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On the Hunt: In the AU universe that In Dreams takes place in, there is no such thing as Companions going On Search. Instead, after several years of training (the number of which vary, depending on the circumstance) in the "general" classes (history, geography, law, religions, etc.) anyone who is a Collegium Trainee then goes into the Pelagiris Forest on their Hunt. This is a two-week camping trip of sorts which tests their knowledge of geography, as well as survival techniques, and if some time in those two weeks they are approached by a Spirit and Chosen, they become Heraldic Trainees and return to the Collegium for advanced law, equestrian and weapons training, as well as Gift training. At that point, the Spirit who Chose them becomes what they call a Companion. If said Collegium Trainees are not Chosen by a Spirit, they go back to Haven and can either take a guaranteed position in the Valdemarian Guard or go back to their lives as already well-educated and trained young men or woman. Generally, there are two or three Trainees Chosen each Hunt Season.

In Dreams

Title: In Dreams (Chapter Three)
Fandom: Heralds of Valdemar
Author: senashenta
Rating: K+
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 Dragan Fulton, Companion Cheyne, Heraldic-Trainee Mel Truant, Companion Arlam, Heraldic-Trainee Dragan Fulton, Companion Cheyne, Companion Yauvani, Companion Rella, Spirit Zeshawn.
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...


IN DREAMS
Chapter Three: Outside The Frame
By Senashenta

:What do you think of our new traveling companion?:

Niressa's ears swivelled and she considered before answering. :She's a bit complex.:

:That she is.: Gabriel's eyes flicked to the girl who was riding next to him, and he sighed. He thought that he liked her, but there was a lot that he didn't know about her, besides the fact that her name was Leshie and she wanted to join the Guard. As things currently stood, he had quite a few questions nagging at the back of his mind about her.

:Like why a fifteen year old member of the Rakmour family would want to join the common Valdemarian Guard?: Niressa suggested.

:Exactly.:

From what he'd heard of them, the Rakmours were the most wealthy and influential group of people in Valdemar, aside from the Montenegro family, of course. But you couldn't really compare anyone to royalty, anyway. Why would anyone want to leave a life of comfort and riches to join the Guard and spend the rest of their days fighting for their life and occasionally living on nothing but stale bread?

:You have a shortsighted idea of what it's like to be rich, Chosen.: The now-Companion snorted lightly, and beside them Leshie's palfrey nickered in return. :That's not to say you're entirely wrong, but having been born into wealth isn't necessarily a good thing. In the case of the Rakmours, it doesn't mean a guaranteed life of luxury, either. They work hard for what they have. The horses don't breed and train themselves, after all.: After a moment's pause, during which Gabriel could have sworn she was projecting an air of triumph, she added; :besides, Miss Rakmour here doesn't seem to fit the definition of a courtier.:

:Touché.: Gabriel raised an eyebrow ever-so-slightly and stared absently down at Niressa's ears. :She certainly was pretty touchy about Broderick, though.:

:And that has to do with our conversation, how?:

He gave a little mental shrug, :I just noticed.:

It was an understatement of the biggest kind, as Niressa already knew. Though he had yet to be trained in using his Gifts, which were only just beginning to emerge, he had very definitely felt a negative reaction to his questions about her brother. From what he could tell, she was either on the outs with him, or jealous about the fact he was Chosen to begin with. The later was possible, he knew, as he had encountered quite a few people who were jealous of him, since he'd been taken into the Collegium.

It seemed strange, though, that someone so strong would allow herself to be upset by something so simple.

:You've noticed a lot of things about her.: Niressa said smugly, and Gabriel glared at the back of her head. :Well, at least I know you're not shaych.:

:Who ever said I was?: He sent back, annoyed.

The thing was, Niressa had made a point, even if she hadn't been trying to. Despite the fact that he felt toward her as he would toward a sister (had he had one), he actually knew very little about her. Almost nothing, in fact, as he had only met her two days prior to meeting Leshie on the road.

