Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it belongs to Misty Lackey.
AN: Yea, just noticed my formatting for past chapters is mostly all gone/messed up. Yep.
Chapter V: One by one
By: B. Angel
:'Lendel: Gala's firm but insistent tug on his mind pulled him back from...:We're here, love.: Her Voice trembled. Tylendel opened his eyes, blinking against the too bright snow and the white of his Companion's coat. He'd lost time again.
"'Lendel?" Savil's voice held the same uncertain undercurrent. He smiled at her, but it didn't seem to reassure her any. He glanced around. It was a simple chapel front—deceptively small, for he could see smoke rising in several places from chimneys some distance back.
When he looked back at her, her lips were pursed. "Stay," she said. Her voice brooked no argument, and he watched her go impassively.
He could have told her there was no point. Vanyel was dead. It was the same as with Staven, the feeling of his twin being ripped away. Dead.
:Don't you want to know what happened?:
He let his head fall sideways, considering Gala's question. He ignored the fact that she was, and had been making a habit of, following his thoughts—despite the fact that he was no longer under watch, or was he?
:Would it make it better?: The question was rhetorical, and they both knew it. :Would I have vengeance? Closure?:
He felt her hesitate. :Would Vanyel want you this way? Will you again, hurt Savil and I? All those that love you still?:
He closed his eyes, feeling the tears surfacing. :One by one, Gala. It's only a matter of time.: His father, his mother, his brother, and now Vanyel. Tylendel started to laugh, and ended up hunched over Gala's back in a near sob, gasping in the icy air to ease the tightness in his chest. His father, his mother, his brother. Vanyel. The litany ran mockingly on repeat in his mind.
:'Lendel...: He heard the helpless heartache in her voice.
He inhaled several deep breaths again, clenching shaking hands in effort to still them. When he was sure the hysteria wouldn't come again he dismounted and entered the abbey. It was a stifling warmth inside, the choking aroma of incense and candles invading his nostrils. He considered going back outside. Instead he walked forward, following his connection to Savil, felt her mental sigh and the ever constant accompanying surge of worry.
The hallway was narrow, dim and dark. He stopped before the fourth doorway and entered without preamble.
"I can't—excuse me young man!" The man admonished, rising to his feet from behind the desk. He was heavy set and soft, clearly used to his luxuries.
Savil rose from her seat, her hands raised in placation. "Apologies Father Bekth, may I introduce Herald-Mage Trainee Tylendel? He is currently on internship with me."
He bowed slightly, a contrite smile sliding into place. "Apologies Father, I wasn't sure this was the right door."
The priest pursed his lips as if still in disapproval before settling back into his chair.
:Not appreciated, ke'chara. You know better.:
Tylendel took up position behind her as she sat back down, instinctively facing halfway towards the door.
The priest cleared his throat. "As I was saying, I cannot divulge any information regarding the young Master Vanyel. We respect your authority of course, Herald-Mage, and the personal connection you share. However, while I understand your concern, Lord Withen made it quite clear to me that Vanyel was not to be contacted nor disturbed by anyone."
The man was lying. He could Feel the anxiety radiating off of him, could see the slight sheen of sweat on his balding forehead. Something had happened to Van and this man was trying to save his own ass. He felt the briefest stirring of anger, an almost welcome wash of emotion that tided over the emptiness inside.
"Let's be honest, Father," Savil replied steadily, her voice taking on almost an edge. "I know something happened here. Where is Vanyel?"
Father Bekth frowned, opening his mouth to deny her accusation.
"Think carefully sir, of your reply. Should you prove obstinate I will have no choice but to contact the Patriarch in Haven and request a full investigation of this place."
His mouth snapped shut. Her threat hung in the air.
She stood slowly, placing her hands on the desk and leaning towards him. "I just want to find my nephew."
Those fat lips pursed again, and beady eyes stared almost suspiciously at Savil. Finally, the man exhaled, wiping his forehead with a shaky hand. "The boy escaped on one of our horses," he admitted. "Several days ago. We had searched, of course. But the storm hit, and he could have gone anywhere. And yesterday—," he hesitated.
"Yesterday?" Savil prompted.
"The horse returned yesterday."
Tylendel's head spun, and he gripped the back of Savil's chair so hard the leather creaked in the silence. Fear had replaced his anger. That Vanyel had been caught out in the wilderness. That Vanyel had died alone, frozen to death, attacked by beasts. Had Withen even bothered to teach his son any survival skills? Would Van have wanted to learn?
