Chapter Five- Catchings and Chargings.
The weather broke last week. No more lazing about in the sun for me as it is now most definitely autumn and all Iíll get if I stand out in the Field now is a face full of cold rain. No thank you very much. Iíll just stick to this here nice warm stable when itís raining.
I know Iím horse-shaped and supposed to have endurance yada yada, and that horses are supposed to sometimes prefer standing out in the rain to standing under shelter because itís more natural, and I admit, I feel the cold a lot less than I did when I was human, but, I still remember being human, and having this strange attachment for things like stoves and hearth fires, so Iíll just stick to these nice ceramic stoves in the stables thanks. You try standing out in that miserable weather with no clothes on for a couple of marks and then weíll reconsider my position as a lazy sensualist.
Itís not going to be much of a surprise that Iím practically sitting on one of the stoves at this moment then. Which I am. Doing what I do best; well, apart from being an all-round wonderful person and supernally wise being of course; daydreaming.
Veran has explicitly banned me from trampling, biting, kicking or otherwise harming Alexanderís odious family. He found out that evening, after Alex had told me about them. Not surprising really, since you could probably have painted the town red with the amount of blood I had sloshing around in my plotting little mind. Not that I was actively projecting my thoughts. I swear Veran is psychic or something. Well, obviously he is psychic because, wellÖ HmmÖ Arenít I just great at explanations? If I were human Iíd be at the Ďwaving arms around aimlessly and mouthing wordsí stage. In other words, Iíd be doing a credible pond fish impression. Sigh. Now Iíve lost my train of thought. Not that it takes much for that to happen, I freely admit.
Itís been, hmmmÖalmost three weeks since Alexander and I had our little heart to heart in the pine copse and he seems a lot happier now that heís not worrying about keeping secrets from me. I think heís also getting used to my ability to daydream half the day away, and my oft-times rather Ėahem- odd, sense of humour. Iím getting more used to him now. Our bond has pretty much stabilised and is now developing slowly, more for Alexanderís benefit than mine I think. I got the whole shared vision/split mind thing practically from the moment that I Chose him, so there isnít really that much to develop on my side, except for a general strengthening of all aspects of the bond.
Derri has said that that was pretty much how it happened for her and Vidian, she got whacked in the teeth with most of the bond within a month of Choosing him, and after that the bond developed at a slower pace, in keeping with the development of Vidianís Gifts of Mindspeech and Fetching.
Speaking of Heralds and Trainees, Henri got his Call! He went out last week, heading for the hinterlands up near Iftel. I most definitely do not envy him that journey in this weather. Sinna is kind of sulking because sheíll be the only one in our little group who hasnít Chosen yet.
I think it has actually stopped raining. Ye Gods, first time in three days! I take advantage of the lack of projectile water in the atmosphere to hie my tail into the Field for some exercise. Well, eating grass is strenuous you know. Known fact, that is.
So, now Iím out in the Field, not too far out though, the sky is still grey and dull and the wind is sending dark-bellied clouds scudding from east to west, and it looks like the rain could resume at any moment. Others are taking advantage of the sudden break in the weather, and not just Companions. Rather than take the longer route through the corridors, some of the Courtiers are risking life and brocade to take the shortcut through the ornamental gardens, close to the edge of the Field.
I look up at them with faint curiosity as I chew over a moisture-laden mouthful of grass. I vaguely recognise most of them from my eavesdropping sessions on the Court and from the summer, when they all picnicked in and strolled about the gardens. Some I also remember vaguely from Alexander meeting them on the few occasions that he braved Court. He doesnít have to, since Baren has been made the heir to the Malken title and estates, and may plagues of fleas infest them all. Eheh heh heh. The cache of purile images gets a new addition in the shape of an oversized flea, dressed in Court garb and with Barenís face. Snicker.
Suddenly, as if my thoughts have summoned him, I see a very unwelcome face in the gaggle of Courtiers. It canít beÖ I think to myself, but testing the breeze for a moment and watching the group until he emerges at the front confirms it. Itís Baren.
I tense my muscles slightly as visions of red gloop fill my mind, but I beat them back down again and lock them in a cupboard.
Bad horse! I scold myself. You gave your sworn word to Veran. Besides, whatíll Alex think if you merrily start trampling members of the Court? Havens! What will the Heraldic Circle think? I flatten my ears back against my head and allow myself a snort of anger. It doesnít help much. The random insults that my over-productive imagination is attaching to Barenís name do, however. Snicker, son of a pig faced whore, snicker. Not that Iím nasty or anything. Not much, at any rate.
