Vanyel stumbled through the archway into the strange garden. The celebration continued on around them, their presence unnoticed for the moment, but slowly people were turning, regarding the two young men that had suddenly appeared with obvious curiosity. Tylendel stormed forward and Vanyel could feel how angry he was. He reached forward to catch Tylendel's sleeve but his knees chose that moment to give out. The world spun and he found himself half-kneeling on the ground, nauseous and weak.
"They're celebrating." The disgust was obvious in Tylendel's voice, palatable in the air between them.
Thought was hard for Vanyel. He was weak, his mind foggy, but still, there was a part of him, an insistent, nagging part of him that pierced through the fog and told him that something was wrong here. Very, very wrong, and it was that sense the fueled his thoughts towards logic. It was Harvestfest. There were celebrations at home too, all around the region and beyond.
A wave of dizziness made him swoon, nearly collapsing to the ground. Tylendel had moved away by the time his vision had cleared, standing between Vanyel and the line of trees the divided them from the festivities. Twin bolts of crimson lightning arched from Tylendel's raised hands to crash into the trees that separated them from the Leshara-kin.
In the deepest pit of his stomach, Vanyel knew that he couldn't let this happen.
Tylendel was screaming, raging at the Leshara. Their revelry had stopped. Vaguely, Vanyel heard women screaming, the sounds of people running, glasses breaking, but it all seemed distant, like he was hearing them from underwater. He pushed up, or tried to, but his limbs didn't want to hold him. The Gate pulled at him, resisting every attempt he made to move. Tylendel raised his hands. Fear, deep and instinctual, shot through Vanyel.
"No! Tylendel! No!"
He stood once and fell, then scrambled to his feet again and half-stumbled, half-crawled towards Tylendel. The short distance felt like a mile. Each step was a force of will, harder to manage than the previous. The Gate tore at him, pulling him backwards like a physical force.
Tylendel didn't seem to be able to hear him. Red light gathered between his hands.
Vanyel tripped. He grabbed for Tylendel, crashing into his lover's back and holding on. Tears stung his eyes. He trembled, not sure what he was afraid of, and that only made the fear worse. Vanyel wrapped his arms around Tylendel, holding as tight as he could. His legs refused to hold him and he slid towards the ground.
"Stop. Tylendel, love, please stop."
Tylendel paused, his mouth open, and turned. There was something wild in his eyes. Power glinted red in his irises, more power than Vanyel could ever hope to possess. He was angry, furious that the Leshara would dare celebrate while Staven lay dead. Vanyel could feel it as if he were Tylendel. All the hurt and rage, all the pain. He ached with the weight of Tylendel's emotion and it was enough to push Vanyel the rest of the way to his knees. Static filled his vision as he collapsed.
The rising tide of Tylendel's anger halted. He lowered his hands. The gathering light faded with Tylendel's anger. Vanyel felt it wash through Tylendel and into him. Another wave of disorientation hit him, and he shivered, trembling as Tylendel slowly turned towards him. Tylendel's gaze followed Vanyel's arm up to where he still had one hand tangled in the tail end of Tylendel's shirt.
"Don't..." Vanyel whispered. It was imperative that he stop Tylendel.
A shadow fell over them, the only warning they had before Evan Leshara was next to him. Vanyel saw the blade seconds before it struck. Something wet and warm ran down Vanyel's fingers, trailing down his arm, and it took him a moment to realize that it was blood, lots of blood, so much that it coated his hand in seconds.
His last thought as he fainted was that the Leshara had finally gotten their wish and killed both of the twins.
Tylendel's world was crashing around him and he felt like he didn't have enough hands to catch all the pieces. Vanyel's eyes rolled back in his head as he fell backwards, sprawling limply on the grass. He looked so pale, so still. One hand pressed against his side where Evan Leshara had stabbed him, holding the wound closed. He reacted instinctively. Red lighting lashed from his palm, knocking Evan back into the trees.
:Tylendel!: Gala's voice hit him seconds before she burst through the gate.
Vertigo hit him all of a sudden and he dropped to his knees next to Vanyel. His head felt light.
:Tylendel, you're bleeding.:
:I had noticed. :
He reached over to shake Vanyel's shoulder. He'd need his help to get them home. At the very least, if Vanyel could get on Gala then Tylendel could hobble home. "Vanyel? Vanyel, sweetheart, wake up." Vanyel didn't respond. It was getting harder to stay awake himself.
