Magics promise vlhm 2, p.19

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2, page 19

 part  #2 of  Valdemar (02): Last Herald Mage Series


Magic's Promise v(lhm-2

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  “Even when people do find out where we are,'' Vanyel pointed out, "I can't be countermanded by anyone other than Randale. Randi is going to stall, I know him. He knows that if there weren't something damned odd going on, I'd have Gated to Haven with Tashir. So - what about our guest?''

  "Well, I told you, he's been acting like a ghost. He's been hovering over you whenever there wasn't someone in here, but he seems to know when someone is coming, and slips back into his own room just before they get here. Fortunately I scanned you before I tried to read his mind. Someone or something certainly made him sensitive to that. I judged we didn't need any broken vases."

  "Exactly." Vanyel sat up a little straighter, feeling better by the moment. "I wish I dared Mindtouch him long enough to figure out what his Gifts are. Fetching for certain - probably Mindspeech; that would account for knowing when someone was coming. Has anybody been seeing that he's fed?"

  "Oh, he comes to meals, but not with the family. He slips down to the kitchen at First Call for the servants and the armsmen; gets himself something portable, and pelts back up here. I guess he returns whatever dishes he takes after the kitchen shuts down for the night; nobody's complained to me about missing plates. Your mother is alive with curiosity about him, and he won't get any nearer to her than he will to me.''

  “Why is he so - I don't know what to call it; battle-shy, maybe?" Vanyel chewed at a fingernail. "I never heard that Deveran was all that bad a man."

  "Rumor and the truth are sometimes fairly different things, ke'chara,” Savil reminded him. "And Deveran was a man well-beset by problems, saddled with a wife he didn't care for, an enemy on one of his Borders which forced him to make his little kingdom into a client-state of Valdemar, his eldest was a problematical bastard, and he was unsteady enough on his throne that his people could pressure him into disinheriting the boy." She shrugged eloquently. "This doesn't make for happy times in Lineas. Men under pressure have been known to take their unhappiness out on the defenseless."

  "Tashir." Vanyel sighed. "So we have a new presumptive Herald with major Problems. Not good, Savil. What do we tell Father when he gets back?''

  "Good question. No more than that you've retrieved Tashir newly-Chosen and - damaged. The less he knows of this mess, the better. I can't remember if he's ever seen Vedric or Tashir; if he hasn't, it might be best not to - "

  :FearfearfearTRAPPED. Away! Get away! DON'T TOUCH ME! FEAR!:

  "What in hell!" Savil exclaimed.

  "Tashir," Vanyel croaked, throwing himself out of bed, staggering across the room.


  He ignored Savil, and pulled open the door to his room. "He's in the bower. Treesa must have cornered him somehow, and frightened him."

  He stumbled down the hall at an unsteady run, bare feet slapping on the wooden floor, weaving a little from side to side, but not slowing. He was halfway down the hallway before Savil caught up with him and threw a robe over him.

  "Treesa would not appreciate a naked man breaking into her solar," she rasped at him, as he wrestled it on, then outraced his aunt again.

  It was a damned good thing that Treesa's bower wasn't far from the guest quarters, because he was winded when he got there, and holding his aching side.

  Feminine shrieks met him halfway there. The pain - that was Tashir's and that was all emotional. So whatever was happening, it wasn't a repetition of the slaughter at Highjorune.

  He yanked open the door on chaos. Heavy furniture was dancing all over the room; lighter things like embroidery frames and stools circled the ceiling like demented bats, now and again pausing to throw themselves at the wall before circling again. Piles of shards showed where a few fragile ornaments had performed the same maneuvers to a more fatal end. Tashir was cowering in the corner nearest the doorframe, head buried in his arms; the women were cowering against the far wall, screaming at the tops of their lungs.

  Vanyel and Savil acted in concert. He clamped down on Tashir; the furniture froze in mid-dance, and the flying pieces began gently lowering themselves to the floor. Savil took the women, collectively paralyzing their throats so they couldn't scream.

  It was a fragile solution, at best; Vanyel sensed that the moment he or Savil loosed control, the young man would continue to panic.

