Anyway, it's been years but I'm hoping to get more of this written now that my muses have returned from vacation. :)
Title: Evolution (Prologue)
Fandom: Heralds of Valdemar and X-Men: Evolution
Characters: Heraldic-Trainee Lynna Fulbright, Companion Dessi, Heraldic-Trainee Rio Afton, Companion Vanya, Herald Irish Bakker, Grove Born Stallion Gwydion, Charles Xavier
Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; X-Men: Evolution belongs to it's copyright owners as well; original characters and this fic belong to their author.
Summary: New "Gifts" are cropping up around Valdemar, sending the Haven Council into panic. The only thing the Grove Born can think to do is ask his friend Charles for help. And Charles knows these "Gifts" by another name: Mutations.
Things were changing, and Velgarth would never be the same again.
Worried blue eyes regarded Vanya and his new Chosen solemnly as the boy sat in sullen silence, hidden in the folds of one of the many tree groves of Companion's Field, and the stallion stood over him with a somewhat gloomy expression.
Somewhere around the Field, he was sure Dessi and her Chosen were doing much the same thing – just hiding away from the world and wishing that things could be different. Wishing that they were different. And behind his contemplating gaze, the current Grove Born stallion of Valdemar couldn't really blame them.
:You're brooding again, old man.: Irish's mindvoice had a tint of almost-yellow to it as the woman attempted to joke but didn't quite manage it. As the Monarch's Own Herald, she was among those taking the brunt of the Council's panic and distrust at the currently manifesting situation, along with only a handful of others.
:You'd brood too, if you were me.: He responded, :are you still in Council?:
:Yes. The nobles are bickering again… Lord Weatherford is trying to convince everyone that Rio and Lynna should be kicked out of Haven, if not Valdemar all together.: A pause, and Irish seemed to be frowning. :And half the aristocratic idiots are agreeing with him. Thankfully, Lyra and Kris aren't biting.:
He snorted, demanding; :and what do they propose to do with Vanya and Dessi? They won't leave their Chosen. So should we start exiling both potential Heralds and Companions, just because they're different?:
:I know Dion, I know.:
:Well then,: Gwydion almost wished he was in the Council Room so he could give said nobles a piece of his mind. :Irish, I give you my permission to tell them all how Gods damned stupid they're being. I, for one, will not allow them to banish Rio and Lynna, no matter what excuse they conjure up to do it.:
She seemed pleased that he had stated his view so firmly, as if it gave her own opinion firm ground to stand on, and faded out from his mind with a vague feeling of thanks. For a moment, Dion considered various ways to make Full Council sessions illegal… for Irish's sake, if not for the Monarchs – they were too stressful by far, and aggravated court-butterflies weren't at all fun to deal with.
Besides that, they had been more up in arms than usual lately, so they had been wearing on Irish's nerves (and his own) a great deal more frequently. They problem being, of course, with the New-Gifted children who had begun arriving in Haven only a fortnight before; only two so far, Rio and Lynna, but Dion had it on good authority that a third was on her way.
But damned if I'm going to tell them that before I absolutely have to. His gaze again drifted to Vanya, who had lowered himself to the ground next to Rio. The two of them seemed to be deep in a conversation of some sort, which probably went along the lines of "they hate me just for being me… I didn't choose to be born this way" and "don't listen to them, they don't know you like I do and they're wrong".
They pretty much summed up the situation…
He hadn't even told Irish of the third child yet, and he wasn't sure if he would. It would just drag her into more bickering with the Council, and she was stressed out enough as it was; until Esteban arrived with his Chosen, he would probably just keep a closed lip about the whole thing… though, he thought, he might hold a private conference with just the Companions, since no secret ever escaped their ranks. It would certainly be enlightening to learn how the others viewed the recent influx of problems.