:Help is on the way. Savil and Lancir and Jaysen.:
Guilt washed over him as he thought of Savil seeing what he'd done. It only deepened when he thought of what he was going to do, what he would have done, had Vanyel not stopped him. Dark spots appeared in his vision. Vanyel wasn't responding. There was something wrong with him and he had a feeling it was his fault. He looked up as the three Heralds burst through the Gate.
That was the last he saw.
"No!" Kellan charged forward at Savil's scream, bringing them across the field in seconds. She dismounted sloppily and landed on her knees next to the collapsed boys. "Please let them be alive," Savil whispered fervently.
Her hands shook as she reached forward and it was hard to decide who to see to first. Tylendel was laying collapsed on top of Vanyel so she went in order of expediency. There was a lot of blood.
:Lord Evan stabbed Tylendel,: Kellan filled in.
He had a pulse. She moved on, touching her fingers to the side of Vanyel's neck as Jaysen and Lancir approached. :We need to get them back.: For a second she was afraid Vanyel was dead, but then she felt it, a faint flutter of life against his neck. :They're alive, but barely. They need to see the Healers. Jaysen, can you do something about that wound while I see to Vanyel?:
Jaysen and Lancir managed to get Tylendel turned over and a rough bandage put in place while she carefully reached into Vanyel, feeling for what was wrong. He was weak, almost drained, so she filled that void, pouring life back to him until he shuddered and started awake. Vanyel gasped, breathing in a deep lungful, and while his eyes were open he didn't seem cognizant of his surroundings.
"Vanyel?" She snapped her fingers in front of his face. It took him a minute to focus and then he lost it, eyes drifting to a point beyond her head.
:He's out of it. Lost a lot of energy. I can't risk doing much for him until we're back.:
Lancir turned towards the tree line. :I'll stay behind to deal with the Leshara. Hopefully we can get away from this with only a minor political incident.:
:You can't stay here.: Jaysen protested. :How are you going to get back?:
:We'll be fine,: Lancir said, clasping Jaysen and Savil once on the shoulder. :People do manage to get from place to place without Gates, you know. Tylendel and Vanyel need to get back, now. We don't have time to argue over this.:
Savil risked pouring a bit more energy into Vanyel, enough that he finally looked at her with recognition. "Au... aunt?"
She wished she had time to be more gentle with him, but time was the one thing they lacked at the moment. "Come on, Vanyel. You need to stand up." He swayed precariously on his feet and she half-dragged him towards the Gate while Jaysen followed just a step behind carrying Tylendel.
"Do you think you can shift the Gate to come out near the Palace?" Jaysen asked. "I don't like the odds of trying to get a doctor all the way out to the outskirts of the city to tend to Tylendel, or worse, carrying him all the way back."
"I can try."
Their Companions crossed first. Savil and Jayson were only a minute behind. As they walked, Vanyel reached backwards, fingers grasping towards Tylendel. Jayson shifted back slightly, though Savil couldn't tell if it was a conscious move on his part to keep the two boys separate or if he was just adjusting his grip on Tylendel. She had to let Vanyel go to adjust the Gate and he slumped without her support. Soon, the familiar scenes of the Companion's Field appeared before her. Kellan went through first to call for a Healer, Jaysen following quickly behind her with Gala hot on his heels. She lifted Vanyel by the tunic and came through the Gate with him last.
Something went wrong when she tried to close it. The storm surged overhead and it started to unravel faster than she expected. She needed Jaysen's help to control it, and even then it was too much for them. She Saw the surge too late to stop it. Vanyel screamed. He fell to the floor convulsing as the power from the Gate ripped into him. Then, the screaming stopped and Vanyel fell still on the floor, unconscious once more.
Lighting cracked overhead, making them both jump. The brief flash of light lit up the field, showing several mounted and unmounted figures moving towards them across the field. She turned to tell Jaysen and stopped as she noticed something amiss.
Vanyel was gone.
He wanted to die. He deserved to die. Tylendel was dead and it was his fault, because he hadn't been quick enough, hadn't stopped it. All he could think about was how pale Tylendel had been, lying against the stones of the Grove Temple. His clothing had been soaked in blood. Vanyel's, too. He hurt. Every part of him hurt.
