Amnet speaks! Yes, Gala is the obvious candidate- which is why Amnet is not Gala. You can take a minute here to go back and reformulate your guess if you want. Or you can read below, and stop having to guess! I used the plural pronoun for the "divine presence" because none of the singular ones fit. And I guess there's a minor spoiler for, um, I think it's Winds of Fury? But it's the kind of thing you probably won't notice if you don't already know... I apologize for this chapter being less polished than previous ones- I'm going out of town and I wanted to get it posted before I left; I may do further editing next year some time... So anyway, this has been a very enjoyable fic to write- I hope you enjoyed reading it! And a big thanks to everybody who reviewed! Your words are greatly appreciated.
"And maybe I'll find out a way to make it back someday, to watch you, to guard you, through the darkest of your days." - The Calling, "Wherever You Will Go"
"Now that we are together again and in perfect confidence with one another, I do not doubt we can deal expeditiously with the remaining difficulties." - Lord of the Silent
Well as soon as I got on the scene, I must tell you, heads were rolling. Not in any literal, disgusting way, but you can bet that I was pissed, and you can bet I told Them all about it. Their management of the situation was worse than terrible. Just because They're "godly" didn't save them from my tongue, which I've heard can give quite a lashing. I've always been rather proud of that attribute of mine.
Just thinking... my 'Lendel, there under my nose the whole time… I never had a clue. Not till Starwind and Moondance told me. I can tell you I was somewhat flabbergasted; after I decided to believe them. I can't imagine how Van feels about the whole thing, but I can tell you that I let Them have an earful and not just about that.
When I heard about Lereath, about who he really was, I started seeing red again for awhile. To think They left such a loose end unresolved! But after other colors started to come back into my spectrum, I realized it was our problem to deal with. Ah, "us" being mortal creatures of the living world. So, despite being tired and more than ready for a rest, I had them send me right back in; the war waits for no one. And that's how the person known in another life as Herald-Mage Savil Ashkevron came to possess four legs that were far longer than they should have been, a wisp of a tail that wasn't quite long enough, and a high pitched whinny that all soon learned to live in fear of. Thankfully, the awkwardness of childhood only lasted a short time; one of the benefits of being a member of a superior quasi-equine species. It wasn't long before I grew into a graceful adult Companion and my natural beauty shone out. Not that I was vain or anything… Kellen is laughing at me. Well, all right, have you ever met a Companion that wasn't vain? Hmph.
Of course it had occurred to me that Lereath, or whatever he was calling himself now, would come after Stef. What do you think I was doing there? And of course I had my eyes peeled and was fully prepared on all fronts.
Okay, maybe not so much with that last one. Life in the Field was actually somewhat… boring. So I kind of stopped paying as much attention to the humans as I should have been… But when I found out about Stef's dreams I couldn't see straight I was so mad, and mostly mad at myself. A week. That spawn of hell had been torturing Stefen in his dreams for an entire week and I hadn't even noticed. And he was using my 'Lendel to do it! Incensed only covered the tip of it, and I threw my protections around poor Stef as fast as I could, giving me some time until I figured out how to block the dreams completely.
Surprise, surprise, but They actually decided to step up and help out. Well, will wonders never cease. We tried to get Stef straightened out as best we could, but the poor boy still thought he was crazy- and, worse, that Vanyel hadn't really loved him. Oh he didn't really think that, but doubt is a powerful thing. That's why humans have each other, so that we can tell other people that they're loved and they are not losing their mind. Poor boy had cut himself off from that though. So one day, when he was walking and deep in thought, I nudged him. Just a little mental shove in the right direction; he was so lost in his thoughts he didn't even notice. Good thing; I'm not really supposed to be doing stuff like that. But if that's what it took to help him, then that's what I was going to do. I let him figure it out by himself pretty much, just helping him when he got stuck, and the boy surprised me a great deal by thinking of Moondance. Well, I suppose I planted the idea. I, with some help from Them, had been feeding him good dreams, memories of Van and of him and Van together, and of course that had included all the time Van and I had spent in k'Treva Vale. But that Moondance could help with the current situation had never crossed my mind. Give the boy props for ingenuity! And I was wondering how that old rogue Starwind was getting along… Well, I couldn't just let the boy go wandering off by himself now could I?
Stef really was a mess, his thoughts so twisted in on themselves that thinking in anything resembling a straight line was beyond possibility. Having failed to convince him to stop by Forst Reach and shorten our trip considerably, I was plotting how to do so anyway despite objections and wishes to the contrary, when I found that certain people listened better than I thought they did.
