Title: In Dreams (Chapter Two)
Fandom: Heralds of Valdemar
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Characters: Companion Lyntar, Spirit Avalbane, Spirit Sashara, Spirit Aterya, Brianna Osias, Meena Norcroft, Leshie Rakmour, Heraldic-Trainee Gabriel Maxwell, Companion Niressa, Heraldic-Trainee Mel Truant, Companion Arlam.
Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; characters belong to their creators; this fic and AU belong to their author.
Summary: They are Spirits of the Forest, crystal eyed and white as freshly fallen snow, and seen only occasionally in fleeting glances. They are said to be ethereal, angels of another time and place, bound to the Earth by a spell… or a curse. And it is the destiny of those chosen as Collegium Trainees to search for a Spirit to call their own. Only two or three of each year's Trainees manage it, and those lucky souls have been lifted to a place of honor in Valdemarian society. A place where they are among the elite guard of their Monarch and Country. A place where they can call themselves "Heralds". Now a threat to the Spirits has risen, and thanks to a "Spirit" named Lyntar, things around Valdemar are going to change...
Chapter Two: Everything You Know Is Wrong
Leshie woke to Aimee snuffling in her hair and the sound of hooves on cobblestones, approaching from down the road. Instantly, she was sitting up and shoving the palfrey's nose out of the way, already reaching for her rapier, which was carefully lying next to her bedroll.
Her heart was instinctively in her throat, her fears of bandits coming to the surface of her mind, though they were completely unbidden. Once her hand was clamped on the hilt of her sword, she felt minutely better, though, and when she was on her feet instead of sitting, better still.
Her eyes went to Aimee, though her ears remained trained on the sounds of the approaching rider, and her heartbeat immediately began to return to normal—the horse wasn't remotely upset. Indeed, she was standing calmly, her tail swishing, taking the occasional mouthful of grass and in general being amiable.
Her trust in animals made Leshie relax, though she wasn't completely off guard. She had been raised around horses, after all, and from her experience they could tell danger was coming when it was still far, far away.
Aimee wasn't worried, so she probably didn't have to be either, and again, Leshie was glad she had the palfrey with her. Though she kept her hand on the sword, she returned to the ground, sitting cross-legged now, and listening intently as the hoof beats drew closer. They had an odd ring to them, lighter and more musical than any she had heard before, even among the highly sought and perfectly bred palfrey horses of the Rakmour stables.
There's no wagon, so it couldn't be a Clydesdale or any other heavy breed. Maybe a thoroughbred, but it doesn't sound like any I've ever heard. Certainly not a palfrey... Tilting her head to the side, she went through the rolodex of horse breeds in her head, but couldn't pinpoint the sound of the hooves. I guess I'm not the horse expert I thought I was...
The single rider—at least she was sure of that much—was approaching from the direction she had ridden, and she had to wonder why anyone would still be traveling, in the dead of night. Certainly no one would want to do so, unless they had somewhere urgent to be…
What if… Panic suddenly flooded her veins again, and she leapt to her feet for a second time, this time scrambling to strap her scabbard to her side. My family… it might be them, and I can't let them find me, or—
At the horizon, barely visible because of the shadows of the trees, the rider appeared, and Leshie paused again, her frantic attempts to escape slowing when she realized that none of the horses at the Rakmour Holdings were that wonderful, shining shade of silver-white.
Nor, she noted as it drew closer, did any of them have such beautiful blue eyes—
She blinked semi-blankly when the realization sunk in, and was still standing, staring in surprise when the Herald and his Companion stopped in front of her, looking at her curiously. When she didn't utter so much as an eep to recognize their arrival (though Aimee raised her head from the grass to regard them with huge doe eyes), they seemed to exchange glances, and the Herald cleared his throat.
"Huh?" The sound brought Leshie back to reality, and she realized she was still clutching a half-buckled scabbard, staring, without blinking, at the brilliant and ethereal white former-Spirit that had paused on the road only a few feet away. "Oh, uh…"
The Herald raised an eyebrow, "are you alright?"
