Mercedes Lackey--Valdemar series

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Mercedes Lackey--Valdemar series

Postby Mark » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:07 pm

I'm in the process of joining a "fanclub" "fanzine" with will publish my stories set in this authors world. Its a fantasy, swords and sorcery realm, thus I know it won't be TOO popular here.

I was just wondering if anyone was interested in me posting my writings here? Keep in mind, you'll need to be at least a little familiar with the world she created to understand whats going on.

What do you guys say? I'd love to share my writing, but I don't want to inflict upon you all things happening that you don't understand without reading the series or at least wiki.
They say that in the Army,
the women are mighty fine.
They look like Phyllis Diller,
and walk like Frankenstein.
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Re: Mercedes Lackey--Valdemar series

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:36 pm

I'd read it anyway. Never heard of the series, but I'd still read your writing. You read mine, after all.
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Re: Mercedes Lackey--Valdemar series

Postby Mark » Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:09 am

To give everyone a quick heads up. Heralds are like "paladins" of the land and are completely incorruptable. The only way to become a Herald is to be "Chosen" by a Companion. A Companion is usually a re-incarnated Herald in the body of a pure white horse with blue eyes. They are as intelligent as humans, and can usually speak with the Herald "telephathically". Heralds have "mind-magic" (ie psionics) like Fetching (telekenisis and teleportation of objects), Empaty, Foreseeing (precognition), Mindspeech (telepathy and mind reading), Firestarting (self explanitory), and Farseeing (remote viewing) are the most common, aside from the Mage Gift, which makes someone a Magic User. Now, Heralds have different specialties, strengths, and jobs....most of them are on "circuit" (ie patrolling the kingdom with authority like Judge Dredd). When Chosen, your taken from your old like and entered in the Collegeum to learn how to be a Herald, where they take classes with Bards, Healers, and Unaffiliated (like scholors, artificers, or children of means getting and education). My Herald has some things in common with me. Here's his personal info. Next I'll post the first half of his first circuit. I'll post here when I submit to the other fanzine. Also, for a change of pace, I've done the whole thing in the first person.


Herald Mark-History, Appearance, Background

Name: Mark
Rank: Herald
Companion: Joxer
Assignment: Circuit Herald
Age: 22
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 180lbs
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Brown
Weapons: Sword (custom forged 35 1/4" overall. It has a 26 1/8" double edge blade, and a hilt designed for either one or two handed use ), Re-curved short bow, one dirk (worn same side as sword) and five daggers (two in each boot in custom sheaths, and one punching dagger hidden in back of belt)
Gifts: Fetching (powerful), Mindspeech (normal), Foresight (weak)

Appearance: Hair cut short, shaved closely on the sides, and clipped closely enough on the top to feather it back with my fingers, a splash or two of water, and perhaps some beeswax on extremely bad hair days. Physically attractive with a wide and well developed chest, chiseled abdominals, broad shoulders, muscular arms, and hard legs. Most attractive features are eyes and ready, mischievous grin. Has two small facial scars, a small vertical one on the left side of upper, lip and another diagonal one just below hairline on forehead, almost dead center.
****************************

Heyla!

My name is Mark, and I’m a Herald. Not a special Herald, like the Queen’s Own, a Herald Mage, or even a Queen’s Messenger. Nope, I’m just your average, run of the mill circuit riding Herald, doing the Queen’s will, and standing for truth, justice, and the Valdamarian way.

As a Herald, of course I have a Companion. Joxer is my best friend, mentor, big brother, guide, partner, and occasionally, my conscience. Like all Companions, Joxer is pure white, with deep blue eyes, and silver hooves. Unlike most other Companions though, Joxer despises the ornaments that other Companions love, like braids, ribbons, and bells. No, Joxer will don ceremonial garb if required, and then only the bare minimum. As he says, “: We work for a living:” and for that reason, much prefers his working tack and leathers. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was a reincarnated soldier of some sort, almost certainly a drill sergeant. Of course, we all know better than that. What an odd notion…huh, I’ll have to think more about that one day.

I’ve always been gifted intellectually. I’m certainly no genius by any measure, but, I can tell you that a lot of things my fellow students struggled with came easily to me.