  The clatter of boots on the staircase heralded the unlikely answer to his prayers; Withen and Jervis stormed into the mess with drawn swords, probably expecting looting and rapine from all the screams. They stopped cold on the threshold. Vanyel would remember the looks on their faces for a long time.

  Then Tashir looked up at the intruders; Vanyel got ready to tighten down on the youngster if another surge of fear broke him out of control. But instead, he felt the first flickers of hope and something very like trust when Tashir focused on Jervis.

  Jervis? Lady have mercy - but I am not looking sideways at a gift horse!

  The women clearly saw Withen and Jervis as deliverers; they relaxed immediately, and Savil let them go, one at a time. "Sorry about this, Withen. We've got a presumptive Herald here with a problem," Savil said, slowly and carefully. "Van rescued him, he's very jumpy - his Gift is Fetching, ladies, and he was just trying to get you to leave him alone. He panicked when you started screaming. It's all right, Withen, nobody's hurt, and it looks like the only damage is a couple of ornaments."

  Treesa, white and shaking, actually managed a tremulous smile. "Th-they were those horrible ch-cherubs Thorinna insisted on g-g-giving me," she stammered. "I shan't m-m-miss them."

  Vanyel, meanwhile, managed to snag Jervis' elbow and draw him away from Withen. "I've got a very frightened lad here, Jervis," he whispered. "I'll tell you everything I can later. For now, he seems to see you as somebody he can depend on. Do you think you can handle him, get him calmed down?''

  Jervis didn't waste any time with questions or arguments. He took one look at Tashir's strained, white face, sheathed his sword, and nodded.

  Vanyel, with Jervis at his elbow, moved toward Tashir as quietly and unthreateningly as he could. The youngster looked up at them with a measure of both hope and fear. "I'm going to take the shields off you, Tashir," Vanyel said, as if none of this had happened, projecting calm with all his power. Empathy was not one of his strong Gifts, but he did have it, and he used it to the limit. "I want you to go back to your room with Jervis. Jervis, this is Tashir. Lad, Jervis is our armsmaster.''

  Again that flash of hope, and trust-stronger this time - in response to the identification of Jervis.

  "I want you to get yourself calmed down. I know you can. Once you do, all these strange things will stop happening. What you have is something we call a Gift, and it's no more unnatural than being able to paint well or fight well. And the proof of that is that you're going to feel exhausted in a minute, just like you'd been fighting. You have - only with your mind. We'll help you figure out how to keep it under control so that things like this won't happen again. No one is angry at you - you heard Lady Treesa - and no one is going to punish you for any of this. These things happen to some people, and we understand that here in Valdemar; we look for people like you, Tashir, and we train them to use what they have. This little mess wasn't your fault, and I won't allow anyone to blame you for it."

  "Vanyel's all right," Jervis said gruffly, clapping Vanyel on the shoulder and making him stagger a little. "If he says you're going to be fine, you will be. He won't lie, and he keeps his promises."

  Without daring to Mindtouch, Vanyel couldn't tell what the youngster was thinking; he was forced to rely on what Tashir was projecting that he was picking up Empathically. There was doubt there - but a trust in Jervis that was increasing by the moment. Clearly, Tashir would trust Jervis where he wouldn't trust anyone else.

  There was a glimmering, a hint of something else for a moment, then it was gone, slithering away before Vanyel could read it. That was frustrating in the extreme, but he certainly didn't want to set Tashir off again. So he slowly let his control over the youngster fade, little by little,
until it was gone. Tashir slumped against the wall in total exhaustion, closing his eyes.

  "Here, lad," Jervis stepped forward and took him by the elbow; the boy transferred his weight from the wall to Jervis; a sign Vanyel read with relief. "Come on, let's get you back to your room, hey? If what young Van here says is true, you're probably feeling like you've just gone through a round-robin tourney in weighted armor,"

  Tashir nodded, and let Jervis lead him out, stumbling a little with fatigue.