After another moment of tongue-tied silence, Leshie managed; "uh… yeah. Yes, I'm fine, Herald…"
"Gabriel." He supplied, then tipped his head to the side. "Are you waiting for someone?"
"No. Just… sleeping."
What was wrong with her? She was saying the stupidest things she had ever said in her life! Her mind cringed at the thought that she probably sounded like the airheaded court-dwellers she so despised. Still, she had never been so close to a Companion before… sighing, she shook her head, even as Herald Gabriel gave her an odd look.
"Well, I was." She clarified, her hands automatically moving to finish buckling her rapier to her hip, "but I woke up when I heard you coming. That, and Aimee poked her horsey nose into my face."
Gabriel chuckled, then; "may I ask why you're sleeping on the side of the road?"
"I have nowhere else to sleep," Leshie shrugged, trying to look as if she didn't care either way. "I'm on my way to Haven, and didn't manage to reach an inn before the sun went down."
"Ah." He hesitated, absently rubbing at the reign that was hooked into his Companion's hackamore—Leshie noted with interest that it was not a bridle, and in no way confined her—before offering; "we were just heading up the road. There's a waystation there, if you'd like to join us." Pausing, he added; "it would be much safer than sleeping in the open like that."
Leshie considered. She had been dong fine, but still had her doubts about camping on the road. Besides, she knew that Heralds could be trusted. If they couldn't, they wouldn't have been chosen to train, never mind Chosen by a Companion. She glanced up at the Herald, and her eyes drifted to the Companion and back to him once more.
She could trust them, she was sure of it.
And Aimee was even more relaxed than she had been before their arrival, so…
Her horse's seeming acceptance of them sealed the deal, and she nodded shortly, after which Herald Gabriel instantaneously slipped from his Companion's back and landed lightly on the ground to help her gather her sleeping roll and other miscellaneous things.
Leshie found herself smiling at his presence.
It had obviously been far too long since she was in the company of an actual person, as opposed to the oh-so-wonderful courtiers and politicians that her family had cavorted with all of her life. In fact, the Herald reminded her of Finlay for some strange reason that she couldn't really ascertain.
:Bri, just come down, please?:
Ignoring the tired-sounding plea, Bri clamped her pillow over her head and shut her eyes tightly. Beyond the window of the bedroom she shared with three of the other girls in the brothel, the ghostly shape of a Spirit—no, a Companion now—stood in the path of a moonbeam, staring up at the shutters, his crystal eyes showing his frustration and annoyance as he attempted to talk some sense into the girl he had just Chosen.
:Look, I'm not leaving until you come down.:
Bri wished vehemently that the stallion would just go away, and she wasn't sure why.
He couldn't just waltz into her life, dazzle her into submission and then expect her to follow him obediently!
:Do you want me to camp out here? Because I will!:
She wasn't sure. In fact, she was about as confused as she could possibly be, and the nagging mental voice wasn't helping her work things out. Instead, it was just making things more complicated for her, as the feeling of being wanted… of being loved… really loved… for the first time in years—it echoed in her head along with the words that the Companion was speaking.
:Okay, fine.: Stamping a hoof angrily, Lyntar planted his feet firmly in the ground, the effect of which was to give off an air that would have made any onlookers think immediately of a stubborn mule. :I'm making myself comfortable now!: Not quite the truth, but not really a lie either as Companions could sleep just as well standing as they could lying down. :I'm just going to stay here and bask in the moonlight and wait, and then when you have to get up and go out tomorrow I'll be here, just staring back at you, and then—oh, will you feel silly!:
That part, he doubted, as she was still ignoring him and it was actually him who was feeling distinctly foolish. Not that he intended to go anywhere, because, feeling foolish or not, he wasn't leaving until she was seated firmly on his back.
She's just as stubborn as me.
The thought was simultaneously amusing and embarrassing, and he shook his head, his mane flopping from one side of his neck to the other, then flicked his tail and looked around. His survey of the surrounding area proved to yield—well, nothing. It still looked the same as it had two candlemarks before, when Bri had dashed from the forest to her room, slammed and locked the door, and adamantly refused to come out.
