Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a cliff to jump off…
A Question of Style.
One of the advantages to being the Heir to the throne’s Companion was that there wasn’t really that much in the way of leg work involved. Sure, Regin had to saddle up some energy to take Halla out into the city when she was judging at the Heraldic Courts, and there were always the pleasure rides (nice) and the obstacle course runs (not nice at all), but, other than that, not much at all. Certainly none of that ‘running to the far reaches of Valdemar’ nonsense, something that Regin was eternally grateful for.
This thought was brought home to him once again, as he listened to his friend, Kit, relay the tale of the Circuit that she and her Chosen. Venni, had just returned from. It had been their first full Circuit, and from the melodramatic re-enactment Kit was indulging in, they both wanted it to be their last.
:—and then! Then the stupid man shouted at Venni!: Kit flattened her ears and looked incensed. :Because she didn’t rescue his bloody chicken!:
:Chicken?: Regin repeated slowly. :As in; lays eggs?:
Kit stamped one front hoof. :Yes! And he shouted at Venni because she didn’t rescue the damn thing— because she was too busy pulling his ungrateful, smoke-hazed tail out of the damn barn which was burning down around him— and all he was worried about was— a— chicken!:
Regin eyed the Companion mare carefully out of the corner of one eye, then prudently backed a few steps away from her. Kit was audibly grinding her teeth and looked as if she wanted to march back up to the farmer in question and head butt him.
:And don’t even get me started on the people who live on the shores of Lake Evendim!: Kit added. :Not to mention the fifteen thousand different types of insect that inhabit the lake shore area and think that Companion is the best food out there!:
Regin wondered vaguely if the fisher folk of the Lake Evendim area were now convinced that Companions were mad possessed horses after having met Kit. As he pondered that, the stallion carefully filtered out what Kit was saying so that he was only aware of her impassioned ranting as a background noise.
From the sounds of it, if Kit had her way, Venni was going to be making herself available for Courier and teaching duties. Regs could, unfortunately, almost picture Kit marching into the Dean’s office and giving him a large piece of her mind, if the poor man assigned them another Circuit in the Evendim sectors.
A sudden lack of teeth grinding brought Regin back to the present, and he blinked and looked over at Kit. :It’s market day today,: he said, :I’m sure some apples and stuff will cheer you up…?:
Kit appeared to think that over, before nodding once. :Yes.: She said shortly, before elaborating. :Venni is going to be stuck inside for the rest of today, anyway; reporting to the Dean and all the paper-work things.:
:All the more reason for us to go to the market.: Regin insisted firmly, before heading out of the yard in front of Companion’s Stables, where the pair of them had been standing, and onto the road that led to the main gate in the Palace Wall.
After a moment to grab a drink from a trough, Kit caught up with him, and they proceeded at an easy amble. Regin couldn’t help but notice that Kit was a lot leaner than before she’d set out, and said as much to her, provoking a snort.
:You’re such a gentleman, Regs.: Kit said sardonically, before shaking her head. :It’s what happens when you spend a year and a bit running around Valdemar with a Herald on your back.: A sly nudge with her nose. :You should try it sometime, you’re getting stodgy.:
:I am not!: Regin pinned his ears back and whipped his head around to give his friend an affronted look. :And you try going anywhere when your Chosen is the Princess—: a heartfelt moan, :the single, highly eligible, Princess. If we’re on Heraldic business, we can get away with simply the senior Herald and a couple of Guards, but, anything social?: Regin shook his head and made a disgusted face. :We get practically half the Court scrambling to ‘join’ us.:
:Ouch.: Kit seemed to be distracted from her teasing of Regin, and also, in part, from her bad mood. Something which could only be a good thing.
The guard at the gate waved them through and the two Companion quickly found themselves caught up in the bustle on Haven’s streets. Since it was a market day, the thronging crowds were even more numerous than usual, and, once in the Merchant’s Quarter, the cries of stall keepers hawking their wares, combined with the incessant chatter and haggling, was almost deafening.
Flattening his ears, Regin led the way towards Threadneedle Square; it was mainly given over to made wares and the like, but there were a few food sellers, including one very nice lady who was generous with the too-bruised-for-sale fruit.
Said stall keeper; a matronly looking woman with grey hair confined in a bright green headscarf, and a plain dress of blue and black, named Firly, laughed out loud when she caught sight of Regin. “Well, Master Companion, I was beginning to think you’d deserted me for another fruit seller!” She teased him humourously, before cocking her head to one side and eyeing Kit up and down. “Lucky for you and your skinny friend I’ve got a whole basket of pears and apples that aren’t good for selling.”
Kit, distracted with watching a street performer juggling a set of painted wooden clubs, twitched one ear, then looked around. :Apples and pears?: She queried, before removing herself from the throughway she was obstructing, and standing on the opposite side of the stall to Regin.
Regin nodded vigorously, then fixed Firly with what he hoped was an appealing expression. :Oh yes; really nice ones too.: He said.
Firly laughed and flicked the cloth that she was holding towards Regin’s nose. “You, sirrah, eat more than enough; your poor friend gets first take this time. She certainly needs it more than you do!”
Regin flattened his ears as Firly cleared part of the table top next to Kit and began placing slightly-squashed and overripe looking fruit on it for her to eat. :I’m not sure I like the implications of that.: He said darkly.
:I do.: Kit said smugly, before selecting a grey-green skinned pear and crunching on it happily. :Besides, she’s right; I do need feeding up, I’ve just gotten back from a highly stressful Circuit.:
:Hmmph.: Regin snorted, but was mollified when Firly offered him an apple, which he accepted, before piling some bruised pears up for him, before going back to serve her paying customers.
:You know, I think I’m going to have to come here more often.: Kit said after a moment.
Regin pulled a face at her. :Great! First you complain at me, then you poke fun at me, and now you announce your plans to hijack my source of fruit?: He complained. :Why am I friends with you, again?:
Kit sniffed and assumed a superior expression, looking at Regs over the top of Firly’s head. :Several reasons; because I’m wonderful, and also because I’m the only one who’ll put up with your silliness—:
:My silliness?: Regin huffed. :I wasn’t the one that pranced around the Valdemaran countryside singing about how I sparkled when I went after my Chosen!:
Kit looked down her long nose at him. :No, you just got lost in a snow storm.:
:I was in the Companion’s Field, I was hardly ‘lost’.:
A snorted laugh, that drew the attention of several passers-by. :Which is why you spent half a mark dragging poor Halla around through snowdrifts before finally Mindcalling Dadero for directions, right?: Kit tossed her head and gave Regin a triumphant look, as his ears flattened and he dropped his head.
:I thought we’d agreed not to mention that.: He said in a faintly sulky tone of voice.
:You started it.:
:I did not, you did; saying you were going to come here and steal my fruit from Firly!: Regin jerked his head up and attempted to give Kit an aggrieved glare; somewhat hampered by the fact that part of Firly’s stall was in the way.
Kit laughed at him, and Regin stamped one hoof, before abruptly stepping out into the walkway to allow him to glare at his friend. :Kit—:
Whatever else he was going to say was lost underneath the shocked yelp that accompanied an impact to his left flank, followed by the complicated sounds of things breaking as they hit the cobbles.
:What in—?: Regin whipped his head around to stare to his left… at the young looking apprentice who was seated rather ungracefully on the ground, staring up at him with horrified surprise. Regin was uncomfortably aware that most of the rest of the people in that part of the market now had him tagged as their centre of attention. He was also aware that the child sitting next to his hooves was a rather unattractive set of clashing colours; red, pink and a sort of sky-blue conflicted with each other.
“Oh dear—“ faint voice; belonging to the boy, who was staring at Regin, but not at his head, rather; at his side.
Regin had a sudden premonition, helped in no small part by the fact that several parts of his hide were helpfully reporting that they felt rather damp and cold.
Firly suddenly appeared underneath his nose and helped the boy to his feet, nudging aside the broken bits of open-topped terracotta pot on the floor, as well as the scraps of waxed-paper that had apparently been parts of some bags. “Nothing broken.” She said firmly, patting the boy on the head. “Sirrah here just wasn’t looking where he was going,” Firly turned to wag one finger under Regin’s stunned nose. “Even though he should know better; although I suspect he’ll learn from this encounter.” Firly’s mouth twitched with amusement as she glanced at his side and Regin finally managed to
collect himself enough to follow her gaze—
:What in the name of Kernos?: Regin’s horrified exclamation had Kit pushing her way through the gathering crowd until she could get a good look at him. Then she dissolved into helpless giggles.
:Oh Regs, you look lovely!: She exclaimed. :That blue really compliments your eyes!:
Regin ignored her in favour of staring at the sky-blue liquid liberally splattered all down his sides and legs. And the red and pink dust that was settling everywhere else.
:I don’t think pink’s really your colour, though.: Kit continued, as Firly produced a rag from a pocket and began trying to remove the dye from Regin’s coat; an action which was only partly successful.
Regin continued to gape at himself, mouth hanging slightly open, until Firly put both her hands on her hips. “That’s the best I can do, the rest is your own problem,” she told the stallion.
Kit silently took in the bright blue speckles, and rather abstract looking pink and red streaks that adorned most of his mane, all the left side of his neck, and most of the bits of his side that the blue dye wasn’t already occupying. Where the colours mixed, they had turned the normally silver-white hair of Regin’s hide a rather fetching mauve colour.
Regin seemed lost for words.
:Well,: Kit said. :It certainly is a new style, maybe it’ll catch on?:
:I have spots!: Regin finally wailed. :Multi-coloured spots!: His ears went back and he gained a tragic expression, one which intensified as Firly finished dealing with the dye covered apprentice and turned her attention back to him.
“Well, don’t you look a sight?” She said, with a shake of her head. “I’d go get one of your grooms to scrub you for a while, although the boy did say that they were fabric dyes, so they’ll be permanent…” her mouth twitched again.
Kit started laughing helplessly again.
:We’re going back to the Palace.: Regin said suddenly, nodding his head at Firly in an injured fashion, before abruptly turning and walking quickly off.
Kit paused long enough to roll her eyes at Firly in a resigned fashion, before she started after her friend. Although Regin was out of sight, he wasn’t really that hard to track. All Kit needed to do was follow the trail of surprised, laughing people.
Still, Regin was managing to move at a fair clip, and was most of the way back to the Palace before Kit caught up with him. He had an entirely unimpressed expression on his face.
:I look like a child’s finger painting—: he moaned. :I’m going to be a laughing stock!:
Kit snickered, then realised that she should probably be trying the whole ‘sympathetic friend’ deal, and turned her laugh into an almost-cough. :You’ll bleach out in a couple of days.: She said helpfully.
:Everyone will have seen me by then.:
:You could hide in the Grove until you bleach out.: Kit suggested.
Regin pricked his ears up at that. :I could, couldn’t I?: He said, pointedly ignoring the gate guard who came out to tick their names off as they passed, as he dropped his list and silver stick and shamelessly stared at Regin’s new technicolour Companion look.
:You could indeed.: Kit nodded her head vigorously. :I’d run there now, if I were you, before everyone sees.: The mare looked pointedly around as they passed by the bottom corner of Companion’s Field.
Regin yelped, then looked around desperately. Fortunately, no-one else was near enough to see him, and he quickly jumped the simple wooden fence and pelted his way towards the tree line.
:Don’t tell anyone!: He shouted back to Kit.
:Of course not.: Kit agreed. :Although I don’t consider Venni to be just ‘anyone’, because she is my Chosen and everything… and I think she’s with your Halla at the moment actually—:
:Kiiit!: Regin’s embarrassed squeal, along with the abrupt about face he did to stare at her in horror made the mare breakdown into helpless laughter again.
:Oh seriously Regin,: she told him, :you’re sky-blue, pink and scarlet down one side! Even the blindest old man could see that!: A considering pause. :Although, you know, it does sort of suit you.: Kit snickered at the flat look Regin aimed at her.
:I guess it’s just a question of style.: She added helpfully. :If you practice looking suave, you might even set a new fashion for coloured Companions.:
Regin’s reply, as he stomped into the concealing gloom provided by the pine trees, was quite potent enough to have bleached out his dyed coat on its own.
Kit tucked her head down and laughed soundlessly to herself, before making her way up to the Palace to tell as many people as she could about Regin’s experimental new look, Circuit-induced bad mood entirely forgotten; even if Regin hadn’t intended for it to happen in quite that way.