by ardavenport

- - - Part 9

Onie squared her shoulders, looking straight ahead. Lillis looked back at her from the Companion's Field end of the bridge.

Laying a hand on the stone railing, she took a step onto the bridge. She felt light-headed, her head pounding.

She took another step.

Her heart pounded faster and she leaned on the railing and she imagined the stone crumbling away and letting her fall. Lillis whinnied encouragement.

One more step.

She trembled and felt just a little bit sick, but she held her place for a full count of ten. Then she backed up. One, two, three steps. She was on solid ground again and could breathe free. Lillis clip-clopped across the bridge to her, hooves subtly chiming on the stone. She stood with her shoulder touching so Onie could lean on it.

Three steps. It was something. But she could climb up to the second floor of the Collegium, count to ten and then come back down before really feeling sick. She supposed that the bridge was so much harder because it was high off the ground and over water. Healer Luba was convinced that if Onie practiced every day, doing a little bit more each time with her stair-climbing and riding, she would eventually be able to do everything a regular Herald did. So, Onie would keep practicing every day; she just wished it would go faster.

Lillis lowered her head, touching her nose to Onie's new gray boots.

"Aye." She picked up a foot. "They fits good, too. Real riding boots."

Lillis lifted her head and mouthed the white leather pouch around her neck. Onie pulled it away from her.

"Aaay! I'll show you."

She slid the new pair of spectacles out of their pouch and put them on. Instantly the world changed. All the lines of distant buildings became clear and sharp. She could see leaves on trees and recognize faces from across a courtyard. Luba had given them to her that morning.

Lillis shook her head up and down in approval.

"Aye. Everythin's beautiful." Onie grinned. The best part about her new sight was that even if these spectacles were stolen or broken, she would get another pair. They were already making a spare set for her to keep in her room. She looked down, feeling the smooth white leather of the pouch. Luba had said that Onie was going to be a Herald someday. Onie thought the white pouch was a little premature, but she didn't mind, especially since she had gotten past the first week of her training. There was history and Valdemar law and Heraldic duties and an Orientation class and others. With the studying for those, plus riding, weapons work and her chores, Onie's days were quite full.

She took her new spectacles off. "Not used ta havin' somethin' on me face all tha time, an I have ta take'em off fer readin' or sewin', cuase I kin see close fine without'em," She held them out for Lillis to see before putting them back on. "An Captain Kerowyn tells me ta take'em off fer fightin' if I don'ts have ta have'em ta see so they won't get broke." Captain Kerowyn had also declared her fit for archery practice now that she could see properly.

It was the lax day in the week, so she had no classes, but Onie was looking forward trying her new spectacles out in class tomorrow. For now, she and Lillis walked together in the general direction of the barn. Even if there were no classes they still had their riding to do. More practice. The most important practice for Onie, because as soon as she learned to ride properly the sooner Lillis would be able to run with her.

When they got to the barn Onie went to get Lillis's regular tack. She always took care of Lillis's needs if she didn't have to run off to a class or something.


She looked up from the buckles.

Saston, looking like a properly energetic little boy in his Grays and not the scared scruffy urchin she had met when they both first arrived, came toward her, dragging an older boy in work clothes.

"This is my cousin, Barro. He's a stable-boy here now!" Saston grinned broadly while Barro remained a bit reserved though his smile was genuine enough.

"Ye likes stable work, aye?"

Barro nodded, "Better'n mill work for sure, Ma'am."

"I worked in a stable fer two years, me and me brother. It's good if ye likes horses." Lillis bumped Onie with her nose. "An Companions."

Saston giggled. Onie wondered how Barro's parent's felt about his new job and his new home apparently, but she let Saston bring it up.

"He has to sleep here since he has to be up so early in the morning. An," he paused, clearly trying to think of the words he needed next, "he's got to go home sometimes to see my aunt and uncle," he added, "An Uncle Sev says that he's happy that I got Chosen and Barro works in the palace now . . . " Words failed the boy.

Onie finished the thought for him. "But ye don'ts think so." She smiled, an idea forming. "Y'know if I goes with him, on account we're friends an all, then you can come with me, and you an him can ride an Capar, an I'll be with Lillis. An I kin tell if yer uncle is bein' truthful."

"You can?"

Onie nodded, "I may have a lot 'o trouble with some things, but I kin always see a lie. An make sure yer aunt and uncle behave themselves." She was also learning how to fight as well.

"Thanks!" Saston gave a little hop. Barro now grinned, clearly seeing the advantage of having an adult and his cousin and Companions accompany him. Her presence would discourage Sev from being rough with either his son or nephew. The Guards could be called since any kind of attack on a Herald-Trainee was a crime against the Crown. But only after the damage was done. Barro had just started, so his next visit home wouldn't be until the next lax day.

Saston promised to tell her when they would go and then the two boys ran off out of the barn to find Capar. Onie turned back to her own Companion to find Lillis looking at her.

"Ye don wants ta go?" Lillis did not look at all interested in gong to see Saston's difficult family. "Well," Onie speculated. "We could all jus ride on Capar. Those boys are pretty small, I'm sure Capar would na mind."

Lillis's eyes opened wide with surprise, then she shook her head.


She shook her head again with a whinny.

Onie grinned back. "Don tell me na lies."

# # # - # # # END # # # - # # #

Disclaimer: This is a derivative fiction of the Valdemar Universe under Creative Commons license. No measurable monetary profit or compensation for this writer, but lots of fun (which is really what fanfiction is all about anyway). The Valdemar Universe belongs to Marcedes Lackey.