He was a bit confused by her reaction to his Choice.
Just a tiny bit.
Blowing a breath out of his nose, he turned his eyes back to the window, and decided to try again; :Bri, what's wrong? You don't want me? I Chose you because… because we fit, and there's no one else…:
Abruptly, the shutters swung open, and before he could unlock his legs and step to the side, a bucketful of water sloshed from inside the inn to splash down on his shoulders, soaking him from forelock to fetlock and leaving him sputtering quite indignantly.
:What in the nine hells—?!:
"Listen, you!" Bri's voice called in a harsh whisper from the now-open window, as he attempted to see her past his mane, which was plastered to his forehead and getting rather annoyingly in the path of his vision. "You can't just… just show up and turn my life upside down… and… you can't!" Flustered, she slammed she shutters closed again, leaving Lyntar to stare after her in amazement.
What had just happened?
Behind the again-closed shutters, he could hear vague muttered complaints from the other occupants of the room, and had to assume that the three other girls had gotten a confusing and somewhat rude awakening when the shutters had been thrown open. They probably wanted to know what Bri had thought she was doing.
He knew how they felt.
Snorting to her the water out of his nostrils, he snuffled for a moment and then shook to get at least some of the water from his hide and hair before settling again and gazing up at the window once more.
She obviously wasn't planning on coming out any time soon.
Lyntar wondered how many more buckets of water she had in store for him, but even though he dreaded what may happen, he tentatively reached his mind out and touched hers once more.
Confusion and angst, predictably, reigned in her thoughts.
:Can I ask you something?:
A long pause, followed by, not mindspeech but something very similar; what?
:Why don't you want to leave? You hate your life here.:
Though the words weren't actually there, he got a complex sending of feelings and images, indignation prominent among them, and knew what her response was without her having spoken it; that isn't the point.
:Listen… I can take you away from here. To the Collegium in Haven, and you'll never have to sell yourself again, for any reason. You'll have real friends… and you'll have me.: Along with that, he sent a pulse of something akin to love to her. :I'm not going anywhere, so think about it, okay? Just think about it.:
It was the best answer he could hope for, given the circumstances, and he sighed. :Goodnight, Chosen.:
It was going to be a very long night indeed.
She loved the outdoor air, and the air in the Pelagiris seemed to be the best of all. Whether she was approached by a Spirit on her Hunt or not, Mel Truant was determined to make the most of the excursion, and had no intention of doing anything other than enjoying herself.
In fact, the Hunt be damned! If a Spirit came to her, all the better, but she wasn't about to go out of her way trying to find one. From what she'd heard, they were thinking, coherent, rational and sentient beings. Let one search for her if it wanted her so badly.
Pleased with her decision, Mel crossed her arms behind her head and started up at the stars, letting her mind wander over the previous months, leading to her Hunt in general. Mostly, she was trying to decide what she was going to do when she went back to Haven—she hadn't seen her family in a while, so she might go and visit them.
Or, since she had all the training already, she might see about joining up with the Guard and getting shipped out to the border to see about keeping the Karsites from getting their greedy fire-loving hands on anything belonging to Valdemar… now that was a good idea! She was about due for an adventure or two, after being cooped up in the Collegium for so long.
The stars twinkled merrily, agreeing with her.
Her arms uncrossed, and she absently toyed with the dagger from her belt. It was a habit she'd had for as long as she could remember, and had probably begun the day she'd been given the knife in the first place.
If I go to the border, there's no guarantee I'll see action.
Her lips pursed, and her mind traversed to paths to her other main option, and one that she had considered quite a few times in the past. Her mother was a mercenary, after all… what was wrong with her being one, too?
Mel grinned despite herself.
As a merc, she would get all the action she wanted, and get paid for it as well. It seemed like a good plan, though one that may have been a bit harder to put into action than the one that involved the Valdemarian Guard: to be a successful mercenary, the first thing you needed to do was build a reputation, and that would be the hard part. Especially as she was a girl. It was always harder for girl.
Damnable male-oriented society.
For a moment, she stewed in that thought, then snorted and banished it, going back to playing with her dagger and thinking, though now she began carving initials into the trunk of the tree she was camped under.
She'd be a part of the forest forever, now.
A truly interesting idea.
:You know,: a voice said abruptly, sounding in her head and making her drop her knife in surprise, :I really don't think the tree appreciates it's new tattoo as much as you seem to.:
Mel glanced around warily, but saw no one. "Who's there?"
To the right, a silver blur manifested from the shadows, and the horse-shaped being regarded her curiously. :I have never understood you humans and your fascination with claiming things…:
"Well what do you know." With a semi-smirk, Mel tucked her knife back into its rightful place on her belt and gave the Spirit an appraising look. It stared right back, but seemed a little surprised when she wasn't immediately awe struck at Its presence. "So I guess you're one of those Spirits, right?"
:As far as I know.:
"Do you all have a sense of humor, or is it just you?"
:Some of us do.: It informed her pleasantly, :though there are times that I would wonder about that statement.:
"Ah." Shrugging, Mel scooted back a foot or two and dug in her pack for a moment, searching for—with a triumphant noise, she pulled a cloth-wrapped package from beneath a spare tunic, and opened it to reveal a half-loaf of bread, along with some cheese. She glanced up at the Spirit as she pulled a chunk of the bread off. "You probably don't eat bread, right?"
:Really, I don't know. I'm not sure about Haven, but there are no such things as bread trees out here, and you really don't want to see something with hooves try to operate a baking oven.: Pausing, It added; :basically, my diet consists of grass and… well… actually it just consists of grass.:
"So you're a vegetarian."
:It probably has something to do with being a horse.:
Mel nodded and chewed a bit of bread thoughtfully. "Feel like trying something new?"
Its tail flicked and Its ears turned forward as It eyed her food. :If I go over there, will I be safe or will you try to carve your name into my rump with that wonderful knife of yours? I only ask because blood is incredibly hard to get out of silver hair.: He continued with, :especially if you have no hands.:
She shrugged again. "I guarantee nothing."
Mel got the idea that It didn't really care if she carved It up or not, and judging by the curious and intent way It was watching her eat, she figured It was probably just about dying of curiosity. She was proven right when It sniffed experimentally and then wandered forward—nonchalantly, yeah right—until It was standing next to her.
Without a word, she broke another hunk of bread from the loaf and held it up, not even glancing at the Spirit as she did so. The only reason she knew It took the tidbit from her was because one second it was there and the next it was gone. Also, she could hear It chewing experimentally.
"You don't like it?"
:I didn't say that…:
Silently, Mel held up another piece. "I'm Emeli Melquiades Truant, by the way."
:I'm Arlam.: It—he, she supposed—told her, still munching quite happily and sounding more than a bit distracted as he continued with a statement that made her raise an eyebrow sardonically. :Did I mention that I Choose bread?:
Lyntar's head drooped and his eyes closed for a moment, then he jerked himself awake again with a snort to continue his vigil outside of the "inn". Privately, he couldn't believe the man who ran it would have the nerve to call it that—it gave the impression that it was a respectable establishment, which, he very adamantly assured himself, it most certainly was not.
Sighing, he shifted his weight and glanced toward the still-tightly-shuttered window. When he had asked Avalbane to cover for him, he hadn't expected to spend more time waiting for a stubborn human to actually think about the situation she had currently in then he did finding her in the first place. He wondered briefly if the Elders had realized he was gone or not.
I should check, just in case. He stamped restlessly, and Bri doesn't show any signs of even considering coming out of there any time soon, so it's not like I've got anything better to do…
He was also insanely bored, which only gave him further motivation to contact his friend and ask about the Elders, and after only a moment's more consideration he reached with his mind and, when he found Avalbane's consciousness, poked it rather unceremoniously, making the other stallion utter a string of curses that spanned several different human languages.
