Vanyel stood, with Tylendel, facing that garden he had seen through the ruined garden doorway, and beyond the garden, a strange keep. Lanterns bobbed in the branches of a row of trees that stood between them and the gathered people, and trestle tables, spread with food, were visible on the farther side. Near the trees was a lighted platform on which a band of motley musicians stood, and before the platform a crowd of people were dancing in a ring, laughing and singing along with the music.
Vanyel's knees wobbled and as soon as Tylendel let go of his arm, he had to take a stumbling step to keep his balance. His vision smeared, the lanterns seemed to dim and brighten oddly, and he felt nauseated and dizzy.
Tylendel didn't notice, too consumed with the sight of the revelers. "They're celebrating," Tylendel whispered and that rage that Vanyel felt that was not his own surged. "Staven's dead, and they're celebrating!"
Trying to find his own thoughts beneath that torrent of fury was like swimming against a strong current. But somehow its very strength left gaps, where Vanyel's mind seemed to be very calm and very rational. As if Tylendel was pulling away all his emotions, leaving Vanyel a space for himself.
It was Harvestfest like any other, Vanyel could see that. The Leshara weren't gloating over their enemy's death. Only a few probably even knew Staven was dead. How many of the laughing young ladies with the ribbons in their hair, or the two little boys trying to learn the steps so earnestly, had any part of it? And Tylendel-- Vanyel looked at him, felt him, and suddenly realized, Tylendel wasn't going to avenge Staven's death by killing Evan Leshara alone.
He was going to kill them all. He was going to slaughter them, with that forbidden spell that Vanyel hadn't understood, but he knew, suddenly he knew, that it was dark. That in a few moments, there would be death launched at this festival, and it couldn't be taken back.
Another wave of weakness struck and he slumped to one knee, but he pushed himself up again, trying to concentrate on that small space that was only himself. Holding on to the small rock in the rushing river, he staggered forward, on halting gait, of knees and feet and hands to Tylendel, as Tylendel raised his hands high above his head.
"'Lendel, stop," Vanyel's voice was barely a whisper, and Tylendel didn't hear, gathering power in his hands. Vermilion lightning shot out from his palms and obliterated the trees between them and the gathering.
Screaming started, the Leshara people scurrying around in confusion. For an instant Vanyel thought – hoped – maybe that was all. Maybe Tylendel was finished. He was watching everyone run, and Vanyel felt his satisfaction and pleasure in their fear. They should be afraid of him. They should have been afraid of him before.
"'Lendel, no!" Vanyel finally got his voice loud enough that it attracted Tylendel's attention.
"Stop this, 'Lendel. You have to stop this!" Vanyel pleaded.
Tylendel's eyes opened too wide and the feeling from him was betrayal. "I thought you were with me, "Van. You said you were with me."
"I am, 'Lendel, I am. But not this. Not children."
"Leshara brats, who'll grow up to be Leshara killers," Tylendel hissed. "No more. No more!"
Vanyel shut his eyes for a moment, gathering strength, groping for what to do. Tylendel was right, wasn't he? Vanyel had promised to be with him, and Vanyel wanted that. But he thought of those two little boys trying to dance, and the words emerged, "Then kill me first."
That startled Tylendel, who turned back to him. "What?"
It was so hard to find the strength to speak, to push his way through the wave that threatened to drown him. Vanyel's voice was scarcely a whisper, "Kill me first. What you're doing here, slaughtering them all, 'Lendel. It will kill you. It will destroy you. And I don't want to be in this world if you're not. So kill me first, then I don't have to see this."
"I can't do that," Tylendel said curtly. "Don't be stupid."
He turned back and raised his hands again, but Vanyel wasn't done. He fumbled his belt knife free and held it, pointed inward. His hands gripped the handle tightly and still trembled. "Then I'll do it myself."
Before he lost the will or the strength to carry through, he plunged the knife into his stomach, just below the ribs.
It hurt, more than he expected, and he saw Tylendel jerk and curl inward, too, dropping his hands to hold his own stomach. Then pain and shock echoing between them like waves of cold water, he turned again to Vanyel, understanding that the wound was not his own, but Vanyel's instead.