When he fell, it was almost too easy to let the water carry him under. He wanted to give in but apparently his body had other ideas. His grasping hands caught hold of one branch and then another. Slowly he made his way to shore. As he lay there, trembling from exhaustion, he thought how terribly unfair it was for him to live when Tylendel was dead.
:He's not dead, Chosen,: a voice in his mind spoke, soft and soothing. :Tylendel is injured and in the Healer's care, but he is definitely not dead.:
Who are you? He thought, convinced in part that his sanity had finally shattered and he was talking to himself. He had seen Tylendel. He knew Tylendel should be dead, like that was the way and the fabric of the world.
:Yfandes, your Companion. You are not insane. Tylendel is alive. Really. Others are coming to help you. You'll see him soon.:
By her urgings, Vanyel crawled further away from the stream. He kept his eyes closed, moving until she allowed him to stop. Vanyel collapsed against her. He wanted very much to believe that Tylendel was alive but he knew he was just fooling himself.
"They found him!" Mardic burst into the room.
Tylendel started to rise from bed and was immediately pressed back down by two sets of hands.
"Oh, no, you don't," Savil groused from the other side of the open doorway, already grabbing her boots and cloak. "You're staying right there and not moving until the Healers say you're well again. Jaysen, make sure he does."
Tylendel wanted nothing more than to rush out of the room and find Vanyel, to hold him again and make sure he was safe. But, between Jaysen and Andrel there was no way he was getting across the room. He opened his mouth to plead with Savil but Gala's words cut him off.
:Tylendel! Vanyel's been Chosen! Yfandes Chose him!:
His jaw dropped and he stared at nothing, too happy, too ecstatic to put words to his joy. "Savil?" He whispered, awestruck. "Savil, Vanyel was Chosen."
She stopped halfway across the room and all eyes in the room turned to him. His smile stretched the corners of the face.
"Yfandes Chose Vanyel."
Andrel was the first to break the stunned silence. "Worry about that later. Get him safe first."
Savil whisked out the door, Mardic and Donni following behind her.
:What does this mean?: He asked Gala. :I thought he wasn't Gifted.:
Andrel wandered into Vanyel's room, presumably to get his bed ready for his arrival, which left Tylendel alone with Jaysen. It was obvious that there was something that Jaysen wanted to ask him, had wanted to ask him since they'd returned through the Gate.
"Why Vanyel?" Jaysen asked after a long moment of silence. "He doesn't seem like your type."
Tylendel smiled. There were a number of emotions simmering in Jaysen's mind but Tylendel purposely did not make the effort to read them. He knew Jaysen's opinions on same-sex relations, though Tylendel had become one of the growing exceptions among them. A lot of people at the Palace would be wondering the same, likely had been since Staven had died but hadn't had the opportunity to ask him.
"You don't know him like I do, or Savil and Mardic and Donni do. The arrogance, our rivalry, that was all a show." He thought back to the days when Vanyel had first come here, before anyone had bothered to see how much he was hurting or how desperately he wanted love. "Well, not at first, but then we had a chance to talk and he opened up to me and... Gods, he was so different, after that. If you'd give him a chance, the real Vanyel, you'd understand. He loves me, almost more than life itself. I can feel it. And I love him too."
Jaysen said nothing to that.
Tylendel relaxed against the bed and closed his eyes. He tried for calm but inside he was a bundle of nerves. No one had mentioned what had happened yet, what they'd done. He'd woken up in his bed with his wound bandaged and mostly healed, under strict orders that he was to stay in bed for at least the next week, resting. He needed to talk to Savil, to explain himself, but he wasn't quite sure how to broach the subject. He'd lied to them, stole from Savil, attacked the Leshara, and nearly gotten both himself and Vanyel killed. It was a wonder they didn't have him in irons, but he likely had Vanyel to thank for that.
All the rage and desperation and hurt he'd felt since Staven's death was gone, and in its place was something brighter. Never again would he let the need for revenge consume him so much that it almost consumed the one he loved. Vanyel had stopped him from making the worst mistake of his life. He would have killed the Leshara. He would have murdered every last one of them, and he hoped that Gala never picked up on that, or learned exactly what spell he'd been memorizing from Savil's book. He owed Vanyel everything, and he would make sure to repay that debt, even if Vanyel hated him, even if Vanyel never forgave him for what he'd done.
