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 Seventeen- Rantings and Rambles.

Now… I have something serious to consider; hence why I am currently staring at the end of my own nose, sunk in thought.  The serious thing to consider is my tone of Mindvoice.  So far I have got several choices, which are orbiting around the syrupy mess that passes for cognitive thought in my head.

Alexander…!  No— that sounds faaar too whiny…A deep, considering pause.  Ah-lecks-ahn-der!  Nope; too grammatical.  Aaaaalex!  A wincing twitch of my hide.  No, definitely no— that was even more whining than the first one!  Wait a moment!  How about— 

Alexander Malken!

I consider the silent exclamation as it echoes around the inside of my vacant head.  It is, I decide, particularly effective; especially when combined with a Look.  This decision leads to several minutes of concentrated Looking and glaring at the end of my nose— I’m vaguely surprised that the poor thing doesn’t drop off out of sheer mortification— until I have perfected that particular aspect of Nagging Companion to my satisfaction.

Right, so I now have my opening statement and a confrontational glare… I just need an actual self righteous speech that gets me what I want— which is to say, gets Alex and Sam what they both want— namely each other— but won’t admit to.  Wanting, that is.

Confused yet?  No… well, could you explain this to me then?  All I know is that Alexander is being Heraldic at some bullies, Samyel’s got his nose— and something else— in a sling because Alex is being Heraldic, and Harali is in yet another grump.  At least I know the cause of her grumps now, however.

Apparently, certain blonde Heralds not a million leagues away from here have been bending their Companion’s ears about how lovely and generally beddable their dark haired Circuit internees are, what with the lovely personalities and the trusting nature and the come-hither eyes— but consequently, how it would be so, so wrong to take advantage of said dark-haired and handsome internees who are apparently naïve about bouncy bed-spring matters and look up to aforementioned blonde Circuit Heralds as mentor figures and therefore would be horrified at the mere mention of such things…

I know… headache inducing, isn’t it?  No wonder ‘Ali’s been in varying states of Annoyed for the majority of this little pleasure ride, and to think I thought I had it bad with occasional wistful moping from my Chosen!

If it was a choice between certain types of spore forming fungi, and having Samyel bubbling away in the back of my head like a big old pot of angst stew, then I’m afraid that I’m already up the tree, wailing about the mushrooms and subsequently having to explain the origin of my Chosen’s injuries to a bevy of bemused Healers…

‘Well, yes, he did only fall out of my saddle so theoretically he shouldn’t be that badly injured… but I was up a tree at the time, so the broken legs sort of happened on the way down…’

I think not.  I may be daft, but not that daft.  Honest.

Come to think about it; not only does that summarise why Harali’s in a grump, but it also goes a long, long way to explaining why and what Alexander and Samyel are doing and being at the moment…

Anyway; back to the convincing argument… or the believable statement… or the irrefutable command… or something.  I’ll take an ‘or something’ please!

Maybe if I just kind of go with the flow… in a practice first, of course…?

Alexander Malken!  That was a particularly fine glare, completely wasted on a passing fly.  The added tail swish was a good touch also, I feel.  You just… you— Uh oh, running out of steam already… that’s not good, —march right up to Samyel and— eeep!  Frozen with indecision and this is only a trial run to myself!  You just— tumble him into bed!  Yes!  I mean— no!  I mean— aaah!

I freeze and stare at the far wall of the inn’s stable block with something approaching embarrassment— which is completely pointless really.  Maybe improvising wasn’t such a brilliant plan; I’d forgotten about the tendency of my puerile inner self to jump in at any given opportunity and fluff things up in a spectacular fashion.

Unfortunately, I don’t see myself with too many other options; I either allow Evil Teva to have her wicked way and suggest a wide variety of entertaining ideas— bad mind!  Bad, bad mind!  Vivid imagination… mental picture— oh, I am so wrong!— or keep my flapping mouth firmly shut and leave the status quo in… status… uh… quo.  The latter, as well as being boring, isn’t unfortunately likely to be that safe either.  