As these thought are running through my head Baren sweeps his gaze over the Companionís Field, and again his face is twisted with an expression of, something, jealousy definitely, but something else I canít name as well. My muscles tense again as he looks directly at me, but his glance lasts no longer than those that he directed at the rest of the Companions currently outside. Of course, to him we all look the same, and I am quite a distance from him at the moment so it is highly unlikely that he would recognise me. Still, I get I slight shiver that translates as a twitchy hide. Brrr.
He turns and says something to the gaggle of young nobles behind him, and they break into Ďposhí laughter. All artful fluttering and giggles on the girlís parts and jovial haw hawing on the boyís parts. All of it fake. It is obvious from that little exchange that Baren is very much the king of that little coterie, and he seems to have done a good job at attracting to him those younglings of the Court who really do give the rest a bad name.
Not just the idle butterflies either, he also seems to have collected no few of the noble born Blues, the one more interested in being at Haven than actually learning anything. Several analogies spring to mind, but a quick internal poll plumps for Ďflies to rotten meatí as the best one.
Ye Gods! The thought suddenly springs to my mind. Does Alexander know that Barenís here? Lord and Lady, I hope not. Fruitless wish really, but I do not want my Chosen hurt anymore.
Luckily he isnít around at the moment, so there is no chance of him seeing Baren and company. Point of fact, I havenít seen my Alex since first thing this morning when he popped down before his first class to give me an apple and to say hello. He has a busy day today, since his Gifts are active he is having Gift lessons as well as the usual lessons a newly Chosen has. Itís because of one of those lessons that I canít tell you exactly what he is doing at the moment. He had a lesson in shielding this morning as he was beginning to pick up other peopleís thoughts because actually using his Gift with me has woken it up fast. His teacher, Dean Sidri actually, set him the task of maintaining as strong a shield as he could manage all of today, to get him used to holding shields. Because our bond is new, this means I canít eavesdrop on him. I mean, I know where he is, I just canít hear his thoughts or share his vision as usual. Hopefully as our bond gets stronger it will get to where he wonít be able to fully shield me out. That could be very useful some day.
As well as Mindspeech and Thoughtsensing lessons today, Alex is also having his first Farsight lesson, on top of the more mundane classes. More politics I think, and economics and possibly maths as well. I tend to zone out anyway when it gets to maths, there are more interesting subjects out there, as far as this particular Companion is concerned.
So, I wonít be seeing Alexander until after dinner this evening, because he also has chores. Sigh, Iím so neglected sniff sniff. I think I might go for a wander to the river and back since Iím out here, work off all the apples Iíve been munching on recently. Okay, so maybe Iím not that neglected.
I amble easily over to the Terilee river and stand looking at the fast flowing, muddy water for a while before shaking my head slightly and turning to head back. I have not gone two paces, however, before I am accosted by a pack of hyperactive small children. Except these particular children have four hooves and uniformly white hair.
Well, I amend to myself, white in the places that arenít grass-stained or mud splattered.
:Good afternoon, terrors.: I greet them, to squeals of delight, both mental and physical, and I squint. Piercing doesnít begin to cover it.
:Teva! Play catch with us!: The oldest foal, and unopposed ringleader of this four footed herd of trouble, Drisan, pipes up demandingly. His cry is picked up by the others, until I have five foals all chanting.
:Teva play catch! Teva play catch!:
:Alright!: I have to near shout to get myself heard over the top of them. :But only for a little bit.: They squeak with excitement at my agreement and scatter to the four winds within seconds. Apparently Iím Ďití then.
What have I let myself in for?
It is now about three candlemarks later, and I can tell you exactly what I let myself in for. Mess, lots of it. I look like Iíve had a fight with a mud demon, or possibly every tree in the Field. I had fun though, itís been a while since Iíve been small enough to legitimately pass myself off as a foal and do things like jump in puddles. Iíd forgotten how much I liked jumping in puddles when I was little.
Sinna doesnít look much better off than me, come to look at her. Midway through the game of catch, the foals pounced on Sinna, and with only a little encouragement from me, insisted that she also play with us.
Now the pair of us are standing near the front of the Field, liberally mired in mud up to our stifles, steaming slightly in the cool air, and generally looking like a pair of spavined old nags.
The foals were re-acquired by their respective mothers about ten minutes ago and were herded off to the stables for a clean up, since they had managed to cover themselves in mud to the ears. Hence why Sinna and I are still outside, we donít want to give the Companion grooms apoplexy at being presented with twelve muddy Companions. The mothers were also muddy, though only up to their hocks, and were surprisingly thankful that we had played distraction for their offspring for an afternoon, despite it being at the cost of muddy foals.
