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 Eighteen- Links and Bonds.

The Companion side of being Heraldic mainly involves standing around looking as wise and noble and all round good as one can whilst covered in road dust— or mud, or a variety of other substances— whilst avidly plonking oneself in the metaphorical front viewing seat of one’s Chosen.  Hence myself sitting firmly in the back of Alexander’s mind as Harali and myself skid to a halt and Alex, Samyel and Vadi assortedly slide, leap gracefully and near-enough fall off the backs of us Companions and disappear into the House of Healing at something approaching a dead run.

The Healer trainee is behind our boys and limping slightly due to his rather clumsy dismount from yours truly and I absently note him catching his balance on the flung wide doorway with my own eyes before hitching myself ever more firmly into Alex’s mind.  Things suddenly become closer to the ground and lacking the peripheral vision that I have grown most used to.

A wide corridor stretches ahead of me-us-him and we-he move quickly along it at something resembling a graceful lope, passing quickly through the alternating patches of dusky sunlight and shadow cast on the flat stone floor by the wide glazed windows.

Strong and hurried footsteps let me-us-him know that Samyel is only just behind us-him.  If Alexander had the peripheral vision that I do, we-he would be able to see him too.

In the distance we-he can hear the loud clattering sounds and authoritative raised voices that I have personally decided are the trademark signs of Healers.  Annoyed Healers.  Scary.

Further information from Alexander is rudely interrupted by a sudden poke in my side.  I flinch sideways and jerk back into my own mind to find one of the horses, who obviously hasn’t been tied up at all; or who has managed to pull loose his tether, standing very close to me and producing the dumb equine equivalent of a leer.

Uh… confused Companion here— oh… it’s a stallion.  Lord Kernos protect us from hormones!

It backs off slightly as I stare at it and does… well seductive horse posturing I guess.  I surely don’t have to go into how wrong this is, on so many levels? I am not impressed.

A glare seems to be in order; which I duly produce and direct at the horse, who initially doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest and merely prances about more, the fancy black and silver tooled tack on his back catching the shadowy light.


I narrow my eyes and knock up the menace factor of my glare several notches, before baring my teeth and finally growling audibly and pinning my ears back.

The bay stallion freezes mid-prance and rolls his eyes, showing the whites before hastily reversing out of my vicinity.  To emphasise my point I stomp a few steps after him, still growling, and the stupid animal squeals and beats a hasty retreat to the far side of the randomly tethered horses— all of which are now watching me nervously and backing away as much as they can manage.

Yeah, I’m the Companion!  Watch me intimidate mere beasts of burden and fear my mightiness!

… Please?

Now… wasn’t there something else that I was doing?

Oh, yes!  Eavesdropping on the action in the House of Healing via Alexander!  A rapid bit of mental shuffling has me back in the view of the we-he-me world, which seems to have made it actually into a room in the House of Healing; judging from the fact that it looks like a small, homicidal tornado has just thrown a meteorological temper tantrum, I’d say that this is where the action… and bleeding types… are.

I have stunning skills of observation, don’t I?

There are several lots of people in the airy room; roughly, they are divided into a group of Healers by the bed, a group of bemused looking servants clustered against the far wall as much out of the way as they can manage to get their three homespun-clad behinds without learning to walk through stone, and a coterie of very vocal nobles getting as much in the way as humanely possible without actively perching on the shoulders of the Healers.  Havens.

A quick mental twitch gives me eavesdropping abilities on Alex’s hearing and suddenly;  “—assassins!  No one should be allowed in this room without my prior consent!”

A grey-haired Healer freezes and turns to face the red-leather and linen clad noble who has just produced that particular statement and fixes him with a look that could grill off cold-drake scales.  “And if you were the cause of these imaginary ‘assassins’?”  He asks in a cold voice; something which the noble is clearly not prepared for— simply standing stock still with his mouth gaping half open like a missing village idiot.

Gosh, Healers are normally a lot more diplomatic than that, even when there are bleeding people and ranting half-wits in the vicinity.  Speaking of which, as Vadi pushes past us and squirms his way to the surrounded bed to present himself as a fresh source of energy for the working Healers, the me-he-we of Alexander gets his-our first look at the source of all this ‘Scream!  Panic!’ activity.

Well, I may not be anything approaching a Healer, but even I know that having two sodding huge sticks with feathers on the end sticking out of ones chest is not conducive to living for any great length of time.  I’d definitely class this as a Herald-worthy emergency, alright.

Given the amount of the sticky red stuff decorating the bed linen, the injured chap himself, and a fair portion of the Healers themselves— in addition to however much is splashed over that hormonal horse’s mate— I reckon that Mister Injured is coming rapidly to the same conclusion himself.

