Disclaimer: Any- and everything recognisable as relating to the world of Velgarth is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.
Notes: Rewriting the first nine chapters of this are on my to-do list. Please persist... it does get better...
Chapter One- Musings and Meanderings.
You wouldn't think it to look at it, but grass has lots of different tastes. I suppose this is a good thing being as how I spend a lot of time eating the stuff, you see, I'm a Companion and we do look like horses to all intents and purposes and that means that we also eat the same things as horses, not that I mind of course.
Back to the grass, we really are lucky here in Haven, the grass in Companion's Field is the nicest around. At least, that's what I've been told as I haven't really had occasion to sample offerings elsewhere. I asked Veran about the grass once, but he just looked mystical at me and said something about the Grove magic before trotting off to look for his Herald. Veran spends a lot of time being mystical, it's probably something to do with being Groveborn and the Monarch's Own's Companion. I don't know how long he's been around because he doesn't age like the rest of us, but Derri, my mother, says that she can remember him from when she was a foal, as can her mother.
I suppose you must think that I'm very boring for one of the legendary Companions but you see I'm only eight and I haven't yet Chosen so I have a lot of time to think about things. Like grass.
Today, for example, I'm standing in a far corner of the Field looking rather dubiously at a patch of grass laced with wildflowers. The grass looks really nice and lush, but there are yellow flowers mixed in with it, and last time I ate yellow flowers, when I was a foal, I had the worst colic you can possibly imagine. It felt like my guts were trying to tie my kidneys to my caecum. After that I decided that eating the yellow flowers was possibly not the best idea ever. Mother had already told me of course, but after that bout of tummy ache I was firmly convinced.
Movement at the edge of my vision makes me look up, there is a Companion approaching me, a stallion about my age called Brandyn.
:Good morning Teva.: He greets me.
:Hello Brandyn.: I reply as I touch noses with him. :What have you done to Keth? She's normally hanging off your neck!: Keth is Brandyn's Chosen, he only felt the Call for her a couple of months ago so their bond is still weak as she doesn't have any really strong Gifts.
:She has a project to do for History, I convinced her that going to the library was a good plan.: Brandyn chuckles silently and arches his neck proudly. Keth isn't the only one still getting used to being bonded and Brandyn practically explodes with pride every time he thinks of his Chosen. The Collegia is in almost constant danger of being covered in exploded Companion innards. Not that I'm jealous, it's just that Brandyn is the same age as me and I haven't Chosen, or even felt the faintest stirrings of a Call and here he is practically exploding at least three times a minute.
The image of bits of white hair fluttering down over the Palace and draping themselves over unwary Courtiers is actually rather funny and distracting and I lose myself in a private little vision of my own. I do that a lot, most of the others call me Dreamer because of it. Because I'm busy entertaining myself I miss what Bran says to me.
:Uh…sorry?: I say somewhat contritely blinking and re-focusing my eyes on him, rather than the middle distance of nowhere where they had been.
:Dreamer.: Brandyn says amusedly as I flatten my ears briefly. :You didn't hear a word I said, did you?:
:Some of it.: I say guardedly. :I got…um…distracted.:
:I dread to think by what!: I fix Brandyn with a Look. It does deserve the capital 'L', I have perfected a series of Looks for every occasion. It saves my mouth digging me pits to fall in, I find.
:I asked if you had anything interesting planned today?: Brandyn shifts his weight from foot to foot, scuffing his hooves through the thick summer grass.
Sometimes I wish that we had eyebrows. I miss having eyebrows to raise at people who ask seemingly silly things. I have to settle for sending Bran an impression of me raising an eyebrow, eliciting a snort of laughter from him. In the balance I feel that having an over active imagination is a good thing.
:Oh, I thought I might stare at this patch of grass for a mark or so longer and then I thought I'd go and stare at a patch of grass over by the river for a while, and then I thought I'd go stare at some oats in the stables.: I blink ingeniously at Brandyn who sighs and looks at me.
:Dreamer, you have an unwholesome fascination with grass. You are without doubt the oddest person I have ever known.: Bran sends a colouring of laughter along with that comment so I know he's joking, well probably joking at any rate.
:I know.: I reply. :That's the lot of us poor unbonded Companions y'know. We just get to stand around and stare at things all day.:
:Still no Call?: he asks sympathetically. Mind you, he can afford to be sympathetic, he already has a Chosen. Oh, look! Hark at the world's first green Companion! That's what I'm going to be if I get any more maudlin.
:No Call.: I confirm. :What's it like?: I ask him suddenly, my curiosity is well and truly spiked and Brandyn is the only one of my close friends who has Chosen. Which makes him rather the centre of attention in our little group. Not that he minds of course.
:It's hard to explain.: Brandyn looks up at the sky briefly.
:Bran,: I warn him, :don't give me that.:
:Sorry Teva.: He sighs and looks back at me. :It really is though. It's like suddenly realising that part of you has always been missing, and suddenly, for the first time in your life you can hear it. Except, in a strange way, it's you, but not you at the same time. When I first felt the Call for Keth it was like a part of my mind that was me, except for sounding female, was pulling at me.:
:Oh.: There isn't really anything I can say to that. I mean, he has explained it well but it's still something that I was going to have to experience for myself.
