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 Sixteen- Ups and Downs.
I think that there may be something about me that attracts a certain kind of person.  Why might I believe this, you ask?  No?  Well…  I’m going to tell you anyway.  I think this having just heard what I have from a certain young Healer by the name of Vadi— him that’s sitting on that there straw-bale giving me nervous looks right at this moment— who has just informed me that idiots one-through-six have been picking on him ever since they found out that he is shaych.
See something familiar happening here?  Well, I do…
The question now becomes; what do I do next?
Ponder, ponder, think, think…
“Umm… Teva?”  Vadi interrupts my prolonged mental rambling to myself and I respond in a highly intelligent and time-honoured— by me, at least— fashion.
:Huhnuh—what?:  I blink and shake my head slightly, fixing puzzled blue eyes on the now furiously blushing and highly nervous looking boy.  :I’m sorry?:
“You… went all quiet and— well—I—“ Vadi stutters and stumbles over his words and conflicting emotions prickle at me and cause me to twitch my tail and hide, before realisation dawns.
:Oh for—: I snort and fix him with a Look, :you don’t honestly think that I’m going to kick you through a wall for being shaych?:  The healer trainee flushes even redder and mumbles.  :Well I won’t!:  My Mindvoice takes on a distinctly exasperated edge and I flatten my ears slightly.  :Not everyone persists with provincial, small minded idiocy!:
I stop my rant before it really gets started, mainly as Vadi’s wide-eyed and shocked expression is actually having an effect.
:Well I wouldn’t.:  I freely admit that that last sending has a distinct flavour of defiant muttering about it.
“Oh—“  Vadi’s voice is weak and somewhat confused and we end up staring awkwardly at each other for a long moment, which is broken only by the sounds of the other horses in the stables whickering and stamping their hooves at someone.
“Teva?”  I whip my head round in surprise and stare at Alexander.  Where the hells did he pop up from?!
:Alexander?:  I blink and stare at him.
“Last time I looked, yes,” he replies easily, with a grin.  “What have you been up to?”
Cue shifty Companion looks.  :Ummm…why?:
“You look remarkably clean.”  My Chosen points out with fault-free logic, moments before he notices the presence of a certain boy by the name of Vadi.  “Hello, I’m Alexander…”
:Teva, who is that?:  The question prods at me as Alex’s vocal voice trails into silence.
:Umm…That’s Vadi,: shifty Companion, :he’s a Healer trainee, y’know!  One of his mentors is Daska!:  No, that did not come out ridiculously and suspiciously perky.  No.  It didn’t— I’m really not surprised that one of Alexander’s eyebrows is travelling inexorably upwards as he gives me a quizzical look.
“Umm—sir, I’m called Vadi…”  The hesitant voice heads off any incipient explanations of the rambling variety on my part.  “Your… umm— Teva— was kind enough to help me back after I fell over in the wood—“
What’s this?  Both ears flick upwards and I snort with derision.  :Pffft!:  I interrupt rudely and stamp forwards, gifting both two-legged occupants of the stables with significant looks.  :I simply intimidated some bullies after they had caused that twisted ankle and several other things, young man— and before you start Alexander Malken, yes I am Bespeaking Vadi and no I don’t particularly care that it’s breaking the rules of the Silence!:  
Rah!  Fear the self-righteous Companion, for she is rant-ridden!
In the brief calm that follows my assertions, Vadi once again flames red with embarrassment and probably shame too, and I take the chance to bodily gift my Chosen with a quick re-run of the events of the morning, Teva-perspective.
:Oh…:  Alex’s reply is weak and directed at me as he eyes Vadi slowly.  “Do you want to talk about it?”  He then offers tentatively.
The Healer-trainee’s eyes dart around and he fidgets nervously.  “It’s nothing, really I—“
:Don’t you be clamming up on us now, laddy.:  I narrow my eyes and shake my tail restlessly from side to side.
Alexander rolls his eyes and sighs theatrically.  “I wouldn’t argue with her,” he advises, and flashes a quick smile at Vadi.  “Believe me, I know from experience that Teva’s stubborn—“
:I am not!:
“—and argumentative and entirely too nosey.”
:I—:  Dammit!  That’s not fair!  He’s not supposed to do that to me!  My oh-so-smart, Companion-outwitting— but not for long!— Chosen raises an eyebrow at me again and serenely settles himself on a bale of straw opposite to Vadi’s current perch and reaches out to scratch behind my ears as I dip my head in momentary defeat.  Well, what d’you expect?  He can raise his eyebrows dammit!
“So, talk.”  Alex fixes Vadi with a look of kind interest as I shuffle my weight from hoof to hoof.
:He already told me,: I point out, :it would be quicker if I just told you—if that’s alright with you Vadi?:  I shoot a sideways look at the grey-green clad boy, who acquiesces with a slightly puzzled nod of his head.  I turn my attention back to Alexander, catch his green eyes with my blue ones and deliver a neatly wrapped recount of the conversation I’ve just been having with Vadi in the stables for the past candlemark or so.
:You can be quite useful to have around.:  My Chosen accompanies that sending with a yellow feeling of amusement, before he absorbs the general content of my sendings.  :Oh dear.:
:Exactly.:  I blink and break eye contact with my Chosen, sliding my gaze sideways to look at Vadi, who is watching us with a bemused expression, a wisp of straw gradually being reduced to near-powder between his fidgeting fingers.
The silence extends around us and I can feel Alexander searching for a way to open up the conversation in a diplomatic fashion.  Personally, I prefer the Teva method.  Observe:
:You pair have several somethings in common, you know.:  I find myself the focus of green and dark-brown eyes.
“Wuh-we do?”  Vadi glances at my Chosen, who shrugs in a good-natured fashion and grins.
“It’s not exactly a secret, and I’m sure she’s about to make it less of one—“
Now in the stables we have a ever-so-slightly smug looking Herald, a highly-confused Healer trainee and, of course, me.  The epitome of knowledge and wisdom and you can all stop laughing now!
:Alexander is shaych.:  I decide to enlighten poor Vadi… which I have, however, I’ve now managed to put the poor lad in danger of bugging his eyes right out of his head.  I hope he doesn’t, as eyeballs rolling around on the stable floor would ruin the reputation of this inn!
Sensible?  What’s that word mean then?
“You—are?”  Vadi’s mouth is also hanging slightly open in shock as he fixes Alexander with a stare.  Alex nods his head.
“I’m also bonded to the most diplomatic Companion in Valdemar.”  He comments, with a sly poke at my side, causing me to squeak in indignation.
:Oi!  Well, you were just going to shilly-shally around—:
“She’s a model of patience too.”
:Alexander!:  My ears are now flattened against my head and my tail is quivering in indignation when I become aware that Vadi is smiling and chuckling under his breath— and looking a hell of a lot more at ease.  Hmm… While I’m not sure that I approve of my Chosen’s methods, I have to say that they seem to work— while I calm my somewhat-ruffled and metaphorical feathers, Alexander has managed to draw Vadi into conversation.
“—into a wall?”  The Healer trainee darts a somewhat awed look in my direction and I flick an ear upwards in question.
“After she’d turned the air blue shouting threats at everyone in the vicinity, yup.”
“Wow,” I get another look from young Vadi.
“From the sounds of it, she did something similar for you a short while ago.”  My Herald manages to make that last into a silent question of sorts, causing Vadi to blush slightly.
“They’ve been on at me since winter.”  He admits slowly.
“And who would ‘they’ be?”  Alexander’s expression has gone very bland and I whuff out my breath quietly.
“Larek, and some others.”
:Idiots one through six,: I add helpfully.
“His father is the Head of the Weaver’s Guild.”  Vadi responds to Alex’s silently asked question.
“That doesn’t give him the right to bully anyone.”  My Chosen points out in a neutral tone of voice.  “I take it you’ve never said anything to anyone else?”  Vadi shakes his head and stares fixedly at his hands, Alex and I exchange looks.
:Trust Daska.:  Good Gods!  That was me sounding serious and relevant to the topic there!  I need a calendar to mark this event on so I don’t forget it.
“Teva’s right,” heark!  My Chosen agrees with me— mark this one down too!  “A Healer is a formidable ally to have…” he pauses for a moment and cocks his head to one side, “do you want me to say anything to this Larek and his cronies, or would you prefer a less Heraldic take on things?”
“Umm…”  The young Healer shuffles his weight from side to side and flushes, an uncertain expression on his face.
That’s a popular word, I think I might use it too.  :Umm… Alexander, sweetie, I kind of already Companion-ed at them.:
He blinks and hmms under his breath.  “There is that.”  Alexander stands up and paces from side to side in front of Vadi, who watches him out of the corner of one eye.
“I don’t mind—that is I… why do you..?”  Vadi picks at another piece of straw as he stumbles over his words.
“Want to help?”  Alexander stops and looks down at the dark haired boy.  “Because last time I looked, these were Whites—“ he points a thumb at his chest, “—and she was a Companion.”  Yes, that’s me!  The Companion!  Form an orderly queue to come and worship me… or throw rotten fruit, whichever you feel suits more, I guess.
So… I’ll just go and hide behind a barn door to avoid the fruit, then?  Yup, thought so, sigh.  Under appreciated, that’s me.
“Oh.”  Vadi looks up at Alexander briefly, who grins at him reassuringly.
“Come on, kid.”  My Chosen gestures with one arm.  “Let’s go sort out some bullies.”  As Alex makes his way to the open stable door, Vadi scrambles to his feet, brushing wisps of straw of his clothes, before trailing after my Herald.
:Have fun.:  I send to Alexander as I’m once more left to myself with the inside of the stable to examine.  
Mummy, mummy!  I’m boooored!
Sapphire eyes focus on an empty bucket, followed by a bucket that looks as if it might have some grains in it.  I wander across to have a look and my nose determines that yes, there are indeed grains in the bucket.  Oh good.
Munch, munch… and I think I’m going to tune into that ever-popular form of entertainment known as Herald Alexander.
:Fancy meeting you here.:
A slight mental frown.  :Teva, you’re daft.:
:You forgot wonderful, managed to hunt done the doers of evil yet?:  As I fall into rapport with my very own brown-haired lovely I begin to get afterimage flashes of what he’s seeing.  Looks like the inside of a building, expensive looking fabric type articles on the wall… y’know, I think he could be in the Weaver’s Guildhall.
I know, I know!  Amazing powers of deduction I have, absolutely brilliant in fact.
:I’m being granted an audience with Larek’s father.:  My curiosity is obviously leaking down our bond.  Quite possibly in bucket loads.  :Now I just need to figure out how to tell him that his son is a bully.:
:Diplomatically.:  Proud feeling.  Look, I’m contributing, happy grin.
Alexander sighs mentally.  :Thanks for that Teva.:
:You’re welcome, Chosen.:  Hmm… that sounded a bit too chirpy.  Mental note:  Check on the possibility of other types of mushrooms and their possible effects.  Those grains tasted fine… but… I’m going to cover myself.  :It was the mushrooms.:
:The mushrooms.  You can’t trust them shifty buggers, turn your back for a second and they’ll jump on you as fast as!:  Some vigorous head nodding of the purely mental variety accompanies that gem of information, and I sense Alex sighing.
:Right, well,: his attention wanders for a moment and I can feel him talking to someone using his voice, :I’ll get back to you in a little bit, okay?:
:Yes daddy.:  I pout at the inside of his head.  Under.  Appreciated.  Yup.  That’s.  Me… You know, something?  Speaking with pregnant pauses between one’s words— like above— is annoying to do.  I get the impression that it’s probably more annoying to listen to… oops.
Want to know something else?  I’m a lazy horse; I can’t be bothered to maintain a full rapport with my Chosen— listening to diplomacy is boring— so I just kind of fade him out so that I get the general gist of what’s going on.  Basic breakdown:  Alexander one, bullies, zero.
“Have you seen Alexander?”  The question breaks my reverie and I turn to stare in blank surprise at Samyel, who is eyeing me up oddly.  I blink back at him and nod my head.  “Oh,” Sam pauses for a moment and shifts his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot.
:Afternoon,: Harali ambles past her Chosen and greets both of us breezily.  Someone’s in a good mood.  I wonder if Sam and her have sorted out… whatever… they were griping about?
:Hey,: I reply.  :And tell Sam that Alex is in the Weaver’s Guildhall, talking to the Guildmaster.:
‘Ali relays this for me— I’m being good about Bespeaking… if you ignore my nattering to Vadi… perfect juncture for some innocent coughing, here— before fixing a puzzled blue look on me.
Her Chosen beats her to it, however.  “What’s he doing there?”  His expression has gone unreadable.
:Being Heraldic at some bullies,: I look proud of myself as I wait for ‘Ali to ‘translate’.  :I went for a walk and found a bunch of the local bully boys picking on one of Daska’s students, so I stopped them—:
:How, exactly?:  Harali interrupts my happy monologue with a significant tone to her Mindvoice.
:Pfft!  Nothing like that!:  I assure her.  :Anyway, I bought Vadi— that’s what he’s called, by the way— back here and ferreted out why they were picking on him.  He’s shaych, and then Alexander turned up and it was all fun sharing time and then Alex offered to go be a knight errant for Vadi to one of the bullies fathers, who happens to be the head of the Weaver’s Guild!  Simple, really.:  The really nice thing about Mindspeech is that you don’t have to pause for breath— which is a great plus point if you rabbit on like me.  It does tend to mean that the focus of your chatterings tend to gain a rather glazed expression.  
Rather like the one Harali is wearing, in fact.
Samyel too— oh, wait, no… Herald Samyel actually looks rather like a storm cloud has taken up residence on his face… or some place that has cheeks, certainly.
Innocent.  I’m an innocent Companion!  Heark at me glimmer with the truth!  Trust me, I do… give me an hour or two to polish and I will!  Honest!
Without a further word, the chappy in question turns around and stalks out of the stables, leaving me to stare at his Companion.
:What—: I fix Harali with my own particular brand of Look, :—was that all about then?:
She snorts with annoyance.  :Men!:  She exclaims.  :Samyel is persisting in thinking— if one could call it that— with his Gods-be-damned hormones!:  The mare dissolves into irritated mutterings as I stare at her blankly for a good long moment.
Give me a moment, my mind’s only small, it needs a good run up to clear conclusions like that!
:Oh—Oh!:  I exclaim in quick succession.  :Really?:
:Bloody stubborn idiot.:  Is Harali’s only response as she breaks off a link with her Chosen.  :Yes, really.:
:Oh, good!:  Happy giggling on my part.
:Not really,: ‘Ali interrupts with a jaundiced sigh.  :Do either of them have any idea how the other feels?:
:Umm… no.:
:And is either of them likely to get of his stubborn tail, or actually engage his brain and realise?:
A moment of pessimistic silence, which gets rudely punctured by yours truly.
:Oh, bugger.:


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