I enjoy writing (these are all my own journals. I also do fantasy and romance stories as well), the theater (I even perform when time permits), social galas such as dances, balls, and especially Herald revelries. I must admit that my favorite off duty pastime is exploring and pushing the limits of the hedonistic nature of the Heralds. I confess, I love women, and they seem to like me, so I enjoy their company every chance, or way that I can. A running joke is that in the Havens after I die, I’ll be rewarded with a Tayledras Mating Circle, consisting of all the loveliest ladies of all time. What I can’t stand is rude behavior, unfair people, and bullies. I DETEST bullies. Also, I don’t drink. Ale, beer, wine, whisky, it doesn’t matter. I won’t touch the stuff. I’ll tell you why later.

I am blessed (or cursed) with three Gifts. As are many Heralds, I am an average Mindspeaker, and able to “converse” easily with Joxer, or any other Mindspeaker within a nominal distance. I have a weak Gift of Foresight. I do NOT get flashes of the future or see things before they happen. Instead I get “feelings”. I’ll get “hunches” about things that that make no logical sense, but they are always right. It also helps me in a fight, when I suddenly get the irresistible urge to duck and end up dodging a blow that would have taken my head off, or a sudden impulse which would be the best way to swing at my enemy, or even give me a feeling if my aim is off with my bow. My most powerful Gift is Fetching. The instructors at the Collegeum told me that it quite powerful in that I have amazing control, especially of things in line of sight. Now smaller the object the better I can control it, both “throwing” something or “catching” something. With a thought and the occasional gesture, I can hurl rocks, dishes, or even daggers into distant targets. I once prevented a horrible accident in weapons practice when a spear slipped from a trainees hand and was flying straight at the heart of another. With barely a thought, I Fetched it into a tree about five hundred yards away. Of course, the bigger the target and the farther away the harder it becomes. I can fling people around if needed, or even suspend them in midair for a time, which I’ve come to prefer to my sword, as a man whose been flung across a room, or left hanging over a house doesn’t generally want to fight anymore, for as much as I enjoy bladework and swordplay, I really hate hurting or killing people. The biggest thing I’ve attempted was on my internship circuit, Joxer became mired in quicksand after falling from a small hillside. I Fetched him out, but the reaction headache I had later told me Fetching a Companion may be approaching the upper end of my ability. I can Fetch people with less trouble either “To” me or “Away” from me, but only in line of site. I’m hoping one day to learn to use the power to repel arrows or even stop incoming sword blows.

I am the adopted son of a middle upper class family of common blood, yet one with a massive amount of wealth. My father is a moneylender and a property owner/landlord and my mother was a lawyer, until she and father married, although she still takes clients, she picks and chooses them. They have four daughters of their own with the youngest being thirteen years my senior so I was never very close with them, as they’d all married and moved out by then. However, I felt they resented me my whole life, as I was always the baby boy. I have no idea who my real parents were. My father wanted a son to carry on his name more than anything, but my mother had grown too old to safely have more children, so they adopted me from the orphanage. It was a lot easier as I look like one of the family physically, and the adoption has always been a family secret, except when my sisters are in a spiteful mood. My mother is very domineering and controlling, and my father generally lets her have her way to avoid a headache. According to her, I was to attend the Collegeum as an unaffiliated student (or more commonly known as a Blue), use my education to earn an officers commission in the Army (as military officers are considered proper suitors for the daughters the lower nobility). My mother felt that between my commission, looks, and the family fortune, I could draw a wife from a titled yet financially challenged family, and the moment I married into the nobility, my entire family would ascend as well. Even if I only managed to become a court noble, we still had the family business to support us, and if I were lucky enough to capture the heart of the daughter of a landed noble, our families would strike an excellent financial relationship. The family plan was now set and about to be set into motion.

