Magics promise vlhm 2, p.21

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2, page 21

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

 

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2
 



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  Vanyel nodded, relief relaxing his shoulders. Good. He knows, now. He saw it for himself. He'll be all right. But he spoke sternly. "It is. And if you do it at Bardic, they'll have the Heralds block your Gift, and they'll turn you out. That is your Gift; this ability to make people feel what you want them to feel through music. And there are only three times it's permissible for you to use that Gift: when you're performing, when you're helping someone who needs help, and at the King's orders."

  "Yessir," Medren whispered, head sunk between his shoulders, where he'd pulled it when Vanyel spoke of having his Gift blocked and being turned out of the Collegium. "Nossir. I'll remember."

  "You'd better. On this, you get one chance. Now, come on, lad," Vanyel said with a renewal of cheerfulness, urging Medren up out of his chair and propelling him out the door with a hand behind his shoulders. "Time for you to show those plowhorse cousins of yours how a real fighter does things."

  Nine

  They returned to his room after practice; Vanyel had thought to give Medren another music lesson, but even though he hadn't done any fighting, he realized as he directed Medren's movements that he was drained - and that was long before the practice was over.

  Medren was no fool; he could see how exhausted Vanyel was. He suggested that the lesson be put off; he even offered to have servants bring Vanyel's dinner to his room.

  Vanyel accepted both offers; he bolted the food as soon as the servant brought it, and threw himself facedown on his bed again with a groan. The bed had somehow been made up in his absence, despite all the hurly-burly in Treesa's bower. Baby Heralds wrecking rooms, adult Heralds making magic Gates and then falling through them half-dead, a possible war on the Border, and still somehow the beds get made. What a world.

  He tried to think of what he would have done if Tashir hadn't run berserk, and realized he hadn't yet spoken with Yfandes. She probably knew what was going on, of course; since the moment he had first accepted the notion of becoming a Herald she had made a habit - which he encouraged - of eavesdropping on just about everything as a kind of silent observer in the back of his mind. He didn't in the least mind her using his eyes and ears; it saved a lot of explaining, and if there was something he didn't want her "present" for, he'd tell her. But it was very rude of him not to have said something, at least in greeting, before this. He rolled over on his back and closed his eyes.

  :'Fandes?: he called, tentatively. :I'm sorry - I got tangled - and then I fell on my nose for a while - and then I had a visit to make - and then I had a visitor myself.:

  She chuckled. :So I saw. You’re forgiven.:

  :Have you got anything for me? I'm sorry I made you run all the way home instead of taking the shortcut.:

  :You're forgiven. And oddly enough,: she replied promptly, :I have got something for you. Brightest gods, let me tell you, it hasn't been the easiest information to obtain. And I am not sorry I was apart from you for a bit; I am very glad you were far away by the time you completed the Gate. I felt your pain quite enough as it was.: The love in her mind - voice softened her words. :The Young One - I have taken to calling him “Ghost,” for he has been haunting this place like the veriest spirit, never coming near enough to touch and only rarely to be seen, and frightening the farmers no end. He is quite closely locked into his Chosen's mind. I can speak with him, but only distantly; most of his attention and his concentration are with Tashir. But I can Mindtouch with him as you cannot his Chosen; Mindtouch does not frighten him. And so, because of the close bond between him and the youngling, I can sometimes pick up things as if I was in Mindtouch with Tashir.: Overtones of deep uneasiness. :The youngling is something less than steady; his mind is fragile and unbalanced. There are terrible things which haunt him, and which he fears to tell, and which he even blocks from his thoughts. Still. Ghost may yet balance him, if he can regain balance; the stallion is something of a MindHealer :

  Vanyel sat bolt upright. :A MindHealer? A Companion? But -:

  :It happens from time to time,: she interrupted, the overtones of her mind-voice telling him clearly that she was very reluctant to speak of it. :It happens when it is needed... Listen, I was in Mindtouch when the boy was making such a ruin of Treesa's bower, and I remained in touch. I saw what you only glimpsed. Here.:

  It was a feeling she Sent, as well as an image. A feeling of profound trust, and the image of an older man, much like Jervis, in practice armor.

  :Looks like Jervis may be our key,: Vanyel mused, lying back down again, and putting his hands behind his head. :Could that man have been Deveran's armsmaster?:

  :I cannot tell you; that is all I could obtain,: she replied. :Tashir is much too traumatized for any questioning, I would say. He -: she slipped out of the link for a moment, then slipped back in again :- he is better, steadier, and Jervis is with him again. They are taking supper in the Great Hall, though with the servants, not the family. But I would not disturb him.:

  He winced at the thought. :Even if I wanted to, I'm not up to dealing with him, beloved,: he confessed, feeling every joint in his body ache. :I'm not entirely certain I could contain him again. I am about down to my last dregs. This is getting to be a habit I'd rather not have.:

  :Then rest. This won't be solved in a day.:

  He grimaced silently. :I know. I told Savil that I have more questions than answers. Like - why are Highjorune and that palace built where they are? I can't believe that it's accident. Why are the people of Lineas so against magic - and yet have no laws forbidding its use? Where did Deveran want to send Tashir, and why did the prospect frighten him enough to defy his father in public? And why is the boy so afraid of women that a bowerful could send him skirting the edges of hysteria?: He made a mental shrug. :I know some of those questions seem trivial, yet it all ties together, somehow, but how -:

  :Rest,: Yfandes repeated. Then, mischievously, :There is at least one thing you will not need to beware of.:

  :Which is?:

  :Visitors in your bed. I do believe you have frightened Melenna enough that she is thinking about things you might choose to do with her :

  :Such as?:

  :Flying her out the window in the nude.:

  He laughed aloud, and decided to stay in his room. Right now what he wanted was some quiet and solitude...