  With Tashir gone, the tension left the solar, and everyone in it reacted to the relief differently. Treesa and her ladies were twittering in their corner like a flock of flustered sparrows. Vanyel found a chair and sat in it before his knees gave out on him. Withen suddenly seemed to remember the sword in his hand, and sheathed it.

  "Fine, we've got Tashir taken care of, now can any of you tell us what happened?" Vanyel asked wearily.

  The women started, and stared at him - with fear. Even his mother. Everyone except Melenna.

  Their fear hit him like a blow to the heart, making him feel sick. That fear - Gods. They never saw me work magic before. The stories were just-stories. Now I've conjured myself from Highjorune in a night, brought a wizardling with me - dispelled his magic with a look. Now I'm Vanyel Demonsbane. I'm not anyone they know anymore. I'm not anyone they could know. I'm someone with powers they don't understand, someone to fear.

  He could deal with this now - or let the situation worsen. He chose for the Heralds; chose to withdraw himself, Vanyel, inside a kind of mental shell and let Herald-Mage Vanyel come to the fore.

  "Ladies, please," the Herald-Mage said, gently, and with a winning smile, exerting all the charm he had. “This is important to all of you if I'm to understand what set the lad off. The idea is to keep him from doing it again, after all."

  One or two tittered nervously, the rest looked at him with wide, frightened eyes. Then after a moment during which his smile remained steady, they relaxed a little.

  His heart sank when Melenna worked her way to the front of the group. He wasn't hoping for much coherency out of her.

  But she was surprisingly calm. "Lady Treesa found the young man with Medren," she said quietly, her eyes downcast. "She's been terribly curious about him - well, we all were, really - so she ordered him to come with her to the solar and present himself properly right then. He didn't want to - well, that's what Medren said - but she ordered him, so he followed her. He was very polite, but even I could see that he was very unhappy, and the more Treesa asked about his family - because he told us who he was right off - the unhappier he got. As soon as Treesa noticed it, that was when she did - like she does with you, milord Van. You know, she gets sort-of flirty, but at the same time she starts getting very mothering. She got up and started to go to him, to put him at ease - and he sort of jumped back, and one of the couches jumped right between him and Treesa. It just - jumped, like a trained dog, or something. Lady Treesa nearly had heart failure, and she screamed, she was so surprised - that was when Tashir went absolutely white and everything in the room began flying around."

  She paused, then looked up, very shyly, with none of her usual coquettishness. "We were terribly frightened, milord Van. I mean, I know you and milady Savil are magicians, and I'm sure it all seems very tame to you, but-we've never seen magic like that. Furniture - just shouldn't do that. I'm going to feel funny sitting on a chair for the next week, wondering if it's going to take it into its head to fly.''

  Vanyel almost felt himself liking her, for the first time in years. "I can't say I blame you; I keep forgetting most of you have never even seen me do - oh, this.'“

  He made a tiny mage-light in the center of the palm of his outstretched hand. It was about all he had the energy for, and it impressed the ladies out of all proportion to its size. They ooh'd and ah'd, but they did not come any nearer.

  "Milord Van," Melenna said, recapturing his attention, "there's something you really need to know. Nothing hit anyone. Nothing even came close. Even when those horrid cherubs hit the wall and shattered, no one was cut, no one was hurt. And do you know, that almost made the whole thing scarier.''

  Vanyel nodded; this incident only confirmed his feeling that the youngster couldn't have been guilty of that wholesale slaughter in Lineas. If he didn't remember what had happened, it could have been sheer terror that made his mind hide the memory.

  But he found himself seeing the other possibilities.

  That works both ways. He could have done it, just as Lores pointed out. And because he's basically a good lad, the sheer horror of what he did made his mind hide the memory so deeply there was no sign of it.

  He shivered, in a preoccupied way, and drifted out of the bower, ignoring the following gazes of Treesa, her ladies, and Melenna.

  He dressed and ate, all in a fog comprised of weariness and preoccupation. It was hours later when he finally faced the obvious-that he'd put a very vulnerable young man in the hands of someone who had abused him.

  He wouldn't. Would he? Oh, gods.