:Why Val,: he said, snickering, :did you kiss your mother will that mouth when you were a human?:
Avalbane's response carried a mixture of annoyance and surprise, the later of which was left over from Lyntar's abrupt appearance in his head. :You jackass, I've never been a human in any of my lives and you know it.: Lyntar could just see him shaking his head. :Bright Lady, Lyn, you scarred me witless… where are you, anyway?:
:Doesn't matter.: Lyntar replied, probably too swiftly for Avalbane's liking, but he was less than enthusiastic about the idea of anyone knowing exactly how to find him. :Have the Elders started after me, yet?:
:I don't think so, but I don't think they believed me when I said I hadn't seen you "lately".: The Spirit's mindvoice had taken on a somewhat dry tone by the end of that particular sentence, and Lyntar sent him an apologetic feeling, after which he continued; :Aterya came by to ask about you, and when I told them that both he and Zeshawn took off. Brasen and Mattias didn't go with them, but I think if the other two don't find you soon they'll probably join in the hunt for you.:
:Beautiful.: Lyntar groaned.
All four of the Elders were after him now, which was the equivalent—as far as the Spirit and Companion communities were concerned—of having the Gods hounding at your heels. He had expected them to be angry, but not so angry that all four of them might be prepared to leave the Pelagiris and to chase him down.
On the up side, they had yet to sick the entire Spirit population on him.
Not that it won't come down to that if they think it has to. He thought, then, :alright. Just wanted to check, so—:
"I'm ready to go now."
At the other end of the temporary mental link he had established, Avalbane gave a sense of confused blinking, but Lyntar ignored him when he asked what the problem was, instead choosing to stare in surprise at Brianna, who had, miraculously, appeared in front of him while he was chatting with the other stallion.
"Very intelligent." Bri told him sarcastically, rolling her eyes. She was holding a makeshift cloth bag, which looked to me made out of a sheet—or possibly a tablecloth—and now she crossed her arms. "I thought about what you said, and even if I'm not happy with you just showing up out of nowhere and expecting me to go with you, I think I'd take anything over this place, and that includes an obnoxious talking horse."
:Obnoxious?: Lyntar repeated weakly.
She fixed a steady glare on him. "So let's go before I change my mind."
Considering the first few moments of their relationship, during which she had stared at him in shock, then shrieked and run off as if demons were licking at her heels the entire way, she really could be… forceful… when she wanted to. And that fact had taken the Companion completely off-guard, sneaking up when he wasn't looking and, well, throwing a bucket of water on him, for one thing.
Bri was still eyeing him semi-suspiciously, and his eyes flitted around as nervousness set it. He had Chosen her, because in his mind he had known she could help him, and the Choice had just felt right, and now he was beginning to wonder if his judgment had been—uh—premature. Certainly, he was very quickly coming to the conclusion that he was going to avoid getting on her bad side, thank you very much.
:Uh… Lyn? Are you okay? What's going on?:
:Val?: Lyntar had completely forgotten about his friend, having been too busy being shocked by Bri's abrupt and unexpected change of heart. Now, Avalbane's mind was poking at his in an attempt to ascertain whether he was alright or not. :I'm… fine… I need to—:
A sudden feeling made him pause, and even though Avalbane's questioning continued and Bri still glared at him, he focused on… Gods. He recognized the feelings he was getting, and definitely recognized the minds from which they were coming. Aterya and Zeshawn.
"Are we going or not?"
:In a minute, Bri!: He snapped, making her blink. He hadn't meant to sound so harsh, but there were more important things for him to deal with at that particular moment. :Val! I thought you said the Elders weren't coming after me yet!:
:They… aren't.: Avalbane sounded confused. :Why—?:
:They are.: Lyntar corrected crossly, :but I think I've got enough of a head start that I can get to the Collegia before they catch me.:
He didn't have time to continue to chat with the Spirit, whether he was an old friend or not, and slammed his Shields into place to block Avalbane from his thoughts. At the same time as he was going that, he stepped forward and less than gently shoved Bri in the direction of his back. He didn't know if she could ride without a saddle—he didn't know if she could ride at all.