Why was it, then, that he wondered about Leshie more than he wondered about Niressa?

:Because you're a teenage boy and I'm not the same species as you?:

:Thank you for that.:

Niressa snickered mentally, and Gabriel rolled his eyes before turning his thoughts inward once more. This time, however, they drifted in a wayward fashion toward his Hunt, which was—thankfully—over and done with.

Not that he hadn't enjoyed spending nearly two weeks on his own in the middle of the Pelagiris Forest, scrounging for food (as his rations hadn't lasted long) and trying desperately to light a fire before giving up and sleeping without one—then having to explain just why he looked a bit more than worn when the talking horse he now called Niressa had wandered into his life.

:I'm not a horse, as I've told you before.:

He'd heard that before, and as usual he paid very little attention to her semi-serious complaint—if she had really minded, he would have attempted to think of her differently. The problem was that it was hard for him to get past the oh-so-horselike way she looked, though he figured that would come in time.

:True,: Niressa conceded, :but do try to hurry through the Talking Horsey stage, will you?:

:I'll give it a shot.: Gabriel agreed.

:Thank you, Love.:

He marvelled at how quickly she became nothing less than sweetness and light when she got what she wanted. At least he knew that much about her… that, and she had an affinity with sugar of any kind, as evidenced by her devouring of several handfuls of sugar cubes, given to her by the children at the first town they'd stopped in on the way back to Haven. Had they brought her pies and cakes as well, he had no doubt she would have nearly choked in her hurry to down them.

:I do believe that's called 'exaggeration'.: She told him somewhat crossly, :I know better than to eat that fast.: And after a moment she added sheepishly, :if I choke, then I can't finish my food.:

:You're going to way a ton after two weeks at Haven.:

:Given that from what I've heard the Companions eat grain and oats and all sorts of yummy stuff,: she said happily, :that is a very real possibility.:

She certainly did switch moods quickly, he noted.

Just my luck to be Chosen by the world's only bipolar Spirit.

Niressa snorted irritably and tossed her head, her gait changing from smooth to more than a bit uncomfortable in a matter of seconds, then settling back again as she sighed. :Not the only one, Chosen, just the most obvious one.: She tilted her head, then, to look at Leshie and Aimee. :She has quite a horse, you know, to be able to keep up with me all day.:

And so, his thoughts returned to the girl who now rode silently at his side, and after a moment, during which he stared at her as his mind skipped off in various directions, she turned toward him to give him an odd look. Caught with his eyes still trained on her, he shook his head in embarrassment and returned his gaze to the road ahead.

She said nothing about it, though, despite the raised eyebrow she had bestowed upon him, and the quiet continued, though now with Niressa chortling in amusement, her mindvoice echoing faintly in the back of his skull.

o-o-o-o-o

She tossed her head, she flicked her tail, and she danced in place for a split second before planting her feet firmly in the ground and adamantly refusing to move beyond where she currently was.

Dragan laughed, and his grip on the reign tightened. "Just go, Cheyne."

:I most certainly will not!:

Shaking his head, he chuckled again, "I didn't know it was possible for a Spirit to have a phobia."

:Well it is!: Snorting nervously, she pawed the ground and eyed the stream in front of her. :That thing is a death trap waiting to happen.:

Amused. "I really don't see how."

:Haven't you ever heard of drowning?!:

"It's not likely to happen in a five-inch-deep stream, if you're walking… and come to think of it, how do you drink?"

Cheyne's tail flicked again. :I can drink just fine… I just don't like crossing rivers, okay?:

"Uh…"

Dragan eyed the trickle of water that was a few feet ahead of them, and shook his head sadly, reaching up to rub his right temple—it wasn't a river, it was a stream. And it was barely deep enough to even qualify as that. Still, the Spirit-turned-Companion showed no intention of moving under her own free will, at least not if it was toward the stream.

"Why don't we try going around it?"

:That could take days!: Cheyne wailed pathetically.

"Then cross it."

