Disclaimer: Everything relating to the world of Velgarth, and the kingdom of Valdemar, is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.
The idiosyncratic narration and style of writing, lack of plot, inconsistencies in what little plot there is, and all of the main characters; particularly the Companion known as Teva, belong to etcetera-cat. Don't annoy her, she's mean.
Notes: Can be found at the end of this chapter, for reasons that will become clear as soon as you read the chapter title.
Epilogue- Over and Out.
We originally left Haven during the spring— something that meant that we didn't get treated to the really awful weather until we were too far out to turn around and run back, complaining loudly. Not that I would have done that, you understand. Ahem. The thought never crossed my mind. At all.
You can stop laughing now.
Anyway; we originally left Haven in the spring— really, you can stop laughing now— and now we're returning to it in the winter, pretty much a full year and a half from when we left.
The city still looks the same… apart from the obvious seasonal differences in the weather… parts of it certainly smell the same.
:Remind me,: I pipe up, :why you felt it necessary that we came in via the road that serves the stockyards and tanneries?:
Alexander and Samyel trade looks over my head. "Because it's the Eastern Trade Road, and we're coming back from the East?" Alex decides to answer. "We were hardly going to circle around a quarter of the city to use either the North or South Gates, were we?"
Hah, heark at Mister Logic sitting on my back.
:It's alright for you two,: I complain, :your senses of smell are pathetic and you've got hands to put over your noses anyway. Harali and myself are forced to endure this— stink entirely unprotected.: As if to illustrate my point, a gust of icy wind dashes across the busy street we are slowly making our way down, carrying with it the unmistakable odours of confined farm animals and the industries that spring thereof.
Trust me on this; you've not smelt something bad until you've been a equine who's just got a face full of glue fumes. Do you know what they make that stuff out of?
You don't want to know what they make that stuff out of.
Considering it's a winter day and, you know, bloody cold, there are still absolutely bucket loads of people out and about on the streets.
I must have said some part of that out loud, because Sam clears his throat. "Merchants and business don't stop just because of a little snow, Teva," he points out.
Right, so now both of them are going to play the logic game with me. If the past eighteen months taught them anything— other than the fact that they both wanted to jump each other into bed— then they should realise that logic and myself do not mix.
:Snow is nasty.:
Alex stifles laughter as Say sighs loudly. "So you've been telling us for the past three weeks," the senior Herald tells me with no little irritation. "Have you decided yet whether you dislike it more or less than the rain you were complaining about several months back?"
I eyeball Sam in a sideways fashion, right up until I nearly walk into a wall, then I start paying attention to where I'm going, picking up my pace and flattening my ears. The better to get away from the confused looks my wall-blindness has gathered from the ever-present street population.
:You really shouldn't try to do more than one thing at once.: Harali gives me a jaundiced look. :We're back in the city, you know—:
:I'd never noticed that.: I accompany my sarcasm laden words with a mental picture of me sticking my tongue out at the other Companion.
She rolls her eyes at me in a very unimpressed fashion, then continues, ignoring my interruption, :—so you've got to clamp down on your clumsiness.:
:I am not clumsy!:
Alexander snorts. "So we all imagined the… how many?... times you walked into bushes?"
:I did no such—:
Sam pitches in. "And the several times that you missed signposts and got lost?"
I flatten my ears. :You're not funny.: I tell my three travelling companions. :You think you are, but you're not.:
Alex leans forwards and pats me on the side of the neck. "We love you really."
:Heh.: I flick my tail and sidestep a foul tempered mule that is doing it's best to block the entire road by dint of taking exception to everything from the cart that it's pulling, to the inoffensive busker sitting outside the inn across the road from it.
Haven is exactly the same as when we left.
I wonder if that's the same mule that tried to kick me when we left? I ponder this for a moment. If it is, then I pity the poor chap who owns that cart; spending over a year stuck at the same cross roads. Although… at least it's near an inn, so he can get really drunk and forget about his stupid mule.
