Disclaimer: Everything relating to the world of Velgarth and the kingdom of Valdemar is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey. All characters used are the property of etcetera-cat, unless otherwise stated.
Notes: Because Cat McDougall needs cheering up, and she’s too far away to hug.
This little ‘fic is, chronologically, the third story in the A Day in the Life… arc, and once again features Companion Regin and company.
The freeze had happened overnight and had caught most people— except for those with a Gift for Weather Watching— completely by surprise.
There had already been a good foot of snow on the ground, but it had been soft and almost slushy. The plummet in temperature had, however, given it a sparkling, brittle crust. In addition, every exposed body of water within three days ride of Haven had frozen practically solid. Even the Terilee was sporting a shell of clear ice; the flowing water visible beneath.
Regin stared up at the clear sky; almost the same colour as his eyes, and frowned as much as something horse-shaped could.
“You look like you’ve just chewed down a horsefly.”
Regin flicked one ear and gave Halla a faintly irritated look. :It’s the wrong time of year for horseflies.:
His Chosen shrugged in an unconcerned fashion. At least, Regin thought that Halla has shrugged; she was bundled up in that many layers of knitted woollens and sheepskin— topped by a new blue cloak— that it was hard to be sure.
“What’s up Regs?”
:I don’t like the cold.: Regin told her. :And I’ve just had to walk through far more snow than can possibly be healthy.:
Halla laughed, causing her companion to stare at her, one eyebrow arcing upwards.
“Halla?” Venni asked, before laughing herself a moment later as Kit relayed Regin’s words to her Chosen.
:Honestly, Regin,: Kit said with a snort, :Choosing royalty has spoiled you something rotten.:
Regin stuck his tongue out at Kit. :I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.: He said in a superior tone of voice. Then the stallion had to hop sideways in an ungainly fashion to avoid the snowball Halla had pitched at his nose.
“You deserved it, Regs,” Halla told him, brushing snow off her sheepskin lined leather gloves, before returning to what she had been doing before her Companion had begun his complaining.
Regin sighed and watched as Halla tightened up the laces of her ice skates. They, along with the cloak, had been Midwinter gifts and this was the first chance Halla had gotten to try them out.
Venni was already wobble-stepping her way towards the frozen pond they’d picked for their skating expedition; polished steel blades strapped onto her normal winter boots. Kit was alternating her attention between her Chosen, and eyeing up Regin.
:What?: Regin gave Kit a suspicious look, one ear twitching back and forth.
:Nothing.: Kit said in an innocent tone of voice. Regin didn’t believe it for a moment.
:What are you up to Kit?:
The Companion mare whickered and shook herself, resettling the silver-trimmed blue cold-weather rug that she was wearing under her saddle, in addition to her normal tack. Attired the same way, both Regin and Kit made a showy pair. :I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.: She glibly mimicked Regin’s words of before.
:Quite.: Regin darted another suspicious look in her direction, before turning his attention to the pair of Heraldic trainees; who were now whizzing around on the glassy surface of the pond, their outstretched arms and slightly hunched postures making them resemble low-flying grey birds.
A faint creaking of snow announced Kit moving to stand next to Regin to watch the two girls on the ice as they skated in ever-faster circles. :Who else is supposed to be coming?: She asked.
Regin paused for a moment until he managed to sort out the list of names in his mind. Sometimes, Regin felt like Halla’s walking, talking social events calendar.
:Reefus, Natti, Fisk and Lille, once Reefus and Fisk finish their mathematics class,: Regin listed the Heraldic trainees and their Companions, then paused again. :And I’m sure Halla mentioned something about Galf and Sinda coming if they finished working on the bridge repairs with Master Hingley.:
Kit blinked. :Well, at least we’ll have Natti and Lille to talk to,: she said, ears pricking up.
Regin sighed. :You mean; you three girls will chatter and plot against me.: He gave his friend a mournful look as she snorted with laughter.