Vanyel had a glimpse of Tylendel's eyes, shining with rage at the thwarting of his vengeance, feeling more the sharply bitter betrayal from Tylendel. That Vanyel had turned on him like this, stopped him, weakened him, and he wasn't sure he had the power to do it anymore.
They were bound together, and with Vanyel's pain now acting as a counter-force to Tylendel's own obsession, the two were mingling like a bit of black ink dropped in milk, first it swirled thin threads of black among the white, but then the black dispersed, turning the bright white to dull grey. So Tylendel's grief was dulled by Vanyel's own pain, and his strength was weakened by Vanyel's blood spilling out.
But he was still gripped in fury, and there was no place for fear in it, so his mind skittered right over the thought that Vanyel might die. He fixed on his anger at the betrayal. He had nearly decided that Vanyel should die for turning on him, when a trumpeting neigh and pounding hoofbeats coming from the Gate behind them, announced that rescue had arrived.
Vanyel couldn't turn his head – he was only keeping upright because he was sitting back on his heels and balanced there -- but he saw a gleam of white as a Companion reared between the Leshara, and Tylendel and Vanyel. Then Gala turned and stared at Tylendel.
::Chosen. You must stop. This is not the way.::
That was Gala. He was hearing Gala. So that was what it sounded like.
That was a bit of grace, he thought vaguely. A pleasant gift at the end... But she was here, and she would make Tylendel okay.
Vanyel slumped over, fiery pain in his middle, and let blood and strength finish spilling out onto the ground, too tired to decide if he was content he had stopped Tylendel or torn up from feeling Tylendel's hatred turned against him. Either way, it no longer mattered.
As darkness closed in, he wondered why Gala was galloping again, so many hoofbeats against the ground....
Kellan's hooves pounded the ground, heading through the Gate without pause, and into the scene of chaos.
Savil looked around, so horrified she didn't know what to look at first: Vanyel crumpled on the ground, Tylendel nearly on fire with such pure rage he was hard to See, Gala confronting him and standing between him and the panicked Leshara clan. There were trees glowing and smoking from being slammed with Power, and enough wild power swirling around she probably could have bound another Gate.
Gala appeared to have Tylendel in hand, so Savil dismounted and threw herself down next to Vanyel.
"Vanyel!" she called but he didn't stir. She Looked, and had another shock: there were threads binding him to Tylendel and to the Gate. No wonder he'd collapsed, with the Gate draining his strength. She wondered how Tylendel had managed it, when Vanyel had no Mage Gift, but that was for another time.
"Mother's milk!" Jaysen exclaimed seeing the chaos, and Lancir was not far behind.
"I'll take on the Leshara," Lancir offered. "Can you two get the boys back through the Gate?"
"Go!" Savil waved a hand and turned her attention back to Vanyel. "Come on, peacock, let's get you home." She tugged on his shoulder to roll him on his back and gasped, as his belt-knife fell free and she could see the front of his tunic was bloodied. "Oh Gods above... Jays! He's been stabbed!"
Jaysen left Tylendel, who was staring at Gala, who was staring back, and came to her. "Who did it? Leshara?" he asked, kneeling down to help her.
It was Vanyel's own belt-knife and she shook her head. "I think... I think he did it himself."
His eyes flew to hers, shocked. "Gods! Why the hell would he--?" But he cut himself off. "Never mind, we need to get out of here. We'll Heal him on the other side of the Gate."
It took some doing, but she mounted Kellan and Jaysen lifted Vanyel up into her arms, across the saddle, then with Gala's help, he guided Tylendel to turn around. He seemed to be under some sort of spell, his eyes were blank as one of his hand gripped her mane and he walked beside her as if asleep.
Savil had a creeping feeling that something was going to go wrong as the party headed for the Gate. Tylendel didn't seem awake, but it wasn't exactly a surprise when he came alert as they crossed the Gate threshold. The party had to stop so she could take it down, and he twisted around to stare back through the Gate.
And with the coldest, most vindictive smile she'd ever seen, he Reached, and in one jerk of power he pulled the Gate apart. It didn't collapse, it exploded. Both on this side, and the Leshara side, a wave of force blew out from the Gate, lightning crackled in all directions, and thunder crashed. The ground heaved. But worse, the Power from the Gate surged straight into the person it was still bound to.
Vanyel convulsed in her arms, screaming.
