Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
Notes: The sequel to this is Serendipity.
Sound and Fury.
Summer days drift away,
Carry me far from here,
Take my hand—
Lead me away—
Through still waters clear,
You’ll be mine and I, yours—
And together we’ll dance between our minds,
To the infinite sounds of silence.
~Herald to Companion.
I don’t know if I’m the only one, but for me memories exist mainly as sound— or rather sound is the most poignant thing about them. Now that I think about it, I’m sure a MindHealer once mentioned that smell was the sense most closely associated with memory, but for me it is definitely sound.
For instance; at this moment I am standing on the banks of the River Terilee in Companion’s Field, in a shady patch beneath an overhanging weeping willow tree, absently watching the water flow past. If I remember this scene in later life, the things that will stand out most for me will be the rippling chuckle of the sun sparkling water as it swirls and eddies around the exposed roots of the willow and the bed of rushes nearby.
I’ll remember the dancing patches of light and shadow on the ground and over me, but only because of the hypnotic sowing of the gentle summer breeze through the branches of the tree that is causing them.
The thing I remember most about the day I Chose Gillan was the multi-layered chiming of the silver bells adorning my formal blue tack as I gracefully wound my way through the streets of Haven to look for him.
My Call had been growing for the past few days and it had finally manifested fully this morning as I was being groomed by one of the stable hands attached to the Companion’s Stables and my grooming session rapidly turned into a tacking up session.
Going on Search is supposed to be one of the happiest day of a Companion’s life, but the biggest emotion spreading through my insides was uncertainty and nervousness. Did I really want to do this? Was I strong enough? Those questions and a hundred others chased each other round and round my head— as my saddle was cinched— Can I cope with this?— as I slowly exited the stables and turned myself towards the gravel road leading to the main gate out of the Palace-Collegia compound.
A flash of white caught my attention as I passed the edge of the Field and I focused sapphire eyes on the proud figure of the Groveborn stallion, Dadero. That’s the other thing I remember about the day I Chose Gillan; Dadero’s quiet acknowledgement of me with a single sentence:
:Thank you Datti.:
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t reply.
The chiming of my bells followed me as I made my way slowly through the busy, busy streets of Haven; full of the city’s inhabitants, workers, visitors and traders hawking their wares in strident voices. The sounds from me seemed almost to act as a kind of invisible shield, extending all around and over me and away from my body for a short distance— something that allowed me to travel evenly in my own perfect patch of almost-calm without once being jostled.
The winding cobbled and paved streets of the city only got more packed and busy the further towards the city walls I got; I was heading west and the area around Exile’s Gate is a cramped maze of poverty and human lives lived in shadows and fear. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of Haven and is the place where most of the hopefuls coming to the capital in search of work end up living; in temporary lodgings that stay that was for year after year.
I’m sorry for being maudlin.
Once out of the Gate and through the tanner’s yards and stock pens that crowd alongside the road for a good half mile outside of the city walls, I picked up my pace to a canter and began to move swiftly down the dusty road, the summer sunlight dazzling around me and a faint breeze swirling past.
To the north and west of Haven there is a road that runs alongside the downriver stretch of the Terilee, winding it’s way between the green river banks and the well cultivated filed behind their hedges and dry stone walls.
It was on the riverbank that I found Gillan. He was sitting in the dappled shade of a tree and had a fishing line cast into the slow moving depths of the water. He had red hair and blue eyes and this was his fourteenth summer.
I had slowed my pace to a slow amble— matching the meandering tendencies of the river by my side— ostentatiously to enjoy the fine summer day, but really because the cold doubt was still knowing at my insides and I half didn’t want to find my Chosen as I didn’t think I’d be strong enough to cope with Choosing him and then losing him.
The breeze carried the sounds of my passage to Gillan long before either of us actually saw each other, and I rounded a bend in the road to find him sitting up alert under the tree, eyes fixed on the road for a sight of the Herald and Companion that he was sure were going to pass him by.
Our eyes met and I froze in the middle of the dusty path, he did the same half leaning sideways and both of us ignored the dragonfly that chose that moment to buzz loudly between us.
Silently, I gulped and steadied myself for a long moment. :Hello Gillan,: I finally managed, :Chosen.: I couldn’t manage any more, but it didn’t matter as even my half-restrained and muted words and Choosing were enough to spur him to his feet and into a stumbling run that ended with a delighted cry and arms about my neck.
I shivered slightly and tensed, but Gillan didn’t notice at all.
That was many seasons ago now. I am a lot older than I was, and Gillan is a full-grown man— a full-grown Herald and we’ve been together for a long time.
At first— from the moment of my Choosing him— I tried to keep myself restrained; to keep myself more apart from him than any other Companion would do to their Chosen. I don’t think that he noticed… it certainly limited our bond, which was the whole point, and meant that although I could and did Mindspeak to him, at first he could only reply in Mindspeech to me when we were in physical contact.
That wasn’t too terribly an unusual thing; most newly Chosen have severe limits as to how they can communicate with their Companion. It was after, at the age of fifteen, when Gillan’s obvious Gift for Mindspeech began to manifest fully that things became more problematic.
Bit by bit, however, as the time trickled past, him eroded my reservations and wound his way ever deeper into my mind and heart, despite the distinct lack of Bonding that most Herald-Companion pairs take for granted and are defined completely by.
I loved him intensely and completely, and I didn’t need anything as tangible as a full Bond to hold us together. I still do; I love him completely and I still don’t need that soul deep Bond to keep him.
As far as Gillan is concerned— as far as he has ever known— I am his Companion, and that is it. I admit that I was happy to believe his unknowing deception and to wrap myself up in a dream and to forget that it could not last.
It’s a summer day again. A summer day remarkably like the one those years ago when I left Haven tacked out and bedecked in soft silver bells to find a Herald. The clouds are mere snow-coloured wisps against a sky which is an intensely blue colour and the sunlight is like liquid gold pouring down over everything and making every colour seem more intense.
I’m standing in Companion’s Field, at the banks of the Terilee river a short distance away from the bridge that spans the water and leads to our stables and, from there, the rest of the Palace and Collegia. I’m standing under a weeping willow tree, and the dappled shade dances over my white hide.
Behind me, as I stare absently at the water, I can hear the excited squeals of a group of Companion foals playing and energetic game of catch as they race over the rolling grass.
:Heyla beautiful!: The cheerful greeting makes me twitch an ear and raise my head slightly, so that I am looking at Gillan as he walks quickly and gracefully across the wooden bridge and makes his way to my side.
:Gillan,: I acknowledge him in a neutral tone of voice, carefully shielding out any negative feelings I may be having.
He reaches me and lovingly reaches up to run a hand through my mane. “Fancy a bit of a ride? I just finished the last Orientation class and need to work the kinks out of my spine from all that bending over to look at littles.”
I nod my assent and he easily clambers up on to my bare back, legs gripping securely around my barrel as I slowly turn and pick my way out of the shade and into the sunlight brilliance of the Field. “Were we ever that young?” He asks, looking at the back of my head.
:Perhaps, Gillan, perhaps.: I tell him as I lift my hooves up higher and shift up to a faster pace. He never questions my lack of chatter; I’ve always been quiet with him, since I found him and I imagine that he just assigns it to being part of my— admittedly sometimes shy— personality. I’m glad he never guessed the real reason.
He leans forwards over my neck and I can sense the grin spreading across his face. My soul lifts slightly. “How about a gallop?” He suggests in a conspiratorial tone of voice. “I can’t remember the last time I was with you for a run.”
:On our last Circuit, a year and a bit ago.: I supply. We used to ride the Eastern One circuit out towards Hardorn until Gillan got assigned to Heraldic Collegium as Orientations Instructor for the newly Chosen.
