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'.
Notes:  etcetera-cat is deaf from the ‘squeeing’, and is keeping several comments firmly inside her own head.
Feed(back) etcetera-cat.
Chapter Twenty Seven- Dawn and Dusk.
I stare at the patch of grass underneath my nose.  It’s sunny, and the shadow outline of my head would be looking back at me, if it had eyes.  And was, you know, alive.  The rest of my shadow is pretty much underneath me.  That is because it’s nearly the middle of the day.
:Maybe we should go and knock?:
I don’t even realise that I’ve spoken out loud until the sensation of being stared at makes me look up.  Harali is indeed staring at me.  :You what?:  She asks, a long stalk of grass trailing out of her mouth.
:I what, what?:  I blink in a confused fashion and raise my head.
:You spoke first.:  ‘Ali points out.  :And you said “maybe we should go and knock?”:
:Oh.:  I look around; both of us are standing on the banks of the stream that runs near the Waystation, then turn my head and stare at the Waystation, which is a sort of grey suggestion beyond a stand of smallish trees.  :Well, maybe we should…:  I say after a long moment.
:You’re joking, right?:  Harali asks flatly.  :Go and knock and get an eyeful of I don’t know what?:
:Well,: I twitch one ear, :just to check that they’re both still… alive, you know?  Because they’ve not appeared at all yet and they could be dead for all we know.:
:Hah!:  Harali snorts cynically.  :Corpses do not make the kind of sounds I heard when I went to get the bucket of grains this morning!:
We both stare at the tipped over bucket, and the few remaining oats and grains scattered in the grass that are the only reminders of our self-service breakfast.  Then we stare at each other.
I flatten my ears.  :Oh.:  I say, finally.  :Maybe they’re sleeping, then?:
Harali’s expression indicates a level of disbelief so high, it has snow on top and its own cloud formations.  :Something horizontal that happens in a bed, at any rate.:  She says, snippily.
:I don’t think they have that much stamina…:  Evil Teva, who briefly kidnapped my voice for the duration of that sentence, skeddadles, and leaves me alone to face the midwinter-style frostiness of Harali’s look.  I cough in an embarrassed fashion and shuffle my weight from hoof to hoof.  :I mean; they’ve got to sleep at some point, and that point’s probably now… right?:  I conclude lamely.
Harali’s muttered reply isn’t repeatable.
Further delightful conversation is interrupted by the loud snapping of a twig; which causes both myself and Harali to jerk our heads up in surprise and stare at the cause.  Alexander; with one of the washed shirts pulled on, but not done up, his skivvies and boots is standing on the path that leads back up to the Waystation.
He looks like a complete pillock.  And like the cat that got, not only the cream, but the deeds to the dairy.
“We wondered where you’d gotten to.”  He says easily, arms crossing loosely over his chest.  The movement pulls the shirt to one side and I notice two things very quickly.  The first one is that that shirt is not his, it’s far too big.  The second— and, in fact, third— things are the dark marks just below his left collarbone.
:Alexander Malken!:  I yelp.  :What in the name of Kernos are those, pray tell?:
Rather than acting… well, like Alexander… Alex glances down at himself, then smirks.  Smirks!  “Sam got a bit territorial,” he says.
And— just—  too much information!  I choke and splutter, Harali mirroring my actions, her eyes bulging from her head.  Seriously— which one of you fed him the mushrooms last night, and how long do the symptoms last?
One eyebrow arches skywards.  I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.  Why did I Choose him, again?
“Tickle in your throat, there, Teva?”  Alex sounds amused, instead of embarrassed.
More strangled snorting on my part.  :Who are you, what have you done with my Chosen and how many mushrooms have you eaten?:  I finally manage to demand, although I sound a hell of a lot more plaintive that I really should, and not nearly like I’m capable of gaining the upper hand in this conversation.
Harali’s no help.  Harali’s turning purple and making the kind of sounds you’d usually associate with a deflating bladder of air.
“Mushrooms?”  The eyebrow curves further and, by Gods, I swear that if I had hands, then that eyebrow would have a date with me and a razor in its immediate future.
:Yes!:  I manage in an affronted yelp.  :Because you’ve obviously taken vast quantities of something!:
And there’s that smirk again and oh my Lord and Lady in the Havens will someone just come and shoot me in the head now?  While you’re doing that, please gag both evil-Teva and my imagination and take me to whatever plane of existence my old Chosen is in?
:Argh!:  Screaming seems to be the only solution, so I do.
Alexander laughs at me.  I.  Hate.  Him.
“There’s some food up by the stable, if you’re hungry.” He says, eyeing up the overturned grain pail as he speaks, before pacing forwards gracefully to bend over and pick it up.  Presented with a view of his arse, I have the severe urge to give it a good shove.  Unfortunately, the rest of my mind— along with all of my motor functions and co-ordination— is still off in Too Much Information Land, so I completely miss the opportunity.