I couldn’t wait to start the Collegeum and my wish was granted when my aptitude tests showed I was ready to enroll at the manly age of eleven years old. When I think back, my first year as a Blue may have been the best of my academic career. I was given four classes, and took to them as a fish to water. I was especially adept at languages and history and the fact I seemed born for weapons training, just proved to my father that I was destined for a future in the Army. I finished that first year with perfect marks and let me tell you, while my father was pleased, my mother was thrilled. After all, I was just a commoner by birth, and was apparently the intellectual superior of all of those nobles, would be artificers, and the trainees of Heraldic, Bardic, and Healers, and my mother made sure everyone knew it. At the beginning of my second year my parents insisted on a full curriculum against the Dean’s advice. As a blue, I could take whatever classes my parents wanted, and even though the Dean suggested I only take four classes again, they (meaning she) disagreed, and my second year was filled completely, with six academic classes, equestrian lessons, and weapons. That year due to my class load, I was at the Collegeum a candlemark past sunrise, and didn’t leave till the sun was setting, and spent most of my evening with homework and studying. I finished that year again with perfect marks, and was among the top of the entire Collegeum in my grade average. My trouble began in my third year. I had just turned thirteen, and all sorts of things were changing. My voice changed, I started growing hair in places I never had it before, and I hit a growth spurt. I am quite serious when I say I grew eight inches that year. On top of that, my parents (mostly my mother who was still bragging relentlessly) insisted I take early and late classes with private tutors, as well as my normal classes, horsemanship, and weapons. This had me spending ten hours a day in classes, every single day, with no weekend to look forward too. Even today I don’t think I’d be able to handle a schedule like that for very long. I arrived on campus before the sun rose, ate all my meals there, and often didn’t return home until around the midnight hour, just to do it all over again. I remember that I started having trouble sleeping and my stomach would battle me when I’d tried to eat. One night I’d gone with several friends to The Compass Rose to work on a project and was given a drink by a well meaning fellow who said I’d looked like I was about to have a nervous breakdown. Before this, I’d only had the occasional light ale, weak beer, and watered wine, and never really had an undiluted drink. The cherry brandy burned my throat like fire, but made a warm and relaxing spot in my belly. I’d eagerly finished it and for the first time in quite a while felt that I could face the evening. Starting that evening, I’d find a reason to stop off at a tavern and have several drinks on my way home. I started waking up ill (I later learned the term was hung over) and learned that if I drank a bit more brandy and I’d be ok. I took to carrying a small hipflask with me to classes to carry me through the day. I thought that everything was ok, but my teachers noticed that while I was having an easier time socializing with other students, my grades were suffering. I wasn’t precisely failing, but my perfect marks had fallen to above average and average, which to them was a cause for concern. Each teacher took me aside tried to talk to me. I laughed and joked and convinced them everything was fine, at least so I thought. I’d somehow managed to make through yet another year, but my overall grades had fallen, and my mother was incensed. Not only did she insist I maintain the same amount of classes, she hired me a tutor as well. The added pressure got to me, and I started drinking a lot more. It came to light one day in the first quarter of my fourth year. A younger student, William, was a sickly young fellow. All he ever wanted was to be an engineer. One day, I was going from military history to law when William was, as usual, accosted by three of the high born Blues. Henry, the son of some court Baron or other, was the resident bully, and tormented William constantly. Henry had never given me any trouble, as we had been in the same Weapons class for two years, and he knew there were easier targets on which to vent his spleen. Henry and his two cronies went up to William and demanded something, his purse I’m guessing since that was what he’d handed over. After looking inside, they dumped the few copper coins the poor lad had into the bushes, and pushed him. He lost his balance and slipped into the rosebushes on the side of the path. He screamed in pain when he landed in them (those bushes had very long and sharp thorns). He was in tears, begging them to let him go, yet they kept pushing him back into the thorns. His uniform was shredded and the skin underneath was in similar shape. The poor lad was bleeding, and was gasping for breath in a way I didn’t like. I have no idea when I decided to step in, but the next thing I knew, I kicked the ankle out from one of Henry’s toadies and tossed him to the ground. I remember that everyone stopped in stunned silence (even William) and stared at me like I was a dragon or something. I knew that even though I was a gifted student in weaponry, I was also unarmed, untrained in hand to hand combat, and outnumbered three to one. The thing that surprised me was that I didn’t care. There was absolutely no way I would let these three hurt a defenseless lad whose only offense was that he was cursed with poor health. First, words flew back and forth, the usual insults and threats and so forth and I really did try and solve things peacefully. However, I was too young then to realize that I’d insulted their pride, and the only thing to salvage it was to punish me. It was on that day that my Gifts first manifested themselves, yet at the time I had no idea. Suddenly, everything in me screamed to duck, and I did just as a rock hurled through the air, a present from the fellow I dumped on the ground. As I stood back up, I felt it horribly important to raise my left arm, and inadvertently blocked a punch to my face. My Gift may have nudged me or I may have just instinctively taken the opening, but I snapped my head down, and smashed Henry’s other mate’s nose into a bloody pulp. Suddenly, the air emptied from my lungs as a knee met me in my stomach, and I thought I’d heard something break. I panicked, and I “pushed” mentally and to my amazement, Henry went flying backwards into the same strand of rosebushes that young William was just escaping from. It was then that a Herald, a Bard, and two Guardsmen that had been in the area arrived and took us into hand. We went to see the Dean, and I felt quite justified. He approached me without a word, and pulled part of my broken flask from my pocket, it only being then that I realized I was soaked in brandy. William was taken to the Healers, and Henry and crew released to their parents after the one fellow had his nose attended too. My actions that day were all that saved me that time I think. I was put on academic probation, and forbidden any alcohol whatsoever. My parents went through the roof, and suddenly it was coming at me from all sides. They were disappointed and hurt; my teachers looked at me with THAT look every time they saw me. On top of my normal workload, I had punishment assignments, including chores at the Colleguem. I was overwhelmed, and didn’t feel that I could talk to anyone about it. I was a man, and supposed to be able to handle whatever life sent my way. Needless to say, it was only three weeks later that I started drinking again. My grades plummeted to a hair above failing. I panicked and I drank more and chewed mint leaves to hide the smell. Finally, the end came when I showed up to class completely drunk, and ended up vomiting all over my text book, then falling asleep in it face down.