Abruptly he turned and left. He inhaled, trying to breathe, but the air seemed unable to get past the lump in his throat, nor the weight in his chest. He nearly ran towards the entrance, rushing for the crisp air. Outside, he hunched over, hands on his knees as he gasped shakily.
Oh Van, was it so bad that you had to run away?
He didn't react when a hand settled on his back, having sensed Savil as she came up behind him. He closed his eyes, allowing his head to hang.
"We're searching," he said flatly, "and I want this place checked into. Vanyel would have never—." He broke off, his jaw tense.
"I'm of the same mind myself," she said calmly. "The entire place just doesn't sit right with me."
A beat of silence.
"I can go myself—," she began.
"No," he replied, his voice low. He straightened. "Let's go."
Deeper into the forest.
Hours into days.
Days into weeks.
Tylendel stood in the clearing, blinking away the soft snow on his lashes, his gaze sweeping the trees without really seeing. They offered him no information, bare branches buried beneath powder and glass; devoid of life and sound. The animals had all but disappeared again, deep into their burrows to prepare for the storm. He could already sense the clouds forming in the distance.
Where had Vanyel gone? Why couldn't they find him? Here he stood, toeing the line into Tayledras territory. The signs were clear. If Vanyel had crossed here, would they have let him die? For merely trespassing? Would they have killed him? Despite Savil's reassurances that none of the scouts she'd contacted had seen a boy of Vanyel's description, the fears remained. The Hawkbrothers were of the shoot first and ask questions later variety, and they both knew it.
His jaw ached, tense from the piercing cold, from the coiled emotions he held, ever at bay. He was tired. Too many sleepless nights on frozen ground, the chill seeping into his bones, the wind biting into his skin. He didn't think the cold would ever leave him. He couldn't think about how Savil was faring, somewhere a bit north. How long would she allow him to keep searching? How long would he do this to her, to all them?
They had already received urgent summons from a place too far away, being somewhere they were supposed to have gone in the first place. People were dead over there. How long would they neglect their duties? But people were dead over there, where Vanyel might not be. And wasn't that just an awful thought?
What would Vanyel think of him?
Savil had said nothing as they'd received the news, her impassive court face sliding in. But he knew her, could Feel the uncertainty and the guilt, compounding onto his own.
He turned to face Gala, hand reaching up to caress her neck, leaning onto her forehead. Tylendel exhaled, feeling the tears prickle against his eyelids.
:We are here.:
No pressure. No guilt. His trembling hands fisted close in her mane. How long? How long. Would Vanyel fade too, if he walked forward? A memory smothered by time, like the trail behind them, slowly disappearing beneath the gently drifting snow. He needed more time. He wanted to selfishly stay, and he wondered if she would actually leave him here.
Somehow he thought she would-knew if he asked her, she would lead him and leave him all the way to her Hawkbrothers. But the idea of her riding alone, into an unknown situation without him, didn't sit well with him. One by one.
Tylendel took another deep breath, feeling the chill travel all the way to his lungs, focusing his thoughts to here and now. Then, together, he and Gala headed north.
The town of Deedun was midsized, with a population of about 700, according to the magistrate's office. It was a popular stop for those on the road, or river, to and from Haven, with the dubious distinction of having both methods of transportation running through the town.
Herald Linsley was a local, returning home after his training to take up post once his predecessor had retired. His hair was a bright auburn, and his skin so pale that the slightest pressure turned it red. His face was freckled and splotchy from what was likely too much sun. He was a gangly several inches taller than Tylendel, which was mildly disconcerting as he had smiled politely up in greeting. He wasn't used to feeling short.
"The altar was left undisturbed since we found it, but a watchman was ambushed that very night. I've doubled the guards, but we don't know what was taken, or by who." Linsley walked along the edge of the circle, crudely etched into the ground. The man didn't need to point out exactly where the woman had been slain. A lot of blood had soaked into this ground, a cloying film on his senses that made him slightly ill.
"That's not all," he called, having walked further away. He pointed at something on the ground. Tylendel rose from where he crouched and followed behind Savil.
An object lay abandoned on the ground, half rusted and covered with dirt.
"A bracelet." The Herald moved even further away and pointed down again. "A necklace."
Tylendel didn't bother to follow them this time.
"And several other pieces of jewelry spread along this clearing, probably belonging to different women. One of the guards recognized the owner of the bracelet, a missing persons from quite some time ago, but we have yet to find the owners of these. There's also a pile of burnt clothing, so we think they were stripped before they were killed. We haven't moved anything just yet, just in case."
:Looks like an addict, with this much blood.: He said.
