Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; this fic and original characters belong to their author.
Notes: Another POV-Companion fic! =^-^= This time I decided to be a male Companion, though. It's hard to write from a Companion's point of view anyway, but writing from the POV of the opposite sex will be… interesting. (I can't make things easy for myself, can I? Of course not. That would be… uh… easy. Oi.)
BROTHERS AT ARMS
Chapter One: Harlan and his Chosen. (Who has a death wish, apparently.)
I was bored. I was also cold and wet. And bored.
And up to my chest in the Terilee river in the middle of October, which was probably why I was cold and wet. I had been standing there, not moving, for just under a candlemark. Did I mention that I was bored? Oh well. I knew I had to get out soon, anyway, or my hooves would get soft and I'd be a cripple for the rest of my life.
Until then, I was supposed to stand still.
I tipped my head to the side and eyed my Chosen, who was currently standing on my back, looking utterly ridiculous as he attempted to scoop fish from the river with a net while trying not to fall into the—cold!—water.
:Morgan, can I move now? Please?:
He gave me a distracted wave of his hand, teetered, and managed to catch his balance again. "Not yet, Harlan."
:But my hooves!: I whined. No, Companions are not above whining. :They'll get mushy and I'll have to be spoon-fed for the rest of my life!:
"What does having mushy hooves have to do with being spoon fed?"
:Well… maybe not spoon fed, but I won't be able to walk and you'll have to do everything for me.:
Morgan rolled his eyes as he stabbed the net he was holding into the water. The fish he had been aiming for darted out of the way at the last possible second and he gave an annoyed snort. "Okay, so I'll give you a pedicure when I'm done. Would that make you happy, oh Vain One?"
:It has nothing to do with vanity. It's strictly a health and safety matter.: I told him, :but yes, that would make me happy as a matter of fact.:
On the riverbank, Nova nickered, giggling, and Tobias snickered. I aimed a sapphire glare in their direction, only to be rewarded by innocent eyes from both of them. They had come to watch Morgan make a fool out of himself, I was sure. They never missed an opportunity to do so, after all.
Really, it wasn't in a negative way. Tobias—Toby to most of us—was the closest thing to family, aside from myself of course, that Morgan had ever had. That was mostly because of him having grown up in an entertainment troupe.
Which, in fact, was also the reason why I was in the predicament I found myself in at the time. He hadn't been part of the troupe for months, damn it, and still he insisted of performing these ridiculous stunts. Sure, he called them "training exercises", but that made no difference to me.
Because, as I've already stated, I was bored.
Bored and cold. And wet. And bored.
And whiny, apparently.
:You look slightly annoyed, Harlan.:
I eyed Nova mentally, my mind poking at hers as if my crystal blue orbs were actually fixed pointedly on her. :Perceptor, Captain of the Obvious.: I said dryly and with so much sarcasm it practically took on a life of it's own, :your powers of deduction amaze me.:
She laughed again.
I continued to glare.
Morgan continued to stand on my back like an idiot, having decided that trying to catch fish from that vantage point would be a good for his balancing skills. Why? I didn't know. I never knew why he was going to do something of the like. I mean, he was going to let all the fish go again, anyway.
A slightly strange boy, my Chosen.
Served me right for traipsing into a traveling faire to Choose.
:Companions don't regret their Choice, remember?:
Thank you, Nova.
I shivered involuntarily, making Morgan teeter dangerously. I could Feel his surprise, and practically see him trying desperately not to fall from my back, even though I wasn't looking at him.
I wasn't really.
Have you ever had a decision to make? One that should be easy, but you over-think and manage to make infinitely complex in doing so, much to your own annoyance in the end?
I was currently faced with that conundrum.
I was cold, wet, and bored, as I said.
I most definitely wanted out of the Terilee.
To dump Morgan in the river, or not to dump Morgan in the river?
That was the question, all right.
If I didn't, he might make (and by make I actually mean ask, since he would never force me to do anything because he knows he can coerce me into doing whatever he wants just by giving me his puppy eyes) me stay in the water for yet another candlemark, while he scared the fish silly and gave Nova and Toby an endless source of entertainment.
If I did, he might never speak to me again (as I was perfectly aware that he didn't like soggy clothing) or drown (despite the fact that he was such a good swimmer he might as well have been born an otter). And neither snubbing nor death seemed a good idea.