Alex turns and walks back towards the Waystation.  “We thought we’d stay here for the rest of the day; repair and check equipment whilst we’ve got the time, set off tomorrow.”  He calls over his shoulder, then vanished back up the path, leaving myself and Harali to stare blankly after him.
:Hah!:  My mind finally puts in an appearance.  :”Repairing equipment”— is that what they’re calling it now?:  The sarcasm is not appreciated by either the foliage, which is busy photosynthesising, or Harali, who looks as if someone just hit her in the head with a brick.  I grumble to myself and lash my tail from side to side, before flattening my ears and stomping up to the Waystation.
May as well get this over with.
Alexander is sitting cross-legged on the ground, near to the cook fire, apparently repairing the split seam on one of his saddlebags, and Samyel is poking something in the pot suspended over the fire.  Both of them are pretty much dressed— although I note that Alex seems to have lost his boots between the clearing and the Waystation— and the whole little scene is almost sickeningly domestic.
Alex glances over at me as I appear, and grins.  “Decided to join us, then?”  He asks.
I flatten my ears and growl at them, eliciting a surprised look from Samyel.  Which reminds me—
:Calling me a horse.:  I say flatly, glaring at Harali’s Chosen.  :Calling me a horse.:
“What?”  Alexander looks confused, and is back to using that word again.  Samyel echoes the sentiment, and they both stare at me.
:You!:  I stab my nose at Sam and swish my tail from side to side.  :Last night, calling me a horse!:
Sam gains a faint frown, and one of Alexander’s eyebrows raises.  Bah.
“You were eavesdropping?”  Samyel cocks his head to one side and gives me a reproving look.  Hah!  The cheek of it!
:You were shouting!:  I stamp one front hoof to underscore my point.  :And insulting me very loudly, it was hard not to hear!:
“Oh,” Sam coughs, “well, I was a bit annoyed.”
:And grass is a bit green.:  I mutter rebelliously.
Sam narrows his eyes.  “You had just locked me in a Waystation against my will.”  He points out levelly.
:Hah, wasn’t your will that was the problem.:  I snort loudly and swing my gaze from Sam to Alex, then back again.  :It was hardly just you in there.:  I tell Samyel.  :And you certainly seemed to find a way to keep yourselves entertained.:  Now, by all rights, that should win me this particular exchange and produce some blushes—
Samyel smirks.  Another smirker!  “That is true.”  He says blandly, but I intercept the look he shoots towards my Chosen.  Let’s just say that it could cook the dinner without any help from the fire, shall we?
:You—what—:  I stumble, because that’s not supposed to happen.  Where’s the embarrassment?  Where’s the point where I win?  Where’s the—
Alexander is laughing and oh my Sainted Lord and Lady it’s the same laugh as the one Harali and I heard last night and I really don’t need the mental pictures that evil-Teva is providing me with.
:I—: I draw myself up and try to look dignified in the face of two Heralds who are trading hot looks and laughing like I don’t wish to describe what kinds of individuals, :—am going back to the stream.:  I wheel about on my heels and stalk back in the direction that I came from.
Samyel is now laughing along with Alex and argh, evil-Teva, would you please get our mind out of the latrine pit for at least five seconds?
Harali is exactly where I left her.  Her eyes have stopped starting out of her head, however.
:That— they— them!:  I manage indignantly.
‘Ali blinks at me.  :You’ve created a monster.:  She tells me.
:Me?  You helped!:  I protest.
:He’s your Chosen.:  She points out, looking slightly smug.
I shake my head and look triumphant.  :Yes, but he’s doing the bouncy with your Chosen.:
Harali’s ears flatten and her head drops.  :So, do I actually want to know what they’re doing right now?:  She asks.
:Cooking and mending tack.:  I brutally attack a patch of grass and begin chewing in a grumpy fashion.
:Oh, well… that doesn’t sound too bad, maybe I’ll go get some more grains.:  She says, turning her head to look over at the Waystation.
:Well—: significant pause.  :They were cooking dinner and mending tack, but they were also being mean to me and staring at each other like they wanted to… you know.:
:Oh.:  Harali stops, one front foot in the air and twists her head around to stare at me.  :Maybe I’ll just stay here then.:  She decides, before joining me in attacking the grass.
:I think we’ve created a pair of monsters.:  I decide mournfully.  :And we’re going to be stuck at this Waystation until they send a search party our for us, convinced we’ve been eaten up by weird things out of Iftel.:
Harali does not disagree with me.
Maybe locking the boys in the Waystation last night wasn’t such a good plan.  How are we going to get them out again?


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