She hesitated, :but—:

"If you don't face your fear, you'll never—"

:Dragan Fulton! Don't you think I've been told that before?: The Companion demanded, :I have! By everyone and their brother, in fact—that doesn't change the fact that I can't cross this damn river!:

"It's barely a trickle—"

:It'shuge! Are you blind?!:

He didn't think that was his problem. His problem was that his Companion couldn't cross a little stream—:it's a freaking torrent!:—of water, which meant that they either had to go around, which, as Cheyne had pointed out, could take days, or just stay and live out their lives in the middle of the forest.

He had to wonder how she had managed to survive so long, considering her terror when it came to water of any kind.

"Excuse me, sir?" He murmured sarcastically under his breath, "there seems to be something wrong with my Companion. Could I have a new one, please?"

Her voice rose a pitch. :Iheard that!:

o-o-o-o-o

"I'm tired, Lyntar."

The complaint wasn't unjustified, though Lyntar wasn't happy to hear it. He was tired as well—both emotionally and physically—but resting would mean stopping, and he could still feel the minds of Aterya and Zeshawn behind them—and they were not pleased, either.

Not that I expected them to be singing my praises, exactly. I did go against everything we Spirits have ever done. After a moment of thought, his mind conceded, not Spirits, silly horse. You're a Companion, now.

It was a strange idea, but one he wasn't altogether unpleased with.

"Hey." Bri smacked his neck and he flinched. "Are you playing attention?"

:Yes,: he said shortly, then; :but we can't stop yet.:

She heaved a sigh and shifted on his back, her grip on his mane tightening until she had regained her center of balance, and while she did, Lyntar concentrated on the Elders behind them. Aterya and Zeshawn were gaining on them, and though he was tired and now knew that Bri was as well, he was also aware of the fact that he couldn't stop. If he stopped, the Elders would overtake them shortly, and he didn't intend to face any other Spirits—Companions—until they were well within the boundaries of Haven.

:You know, you called me Lyntar.:

Bri seemed surprised, and though she had purposely and successfully avoided any kind of small talk thus far, she broke her relative silence to snort at his comment, "so? It's your name, isn't it?"

:But it's the first time that you've called me anything other than a "horse".: He reminded her dryly, :you could also call me "Lyn" if you wanted. It's what Val and the others used to call me.:

Her reply was just as dry, though with a touch of curiosity. "And who's Val?"

At least she was talking to him now. :Avalbane.: He clarified, :a friend of mine from the Pelagiris.:

"Another Spirit?"

:Yes.:

"Do you know anyone who's not a Spirit?"

:You.: Lyntar shrugged, his hide rippling, :and a few of the Companions at the Collegium used to be my friends. My aunt, Rella, is there, as well. Besides that, I know one or two kyree, though not many, and even a ratha. The Spirits of the Pelagiris are also in contact with several dyheli herds around Velgarth, though none of them are in Valdemar.:

"Dyheli?"

:They're… sort of similar to deer, in the same way we're similar to horses.:

"Oh? Are they annoying, too?"

Lyntar rolled his eyes, and Bri returned to silence.

In the background of his mind, he continued to track the Elders as they followed him, and though he wasn't encouraged by the speeds at which they were going, he also wasn't too worried, as he didn't think they would follow him beyond the borders of Haven. Mostly, this was because they were Legendary, and no humans knew of them. Aterya and the others were concerned enough with the Customs that they wouldn't really risk being seen.

At the same time, from what he was sensing, they were a little more than annoyed with him—if they were upset enough, they would and could throw Custom to the wind and chase him down.

Though, as he recalled, they always had a representative in Haven. If he was remembering right, it was currently Yauvani… but he had never paid very much attention to those types of conversations, so he wasn't sure.

I wish my attention span was a bit better. He thought with a mental sigh.