With each second, that little light seemed to grow brighter, reminding him of what he had to live for. It was a line, a physical tether, holding him to this world. In a way, it was familiar, though altered some from what he was used to.
Tylendel's eyes snapped open and he sat up again. He knew what it was. Vanyel.
"Help me up."
Jaysen looked at him. "You're not supposed to get out of bed."
He could feel Vanyel approaching. Something was wrong. "I'll go back to bed," he promised, "just get me to Vanyel's room. I need to see him."
Tylendel started to stand. Jaysen grabbed him and for a second he thought Jaysen was going to make him stay in bed. Instead, the other Herald threw Tylendel's arm over his shoulder and helped him limp across the suite. His side burned from where Evan had stabbed him, but he ignored the pain, focusing instead on the growing sense of Vanyel that was coming closer and closer.
Andrel glared at them as they walked in, but before he could say anything, the garden doors burst open.
"Move." Savil commanded, as she and Mardic carried a soaked Vanyel into the room.
Vanyel was still. Unconscious, obviously, though Tylendel could sense a spark of thought there. He knew, somehow, that he could wake Vanyel if he wanted, but he chose not to. His head ached, mirroring Vanyel's own pain, though he sensed he was only getting a fraction of it. Vanyel was quickly stripped of clothing and toweled down before being wrapped up in a night robe and tucked into bed. No one protested Tylendel helping, nor did they say anything when Tylendel crawled in next to him.
Andrel started to examine Vanyel, but Tylendel ignored him for the moment and stared at Vanyel. He was as pale as the sheets, his body cold to the touch from being out in the rain. There was a link between them, much like the one he'd shared with Staven but stronger. He followed it, and ran into something unexpected when he did.
:What are you doing?: Andrel's voice was clear in his mind.
:Did you see?: He asked instead. There was magic in Vanyel, stronger than Tylendel held. :Tell me you see it too.:
Andrel stepped back to get a third opinion from Savil.
"Dear gods," she gasped, and he knew he was right. "No wonder Yfandes insisted he be shielded. Everything but Healing. He's got all the Gifts but Healing."
Tylendel felt the shield around Vanyel. Savil was currently maintaining it, keeping Vanyel's mind contained. He was about to retreat when he felt something else. His magic and Vanyel's were connected. He could feel it. It was so easy for him to move through Vanyel's mind and he could feel, just faintly, the way Vanyel's magic responded for him. He wondered if the link went the other way, if Vanyel would be able to use Tylendel's magic as well. It made sense that he would.
He reached for his own magic and started to raise a shield. He placed it over them, just underneath Savil's. Carefully, he touched Vanyel's magic. It responded for him, blending together with Tylendel's own, their magic swirling seamlessly. He settled back against the bed and took Vanyel into his arms. He still felt cold, but his body was warming slowly under the press of blankets.
Savil was watching him carefully. She let her shield fall. "Dear gods, can this day hold any more surprises?" She dropped bonelessly into a chair next to the bed.
Mardic and Donni shared a glance. Likely they were starting to recognize the signs. Jaysen looked confused.
"What am I missing?"
"They're lifebonded," Savil explained. "Tylendel and Vanyel are lifebonded."
In a way, it was a relief. That meant that Vanyel would have to be assigned to Savil, not that there would be all that much question to begin with. He didn't have to worry about being separated from Vanyel anymore and they didn't have to worry about Vanyel's father trying to take him away. That was, of course, assuming that Vanyel still wanted him. Not even the life-bond could tell him that, not until Vanyel woke up.
He dreamed horrible, horrible things. In his dreams, Vanyel saw things, things he knew should be true, that likely were true but he was too scared to wake up and find out. He saw Tylendel summoning monsters. That niggled in his mind as wrong because he knew, knew with certainty, that he'd stopped Tylendel. Except it felt like he hadn't, and the dreams continued. He saw Gala die, then Tylendel. Their deaths ripped at him and he wanted to scream his grief to the world except every time he did, every time he started to wake, there was a voice there. It was Tylendel's voice, soothing him, telling him that he wasn't dead, that he loved him, that he was there. Then he'd fall back to sleep again, and the dreams would start once more.