“Really?” He sounds surprised. “That long ago?” His weight shifts slightly on my back as I change the beat of my hooves on the ground, from that of a slow trot, to a smooth run. My ears prick forwards and I stretch my head out automatically as the air whistles around us.
I feel his fingers tighten in my mane and vaguely sense him shutting his eyes and revelling in the sensations of speed as we kite quickly across the expanse of the Field. That’s my Gillan. “Better catch up for missed time then,” he decides.
I say nothing, but continue running, the ground disappearing under my long strides as I follow the line of trees that marks the edge of the Grove. I have a cold feeling inside me and I think I know what it is— I don’t want to admit to myself that I know, but I do.
Across the Field the multitude white shapes of my fellow Companions stop their actions and raise their heads to stare at nothing tangible. I slow my pace abruptly and turn my head to stare back at the grey stone lines of the Palace complex. My ears flatten against my head.
Healer’s Collegium and the House of Healing are back there. I can almost see the pale green and cream walls and smell the antiseptic atmosphere through a nose and set of senses that aren’t my own.
“What’s up?” Gillan sits up, his weight sliding down my back and touches my neck uncertainly. “Datti? What’s wrong?”
I can’t bring myself to reply; all of my attention is focused on the wavering and laboured up-and-down movement of a single set of lungs in the cool clinical sterility of the Healer’s building.
A movement which is slowly and inevitably growing less and less and—
A subconscious part of me reaches out and I Feel all of the others reach with me and—
I love you Gillan—
In the Grove behind us, the Death Bell softly begins to cry.
Gillan stiffens and I feel a ghost of a chill as the blood drains from his face. “Kadin—?” It’s not really a question; he already knows the answer, as does every Herald… as does every Companion.
King’s Own Herald Kadin has just died, conquered at last by the wasting sickness that took hold of her at the beginning of the year.
An intensely white shape— the almost glowing form resolves out of the darkness under the trees of the Grove and reveals it to be the Groveborn Companion. I turned reluctantly and slowly to face him, half noticing the Companions trailing towards us— towards the Grove and the monument to the Heralds and Companions fallen that stands near it— to pay their last respects to Kadin’s memory.
:She was very tired, at the end.: Dadero’s Mindvoice is soft and filled with regret and sadness.
:I know,: I offer numbly. I knew this would happen— I’ve always known that this would happen, but it doesn’t stop it hurting. :It’s time?: Dadero doesn’t reply in words, but his mind briefly encircles mine and a tight embrace and I feel a wordless thank you echo in my soul.
:Please remember this Gillan,: I form the words with difficulty.
“What—“ Gillan breaks out of the grief filled trance he had been held in and I can feel the worry beginning to spiral upwards inside of him.
:I will always love you.:
I shudder in my soul and gently begin to disengage myself from his mind, removing as much of me as I can whilst sparing him any harm. He convulsively grips at my mane. “Datti, what are you doing?” His voice is panicked and I flinch.
Before it escalates to anything more, Dadero makes a small movement and Gillan’s attention is suddenly locked onto the Groveborn Companion like a compass needle to a lode stone.
:I Choose you, Herald Gillan. I am Dadero.: Silver and sapphire glory fills both of them then and the links I couldn’t break on my own are cut off and cauterised in a blink as my never-really-there Choosing evaporates in the face of necessity.
All I have left is the solid reality of the weight on my back— and that is shifting and sliding off me as Gillan dazedly dismounts and steps towards his Companion. The breeze on the until-now covered parts of my back feels so cold and strange.
I back away slowly and turn my head away to stare at a dead patch of thorny bush by my feet.
I don’t think he hears me.
I watch from the edge of my eye as Gillan; the King’s Own Herald mounts his Companion and the pair of them rapidly move off to meet the Whites-clad figures gathering about the Herald’s monument.
Alone, I stand in the shadows and I contemplate the nothing all around me; left with the sound and the fury of the silences of my mind.
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