Though the Spirit representative in Haven wasn't an Elder, he—or, currently she—would be more than willing to step in on their behalf. And he had known Yauvani before she Chose and her Chosen was taken on as the King's Own. She had been stubborn, opinionated, and so set in the Old Ways that she bordered on preaching every time someone even mentioned going against them.

And Lyntar hadn't just talked about it…

He loathed to think what was waiting for him at the Collegium.

Still, he was determined to go—he always finished what he started, after all.

Ye Gods, Val was right. I am a glutton for punishment.

"Hey."

Was Bri speaking to him again? His surprise was slight enough, thankfully, that the lapse between her catching his attention and him answering was slight enough to be relatively unnoticeable. Or, even if it wasn't, she was kind enough not to bring it to glaring attention, as she had with any other discretion since they'd met.

:Yes?:

She was leaning forward on his back, which, though it was a bit odd, didn't surprise him as her speaking had: he knew now that she was a decent rider, which was something he had been concerned about. She wasn't the best rider, but she was staying on his back relatively well, which was all he'd hoped for. Where she'd learned to ride, he didn't know and hadn't asked.

"Is that another Spirit up ahead?"

:Huh?:

He blinked and squinted into the distance. It couldn't be Aterya and Zeshawn, could it? He had thought the Elders were behind them, and considering the strength of his mind he doubted they could have tricked him. Still, he was concerned… until his eyes focused on the other equine well enough that he could see the rider on its back.

None of the Elders would have tolerated a human riding them.

Come to think of it, he noted, and glanced around at the trees, it was about time for the Hunt Season, and as the rider wasn't wearing the traditional Heraldic Whites, or even the Heraldic Trainee Grays, he had to assume it was someone who was only just returning to Haven from the Pelagiris. That would explain why they were going in the same direction as he and Bri, anyway.

:It's someone Newly-Chosen.: He told Bri absently, then called ahead with; :heyla, friend!:

It only occurred to him after he had shouted to the other Companion, that said equine may not be entirely pleased with him and his out-of-Custom Choice, either. He hoped, as the former-Spirit stopped and turned to look at him in surprise, that he hadn't just condemned himself and Bri to—

What would the Elders do, anyway? They couldn't have me put to death without killing Bri, too.

He knew that is was technically possible to break a Herald-Companion bond, but he didn't think… wait, what if Bri actually wanted to separate herself from him? Now there was a thought—if she was told about the possibility, would she take it? Better not to tell her yet.

Not that he didn't intend to mention it eventually, as it was only fair to give her an option (which was more than most Spirits would say) but he could feel that she was still confused and even a little upset about him "marching in and turning her life upside down" without even asking.

Once she calmed down, then he'd tell her about the Bond-Breaking technique.

You know, I'm not even sure how it would work.

Surely, though, it would be unpleasant for them both.

I'll give her time to get used to the idea of being Bonded to me, and then I'll ask her if she wants me to stay or not. He decided, as they approached the other Companion-Chosen pair. If not… she can't stay at the Collegium, so she'd have to go back to that... Even though he was keeping his thoughts private, he couldn't keep the disgust out of his tone; …brothel…

Ahead of them, the other stallion had stopped and was waiting good-naturedly for them to catch up. The girl on his back looked as if she wasn't sure if she should be curious or annoyed with the interruption, and Lyntar immediately thought of Bri, as the other girl seemed to share the stubborn impatience that she did.

:Heyla youself,: the other Companion greeted him, and Lyntar reluctantly stopped, though he couldn't help sparing a glance behind them. :Coming back from the Hunt, are you?:

Lyntar almost winced. :Sort of.:

The other gave him a curious look, then; :I don't know you, do I? Well, I'm Arlam, and this is my Chosen, Mel.:

:Lyntar.: He introduced himself shortly. :And Brianna.:

Mel was staring oddly at Bri, and seemed to be trying to remember something. Lyntar figured she was probably going through a mental rolodex of names in an attempt to figure out why she didn't know Bri's face.

After a long moment, she tipped her head to the side and said, "I'm Mel Truant."

Bri nodded. "Brianna Osias."