:What problems?: A female mindvoice snapped indignantly, and Dion recognized Dessi immediately. The young mare's mind was practically seething with pent-up anger, and though he couldn't see her with his eyes, he could picture her clearly; head up, nostrils flared, eyes pinned on him, daring him to question her. :I see no problems. Lynna and Vanya's Rio have done nothing wrong, and they never will do anything wrong. They are good, wonderful, sweet people, if a little different, and they are certainly not problems. If the damned Nobles can't see that, then they might as well be wearing blinders.:
:I know, Dessi, and I agree, but you know how stubborn and nearsighted the Courtier breed is.:
:Still. If they don't stop pestering Lynna…: she left the sentence hanging, and then her voice lowered a tone, :and the next Unaffiliated brat who gives her trouble is going to find himself on the wrong side of my hooves, mark my words.:
Ah, the Unaffiliates – the other big problem that had cropped up in conjunction with the New-Gifted. The blue-uniformed students liked nothing better than to pick on Lynna and Rio, and call them out, possibly in the hopes of making them lose their tempers and use their Gifts; that would be dangerous for more than just the Blues, if it happened, particularly in Rio's case. And though the other students – Bardic, Healers, and even the other Heraldic Trainees – didn't join in with their bullying, they did little to dissuade it.
It was something that made Dion's heart ache, to know that even the future-Heralds wouldn't stand up for the newcomers. Of course, there was always the Full-Heralds, as well as the entire local dyheli Herd, the Collegium's resident kyree, and the gryphon family, who would jump to Lynna and Rio's defense in a second if need be. It seemed to be a trait of the non-human citizens of Valdemar to defend those who were misunderstood… probably because they themselves had dealt with the same kind of persecution, in at least a minor degree, upon arrival in Haven.
Dion sighed heavily and let his attention wander around the Field for a moment, drifting from Vanya and Rio to the Terilee, eyes skipping over white hides and the occasional splash of Grey until stopping at the Grove.
And suddenly he remembered, and immediately started toward the Temple that was housed in the middle of the Grove, shrouded by trees and vines – this was where the Death Bell was seated, hanging ominously in the middle of the Temple courtyard. It hadn't rung for months; since the late Queen Selenay's death, in fact, though Dion wasn't about to complain. No ringing of the Bell meant no Heralds had died…
The ground of the Grove was hallowed and mystical, and he could feel the subtle changes in the feeling of the air as he stepped beyond the veil of the foliage. But he was the Grove Born… where most would find the psychic feeling of the Grove humbling, or even unnerving, he found it comforting. Here, and only here, could he truly say he was home.
Once inside, he quickly made his way to the courtyard, and stood for a moment in silence, gaze on the Death Bell. He was thinking about a lot of things, and probably for the first time in weeks, none of his thoughts were on the current problems and the New-Gifted; indeed, he was pondering Valdemar's past, as well as his own.
I've lived through three Heralds. Two in my last lifetime, and one in this one… and now Irish. After Chaviva, he had taken months to find someone else. Months of panic for the Court, of course, which had only been calmed when he went out On Search again – and now they were panicking once more. It seems to be their way. "Gwydion hasn't Chosen! Panic!" "Rio Afton and Lynna Fulbright both have a New Gift! Panic!" "What do you mean we're out of ink?! Panic!" Twits every one of them.
It probably wasn't as bad as all that, but it certainly felt like it at times.
Well, he was going to something about it if it killed him; he hoped it wouldn't, though. So he intended to find someone to help, and the only person he could think of was Charles, whom he had only just remembered because he had happened to look at the Grove; the reason for the association being that the Grove was where his questing mind had first bumped into Charles', and where he went whenever he felt like chatting with his now-longtime friend.
Charles was a teacher and scholar, and a kindred spirit that Dion felt he could confide in, from the very moment they had "met". They had been talking regularly for nearly two months before he had discovered that Charles was from another world… somehow that didn't really surprise him. Just as Charles hasn't been surprised to learn he was having a conversation with a "horse".
And from what he could understand of the man's "Earth", it was similar to Velgarth in a lot of ways, and at the same time nothing like it. Then, the New Gifts began cropping up among the youth of Valdemar, and the scales had been tipped more toward the similar side. From what he'd learned of Earth during their chats, they were currently dealing with the same problem, and it seemed that Charles was somewhat of an expert.