"Hey! Watch it!"
"Teva!" The aggrieved shout, and my own Chosen's yelp and yank on the reins brings me back to present day with an abrupt bump, and I noticed belatedly that I'm about one step from walking into a cloth-merchant's outdoor display.
Said cloth merchant being the one now examining his wares and muttering loudly about crazy Heralds and Companions.
Ahem. Must pay attention to where I am going.
Sounds of the city in full swing fill the air for a moment, before Samyel pipes up. "You really do have the attention span of a mayfly, don't you?"
I sniff and pointedly stick my nose skywards. :If you don't watch it I'll run off with Alex and you'll have no-one to bounce with.:
Sam stifles something that sounds like a laugh, and Alex sits bolt upright in the saddle. "Why are you dragging me into this?" He asks in an aggrieved tone. "Nor do I see while I should be penalised because Sam's being mean to you."
I glance back at my Chosen and ripple my hide in a shrug. :Think of yourself as a victim of friendly fire; you can't get rid of me, and you don't want to get rid of him, so you're stuck.:
Alex favours me with a sour look. "Is it too late to say no to this Herald thing?"
Samyel cocks his head to one side and thinks about it for a moment. "I don't think so, unfortunately," he says.
:Watch it, boyo.: Harali bounces into a rough gait for a few steps, before returning to the easy ambling pace that we've been using to navigate the city.
Sam winces. "Alright, alright, I apologise, fearsome creature," he tells 'Ali in a rueful tone. "I've spent too much time in the saddle to put up with you being nasty to my abused muscles."
I snicker. :Oh?: I ask in a deceptively innocent tone of voice, flicking one ear in Sam's direction, but ostensibly keeping my attention on the streets; which are now beginning to thin out, foot-traffic wise, as we enter into one of the rich housing districts of Haven.
"Teva—" Alex's complaint is uttered in a resigned tone of voice, and he swats at my ears with the reins.
:Yes Chosen?: I ask innocently.
Harali sniggers away to herself, as the boys exchange long suffering glances. As we work our way up through grander and grander houses, 'Ali and I match our paces, so our hooves chime together musically on the paved streets.
A thought occurs to me. :Alexander?:
"Yes, Teva?" Alex asks in a faintly suspicious tone of voice.
:Whatever happened to your odious brother after he spent a month shovelling shit in the stables?:
Alex coughs loudly and rocks back in the saddle, radiating shock. Okay, so maybe that question was a bit out of left-field, but it just occurred to me, and I have that short an attention span that I have to say what's on my mind before I forget it entirely.
"You have a wonderfully poetic turn of phrase," Sam tells me drily. "You should audition for entry to Bardic."
:You're not funny.: My exchange with Sam has given my Chosen enough time to regain his composure.
"He went to the country estate, you remember, I told you?" Alex says, shifting his weight from side to side. "As far as I know, he never came back to Haven whilst we were still there," a half shrug of his shoulders, "maybe he's moved back since— we have been on Circuit for the better part of two years."
:Oh,: I say unintelligently.
"Anyway, the Heralds are my family more than them," Alex emphasises the last word and I snort out my breath. "Why do you ask?"
"Maybe she's looking for someone to 'gloop'?" Samyel grins. "There's not really been much call for it since that commotion with the assassin and Lord Ardin."
:You're just teasing me because you're jealous.: I say with aplomb, as Harali and I arrive at the gate to the Palace complex and halt in perfect time with each other.
"Heralds Samyel and Alexander, returning from Eastern Circuit One," Sam tells the blue-clad gate guard, who nods and marks off something on the scrappy looking paper list he has in one hand.
"Welcome back to Haven, sir Heralds," he says cheerfully, "imagine you'll'm be glad to be back home, eh?"
Alex laughs. "Something like that, yes," he agrees cheerfully as the guard waves us through.
I breathe in deeply as we emerge from the tunnel and begin to crunch our way up the long gravelled road that leads up to the grey stone sprawl of the Palace-Collegia complex. :It's good to be back.: I decide emphatically.