  Three days of unconsciousness seems to make for insomnia, he thought, after trying to fall asleep for what seemed like half the night. He gave up, finally, and moved to the window seat. He lit the candle beside it the ordinary way - from the coals in the fireplace - and found a book. It was a volume of history he would have found perfectly fascinating under normal circumstances, but he found himself rereading pages two and three times and still not getting the sense of them.

  He abandoned it in favor of the new gittern, letting his fingers wander across the strings as he tried to relax. It was earlier than he'd thought. This evening was very much like the one three nights ago; cool and crisp, with a light breeze. The moon was waning now into her last quarter, so there was less light, but the same kind of clouds raced across her face.

  Gods, how life can change in one night.

  This afternoon had been hard. Hard on emotions. Dealing with Jervis - purging that old hate. And before that, Tashir. Seeing Tashir in daylight, looking so much like Tylendel, only a younger, more vulnerable Tylendel, had reawakened all the old hurt and loss. He was trying to deal with the young man as himself, but it was not easy, not with his insides in knots every time Tashir turned those eloquent eyes on him... all he wanted to do was take the young man in his arms and... never mind.

  And is that because he looks like 'Lendel? Or is it because of me? He picked out the refrain of "Shadow-Lover," as he tried to sort himself out. I don't know what I am anymore. Shavri and Randi, they’re more to me than friends. And Shavri more than Randi. A lot more. I don't know what that means. I just don't. Now Tashir - hellfire. But the reason - is it because he's attractive, or because he reminds me of 'Lendel? He tried to think if he'd ever been the le
ast bit attracted to any other women but Shavri, and couldn't think of any. But how much of that is because they kept throwing themselves at me ? Gods, I hate being pursued. I especially hate being pursued in public. And the idea of going to bed with somebody I don't care for - His stomach knotted. Gods, gods, where does friendship end and love start? How much of my being shaych was being shaych, and how much was just because of 'Lendel?

  His unhappy thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door, and he started. He'd already dealt with Medren. Melenna was not likely to show up, according to Yfandes. He wasn't expecting anyone; not even Savil.

  He turned away from the window with the gittern cradled against his chest, and racked the instrument carefully. He walked soundlessly across the room and answered the door just as the would-be visitor made a second, more tentative knock.

  It was Tashir; pale as bleached linen, with the eyes of a lost soul. As Vanyel stood there stupidly, the young man slipped inside and closed the door behind him, putting his back to it, and facing Vanyel with a fear-filled and haunted expression, a strange expression Vanyel could not interpret.

  And in the dim light the young man looked even more like Tylendel. Vanyel's heart seemed to be squeezed up into an area just below his throat, and his chest hurt. "I heard you playing," the youngster said, hoarsely. "I wouldn't have troubled you if you hadn't been awake. Can I - bother you?"

  "Please, sit," Vanyel managed, finding it very hard to get his breath. "Certainly, you're welcome here, and it isn't 'bothering me.' How can I help you?"

  The young man walked hesitantly toward the table, and paused, with his hands on the back of one of the chairs. He looked back over his shoulder at Vanyel. His face - thank the gods! - was in shadow. Vanyel succeeded in getting two full breaths in a row.

  "Jervis says you're ... shaych," Tashir whispered. "Are you?"

  Vanyel moved over to the other chair and motioned him to sit; he did so, but on the very edge of the chair. Vanyel had a flash of image, a young stag at the edge of a bright meadow in the midst of hunting season. Which was also mating season. Wanting, needing, looking for something, not knowing what he needed, and full of fear and less definable emotions. "It's no secret," Vanyel replied cautiously, unable to predict what was coming. "Yes. Yes, I am."

  "Would you be my lover?" Tashir blurted desperately.

  Vanyel found he needed to sit down. He did, just before his legs refused to hold him. He stared at Tashir, quite unable to speak for a moment.

  Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me, lad? No, you can't. Poor boy. Poor, confused child -

  He gathered his emotions and put a tight rein on them. The youngster did not have the feel of shay'a'chern, not in any way. This was the last question Vanyel would ever have expected from him. And his initial reaction was to tell him "no."