I think itís starting to get darker, a combination of dusk and the fact that the rain clouds of earlier seem to have come back. With friends. I cast one blue eye skywards measuringly.
:I think we better hie out muddy selves inside, Sinns.: I say with a slight sigh and flick of my tail.
Sinna turns to look at me. :Hmm?: She follows my gaze upwards and flattens her ears back at the swollen clouds that are hanging ponderously over us. :Bother, I think youíre right. Ah well.:
She shakes her head in an attempt to dislodge some of the pine needles caught in her mane. With out much success, I must add. :How in the Havens did I get all of these caught in me?: Sinna asks with a sigh as we begin a slow ramble towards the lamp-lit buildings.
:When you tried to chase that reprobate Kissa under the bush in the pine copse.: I remind her with a chuckle.
:Oh yes. I forgot that weíre not foal sized still.: Sinna sends a grin along with that and I laugh in return. Sinns, Bran, Hen and I were probably worse than the five foals that we were playing with when we were their age. Okay, definitely worse than they are, we were still cute though. :I meant to ask you before,: Sinna continues, :whereís that yummy little Chosen of yours gotten to?:
:Alex?: I ask, somewhat stupidly. I mean itís not like Iím stockpiling potential Heralds in my stall. :He has a full day today, and a lesson on shielding. He has to keep full shields up today, and theyíre blocking me out to a certain extent.: I snicker slightly. :Hopefully heíll appreciate me more when he thins them down.:
Possessive? Moi? Iím not going to dignify that with an answer, Iím just going to stand here looking superior and wise. Whilst covered in mud, yes.
Sinna looks at me. :Had, you mean.: She informs me.
:Huh?: I sound non-plussed, mainly because I am. I need bigger pictures, smaller wordóoh wait, those are small words, ummÖokay lets just go with the bigger pictures then.
:Had a busy day today.: Sinns explains patiently. :In case you havenít notice Dreamer, itís getting dark. That normally indicates the end of a day. So where is he?:
I stop dead in my tracks. :Damn, youíre right.: I say slowly. Sinna sends the impression of a raised eyebrow at me, I donít really notice as Iím busy concentrating on the bit of me that says Alexander. Normally says Alexander. It isnít co-operating at the moment. He must still have his shields up to their fullest.
Sinns also stops and half turns to look at me. :Teva, you donít seriously expect me to believe that night following day is a new concept to you, do you?: Her sending is tinged with humour.
I shake my head at her and make a Ďsssh-ingí sound before turning my attention inwards. Now that Iím concentrating I can pick upÖ somethingÖ off of Alex. Iím not sure what because, d-aamn, that boy can shield hard. Sinna gives me a slightly worried look.
:Teva, what is it?: She asks me, but I ignore her, her voice not really registering on my mind and I concentrate harder.
Thereóthereís something not right about Alex, about his shields. They werenít this tight before and they werenít walling me out this much. I sudden sense of foreboding wells up inside me, turning my guts to knotted ice and I try to reach him, but the shields wonít let me past. I push harder against them, but, if anything, they increase in strength. A sound accompanies the flare in shield power and I struggle to identify it.
The sick, icy feeling rushes to fill my entire body when I suddenly grasp what it is, was. It was a whimper of utmost fear and pain. Some-one, something, is hurting my Chosen!
I whip my head round, trying frantically to See where Alexander is, as Sinna steps back form me in shock. :Teó: Her sending is cut off as I locate him, somewhere in the formal gardens, at the back of the Palace, and scream his name.
:ALEX!: He doesnít hear me, the Ďwrongí feeling shields round his mind see to that, but every damn Herald and Companion in Haven does and I hear the sudden confused babble of their Mindvoices in the back of my mind as I shove off from the ground and push myself into a full gallop from a cold start.
Sinna gives a whinny of surprise at my shout, and then stares at me in shock as I pound off, before shaking her head and starting after me. I barely notice her hoof-beats behind me as I thunder towards the palace complex, head down and hooves kicking up sprays of mud every time they impact with the ground.
In no time at all, even though it feel like an eternity to my screaming mind and soul, the fence rushes towards us, I donít even attempt to slow down and fling myself into the air, soaring through the sky and landing with a thundering chime of hooves as the rain begins to pelt down from the storm clouds overhead. I donít even break stride as I fly across the yard, my hooves striking sparks from the paved surface.
