Chapter Six- Gloopings and Forgivings.
I don’t know what to say, what to do.
I think I’m in shock.
Why should I be in shock though? It wasn’t me that got the crap beaten out of me; it wasn’t me who could have died. It wasn’t me who was let down by the person I’m supposed to trust and love above everything and everyone else.
It was me who let down the person I’m supposed to trust and love and know about above everything and everyone. It was me who nearly got there too late. It was me who was too busy prancing about like an idiotic foal while my Chosen was getting attacked.
I think I’m going to be sick.
I’m back in the Companion stables, being cleaned of the mud that coats me. The Healers have spirited Alexander off to the House of Healing, muttering about possible broken bones and internal bleeding.
Sudden rage, burning white hot, floods through my veins and I want to gallop back outside and find those bastards who—who hurt my Alex and I want to pound them into the ground. Pound. Slowly. With lots of screaming.
But, if I had been able to sense Alex, or to hear him sooner, it wouldn’t have happened and he wouldn’t be in Healers in the first place.
Icy guilt and fear replace the anger, causing my guts to knot again, twining around themselves like a nest of snakes and adding to the purely physical discomfort I’m already in. The muscles in my legs are aching, particularly my hind legs; the muscles from my stifles to my hocks are burning, their way of reminding me that a full Companion-gallop from a cold start plus acrobatic turns and skids that would make an eel envious of my flexibility are not clever things to do.
They don’t matter though. What matters is that I let my Chosen down. I wasn’t there for him when he needed me the most.
Really, going to be sick.
The groom finishes and pats me on the neck; I don’t even raise my head from its slumped position, staring at the straw. Some small part of me is insisting that my view of the straw should be blurry because my eyes should be burning with tears, but Companions can’t cry. Damn past memories. A shuffling sound as the groom leaves with a sigh. Good, I’m too busy wallowing in self-recriminations and accusations to have distractions.
A slight sound behind me makes me lift my ears slightly from their current position of flattened dead against my head. It doesn’t sound like the groom coming back, too quiet for a human and heavier sounding. Must be a Companion.
Can’t hear you, go away! I’m wallowing in guilt la la la… I think to myself, but the presence behind me doesn’t leave dammit. I flatten my ears back down and continue to stare at the straw. Maybe if I pretend that I haven’t heard them then they’ll go aw—
:Teva.: —or not, as the case may be. It’s Veran, his Mindvoice filled with concern. :Teva, look at me. It wasn’t your fault, none of us knew until you alerted us.:
I stay silent, not moving so much as a muscle or twitching my tail. Or even blinking for that matter.
:Dreamer, please.: Veran moves up beside me. Damn, I knew I should have gone to my stall rather than staying out in the communal area.
:What?: I ask flatly, most of my concentration still on the mental beat up Teva action that’s happening in my mind.
:It wasn’t your fault.: Veran repeats, looking me in the eye. :My Barali talked to Sidri, Alex’s shields were keeping you out yes?:
I nod in cautious agreement. :But I still should have known something was wrong!: I say hotly, tensing all over. :He is my Chosen! I should have known!: I wail that last sending at Veran, layering it with my guilt and the icy sickness that is still woven throughout my chest and belly.
:None of us knew.: Veran says calmly. :And how would you have known hmm? You only Chose Alexander a month or so ago, your bond with him is strong, but not strong enough to read his mind through full shields.: Veran blinks at me and reaches forward to touch my cheek with a velvety soft nose. :Especially not full shields that are being augmented by panicked fear.:
:What?: I look up, surprised.
:I have it on good authority that Alex had strengthened his shields with his fear, an attempt to block everything out. Not even the Empaths over at the House of Healing knew anything was wrong, and they can usually sense strong negative emotions, such as Alex was producing, within the Palace walls.:
Veran’s logic is wearing away at me, but, dammit! I still want to wallow in pointless self-recrimination! I blink as I run that last bit of internal commentary past myself again. …Pointless self-recrimination…Dammit, Teva! Silly horse! I curse myself. Even my subconscious is on Veran’s side and is apparently determined to scupper my attempts to kick myself repeatedly with guilt.
Veran simply watches me and looks knowing. Feh, Groveborns! If I were human, I’d raise my arms in defeat and stalk off muttering curses. I settle for sighing in defeat instead.
:Okay, okay, you win.: I shake my head to clear my forelock from my eyes and look sideways at the Monarch’s Own Companion. :Since I’m not allowed to drown myself in guilt, do I now have your permission to make Courtier pate?:
Veran’s eyes widen in surprise at my apparent quick change of moods. To tell the truth, I was getting tired of wallowing and wanted to move on to the glooping anyway. Either that or his eyes are widening at my bloodlust. Hmmm…possibly the latter.