Tylendel watched with concern as Vanyel moaned in his sleep. He had caught fractions of Vanyel's dreams. It worried him how close they were to what could have happened. He would have killed himself, and judging from what Vanyel dreamed, he would have tried to follow. Tylendel twined his fingers with Vanyel's and after a few seconds, Vanyel calmed.
They were sitting in the garden, with Vanyel wrapped tight against the cold. Yfandes formed a solid wall behind them, Gala watching them from not far away.
"What's going to happen to us?" He asked Savil. She sat on a bench in front of them, a cloak wrapped around her shoulders to keep off the chill.
Vanyel rolled over in his sleep, curling into Tylendel's lap. Tylendel carded the fingers of his free hand through Vanyel's dark hair.
"We have people looking into the Leshara's involvement in Staven's death. You're lucky that Evan Leshara isn't dead. His attack on you is being forgiven in exchange for forgiving your attack on the Leshara." Tylendel bit his tongue. He wasn't going to fight it. It wasn't worth it.
"What about Vanyel?"
He wasn't getting any better. Tylendel was able to keep him shielded, but that was it. He'd been asleep for days. At least his color was starting to improve.
"I honestly don't know. We've never had to deal with someone who's had their channels blasted open. He needs a Mind-Healer." She looked pointedly at Tylendel. "I'm going to recommend that you see one too, at least to talk."
A pounding from inside the suite interrupted them, loud enough to be heard even from outside. He heard Donni answer it, then a woman's voice. Savil was on her feet instantly, and Tylendel soon found himself face-to-face with Vanyel's sister, Lissa. They regarded each other calmly before she marched towards them to take Savil's place next to the bed. She extended her hand. He took it without hesitation.
"I'm Lissa. You must be..."
"Tylendel. Vanyel's lover." Judging from her lack of reaction, she'd already heard. Rumors of what had happen must have spread pretty far if she'd ended up here this fast.
He wondered how long it would be before they had Vanyel's father pounding at their door. He didn't have long to wait. They'd only just settled down, with Lissa explaining the rumors she'd heard that had sent her racing here to see her brother, when another visitor barged his way through their suite. Lord Withen Ashkevron was every bit the pompous blow-hard that Tylendel had imagined. He felt Vanyel tense in his arms the second he heard Lord Withen's voice. Vanyel was starting to wake.
Savil and Lissa ran interference. The things Lissa said endeared him to the girl instantly, not that there was any doubt that he would like her. He was surprised when Lord Withen actually displayed some real concern for his son. Too bad he was too late in giving it. Vanyel woke as Lord Withen stepped outside. He froze in the doorway, his face turning instantly red as he saw his son curled in Tylendel's lap.
"Don't." Vanyel's voice was weak and scratchy. He slowly pushed himself upright, a wave of gratefulness flooding the link between them as Tylendel steadied him. "Don't say it. I-I know why you're here, and you can just leave."
It was obvious that Lord Withen was making an effort to control his anger. Savil and Lissa flanked him. All it would take was one wrong word and he'd be thrown out.
Lord Withen started to speak. "I just-"
Vanyel cut him off. He stammered with emotion. It was difficult for him to focus his thoughts over the drugs in his system, but he managed an admiral retort. "Y-you heard I w-was playin' ewe to 'Lendel's ram and you couldn't s-s-stand it." Tylendel placed a hand on Vanyel's lower back in reassurance. He could feel the hurt in Vanyel, but it was muted, expected. There was relief there too. Vanyel was glad that they didn't have to hide any more, and glad that his father couldn't hurt him anymore.
Through Vanyel, he could fell his father's thoughts and they weren't kind.
"I love him!" Vanyel shouted back. "A-a-an' he loves me, more than you ever did. I belong h-here, like I never did with you." His voice dropped suddenly, back to a normal tone. "A-all I ever wanted was for you t' tell me I did somethin' right, an' instead you encouraged J-Jervis to beat on me until I had t' hide away because I was afraid he was going to k-kill me."
Lord Withen approached, fist raised. A controlled bolt of force knocked him down, then again, and again. No one moved to help him. When he finally got to his feet he stared at Vanyel, and it was like he was seeing him for the first time.
"Go away," Vanyel pleaded again.
As soon as Lord Withen turned away, Vanyel curled against Tylendel once more. Tylendel held him tight and stroked Vanyel's hair.
