely sure how to start this conversation, so lets just plunge on in! I’m between him and the door—so he can’t run off screaming—at any rate.
Deep mental breath.
:Want to talk about it?: I ask.
Vadi’s head flies up in shock and he looks around the deserted stable, obviously looking for whoever had spoken. Finally his eye alight on me and his faces goes pale.
“W-was that you?” His voice quavers uncertainly.
:Well it certainly wasn’t the mushrooms.: I announce with a mental snicker, before I really think of what I’m saying.
His face goes blank with something akin to shock. “Umm…sorry?”
Oops, daft horse! I blow out a breath and shake my head. :Never mind.: I assure him. :Now, would you like to talk about…that?:
He blinks. “You-why would you want to know?” He asks sadly.
:Because I do, and if I know, then I can tattle to Alexander and he can do something about idiots one-through-five. Besides—: I add as an afterthought, :—I’m insufferably nosy.:
“Oh.” Vadi stares at me for a moment. “Who is Alexander?” He asks.
:Oops.: I look contrite. :Herald Alexander, my Chosen.:
Vadi’s expression clears. “But it’ll cause trouble if—“
:Pfft!: I interrupt. :Given what is happening in the Courthouse, I’m guessing most people won’t even notice this incident. Unfortunately.:
“In the Courthouse..?” Vadi looks momentarily puzzled. “Oh!” He then exclaims. “You’re the ones that caught the poisoner with Healer Daska.”
:Indeed.: I confirm. :You know Daska then?: I enquire.
“Yes, she’s one of my teachers…” Vadi plucks at his green-ish tunic. “I’m an apprentice Healer.”
:I gathered that.: I say with amusement. Vadi mumbles in agreement, it looks as if he’s thinking about something.
“If you were the ones that caught the poisoner then…” He looks back up at me, “one of you got poisoned?”
I nod my head slowly. :Yes, and yes.: I agree. :I was the one that got poisoned.: I tack onto the end, earning myself a startled glance from the apprentice Healer.
:I’m perfectly fine now.: I assure him with a flick of my tail, which I follow up with a semi-stern look. :Unlike you, however. So, time for some explanations I think.:
Vadi’s expression wars between defensiveness and amusement. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” He asks.
:Nope.: I say cheerfully.
Vadi sighs. “Alright then.” He says, and shifts his seat on the straw bale as I prick my ears up and look attentive.
This should be very interesting indeed…
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