I’m all set for some well timed advice, but it appears that my Chosen has pre-empted me, and he is already offering his services as an energy source to what looks to be the Healer in charge of this mess; with some surprise I note that it’s Daska.  She’s covered in most of the red stuff at any rate.

Samyel is mere moments behind Alexander, and I brace myself, as I feel Harali do the same, as I suddenly become one of Alex’s main anchors to reality.

I would thank you to keep the heckling comments about reality, myself and anchorage thereof to yourselves thank you very much!  I would scold further, but I have things to concentrate on.

:Don’t over-extend yourself Alex,: I comment before he fully enters the Healing meld.

Alexander’s vision and world has narrowed to the Greens clad Daska as he and Sam, along with a veritable bevy of other Healers, feed her a steady stream of energy.  Initially, despite the fact that Mister Nobility obviously has two arrows sticking out of him, I’m not that sure why precisely she needs so much in the way of energy… but then I realise that the more deeply sunk in of the wooden shafts is vibrating with a suspiciously heartbeat-like rhythm, and my pondering becomes something of a moot point.

I honestly don’t know how long it takes— Daska edges each shaft out with infinitesimal slowness as she Heals the damage in their wake, but I do know that gradually the Healer’s feeding her power begin to wilt and drop out of the meld and are replaced before she’s even gotten to that quivering arrow.

In fact… I’m starting to get a reaction headache here and I worriedly Reach for my Chosen who, along with Samyel, is doggedly holding in there, despite the fact that everyone else has flaked out and been replaced.  Now, there’s being Heraldic, and there’s being stupid— which, apparently, Samyel has realised as he has just allowed himself to be replaced by a Healer who just looks as if he’s been kicked out of a bathtub several leagues away and booted in this direction.

:Alexander,: I try to softly gain his attention, with little success.  :Chosen, it’s time for you to let someone else take over now.:  I announce with slightly more force.  After all, he’d been actively using that Farsight of his before this and was already hedging around on the edge of a reaction headache.  That was Lord and Lady only knows how long ago… and my Chosen is ignoring me.

:Alexander Malken!:  A mental equivalent of my Annoyed Companion glare is thrown his way and he finally deigns to notice me.

:What… Teva…?:  Oh fer—!  The stupid twit’s on the point of blacking out!

The glare gets bumped up a notch or two.  :I’m all for being Heraldic when it’s good and proper but you’re exhausted Alex—:

:’m fine, just…need to hold out a— bit more make sure— sure that Healin’s done—:  Certain Heralds get a metaphorical bucket full of exasperation thrown at them.

:Alexander Malken, you get your Whites-clad tail out of that damned meld now!:  I let rip in… ahem… not particularly well shielded Mindspeech— then again, Harali’s a Companion and Samyel… doesn’t count really.  Because I said so, yup.

:’m fuh-ine—:

:People who are ‘fine’ do not damn well slur and stutter in Mindspeech!  Now either you withdraw from that Healing meld or, by all that is holy, I’ll come in there and kick you out myself!:  Very Annoyed glare.  :Do you want hoof prints on the inside of your head?!:

The block-headed idiot finally gets the hint and withdraws shakily from the meld— another Healer, this one with road-dust still covering his Greens takes his place— and attempts to stand up and move away from the bed.

Luckily Sam has learned to pace himself better, not to mention that he has stronger Gifts and is possibly being aided by Harali, so he is able to co-ordinate himself enough to catch Alex when he does a fair impression of a tree falling in the woods.  If trees were sheet white, he’d have it down pat… block-head.

‘Ali reaches out to me with a thread of Mindspeech.  :Sam’s asking if Alex is alright; he doesn’t seem to be able to articulate much of a response on his own.:

:Oh, he’s fine,: I reply whilst glaring daggers at the inside of my Chosen’s head as the first cresting wave of reaction sickness sets in, :just a completely idiotic would-be hero.:  Harali gets the message that I am not best pleased with my Chosen, and from the faint conversation echo I can Hear her having with Samyel, she’s filling him in on the details.


I sniff in a superior fashion.  :I have absolutely no sympathy with you Alexander.:  I tell my semi-conscious Chosen, vaguely aware that he is being helped out of the room and down the corridor by the way that he is keeping his eyes tightly closed against the bright sunset beaming light through the wide windows.

In fact— I lift my head up and sure enough, see a pair of stumbling white figures, led by a pale-green clothed trainee, making their way along the corridor that faces out onto the road and yard area where ‘Ali and I are still standing.

With a flick of one ear, I reach outwards, using the open— if now somewhat tenuous— link between the pair of Heralds and give Harali’s Chosen some choice advice.  :I’d sling him into a bed somewhere, pour a pint of willow bark tea down his throat and bleeding well leave him to it.:

Sympathetic, aren’t I?