More silence. Somewhat uneasy at that, as Mel continued to go through mental names, Arlam wondered was she was doing, Bri stared at the trees without speaking, and Lyntar worriedly kept tabs on the approaching Elders, occasionally shifting his feet restlessly and flicking his tail in an expression of concern.

Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore and shook his mane, :we should keep going.:

:Hm?: Arlam looked at him, then shrugged amiably, :sure. Shall we travel together?:

:We're going the same way,: he reminded the other Companion. Though he was reluctant, Lyntar had agreed. Better not to arouse suspicion until he was well within the safety of Haven.

It wasn't until they were a good way down the road when Mel turned to Bri, and without posing any real questions or seeming angry, in fact, with very little emotion at all, stated simply; "Brianna, you weren't a Trainee."

o-o-o-o-o

He stared, barely comprehending, at Cheyne's ears. "You have got to be joking."

:Of course not.: She told him flatly, :do you want to spend the rest of your life out here? Because I rather like the sound of the Collegium, and it would seem to be much better than living in the forest.:

"You've lived here all your life."

:And that doesn't mean I don't aspire for more.: Cheyne stated tartly, :so just get your firestarting rear in gear and build the damn thing.:

Cursing silently, Dragan slid down from her back (a task that was easier as she wasn't wearing a saddle) and landed lightly on the ground, then stood for a second and looked at the stream in silence, trying to come up with words to describe to Cheyne how he was feeling—and completely failing at the attempt.

:I know how you feel about it, Chosen, but there doesn't appear to be any other way.:

"Gods," he muttered, then threw his hands into the air in resignation and set about finding what he needed to build a makeshift bridge.

o-o-o-o-o

"Can I ask you something?"

A shrug. "Why not?"

"Why do you want to join the Guard?"

Niressa gave a mental chuckle. :It only took an hour of brooding, but you finally asked.:

Gabriel ignored her and concentrated on Leshie, who was frowning at him. The sight made him uncomfortable, and he had to resist the urge to apologize for asking in the first place. Niressa seemed to find the entire thing incredibly amusing, damn her wishy-washy heart.

:Wishy-washy?:

:Hush, Niressa.:

Leshie shook her head. "It's complicated, but the basics are that my parents were forcing me into marriage."

"Really?" He wanted to say something more, but couldn't think of anything. Aside from that fact that he thought the entire idea of forcing anyone into marriage was wrong, that is. "What made you think joining the Guard would be a good idea?"

She shrugged, "I can't do anything else. It was either the Guard or marrying the Duke my parents set up, so…"

Gabriel made a barely audible noise of disgust. "They shouldn't be able to force marriage on anyone."

While it was true that he had never had to deal with things like that, having grown up on a farm, he knew he definitely wasn't going to advocate arranged marriages. The strange thing was that he knew they happened all the time, and knew that a lot of them were bad matches to begin with, but he had never really had a firm opinion on them before. Now, though, he was certain he was against them in any way, shape and form.

In the back of his mind, Niressa murmured something, sounding amused, but then refused to repeat it when he asked her what she had said, so he chalked it up to her being a bit of a mental basket-case.

:There's no need for name-calling.: She sighed, :I didn't say anything important, anyway. I was just talking to myself.:

He didn't believe her for a second, but he couldn't tell for sure if she was lying to him or not. That was the problem with having only just developed his Gifts: he didn't have enough control over them to really get anything out of them. That, and they were still only semi-formed. Niressa had told him they would grow and mature over time, but he wasn't sure how long it would take and they weren't doing him any good at the moment.

:You'll just have to be patient.: Niressa chuckled, :now why don't you go back to fawning over Leshie?:

The indignation in Gabriel's mindvoice was very apparent in his reply, but she continued to laugh anyway as they crested the final hill to look down at the sprawling city of Haven below.

o-o-o-o-o

Mel was quiet, contemplating, and Arlam was doing much the same. Bri was sitting, her chin held high and her hands tight in Lyntar's mane, and Lyntar was walking as quickly as he could while distracted by the mental cursing his mind was doing without his say so.

"So," finally, Mel pursed her lips and glanced from Bri to Lyntar and back. "You weren't a Trainee, which is why I didn't recognize you, so you weren't on a Hunt, and still Lyntar came and Chose you? Just out of the blue? He just walked up and Chose you?"

"Yes." Bri responded, then added; "not that I'm particularly thrilled about it."

"I was always told that Spirits don't Choose people outside of the Hunts." She looked down at Arlam, who was still, apparently, trying to wrap his mind around what he had just heard, his eyes vacant as his thoughts were turned inward. "Right?"

:That's the way our Customs work.: The Companion agreed vaguely, :so I don't see… I mean, it's…:

"Strange?" Bri suggested.

:Just a little.: Arlam acknowledged.

"Stranger than you Choosing bread?" Mel asked dryly, earning an embarrassed twitch from Arlam and a bewildered look from both Bri and Lyntar. She just shook her head and waved them off, "it's a long story. Lyntar… what made you break Custom like this?"

:I had to.: Lyntar informed her, more than a little defensively, :we need Bri, and the stupidity of our Customs was keeping me from Choosing her. So I went against them. Is that a problem?:

Mel raised an eyebrow, "not really."

:Good.:

Snorting, Lyntar upped his step, putting on a little more speed, and Arlam quickly matched it. Despite the questioning glances the others were giving him, he ignored them, refusing to explain the fact that two of the Elders were chasing him down, intent on stopping him before he could set foot inside the Collegium gates.

Speaking of which…

He glanced upward, tracking the sun in the sky, and began to work out the time of day, as well as how far from Haven they currently were—and was relieved to find that they were only a candlemark or so away.

Though Aterya and Zeshawn were close behind him, he had managed to get enough of a head start, despite his—ahem—problems at the inn, he figured he could manage to get there before they intercepted him.

Or so he hoped, anyway.

o-o-o-o-o

Leshie looked up the hill toward where the Palace stood, and Aimee shifted restlessly under her. Her eyes didn't move from where they were trained as she patted the horse and then passed the reins from one hand to the other. Beside her, Niressa was waiting patiently as Gabriel attempted to remember just who Leshie would have to talk to about joining the Guard.

"I honestly can't recall the name," he said after a long moment of racking his brain, "but I can tell you who would know—you could talk to Leftenant Malcam, and he could tell you for sure." He paused, considering, "he might be the one who does recruiting, too, but I'm not sure."

Leshie nodded, her gaze still on the Palace and Collegia grounds.

Gabriel continued anyway: "he's probably teaching right now, but you could catch him during his off-hours. He normally heads to a tavern called the Companion's Bell when he's done for the day, so try there, and if I see him I'll tell him you're looking for him."

"Thanks." She finally moved her eyes to him, and smiled vaguely, "I appreciate it."

"Sure." He tipped his head to the side and then asked; "do you have anywhere to stay?"

"Hm?" Leshie seemed surprised, "I don't know anyone in Haven except you," she admitted, "but I should be able to find something, at least for tonight."

Gabriel didn't seem convinced, and he took on a far-away look while he conversed privately with Niressa, who probably was as un-convinced as he was. She wondered if there was a reason why Niressa wasn't openly speaking in front of her. Then again, she didn't have any Gifts that she knew about, so she might just not be able to hear her. Aimee began to shuffle again, and Leshie took the time offered by the lapse in conversation to calm her once more. The palfrey was in desperate need of a good grooming and some hot mash, but she could go without for another day or so if she had to. Leshie was glad for that, though she hated to do it, as she didn't have any money on her to buy the mash in the first place.

She did have a currycomb, though, which she had thrown in her packs before she'd left the Holdings.

"You know what?" Gabriel interrupted her thoughts, making her glance up again, "you should come with me. The Housekeeper could probably use some help, even if it is just for the day, and you could give her and the Cook a hand in exchange for somewhere to sleep for the night and a place to stable Aimee."

"But—"

She couldn't finish, as he was too pleased with his plan to stop explaining it quite yet. "And that way, you'd be right in the Collegium! I could just tell Leftenant Malcam to look for you in the kitchen, or to ask Ellyn where you were, and he could find you with no trouble at all! It's a much better idea than leaving you to hang around in a tavern until all hours of the night waiting for him." He didn't add the part where he really didn't like the idea himself, as even he thought it was strange that he was so worried about her. "What do you think?"

Given the chance to consider, Leshie pondered for a few minutes, absently twisting a strand of Aimee's mane in her fingers as she did so.

She really didn't have a problem with housework of any kind, though there were certain things she wasn't good at—sewing, for example, and she was only passable at making beds. Any kind of mindless cleaning she could do, and she figured things like scrubbing floors and doing dishes were probably the chores that had the least volunteers. As for helping the Cook… just because she couldn't boil water didn't mean she couldn't serve, or even help to dish food out and chop vegetables to a certain extent.

To be realistic, she probably would have taken the offer even if she had been completely inept at house and kitchen work. She really didn't have any money, and she needed somewhere to sleep and somewhere to put Aimee up for the night, never mind food for the both of them.

She nodded. "If you think they'll take me, I guess I can do that."

"Great." Gabriel was practically glowing, much to Niressa's amusement, "let's go, Niressa." And when a long moment went by and the Companion didn't move, he leaned forward to look at her. "Niressa?"

She whuffed, sounding distinctly puzzled, and nodded her head toward the Palace. Gabriel looked up—and his eyebrows rose in surprise. Beside him, Leshie was mirroring his expression almost perfectly.

A dozen Companions, all without riders, and walking with a purpose, were approaching from the Field.

o-o-o-o-o

This could be bad.

Lyntar stared down at Haven from the top of the sloped road. More specifically, he stared at the Collegium from the top of the sloped road. He stared the Collegium from the top of the sloped road and tried to figure out what he was going to do.

Next to him, Arlam was (again) looking quite baffled.

Mel was frowning, and Bri—actually, he couldn't se Bri at the moment, but he had no doubt that she was frowning as well. And they all watched as in the distance, a handful of shining white horse-shaped beings headed en mass toward the Gates to the Collegium grounds.

Near the Gates themselves, there were already two riders: one of them was on a Companion, and probably newly-Chosen, as with Mel, as he didn't appear to be wearing Whites. The other was on a brown-bay horse, which seemed to be stamping and fidgeting impatiently, but Lyntar wasn't sure.

Behind him, he could feet Aterya and Zeshawn gaining even more ground.

He was running out of time, and he doubted very much that the Companions who were heading for the Gates were a Welcoming Committee.

I guess I'd better get this over with.

Sighing in resignation, he started down the hill with Arlam right behind him. Though the other stallion hadn't said much along the way, Lyntar was convinced that he didn't outright oppose his Choosing Bri, even if he wasn't really sure what to think of it. And he had to admit that it felt good to know that not everyone was out for his blood—there was at least one Spirit and one Companion who were neutral on the subject.

Lovely. Just lovely.

It only took them a few minutes to reach the Gates, and what they found when they got there was an envoy of stern and annoyed Companions, and, between them and Lyntar's group, two teenagers who were looking mighty out of the loop. He made a mental note to explain everything to them once the trouble was over.

And there would be trouble, he was sure.

