Title: Whipstitch (Chapter Three)
Fandom: Heralds of Valdemar
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Angst
Characters: Companion Snow, Xia, Abby Tarhill
Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; this fic and original characters belong to their author.
Summary: He wakes up in the forest, alone and lost in the night, with only a stray cat for company: and to top it all off, he has no idea who he is! Now Snow has a long journey ahead of him if he wants to figure out his real identity and learn the cause of his amnesia. But hey, at least Abby and Xia have his back... right?
Chapter 3: Think
Snow spent that night sleeping next to the fire outside of the Waystation. He was exhausted and between the heavy meal he'd finally had and Abby's passable grooming skills he slept deeply, with Xia curled up against his side as she had been the previous night.
When the sun came up the next morning it seemed to crawl over the treetops. When the light collided with his eyes, Snow whuffed softly in his sleep, slowly drifting back to consciousness a moment later, head nodding as his eyes cracked open and the last vestiges of a dream slipped from his grasp into nothingness. He snorted quietly, squinting into the sunrise, then stretched his neck out and yawned widely, shaking his mane out right after that. Beside him, disturbed by his movement, Xia gave a quiet, complaining mewling noise, lifting her head, expression sleepy.
:Yeah, yeah. Good morning to you, too.:
Inside the Waystation, Abby was apparently still asleep, which wasn't at all surprising considering it was barely dawn. For a moment, Snow considered simply turning his back to the rising sun and going back to sleep—but even as he was thinking about it, his stomach grumbled, demanding food, and Xia began to stand and stretch to ready herself for the day (though she still shot him a dirty look, which Snow assumed was for waking her up in the first place.)
Between one thing and another, various bits of fate were apparently conspiring to get him up and going for the day. So finally Snow heaved himself to his feet, stretching along the way, then surveyed the Waystation yard. The bucket that Abby had used to supply his dinner the night before was still sitting by the door to the Station and even though he knew it was empty, he found himself drifting over to poke his nose into it anyway with a wistful kind of sigh.
He briefly thought about going to the Waystation window and making a racket to wake Abby up, but then decided that that wouldn't be entirely fair of him given how friendly and helpful the boy had been with him the day before—so instead he told his stomach to shut up and quit trying to eat his backbone, then meandered over to the stream and drank his fill. The water thankfully placated his hunger for a moment or two.
That dealt with, Snow lifted his head from the stream, tossing his forelock out of his eyes in the process. Across the clearing, Xia was once again stalking around the woodpile—if they were there longer than a day or so, it was clear that she would take care of any mouse or rat problems the Station might have had before she arrived.
Snow glowered at nothing in particular and very pointedly told the insistent voice in his head that was muttering about food to be quiet once again. Over by the woodpile, Xia, who had apparently managed to catch herself a mouse, looked over toward him curiously, the small rodent dangling lifelessly from her teeth. For a moment, Snow was jealous.
:Must you flaunt your ability to feed yourself?:
A smug little look from the cat made him snort. Then blue eyes turned down to the grass under his hooves.
Even though he wasn't a horse, per se—though he had no real idea what a "Companion" was, either—he was still a herbivore. He could eat grass. He probably had in the past, in whatever place and life he had come from before the memory loss, and most likely on a regular basis. But somehow the idea of settling down for a meal of grass or hay just didn't have the same ring to it as hot mash did, or apples, or even the delicious little pocket-pies the cook at the Collegium made on cold winter days. In fact, especially the delicious little pocket-pies that the cook at the Collegium made on cold winter da—
Snow's thoughts ground to an abrupt halt, his hunger forgotten for a moment, because how did he know about Cook and the pocket-pies?
Eyes pinned on a spot of nothingness in front of him, Snow rewound his train of thought to the memory in question.
