Title: Aftershocks (Chapter Two)
Fandom: Heralds of Valdemar
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Characters: Seth Wilshire, Sara Wilshire, Companion Tanay, Companion Chaice, Healer Ryn Lovett
Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; this fic and original characters belong to their author.
Summary: An earthquake rocks Haven, and from the rubble Seth Wilshire is rescued and taken to the Collegium for Healing. There, he must come to terms with the loss of his parents, the sort-of death of his twin sister, Sara, and the fact that not one, but TWO Companions seem absolutely dead-set on Choosing him.
Chapter 2: On Earthquakes and Companions
It took almost two candlemarks worth of work to pull Seth out of the pit he was trapped in. While his rescuers struggled to dig him free and haul him back to the surface, Seth continued to drift in and out. All he was really aware of, though, even when he was awake, was that he couldn't see Sara anywhere and she wasn't answering when he called out for her.
The only thing that kept him from panicking outright at her silence was the fact that he could still feel her in the back of his mind, the same way he had been able to ever since they had been born. She was still there, even though he couldn't actually lay eyes on her. That didn't tell him if she was hurt or not, though.
:It's okay. You're okay, Seth.: The same voice as from before.
What about Sara? Seth asked. He was fighting to keep his eyes from rolling into the back of his head, struggling to stay conscious again and didn't even realize that he hadn't actually spoken out loud.
:Your sister is… fine.: The voice replied, sounding hesitant. He didn't think he believed it entirely, but he wasn't really in any condition to argue, and besides that, the people who were dragging him out of the crater that used to be the stables were finally getting him back up and into the world again.
They heaved him up over the edge of the pit and he half-flopped onto the ground with a groan, the sunlight burning his eyes and the dirt and dust making him hack and cough. One of his rescuers made an offhand comment that he should "get it all out, boy!" and sat him up—he had to be held in a sitting position, as he was too weak to keep himself up—then patted his back until the coughing fit was finished. Both the movement and the smacks to his back made pain lance through his body, but he didn't complain—he didn't have the breath to. He was thankful when they lowered him back down to the ground, though.
The rest happened almost too quickly for him to follow: one minute he was sprawled in the dirt, struggling to breathe, and the next he was being hefted up, one person on either side of him, holding him upright, and half-carried to the street. There he was quickly, carefully loaded into a waiting wagon, laid out on what felt like a straw mattress and covered up with a light blanket. Then the people who had helped him thus far abandoned the wagon once more—and a short moment later it began to move, heading down what was left of the cobblestone road beyond his family's home.
Hoof beats in the front of the wagon he was in echoed in his head, but it was the ones following along behind them that really drew his attention. They were lighter, bell-like and completely different from what he had always known. Seth cracked his eyes open again, his vision blurry, and lifted his head to try to look downward.
:Lay your head back down, Chosen. Rest.:
Despite the confusion-causing concussion and the way his head was spinning, Seth somehow managed to ask another coherent question before he lost the battle and passed out completely: who are you…?
There was a brief pause, then, :Tanay. My name is Tanay.:
He dreamt of nothing—just shadows and blackness and Sara's voice calling out to him from the void. It made him toss in his sleep, limbs thrashing, bandages tightening and catching in the blankets. He didn't register the pain, though, only the desperation in his sister's voice and the fact that no matter how he tried, he couldn't reach far enough into the inky black to find her, to touch her hands and bring her out of the dark.
And then, from nowhere, there was light. It pierced the darkness and cast out the shadows, bright and blinding white, warm and welcoming sapphire—shining salvation and infinite, endless love.
Seth woke to that light, jerking out of the sucking dream-world and back into the land of the living. Groggy at first, he shifted, trying to pull the sheets up farther—and then stopped when pain flared in his side, his ribs screaming at him to stay still, dammit. Groaning, Seth let his arms fall back to his sides and instead blinked a few times until his vision cleared a bit, then looked around himself, disoriented.
The room he was in was small with stone walls and a window in one wall. He couldn't see what was beyond it from where he was, but the sun was shining through the glass, giving the room a warm, faded feeling. The bed he was in was against another wall, and a second bunk was across from his, though it was currently unoccupied. An abstract tapestry in shades of green and brown was hung over the fireplace in the corner.
He was closing his eyes again, exhausted just from casting his gaze around the room, when the door opened abruptly. Half-startled, Seth jumped the slightest bit—and winced at the movement, even as a woman in Healer's Greens bustled into the room. She was carrying a tray full of bandages and bottles and gave a pleased smile when she realized he was watching her.
"Ah, good. Tanay said you were awake finally. Seth, right?" Seth was silent while the woman carried the tray over and set it down on the empty bed. A glass of water was the first thing she plucked from it, and she was quick to stride across the room and offer it to him. "You've been out for two days, you know. We were starting to get worried about you. You hit your head pretty hard, after all."
Still bleary, Seth swallowed, his mouth dry as parchment paper, and swallowed a mouthful of water gratefully when she held the glass up to his lips—then two more a moment later before finally mumbling, "I hit my head? What happened?"
The woman blinked and lifted one eyebrow, her lips compressing into a thin, concerned line. "You don't remember?" Lifting one hand, she pressed it to his forehead and closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again. "There was an earthquake."
