Chapter Twenty Six- Pride and a Fall.
The night time air is cool, with a few desultory insects chirping in the tangled undergrowth that infests the ground under the copse of trees that this Waystation is located in. I can also hear the faint trickling susurrations of the stream water.
The prevalence of mental shields and blocks all over the place means that everything is peaceful and quiet.
I stifle a jaw-cracking yawn and decide to take a leisurely amble around the Waystation. Although I’m tired, the several candlemarks I spent wedged in front of the door have given me a set of rather interesting muscular kinks that I still need to work out.
Heading towards the open outer door of the Waystation, I can see Harali blocking the door; flat out on her side asleep, no less. I’m not entirely sure how she managed to do that on the stone floor; I’ll have to ask her when she wakes up. Turning right, I begin to wander around the Waystation in a wide circle, enjoying the feel of the twilight breeze as it plucks at my mane and tail and caresses my sides.
Companions may not have eyebrows to raise at people, but we have damn good night vision. How I manage to almost walk into a bush on the far side of the Waystation is therefore completely inexplicable.
I said ‘completely inexplicable’, and I mean it. The words ‘clumsy’ and ‘featherbrain’ have absolutely no bearing, you hear? Good. Stop laughing, then.
:Argh!: I manage to scream quietly enough to avoid waking up ‘Ali and remove myself from said bush with only a small amount of non-productive flailing around. I do end up with leaf covered branches irrevocably tangled in my mane, however. I try to give my forelock a disgruntled stare as it flops into my face, with its new nature themed decoration, but merely manage to go cross-eyed.
I need a hair cut. Unfortunately, Alex isn’t talking to me at the moment— something which Harali is flat out insisting is pretty much normal for us— and, even if Harali could operate a pair of shears, I wouldn’t trust her within ten feet of my neck with something pointy. Or, for that matter, with something blunt.
Especially since her Chosen’s sort of blocking her out at the moment and that’s pretty much my fault, even if she seems to be rather unconcerned about it. I guess it’s a side effect of being around myself and Alexander; the perpetual argument in white.
I still stand besides my plan of locking the boys into the Waystation as a stroke of pure genius— I can see those smiles and I’m not impressed— especially the little-to-no-clothes aspect of it. I just hope that they do something with this shining opportunity I’ve provided them with.
Something besides plot my untimely and messy demise, that is.
“I’m sure I heard something—“ Samyel’s voice shocks me out of my introspection and I spin around in a fruitless circle before realising that standing in the view of the window (the one I know he already dragged something over to earlier so he could shout at Harali) will only likely get me an earful of abuse. When my brain sees fit to remember that I have four legs, not three, I manage to scramble around the corner of the Waystation and press myself against the cool stone of the wall.
A mumble of sound, that sounds like Alexander, except I can’t make out the words, then Sam replies.
“You’re probably right,” An exasperated sigh. “The door’s still stuck?”
“I can hear snoring.” This time, I catch Alex’s voice; he must have walked over to the window, and Samyel. In the back of my head, evil-Teva produces a flag and starts cheering Alex on. As depressing a thought as it is; them apparently standing in close proximity to each other— practically in the altogether; well, as much as you can get whilst still wearing skivvies, at any rate— is actually progress.
If they don’t hurry up, however, all of us will be compost. In mine and ‘Ali’s case, after the Groveborn has finished chewing us out and turned us into plough horses or something. Urk, bad thought. Bad, bad thought that I don’t need to be having because this is my shiny plan and it’s going to work. Yes. Absolutely.
I edge closer to the corner of the building and ease my head around it, ears pricked forwards. I figure that the metal grille across the window means that Samyel will have a very limited line-of-sight, and it is night time. We’ll ignore the part where I’m a great big glowing white horse in lieu of avid eavesdropping.
A soft thud; say the sound that would be made by a human head hitting a metal grille. “Harali snores.” Samyel says in a flat voice. “I can’t believe she’s in on this, too— I mean, your Teva, I pretty much expect the unhinged behaviour from— but Harali?” A groan. “She used to be normal!”
Hey! I choke down the offended snort that wants to vent itself and settle for flattening my ears and gritting my teeth. Oh, so I’m the great corrupting influence, even though I’m being the helpful one by locking Sam in a small place with his libido and his lust-object? The sheer unmitigated cheek that man has is really—
“Hey!” The half shout startles me out of my silent ranting, and I’m more than a bit surprised to realise that it was Alexander. “Don’t you dare talk about my Companion like that!”