Especially not with Mister Nose-in-a-Sling stalking around and stewing up his mind into all kinds of knots.  Bah.

I am indeed a Companion with a problem.  Not a mushroom related one, either.

Nothing else vaguely useful seems to want to put an appearance in my conscious mind so I give up and emerge from the thoughtful reverie in which I have spent the past several candlemarks.  Early evening light is slanting through the plain glass window at one end of the stables and I watch it thoughtfully for a moment, before turning my attention to the occupant of the stall next to mine.

Who appears to be a large carthorse type, with a chestnut coat and white feathers and a white blaze.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t find a Shire horse that exciting, but I am currently staring at this particular equine with blank shock plain on my own equine like face.  The reason for this is that I was rather expecting Harali— who is no way, shape, or form a big fat carthorse— to be standing there; not Mister Cloppy.

:Teva?:  Now the carthorse even sounds like Harali!  I think I’m going mad… more mad.  :Why in the Havens are you un-nerving that poor horse?:

Actually… now that I think about it, ‘Ali’s Mindvoice has a definite behind you quality to it— and now that I really think about it, her stall was on the left of mine, not the right, wasn’t it?

I turn to my left, presenting the bemused looking Shire horse with a nice view of my neck and shoulder and find myself looking at the only other glaringly white occupant of the stables.  Harali.

:I wasn’t.:  I protest after a moment’s silence.  :Really, I was just thinking.:

:Now that’s un-nerving to me.:  Harali put in with an amused snort.  I simply gift her with a level and sensible look.

:I’m sure I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.:  I state.

Harali simply whuffs out her breath in a silent chuckle and shakes her head slightly.  :Has your great intellect managed to solve the Alexander-Samyel problem?:

I shuffle my weight from hoof to hoof.  :Maybe,: I say in a guarded fashion, :but I still need to work out some of the finer details…:  Little things, like; how to shut Evil Teva up for the duration as her extremely skewed internal commentary is highly distracting and disturbing— in more than one sense of the word.

:Oh—:  Further conversation is stopped by Harali’s expression suddenly going blank and her ears flicking upwards— a sure sign that Samyel is Speaking to her, and that it’s work related.  After a brief silence, during which I shoot sideways looks at the carthorse, causing it to edge slowly away from me and roll it’s eyes slightly, Harali blinks and heaves out her sides in a sigh.

:We’re going to the House of Healing.:  She focuses on me.  :Tell Alex that we’ve got to be gone as soon as.:

:What’s happened?:  I ask.

:A runner from Daska’s House of Healing just arrived at the mayor’s house.  The Healer’s need a Judgement.:

Oh.  That doesn’t sound good.

:Right,: I centre myself and reach out a questing thread of my mind towards my Chosen, who acknowledges me in a distracted fashion.  :We have to go.  There’s been a message from the House of Healing; we’re needed.  Get your things and come to the stables.:  I keep my sending short and to the point— for once there is a distinct lack of trademark rambling— which kind of cuts Alex’s mental legs out from under him and starts a big bubbling pile of curiosity going in his mind.

The physical container of all that curiosity puts in an appearance at the stables literally moments after Sam has arrived and the pair of them quickly and silently set about tacking us Companions up and attaching their hastily packed saddlebags to our saddles.

Whilst the busy tacking activity is happening I stare out of the stable door in a semi-blank fashion.  Therefore, I’m the first one to see Vadi approaching, with a leather pack in his hands.

“Uh,” both Heralds turn to stare at the Healer trainee, “Daska requested me to go back to Healer’s…” He trails off as Samyel subjects him to a carefully neutral look.  Alex smiles faintly at the young man and nods his head at me.

“I’m sure Teva can carry double for a bit, right?”  He looks at me and, as I nod an affirmative, one blue eye ever so casually watches the storm clouds briefly race over Nose-in-a-Sling’s face.  Heh; men.  Alex removes Vadi’s pack from his hands and attaches it securely to my saddle.

I’m a packhorse.  Neigh, neigh…  Just call me Mrs Cloppy.