Thus at fifteen years old, in my fourth year at the Collegeum, I who was once the pride of my teachers and considered a prodigy of education, was expelled. I couldn’t handle the shame, and that very day I ran away. I lived for three years in the poor quarter, doing clerical day labor for money for alcohol, shelter, and food in that order. I frequented a small dive called The Companion’s Tail, mainly because they let me run a tab. There I met Miri, the daughter of the proprietor, serving wench, spit cook, and if you paid mom and dad enough, bed partner. She and I came to know each other pretty well and spent all of our free time together. She was a few years older than I, but seemed like she was much younger. She loved poetry, but as she couldn’t read, she’d ask me to read it to her for hours at a time. Miri and I came to care for each other in that alcohol fueled way that only two drunkards can understand, but today I realize it wasn’t love. I eventually became the cashier, because they believed in my honesty. They knew that I’d never cheat them nor steal a single penny. Eventually, they let me make a pallet in the store room, and I lived there with Miri for three years. One night, Miri had been “entertaining” a sailor who had gotten rough with her. Between her father and me, we held him for the Watch. Afterwards, I realized she didn’t look right, with a knot on the back of her head and eyes unfocused. No matter how much we drank, she said the pain kept getting worse. She asked if we could just go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, my instincts screaming at me, but had been unable to get through the alcohol. Miri lay in my arms, grey in color and cold to the touch. She’d died in my arms and I’d been too drunk to help her.

I ran out into the night, and I remember that it was pouring rain. I was lost, confused, and felt like my life had hit rock bottom. Part of me wanted to drink myself into oblivion, but my drinking had just cost that poor girl her life. Right then, I decided that I needed help. I staggered through the downpour into the night, with some intention of finding a temple to take me in, and let me dry out, in both senses of the word. As I crossed a corner, I bumped into something that knocked me to the muddy ground. I looked up, and through the rain and my own tears I could barely tell that I’d run smack into a white horse. Here I was, still mostly drunk, soaking wet, broken in spirit, and now, with a muddy backside. I made a move to get up, but the horse bumped me with his nose again, knocking me flat. It was then that I’d realized this horse had the deepest blue eyes I’d ever seen, and as I met his gaze, I felt like I was falling into an endless pool. I felt a void I never realized was there suddenly fill, and I found the love and forgiveness that I so desperately needed. It was then I heard a voice clearly as any I’ve heard speak in my mind.
:My name is Joxer, and I Choose you. I’ve waited for this day for years, and you are finally ready.:

He led me to a nearby temple, one of the local temples to the Lord of Light, that everyone knew was the God of Karse. The priest took one look at me, and hustled me into bed. The following weeks were not pretty. I shook terribly. I had a fever. I vomited so much, Joxer joking told me that my toenails had come up in the basin. Oh, by the God and Goddess did I want a drink, but that priest, or one of his acolytes were always there. A green robed healer came and dosed me with tonics to restore my body’s natural balance they said, but all I knew was they tasted horrible. I yelled, I screamed, I threatened. More than once, I made the furniture in the room shake, and things flew across the temple, as my Gifts got away from me. Luckily, Joxer was there, and every time things started flying around, he’d clamp down shields over me. Finally, I was well enough to travel. I thanked that priest with all of my heart and mounted Joxer for the first time, and he took me back to the Collegeum. The Dean was stumped as to what to do with me. He’d expelled me after all, but here I was, back again after being Chosen. I’m sure HIS Companion influenced him in deciding that as a Herald Trainee, I needed to be re-enrolled. I was given a battery of tests to measure what I’d retained of my previous education and he was pleased to note I’d forgotten nearly nothing, and I was mostly just rusty. I was issued Herald Trainee grey uniforms, and given me new schedule.

