Chapter Twenty Five- Kiss and Tell.
:No, really, I’m serious.:
Harali stares at me, then repeats herself. :You’re mad. Completely insane.: It’s a statement, not a question, and I huff my sides out in a side, before rolling over and managing to get to me feet. Eventually, after I’ve stopped standing on my own tail and trying to use it to pull my spine out of my body.
:No, really—: I’m getting déjà vu here, :—I’m serious.:
:You’re not.: Harali actually stops itching her back on a conveniently low tree branch and changes her blank stare into something approaching horrified anticipation. :You are, aren’t you?:
I shake myself, sending a cloud of dust billowing out around me. :Of course.: I tell her. :It’s the perfect plan. It can’t fail.:
:Teva,: Harali sounds like she’s saddling up her Voice of Reason. Metaphorically, I’ve already stuck my fingers in my ears. I have a plan and I like my plan and I’m going to execute it no matter what she says. :We won’t get groomed—:
:We can survive.: Confident. That’s how I sound, yeah. Confident Companion; She Who Hath a Plan.
:There’s plenty of forage and we can open the grain bins ourselves.:
Harali sighs. :Alexander will block you out again—:
:It’ll give me some peace and quiet from the whining and the pining.: I am resolute and I shall not be swayed from my plan.
:—after he’s spent about a candle mark shouting at you.:
:I shall be doubly glad of the peace and quiet, then.:
:Sam will throw things at you.: Harali sounds like she’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, here.
:Not through the Waystation walls and a closed door, he won’t.: I point out. :And, if those dreams—: ‘Ali groans in a heartfelt fashion, :—are anything to go by, then afterwards he’ll be too busy with… other things.: I snicker. :Like groping my Chosen.:
Harali flattens her ears. :I really didn’t need that mental picture, thanks.: She tells me severely. :It’s bad enough getting it from Samyel, without you contributing as well.:
:It’s part of my cunning plan.: I do not sound smug. No, I don’t.
:Oh?: Harali gives me a look that isn’t as much old, as ancient. :How is you coming up with fictional scenarios like—: she shudders and I give her a wide-eyed look of innocence, :—Teva! That was uncalled for!: For some reason, Harali seems to have lost her train of thought.
:You were asking me about my cunning plan.: I prompt her; after all, I need to gloat to someone about just how fantastically brilliant I am, and trying it with either of the boys would defeat the whole object of my wonderful plan. And probably earn me a right ding around the ear for my troubles.
‘Ali blinks. :Until you started projecting those…images… at me.: She points out in an aggrieved fashion. :I’d be almost tempted to accuse you of snooping in Sam’s head for source material.:
I snicker loudly. :Sam isn’t the only one who dreams, you know.: I say. :It’s just that Alexander represses it all so much that he doesn’t wave it in my face all night.:
:Oh Gods.: Harali pulls a face. :Are we absolutely sure we want to match-make them, in that case?:
:Uh…?: I blink and give her a puzzled look.
Harali rolls her eyes for emphasis and explains. :If they’re like that in dreamland, in the real world we’ll never get them out the damned Waystation!:
For some reason that strikes me as inordinately funny and I begin making the dying-donkey sounds again as I cackle with laughter. Harali gives me a long-suffering look and I manage to pull myself together after a few moments. :That is something to consider.: I even manage to sound semi-serious as I say it.
Not surprisingly, Harali’s face clearly indicates that she doesn’t believe me in the slightest. Funny, that.
:My plan is going to work.:
Harali’s expression doesn’t change in the slightest.
Further explanations are interrupted by the return of Alex and Sam from the stream, both carrying a pile of wet clothes, and wearing only the pairs of under breeches that they haven’t washed.
“What?” Alex looks at me and raises one eyebrow, switching his gaze briefly to Harali, before settling on myself again.
:What?: Answer a question with a question. Yes, that’s me; completely not suspicious to the core.
“Teva, you’re the one who’s giving us the funny looks.” Alex raises his eyebrow further and tilts his head to one side.
:Am I?: I blink ingeniously. :I was looking at you like I usually do.:
“Which generally means that you’re planning something.” My Chosen points out, with pretty much faultless logic. Damn.
I think a subject change is in order. :You go hang your washing up.: I point my nose towards Samyel, who is spreading wet garments out over the top of the bushes planted near to the side of the Waystation, so that they can dry in the sun. Alex stares me for a moment longer, before sighing in resigned defeat and wandering over to the bushes to spread out his half of the wet clothes.
Harali is watching me out of the corner of her eye, whilst ostensibly grazing. Samyel finishes first, and vanishes into the Waystation and I stare fixedly at Alex’s back until he notices and turns around to look at me.
“What?” He asks me again.
:You’ll catch cold if you wander around half naked and soggy like that.: I walk over to him and toss my head. :Unless you're wandering around half naked and drippy to impress someone?:
As predicted, Alexander flushes hotly and swats at my nose, which I avoid by ducking my head to one side. “Teva!” he hisses. “Don’t you dare—“
:Dare what?: I give Alex a transparent look.
“Open your big mouth!” he insists, in the same fierce whisper. “And, for your information, I’m going to get a towel now.” Face still tinged red, my Chosen pushes past me and stalks through the outer door of the Waystation.
Now, one of the interesting thing I noticed about this Waystation is that, whilst the outer door opens inwards— in case of snowdrifts or whatever in winter— the inner door, the one that divides the porch area from the rest of the Waystation, that opens outwards, the importance of which will become apparent in a moment. The second thing I noticed about this Waystation is that the ‘porch’ area is fully large enough to accommodate two adult Companions, with space to move.
What this means, of course, is that I can walk straight into the porch area, turn myself around, suddenly decide to be tired and lie down. Unfortunately, the only comfortable spot happens to put my not-inconsiderable rump flush up against the closed inner door, which bumps slightly as one of the boys tries to open it.
“The door’s stuck!” Muffled though the voice is by the thick wood, I can still identify Samyel’s voice. Another grunt and the door bumps slightly again.
“Let me help,” Alex’s voice. Another bump and two grunts this time. Unfortunately for the boys; one stubborn Companion is too heavy for two somewhat tired Heralds to shift, particularly if said Companion doesn’t really feel like moving.
See? I told you the mechanics of that inner door were important.
Breathing on the far side of the door, at the level of the keyhole. “There’s something in the way.” Samyel’s voice. “I can’t see what though—“ I twist my head around and sight on the keyhole, before pulling my smuggest facial expression out and waving it around, “—it’s Teva.” For some reason Sam’s voice sounds flat. I wonder why?
“What?” Alexander seems to be saying that a lot today.
“It’s Teva— your damn Companion is blocking the door—“ Sam sounds a tiny bit upset. Oh dear.
“What?” Alexander needs to learn some new words, I think.
“Teva, what the Hell are you doing?” A thump that sounds rather like a fist hitting the door.
:Oh, you know,: I say airily, :laying around, having a bit of a rest.:
“In front of the door?” Alex sounds a bit upset too, you know.
:Well, yes.: I say, noticing that Harali has given up the pretence of grazing and is now standing in the outer doorway, staring at me, then at the door.
:You actually did it—: She says, with rather more surprise than is really nice. She should at least pretend to have some faith in my abilities, is that too much to ask?
Something muffled, which is probably just as well, given the tone of voice Alex uses. I hope there’s a pot of varnish knocking around in there, to replace what his language has just removed from the inside of the door. “Why?”
:Well, I would’ve thought that was perfectly obvious, Chosen: I say in a superior tone of voice.
A distinct sensation of gritted teeth invades my head for a moment. “Enlighten. Me.” Alex bites off the words.
I snort and twitch both of my ears. :It’s quite simple; you’re in there, Samyel’s in there—:
“I’d noticed that.” You know, Courtly Graces really are good for something; Alex’s voice sounds even and controlled, not at all like he wants to pull off one of my hooves and hit me repeatedly over the head with it. Incidentally, that’s what the rest of his head is telling me he wants to do; sometimes a Mindlink is an inordinately useful thing.
:—but,: I continue, in a cheerful tone, :all of your clothes are out here. So you’re both stuck in there half naked and a bit damp and probably cold too.: A smug grin. :Maybe you should keep each other warm?:
Now, that curse word, I definitely hear clearly, as well as what follows. “Teva! You get out of the way of the door this damn minute!” Alexander sounds really furious, but my handy little Mindlink— every featherbrained meddler should have one— tells me that it’s pretty much nine tenths embarrassment and one part lust. He needs to work on that ratio.
:Nope.: I say with finality. :I’m staying put.:
“What? What did she say?” Samyel sounds confused, and highly suspicious.
“She won’t move.” I hear Alex say flatly.
“What?” Knocking on the door. “Teva, shift your tail, now— Harali! Harali, kick Teva until she gets out of the way!” Now there’s gratitude for you. Honestly, some people.