:Maybe,: A mischievous mental grin. :You just don’t know, do you, Regs?:
Regin flattened his ears and lowered his head. :Great.: He said sourly. :Just how I wanted to spend my afternoon.:
Kit laughed out loud and gave Regin a look that he considered to be positively evil.
:So,: Kit flicked her tail and adroitly changed the subject, :whatever shall we do until the others get here?:
Regin rippled his hide in the Companion equivalent of a shrug and tilted his head to one side. :I have no idea; but something involving movement would be good, so that we don’t turn into ice sculptures.:
:I think I’d make a very attractive ice sculpture.:
:What about me?: Regin glanced at Kit.
The mare made a great show of eyeing the other Companion up and down. :Na, I think any ice would be better used to make ice wine, rather than a sculpture of your ugly mug.:
:Kit!: Regs objected loudly, swinging his nose around to poke the mare, who danced back, ears pricked and laughter ringing through both their minds.
:What? It’s true!: Kit burst out with a snorted laugh at the offended expression on Regin’s face and beat a hasty retreat around the pond. :It is!: She insisted merrily. :Besides, you need a lot of ice to make ice wine.:
Regin, who had been stalking after Kit, stopped dead with one foot still in the air. :Are you implying that I’m fat?: He asked.
Kit hopped back a few more steps, placing a large holly bush between them. :No,: she said cheerfully. :I’m implying that you’re benefiting from being a tacit member of the Royal Household.:
Regin flattened his ears against his head, and replaced his foot on the ground. :Which means… what… exactly?:
:I’m implying you’re fat.:
:Kit!: Regin pawed at the ground and launched himself after his friend.
For her part, Kit flagged her tail and bounced backwards, before turning around and scampering away gracefully. Regin blundered after her, kicking clouds of snow every which way, and the pair of Companion were soon engaged in an energetic game of tag.
Halla and Venni both slowed their antics to watch those of their Companions with slightly bemused expressions. Halla looked over at the younger girl and Venni shrugged.
“Don’t ask me,” she said.
Halla giggled. “We have strange Companions,” one eyebrow raised as Regin skidded into a snow bank that Kit managed to jump over. “In my case, a clumsy one too.”
:Hey!: Regin whirled around, shaking his head wildly to clear the flying snow from his eyes. :Not you as well, Halla—:
“Come and chase me too, then,” Halla said impudently, skating backwards a few feet, her arms spread wide in a deceptive invitation.
:Companions do not ice skate.: Regin protested, only to be proven wrong a moment later when Kit barged past him and stepped onto the frozen surface of the pond.
:Whee!: Kit flagged her tail and locked her front legs, an experimental push with one of her hind legs sending her sliding smoothly forwards. :Hey, this is fun, come on Regs!:
Regin rolled his eyes. :Companions and ice do not mix.: He protested.
Kit managed to disprove his assertion by sliding over to her Chosen and executing a fairly neat, if rather stately, spin.
A heartfelt sigh. :You’re not going to let up until I do it, are you?:
“No,” Halla smirked.
:Nope.: Kit announced brightly, at the same time.
:It was a rhetorical question.: Regin muttered in a sulky tone of voice, picking his way gingerly to the edge of the pond. Lowering his nose, Regs gave his reflection in the ice a mistrustful look.
When one hoof placed on the ice didn’t precipitate an utter disaster, Regs ventured two hooves, mimicking Kit’s locked-front-legs posture. It wasn’t actually as bad as he thought; and having four legs definitely helped with the balance issue. A tentative placing of a third foot on the ice and a gently kick off with the remaining hind foot sent Regin coasting a short distance out onto the ice.
Raising his head and twitching his ears, Regin removed his concentration from his front feet and looked around. Another dig-shove with a back hoof and he slid further forwards. :This is actually quite fun.: He admitted.
:I told you so.: Kit glided past, following after Venni, who was skating in a snaking line around the edge of the pond.
A bump against Regin’s side made him widen his eyes and brace as he slid sideways. Whipping his around, he found Halla leaning up against his side.
“You were convenient and I needed a rest,” she told him impudently, before patting his side with one gloved hand and shoving off again.