I was cold, damn it!
And, as I stated, Morgan was quite a good swimmer.
So was Toby, for that matter, and he was sitting only a few yards away…
That did it.
Without a single word of warning, I shrugged and started toward the riverbank. Morgan uttered a surprised yelp, and as I turned my head slightly I could see his arms flailing wildly from the corner of my eye. The net was forsaken immediately as he tried to regain his balance, and vanished under the freezing river, probably never to be heard of again.
He hit the water with a mighty splash! that showered the Terilee around him and got a good amount of it on myself as well. Okay, so my plan to escape backfired. On the bank, Toby was in stitches and Nova was trying to keep her mental giggles to herself, but was only half-successful.
I leveled a flat look on them from under my dripping forelock.
Behind me, Morgan sputtered and splashed and choked and generally made a nuisance of himself while I tried to impress on everyone just how unimpressed I was with Nova and her Chosen at that given moment.
The shriek that sounded from Morgan echoed across the Field and made me lay my ears back. My hide twitched involuntarily, a Companion's version of a wince. Or a blush. Or a start of surprise, which is actually along the same lines as a wince. Really, hide twitching is a natural response for a lot of reasons when it comes to us.
In any case, at the particular moment, I twitched because I couldn't really wince and his shout had been ear piercing to say the least. That was the only reason I turned my angry eyes away from the terribly amused onlookers, whom were still laughing as if my having tossed Morgan off my back was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
I have to admit, I was forced to stifle a chuckle myself when I finally gathered the courage to turn and look at my Chosen once more. He looked absolutely miserable, soaked to the skin and up to his shoulders in the Terilee, with his shaggy gold-brown hair sticking to his face. He was forced to strain against the current, too. He wasn't nearly as heavy as me (I'd forgotten about that), and it threatened to sweep him completely off of his feet and downstream, probably not to be found until the spring thaw.
I pondered that for a moment.
Frozen Chosen. Hm.
It wasn't as funny as I found it at the time.
He didn't have to say anything for me to know that he was… less than pleased, and I gave him my best imitation of an adorable little Companion. Meaning I blinked innocently and Projected a lovable aura toward him.
I wasn't completely successful, but I could Sense his anger giving way to amusement, despite the fact that he was still shivering and his best friend continued to laugh at him to the point of tears and cramps. He was still aggravated, but he forgave me so everything was fine again.
"I take it," he said dryly, "that you would like to go back to the stables now."
I nodded emphatically, snorting and blowing water droplets in his direction. I was rewarded with a heavy sigh and a quirk of his lips as I continued to give him Baleful Harlan Eyes.
:I need to be groomed, and I've got just the right person in mind for the job.:
He shivered again and splashed a handful of water toward me, then began sloshing toward the bank, where Toby waited to haul him out of the river. I, on the other hand, was on my own to drag myself out of the water and I complained loudly about having to heave myself up onto the land. Not that anyone paid attention to my grumbling, but I muttered anyway.
Once I was out I shook, spraying water from my mane and tail and generally soaking everyone in the vicinity. Nova whuffed and have me an irritated look as she danced out of the way. Toby and Morgan both yelped and scrambled to distance themselves.
Funny, but after everyone was wet and cold I felt a lot better.
It didn't improve my popularity, though, as the four of us—all soggy and wanting nothing more than warmth and food and possibly blankets—headed back across Companion's Field toward the stables. I was pleased that Morgan would have to groom me before going inside and warming himself up.
Maybe next time he'd think before dragging me off to be a footstool for his training… or whatever it was. Not only was I not impressed with being used as common furniture, but winter fishing wasn't my idea of a good time. I decided that Morgan could find himself another chair next time.
"Are you actually angry with me?"
I flicked an ear toward him and sighed. :Not really.: I admitted, :but I don't want to go swimming like that again any time soon, if it's alright with you. Can't you train in your room or something?:
"What could I possibly do in my room?"
:I hear meditation is a good way to relieve stress and prepare for things.:
:Uh… classes and other stuff?:
He didn't sound convinced, but I could tell he had resigned himself to finding someone else to help with his fishing-while-performing-trick-riding fiascoes. I wished he would find a healthier hobby, as he was beginning to turn a lovely shade of blue and his teeth were chattering by the time we reached the stables.
