Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
Notes: It’s Kierseth’s 21st birthday! She requested sarcasm, humour, and annoyed characters of my own choosing… on your marks—!
The sequel to this is Jingle.
:You look completely ridiculous.: The male Mind voice had a slight disbelieving tone to it.
For her own part, Kit completely ignored her best friend and continued prancing about the small clearing in front of the Waystation, pausing every now and then to strike a pose. The silver bells hanging from the hackamore and barding of her formal tack jingled in harmonious counterpoint to her movements and the morning sun caught on the polished metal with bright flashes.
:Don’t I look pretty?: The Companion projected the sensation of grinning towards the other white not-horse in the area.
Regin looked up from the grass he had been cropping and shook his head. :You look like you’ve been sniffing something illegal, prancing around like that, Kit.: He underscored his words by swallowing the grass and ambling forwards a few steps. :I don’t get why you’re so excited about wearing that rig anyway.:
Kit turned to stare at the Companion stallion in disbelief. :Regin, have you missed out on the fact that we’re Companions?:
:Well, gosh!: Regin widened his eyes and looked down at himself with an expression of exaggerated shock. :I wondered where those hooves had come from— and to think that I thought that sleeping a stable was the latest Court fashion!: He looked back up in time to intercept the unimpressed glare from Kit.
:You should be on the stage.:
:Glad you think so, I’ve auditioned for the mummers tent at the next Season Faire in the Merchant’s Quarter.: Regin flagged his tail and gave a wicked grin.
Kit continued staring at Regin. :You're mad.: She finally decided, with a slight shake of her head.
The stallion pulled a face at her and ambled over to the stream that ran along the far side of the clearing. :Only,: he dipped his head to drink, :when I think I’m a white horse.:
:Pfft.: Kit gave him the mental equivalent of sticking her tongue out and blowing and returned to the important task of admiring herself.
Silence, apart from the wind rustling the trees, the brook babbling to itself and an enthusiastic pair of song birds, descended around the Waystation. Kit, a small, graceful Companion mare, kitted out in the royal blue and silver of her formal tack, continued to jingle quietly as she posed her way around the clearing.
Her friend, and company for this journey, was Regin— a rangy looking stallion who wore nothing more than a few smudges of grass stain and dust from when he’d decided to roll the night before.
Kit was out on Search, Regin was bored out of his mind.
He had decided— during a bout of watch the paint (on the side of the new salle) dry induced boredom— that going on a trip of unknown length and then watching a Companion moon about with her Chosen was a whole new order of exciting when compared with the prospect of watching paint dry whilst in the vicinity of a half-Field full of Companions mooning over their Chosen.
Kit had looked at him strangely, then happily agreed to the company and the Groveborn… well… Kit thought that he’d told the Groveborn, which Regin guessed was almost similar to actually telling Dadero that he was, for want of a better term, eloping, from Haven for a while.
I only hope that Kit’s Search is going to be a long one. Regin decided to himself. That way, Dadero will hopefully have forgotten about being annoyed with me when we get back.
That, of course, put a thought in Regin’s head. :Kit?:
:—so pretty!— yes Regin?: The mare stopped, one front foot still raised, and looked sideways at Regin through one blue eye.
:How far away do you think your Chosen is?:
Kit blinked and gave Regin an ingenious look. :Huh?:
Regin rolled his eyes. :How-far-to-the-small-human-Kit-?: He said with exaggerated slowness and care.
:Oh!: Kit blinked again, her non-plussed expression vanishing to be replaced with one of inward concentration. :Errmmm…: She lifted her head up and appeared to be scenting the air.
:I don’t think,: Regin told her, :that you’ll be able to smell them unless they live in a compost heap.: The mental image that he painted to accompany the words had him snickering and snorting loudly. Kit shot him a singularly unimpressed look.
:I pity whoever you Choose.: She said in a superior tone of voice
:Thanks.: Regin said. :You never answered my question.:
:What—oh… umm…: Kit managed to somehow stumble over her words. She was the only Companion Regin had ever heard of who could do that. :That way!: She pointed with her nose to one of the two paths that led out of the Waystation and then sprang down it at a bouncing trot.
:Come on Regin!:
The stallion snorted in surprise and scrambled after Kit. :Hold on!: He exclaimed, having to break into a lope to catch up with the mare, who was jingling away through the woodland, hooves leaving deep prints in the leaf strewn loam.
The pair burst out onto the main road side by side, paces matching almost exactly as they strode along, settling quickly into the loping trot that most travelling Companions adopted when in no great rush.
:It’s a beautiful day and I’m so pretty!: Kit flagged her tail and curvetted slightly, causing Regin to snort and shy sideways to avoid a collision.
:Oi!: He directed an aggrieved mental poke towards the mare. :Watch where you’re going, Kit!:
She ignored him completely, instead continued chirping as she pranced— rather than trotted— along. :Going to find my Chosen and I jingle and I’m pretty!:
Regin decided that dropping back behind Kit to a safer distance was the only way to prevent her from unintentionally jumping on him. He shook his head slightly as she jingled rhythmically away about five lengths in front of him, the light flashing off the silverwork on her tack.
Because of his position behind Kit, Regin was not able to see the peasant working on the dry stone wall bordering the road before he caught sight of the prancing, chiming Companion mare. He was, however, perfectly placed to see the peasant after he’d caught sight of Kit and was standing and staring after her with an incredulous expression on his dirt smeared face.
Regin couldn’t help but notice that his mouth was hanging open slightly.