It was definitely a lesson in humility, as I was now eighteen years old, and almost always the oldest in my class. Any subject I’d tested less than proficient in, I was forced to retake, as well as the Herald specific classes. It was in one of those classes, where I studied my Gifts, which was when I’d learned what had been happening, and how I’d inadvertently used my Gifts in that long ago fight. Part of my regular schedule included a mandatory daily one candlemark session with a Mindhealer. She helped me with those deep seated issues I had, and helped me realize my drinking was just another symptom to a whole slew of other issues. She also helped me deal with the guilt I felt about Miri.

Slowly, I began to heal. I started to socialize with others again, and even though most of them were younger than me, there were a few my age. There were even a few Heralds around that were year mates of mine from when I was a Blue. Again, Weaponry became by best subject, but this time, I learned archery, which is absolutely essential of every Herald. I became very good at an obscure style of swordsmanship, one that either involved one or two hands, but with a lighter blade. I was also given basic training on two handed fighting, with a sword and a dirk, but honestly, I’m not very good at that. My time in the Poor Quarter wasn’t totally wasted as I’d become a decent knife fighter, and as such was adept enough with daggers to warrant carrying them. However, it was truly inspired when my Gifts teacher and Weaponsmaster got together and taught me to use my Gifts in combat. Mindspeach can’t really be used as a weapon, but my Foresight COULD warn me of an impending blow, or the time to strike. However, that Gift isn’t under my control, but my Fetching is. My Fetching Gift is quite powerful, and my control is impressive to quote my instructors. I was taught to fling objects at targets, fling targets around, and use my environment as a weapon. I was also taught that in theory, I could Fetch myself and maybe one other as a last ditch means of escape, but I have no desire to put that to the test.

I spent two years at the Collegeum as a Herald Trainee, and those were the happiest years of my life. I learned that I didn’t have to drink, no matter what. I learned that I could trust people, and not everyone had an agenda for me, and I learned a great deal about myself. I also learned about personal boundaries, a lesson I use with my mother constantly. In the middle of my second year, I went down to visit my parents. The Dean had sent word about what happened, but informed them I couldn’t have any visitors. When Joxer and I arrived I was assaulted by my sisters first and their children (many of whom I never met), before mom and dad made it outside. My father venerated Companions, and didn’t hesitate at all to invite Joxer into the house via the back doors (they are double glass doors into a huge family room). My mother started after an hour, telling me it wasn’t too late, and that as a Herald, I was now even of rank to marry royally. She started naming potential prospects before Joxer prompted me to put my foot down then and there. I would NOT be marrying to elevate family status. I would NOT be taking the family business. I was going to be a Herald, serving Valdemar. She was stunned, and my sisters dismayed, but I saw a hint of a smile on my fathers face. That night, as I was leaving my father pressed a bag of gold coins in my hand, which had always been how he’d shown his love. Now, being a Herald doesn’t pay well, and a Herald Trainee barely at all, so I was quite grateful. I’d tucked some away, bought an item or two for myself, and divided up the rest among all my year mates, of all uniform color. Everyone was able to enjoy something, and those smiles made my day.

The day finally came. I was called before the Heraldic Council and informed I was ready and had earned my Whites. They also made it clear that the vote was NOT unanimous, and as such I needed to prove myself as a Herald. I was informed that I would be riding circuit with Herald Jenna, and that we drew the longest circuit on the map. My intern “year” would actually be just over two, and that its one of the rougher circuits out there. Somehow, my parents had heard of my elevation, and set up a celebration for me at the family house. I was stunned to find that every single one of my year mates were there ( I never thought I was very popular), as well as full Heralds, some Healers I know, and two Bards, both vying for attention. My parents finally presented me with my “graduation” gifts. They gave me ten sets of exquisitely made, yet regulation cut Heraldic Whites (five warm weather and five cold weather), two magnificent cloaks (a short one for summer and a long full length fir lined for winter), two tailor made pairs of boots (each boot has two dagger sheaths sown inside with a cover flap), a set of four daggers for the boots, as well as a “katar” (a punching dagger) with a belt sheath designed to ride the belt, a parrying dirk with an engraved blade, and finally, a custom made sword, forged to very specific specifications, built specifically for my particular blade style. I have no idea how they knew, but it was the finest blade I’d ever seen in my life. They’d also given me a re-curved short bow, one designed to give me a stronger draw that I could shoot from Joxer’s back. By this time, tears were freely flowing down my cheeks and I didn’t care. As I left the party heading back to my room part of me was nervous thinking about riding this circuit, but mostly I couldn’t wait. I only wished that Jenna would hurry so we could go.
They say that in the Army,
the women are mighty fine.
They look like Phyllis Diller,
and walk like Frankenstein.
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Re: Mercedes Lackey--Valdemar series