Deh?! I blink. Okay, we’re really in the alternate universe now. I lock my Chosen in a small room with someone who wants to pounce his bones into bed and he’s defending me? Who in the name of Kernos fed him the mushrooms when I wasn’t looking?
“You heard me— don’t you dare talk about Teva like that!” Alex actually sounds angry. It must be the mushrooms I’m pretty much convinced someone’s slipped him.
“Well, excuse me—!” Sam shouts back, overlaying the sound of feet striking the floor together, “but— the last time I looked— she was the bloody maniac horse that had decided to hold us hostage!”
Hey! I am not a horse! If Harali wants to kick her Chosen’s rear, then she’s going to have to fight me for the privilege of being first, and Alexander can go hang.
The erratic sound of pacing footsteps, then Sam’s voice rings out again. “For no damn reason!”
“She’s not holding us ‘hostage’.” Alex insists hotly. By the sounds of it, he’s still standing next to the window, although Samyel sounds like he’s stamping around all over the place. Probably waving his hands around too. Calling me a horse.
“Then what in the name of the seven Hells do you call this?” Sam demands; his volume makes up for the fact that he’s now on the opposite side of the Waystation. I can hear his voice perfectly. Calling me a horse!
“Alexander, your damn horse—“ I am not a bloody horse! “— has corralled the two of us in here and blocked up the only exit with herself, for Kernos’ sake!” A unidentifiable thump, and a thankfully unintelligible curse. “And, if that wasn’t enough; she’s also done something to my Companion— who used to be sensible— and is now apparently in on this whole mess!”
Oh, is that so, Mister I’m Going to Call Teva a Horse? He’d better have a whole bucket full of damned liniment stashed away somewhere because Herald “I get my species easily confused” Samyel is going to have more hoof prints on his arse than the dust on the whole damn length of the South Trade Road when I get through with him! Calling me a horse if you can credit it!
“And what do you think Teva’s done to your Harali?” Alex demands. “Because she certainly doesn’t sound as if she’s been corrupted or coerced at the moment!” A second step of stamping feet joins the first. So now they’re both pacing.
I sidle around the corner of the Waystation and position myself closer to the window, head outstretched and both ears straining. Not that that is really necessary, given how they’re both pretty much shouting. I am amazed that Harali is managing to sleep through all this racket; although a quick mental check confirms that ‘Ali is still off in dream land. It’s alright for some people. Some of us have to be awake and hear terrible insults about our person. Calling me a horse!
“I—“ Samyel breaks off whatever he is about to say. Hey, Alexander’s winning this argument. Go Alex! Even if he does still want to smack me around the head with one of my own hooves, and is currently blocking me out for the second time this month. “I just don’t want to be trapped in here!”
I blink. Sam has claustrophobia? The Great Snoring Wonder never mentioned that this afternoon.
“Why?” Alexander’s voice has dropped to something approaching normal, and is laced through with concern. I move to stand underneath the window, plastering myself as close to the wall as I can manage. Because sixteen hand high white equines blend in with sandstone remarkably well, don’t you know.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Sam mutters.
It was easier to eavesdrop whilst they were shouting.
“Are you claustrophobic?” Alex is being persistent. Good Alexander, that will earn you a… um… I’ll think of something.
“No—“ Sam’s voice raises, “I’m not claustrophobic, I just don’t want to be stuck in here, nor do I want to talk about it!”
“Tough, because I’m going to keep asking you until you tell me; it’s not as if we’ve got anywhere else to be right now.” You know what? I can tell, without even having Mindlink privileges, how Alexander is standing. I can picture it perfectly, because that’s his lecturing tone of voice and I’ve been on the receiving end of that far more times than I can count. Arms crossed over his chest, standing hipshot. One foot tapping. And a single, perfectly raised eyebrow. From the exact tone of his voice, I’d say he’s also employing the tilted-head-sideways-stare look.
A sound that’s very like a growl. “Will you just shut up?” Sam sounds really annoyed— on a completely different level to a few moments ago.
“No.” And I can tell you that the eyebrow will have just arched that little bit extra. That used to really annoy me too.
“Fine!” Exasperated shout. “You want to know why?— Because I don’t trust myself not to do this—“ Rapid footsteps, the beginnings of a startled exclamation from Alexander, then— silence.
What? What?! What’s going on? Why did the builder have to put that window so damned high up so that I can’t see through it? And I can’t— no matter how hard I stretched my head up and try to rear-but-not-quite to get some extra height. My ears pin back. What in the name of all that is holy is happening?! I bounce in place with frustration.
A gasp from inside, and I whip my head around so fast that I damn near flatten my nose across a good two foot of wall. A couple of dragged sounding footsteps and… heavy breathing? Evil Teva starts jumping up and down and whooping, but I completely ignore her— she is jumping to conclusions and just because—
“You— you just kissed me.”
Choke. Cough. Turn blue. Gag evil Teva before her shrieking starts felling local wildlife.
“Yes,” Sam; so quiet that I have to strain to here him. “And now I really would like to get out of here.” He sounds… weird… scared?
“Why?” Alex sounds confused. Alex always sounds confused. Alex has me for a Companion, of course he sounds confused.
A shuddering sigh. “I… would have thought that’d be obvious,” oooh, Samyel can jump to even bigger and more wrong conclusions than I can, and that is saying something. “I— I’m sorry I shouldn’t have—“
Alexander, at the same time, starts saying; “Well, um, I’d rather like you to, um… do that again.” An embarrassed sounding cough, then, quieter, “if you want to, that is?”
Oh my sainted Gods in the Havens! Whatever the rest of the conversation is, I completely lose track of, in favour of joining evil Teva in jumping around and squealing like a foal on fermented apples.
:Harali!: I shriek. :Harali, wake up! Now!: Four hooves, they can work together; I scramble around the side of the Waystation, collide with another damn bush and have to kick my way free, leaving behind what feels like half of my damn tail in the thorny branches. :Hah-rah-LEE!:
:—lovely nose you have— wffsssggsst?!:
I skid to a halt in front of the front door and barge inside. Harali is slightly less than half awake and blinks at me in a blurred fashion. :I was having a lovely dream—: she complains, then yawns. A vigorous head shake and she levers herself into an almost upright position. :What in the name of the Lady are you yelling about?:
Bounce. :He— they—he—: Completely coherent, that’s me. Okay; evil Teva, you need to work with me here, because ‘Ali is currently looking at us like she thinks we’ve been inhaling the mushrooms for the past candle mark.
:What have you been sniffing?: See? I told you that she thinks that we’ve been at the things!
I attempt to gather myself together in order to form an understandable sentence. :Alexander,: I manage, :Samyel— kissing!:
:What?!: Harali goes from lying down to standing with no apparent intermediary poses and stares at me with a thunderstruck expression.
:Honestly— listen—: I jerk my nose towards the door and illustrate what I mean my nudging past Harali and plastering my head, and one ear, flat against the smooth grained wood. She stares at me, then turns around and mimics my pose.
Silence. We stare at each other, noses almost touching. :Are you sure you weren’t dreaming—?: she starts to ask me when— that was definitely a gasp.
And that couldn’t be anything but a moan—
And that bumping sound is definitely the kind you get when two people aren’t looking where they’re going and one of them walks the other one backwards into some furniture.
Harali and I stare at each other some more. Our dead silence in punctuated by an assortment of… ‘vocalisations’, shall we say?... from inside the Waystation. I’m sure your imaginations can do the rest.
:What a warm night—: Harali suddenly exclaims.
:Oh, yes!: I agree.
:Why don’t we—?:
:Go and set up camp near the stream?:
Harali backs away from the door. :Fantastic idea!: She agrees fervently. I back up as well and nod my head firmly.
A distinctly dirty sounding laugh drags our attention back to the closed door, which we stare at as if it’s about to vanish and give us an eyeful of— ahem.
:Stream!: Harali yelps, and we both dive for the porch door way at the same time and collide with each other. ‘Ali manages to wiggle through first; otherwise we would have faced the distinctly embarrassing prospect of spending the night wedged tight in the doorframe, and I rapidly follow her as she practically runs to the far side of the clearing.
Suddenly, I think we’re both glad that we’re being shielding out of our Herald’s minds.
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