:Hmm,: Regin carefully negotiated a turn and followed after his Chosen.
Over the next half mark, or so both Regin and Kit’s proficiency at moving around on the ice increased, and they were soon skating around at a fair clip; their respective manes and tails billowing out behind them as they went.
Regin had just reached the middle of the large pond when his Chosen caught his attention; Halla was skating backwards again. It was something that she’d recently learned to do and was still a bit wobbly on her feet as she kept half turning around to check where she was going.
:That looks easy.:
Halla paused and raised an eyebrow at Regin. “Oh, really?” She asked, crossing her arms.
:Yeah, looks like a piece of cake; I bet I can do it faster than you.: Regin challenged.
Halla quirked her lips in a grin. “Deal,” she said, before skating over to stand next to her Companion.
Regin flagged his tail and lifted his head up. :Simple as walking.: He said confidently, lining himself up next to Halla, so they were both facing the same direction.
“Venni— give us a count of three, would you?” Halla called out to the other girl.
Venni spun around and stopped herself with one dig of a toe-pick. “Hey?”
“Regs wants to race me; thinks he’s faster,” Halla said with a laugh; one that was mirrored by the other girl.
Kit gave Regin a disbelieving look. :You’re not serious?:
:And what’s so difficult to believe about it?: Regin sniffed and shook his head, ignoring the fact that Kit was rolling her eyes.
“One—“ Venni began counting, “two, three—go!”
Both Heir and Companion pushed off at the same moment. Skating backwards was an entirely different proposition to going forwards, but Regin wasn’t about to let himself be beaten by Halla; he’d never hear the end of it, especially not from Kit. Consequently, he dug both front hooves into the ice and shoved as hard as he could.
This had the effect of sending him speeding across the ice. It really was more slippery than he thought, legs scrambling slightly, which had the effect off unbalancing him.
Halla skidded to a stop as Regin careened past her, her mouth dropping open as Regin’s legs began to go out from under him and he started doing a frantic almost-dance to retain his balance.
It didn’t work.
Regin’s back legs shot one way, his front legs went the other, and the Companion suddenly found himself sitting down on the ice, albeit still moving backwards at a fair clip. :What—: the his rear informed him just how hard the ice was, :—ow!:
Kit was already laughing; Regin could hear her vaguely demented cackle as he continued to move backwards in the most undignified and uncontrolled fashion possible. Venni and Halla just looked surprised.
:A little help!: Regin squawked, just as he disappeared amongst a bed of reeds along one edge of the pond, bumping to a halt on the steep bank.
There was a moment of silence, punctuated only by Kit’s donkey-impression laughter, then the air was filled with an ominous creeeeak sound.
The ice underneath Regin abruptly gave way and the Companion suddenly found himself sitting waist deep in freezing cold mud.
:Argh!: Regin shot upwards in shock, muddy water and bits of ice cascading from his sides and tail as he tried to get his feet under him, missed his footing in the equally slippery mud, and abruptly sat down again with a large splash.
Kit’s laughter became an absolute howl of amusement, underscored by the snorting laughter of her own Chosen.
Halla was bent forwards, feet spread wide to balance herself on the ice, hands braced on her knees, and she was practically crying with laughter. “Oh— Regs—“ she managed around gulping lungfuls of air.
Regin, after a shocked moment when he wondered how he’d ended up in the mud again, erupted skywards once more, this time with enough momentum and mad flailing of muddy legs to get out of the reed bed and onto the bank, where he stood. And dripped.
:Not one word.: He said, ears pinning back against his skull.
The three females dissolved into more laughter as the full extent of Regin’s new look was revealed; his rear half was entirely brown, with a visible line of mud soaking it’s way up into his winter rug as well. In addition, both of his front legs with liberally coated with mud, and he was speckled with splashes and splats from his efforts to get up onto the bank. Regin’s mane was full of bits of reed and his tail hung limply and sadly behind him in a snarled mess of mud and rotten twigs.
:Companions,: Regin said with feeling, :and ice do not mix.: