Magics promise vlhm 2, p.28

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2, page 28

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


Magic's Promise v(lhm-2

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  I watched you and wanted more from you than friendship - for days, weeks. And at the same time - I was so afraid. Not like this young fool is afraid; I was afraid that once I broke my isolation, you 'd hurt me like everyone else had. But you didn't, 'Lendel. At least not in the way I'd feared. And in the end, it wasn't you who hurt me; it was losing you -

  "Things - happened. 'Lendel and I became lovers, then lifebonded. I know that now, I didn't know that then; all I knew then was that I'd have done anything for him, committed any crime to avoid losing him."

  "You weren't a Herald?''

  "No, not even a trainee." His eyes blurred and burned. Vanyel blinked, and tears splashed down onto the balustrade beside his hand. "Tylendel had a twin; his twin was murdered in a feud. Murdered by magic. No one seemed willing to do anything about it. 'Lendel and Staven had been mindlinked; losing Staven drove him more than a little mad. He decided to take matters into his own hands, and I helped him by stealing the proscribed books of magic. I couldn't believe - I was outraged that no one had done anything about Staven's murder. I didn't know what I should have done, and I didn't see anything wrong with going out for revenge - especially not when 'Lendel was hurting so much. We slipped away on Sovvan-night -"

  Dark and cold it was, and wind blowing fit to tear the clothes from your body. But not so dark and cold as the place inside 'Lendel that only revenge would heal - I thought. I only wanted him satisfied so I could have the Tylendel I knew back again. I never thought further than that.

  "- we Gated to where the other family was celebrating. Since we were lifebonded and I had Mage-potential, 'Lendel could use my energy to make the Gate and his own to call up his vengeance. Which he did. He called up a pack of wyrsa and turned them loose."

  He felt the young man beside him shudder, but he was too caught in his memories to pay much attention. He could still see it; the image was burned into his mind for all time.

  'Lendel, his face twisted with grief and rage, his eyes no longer gentle, and holding a black gleam of madness. The cowering people, seeing no escape - and Evil made flesh in the form of the four wyrsa, unholy meldings of snake and ferret, with their dagger-teeth and their burning sulfur eyes and their insatiable hunger that he could feel beating against his mind even now. And then the thunder of hooves behind him and the equine shriek of defiance and loss -

  "Gala came through the Gate when the wyrsa had made only one kill. She challenged the whole pack - she repudiated 'Lendel."

  Sweet blue eyes gone dead and empty, mind - voice reverberating coldly down the link that bound him and 'Lendel. I do not know you. You are not my Chosen. Then the internal snap of something breaking, and the utter desolation where love had been -

  "She attacked the pack. They pulled her down and killed her."

  Tylendel's eyes with all of hell in them. Tylendel's heart a churning storm of loss and agony. Tylendel's soul a shattered thing past all repairing. Tylendel's mind holding no sane thoughts at all -

  "Savil and two other Heralds came through the Gate and destroyed the wyrsa - too late, oh, gods - 'Lendel's heart, his mind, his soul were broken. He got away from them when we reached Haven. They backlashed the Gate energy through me by accident, and my collapse distracted them just long enough for him to break free of them. He couldn't bear it - the pain of losing Gala, then having her die before his eyes-so he threw himself - off the Belltower -"

  I wish they'd let me die with you. I wish they hadn't saved me when I tried to kill myself. Oh, 'Lendel, Tylendel, it wasn't supposed to end that way -

  He couldn't look at Tashir. Couldn't. Tears fell silently and splashed onto his hands. He gripped the railing until his knuckles ached. There was nothing inside him but the same throbbing emptiness that had been left twelve years ago.

  Twelve years, 'Lendel. Twelve years, and it hurts more, not less. Twelve years, and all I really look forward to is the moment it's all over -

  Tashir was very quiet; Vanyel couldn't even hear him breathing, and only the sense of presence still at his side told him that the young man was still there.

  "I'm sorry," Tashir said awkwardly. "That's a stupid thing to say, but it's all I can think of. I wish it had never happened. I wish I could bring him back for you, Herald Vanyel. Karis always told me people could feel that way about each other, could really love each other and not just pretend to, but I never - I never knew anybody who did. I'm sorry I made you unhappy. I apologize for reacting like I did. If I'd known what you just told me, I'd have realized how stupid I was."

  "It's all right," Vanyel answered him huskily, after a pause to get the lump out of his throat. "You couldn't know. Lifebonds don't happen very often. When they do, well, it's like Companion-bond; when one partner dies, the other dies with him, usually. The only thing that kept me alive was that I bonded to Yfandes that night. It doesn't hit me like this very often, it's just - Sovvan-night, and I'm bloody damned tired, and you - gods, Tashir, you could have been him. It hurts every time I see you, because half the time I don't see you, I see him.”

  The young man was silent again, but it was a silence that implied he was going to speak. And he did.

  "I'm probably saying things I shouldn't, but you said it yourself, Vanyel. It's been twelve years. Don't you think that's an awful long time to be holding onto a memory so tightly that it strangles you?"

  He stepped away a little, as Vanyel finally turned to look at the dark shape of him in shock and astonishment. "People need you, and you can't help them when you're like this. Jervis told me that you said that's important. And you aren't the only one in the world who's suffering, either. You aren't the only one who's ever lost his love."

  He backed up a little, then broke and ran for the door, leaving Vanyel standing stiffly beside the railing, trying to collect his wits.

  Have I been that selfish? he wondered. Is it selfish to grieve for someone like this ?

  I don't know.

  But he's right. I'm not the only one in the world who's lost someone they loved. He lost Karis; and Karis was the only person he ever knew who loved him. I have Savil; I have 'Fandes. I have - Friends.


  He blinked, as answers finally put themselves together in his mind. I said it myself; it wasn't Shavri everything turned into, it was 'Lendel. I do love Shavri, but not like that. It's just that I've been so long without caring for anyone that deeply that I couldn't untangle what it meant. I want to protect her, care for her, but because she's a friend who needs me more than anyone has ever needed me except 'Lendel. And because she cares for me. It was only 'Lendel who gave me love without asking for anything -

  - good gods. That's it, isn't it. That's where the sticking point is. Everybody wants something from me, or seems to. Mother, first of all; Melenna, Randi - they all want me to be something for them. Only 'Lendel wanted me to be myself. Only 'Lendel gave without asking what he was going to get. And now Shavri. And Jisa, who just loves, like only a child can love, without any questions at all.

  But that's not wrong, either; I can't blame the ones who need things from me. But that may be something of the difference between friends and lovers. Interesting. But how is it that I can go to bed with a friend -

  Ah. I can't go to bed with someone who's not a friend. How could I have lost what I knew when I was fifteen? That was what I knew when Krebain tried to seduce me. Sex and love aren't the same thing. But love and friendship are so close that you can't have love without having friendship. I could have continued to love 'Lendel even without sex. That's what had me confused. We became friends and lovers and beloved all at the same instant. There was something about him I would always have liked, even if I'd never loved him.

  The stars weren't any brighter for having just found some of his answers, but they seemed that way. Poor Tashir - he doesn't have anyone. I had a true love. Not too many people can say that.

  He contemplated that for a moment. I've been thinking awfully hard about how I lost him. Maybe it would be better to remember how I
had him. Once again he set himself to build the illusion that had shattered with Tashir's gasp; just as carefully, just as lovingly. But this time remembering the good times.

  Once again Tylendel stood before him, frozen in a moment of gentle joy. He remembered that moment well.

  You gave me a gift I never expected to have; you gave me my music back, beloved. You told me that it was more important to you to hear music played for itself than to hear it enhanced by the strongest of Bardic Gifts. He found himself smiling, a smile with tears on the edge of it, but smiling. Then I sang you a love song. The first one I ever sang for you. It was the first time I'd ever sung one with my heart in it.

  Tylendel had given himself up completely to the music he'd woven for him. It had been a moment completely free of any shadows because 'Lendel had chased the only one that haunted him.

  Beloved, you knew how much I needed that back, and you gave it to me with open hands.

  Memory could be sweet - even if it held an edge of sorrow.

  I won't ever forget you, ashke, but I can choose how I remember you. And I promise I'll try to remember with love, not tears.

  He allowed the image to fade.

  So it's time I started doing something about people who need me, hmm? Just like you told me. And the most urgent of those is Tashir.

  He yawned suddenly, then laughed a little at himself. And I'm not going to do anyone any good falling asleep on my feet. So best I seek my virtuously empty bed. Morning is going to come far too soon.

  He looked once more into the sky - or beyond it. Even he wasn't certain which.

  Good night, ashke. Wherever you are. Wind to thy wings –


  News, sped by Herald-, Mind- and Mage-Gifts, and Herald-guided messenger birds, moved quickly in Valdemar when the King and Circle chose. But when they didn't -

  They had not chosen to speed either edicts or news in the matter of Tashir and the mysterious slaughter of the Linean Royal Family. That news moved with the same plodding slowness as it did outKingdom. And that gave Vanyel and the youngster a respite.

  But it was a short respite only; Vanyel had known that from the beginning. Vanyel wasn't much surprised when a messenger arrived the day after Sovvan from Captain Lissa. He had a fair notion of just what the sealed message-tubes the courier carried contained.

  And he wasn't at all surprised to be summoned to Lord Withen's study when the messenger had departed.

  The door stood open; Vanyel tapped on the frame, then entered when his father looked up. Withen wore a troubled expression, the look of a man who is uneasy about things over which he had little or no control. He motioned to Vanyel to take a chair, but Van only shook his head, preferring to stand. If Withen meant to take him to task, let him do so with Vanyel in some kind of "formal" stance.

  "This -" Withen settled back into his own chair and lifted a corner of one of the papers lying on his desk. "I had the messenger read it for me; I wasn't sure I wanted Radevel to know what was going on until I talked to you. It's a politely worded ’request' from Lissa for permission to move her company of the Guard to the Ashkevron personal estates. And an explanation of why she's been ordered to move."