If Harali were human, she’d be doubled over with laughter; as it is, she’s settling for hanging her head between her front legs and wheezing like a leaky pair of bellows. :You may as well tell Sam that won’t happen because Harali’s too busy laughing.: I calmly inform Alex.
Another thump on the door. “What the Hells are you pair playing at?”
I snort, and abruptly drop my shields to include Samyel in on my sending. :Tucking you pair in for the night.: I say snippily. :Since you can’t seem to manage it on your own!:
More muffled cursing.
I gain a look of wicked amusement and deliver the last word. :Sweet dreams!:
The slamming up of mental shields all over the place almost makes my head vibrate and I have to blink a few times before I can focus on Harali.
:Sam’s blocked me.: She says without preamble.
:Same here… well, with Alex, not Sam.: I say.
Harali gives me a slightly jaundiced look. :It’s practically normal for you two to not be speaking.: She points out. :I hope this works, otherwise, not only are we never going to get groomed ever again, we’re also going to have to explain to the Groveborn why a pair of Companions kidnapped and imprisoned a pair of Circuit Heralds.:
I send Harali an image of a human me disparagingly waving a hand. :It’ll work.: I say confidently. :Just you wait and see.:
Harali sighs and backs out of the doorway in order to return to grazing. :Hopefully before anyone dies of hunger.:
Damn. She did have to bring up that flaw in my grand plan, didn’t she? I’m not hungry now, but in a couple of marks? And what about drinking? And, perish the thought; what about when I need to… ahem… relieve myself?
:Harali?: Integrating tone of voice. No, not ‘wheedling’, integrating, there’s a difference. Because I say so.
:That took longer than I thought.: Harali says dryly.
:Hey!: I flatten my ears, despite the fact that no-one can see me. :I resent that!:
:Teva, you have the attention span of foal on sugar-beet.: ‘Ali says. :Therefore, I was fully expecting you to get bored after about a minute; which you have done.:
:I’m not bored!: I insist hotly, :I’m just trying to sort of some of the finer points of my plan.:
Her scepticism is tangible in her Mindvoice. :Such as?:
:We could take turns?: Integrating, not wheedling. :Because I will need to eat and drink and wee at some point, and your Chosen is in there too.: Although I can’t see Harali, I can still give her a hopeful grin. It’s that useful Mindlink again.
I both hear and feel Harali’s sigh. :You have a point.: She agrees. :And I don’t suppose I could get any more mad at me than he is right now.:
:He’s not mad!: I insist grandly.
:You could have fooled me; what with all the shielding, and the fact that I can hear him through the window and he’s swearing.:
:The window isn’t big enough for them to get out, is it?: I ask worriedly; the last thing I need is an angry, dressed only in skivvies, Herald climbing out a window with the express purpose of kicking me in the ear repeatedly.
Harali’s attention fades for a moment, then returns. :No, these places have to be predator proof, remember? The window is covered by a metal grille.:
:Fantastic!: I exclaim happily, one ear twitching as I catch sound of a strange scraping sound from inside the Waystation.
:Not really,: Harali says, :because Sam’s just climbed up on something to open the window and now he’s clinging to the bars and gesturing at me.: A pause. :Rather graphically, actually.:
I cock my head to one side and, actually, now that I think about it, I can hear Samyel; both through the door— in a very muffled fashion— and from the fact he’s shouting out an open window around the corner.
:If he wasn’t blocking you I’d tell you to tell him that he needs to wash his mouth out with saddle soap.: I say. :Mercenaries don’t use language that bad!:
Harali wanders back into view, ears flattened and tail twitching. :You don’t need to tell me.: She says in an aggrieved fashion. :Someone is going to get his rear kicked when he gets out of that Waystation.:
:Well, hopefully, Alex’ll fight you for it.: I say with a snicker.
:You really think this will work?: Harali asks again, in a worried tone of voice.
:Trust me.: I say confidently. :Stuck in there with each other, they’re both going to get the hint.:
Harali rolls her eyes and snorts. :I think they already got ‘the hint’ when you shouted ‘sweet dreams!’ at them.: She points out.
:I never claimed to be subtle.:
:That, I am well aware of.: Harali shakes her head and wanders off to graze some more. :I’ll take over from you at sunset.: She says. I send a wordless agreement and settle myself in for the wait. Despite straining my ears, I can’t hear anything more coming from behind the door… all that really means is that Samyel’s stopped swearing like an Evendim pirate, however.
Oh well, I guess that we shall see what happens.
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