"I love you," he whispered in Vanyel's ear.
Vanyel leaned back to kiss Tylendel lightly on the lips. "I know. I love you too."
Tylendel relaxed back into the pool with a sigh. The Hawkbrother Keep was his new favorite place on earth. The hot water eased the tension in his muscles after a long day of instruction. Vanyel was coming along nicely, and Tylendel was even learning a few new things of his own. Moondance and Starwind were excellent hosts, and with their help, he'd been able to get past his issues with Staven's death, if not leave them behind completely.
"Can I join you?"
He smiled as Vanyel approached, and watched appreciatively as Vanyel dropped his robe at the edge of the pool. Relaxation left Tylendel and he leaned forward slightly in anticipation. Vanyel crossed the pool slowly, water playing across his naked skin. He was doing it on purpose, knowing that Tylendel liked watching him like this.
Vanyel slid onto his lap, knees spread wide on either side of Tylendel's hips.
"Hi." Tylendel looked into his lover's eyes with a wide grin.
"Hi," Vanyel echoed back, before winding his arms around Tylendel's shoulders and leaning in for a deep kiss.
Vanyel 's mouth tasted of fruit and honey. Their tongues twirled and in seconds he had Vanyel moaning. Vanyel's hips pushed down against him and it was Tylendel's turn to groan. His hands settled on Vanyel's hips, guiding Vanyel into a bouncing rhythm that had them both gasping against each other.
"Tylendel..." Vanyel moaned as he broke the kiss, pushing away from Tylendel's mouth to trail kisses along Tylendel's neck up to his ear. He nibbled on Tylendel's earlobe. "Please, I need you."
Through the bond, Tylendel could sense Vanyel's need. They'd grown increasingly closer to each other. Partially that had to do with the lifebond, partially from therapy with Moondance that strengthened their relationship. Moondance had been encouraging Vanyel to be more forceful , more expressive of his own needs, and Tylendel found that he liked it.
He let his fingers dip low in the water, teasing against Vanyel's entrance. Vanyel moaned and pushed back against him, his back arching in pleasure. It was beautiful.
"Please... 'Lendel..." He gasped as a finger slipped inside, shoving himself down on it with a needy groan. "I want you inside of me. Please."
He didn't need to be asked twice. There were pots of oil kept by the poolside. Tylendel wasn't sure if they'd always been there, or if they'd been placed there after Tylendel and Vanyel had taken up residence. Given the nature of Moondance and Starwind's relationship, he suspected the former. He encouraged Vanyel to stand. His knees settled on either side of Tylendel's head as Tylendel slipped two slick fingers inside of him.
Tylendel took advantage of Vanyel's position. Opening his mouth, he let the tip of Vanyel's erection into his mouth, sucking slowly. It wasn't enough to bring Vanyel to completion, or really enough to do more than frustrate him further, but that was part of the fun. Vanyel's hands came down hard on the rocks behind Tylendel's head. He was keening, making the most beautiful sounds of want and need that Tylendel had ever heard, and it was hard to make himself pull away.
He guided Vanyel back into the water. Vanyel reached down, fingers grasping Tylendel's erection lightly and together they guided Vanyel's hips down until he was fully seated, Tylendel's erection buried all the way inside of him. They stayed still for a brief moment to catch their breath and then Vanyel kissed him once, light on the lips, before he started to move. It was heaven, the kind of heaven that Tylendel never, ever wanted to give up.
They moved slowly, neither in any particular hurry to get off. He could tell that Vanyel wanted this to last, wanted to feel Tylendel inside of him for as long as possible. He was like that sometimes. Occasionally, he'd ask Tylendel to take him, to fuck him hard and raw so that he was sore for days after. It was his way of reassuring himself that Tylendel was still alive and with him. Tylendel didn't mind because it made Vanyel happy. That, and he sometimes needed that sort of connection too.
Vanyel shivered against him. Tylendel could feel Vanyel's pleasure like his own, so he had warning when Vanyel finally came. The flow of the water carried his seed away from them, down into the channel for run-off and away from the rest of the pools. Even after he was spent, Vanyel kept moving, making soft, breathy moans with each pitch of his hips until finally Tylendel followed him into climax.
They lay entangled in the pool, arms wrapped tight around each other and reveled in the knowledge that they had a chance at building long lives as Heralds together.