I dropped Stef off with Moondance. Stef seemed drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Moondance looked at me, his eyes sparkling with a suppressed smile.
:Hello yourself. I never thought you'd come to meet us! This is indeed quite a surprise, and one I am not loathe to encounter.: I turned to go with Brightstar. :Take care of him, ke'chara,: I said over my shoulder to Moondance as I left.
:I will.: He hesitated. :It is good to see you again, sister.:
I sent him back a mental hug. :You too, you imp.:
I went with Brightstar, and he removed my tack and brushed me with light but expert hands. I reached out to him tentatively, and was pleasantly surprised to find him waiting for me.
:Hello, Wingsister. I had not expected to see you again. Not ever, and especially not like this!: His mind voice was colored with the same pleasure and relief that had marked my conversation with Moondance, though when I had first contacted Moondance to let him know Stef and I were on the way, it had been more like pleasure and disbelief.
:Well, I had not expected to see you either. Not here!: I butted him with my head, and he stroked my neck. :You look well, little feather. Keeping the girls on their toes, hmm?:
"Why Wingsister, I don't know what you mean," he said aloud with a mischievous grin.
A motion in the trees caught my eye, and a chuckle behind Brightstar made us both turn. The movement was his bondbird, coming toward us on soundless wings. The laughter was from Starwind who slipped like a ghost out from between the trees. My eyes were drawn to him and my whole body trembled with the desire to embrace him. :Hello,: I managed, but found myself somewhat mentally tongue-tied. Starwind rescued me from having to think any further.
"Ay, Savil..." One more step and he threw his arms around my neck and hid his face in my silky mane. I whickered softly and leaned into him; almost all I could do physically, but in my mind I threw my arms around him and held him as close as I could.
"I felt..." he began, but the sentence was one neither of us really wanted to complete.
:Yes,: I said. :He caught me... all of us, when we were busy thinking about other things. And I was so tired...: I rested my chin on his shoulder and sighed.
"But no rest for the duty-called, hmm?" he teased lightly, stroking my ears. "How is it that he..." he began again, but stopped before he could finish.
:Sorry.: He knew I couldn't, wouldn't, tell him what I knew. :We- and by 'we' I mean everybody, not just Valdemar- aren't ready for him now. Lereath's secrets will have to wait for another time.: I shook my mane and stamped my foot; oh, how I'd love to have that slimy little worm here right now... But that we just weren't ready was one thing everybody seemed to agree on. Everybody in this case being me, the other Companions, and anyone I could get my hands on while I was... elsewhere. :And even then, you'd have to figure it out for yourself.: Tossing my head, I looked at him sideways.
He smiled and shook his head. "What! You, following the rules? Now that's a revolutionary concept." I snorted. It sounded more impressive now than it ever had when I was human.
"Ay Savil," he said again and leaned against my shoulder.
I moved away, over to a comfortable looking spot, and lay down. :Here, this should be better.: He smiled and came over to sit beside me. We talked, for a long time, and it was only when Brightstar rejoined us that I realized he had left us to have our reunion in private. Touched, I expressed my wordless thanks and Starwind smiled at his son. The three of us continued talking well into the night, until our eyes no longer focused and neither mouths nor minds seemed capable of forming coherent words. At that point, we thought it would be safe to interrupt Moondance and Stef.
Stef really looked better than I could remember him being in a long while; relaxed and... confident. More sure of himself. I was happy. Not only had we accomplished what we set out to do, namely give Stef peace of mind, but it meant that Lereath hadn't won. And in that future when Lereath's dark secrets would be revealed, Stef and the work he would now do would be there to fight with all of the strength I knew he had within him.
I had never experienced Forst Reach from the stable before. It was... interesting to say the least. And saying the least might be best. Not that it was bad. Far from it; my brother had come very far from his young, hidebound days and knew how to provide for Companions now. Not that I was interested in telling him that... though the idea, and the mental picture it supplied me with, was very, very tempting. But for anyone in Valdemar to know this particular of a Companion's secrets would be unthinkable.
I was just falling asleep when I heard someone enter the stable. Someone who was not used to moving around in a stable in the dark and made quite a bit of noise. I tensed in alarm and reached out toward the main house for Stefen, but failed to find him there. Worried now, I raised my nose to see if I could identify the intruder, and relaxed completely when I did.