  He went looking for Jervis in a state of increasing alarm, and found him in the salle, working out against the pells. And by the time he found the armsmaster, he was ready to kill the man himself if Jervis had even thought of bullying the boy.

  Bluff him. He doesn't know how worn out I am. If I go on the offensive right away, he won't have time to think.

  Planting both feet firmly on the sanded wooden floor, he took an aggressive stance, arms crossed over his chest.

  "Jervis," he called, loudly enough to be heard over the racket of practice blade against pells.

  The armsmaster pivoted and pulled off his helm. He must have been at the exercise for some time; sweat beaded his brow, and dripped oif the ends of his hair. "Aye?"

  Vanyel did not move. "One word for you. I don't know what this game you've been playing with me means, and at this point I don't dare take any chances. I'm warning you now; harm Medren - harm Tashir - you'll be dealing with me. Not Herald Vanyel - plain Vanyel Ashkevron. And you know now I can take you; any time, any place; with magic, or without. And I won't hesitate to use any weapon I've got."

  Jervis flushed; looked dumbfounded. “Harm 'em? Me? What d'you take me for?"

  "The man who broke my arm, Jervis. The man who's been trying to intimidate me on this very floor for the past week. The man that was too damned inflexible to suit the style to the boy - so he tried to break the boy."

  Jervis flung his helm down, going scarlet with anger. The helm dented the floor and rolled off. “Dammit, you fool! Don't you see that was what I was tryin' t'do? I was tryin' t'learn your damned style - and for Medren! Hell-fire! A fool could see that poor little sprout Medren was no more suited t' my way then puttin' armor on a palfrey!"

  Vanyel felt as if someone had just dropped him into a vat of cold water. He blinked, relaxed his stance, and blinked again. Feeling poleaxed is getting to become a regular occurrence, he thought, trying to get his jaw hinged again. His knees were trembling so much with reaction that he wasn't certain they'd hold him.

  Jervis saved him the trouble. He threw his gear over into his chest at the side of the practice area, stalked over to Vanyel's side, and took his elbow. "Look," he said, gruffly, "I'm tired, and we've got a lot between us that needs talking about. Let's go get a damned drink and settle it."

  I shouldn't be drinking unwatered wine this tired, Vanyel thought, regarding the plain clay mug Jervis was filling with unease.

  It seemed Jervis had already thought of that. "Here," he said, taking a loaf of coarse bread, a round of cheese, and a knife out of the same cupboard that had held the mugs and wine bottle, and shoving them across the trestle table at Vanyel. "Eat something first, or you'll be sorry. Not a good idea t' be guzzling this stuff if you ain't used t' it, but there's some pain between us, boy, and I need the wine t' get it out, even if you don't."

  They were still in the armory, in a little back room that was part office, part repair - shop, and part infirmary. V
anyel was sitting on a cot with his back braced against the wall; Jervis was on the room's only chair, with the table between and a little to one side of them, a table he'd cleaned of bits of harness and an arm - brace and tools by the simple expedient of sweeping it all into a box and shoving the box under the table with his foot.

  The armsmaster followed his own advice by hacking off a chunk of bread and cheese and bolting it, before taking a long swallow of his wine. Vanyel did the same, a little more slowly. Jervis sat hunched over for a long moment, his elbows on his knees, contemplating the contents of the mug held between his callused hands.

  "Do you begin," Van asked awkwardly, "or should I?"

  "Me. Your father -" Jervis began, and coughed. "You know I owe him, owe him for takin' me on permanent. Oh, he owed me some, a little matter of watchin' his back once, but not what I figured would put me here as armsmaster. So I figure that put me on the debit side of the ledger, eh? Well, that was all right for a while, though it weren't no easy thing, makin' fighters out of a bunch of plowboys an' second an' third sons what couldn't find the right end of a spear with both hands an' a map. Your granther-he reckoned it best t'hire what he needed. Your father-he figured best t' train his own, an' that was why he kept me. Gods. Plowboys, kids, it was a damn mess. No, it weren't easy. But I did it, I did it - an' then along comes you, first-born, an' Withen calls in the real debt."

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