Samyel’s surprise radiates down the network of linkage to me and I shake my head in reply.  :I warned him not to over-extend; it’s all his own doing, so he can deal with the consequences.:

:Oh—but—:  Sam doesn’t get very far, and his Mindvoice is somewhat hesitant, whether it’s due to his own reaction headache putting in a belated appearance or the fact that he’s Speaking another Companion I don’t know, and he doesn’t get very far before the subject of our tiny conversation, and the medium for this chit-chat interrupts mournfully.

:T-Teva…:  Gods.  That was downright pathetic.  A few more daggers and a mill ponds worth of exasperation get chucked in the general mental direction of my Chosen.

:Go.  Sleep.:  That is a flat order, and Samyel seems to take it as much to heart, if not more so, than my own Chosen… of course, his being in a state about a step up from flat out might have something to do with that.  Maybe.

Once I’ve tracked them enough to ensure that they’ve both made it to beds I summarily shunt Alex out of my head and block him out as much as I can; having his damned reaction sickness sloshing around in my head is giving me a right royal headache, which is still discernable even with the blocks.

Bloody stupid Heralds…  I think to myself with irritation before finally turning to Harali who is regarding me with one deep blue eye.

:Dare I ask?:  She asks with slight amusement.

:Bah!: Is all I send in reply, along with a bundle of emotions and generalised feelings with regards to certain impetuous young men of my acquaintance.  A sigh and I turn slightly to look around.

I itch, and no amount of hide twitching is going to dislodge the family of itchy sensations that has set up shop under my saddle blanket— Harali and I still being fully tacked up of course, and given that both of our respective Plonkers in White are most likely nose down in a bed at this moment in time, it looks as if the pair of us are stuck standing around and looking Companion-like for the night.  Bah!

Movement by the main door of the House makes me look around, however, and I am greeted by the sight of a slightly wobbly Vadi.  “Hullo,” he says shyly, “I thought I come and check that you were alright— and to, uh, help—“ As he gestures I notice with some surprise that a group of plain clad men seem to have appeared from nowhere and are dealing with the assorted horses.  I blink and tilt my head back towards the Healer trainee.

Correctly reading this as a question, he wobbles the rest of the way over to ‘Ali and myself and checks that our hackamore reins are looped safely over the pommels of our saddles.  “Most of them are with the, uh, hunting party that came in— you know.”  He says in a low voice, “the one with the red hair is our head groom, Harris, though.”  I squint in the direction of his pointed finger at the indicated man and make a note.  I’m not sure of what exactly, but it’s a damn fine note, non-the-less.

After rubbing at his forehead with one dirty hand, Vadi motions for us to follow him as he begins to walk slowly in the direction of what will hopefully turn out to be the stables.  Harali quickly catches up with him on his right and nudges him in the shoulder, nickering a question at the same time.  Vadi looks a bit startled and then smiles weakly.  “Nah, Lady, I’m alright; I was just helping to keep him stable whilst Daska did the hard stuff.”  A rueful smile overtakes the weak one.  “I’ll sleep it off fine.”

I draw level with Vadi on his right and eye him up and down.  :So you’re out here…?:  I ask.

He looks over at me and blushes slightly.  “I thought I’d see you ladies were being looked after properly first is all.”  A slightly defensive tone of voice there, “I figured that uh, the Heralds wouldn’t be in any state to uh—“

:Do anything other than fall over.:  Harali announces to me.  :Thoughtful boy, this one.:  I relay what she’s said to Vadi— ‘Ali being the good one out of the pair of us and keeping to the guidelines about Bespeaking— and add my own agreement.

“Well— they did uh, help Daska—“

:No comment,: is my only response, along with a flick of my dusty tail.

Despite our ambling pace, we have reached the stable block of the House of Healing:  It’s a single story wooden building that is currently alive with bustle and activity as the stable groom plus the common retainer type folks deal with the dirty, high strung and by now generally irritated collection of horses.  I glare at a few, and they quiet down.  Apparently the threatening lesson of beforehand has established that white equals scary it their overly inbred heads to some extent.

‘Ali eyes me and shakes her head slightly in resignation as I practice looking aloof but belligerent, before both of our attention is gained by a red-haired man popping up in front of us.  I’m guessing that this is Harris the head-groom, then.  See?  That mental note did come in useful after all.

“Eyah, young Vadi— I’m aguessin’ that these beauties be yon ‘eralds Companions?”  Good Gods.  You could cut this mans accent up and serve it with a side of vegetables, it’s that thick!