Finding my stall, Stef slipped inside and sat with his back against the door. I stepped over to him. Something must be wrong, but I couldn't think what it could be. He had seemed all right after talking with Moondance, and he had looked fine all day with Medren. What had upset him? I reached out tentatively with my mind, but he spoke, and the word that he spoke made me freeze.
I stood there frozen for a long moment, all my frantic thoughts chasing themselves into ever shrinking circles. :What about her?: I managed, finally.
He raised his eyes, and they glowed with lambent light in the semi darkness. "It's you, Savil."
I took a deep mental breath and prepared to deny, but with a sigh I admitted defeat. :Well boy, you're too smart for me.:
"I didn't..." he began, but switched in the middle of his sentence to, "Moondance told me..."
:WHAT?!: My head shot up and my nostrils flared as I sucked in air.
"No! Not that, not really." He held out his arms placatingly. "He said somebody was watching out for me. I guessed it was you; well, Amnet. You felt... familiar to me. In my head." He frowned a little then, and I could just stand there staring at him. "But the reason you feel familiar in my head isn't because I know you. It's because of Tylendel. Because you would talk to him in his head." He was staring off into the distance then, and with a whimper I lay down with my head in his lap.
:Oh 'Lendel...: I sighed, and turned my head a little so I could look up at him with one eye. :Stef,: I said, and he seemed slightly surprised to hear his name. :Yes, Stef. I'm Savil. Just like you're 'Lendel, though I remember a bit more than you did. Stef, this is important. You can't...: I stopped. What could I offer or threaten him with that would keep such a secret bound inside a bard? :Moondance should not have told you.:
"He didn't really; I guessed it." His voice was defensive on Moondance's behalf, but then he said softly, "Savil, who is Tallo?"
I raised my head; opening your eyes wide in surprise has something of a different effect when they're so very large and so very blue. :Where did you hear that name?:
"Moondance mentioned him. He said that having seen my strength, Tallo could forgive himself at last. What did he mean?"
I thought about that for a moment. Oh, ke'chara. You still feel so bad? I turned to Stef. :Tallo is... he was a boy who was cast out of his village and killed his lover accidentally. He was taken in by the Tayledras, and changed his name to Moondance.: His own eyes widened in surprise- well, at least I wasn't the only one this night- and his expression went thoughtful. I gave him a few moments to think, then snorted. :And don't think I didn't notice that little opportunity at revenge you just gave me, boy.: Stef smiled sheepishly.
"Savil?" he said softly. "If..." He turned away a little and looked at the stars visible through the open door that lead out to the pasture. "If it's too much trouble that I know your secret," he took a deep breath. "And if there's a way, could you... make me forget it?"
My head shot up again; okay, so he was far better at surprising me than I him. :What?: I asked carefully. :You want to forget everything?:
"No!" he corrected hastily. "Just the part about the Companions being... people. If you can." He turned frightened but trusting eyes on me. "Unless... if there's something else I know that I shouldn't..."
:Oh Stef...: I couldn't do anything but stare at him for awhile. :Yes,: I managed finally. :Yes I can do that. And I can give you something better.: He looked relieved at my first statement and questioning at the second. :You... Would you want to know more about 'Lendel?: His eyes flew wide; one more for me! :His memories are inside of you, locked somewhere. I can unlock them for you.: He sat back against the door behind him and thought about that. :It would be like the dreams. The ones They sent you, after we got rid of Lereath.:
"I... I do want," his voice was strong with longing. "I want to know everything about Van. About how he was before. And... I know Tylendel didn't have an easy life, but I want to know... I want to see everything that made him who he was." His eyes were lambent again, with that strange light, and all I could do was shower him with my approval.
He smiled at me. "Thank you, Savil. Before I forget, thank you." I hugged him mentally, and he stood up to go back to the house. Hesitating a moment, he turned to me. "What do I have to do?"
:Just go back and go to sleep. I'll take care of it.: He nodded, his eyelids already drooping. Oh Stef, I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and my mind followed him back to the house. Already drowsy, he slipped into bed and I began my work. As he drifted off to sleep, I tip-toed my way gently through his mind, erasing something here, just smudging something there; unlocking a door there, throwing open wide one over here...
Finished, I prepared for sleep myself. Before the soft oblivion took me, I felt something, like a nod of approval and thanks, brush against me, and I knew Van was checking in on us. I sent back a pulse of love, but I couldn't be sure he felt me; I'd never communicated with a forest before. But I knew, with one hoof cocked and my muscles relaxing with the strangeness that had become so familiar of sleeping standing up, that everything was going to be all right. Well, as all right as I could make it, and that meant it was pretty good indeed.