Postby Mark » Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:09 am

The First Circuit part one

“Finally” I thought, pulling the last strap on my saddlebag tight, and then cinching it. :Are you absolutely sure this time, Chosen?: Joxer’s voice sounded in my mind. :Yes: I replied the same way :I am absolutely sure. You know Jox, if you think you could do better, you could have spoken up at any point and I’d have been happy to let you do the packing.: With a mental sniff he replied, :I have no doubt that I could do better Chosen, even with a lack of thumbs. And in less time too.: It was a long time coming, but I finally had earned my Whites only three weeks earlier. I was supposed to have met my mentor, Herald Malbor a few days after to start my training circuit, but the man had suffered a horrible brainstorm the very night after we first met. He’d been up at Healers’ and we’d heard that he was still unconscious and may never reawaken. I was told to pack and be on standby, as I’d be assigned a substitute.

During the afternoon I’d spent with Malbor, he’d given me a list of what would be needed on a circuit, and I dutifully fetched every item on the list and packed it away. I’d thought I’d done a splendid job, but Joxer kept pestering me to get some help. Fortunately, Herald Galin had a bit of experience in field work. He was a Queen’s Messenger now, but had rode circuits for nearly a decade before his new posting. We walked into my room and he’d taken one look at my packs, shook his head, and made me empty everything out onto the bed. Over the next several hours, we’d gone over everything several times, with him making me unpack things I’d thought of as necessities. He let me keep half dozen books, and my journaling equipment but make me put away my metal fishing rod and custom brass reels an artificer I’d met designed. He made me pack more than three extra uniforms, but unpack the lute I’d been planning on teaching myself on the road. Finally, we’d gotten everything down to two large packs. Everything else would have to wait until I got word that my new mentor had arrived.

Finally, I was told my new mentor had arrived. She’d just returned from completing a circuit herself, and was to be given ten days leave before beginning this one. I’d gone out of my way to try and meet her in advance and set her several messages, to which I received no reply. I tried to catch her at meals even, but she didn’t come up to the Collegeum once and spent almost all of her time down in the city. We’d received our departure date though, so I knew that I’d meet her soon enough.

The night before we left I was so excited that I barely slept. That morning, I was out of bed as soon as the morning bell rang and after washing up and shaving in the bathing room, I’d come back down and was putting on the fresh uniform I’d lain out. I strapped both my sword and dirk to my left hip, and sheathed my punching dagger at the base of my lower back for a right handed draw. I grabbed my brand new re-curved bow and quiver and allowed the servants to help me down with my things. It was just after breakfast, and I’d enjoyed eggs, fresh fruit, fresh bread with butter, and everything else I knew wouldn’t keep on the trail, as I had a feeling we’d be eating travel waystation fare for the foreseeable future. I was supposed to meet Herald Jenna at the eighth candlemark. I thought it quite odd that we hadn’t met as of yet, but from what everyone told me, she was smart, competent, an excellent Herald, and drop dead gorgeous.