I blink innocently at him.
:No Teva.: He says a tad sternly. :We, you, are not going to reduce the younger members of the Court to something resembling a scene from an abattoir.:
I expected it really, but I still manage to produce a credible expression of disappointment. :Ahem, as much as we may like to.: Veran adds on and I look at him incredulously. :They did attack one of us.: Veran says calmly in answer to my look and undignified squeak of surprise. :Diplomacy is an asset one gains with age however, and ‘glooping’ half of the nobles first and second born would cause no end of trouble.:
:Yes,: I reply blandly, :just think of how long it would take the grooms to clean the blood off of our hooves and legs afterwards.: Ha, gotcha! I manage to shock Veran, and even get a hint of a laugh.
He shakes his head at me and turns to leave. :I believe you have visitors.: He says and casts a look back at me.
I don’t have to wonder who he means for too long because as soon as he has left Brandyn and Sinna poke their heads around the doorframe.
:Teva? Are you alright?: Brandyn asks hesitantly as he moves into the communal area, followed closely by Sinna, their hooves making little sound in the thick straw covering the floor.
:I’m fine.: I assure them. :Veran and my subconscious scuppered my attempts to wallow in guilt and self pity. He still won’t let me use Baren and his goons to paint the Palace red though.:
:Damn.: Sinna flattens her ears back and bares her teeth. :I was going to ask if I could help you. Damn bastards!: She sighs and shakes her head. :Sorry. How is he by the way?:
I close my eyes and concentrate briefly, now that I’ve stopped trying to drown myself in guilt I can clearly feel Alexander in the back of my mind again. For a moment I paddle in guilt. I think I’m going to be doing that for a while.
:Um, he’s asleep over at Healer’s. No broken bones thanks be, but he has a lot of bruises and is going to look like a polecat ferret for a while as both his eyes are well and truly blackened.: I sigh and paddle in guilt some more.
:What about the brats?: Brandyn asks quietly. :I heard you took exception to some of them.:
Sinna snorts. :You’re telling me! I saw her from across the lawn. Nobody is gonna dare mess with Alexander or any Trainee for a while, for fear of having a rabid Companion descend on them!:
:Pfft.: I send primarily to Sinna. :I only really hurt the two that had hold of Alex, and Baren, of course. The others I merely covered in mud and threatened with having my hind hooves mash their heads in.: I look slightly contrite and shift my weight from side to side. :I think me shouting at them also had some effect.:
Brandyn widens his eyes in surprise and his ears twitch forwards. :You Bespoke unGifted?:
Sinna laughs wickedly. :She didn’t Bespeak, she Beshouted! I’m surprised you didn’t Hear her!:
:Yes, well. I was a tad annoyed at the time.: I try to look contrite again and just get sendings of raised eyebrows from both Sinns and Bran. Sigh, no one ever believes me.
Sinns looks sideways at Brandyn with a wicked glint in her eye. :You’d better not offend Teva either Brandyn.:
:Uh, why?: Brandyn looks blankly from Sinna to me for enlightenment. Well staring at me won’t help him, I’m just as confused as he is by Sinn’s comment. He’d get more illumination off a patch of ink than me.
:You’re male.: Sinns informs Brandyn sweetly. :Dreamer there has a rather effective method of dealing with males who have annoyed her, don’t you Teva?: Sinna looks over at me with blue eyes that are sparkling with humour. Nope, still need more clues, swimming through muddy water here, I need more hints tha—oh, wait. She means what I did to Baren.
Innocent, I’m an innocent Companion. See me radiate innocence! Gleam, ting. Damn, it isn’t working, Sinna is looking at me still, trying not to laugh and Brandyn is looking between us still, a bemused expression on his face.
:Girls.: He says in resignation. :I’ll never understand you lot.:
Sinna whickered. :Didn’t you know? Our Teva here decided to rearrange worm-boy’s anatomy!:
Worm boy? Oh, right…Baren. I wonder to myself briefly. Hey, Sinns is almost as good at this name-calling lark as I am. Eheh heh heh.
Brandyn looks measuringly at Sinna. :Meaning?: He prompts with a sigh. Sinns can drag things out sometimes.
:It’s no secret.: I say with a flick of my tail. :I just kicked him in the goolies.:
Bran flinches slightly. :Ow!: He sends along with an impression of a wince. :Remind me never to get on your wrong side Teva! If it wasn’t worm-boy I could almost feel sorry for him.:
I just look at Brandyn. Innocently, of course. Gleam, ting and so on.