  Vanyel nodded. Given what he had seen on his way home - the way the Linean side of the Border had been fortified in just under a fortnight - he had realized it would be only a matter of time before Liss got orders to move from the Border-section facing Baires to that facing Lineas. And the Ashkevron family land sat squarely on the only road suitable for troop movements.

  Withen coughed uncomfortably. "Van, son - the boy you brought here - he's that Tashir, isn't he? Tashir Remoerdis. The Linean."

  "He is," Vanyel replied levelly. "And the fact that he was Chosen after the Remoerdis Family died is reason enough to presume him innocent." He straightened a little. "Father, you know I wouldn't have brought anyone dangerous here, but he needed a sanctuary, and this was the only place I could think of where no one would look for him."

  Withen interrupted him with a wave of his hand. "That's not what I'm worried about. That boy wouldn't hurt a fly, I'd swear to it myself. It's - what do I do if Liss or somebody else comes looking for you?”

  "You could give us up," Vanyel sighed, his muscles going to knots. "In fact, you should."

  "Like hell I will!" Withen rumbled. "You brought him here for sanctuary, and by the gods, he's going to get it!"

  Vanyel relaxed and grinned; the expression startled his father. "Father mine," he said warmly, "you have just eased my last worry. I was not going to foist this walking diplomatic incident on you unwilling, but if you have no qualms about continuing to shelter him -"

  Withen snorted. "I'll pick up blade and defend him m'self, if I have to."

  "I hope you won't have to; I hope I'll be able to find out who really did this, and clear Tashir entirely. If you don't mind, I'll take that chair you offered.'' Withen nodded, and Vanyel lowered himself into its support gratefully. "Randale's playing a very tricky game here; Liss' troop is mostly made up of men from Forst Reach and the holdings in fealty to us. He knows damned well that no matter what the 'official' word is, they'll protect me, with silence, if nothing else, unless you - or Liss - indicate differently. Randale trusts my judgment, and he's giving me time to get this sorted out."

  Withen nodded, one eyebrow raised in tribute to Randale's cleverness.

  "Don't worry, Father, I'll have word and time to get us out of Forst Reach and into hiding in the forest long before anyone dangerous could actually arrive here.''

  "That was all I was worried about, except -" Withen tugged his short beard unhappily, "- is there a chance the Lineans would make a Border-war out of this?"

  Vanyel weighed all the factors in his mind, including Vedric's apparent unwillingness to force the issue. He ruminated a long time, for the most part ignoring his father's increasingly gloomy countenance, before he was able to make a tentative conclusion. He stood then, hoping he looked more confident than he felt. "I don't think so, but I pledge you, Father," he said steadily, holding Withen's eyes with his own, "before it comes to that, I'll turn both of us over to them myself."

  And I hope to Havens I never have to make good on that pledge.

  The reaction to the news contained in the missive was mixed. On the whole, Vanyel's younger brothers seemed to welcome the prospect of "a little excitement" with cheerful bloodthirstiness. Mekeal alone of all of them seemed of two minds about the whole thing, first joining in the boasting and enthusiastic weaponry practices, then taking to pacing about the keep muttering about "line-of-sight" and "defensibility" with a worried frown creasing his forehead.

  Withen made it very plain when the youngster's identity became generally known that he shared Jervis' conviction of Tashir's innocence, and Tashir reacted to his show of faith with disbelief at first. But when Withen himself assured him of his sanctuary, Tashir reacted with a pitiful gratitude that would have softened harder hearts than Withen's.

  It was because of this that Withen actually got embroiled in a shouting match with Father Leren over Tashir and the question of his disposition, guilt, or innocence; the first time Withen had ever disagreed with the cleric to Vanyel's knowledge.

  Tashir's Companion had finally come in to take up nervous residence with Yfandes. This was something of a relief to Vanyel, since Ghost had been frightening the whey out of most of the workers on the holding; they'd see only a flash of something white, usually by night, and then it would be gone, and the rumors of a "demon-horse" were spreading. Vanyel was trying to coax both the young man and the Companion into a calmer state of mind in which deeper bonding and Mindspeech between the two would be possible, but neither of them were at all willing to be calmed. Ghost, in fact, showed a marked tendency to panic if even the lower half of the outer door to Yfandes' stall was closed while he was in it. Vanyel was about ready to give it up as a hopeless task when Jervis came looking for him, a startling grin transforming his craggy face into a mask of unholy glee.

bsp; Relations between the two of them were improving again - slowly. Vanyel suspected Tashir may have had a hand in that, though whether or not that was on purpose he had no idea. But although they were speaking without daggers behind the words, Vanyel had not expected to see that kind of expression on the armsmaster's face - ever.

  "Van," Jervis whispered, while Tashir communicated with Ghost in his own way, with brush and murmured words Vanyel couldn't catch. "If you're done here, there's somethin' you have to hear."

  Vanyel shrugged, and vaulted over the stall railings. "Tashir," he called over his shoulder, "why don't you two work off some of that nerve in a good long ride? You're too edgy to trance and I don't blame you."

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