It was a warm but windy day, with summer just winding down as I stood in the yard by Companions field, waiting for my mentor and instructor. I’d dismissed the servants already, thanked him, and offered them a couple of small coins by way of gratuity. They seemed grateful and very surprised, which makes sense after all. How often does a Herald, who knows nothing but his or her duty, drop a coin to someone else for doing their own? I’d heard that Heralds were generally horrible tippers as a group, and as someone who grew up with purses as full as I can carry, then having gone to working all day for bread and wine, I knew what an extra coin or two here and there meant. I looked around for Jenna, as she seemed to be running a bit late. :She’s leaving you wait here on purpose, Chosen.: Joxer told me : Apparently, she doesn’t like you, and this is just another way of her expressing that.: Needless to say I was surprised :We’ve never even met,” I replied :that makes no sense.: I felt Joxer’s mind go distant for a moment, as it does when he’s Mindspeaking someone else. :Ok, I think I understand now.: He said when his attention had returned to me “Her Companion, Isabella just explained it. She was a Heraldic Trainee when you were a Blue, and was quite infatuated with you. She tried several times to get to talk to you, and even asked you out once, but you, my sodden friend, were either too busy or drunk to notice. In fact, as you just pointed out, you didn’t even know she was alive. According to Bella, back then she was a rather plain looking, chubby little thing. It seems riding circuits for a several years has trimmed her down and put a luster in her.: I replied :Will the wreckage from my past ever stop resurfacing?: Not likely I thought, and felt Joxer’s sympathy and support as usual.
Joxer and I waited for another mark or so when I saw a stunning woman with flaming red hair approaching, her packs in tow by a couple of Collegeum servants. She wore the standard white uniform, which was complimented nicely by her ample bosom, slender waist, and long legs. Her skin was the color of milk, and her eyes an amazing sea green. Her face was neutral, but thanks to my forewarning from the Companions I noticed her eyes had a hard set to them and a tightening of the jaw common to people doing something they really didn’t like. I noticed that like every Herald, she carried a bow, nothing fancy like mine, but still yet a serviceable looking weapon. Across her back was round wooden cavalry shield, and interestingly enough, a flanged mace. I was burning with curiosity to ask about that. Most Heralds used blades, either swords or knives, and I always found it interesting to see one that wielded a different weapon, and would have loved to know the reason for it.

I stepped forward with a friendly smile, “Herald Jenna, good morning to you.” I said. “My name is Mark. We’ve never met formally before but I understand that we were yearmates at one point…” She interrupted me before I could finish “I don’t really care.” She said “What I do care about is getting on with our circuit so I can effectively evaluate you and submit my report to the Circle. We can’t do that if we can’t even manage to get out of here on time. Agreed?” I nodded and muttered “Agreed” biting my tongue thinking that if she’d been on time we’d have been long gone already. I decided to keep silent as I didn’t want to antagonize her further as she quickly and skillfully saddled her Companion, and then dismissed the servants who’d helped her with a warm smile and a word of thanks. She quickly eyeballed Joxer for a mistake, as if by now I couldn’t saddle my Companion in the dark, as well as the loading of my pack animals as she loaded up her gear. We had five mules in all as this was one of the longer circuits and had quite a bit to carry. I’d packed one of the mules with all of my personal belongings, plus my share of the joint gear, as did she. Apparently, she found nothing to criticize in my loading of the animals. Two more carried food and fodder for man and beast alike, and the last carried only the travel pavilions for the Companions and beasts, which while bulky, was the lightest of the loads, and that animal was to be rotated in and out with the others, giving each beast a rest. We’d be staying in inns and waystations as often as we could, but there would be stretches of weeks at a time that we’d be doing nothing but camping and traveling, and those tents would ensure those in our care were taken care of. She took a final look, grabbed the reins of the pack animals, and mounted up. I quickly followed suit, without a single word being exchanged between us. I wordlessly followed her from the city, and Joxer mentally chuckled at my excitement to finally be heading out on a great adventure.

Six weeks later, the leaves were falling in earnest, frost was on the ground, and we still weren’t speaking. For being alone together on the road, with nobody to talk to aside from our Companions, you’d think that she would have at least had a little chat about the harvest, holiday, or even the weather. No, the only time Jenna spoke to me was in direct relation to our duties. When we arrived at a waystation, she would tell me what chores to do, regardless of how many times I’d done the exact same thing in the past. I started to get a bit surly myself. I was quite aware of how long to fumigate a waystation, and certainly didn’t need her to tell me to chop firewood. I found myself venting to Joxer more and more, who’d even tried speaking to Bella about her Chosen’s attitude, but nothing helped. The first two villages that we’d gone through were quiet. All we did was share the latest news, check the books, and so forth. We even agreed to carry a birthing gift from the first village to the second from a young woman whose cousin had just had her first child. Jenna would not allow me to speak whatsoever during the course of our duties at these villages. As we rode into the third, I felt the slightest tingle of Foresight, so I wasn’t overly surprised when we were approached by the mayor of this decent sized village who asked for Herald’s Justice, in a matter of an accused rapist. The man in question had allegedly broken into the house of a local teamster, and raped the man’s wife. The deed had been interrupted when the teamster had come home unexpectedly a week early. It seemed the wife started screaming and the teamster had beat the man half to death before he could be restrained. The accused had been secured inside a stable with the stall door chained as a makeshift gaol, but wasn’t in any condition to go anywhere after the beating he took. We listened to some statements from neighbors and the folks that responded to the ladies screaming, and it became rather obvious to me what happened as the lady hadn’t started screaming until the teamster had got home, but anytime I spoke, Jenna would say something to the effect of “You’re here to listen, and learn. Take the cotton balls out of your ears and put them in your mouth” and in all I was seriously becoming resentful. Finally, all parties were gathered in the center of the village to hear the case. The teamster, the accused rapist, and the wife were all brought forth. The accused man swore that he and the lady had been having an illicit affair for the past year, when the husband was out of town. He’d shimmy up the vines to the woman’s second floor window, and they’d make love until before dawn, when he’d creep back out. The woman insisted the man was lying. She maintained that she’d never slept with the man, nor ever cheated on her husband, and that she’d woken up when he wrapped his hands around her throat and threatened to kill her, before he took her. The husband recounted what he’d seen when he came in. Jenna thought quietly for a moment, “It’s obvious that somebody is lying, and as a man’s life hangs in the balance, we’ll invoke the Truth Spell.” I looked at her to see if she’d thawed a bit, but I saw on her face that of a complete professional. Whatever there was between us out there, here and now, we were Heralds, and her duty as my mentor was to train me, and she would not shirk her duty.