As soon as we are tacked, Harali walks out of the stables and I trail after her, bells on my tack chiming softly.  Various important types from the Trevale town council are standing around and Samyel has a hurried and whispered conversation with them before abruptly swinging up into Harali’s saddle and nudging her gently forwards.

My Chosen clambers up on to my back and offers one hand to Vadi, who scrambles up behind him until he is sitting pillion. I twitch my tail as I trot up alongside ‘Ali as the pair of us head away from the inn and towards the boundary of the town itself.

:Teva?:  For the first time since I sent him off to be Heraldic at Larek’s father, and my subsequent contributing efforts, Alex speaks to me.  :Do you know why we’re going?:

I ripple my hide in an equine shrug.  :Nothing except that the Healers need a Heraldic Judgement.  Ask Samyel, he’s spoken to the runner that Daska’s people sent.:

At my suggestion, I catch the barest hint of a complicated burst of emotions that Alexander quickly shields from me.  Quite probably from himself as well, daft boy.  He shifts in the saddle as I speed up and match my pace to Harali’s.

“We’re going to Daska’s House of Healing?”  Alexander’s voice is quiet, and somewhat hesitant as he directs the question towards Samyel.

“Yes,” Sam’s reply is stiff and distant, as if he doesn’t really want to be talking to Alex, and I catch Harali rolling her sapphire eyes in thinly veiled disgust.  I catch the barest hint of a flinch from my Chosen, through his legs pressed against my flanks and I flatten my ears in irritation.

I swear, if Samyel wasn’t bonded to ‘Ali and a Herald, and if we didn’t have places to be, then I’d see to it that he didn’t just have a metaphorical nose in a sling.  Growl.

Alex persists, after pausing to collect himself for a moment and clears his throat.  “Who needs Judgement?”

Harali’s Chosen fiddles needlessly with her reins, his gaze flickering quickly between Alex and Vadi, before settling on an inoffensive patch of scenery.  “The runner didn’t say, but I imagine it’s bad if she’s called in all the House’s Healers and trainees.”

Oh dear… really not going to be good then.

Alex sighs and reaches for me again.  Could it be time for some relationship advice?  Let me just lock Evil Teva in a box— 

:I’m going to try and Farsee the House.: 

—not relationship advice then.

:If you’re sure,: I put in as I steady my pace so that it is verging on impossibly smooth.  Not that it wasn’t smooth before, you understand, it’s just more so now.  Vadi at least seems to appreciate it, as he relaxes his grip on myself, and my Chosen slightly.  I sort of forgot that he isn’t any kind of rider.

Part of me is focused on the road disappearing underneath my silvery hooves, and of Harali cantering next to me— but the rest of me is irresistibly drawn into Alexander’s mind as he activates his Farsight and bright-coloured images traces across the front of his mind.

First off is an impression of speed as he expands his reach outwards, towards the House of Healing and then—

Grey stone building surrounded by green and well tended gardens—

 —a main road curls past the front of it and it is churned up by hoof marks, the causers of which are messily tied up to whatever seems to have come to hand; bushes, rails, fences—

—one of the horses is a particularly fine looking hunter and it is lathered with sweat and vivid red streaks over it’s flanks and saddle—

—through the wide glazed windows of the building figures can be seen; some are clad in fine cut garments that shout noble; some are clad in rough homespun.  These figures are standing in worried knots, or pacing aimlessly back and forth.  Then there are those clad in Greens and they are running—

“It… looks like a hunting party, the horses have fine lines…” Alexander’s distracted voice breaks the silence and I respond to his unspoken request and pick my pace up to a fast lope.  The Healer trainee lets out an undignified squeak and grips my Chosen harder about the waist as the countryside begins to flash past in a flicker of greens and greys.

“What?”  Samyel sound completely non-plussed, and I can just see him in the corner of my eye, his expression bemused and turned towards my Chosen as he hunches over Harali’s neck and the mare matches pace with me.