:Mmhmm.: Harali agrees absently, eyes trained on the Field stretching away on our left. I follow her gaze and begin silently identifying the assorted white shapes that are dotted about within my line of sight.
A flash of white and presence over near the Grove can only be Veran; he has this thing about hanging around near the Temple. I think it's because it increases his more-Companion-than-thou vibe. Maybe I'll ask him that when I see him?
Still… can't spend all day staring at the Groveborn— not least because the last two times I've taken my attention off where I'm going, I've nearly walked into things today. I'm absently sweeping my gaze over the Field and sort of mentally broadcasting a wordless hey everyone, we're baaaack! when one of the distant white figures jerks its head up and begins to thunder towards us.
:Teva!: Sinna's shriek of greeting is loud enough to ensure that every single Companion who wasn't yet aware that Harali and myself were back in Haven, is now completely informed on the matter. :Teva! You're back!:
:Heyla Sinns!: I bounce sideways and wave my tail at the Companion mare, as she reaches us and begins to pace us on the other side of the fence.
:So how was it? What was it like? Did you get to act like heroes? Are those two sleeping together because they certainly look all loved up— and, oh! You're not going to believe who I ended up Choosing— and Henri's Chosen too— and both him and Bran and their Chosen are off doing some weird Outdoor Survival thing at the Home Farms and—: Words cannot describe the experience of having one of your friends chatter to you at nineteen-to-the-dozen via Mindspeech. Because you don't just get words, do you? It's all about the associated mental images and concepts.
After spending the better part of two years with only Harali to talk to like a Companion— and trust me, there's a difference between talking to another Companion, and annoying the absolute whey out of your Chosen— my poor little mind feels like a little leaf in the veritable flood of Sinna's chatter.
:Slow down!: I finally manage to cut across her gossiping; she's trying to fill me in on two years worth of Collegia gossip all at once, and I'm rewarded by her giving me a wide-eyed look.
:At least wait until I've got my tack off?: I ask in a faintly plaintive tone of voice, ignoring the fact that Harali's laughter makes her sound like a partly blocked drainpipe.
:Oh… of course.: Sinns gives me a faintly apologetic look, which lasts for all of two seconds, before her ears flick forward. :Can't you go any faster? At this rate it'll take until tomorrow to get to the Stables!:
I sigh loudly and fail to alter my pace in the slightest. Barely a tenth of a mark later, Harali and myself clatter to a halt in the yard in front of the Companion's Stables. The boys have barely gotten their feet on the ground before a veritable whirlwind, disguised as Tel and his father, smothers us and quickly makes our tack vanish.
The Gift of Tack Disappearing, perhaps?
Saddlebags clutched in one arm, Alex steps forwards to give me a clumsy hug; Sam doing something similar to 'Ali, although he's sensible and puts his bags down first, then picks them up again.
"We'll leave you in the capable hands of Dirn and Tel, and go report to the Circle," Samyel says.
Alex steps back and eyes me up and down. "I'll come and see you this afternoon," he says.
:Mmmph.: I reply insensibly, as Tel has just removed my saddle blanket and found an itchy spot. I cross my eyes in bliss as he scratches the spot just right. My Chosen rolls his eyes at me, then follows after Sam, who is already walking towards the Palace.
:So!: Sinns exclaims excitedly, popping up under my nose and bouncing in place. :I have so much to tell you!:
I blink and manage to focus on my friend, as Tel works wonders with a curry comb. :Why don't you start with who you Chose?: I say. :Congratulations, by the way.:
Harali cocks one ear towards us in interest, her hipshot stance indicating that Dirn, Tel's father, is working equal wonders with a curry comb.
:Well,: Sinna shakes her head, :you've already met her.: She gives me a bright look. :Try and guess who!:
I eye Sinns up and down. :I've already met her?: I query in a confused tone.
:Yes! Well, both of you have, really.: Sinna swings her attention between 'Ali and myself. We trade looks with each other.
:I give up.: Harali says.
:Me too,: I agree.
Sinna snorts and flicks her tail. :You pair are no fun.: She protests. :Well, I Chose a girl called Jenni, she mentioned you.: She gives me an expectant look.
I ponder for a moment; the name certainly does sound familiar— wait, think I've got it! :From Traderest?: I ask. :Small, sticky sister called Tasha?:
:That's her!: Sinna bounces in place. :I Chose her last Sovvan and she's really fantastic.:
'Ali snickers in an amused fashion. :We all think that in the beginning.: She says, before shooting a wicked glance in my direction. :Then some of us change our minds a bit.:
I narrow my eyes at Harali. :What are you implying, Great Snoring Wonder?:
'Ali gives me an impudent look. :Simply that you get more spectacular arguments that way.:
I tilt my head to one side and pretend to consider her point for a moment. :Variety is the spice of life.: I eventually say in a superior fashion.
Sinns gives us a bemused look, before kicking back into gossip mode. :Anyway, Jenni has Thoughtsensing and Empathy, so she's having lessons at Healer's as well as at Heraldic— the new teacher, Daska, is really good and—:
:Daska?: Harali interrupts with surprise. :Scary, imposing woman, apprentice called Vadi… originally from the Trevale area?:
I gape in Harali's direction. Surely not…?
:Yes, do you know her?: Sinna asks in an entirely innocent tone of voice.
Harali gives me a long look. :You could say that.: She says, before turning her attention to me. :Well, that certainly explains why neither of them where at the Trevale House of Healing when we passed back through there.: She says in a meditative tone of voice.
:True…: I reply weakly. It certainly is a small world, isn't it?
:Do tell—: Sinna appeals to Harali. :I love a good story and Jen's cooped up in a Tactics class until later, so she can't go to the Library for me.:
:I'll let Teva tell it,: 'Ali says. :She's better at chattering than me, anyway.:
I ignore the backhanded compliment from Harali as I'm still stuck in the middle of musing that I've apparently arrived back in Haven to find that the people I don't like (Alex's odious family) have taken themselves off somewhere, and people that I do like (Vadi and Daska) have moved— not only to Haven— but to the Palace-Collegia itself.
Isn't life great?
I finally notice that both Harali and Sinna are staring at me and shake my head, forelock flying messily around in the crisp air. :Let's move inside, it'll be warmer,: I suggest, before wandering into the open-sided communal area of the Stables. After a moment, Sinns and 'Ali follow me— as do Tel and Dirn, as Harali and myself really are in need of a good clean up.
:Well,: I say, taking up a comfortable position, where one of the ceramic stoves can bake my side whilst I tell my tale. :There was a lot to do with mushrooms, but I guess it all really started the day I went for a paddle in the stream…:
Notes: Well, so there you go. The Great Plotless Wonder has an ending. I've had great fun writing this— despite the outbreaks of writer's block and the times when I wondered what the Hell I was doing, two years later, writing something that was originally supposed to be a short one shot. I guess this just proves that you never know where an idea will take you!
A big thank you to all my reviewers— at times it's been your encouragement that's kept Teva going off on her tangents, and I hope you enjoyed the story. The same goes to everyone who's stuck Grass is Greener out to the end; I hope you enjoyed it and had as much fun reading Teva as I did writing her.
Special mentions to my LJ f-list, who have somehow managed not to beat me over the head when I was being insufferable, and could always be counted on to respond to WIP-fragments, pointing out where my writing had gone through the wall again. And, finally; a huge, great big, chocolate-covered thanks! to Cat McDougall, who has poked, prodded, cajoled, beta-read, proof-read, brainstormed ideas, listened to me complain, bitch and moan, egged me on, laughed in all the right places, come up with some positively wicked suggestions, and sometimes just plain threatened me for the vast majority of the past couple of years. You're a star, girl!