Mutations, he called them. The stallion stamped a hoof, the sound swallowed by the thick padding of leaves and grass in the Grove, and then Reached with his mind, crossing invisible boundaries and searching for- there.
:Gwydion.: He was acknowledged pleasantly, with the calm confidence that his friend always displayed.
:Charles… tell me about Mutants again.:
He had bypassed pleasant chitchat all together, and Charles was predictable surprised by it. The man was quiet for a moment, and Dion flicked his tail restlessly as he waited for the response. He could tell Charles was thinking over his answer, and was willing to be patient; he had learned that patience was the best way to interact with the professor, just as it was the best way for others to interact with himself. Well, that and sarcasm, as Irish had figured out within days of him Choosing her.
:I've told you most that I know, Dion.: Charles finally said, his tone serious and concerned, :why is it that you're asking again? You wouldn't be unless something was wrong.:
Dion hesitated, then tipped his head toward the ground. :We're having troubles here. Big troubles, in fact – Haven is in turmoil right now, as… there have been changes in Valdemar's children lately. New talents and Gifts have begun appearing in the youth, and it's sending the populace – the Nobles especially – into a panic.:
He was thinking again, and that was perfectly fine with Dion, as he didn't mind having some time to think himself. He wasn't sure just what Charles would be able to do to help, but he got the feeling that he would be the only one who could help. Mostly, of course, because he dealt with similar situations in his own world.
The Grove Born shook his head slightly and then turned away from the Death Bell, not wanting to stare at the ominous icon any longer. So he wandered slowly toward the edge of the Grove again, to stand just inside the concealing brush and look out on Companion's Field; his family and friends milled beyond, largely unaffected by the New-Gifted and the trouble that was showing up among the Courts.
In the river, Dessi was standing up to her hocks with Lynna lounging on the bank nearby; they had been obscured by trees before, but from his new vantage point Dion could see them clearly. Unlike Rio, Lynna didn't seem to care what the others thought of her – she enjoyed being different, as well as her connection with the water. Indeed, now the girl reached to dip a finger into the Terilee just in front of Dessi, and a tiny whirlpool wound itself around her digit, tiny splashes of water rising in a small but amazing display. Dessi laughed, watching her talented Chosen with pride.
The mare was proud of Lynna for more than one reason, and not just because of her Gift. The girl wasn't bothered by the taunts of the Blues, or the stares of her schoolmates, and though she was a bit quiet and withdrawn, she didn't suffer from self-esteem problems. She was special and she knew it, and though Dessi worried about her, she was glad the blonde was happy and – for the most part – untouched by the turmoil around her.
Conversely, Rio had gone into his own little world since arriving at Haven. A world where he and Vanya were the only residents, and he was as "normal" as any Valdemarian child. He spent most of his time with his Companion, hiding from the rest of his yearmates, or reading either in his own room or in the deepest corner of the library.
Dion shifted his eyes from the river to the tiny swell of trees where the boy and Vanya were still seated. He couldn't tell for sure, but Rio seemed particularly sad now, as the stallion nudged his shoulder comfortingly and attempted to sooth him-
And then a vague blurring of form, and where the brown-haired boy had been only a blink of time before, an angry hawk fluttered it's wings before shooting a scathing glance at Vanya and taking to the sky to wing silently out of sight. He would be back when he had calmed himself, but still… Vanya sighed and pushed himself to his feet, heading toward the river.
Lynna may be able to cope, but Rio… Dion's ears went back worriedly, and he again probed for the vague like between himself and Charles. :Charles, I'm not sure what to do. There's nothing like this in our history, and even if we figure out a way to train them… just that won't change the minds of the Courtiers and the general populace.:
:Your situation is much like ours, then.: A mental raised-eyebrow. :What can I do to help?:
A short hesitation, then; :how would you and a few of your students like to make a visit to Valdemar, my friend?:
To Be Continued