Brandyn looks up and back over towards the Collegia complex as the warning bell rings out. :I'd better go.: he says. :We have an equitation lesson with Herald Misa in a quarter mark.:
:Is Keth getting any better?: To my credit I manage to keep my amusement to a minimum and even manage to inject a certain amount of sympathy. Brandyn still rolls his eyes at me. Picky picky.
:Either she's improving or I'm developing calluses where the saddle goes.: Brandyn turns and sets off over the Field, heading towards the outdoor equitation ring. :Have fun with the grass.: Bran looks back at me, his sapphire eyes sparkling with mischief.
:Oh, I will I reply a tad sarcastically, I freely admit. I'm an argumentative little so and so when I want to be.
Now that Bran has gone, I'm free to return my attention to that patch of grass with the yellow flowers. It gives me something to look at while I think. On reflection, I know why the others call me Dreamer.
I can remember being a bit introspective when I was a Herald, however long ago that was. If I think about it I could work it out, but it makes my head ache, so I won't. It was a long time though. There are several reasons but I think the main one is that, despite a certain difference of shape, we essentially remain the same and have the same personality traits and quirks. Of course, you only realise this when you're a Companion and can remember your past life, or lives, to a certain extent. I can remember quite a lot I suppose. I mean, I remember raising my eyebrow at people, I remember actually having eyebrows to raise. I know for a fact that my Looks and sarcasm are to some extent a relic of my previous life. Some things you can't remove with a prolonged blast of sand and as far as I'm concerned, my quirks and other delightful parts of my thoroughly loveable personality, have stayed intact. I asked Veran about that as well once and he agreed with me, with a sigh if I remember correctly. I can't imagine why…
Back to my point, trust me, I do generally have a point to my little bouts of daydreaming, I just take a while to get there as I get sidetracked. Life's interesting like that. Now, really, back to my point, and I promise it has nothing to do with grass.
The fact that our personalities remain essentially the same means that whatever shape we're currently inhabiting, there's pretty much no difference. And people, particularly Heralds are very astute about picking up things like that. If you 'came back' within the same generation I reckon there'd be bound to be at least one Herald who would notice the similarities between Herald or Companion Thingimajig-who-died-so-many-years-ago and the newest Herald Trainee or Companion. Who knows what troubles that would cause. It's hard enough having to cope with the people who wish you ill because of who you currently are, let alone also having to cope with homicidal leftovers from your life before.
Despite what I said to Brandyn about staring at the grass for a mark or so I think I'll actually do something else. Running would be a good plan I decide and I start to trot across the Field, running parallel with the boundary fence. Once I'm sure that my muscles have warmed up enough, sprained joints are not my idea of fun, I stretch my legs out into first a canter, and then a lope. I can't really be bothered to go to an all out gallop, but my lope is easily a match for a normal horse's gallop so I'm still moving at a fair clip, the air blowing through my mane and tail and the grass flashing beneath my hooves.
The speed is an advantage to this shape I've concluded. I like being a Companion, despite the boredom when you're younger. I think I'm probably going to come back as a Companion more than I will a human.
My ground devouring strides have already carried me to the turn of the fence, but I still want to run, so I change tack and state heading towards the distant buildings of the Heraldic Collegia. Even from this far away, I can make out the brightly coloured shapes of the people walking around the buildings. Sharp vision is another advantage of being a Companion, although the blind spot and peripheral vision take a bit of getting used to at first.
There's the usual swarm of grey, blue, brown and green clad trainees from the three Collegias, the bell has just rung again and it's lesson change over time. Because it's such a nice day, warm and sunny but with a pleasant breeze to keep it from getting muggy, everyone seems to be taking their time, and no few of the teachers are taking the chance at a breath of fresh air and a brief turn about the gardens. There are even a few Courtiers around here, sunning themselves and parading about for each other in their peacock like costumes. Most of them seem to be the fairly sensible ones, if there is such a thing as a truly sensible social butterfly. The working members of the Court are probably still in a Council meeting or Audience indoors, given the way that the Companions of the senior ranking Heralds are standing about in the Field with a half there look on their faces. If I was really bored I suppose I could join them in eavesdropping on whatever it is. We can all do that, though not many of the Heralds know. It helps us keep a hoof in on the running of Valdemar!
By now I have reached the boundary fence again and I slow to a meander, blowing my sides out and flicking my ears to discourage the flies that always seem to hone in on my head.
Unfortunately, no amount of hide twitching and ear flicking will keep off determined flies so I decide that going indoors would be quite nice, which is what I do.
Because of the nice weather all the doors are open in the stables, giving a very nice through breeze of cool air, which feels lovely on my slightly sweaty skin. My hooves have only briefly chimed on the hard floor of the stable yard when one of the Companion grooms appears. I sometimes think that they're psychic, the way that they anticipate our needs. Most of them are also better at recognising us than some of the Heralds! The groom in front of me now, Tel is one of those, after a moment of squinting his expression clears.
"Ah, you be wanting a grooming then Lady Teva?"
I think Tel is about fifteen summers now, and his voice is still wavering between a childish soprano and a deeper tenor. The Lady is a new thing though. I get the feeling that someone has been throwing their weight around and I take steps to counter it. I have known Tel since I was little more than a foal and he was about seven and it is most definitely argumentative and objectionable Teva who fixes him with a stern Look before moving into the stables proper.
"Sorry Teva." Tel doesn't sound particularly contrite as he hunts around for my set of brushes and I again wish vaguely that I still had eyebrows. I can't send or speak to Tel, mainly because he's not a Herald and unless there's a real need, or you're feeling mischievous, the only human a Companion will talk to is their Herald. Tel also has no Gifts whatsoever, well, no Mindmagic Gifts, he is most definitely talented at giving a good brush and I lean happily into his brushstrokes.
Unbonded Companions don't get nearly enough fussing over.
The rhythmic action of the curry comb is almost hypnotic, and my mind wanders yet again, not that it takes a lot to get my mind to wander I admit. This time I start drifting back over my dreams, and more specifically, a recurrent dream that I've been having recently. It's a very strange dream, it seems somehow more real than most of my others, even the ones I have that I know relate back to experiences from my previous life.
In this dream I'm human, well, I presume I'm human because I'm usually riding on a horse, a bay hunter, and it's somewhere in the woodlands. There are others around me, and from their actions I'm talking to them, but I can't hear what they, or I say. Then everything blurs and seems to jerk forwards somehow and I'm elsewhere, in what looks like the dining hall of a large house, and I feel like I know and recognise the people around me, but I can't for the life of me remember who they are. Again, I can't hear anything that's said, even though it's obvious that I'm having a conversation with the people sitting either side of me. This happens several more times, the blurring and jumping, each time to a different situation with no sound. The only thing that remains the same in each situation is this strange feeling that's something is different somehow.
I concentrate on the dreams, trying to figure out what exactly the strange feeling is. Suddenly, it comes to me, and I jerk my head up slightly in surprise, causing Tel to jump and anxiously ask if he'd done anything wrong. I can't Mindspeak him to explain so I just have to nod my head. He looks at me oddly and then returns to grooming my flanks. I don't really notice, as I'm a bit stunned. The strange difference in my dreams is to do with gender, in them, I'm male!
I'm still in a daze, staring somewhat blankly at the wooden wall when Tel finishes and I only manage a half-hearted whicker of thanks. Shaking my head slightly I head back outside, still intent on my thoughts. So intent on them in fact that I almost walk into Veran pretty much as soon as I get into the Field.
:Teva? Is something wrong?: Veran looks at me with a hint of worry and appraisal as I blink several times and extract myself from my, to say the least, confusing thoughts.
:I, uh…don't know.: I reply uncertainly, looking at the quietly glowing form of the Groveborn Companion. Even in the bright sunlight he managed to glow slightly. I think that's partly because of his aura, Veran has this immense sense of calm about him, it's quite un-nerving at times.
:Would you like to tell me?: Veran is also courteous, and patient…I suppose he's had a lot of time to perfect being, well, almost perfect.
:It's a dream I keep having.: I tell him, before sending him the images, along with my feelings. :Can you explain that?: I ask, with a sideways look. When I was little I was always asking for an 'explanation of that' from him.
:Male?: He sounds surprised. :It is also a very clear dream, are there any other feeling you get during or after it?: His blue eyes meet mine as I think back to the times that I've had the dream.
:Actually, I think I do.: I say thoughtfully. :I never really thought about it before, I was to busy trying to figure out the gender thing, but there is another feeling. It's kind of like a dull ache, but not.: I shift my weight slightly as Veran waits patiently for me to continue.
:It's more like a pulling sensation, but inside me somehow, and it's not just in the dream, it's after the dream as well and—: I break off suddenly and widen my eyes in surprise. :—and I can still feel it now!: If I were human, my mouth would be hanging open.
Veran's confusion clears and I get the distinct impression of amusement from him.
:It's nothing to worry about.: He assures me calmly. Too calmly. Call me suspicious but I get the impression that I'm being laughed at gently.
:Well what is it then?: I'm probably being a bit short tempered, but Veran takes it in his stride and manages to only chuckle at me.
:Teva, dear. It's the beginnings of your Call.:
:My what If I were human, my mouth would not only be open, my lower jaw would be hitting the grass. This can't be true. :I'm going to Chose?: That last sending had a somewhat foal like squeal to it and Veran blinks at me, his sides shaking slightly with suppressed laughter.
:Yes.: his sending is tinged yellow with amusement. :Not everyone gets a Call that hits them between the eyes like a bolt of lightning, Dreamer. It's much more common for the Call to develop over a week or so, gradually getting stronger.:
:I'm going to Choose!: Some foal like gambolling and whooping are definitely in order, so I do, much to Veran's obvious amusement.