Seth frowned, concentrating, and tried to ignore the way his head was throbbing. "I remember… bits and pieces. I was in the stable grooming Stone. Sara was there… and then everything started to shake…" The more he thought the more his head throbbed. "Then I was falling… and Sara…" Trailing off, he shook his head. "I really hit my head that hard…?"
"Apparently." The woman was still looking concerned and turned back to the tray of bottles and remedies, quickly fishing out a small vial of dark green liquid. She brought it over and pressed it to Seth's lips. "Drink. It tastes vile, but it will help with the headache." And when he downed the potion, nearly gagging on it in the process, she finally smiled again, though it was still clearly reserved. "My name is Ryn. I'll be looking after you for the rest of your stay here at Healers'."
Seth immediately and vehemently wished that he hadn't drunk the Green Potion, as it felt very much as if the drink had tried to strip the surface from his tongue. What he could say for it was that it did what Ryn had said it would—his migraine was beginning to fade already. "…wait… there was a wagon… right?"
"Mmhm." Ryn was back going through the contents of the tray again. "Yes, that's how you got here. Of course, Tanay would much rather have brought you in herself, but given your condition that just wasn't feasible." And then, "I have to check your bandages now, Seth."
What followed that statement was a lengthy and intimate examination of his entire body, which, had he not been in so exhausted and in so much pain, Seth probably would have found next thing to humiliating. As it was, he drifted in and out of wakefulness as Ryn checked him over, cleaned his wounds and changed all of his bandages. Now that his head didn't hurt anymore, he was starting to become sleepy again.
During his bouts of consciousness, he quickly learned the extent of his injuries: nearly all of his ribs were broken on his left side, as well as one on his right. His left leg was also badly broken, the bones below his knee shattered. He had apparently landed on that side when he fell—it was his left side that had the most cuts and scrapes, too, though he was bruised all over.
Ryn told him, as she re-bandaged his leg, that they had Healed him as much as they could with Gifts. The rest of the mending was up to his own body. She assured him that his ribs would be good as new in time—and that he would walk again, though most likely with a limp. She also told him that he was lucky to have kept the leg at all—for the first few hours they hadn't been sure that he would, so a limp was getting off easy.
"That should do it for now."
Seth was relieved when Ryn uttered those words, and even more so when the blankets were pulled up around his chest again. His wounds were cleaned and salved, his bandages changed for fresh clean ones. The last thing Ryn did was force him to swallow down another potion—one to help him sleep this time—before she began tidying the room up in preparation to leave.
With the tray in her hands again, she moved toward the door—then paused and looked back at him, tilting her head slightly. "You know, Tanay is out in the garden. Would you like me to open the window for her?"
Tanay—that name again. He vaguely remembered it from before—in Haven. And Ryn had said it earlier, too. Seth frowned in confusion as he searched the fragmented memories of the previous few days, but nothing popped out at him except for a strange, shimmering light and a heavy, important feeling deep in his mind, in his heart, in his very being.
"Who is… Tanay?"
Surprise overtook Ryn's face and her eyebrows jumped upward. "Who is—? Oh, for crying out loud." Shaking her head, she glanced toward the window, then set the tray down again and crossed the room. Pulling the glass pane upward, she propped it open, then leaned the top half of her body out into the garden beyond.
"Tanay!" Her voice had a cross, exasperated edge to it. "Get your shiny white rump over here and explain yourself to this poor boy already!"
As it turned out, Tanay was a Companion. More precisely, his Companion.
The mare followed Ryn's orders quickly—probably spurred on by the irritation in her voice—and even as the Healer was carrying her tray of medicines off out the door, Tanay was sticking her head in through the open window. For a split second, Seth wondered if one of the potions he'd been given was making him hallucinate—or if he was already asleep again and dreaming.
But he did remember a bit—a Voice calling out to him when he'd been trapped in the chasm following the earthquake, and somehow he was sure that he wasn't imagining that. So Tanay had to be real, which was what his heart and soul were telling him anyway, as he met and held her gaze with his own.
:I am sorry I did not come for you sooner, Chosen. If I had arrived before the earthquake…: Her words had a guilty tone to them. :But you survived and I am here now. I am Tanay, as Healer Ryn told you. And you are my Chosen, Seth.:
He had gathered that already, but it was still surreal to hear it said. Swallowing thickly, Seth shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts a bit—he was beginning to feel foggy again as Ryn's last potion started to take effect. "Tanay…"
"Tell me… where my sister is."
There was a vague feeling of surprise from the mare, which was followed quickly by concern, and then a kind of nothingness when she quite obviously clamped down on her Sendings. Seth frowned a little and opened his mouth to ask again, but she interrupted before he could say anything. :We can talk about that later, Seth.: And then there was light, pushing feeling in his head as she nudged him toward unconsciousness. :Sleep for now.:
What… Sara? Is that you?
:Of course it's me. Who else would it be?:
I was starting to think you were gone!
:Gone? Gone where?:
I don't—I don't know, really.
:Well, don't be ridiculous, Seth. I'm right here.:
Of… of course you are.
:Of course I am.:
:I'm always here, Seth. Always.:
To Be Continued