“Heyla, Harris,” Vadi greet the groom.  “They are— this is Teva—“ he points at me and I blink slowly, “—and this is Harali.”  ‘Ali manages to produce a wise Companion look from somewhere and flags her tail slightly.  “All their kit is in their bags…”  As Vadi trails off uncertainly I snort and bob my head before shaking my forelock out of my eyes.

Harris nods in satisfaction.  “Right-o, saved yess a pair o’ loose boxes away from this lotta ‘ooligans.  You’m stayin’ the ‘elp me then Vadi?”  As Vadi nods with muted enthusiasm, Harris turns and strides across the small yard in front of the stables, arriving at a trio of roomy looseboxes, two of which have obviously been prepared for myself and Harali.  Lovely, I still have a headache.

After some assistance from the groom, and helpful shaking on my part, Vadi manages to get my tack off of me and hung up on a stand in the nearby tack room and begins brushing me.

Oh, heaven…

Excuse me whilst I just turn my brain off and revel in getting all my itches scratched, mmhmm… oh yeah…

From the way that dust is flying off of ‘Ali and the fact that her sapphire eyes are almost crossed in bliss, I imagine she has as many itchy patches as I do.  There is very little as satisfying as getting an itch dealt with thoroughly, let me tell you.

Within very short order, Harali and myself are once again stunning white and silver in colouration and are comfortably installed in well bedded loose boxes with buckets full of fresh water, mixed grains and a big net of hay.  Happy sigh.

Harris has bustled off to complain at the other grooms and check on the assorted horses and Vadi had just waved goodbye and wandered off to presumably find somewhere to curl up and collapse in.

The last vestiges of the sunset are still staining the sky, but the main illumination is now being provided by a series of covered glass lanterns, I’m too busy scoffing food to spend much time noticing stuff like that however.

After I have successfully stuffed my belly full and am feeling somewhat happier with the world in general, it occurs on me to check on my Chosen to see if he’s still actually, you know, alive.

With a wisp of hay hanging out of my mouth whilst I absently chew on it I allow my eyes to unfocus at the side of my temporary home as I send a questing thread in the general direction of my Alexander, or, as I’m referring to him at the moment; Mister Macho the Stupid.

My first impression is of a headache, which isn’t really all that surprising if you think about it, and fast after that a sensation of warmth and sleepiness.  He did make it to a bed in one piece then— which means that he’ll live for me to berate him soundly tomorrow.

But… there’s something else… and I’m not entirely sure what it is.

:How’s Alexander?:

:Hmm?:  I blink and focus on Harali.

:You have that look about you,: she explains, :plus I was just checking on Sam and guessed that you’d be doing something similar despite being annoyed with him.:

Oh, I guess that’s a fairly reasonable explanation.  I ripple my hide in an equine shrug and twitch both ears.  :He’s asleep, I think.:

:I’m getting a definite feeling of that from Samyel, well, that and this weird sensation of warmth.:  Harali eyes me slowly as I whuff out my breath in surprise.

:That’s what I’m getting!:  I exclaim— before backing up slightly and attempting to dissipate ‘Ali’s confused expression.  :From Alexander; I could feel warmth, and something else and it’s something to do with the warmth, like you just said!:  I give such clear and concise explanations, don’t I?

:Oh…:  She trails off and gains a spaced out expression for a moment as she deepens her contact with Samyel.  :Teva,: ‘Ali’s voice is suddenly clanging with suspicion and I cock my head in inquiry.  :Could you—can you make your Chosen react?:

:Re…act?:  I repeat slowly.  I’m a very confused and slow Companion.

:Yes; react.  Make him twitch, open his eyes… something!:


:Or— just watch for a moment, right?:  The mare is suddenly concentrating on something else, leaving me thoroughly mystified and blankly regarding my water bucket.  It doesn’t seem to have any good explanation for what in the Havens Harali is on about and after a profound sigh I edge myself quietly into a small corner of my Chosen’s battered and tired mind.  It’s not that interesting in here, really it isn’t.

I have a phenomenally short attention span at times; I’m bored already— Hello, what was that?

Alexander is reacting to something, some outside stimulus… if I didn’t know better, I’d say he’d just been kicked by someone, but that’d mean that—

Alex’s eyes open briefly and I get a blurred impression of a white plastered wall and a small room, and then he burrows back under the bedcovers and sinks back to true sleep.  That isn’t what is making my mouth hang open, however.  That accolade is reserved for the concurrent image that ‘Ali has just dumped in front of me; namely a Samyel eye view of a pretty damn similar wall, with the addition of part of it being obscured by someone with brown hair burrowing under a motley collection of white sheets and a grey blanket…

My metaphorical eyes have just fallen out of my head.

Oh… My…


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