She couldn't hold him, and if not for Kellan going to the ground, Vanyel would have fallen on his head. He slumped off to the side, eyes open but unseeing, as the Gate energy poured through him. Savil could do nothing, only watch until it dissipated. He stopped screaming, and his eyes rolled back in his head, as he fell so utterly limp she feared he was dead.
"Gala, shield him!" she yelled, meaning Tylendel, and Gala did something that made Tylendel collapse against her, unconscious.
The winds were strong, lashing at them with greater force, and the rain started to come down.
"We've got to get them inside!" Jaysen shouted at her. "I've called for help."
Oh, thank the gods for some sense, she thought, because she had only enough to check that Vanyel's heart was still beating. Then she stared at Tylendel in blank horror, that he had done that to the Gate. He'd done it to strike at the Leshara, but there was also Lancir on the the other side, and Vanyel. Even himself, she had seen some of it surge back into him, but he had been aware enough to deflect most of it.
'Lendel, what is going on in your head?
Other Heralds arrived, and Mardic and Donni, too to help everyone get resettled. Vanyel was still unconscious and pale as bleached linen, thin face turned gaunt with pain that lingered even unconscious. Tylendel was unconscious too, held there more forcibly while everyone figured out what happened.
First they had to deal with Vanyel as the one with the bleeding wound. Healer Andrel bent over him, hands spread across the wound in his stomach. "Not as bad as it might be," he observed. "Luckily he didn't know the right angle."
"Are you sure it's self-inflicted?" Savil asked, voice soft. Because as terrible as that option was, the option that Tylendel had done it was worse.
"Pretty sure," Andrel answered. In that way of Healing that almost a Mage Gift, yet something she couldn't quite See, he twined energies to probe the wound. Then he recoiled. "Gods! Savil, what happened?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, frowning. But he didn't really answer, shaking his head and re-centering himself to try again. It took longer than she thought it should, and when he eased back with a weary sigh, he shook his head in deep pity. "Oh, this poor, poor child."
He beckoned her to kneel beside him and they folded hands and powers, merging effortlessly, so she could follow and See for herself.
Gifts. All of them. Mage, Fore-sight, Fetching, even... she almost laughed at the irony... Bardic. And all of the channels raw and bleeding. He was, in an instant, the most powerful and least trained trainee in all Valdemar, perhaps the world.
Savil withdrew and her eyes met Andrel's. "You Saw it, too," he murmured. "I thought I might be imagining it."
"How?" her voice would scarcely emerge from her throat. "All of them? How could this happen?"
He shook his head slowly that he didn't know. "And how do we deal with it?" he murmured. "This sort of pain, Savil... Those Gifts didn't open naturally, they were forced."
She reached out a trembling hand to brush Vanyel's silky black hair back from his ghostly pale face. "Gate backlash. Tylendel ripped the Gate apart, and all that power went right into Vanyel. But how in all the hells did that cause this?"
Andrel looked down at his patient, shaking his head in pity. "He needs to be shielded. Constantly. And even then... Savil, I can treat the wound, that's easy enough to Heal. But he needs training, he needs shielding; gods, he has to Heal those channels before he can do much of anything. I can't touch them. The only reason he's not screaming right now is because he's so drained."
She nodded faintly. "Can you, I don't know, keep him comfortable long enough he can start Healing them himself?"
Andrel made a face and slowly nodded. "Drug him, you mean? Until they're not so raw, yes."
"And we'll keep a shield over him." She rubbed her hands on her face, trying to force herself to more alertness in how to deal with this. But this was beyond anything she'd even heard of, so many Gifts awakened in such a way. He was going to be sensitive to everything – thoughts, emotions, raw Power....
She inhaled a deep breath. "All right. One problem at a time. Van's unconscious, and taken care of for the moment. Now let's figure out 'Lendel."
It took a little while, with Kellan doing most of the investigating by talking to Gala when both Tylendel and Vanyel were out of it, but finally Savil figured out most of it. Mardic and Donni, Andrel, Tantras, and Jaysen were in the main room to hear.