:Kit, if you don’t calm down, someone is going to try and perform a citizen’s arrest on you for riding whilst under the influence of something herbal, okay?: He received only a giggle in response.
Lord and Lady… Regin rolled his eyes and debated the pros and cons of hitting heads with stone walls. He wasn’t even entirely sure whether the head he intended to concuss was Kit’s or his own. Honestly, she’s been getting progressively worse for the past three days—
Now… that was an interesting thought. Regin mentally backed himself up a little way and ran through that last section of his internal monologue once more. I’m right… Kit’s been getting more and more flaky since the beginning of the week. The Companion pondered for a moment. I wonder if anyone’s noticed this before? That the closer a Companion on Search gets to their, the less functioning brain power they have?
Regin was half tempted to try and Reach for the Groveborn to check if he was the first to make this discovery. It wouldn’t surprise him if he was the first to notice the phenomenon. After all, usually the only parties to a Search and Choosing where the Companion and Chosen in question, and they tended not to notice anything other than each other.
That, of course, reminded Regin that his position as observer on Kit’s Search was somewhat… unofficial… and that contacting Dadero was likely to raise all sorts of awkward questions. And I want to delay that as long as possible. Regin nodded to himself.
Kit was still jingling away a short distance ahead, kicking up clouds of dust from the road as she went, so Regin was left to his own musing. He eyed her flagged tail. It looks like talking to myself is the most intelligent conversation I’m going to get today…
A snatch of Mindspeech drifted back from Kit. :—so pretty—!:
Regin sighed to himself. Definitely the most intelligent conversation. He decided firmly.
Kit prancing ahead and Regin following behind her at a more sedate and even pace was the activity that filled the rest of the morning as the pair of Companions followed the gently winding path of the road as it led them through the verdant farmland that made up the land to the north and east of Haven.
It took Regin a long moment to drag himself out of the dazed trance that monotonous road travel induced. Once he had, he was able to identify— by the aid of his protesting guts— that the low rumbling he could hear was his stomach pointing out that he was hungry and was not, in fact, distant thunder.
The complete lack of storm clouds in the blue sky also bore out this theory.
He supposed that he’d better try and get Kit’s attention and point out that it was lunch time… if the position of the sun was anything to go by, it was actually a good part past lunchtime. And I hate being hungry.
Vaguely, Regin supposed that could count against him in the future. I’ll just have to get a Circuit that goes through orchards. And past grain silos. Big ones. That important decision out of the way, Regin tried to attract notice from Kit.
She continued to jingle and bounce her way along; neither showing if she’d heard Regin at all, or if her legs were beginning to protest after several solid candle marks of the kind of gait more commonly used by hyperactive foals.
:Kit, it’s far past lunchtime and if you prance any more I think the top of your head might fall off…:
Prance. Bounce. Jingle.
:Kit, I’m hungry—: Regin became uncomfortably aware that he was starting to whine. Kit still appears to be oblivious to him, however, whining or not.
Regin heaved his sides out in a loud, heartfelt sigh and picked up his pace, drawing level with the shorter Companion within a matter of moments. Having long legs was a blessing.
Kit’s eyes were glazed over, her head stretched out and she appeared to be concentrating intently on something ahead of them. Regin stared down the length of the road. The most exciting thing about it was that it bent to the right a short way ahead. :Kit—:
As he spoke, Regin bent his neck in preparation to nudging Kit with his nose. Before he could even touch her, however, her head shot upwards so fast Regin actually felt the ends of her mane slap across his muzzle, her eyes widened and she yelped with excitement.
:IcanFeelher!: The burst of garbled—and loud— Mindspeech made Regin stumble as he missed a step. As he recovered his balance, Kit suddenly broke from her bouncing pace to a dead run, hooves flying every which way.
Regin could only stare after her and cough slightly as the cloud of dusty much she’d kicked up crowded around his head. :Hey—: he managed, in a stunned sort of fashion, before breaking into an ungainly run of his own. :Kit! What’s wrong?:
He forced himself to even out his stride so that he could move more efficiently, and concentrate of catching up with Kit, who’d now decided that, apart from being potty due to an incipient Choosing, she was a top-speed courier. In fact… Regin looked up and groaned; she’d already vanished around the corner and the chiming of her tack ornamentation was only a distant sound. Dammit.
With that curse, the stallion hurried after his friend, before she found the business end of a pothole with a leg, or something equally as daft. Which, given the “oooh! I’m so pretty!” level of brain function that she’s been showing so far today, is a distinct possibility.
Instead of the vague thoughts of rescue and common sense introducing that Regin had in mind, however, he rounded a twist in the road and skidded to a halt; nearly ending up tripping over his own feet in his haste to avoid landing on top of Kit, who was standing dead still in the very middle of the road.
Standing dead still in the middle of the road, staring— for some reason— at the rather shaggy cart horse hitched to the rough wooden cart that was doing a fair job of blocking the rest of the road. No… not the horse, but at the young girl standing in front of the horse.
From the expression on the man holding the cart horse’s reins, it was his daughter.
:—Kit, and I Choose you, Venni.:
The girl gasped and flung her arms around Kit’s neck, as the mare started to radiate extreme smugness. Both of them were entering the first stage of mooning over each other, Regin noticed with resignation.
Despite the whole ‘thing’ about spiriting away newly Chosen post haste, neither Kit, nor her Chosen seemed to have any inclination to move.
Regin rolled his eyes and meandered over to the verge; the lush grass growing on it looked to be just the thing to appease his still complaining stomach. Look at it this way, he thought to himself, at least you're not watching the paint on the side of the new salle dry as well…
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