I looked at him appraisingly. :Chosen, go inside and get changed and bother Chef into giving you a warm cup of cider.:
He had been rubbing his arms, but paused when I said it. "Are you sure?"
Damn my kind heart.
I was doomed to be cold and wet and bored forever.
Morgan patted my neck and scratched behind my ear, and I found that I just couldn't be annoyed with him. Sometimes I wished he had been slightly less lovable than he was, which would have made being stern-and-or-angry with him infinitely easier. I rolled my eyes and nosed his shoulder.
:Just go before I change my mind and make you stay.:
He laughed, and I watched him dash out into the nippy autumn air, heading for the Collegium as fast as his legs could carry him. After a second, Toby waved amiably and followed, leaving Nova and I to our mystical Companion complaining.
In the back of my mind, Morgan's presence was relatively happy, and, as I mentioned, I couldn't stay upset with him there. His thoughts kept me cheerful most of the time, actually. He had always been an optimistic person, for which I counted myself lucky. Some Chosen, I knew, were more inclined to depression than others, and their Companions tended to be more negative because of it.
Teague, for example…
Dorenda's Foresight kept her in an almost perpetually worried state, as it seemed only to pick up terribly tragedies. No weather problems. No miniscule events. Only death and destruction and the like.
On the outside, she appeared to be a normal child, the same age as Morgan and Toby and in their year group, even, and a good friend of theirs. But underneath Dori was always in turmoil, and Teague spent a good many sleepless nights consoling her after particularly bad dreams.
Frankly, they were lucky that her Gift hadn't driven her mad.
Very few people even knew about the secret pain that Dori endured, day in and day out. Teague, certainly, as he was her Companion, as well as myself and Nova. Morgan and Toby may have had an idea of what she dealt with, but couldn't know for sure as she refused to talk about it.
:What are you thinking about?:
I realized I had been woolgathering and glanced at Nova. We were both still standing just inside the stable doors, simply soaking up the warmth of the building and letting the heat dry us bit by bit.
:Thinking about Dori.: I shook my head. :Thanking my lucky stars that Morgan's Gifts are Farsight and Fetching and not Foresight like hers. I don't think I could handle him being as depressed as Teague tells us Dori is.:
Nova have a sad sounding noise of agreement. :I feel badly for the poor child. Toby's Foresight is slight enough that it rarely ever manifests, so I don't have the same problems… though I have to admit that Firestarting can be more than a little troublesome at times.:
:I can imagine.:
Images of Nova with a flat and unamused expression on her face and her tail emitting a choking tendril of smoke flooded my mind and I chuckled at the memory. Nova seemed to catch what I was thinking and gave me a warning look.
He had only lit her tail once, after all, and it had been a complete accident.
(Or so he claimed.)
But Toby was a bit of a troublemaker, so I was inclined to believe that what he called an "accident" had been staged from the beginning. But as no one was hurt (and to be truthful, her hair hadn't actually been on fire so much as smoldering in a highly amusing way), they had accepted his excuses and apologies, and Nova had promptly put the entire ugly incident out of her mind.
It had taken a month for all of the singed hairs to grow out so that her tail appeared normal again.
Again, I counted myself lucky.
Though Morgan was a bit of a pain, sometimes, he wasn't likely to set fire to my hair. Thank the Gods. I sighed and sniffed a bit. My mane and tail were mostly dry and I wasn't nearly as cold as I had been; Nova appeared to be in the same situation, so I figured we'd be leaving the stables in a short time.
Though I might stay and borrow a stall for the night.
Cold Field… warm stable.
Behind my main consciousness, I Sensed a sudden surprise from Morgan, and blinked. At the same time, Nova jumped and her ears flattened against her head, swiveled, flicked, and flattened again.
:Toby's got something in his Foresight, I think.: She told me. :Really vague, though… and definitely not good.:
I immediately Reached out to Teague. His mind was a jumble of thoughts, as the images that were coming through Dori raced in his head, and, because I was there as well, though mine before I could even ask anything.
Fire. Smoke. Blistering heat. I was surrounded by flames—
:Something terrible.: He gasped, and the images vanished as he clamped down on Dori's Gift and channeled it through himself, grounding it before it could do any damage to her. :A fire in the upper class school district... in the business section of Haven…:
I knew that much already, but I let him finish anyway.
:People are dying, Harlan.: A pause and he simply repeated; :people are dying.: