Chapter Twenty Four- Truth and Lie.
Being on the road again is boring. And monotonous.
Being on the road again is boring and monotonous. With a little parcel of boring balanced on the top. I am being an eloquent horse today.
Two weeks ago, we were having great fun— what with the whole catching assassins, having blazing arguments with respective Heralds, getting shot at… well… maybe those last two aren’t really all about the fun, but the first one was pretty damn exciting. Up until the getting shot at part, at any rate. That part wasn’t really enjoyable at all.
And, what’s even worse is that Samyel completely failed to have a breakdown because Alexander was injured and declare his true feelings of lust— I mean, love. Which, as clichéd and trite as it would have been, would have at least sorted matters out. Unfortunately, the knucklehead didn’t, which meant there was a complete and utter lack of emotionally repressed Heralds getting the good bedding that they need.
So it’s still all about the pining and the whining and the other-words-ending-in-‘-ing’.
I am not impressed, Harali is not impressed. We are two Companions in a severe state of Unimpressed. Believe me, it deserves the capital letter.
Did I mention the utter monotony of being on the road? Well, that is adding to the state of Unimpressed as well. There’s only so much dust you can trot through and so many identical dry stone walls and fields you can look at before you start reminiscing fondly about the Saga of the Sheep— and when you get to that point, you seriously need to consider drowning yourself. For your own good.
Unfortunately, there is no river. Or any other body of water large enough to submerge a single Herald in, let alone two of the buggers, and their overly gracious and noble steeds.
The latter refers to Harali and myself, so you can just stop that right now, and don’t think I can’t see the smirks.
Since leaving Daska’s House of Healing, we’ve actually managed to get almost back on track with the Circuit; helped in a big way by the fact that most of the land between Trevale and Winefold is just farm land, with occasional farmsteads and even fewer significant villages. This lack of vast amounts of people means that there’s hardly anything in the way of conflict that needs a Heraldic hand, hence; speed.
Well… sort of speed. If anything really urgent came up then I’m sure that Harali would be immediate in her joining of me in a gallop-like pace. Since there’s a distinct lack of urgent or interesting things, we’re keeping our pace to a comparatively leisurely canter.
Harali had an idea a couple of days back that maybe, if we lingered in the ‘wilderness’, where Sam and Alex pretty much had only each other to interact with, then maybe someone’s libido would pounce.
Nice idea, shame the boys haven’t cooperated. Well, not in any… literal… sense of the word. Harali was muttering about something this morning, and still has a distinctly unimpressed expression gracing her features.
Carefully filtering out Alexander’s and Sam’s current conversation— grape yields of the Armour Hills region and, oh my Lord Kernos, can you think of a less romantic or erotic subject?— I stretch out a questioning thread of Mindspeech to the other Companion mare.
:You look like someone knotted your tail with holly leaves.:
:Hah!: Harali snorts. :I didn’t sleep particularly well last night.:
:Oh?: I switch my own tail back and forth and give her an interested look, which she meets with an expressive look of her own and an eye roll in the direction of her Chosen.
:Yes.: She says shortly. :Someone not a hundred leagues from sitting in my saddle had himself a very interesting night.:
:Deh?: Harali should know by now that I’m not exactly brilliant at the whole vague allusions business; I need illustrative pictures and explanations in single syllables.
Another burst of muttering. :It seems that a certain Herald has an entirely fascinating new dream, so much so, that he even ran through it three times.:
Harali flattens her ears and shoots a glare at my Chosen and I widen my eyes. :Oh my…: I think I know what she means.
:Although, I say ‘dream’, what I really mean is ‘fantasy’.: A cynical tone of voice.
I do know what she means. And now, I shall snigger.
‘Ali continues inexorably. :’Sordid fantasy’ springs to mind, in fact.:
My sniggering bumps up a notch.
:’Comprehensive’ also occurs to me.: She really doesn’t sound impressed. My sides are now shaking slightly as I fight to keep my amusement purely internal; Harali is now adding little mental flourishes in the form of dream-flashes and, oh my I thought I had a dirty little mind! Who would’ve thought that Samyel had it in him?
:And ‘flexible’ just about sums it up.: The image that accompanies that needs a cold bath.
That does it, I’m forced to skid to an ungraceful stop and wheeze and bray like a spavined donkey whilst my mental sendings are reduced to the level of incoherent giggling. I may be the more consistent wielder of sarcasm, but when Harali sets her mind to it, she can excel.
Speaking of whom, ‘Ali has also halted, a short distance ahead, and has turned around to look at me. Samyel is staring at me over her ears and he looks confused. That sets me off into another paroxysm of laughter.
“Is Teva alright?” Sam’s question is directed to Alexander, who is clinging to the pommel of the saddle and trying to balance himself as I continue to wobble and shake with amusement.
“I have absolutely no idea,” Alex replies in a long suffering tone of voice. I catch ‘Ali’s eye and wheeze some more as my Chosen taps me on the side of my neck. “Teva?”
I continue to snort and giggle. I really wouldn’t try and get anything approaching coherency out of me for a good while longer.
“Teva?” Alex sounds a bit irritated now and I manage, eventually to gulp down my hysterical giggling— and a fair bit of air— and compose myself.
:Yes Chosen?: Innocent thoughts. I will think only innocent thoughts. I would have so much more success thinking innocent thoughts if Harali wasn’t staring at me in a knowing fashion.
“Are you alright?” Alex sounds confused and concerned.
A bout of mental coughing as I catch sight of Samyel giving me a puzzled look. :I’m fine!: I manage. :Absolutely fine.: To illustrate my point I hop straight into a trot and breeze past Harali, who scrambles around and follows me, catching up within a few paces. Around us, song birds continue to sing, completely unmindful of our— well, okay, my antics.
“Are you sure? You seemed to be…” Alex trails off and looks uncertain. “Really amused by something?”
:I… um… Harali told me…um…: out of the corner of my eye I can see Harali’s long face gain a faintly panicked cast; she knows what an abysmal liar I am, :… a joke! Yes, that’s right; Harali told me a joke.: Beam, grin, look innocent, and so on.
Alex doesn’t feel convinced. “A joke?” He sounds sceptical.
:Yeah.: I flick my ears and concentrate on the road.
“Can we hear it?” Samyel asks after a moment. I don’t know if he senses, but I certainly get a face full of groan from Harali.
:No!: I practically yelp, causing both of the boys to start with surprise. :I mean, um—:
:It’s a Companion joke.: Harali cuts in, sounding a Hell of a lot more convincing than yours truly.
“A… Companion joke?” Samyel sounds about as sceptical as Alex did just now.
:Yes.: Harali insists. :So we can’t tell you.:
I nod my head firmly in agreement. :Like Companion Secrets; Companions only.: Realistically, I realise that I should just keep my mouth shut, as I invariably manage to undermine and devalue whichever side of an argument that I’m on. It’s a Gift, like Mud Attraction.
“Right…” Alex leans back in the saddle and exchanges a significant look with Harali’s Chosen, before, thankfully, they both drop the subject and return to wooing each other with grape harvest figures—
Personally, the only use this pretty pony can think of for grapes is the one that involves stamping on them and then fermenting the resultant juice into wine, which can then be poured into certain people until their pig-headed and stubborn inhibitions drown.
I proceed to say as much to Harali, who just sighs and shakes her head. :You’re seriously suggesting inebriation?: She asks me.
I give her a moody shrug in reply. :Not for myself, no, but for Angle Arse and Inhibited…? Yes.:
:I think they’d noticed if we tried to get them both drunk.: She points out logically. :Besides, hooves aren’t really that good for opening wine bottles.:
:You have a point there.: A disconsolate sigh and I return my attention to the road. It’s still dusty and boring and monotonous.
“— more common to find the white grapes in the southern part of the region and the black grapes in the north and western areas—“ Samyel’s voice is also boring and dusty and monotonous, and I hastily tune it out again. I do not need to know how to grow grapes.
Things are definitely getting towards the ‘dusk’ end of the spectrum by the time that Harali and I arrive in front of the Waystation in which we’ll be spending the night. The afternoon we spent getting here was as boring as the preceding morning had indicated, and Harali and I couldn’t even really talk to each other about anything, due to my regrettable tendency to laugh my ears off and think Very Naughty Thoughts; something which I did twice more, before we both decided that Alex and Sam were getting more than a bit suspicious.
Once Alex has slid out of the saddle and divested my of everything tack related, I wander a short distance off, find myself a nice big patch of dust and I roll.
Oh, yeah… this feels good. There is nothing like a good bout of undignified squirming around on the ground to get at those irritating just-out-of-reach itches. After I’ve firmly banished said itches I pause, flat on my back, and eye up Harali, who is trying to give me a superior look.
:Like you wouldn’t if I wasn’t hogging all the good dust.: I stick my tongue out at her and kicks at the air with both back legs.
She snorts and flattens her ears, which I know means I’m right, and I sort of manage to edge my way sideways, onto the short grass, without rolling off my back or— and this is the important bit— managing to produce a shred of dignity or grace.
Harali holds back on a snide comment in lieu of performing her own dust bath and then rolling onto her side, so that the pair of us look like the starting point of a knacker’s yard.
The boys, who have been doing Heraldic things like sort out the Waystation and start dinner and clean tack and stuff, ignore us.
I lopsidedly watch as Alex pokes at the cooking fire he’s started and sets up the tripod with a small pot of what looks like porridge, then turn my attention to Samyel, who is digging through the saddlebags.
“We need to do laundry,” he announces in a mournful tone of voice. “All our Whites are filthy.”
:Heraldic Browns-greys-and-occasional-bits-of-green.: I observe with a snicker, which also has ‘Ali giggling. Alex merely shoots me a reproving look, to which I innocently bat my eyes.
“I noticed this morning,” Alex says, “is it my turn to wash them, or yours?”
Samyel gains a put upon expression. “Mine,” he says. “I may as well do these ones, too,” he plucks at his chest as he speaks, then proceeds to strip off his tunic. Sam hops around slightly as he pulls off his riding boots, then pauses with his hands on his trousers, looking at Alexander. “That uniform of yours is filthy too,” he points out, unnecessarily.
“You may as well strip, too.”
And, I’m sorry, but that has my mind straight into the gutter faster than you can yodel the first chorus of my ‘Hunting poacher-assassins’ song and the effort of not sniggering loud enough to be heard in Haven, let alone by the pair of Heralds standing fifteen feet away would be making me purple, if Companions could change colour.
From the way that Harali’s sides are shaking, neither of us are thinking about laundry, and both of us are about to expire from trying to bottle up the laughter.
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