"So." she started and then ran out of voice, unable speak of what she suspected. She had to clear her throat and start again. "Ever since he was Chosen, Tylendel hid from Gala that he and Staven were twin bonded. Like a lifebond, but between brothers from the womb." She glanced at Mardic and Donni, who exchanged a glance and reached for each other's hand. "When Staven was killed, 'Lendel … wanted revenge. Nothing but revenge. And I didn't see it," she admitted. "I knew he was grieving, I knew he was too involved in that feud, but I didn't...." Her voice broke and she couldn't go on, as Andrel set a comforting hand on her shoulder. She inhaled a deep breath and continued. "He got Vanyel to go along with him, they built the Gate, and in Leshara, Vanyel stabbed himself so Tylendel wouldn't finish whatever he was planning to do."
"He didn't realize until then?" Jaysen asked skeptically.
"We'll have to ask him, but we're not going to be able to do that for awhile." A grim silence fell, since they'd all been told of Vanyel's sudden Gift trauma. "Anyway, what he did stopped 'Lendel long enough that he didn't actually hurt anyone, and Gala came. She says his mind was so full of rage and loss that she could barely touch it, even with the Companion bond."
Andrel added, "When he wakes up, we'll be able to evaluate his mental state more thoroughly. But it seems pretty clear that we were never told the strength of his bond with Staven, and losing his brother so suddenly damaged him, so all he could think about was striking back at those who caused him so much pain."
Savil bit her lip, recalling that look on Tylendel's face as he'd brought the Gate down. That had been meant as retribution; even if it had probably done little damage except wild weather, since the Leshara had fled the field anyway, it might have killed them, and Lancir as well. Of course it might also have killed Vanyel, and still might drive him insane if he didn't heal some, but she doubted Tylendel had thought of Vanyel's connection to the Gate.
"Maybe we can end this damned feud once and for all," Jaysen muttered. "There's been too much blood."
"There was nearly a lot more today," Savil added heavily. "I'd like something good to come out of this mess."
Tylendel was the first to wake, since Vanyel remained drugged insensate. Savil was by Vanyel's bedside, holding the shield so he wouldn't sense anything outside himself yet.
Kellan passed on, ::Gala says he wakes.::
"He" meaning Tylendel, and she stood and rushed into the common room before slowing and opening the door with care. He was still asleep, or seemed to be, eyes closed as she walked to his side and sat in the chair to wait.
His eyelids flickered and lifted slowly. His waking was calm, and not aware yet of anything. His face thankfully lacked the cold rage she'd seen animate it last, and when she Touched him gently, he lacked the hard wall he'd put up to shield his loss and thirst for vengeance from her.
"'Morning," she greeted him, getting his attention. He turned his head and blinked at her, still drowsy. "How're you feeling?" she asked.
"What happened?" he asked, and she felt a pit open in her stomach at the apparently honest confusion. Did he not remember?
But then he started to look for it. "I remember-- Staven," he whispered, brow furrowing in pain.
"Ashke, why didn't you tell me?" she asked gently. She wanted to take his hand, but wasn't sure it would be welcome gesture. "You hurt so much, we could've helped you before this tragedy... Lancir would have done everything he could to help you, too, I thought you knew that."
But Tylendel's concentration was elsewhere. "What did I do?" he asked, tensing. "Did I hurt anyone? Did I--" Then his face went absolutely bone white and his lips parted. "Van-- oh gods, Vanyel. I remember," he whispered. "Vanyel, he stopped me, he stabbed himself and he just... fell--" His voice cracked and she felt a wave of desolation from him, grief and guilt and loneliness that was nearly unbearable.
Now Savil did grab his hand. "He's alive, 'Lendel. Vanyel's alive."
Tylendel's expression crumpled and he looked toward the wall, in the direction of Vanyel's room, eyes going unfocused. "He hurts. Gods, he hurts so much." She gaped at him, as understanding crashed in on her. They were bonded, too. No wonder this was such a mess. "What did I do to him?" he demanded, voice spiraling into panic and guilt.
"Hush, hush, be calm, 'Lendel," she murmured, but that had little effect. ::Kellan, I need Gala's help...::
Tylendel's eyes went blank as he Heard her, and his lips parted in shock. "He has Gifts?"
"Not one, or two, all of them," she corrected. "He's going to need some help dealing with it, but he'll be fine, 'Lendel. And so will you."
"I did that to him," Tylendel said, flatly. "It was the Gate backlash, I didn't remember he was there. This is my fault."