:Can you sense the ley-line?: She asked. :Probably a hedge wizard or witch getting in over their head, judging by how it's not been tapped.:
He concentrated past the horribly saturated ground and found that there was indeed a small current running through. Just how many people had to have died here for him to not sense that immediately?
"For now," Tylendel focused his attention on Linsley again. "We've sent riders to neighboring towns, all the way to Haven, to see if we can get a copy of their travel rosters and compare with our own. But a lot of folk pass through and its hard to tell if they've simply moved on or if there was foul play."
"Wow," he blinked, impressed by the scope of the investigation.
Herald Linsley smiled wryly at him. "It will take some time, of course. There are a lot of records to go through. We've also sent sketches of the jewelry found here, so hopefully we'll get a something off of that."
"Thank you, Linsley," Savil said, "We'll concentrate on finding the one that did this, and hopefully putting a stop to it."
They rejoined Tylendel next to the bracelet.
"And look, I appreciate you coming so fast," Linsley said earnestly, and more than a bit rueful. Tylendel looked away. "I know you were most likely occupied, but I'm just a Herald—I don't know much about these magic things. I can't even Speak to my Heni very well, though she makes her opinions clear enough!" He laughed.
"No sir. We appreciate the opportunity to do our job," Savil said firmly. "Your efficiency has already helped tremendously, and you're never just a Herald."
Herald Linsley flushed beneath Savil's direct stare and ducked his head as he led them back to the town. His long strides took him easily ahead of them. Tylendel thought quizzically at her. :Overdoing it a bit, Savil?:
She snorted softly. :Walk a bit in those shoes, youngling, and tell me if it's overdoing it.:
They settled at the aptly named River Inn, almost right beside the docks.
"I'll be seeing you folk in the morning, hopefully with good news, and we'll go see Werner. He was the one who interrupted the sacrifice." Herald Linsley said, before heading to his own home for the night.
While Savil went to speak to the owner about bedding arrangements, Tylendel began his nightly ritual with Gala. He could feel himself relaxing with her as she enjoyed being groomed.
:It's not your fault, 'Lendel.: She began, when he was almost done. :Vanyel is a smart boy. He's alive.:
He almost laughed, knowing she'd been building up to it, but he didn't reply, checking on her hooves instead. Supernatural creatures they were, they still sometimes suffered from the wear and tear of the road.
:And the moment the Hawkbrothers find anything, we'll know.The fact that they haven't contacted us says alot.: She stayed quiet for moment, watching him as he set out fresh water and grain for her. He moved to the next stall and paid the same care and attention for Kellen, aware that Savil was probably feeling the day more intensely than he was.
Gala whickered sadly when he was done. :You don't talk like you used to. I miss you.:
Tylendel echoed her sigh, turning to her, and took her head into his hands.
:I love you, Gala,: he said, putting all the feeling and truth he could behind those words, :and I'm doing my best…just give me time. I just...it isn't the same. Not without him. Not without either of them. And I left him back there. I can't forgive myself.: He stomped ruthlessly on the grief, shoving it away into the back of his mind.
:Sleep well, love,: he interrupted, releasing her and heading in.
Tylendel was uneasy.
Where had he been last? Where was he now? Savil? Gala? His thoughts grew sharper as the questions tumbled out. His mind was too disciplined a place to fall for this ruse for what it was.
He knew it was Vanyel. He would recognize that profile from anywhere; knew that dark mane of hair and penchant for wearing dramatically striking clothes.
But…where was Companion's Field?
This was not the dream that had plagued him since their separation. That one he knew stemmed from the memories of their time past. That one had stopped, with the loss of his lover.
"Ashke," Tylendel breathed, an unidentifiable fear in his gut holding him in place. It was only a moment, however, that his desire overcame his trepidation and he moved as only a Herald could, swift and noiseless. He hesitated again, only a hands breadth away.
Suddenly, familiar and beloved silver turned to gaze blankly at him.
Time froze, as they stared at each other, and something broke inside him. He surged forward to embrace Vanyel.
"I'm sorry, ashke," he sobbed, clutching him tightly. "So sorry!"
"I've found you."
Startled, he pulled back, bewildered by the sweet smile that curved Vanyel's lips.
"Thank gods, 'Lendel," he whispered again. Slowly, his hand rose and touched Tylendel's face.
His eyes flew open, a hand automatically going to his face as he sat up in his bed. And then Tylendel laughed, tears welling to overflow down his cheeks. His free hand crept up to his heart and fisted close over his shirt.
The knife was in him before he knew it-a physical pain that shocked him, keeping him immobilized for the briefest of moments as he stared into the frightened eyes of his attacker.
AN:Too fast? Haha. See you next year xD;;