“Farsight, I— there’s blood on one of the horses—“ Alex’s voice is halting as he relays what he is Seeing to us:  Something that I now need to listen in on as I’ve given up trying to wheedle into his mind.  I feel at this speed that it’s maybe slightly more important to keep both eyes and plenty of attention on the road.  “By the look of the horse it’s a noble’s.  An important noble… there are retainers and—“

The mental equivalent of a frown as my Chosen concentrates on what his Farsight is showing.  Samyel is now staring at him intently, moving with unconscious grace in counterpoint to his Companion’s exertations.

But… there has to be a better way to do this; by the sounds of it, we’re about to tumble ourselves into… if not a blood bath, then at least a blood puddle… possibly even a small pond.  An idea suddenly comes to me, and I reach for ‘Ali with an excited squeak.
  :What?:  Harali flicks one blue eye over me as her legs rhythmically bunch and stretch, hooves producing the same trademark bell sound as my own.

:Samyel has Mindspeech, right?:  I’d better check things out before I rush in with brilliant ideas.

:Of course he does, Teva.:  Harali looks at me.

:Well, get him to link to Alexander, then!  That’ll be a lot quicker than my Chosen having to relay everything out loud!:

Harali blinks and shakes her head slightly before replying.  :Actually, that’s rather a good idea,: her focus shifts to Sam, :Chosen, link to Alexander— that will be much simpler.:  I can Feel Samyel hesitating as he tries to think of some way to reply to his Companion and wiggle out of such intimate contact with my Chosen.  Time to cause the same unease in Alex methinks…

:Drop your shields and link with Sam.:  Rather than asking, I simply order; I’m nice like that.

:What?:  Alex jerks out of his Farsight visions with surprise and gives me a fair impression of a stunned sheep.  :But—I—:

The blush starts, but I resolutely ignore it.  :No arguments Chosen, do it.: 

He gulps slightly and tentatively lowers his outer shields and softens the other ones as ‘Ali bullies Samyel into the same.  Honestly; hormones have a lot to answer for.

There is a strange sort of mental jolt as they finally link… and I’m rather disconcerted by the very, very odd sensation of also sharing Alex’s mind with someone else.  Two someone elses, if you count the extra— and fair tenuous— echo I can feel from Harali via her Chosen.  Given that I already have my own link with ‘Ali by virtue of being possessed of four legs, blue eyes and an ability to neigh, it’s getting rather crowded in this here Companion’s mind.

Not to mention the fact that I’m also mildly surprised that no one is vibrating from the efforts of keeping his inner thoughts and everything else shielded firmly from all others in the near and linked vicinity.

Evil Teva is wildly yelling at me to ‘just damn well kick a hole in both of their shields and let them drown in each other’s angst for a quarter mark!  That should sort them out!’ but I am resolutely ignoring her at the moment as there are more pressing matters to hand; such as unknown bleeding people and emergency calls from Healers.

Through the little spider’s web of mental links that is currently occupying a fair portion of my higher cognition I feel Samyel sway slightly and increase his grip on Harali’s saddle as Alex finally collects himself enough to resume using his Farsight… which adds stop-motion and jerky pictures to the highly confusing collection of everything that is currently jostling around in my head.  Fun.

A crossroads is fast approaching and I make a quick decision; Reaching out for the only person not currently tramping around inside me I form a Mindspeech link.  :Which way Vadi?:  I try to keep the backwash of Sam, Harali, Alex and the Farsight to a minimum as I wait for the Healer trainee’s reply.

Vadi straightens slightly in the saddle and peers around one of Alexander’s Whites clad shoulders.  :The… left fork.:  He manages breathlessly.  Don’t ask me how one can sound breathless using Mindspeech, I don’t know.

:Fine,:  I break the link to him before the poor thing ends up with a headache and focus on Harali.  :Left fork.:  I inform her and pull ahead slightly so that I hit the bend and twist around it before she does.


Once we’re flashed past the dusty crossing and the simple wooden signpost lodged to one side of it, the other mare draws level with me again.

:Well, looks like we’re nearly at the fun and games.:  She sends to me as a dull grey stone building rears in front of us.

:Oh grand.:  I don’t sound thrilled at all for some reason.

Time for being Heraldic then…


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