He remembered they were little pastries, usually with apple filling, made in the winter time when they didn't have access to fresh fruit. Dried apples (and sometimes cherries) were used to make them, and somehow, despite that, the pies always came out exceptional. They were called "pocket-pies" because they were small, portable, and the Trainees used them as pocket-warmers until they were cool enough to eat—or, in the case of the Heraldic-Trainees,to share with their Companions.
But those vague memories prompted more questions than answers, considering how much else there was that was still a complete blank. Snow whuffed out a frustrated noise—and right about then was when the Waystation door finally swung open and Abby stepped out into the sunlight. Snow jolted slightly at the sound of the door hinges, then shook himself out of the thought cycle he had been in.
"Mm," Abby agreed vaguely. He lifted one hand, swiping at his eyes and then ran his fingers through his hair before yawning widely. "'Mornin'." He looked around the clearing, eyes lighting on Xia for a moment before shifting over toward Snow. Abby tilted his head slightly. "You look… kind of upset. Everything okay?" And then; "I mean, I know, no memory and everything, but…"
:No, I'm fine.: Snow shook his head. :Just hungry, that's all.:
"Ah." A quick nod and Abby nicked the bucket from by the door. It rattled emptily, making Snow's ears swivel forward, perking. Abby laughed. "I'll get you some breakfast. What about your kitty friend? Xia, right?"
:That's what I'm calling her.: The stallion agreed. :But I think she's alright. She's already caught a mouse for herself.: His eyes drifted over to where the cat in question was already downing her self-serve meal, completely oblivious to the discussion going on around her.
Abby seemed to find the situation amusing, as he chuckled to himself even while he turned around and headed back into the Waystation, only to reappear a handful of moments later, the bucket once more full of oats and grains. He set the pail down by the fire pit.
"Do you want to eat it like this, or should I make it into porridge for you?"
Snow perked again. :Would you make porridge? Really?:
"Sure, of course."
The boy smiled at him, then began bustling about. He went back into the Waystation, emerging with a second bucket—and Snow watched him fill it with water from the stream, then head back to hang the pail over the fire pit. Then he quickly started a fire going, bringing the water to a boil before adding some of the oats and grains and—Snow was very pleased with the last bit—some dried fruits and vegetables that he'd found in one of the barrels inside the Station. That done, Abby set about mixing up some oat cakes for himself, then set them on one of the large rocks that ringed the fire to cook.
They were both quiet while Abby worked, the boy concentrating on what he was doing and Snow lost in thought once again. The only sounds were crackling from the licking flames in the fire pit, hissing from the pot and the occasional soft noise from over where Xia was once again stalking the edge of the Waystation woodpile.
Snow lowered his head to lip at the grass in front him, the motion almost curious but mostly absent in nature, his eyes half-focussed in front of him. His first tentative nibble wasn't bad—kind of vegetable-y, maybe a little bitter. He was just deciding that he had been right to wait for Abby and oat porridge, as it would be much tastier, when the boy across from him seemed to wrinkle his nose a little.
"Hey, Snow, are you sure everything's okay?" He wrinkled his nose a little, looking over. "You look… pensive."
:Pensive?: Snow blinked, lifting his head again, then stamped one hoof lightly. :Everything's… I mean.: Sighing out a frustrated breath, he shook his head. :I just… remembered something, I think.: And then, vaguely and mostly to himself; :Cook makes the pocket-pies in the winter.:
"…the cook makes the what in the when-now?"
The blank look on Abby's face pretty much told the whole story—or, rather, it told the fact that he hadn't explained the whole story. Or any of the story at all, actually.
Snow's eyes slid sideways, then back to his new friend. :It's something from my old life… I think.:
"Oh yeah?" Abby was still listening, but turned his attention to his oat cakes for long enough to flip them over. "Well… that's good, right?" Lifting one hand to his mouth, he licked a bit of oat off of his thumb, tilting his head slightly at the same time. "Sounds like you're starting to get your memory back. I mean, a little at a time is better than nothing, right?"
:Yeah.: Snow agreed. He shifted a little. :I suppose.:
But he actually wasn't very sure at all.