Disclaimer: Everything relating to the world of Velgarth, and the kingdom of Valdemar, is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey. Original characters, the plot line and the general outbreaks of strange belong to etcetera-cat.

Notes: This would be the chaptered ‘fic inspired by the one shot Fish Out of Water, which was written to poke fun at the clichés of “modern person fallen into Valdemar” ‘fics. To an extent, this ‘fic is also heading in that direction, but the plot that bit me is rather big, complex and at least semi-serious. Gosh.

Feed(back) etcetera-cat.


Chapter One.

Giff tries to do some explaining – I was due to start my surgical rotation – A diplomatic incident in progress – Kit is not impressed

It was the silence that was unnerving, Giff decided. Uneasily, the young Companion shot a covert glance at his new Chosen through the glazed door that led from his Chosen’s current room to one of the semi-private gardens that belonged to the Healer’s Collegium.

Michael— as that strange name was what Giff’s Chosen was apparently known by— was sitting on the narrow single bed that comprised a third of the room’s furniture (a wardrobe and a bedside table completed the set), his back was ramrod straight and pressed hard against the white plastered wall that the head of the bed was pushed against and his arms were crossed over his chest.

Oh, and he was fuming.

That last, Giff knew from a fact; he’d already been subjected to two impassioned and highly vocal shouting sessions. The Companion had only actually understood Michael’s words the second time around, as the young man had (probably unconsciously) echoed every single one of his words in very short range Mindspeech. Giff had already figured out that his new Chosen was somewhat less than pleased, however. The words he spoke may be unintelligible sounds, and the language completely alien, but the tone of voice he used— as well as his gestures and facial expressions— spoke volumes about his current mood.

Giff eyed Michael cautiously once more. Eloquent and unmistakable volumes. He decided unhappily.

If that wasn’t bad enough— although having one’s Chosen refusing to communicate with you in any way, or even accept the Choosing was most certainly bad enough— Giff had also had the dubious honour of being reamed out by the Groveborn, Queen’s Own, Queen, Regin; the Queen’s Companion, as well as assorted other Companions (those who had Mage-Gifted Chosen), a selection of the ranking faculty of the Mage’s Collegium, the senior members of the Healer’s Circle, and what felt like every single ranking diplomatic envoy, their entire retinue and quite possibly their pet dogs as well.

In fact, the Bardic Circle were the only ones who hadn’t yet used Giff as a set of verbal pells for the better part of a candle mark. That was because fully four fifths of the Haven-residing population of Bardic Collegium were feverishly documenting everything that was happening and beginning work on a score of new songs. The remaining fifth were scurrying about the Palace and Collegia libraries like ants; searching for any kind of information about events similar to the ones that Giff had precipitated.

Giff wasn’t entirely sure which was worse; being shouted at by absolutely everyone, or having the fact that he was being shouted at by absolutely everyone set to a jaunty tune and sung all over the Kingdom.

A moment’s consideration. This silence is worse.

The young Companion paused for a moment, his posture betraying his uncertainty, and weighed up the pros and cons of stepping sideways, so that he occupied the doorway and window that comprised a fair portion of the exterior wall of the room. The main plus point was that Michael would be able to see him; know that he was there…

That was also, unfortunately, the main negative point. Giff was more than a little certain that showing as much as one hair from his mane to Michael would trigger off another incomprehensible shouting fit.

Well, he supposed that he’d have to get it over and done with at some point. Giff swallowed and sidled the few steps required to give him a clear view into Michael’s room.

Michael’s eyes flickered towards the door at the moment, but his set expression didn’t change; nor did his defensively hostile posture.

Giff flattened his ears, aware that the worried expression he’d been wearing for most of the day appeared to be setting up a permanent residence.

:Michael?: Giff tried, hesitantly. The single word bounced silently off of the impenetrable mental shields that Giff’s Chosen didn’t even appear to know that he had. Giff sighed, his breath misting briefly over the cool surface of the glass, before vanishing.

Michael turned his head slightly and narrowed his eyes as he focused his attention on Giff. As Giff had already noticed; the young man did not look happy. “You!” The… word?... was uttered in a low voice, but it was full of emotion.

On the basis that any kind of communication was a good thing, Giff cautiously flicked one ear upright and nosed at the window, until it swung open; a Collegium full of Artificers and their apprentices made for any number of Companion (and other non-human) friendly devices.

Michael jabbed one finger in Giff’s direction, his eyebrows scrunching downwards as his expression mutated into full anger. “You! What the bloody Hell are you doing, you’re a damn horse, stop acting intelligent!”

Giff quickly revised his opinion on communicating being a good thing. His Chosen (although, he wasn’t, technically, yet his Chosen, as Michael hadn’t actually acknowledged the bond) was shouting in his alien language again.

“Why are you looking at me? What the Hell is going on— is this all some fucked up dream and I’m really lying on the break room floor giggling because Ralph finally went through with his threat to spike the coffee with methadone?”

His alien language that Giff didn’t understand a word of.

“I was due to start my surgical rotation!”

Giff stared at Michael in complete incomprehension. Maybe if I let him wear himself out he’ll lower his shield enough so I can talk to him? Giff wondered vaguely.

Michael’s face was gradually turning more red, in time with the fact that his voice was getting louder the longer he spoke— shouted, really— and he was waving his arms around again.

“—supposed to be assisting in a triple bypass, not sitting in some damn room in some half baked set piece from a Renaissance Fair, being stared at by a bloody great big ugly horse!”

He waved his arms around a lot, really.

“Stop staring at me you bloody thing!”

Giff barely had time to register that Michael was holding something in one of his hands, before the plain wooden beaker, still half full of water, smacked him solidly between the eyes. Uttering a pained squeal Giff jumped backwards, water dripping down his nose and making him blink furiously as it got in his eyes.