I guess I'm about to find out.
"Hey! You don't have to shove me, I'm moving as fast as—"
:Would you just get the hell up onto my back?!:
Though she wasn't pleased with the situation in general, the urgency in the Companion's voice seemed to get through to Bri, as she hurried to scramble onto his back and attempted to settle herself without the aid of a saddle to sit in or reigns to grasp. She hadn't ridden a horse in quite some time—since Hail, actually—but she figured she would get the hang of things relatively quickly once they actually got—
The utterly childish scream sounded when Lyntar spun quickly, nearly throwing her from his back in the process, and raced away from the brothel, his hooves connecting roughly with the hard-packed dirt of the yard and then ringing loudly on the cobblestone road that would, eventually, lead them to Haven.
The waystaton was a lot more comfortable than the ground, Leshie decided, as she stared vaguely into the fireplace, where flames licked at a the few chunks of wood they had tossed in nearly a candlemark before. Across the tiny building, Gabriel was digging through the supplies that were stocked in barrels along the wall, trying to find something to cook for them to eat.
Leshie had tried to convince him that cooking for her wasn't necessary, but after he found out she hadn't eaten since the prior morning, he had insisted. Now, she was trying to decide if she was going to ask him about his uniform or not: he wasn't wearing the Whites that she was sure—or, relatively sure—were normal for Heralds. Instead, he was clad in a pale silver-gray color.
Why would a Herald be wearing gray instead of white?
Her lips pursed and she sighed softly, casting a glance toward the doorway. There was no actual door in it, though, and beyond it she could see Gabriel's Companion grazing silently in the patch of grass that served for a yard. Aimee was tethered nearby so she wouldn't wander off, though Gabriel had assured her that if she did the Companion would bring her back, or at least tell them so they could do it.
"Well," finally the Herald sat back on his heels and turned to look at her. "I think we're stuck with oat porridge, but at least there's some dried apple to add to it." Leshie opened her mouth to say something, but he didn't let her speak. "And don't even think about saying you don't need to eat, because you do." He grinned, "besides, I haven't eaten today, either, and I'm hungry even if you aren't."
"Hn." She shrugged, "fine."
Satisfied that he had dissuaded her arguments, he set about pouring water into a pot and hanging it over the crackling fire, and Leshie returned her eyes to the open doorframe and the ghostly shape beyond. "Can I ask you something?"
"What?" He looked up abruptly, causing his pale brown hair to fall into his eyes, "uh, sure."
"Why aren't you in your Whites?"
He laughed at that, making Leshie look at him in surprise, and his green eyes sparkled as he replied. "Probably because I don't have them." And at her bewildered expression, he shook his head, "I'm not a Herald yet… I'm just on my way back to Haven from my Hunt, and that was where I met Niressa. She just wandered up and introduced herself… which reminds me," he tipped his head to the side, and though he had been dicing the dried apples into pieces, his hands slowed, "I still don't know your name, do I?"
"No?" Leshie couldn't remember telling him her name, now that she thought about it, but somehow it hadn't seemed important. And, truth to tell, if he hadn't offered his name when they had first met she probably wouldn't have thought to ask for it, either. "I'm Leshie Rakmour."
"Gabriel Maxwell," he grinned and went back to working on the food, "and my Companion is Niressa, like I said."
"The horse is Aimee." She said vaguely, though it was an unimportant detail.
"She's lovely. I can definitely see why the Rakmour horses are so popular." There was a moment of silence as he added oats and apple bits to the now-boiling water, and then arranged himself cross-legged beside her in front of the hearth. "So tell me, Leshie Rakmour, why are you and Aimee heading to Haven?"
She had been keeping her plans to leave for Haven a secret for so long that she surprised herself when she stated the truth simply and without hesitation; "I'm going to join the Guard. Aimee's just along for the ride."
"A strange thing to say about a horse." Gabriel chuckled.