I get woken up by song form the birds roosting in the eaves of the stable. Can’t the damnable things migrate already? Companion trying to sleep here! Unfortunately I am now well and truly awake. Sigh. May as well go and be social.
No, scrap socialising. I decide suddenly. The events of yesterday have just announced their presence in my short-term memory. Ye Gods, did I really throw that boy…? And then I…? Wow. I widen my eyes in surprise. I am a bloodthirsty little horse, aren’t I?
Enough pondering my noblicidal tendencies, I need food. And Alex. But food first, or I’ll end up eating my Chosen for breakfast, and that kind of defeats the object of my saving him yesterday. I had some rather interesting dreams in which I argued with myself about feeling guilty. My damn subconscious really isn’t on my side with the whole wallowing thing, it only let me paddle as long as I didn’t get further that fetlock level. Feh.
It is only when I start to munch on my grains that I begin to notice some side effects from yesterday. My legs hurt, and they, and my back feel stiff and ache in odd places. How odd—wait…short-term memory is dredging up details about yes—oh, yes I suppose galloping like that and that skidding is justification for my muscles to complain at me today. But why, precisely, do my nose and jaw ache then—bingo, short term memory, where would I be without you?! D-aamn, I picked up Baren and threw him against a wall!
The strange thing is, all that stuff from yesterday, it feels one step removed. According to my subconscious which is pottering about in the section of my mind labelled ‘Teva: Past Lives Thereof.’ It’s to do with battle rage. Ha, Gung-ho Warrior Teva!
Well, enough food, this warlike Companion is going to find her Chosen. I decide to myself and I amble—slowly—out of the stables and into the yard.
The clouds actually seem to have rained themselves out last night and have cleared somewhat, giving a fairly bright day. The sun feels nice on my back, when it’s not hiding behind the scudding clouds. Within very little time I have reached the herb gardens that border one side of the House of Healing, my approach hasn’t come un-noticed and a green clad Healer emerges from a doorway to meet me.
The Healer looks about forty summers old and she has long, pale blonde, hair tied back in a sensible knot at the nape of her neck and blue eyes. She is also very tall, and able to look at me at eye level without me dipping my head too much.
“This would be Companion Teva, looking for Alexander. I presume?” It’s an obvious rhetorical question so I just look at her calmly. “Well, my dear, you’ll be pleased to know that he’s fine. I finished a Healing session with him earlier this morning and he should be ready to return to lessons by tomorrow, although he will have bruising for several weeks.” She pauses.
“By the way, I also have some of those nobles hospitalised here, for future reference my dear, aim a bit higher with your next kick.”
I blink, my surprise obvious on my face, and given that the woman’s an Empath, very obvious to her, and she gives me a quick grin and reaches out to pat me on the nose. “Most of the working Court and members of the Palace are quietly on your side deary.” She informs me with a chuckle. “Some of those noble brats definitely needed taking down a peg or two!”
I blink at her again. Eheh, I have a glooping fan club! I think irrelevantly to myself.
“If you’ll just wait here, I’ll go fetch your Chosen.” With that, the nice Healer turns and disappears back into the building. I like her.
A few short minutes later I hear the soft thudding sound of running feet from behind the door, a sound which quickly reveals itself as a slightly bandaged and mottled Alexander.
“Teva!” He barrels across the short distance between us and I brace my legs for impact as he thumps into my neck and wraps his arms around me and starts murmuring about how wonderful I am into my ear.
I feel an intense happiness at seeing him up and almost well, but…
:Alex.: I say quietly. :I’m not that wonderful, look at what still happened to you.: I shake him gently off me and touch my nose to his purple and black cheek.
He looks at me with surprise filled eyes. “But, you are wonderful!” He protests vehemently. “Look at how you rescued me!”
:But I was nearly too late. I’m so sorry!: I tell him mournfully. Hello, fetlock deep guilt. Paddle paddle.
“No you weren’t, you were right on time and there’s no need for you to apologise.” Alex argues back. I look at him sideways.
:You’re sure?: I ask doubtfully.
“Of course I’m sure!” He says hotly. Then his eye soften and he stares into my eyes. “Teva, I never had anyone do anything like that for me before, put themselves in danger on my behalf—“
:Not that much danger.: I object, interrupting him. Yes, I am being an argumentative little horse.
“Enough danger.” He informs me solemnly. “But you didn’t even think before you plunged in to help me. I guess, I want to say thank you…and I love you.” With that he wraps his arms around my neck again and I finally decide that maybe, just maybe I did arrive at the right time.
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