  And yet - and yet - he looked so like Tylendel. And I've enough experience I could be certain he'd enjoy it - was the unbidden thought. I could convince him he was. It would be so easy. And I'm so lonely. Oh, gods. Oh, gods. The temptation -

  Instead of answering, he stood slowly and moved to stand before the boy, gently reaching out and placing the fingers of his right hand just beneath the line of Tashir's jaw. Ostensibly, this was to make the youngster look up into his eyes-but Vanyel wanted to know something of what was going on in the young man's mind, and if he could not Mindtouch, well, physical contact made his Empathy much sharper. As the dark eyes met his silver, he could feel the youngster's pulse racing beneath the tip of his middle finger. And the feel he received was of fear and unhappiness, not attraction. Not in the slightest. That was both relief and disappointment.

  "Why?" Vanyel asked, much more calmly than he felt, striving with all his might for impartiality. “Why do you want me as a lover?"

  Tashir flushed, and his fear deepened. And there was something new: shame. "It - this afternoon -" he stammered. "Lady Treesa - I was so – I - I – she - Vanyel, she -" his voice dropped to a humiliated whisper. "She scares me, ladies scare me - I - "

  "Oh." Vanyel made the one word speak volumes, not of contempt, but understanding and compassion. ''Now I think I see what the problem is; and why you're here.

  My mother frightened you, and women in general frighten you, so you think you must be shay'a'chern, right?"

  Tashir nodded a little, and paled again.

  Vanyel sternly told his insides to leave him alone. They didn't listen. They ached. He ignored them, grateful that training had made it possible for him to control his voice and his face, if not his emotions. "Well, let's really analyze this before we go making assumptions, shall we? Do you know my aunt, Herald Savil? Have you met her formally yet?"

  "The o - the lady who was with you?" Now Vanyel picked up only respect, mixed with the good-natured contempt of the young for the old.

  "Does she frighten you?" He half-smiled, stiffly. "She should, you know, she's a terrible tyrant!"

  Tashir shook his head.

  "How about Kylla? She's the baby who's always getting out of the nursery, usually without a stitch on. I expect she's done it at least once while I was sleeping. Does she bother you?"

  Bewilderment. "She's kind of cute. Why should I be afraid of her?”

  Vanyel worked his way up and down the age scale of all the women at Forst Reach that he thought the youngster might have seen. Only when he neared women between twenty and Treesa's age did he get any negative responses, and when he mentioned a particularly pretty fourteen-year-old niece, there was definite interest - and real attraction.

  From time to time Vanyel dropped in questions about his feelings toward men; not just himself, but Jervis, Medren, some of the servants the youngster had encountered. And at no time, even as he began to relax, did Tashir evidence any attraction to men in general or Vanyel in particular - except, perhaps as a protector. Certainly not as a potential lover. Whenever that topic came up, the fear came back.

  Finally Vanyel sighed, and took his hand away. It ached, ached as badly as the injured left did when it rained. He rubbed it, wishing he could massage away the ache in his own heart. "Tashir - let me say that I'm very flattered, but - no. I will not oblige you. Because you've come to me for all the wrong reasons. You aren't here because you know you're shay'a'chern; you aren't even here because you're attracted to me. You're here because women of a certain age frighten you. That's not enough to base a relationship on, not the kind you're asking me for. You don't know what you want; you only know what you don't want. ''

  "But -" the youngster said, his eyes all pupil, "but you - when you were younger than me - Jervis said - "

  Vanyel had to look away; he couldn't bear that gaze any more. "When I was younger than you I knew what I was, and I knew what I wanted, and who I wanted it with. You're looking for - for someone to like you, for someone to be close to. You're just grasping at something that looks like a solution, and you're hoping I'll make up your mind for you. And I could do that, you know. Even without using magic, I could probably convince you that you were shay'a'chern, at least for a little while. I could ... do things, say things to you, that would make you very infatuated with me." He paused, and forced a breath into his tight chest, looking back down at Tashir 's bewildered eyes. "But that wouldn't solve your problems, it would only let you postpone finding a solution for a while. And I truly don't think that would help you in the least. Any answers you find, Tashir, are going to have to be answers you decide on for yourself. Here - " He offered the youngster his hand. Tashir looked at it in surprise, then tentatively put his own hand in Vanyel's.

  He looked even more surprised when Vanyel hauled him to his feet, put his palm between his shoulderblades, and shoved him gently toward and out the door. "Go to bed, Tashir," Vanyel said, trying to make his tones as kindly as he could. "You go have another chat with Jervis. Go riding with Nerya. Try making some friends around the Reach. We'll talk about this later."

  And he shut the door on him, softly, but firmly.

  He began to shake, then
, and clung to the doorframe to keep himself standing erect. He leaned his forehead against the doorpanel for a long time before he stopped

  trembling. When he thought he could walk without stumbling, he turned and went back to his chair, and sat down in it heavily.

  He hurt. Oh, gods, he hurt. He felt so empty - and twice as alone as before. He stared at the candleflame while it burned down at least half an inch, trying to thaw the adamantine lump of frozen misery in his stomach, and having a resounding lack of success.

  :You did the right thing, Chosen.: The bright voice in his mind was shaded with sympathy and approval both.

  :I know I did,: he replied, around the ache. :What else could I do? Just - tell me, beloved - why can't I feel happy about it? Why does doing the right thing have to hurt so damned much?:

  She had no answer for him, but then, he hadn't really expected one.

 
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