The accused rapist glowed as the first stage truth spell took him, and he repeated everything he said the first time, with no change to the glow at all. When it came to the woman, she flatly refused the spell, screaming about being the victim, crying hysterically, and other nonsense. “You will speak the truth” was all Jenna said as she shifted the spell from the man to the woman, and took it up to a stage two spell. “What happened?” Jenna asked the woman. Whatever the woman was trying to say we’ll never know, as the power of the spell overwhelmed her with a compulsion to tell the truth. The woman repeated the accused man’s story, effectively confessing to adultery and more seriously to giving false testimony, which in this case could have led to an innocent man being hung if convicted, and it was only the fact we’d arrived when we did that prevented the village from holding its own trial. With a roar of anger the enraged teamster charged for his wife, his face a mottled red and murder in his eyes. I flung myself in front of him and was nearly bowled over. The man tried to get through me, but I wouldn’t move and he started to flail at me. I couldn’t hold him back and protect myself at the same time, and while enraged, I couldn’t blame him his feelings and didn’t want to hurt him. He’d just blackened one of my eyes when Jenna sprung on his back, her mace drawn and wrapped the shaft of the weapon over the man’s windpipe. She pulled him back as we started to turn purple from lack of air and had just fallen to a knee when we heard the scream. I looked and paled. The woman that caused this stood there, just finishing drawing a small but sharp knife across her throat. The spray of arterial blood splattered the crowd as she stood of a second and seemed to mouth “I’m sorry” before crumpling to the dirt. The man, who a moment before seemed ready to throttle the life from her suddenly broke loose from our slack grips and gathered the women in his arms, weeping pitifully and brokenly.

Jenna had sent me back to the waystation we’d stayed at just outside of town to rest, and treat my poor battered face. I’d mixed a poultice and applied it to my eye and head and lay down, letting the throbbing pain ease up a bit. Jenna returned at sundown, after having preformed the clerical part of our duties, and started dinner without a word. I lay drifting in and out of slumber until she touched my shoulder, helping me sit up, and handing me a bowl of vegetable soup and a spoon. “I was impressed today.” She said. I looked at her not certain what she meant, still feeling a bit concussed by the teamsters powerful punches. She looked me in the eyes and asked “Why didn’t you defend yourself? When he started hitting you I mean. That fellow was a head and a half taller and had arms the size of your legs. He could easily have beaten you to death without meaning too. You would have been justified in using a blade to defend yourself.” I shook my head, then immediately wished I hadn’t “He wasn’t thinking clearly. He’d just had his heart broken and was humiliated in public by everyone in the village. He wasn’t thinking straight and even if he was, he could have done much worse. He just trying to get me to move, that’s all. But I couldn’t let him go to cover myself, or else he’d have gotten to her, and then I’d have had to kill him, because he WOULD have murdered her with his bare hands, and part of me understands why.” She just nodded and said “Regardless, that was quite brave. Stupid, but brave.” I laughed weakly and hoped this would be the first step. I realized I definitely liked the sound of her voice, and wanted to hear more of it. I was suddenly very glad we had a long circuit left together.
They say that in the Army,
the women are mighty fine.
They look like Phyllis Diller,
and walk like Frankenstein.
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Mark
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