The hollow bouncing sound the beaker made as it hit the stone floor was lost under the sound of the wooden door leading to the corridor being flung open, and the pair of guards that had been stationed in the corridor, clattering into the room, hands firmly on their sword pommels.

Michael uttered an undignified yelp of his own and jumped sideways, before staring up at the guards with a shocked expression. “You have costumes as well?”

Giff, finally having cleared his eyes, half wondered what his Chosen had just said— it sounded like a question of some sort— but was more concerned with the two guardsmen. Members of the Valdemaran guard took exception to people who injured Companions in a way that was only slightly less intense than the way Heralds themselves reacted, and Giff really wasn’t sure that Gillan and the Lord Marshal had managed to convince the guards that Michael was Chosen.

Before either of the guards took it upon himself to lacerate Michael, Giff shot forwards and stuck his head through the window again, uttering a loud snort as he did.

One guard kept his attention firmly on Michael; who had now squeezed himself up into a corner of the bed and was staring at the guardsman’s half drawn sword with the kind of expression Giff more usually associated with rabbits on the end of a stoop by the Tayledras Ambassador’s overly large bond-eagle. The second guard eyed Giff up and down, his attention focusing on the way the Companion’s forelock was damply plastered to his head, then sliding to the beaker, which was still rocking from side to side on the floor.

Giff widened his eyes and tried to look like he was in control of the situation. Because having one’s Chosen assault you with tableware is an everyday occurrence— he mocked himself.

The guard looked sceptical. “Everything alright, Sir Companion?” he asked, in a tone that indicated that he was convinced he already knew the answer.

Giff nodded his head in a somewhat frantic fashion.

The guard didn’t look any more convinced, but he had spent all of his life being told that Heralds— and Companions— always knew best, and that kind of cultural ingraining was hard to overcome.

“Right then,” the guard rolled his shoulders and turned around. “We’ll be outside, then.” He tapped his colleague on the shoulder and the man grunted and reluctantly shoved his sword back into its scabbard, glaring at Michael the whole time, before stalking out of the room. The first guard— the one who’d spoken— pulled the door shut behind him as he left, leaving Giff and Michael alone once more.

They stared at each other, Giff still half hanging through the window, and Michael curled up on the far end of the bed. Giff was relieved to note that there were no more beakers for Michael throw at his head. Then he noticed the earthenware pitcher still sitting on the bedside table.

A wince. I hope he doesn’t notice that. Giff thought; a pottery jug would hurt a Hell of a lot more than a beaker, and he really didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why a groom was picking shards of pottery out of his mane.

Or out of my face…

Michael was still glaring at him, both cheeks burning a bright red. He looked like someone who would throw a water pitcher at a Companion’s head. It was time for a diplomatic retreat and re-marshalling of reserves.

At least; that was what Giff tried to convince himself of as he extracted his head from the window and reversed away from the building. Somewhat guiltily, Giff regarded the flowerbed underneath the window. He’d manage to trample it quite thoroughly. The Healers were going to add that to the list of reasons justifying tying his tail to his nose.

Morosely, Giff tried to scuff his hooves clean on the cropped short grass of the lawn, and then began aimlessly wandering through the gardens. He was putting off going back to the Field— or Stables— in case anyone else wanted to have a go at shouting at him. Things can hardly get worse, however, Giff decided, only to be proven wrong a moment later as he rounded a high hedge and found himself practically nose-to-rump with another Companion.

:Watch it, you cretin!: The mare snapped, tail lashing from side to side, half turning so she could have a look at who had just walked into her.

Giff gulped and backed up a step as he recognised the other Companion as Kit; a mare primarily known for her Chosen (Adept level Mage teacher), and her temper (formidable). :Sorry—:

:You!: Kit’s ears went back and her eyes narrowed. :What are you doing skulking around here?:

:I—: Giff backed up a step. :I was… um… just checking up on Michael.: He offered lamely.

Kit eyed him up and down. :Hmmph.: She echoed the mental snort with a physical one and turned the rest of the way around, so that she could stare down the length of her nose at Giff.

It was somewhat of a standing joke amongst the younger Companions in the Field that Kit had spent many candle marks in front of a mirror perfecting her glares… that is; it was somewhat of a standing joke that was never even thought about in places where Kit might overhear. Intimidating is not the word for her, Giff thought, casting about for someway to change the subject.

:How is your Chosen?: Giff blurted out, then flinched and braced himself. He had meant to change the subject, not provide Kit’s temper with the verbal equivalent of a bushel of woodchips soaked in lamp oil.

:Hah!: Kit tossed her head and gave Giff a look that made her previous expression look like something associated with fluffy kittens and puppies. :Venni is still in Healer’s, with a pounding head, a handful of extra white hairs, and a desire to belt you over the head with something heavy.: She sniffed, :I suggested one of the Collegium roofing tiles.:

Giff flattened his ears and tried to look as contrite as possible. It seemed to work to some extent; at least Kit didn’t kick him in the head or anything equally violent.

Her stare is bad enough.

Lowering his head and skirting around the mare in a wide circle, Giff produced an embarrassed cough. :I’ll just go and um—: As soon as he got clear, the young Companion jumped into a trot and headed for the river. He could feel Kit’s eyes on him as he put as much distance between them as possible.

Thankfully, she didn’t follow after him.

Upon reaching the river, Giff squirreled himself away in a small copse of densely foliaged evergreen trees. It wasn’t that he was hiding precisely. No.

I’m just… planning what to do next. Giff nodded his head to himself. Yes; that’s what I’m doing, not hiding at all. A sigh. He didn’t really sound all that convincing, even to himself.


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