:Spirit Lyntar.: The voice was female, and Lyntar recognized it as belonging to Yauvani, who now stepped to the front of the group. The fact that she had called him "Spirit" and not "Companion" and that she had made a point of emphasizing it, irked him. :Why have you come to Haven?:

Lyntar met her gaze strongly. :I came to bring my Chosen for training.:

Yauvani's eyes went to Bri. :She is not a Trainee, and you are not a Companion.:

:I have Chosen her.: He replied defiantly, :and I will not repudiate her because you say I should. I am taking her to train, and she will he a Herald.:

The mare's voice took on a dangerous edge. :Spirit Lyntar, I am telling you now—leave Haven and return to the Pelagiris where you belong. You and your mis-Chosen girl are not welcome here.:

That statement made Lyntar's hackles go up, and he bared his teeth angrily, his front left hoof scraping along the paved road. A little behind him, Arlam seemed unsure of what to do, but Mel was already full of righteous indignation at the confrontation before her. The Trainee between them and the other Companions seemed to share Arlam's feelings, as did his Companion and the girl he was with.

:I—: Lyntar snarled, :am not leaving. Bri and I are not going to do as you say, as you do not have any power over us.: Whether Bri agreed or not, he was too angry to care, and he turned his head to look back the way they had come, fixing a sapphire glare on Aterya and Zeshawn, who were watching from the rise they had just passed over. :I am also not bound by the laws of the Spirits any longer, as I am not one of them anymore.: He raised his head, then, fixing his eyes on Yauvani. :I am a Companion, and you can accept me or reject me, but that is what I am and I will not change because you say so.:

A mixture of emotions flitted across Yauvani's eyes, and eventually she settled an anger, the same as Lyntar had. Her ears were pinned flat against her skull and her nostrils flared. :Spirit Lyntar, you will—:

:Oh, cut it out Yauvani.:

This was a new voice, and Yauvani turned as two more Companions trotted toward them, these with riders on their backs. Lyntar didn't recognize either of the humans, or the Companion stallion, but the mare was more than familiar.

:You don't have a choice in the matter.: Rella continued as she slowed to a stop beside the absolutely livid mare, :if Lyntar has Chosen, then he has Chosen. You know as well as I that we do not Choose the unworthy, and if he feels that he needs this girl then we can do nothing about it.:

Yauvani was probably a little more than annoyed with the other mare, who was not only her junior in the hierarchy of things, but also younger than her—but as Rella's Herald was currently nodding in agreement, and behind them both the Companion stallion and his Chosen were doing likewise, she really had nothing to say.

Instead, she chose to growl softly, a strange sound coming from something that looked like a horse, and then spun on her heel to vanish back up the road the way she had come. A few of the Companions followed her, all as angry as she was, but several of them stayed behind to murmur apologies before leaving as well.

One boisterous fellow even commented that Yauvani had :—needed her tail docked—: for quite some time, and that he was glad to have been there to see it. :A Choice is a Choice, no matter what.: He added, :and I never was much for Tradition, either.:

Lyntar thought he could get to like him, and thanked the stallion before watching him take off after the rest, leaving the two Heralds and their Companions with four very confused teenagers (one of whom was still terribly angry because of what she had just witnessed), two Companions who had no idea what was going on, and another Companion who was standing tall and defiant, giving them an "I dare you to try to make me leave" look.

"Well," the woman said after a moment, "that certainly was interesting."

:I agree.: Her Companion said dryly.

She patted his neck, "hush, Ran." A half-smile followed, and she gestured toward the Collegium, "you had better come in, now."

:Yes,: Rella agreed, fixing her eyes on Lyntar, :you certainly have some explaining to do.:

Lyntar returned her look, then snorted and started after them as they turned to go inside. Arlam followed, still trying to figure out what had just happened, and after them came the other two, who were muttering among themselves now.

Well, I'm inside…

Once through the Gates, Lyntar spared a glance back.

And Aterya and Zeshawn were gone.

To Be Continued.



***

♥ Vanima Din ♥

Welcome to Beautiful Silence; a freeform writing blog. This is where Sena will keep notes on various fan/original projects and discuss ideas with herself. While fan projects will be posted freely, original works will be under Friends Lock. If you are interested, please comment on the Friends Lock Banner entry for consideration. ♥

All works contained within this journal are (c) Tiffany Wynne (Sena) from 1998 to 2011 and onward.

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