Leshie half-agreed, but figured it wasn't worth saying, so instead she remained quiet, still staring at the fire, above which the oat porridge was beginning to smell remarkably good. She must have been hungrier than she had originally thought. She glanced to the side at Gabriel for a moment, then caught herself and jerked her attention away.
Gabriel regarded her with amusement.
He was handsome, she decided, but a lot different from the boys she'd known at the Holdings. All of them either had the intellectual prowess of a mushroom or were, as with the women, completely brainless. Gabriel seemed particularly down to earth, which was probably what reminded her of Finlay. He had been well grounded as well.
"You know, I think I know some of your relatives."
"Huh?" She wasn't really surprised. The Rakmour name was fairly famous. Or infamous, depending on your outlook on it. "A lot of people know my family."
"My older brother."
"Ah," he nodded, "he was a couple of years ahead of me in the training."
"Yeah. He's got a Companion now. He'll be a Herald soon."
"Who's his Companion?"
"I think I know her… does she have a foal?"
"Lewa." Leshie nodded, "she's a year old."
Gabriel smiled, "I was on foal-watch when Lewa was born. She's cute."
"Yes," Leshie agreed vaguely, "she is."
He regarded her with a slight frown and a bit of concern. "Is it just me, or do I sense bitterness when you talk about Broderick and Kitoko?" When she didn't reply, he wisely dropped the subject and went to check on the porridge. "I think this is done, if you'd get some bowls from the bin over there—"
She was more than happy to comply, as it gave her something to do to keep her mind off of… things. And while she rummaged through the bin he had directed her toward, she contemplated the oddness of… well, to be perfectly honest, her comfort. Up until he had asked her about her brother and his Companion (and her foal) she had been quite relaxed. She felt safe, which was nice considering she hadn't really felt that way since she had left the Holdings.
I'm glad for his company. She realized as she handed him the bowls, as well as spoons, that she had dug out, and then accepted a bowl of the plain but nourishing gruel he had concocted. It's probably because he reminds me so much of Finlay.
As they ate, another companionable silence fell.
I wonder how Sibley and Dolli are doing?
The thought of her younger siblings sent her mind off in yet another direction—Sibley had been gone for two years, and Dolli had left only the previous spring, and since they had yet to complete their training, neither of them had managed to make it home for a visit since they'd left. Broderick, at least had managed to get permission to go home for Midwinter. Granted, it had only been once before he'd been Chosen, but he seemed to be able to visit more often now that he was through with his Hunt.
That was both a blessing and a curse, as Leshie enjoyed seeing him… but at the same time, seeing him with Kitoko made her only too aware of her shortcomings, whatever they were, that had kept her from being taken into the Collegium herself.
"Your brother and sister…"
Leshie frowned and looked up from her porridge when Gabriel murmured the words under his breath. "Sorry?"
He shook his head, "you're sort of broadcasting your thoughts. Something about your younger brother and sister…"
"Just wondering how they are. I haven't seen either of them since they were taken into the Collegium for training." She played with her spoon, swirling it into the porridge and absently as Gabriel's head cocked and his eyes took on a vague look as he, she thought, conversed with his Companion. At least she knew that much from Broderick and Kitoko. "So what does Niressa have to say?"
He looked surprised, "how do you know—"
She could help but grin at his bewilderment: "I do have a older brother who's going to be a Herald."
"Oh yeah. Uh… she says that Sibley is the top of his class in History and Dolli…" he laughed, "she can't ride a horse worth a damn, but she's determined to learn no matter how many times she falls off. Niressa hopes she manages it before she goes out on her Hunt, because she really feels like she'll be Chosen."
Somehow, it made her feel better to know that things hadn't changed that much with them since they'd gone.
"Tell her I said thanks."
"Well," keeping hold on the bowl that contained the remains of her dinner—which was taking place far after midnight, incidentally—she stood and headed for the door. "I'm going to check on Aimee before I go to sleep. Do you think Niressa would like some porridge?"
"Probably." Gabriel agreed pleasantly.
As she vanished out the door, Niressa was already picking up her head and pacing over at the idea of a treat.
And Leshie was very much glad that she didn't have to travel alone anymore.