The wail in my soul pulls to the right as I leave the yard and I slew my hips round into a turn, ripping up a track of manicured lawn and sending a spray of gravel from the path into the flower border, and launch myself into the Palace Gardens proper.
Vaguely I am aware of others, Companion and Herald, following me. Not that the route Iím taking is exactly subtle, I am simple ploughing straight through the carefully maintained plant displays in the gardens. My need to get to Alex is overwhelming, and I am starting to pick up an intense panic from him, a panic so strong it is making my eyes roll wildly.
Another ground-destroying skid around a corner and a leap through an ornamental gateway set into a wall and I am close enough to Alex to smell them. It is definitely a them, I can smell more people than Alexander, a lot more. Rounding a large yew hedge at a gallop I am confronted with the source of the smells.
A large group of mixed youngling Courtiers and noble born Blues, pointing and laughing at something. My eyes are dragged to the source of their amusement, to see two of the nobles, males, both perfectly type cast for the role of Ďhulking idiot henchmaní holding up a third figure, who is crumpling to the ground even as I pound across the seemingly infinite expanse of manicured lawn towards the gathering. The reason the third figure is crumpling is because they have just been hit, very hard, in the stomach, by a laughing Baren.
I still canít see Alex though, and then I realise. The crumpled figure is dressed in the Greys of a Heraldic Trainee.
:ALEX!: My vision films over red and I charge at the group, with the full intention of riding them all down. Unfortunately my Broadsent shriek of anger is fully unshielded, so unGifted as they are, they still hear it, and manage to scramble out of the way.
I skid to a thundering halt in front of the only three vertical figures who havenít moved, Baren and his two noble toughs. Baren is sheltering behind the pair of them, doing a fair example of gibbering with fear as I rear up to my full height and scream, vocally this time, at them, flailing the air next to their heads with my fore-hooves. I return to all fours with a crash of mud and kick out with both back legs, splattering the scattered and confused members of the group with the mud from my hinds and also whistling my very sharp hooves past their noses, just in case they have any ideas about helping the three worms in front of me. Before my hind legs are even properly grounded I snake out my head and forcibly head butt one of the goons in the face, and then, before he has a chance to stagger back or fall over, I whip my head around and seize hold of the second goonís shoulder in my teeth and squeeze, then yank my head back in the other direction, flinging the second goon at the first so that the pair of them thud to the ground in a half senseless tangle of limbs.
Which leaves Baren. A vicious kick out with a fore hoof ensures that the presumptive Lord Malken will not be Ďgoing forth and multiplyingí for quite some time and I repeat my trick with the second goon, grabbing hold of Barenís shoulder as he curls forward, clutching at his groin. Unfortunately, there isnít anyone nearby for me to throw him at, so I settle for squeezing with my teeth, picking him up slightly and flinging against the nearby garden wall, which he hits with a satisfying crunch and slides down to lie in the dug over flower bed.
Movement and whimpers behind me cause me to pivot on my hind legs, as I suspected some of the mud splattered hangers on are trying to sneak away.
:Donít even think about it!: I snarl at them. The butterflies stand and look at me in shock and I growl, audibly. :Sit! Stay!: I indicate the sodden grass with a jerk of my nose. They donít move, just stand there, paralysed.
:I said SIT!: I bellow, allowing my anger to wash over them. The ground vibrates slightly as they all hit it at approximately the same time.
That taken care of, I turn my attention to Alex, and have to stifle down a moan of panic. He looks unconscious and heís not moving and I canít reach through his shields.
The-the panic must beÖ I donít manage to finish the thought and I desperately nuzzle at him, trying to get a response as I vaguely hear sounds that indicate the arrival of the rest of the Heralds and Companions, shouts of dismay and shock and someone, several some-ones, calling for the Palace Guard.
I concentrate all of my efforts on Alexander, willing him with all my might to just open his eyes, look at me, something, anything.
He takes in a shuddering gasp, causing me to jump with surprise, and his blackened eyes flash open, full of panic and basic fear. I still canít speak him, but I try to put all the words I want to say, my guilt and my panic and love for him in my sapphire eyes. One of those works because suddenly his shields, held in place by the fear, collapse and he floods back into my mind.
:Teva?!: his Mindvoice is incredulous and he lets out a whimper and clambers upright enough to grasp at my neck. I oblige him further by dropping to the ground in one swift, very ungraceful, movement and curling myself around him, oblivious to everything from the Healer trying to assess Alexís injuries to the midnight-blue clad Palace Guards leading away the sodden nobles to the crowd of babbling Heralds, Trainees and Companions that surround us as all the while the rain plummets down from the iron grey sky.
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