She pursed her lips. "You didn't mean to hurt him," she reassured him, but knew her words fell on deaf ears.
"Can I see him?" Tylendel asked, and when she didn't answer right away, he pleaded, "Please? I need to see him? I feel him, I feel how much he hurts... let me help him..."
She agreed, hoping that it might help. He didn't acknowledge Mardic and Donni who had entered the common room, but they looked to Savil, who gathered them in her wake, uncertain of what Tylendel was going to do.
It turned out he did nothing but reach out a hand toward Vanyel's face, but not quite touching him before collapsing into sobs of "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...."
Savil decided to let them be.
Vanyel stirred, unwillingly leaving the soft darkness for what he knew would be pain at the surface. But the light called and eventually he couldn't deny it strongly enough.
Awareness beckoned and he heard voices. They were distant and soft, but when he concentrated they got louder, but no clearer, turning into a jumble on top of each other as if he was in a crowd. Somehow it hurt, too, the more he tried to listen, the more his head hurt.
He made a noise, like a whimper, and that made someone take his hand and wash the pain away. "Van? Are you awake?" Tylendel's voice, and his touch, and Vanyel's lips curved in a smile of recognition before he opened his eyes to see Tylendel leaning close to him.
"'Lendel," Vanyel said, his voice was hoarse and his throat scratchy, it was hard to speak.
"Hush, everything's all right," Tylendel reassured him. And Vanyel was relieved to see that Tylendel's face, though somewhat worn and haggard, was calm and his eyes were focused on Vanyel, not on his grief and revenge. He even tried a bit of a smile to Vanyel. "You're a bit drugged to ease the pain, so don't worry if you feel hazy."
"Are you okay?" Vanyel asked. He could feel that Tylendel was better, he knew that with a strange certainty, but there was still some shadow there that Vanyel couldn't parse.
"Me?" Tylendel said, trying to make it sound like a jest, but then his voice cracked, and suddenly his eyes were liquid with tears and his face crumpled. "Oh gods, ashke, I nearly killed you and you're asking about me." He clasped Vanyel's hand in both of his and bowed his head down to their joined hands. "I am so sorry. I... did this to you," he whispered. "I tore the Gate down on purpose trying to strike at them, and I didn't even think that you were joined to it. I could've killed you."
His guilt and regret were overflowing, threatening to drown Vanyel. He pulled his hand out of Tylendel's to put fingers to his head, as the little knives seemed to grow and turn to fire. "'Lendel, please, stop,' he managed. "I can't-- it hurts."
"And I'm still hurting you," Tylendel's guilt crested, before he brought it under control, and the fire in Vanyel's mind eased. "I'm so sorry, I'll go away so--"
Vanyel sensed the incipient intent to run away and said sharply, "No! You will not." Tylendel froze and looked down at him, eyes wide by the sudden command in the tone.
Surprised by it too, and by how much he meant it, Vanyel hesitated and said in a more usual, softer tone, "It'll hurt me more if you go away. And it'll hurt you, too."
"But I don't... after all I did to you, how could you want me around?" Tylendel whispered, heart in his eyes.
And Vanyel heard the echo of his own feelings then, of worthlessness and guilt, and he reached out a trembling hand along the sheets toward Tylendel. "Because I love you? Why else?"
Tylendel's hand gripped his, and their fingers twined together. For that moment all Vanyel felt was his love, a balm pouring over all his hurt, and that lowered him gently back into sleep.
When next he woke it was to the sense that someone had called his name. His eyes snapped open, and for the first time, he appeared to be alone in his room. He 'listened', with that other not-quite-hearing sense, and even though it put a knot of pain behind his eyes, it was a relief that he hadn't been abandoned. Savil was speaking to Tylendel in the other room. There were others beyond that, but he tried not to look, focusing on where he was.
The moment he sat up, the bed seemed to beckon him down into its comforting warmth, but there was still that sense that something was calling him. It was like a dream, how much he wanted to follow that.
He stood up, knees as wobbly as a newborn colt, and had to put a hand on his bed until the dizziness passed. He walked to the door, which had been left open slightly, so there was little sound as he pushed it open all the way. Then across the common room, padding on bare feet to the garden door.
It was chill outside of early morning, and he was clad only in a loose shirt and short trews, and the dew was wet on his toes, but that didn't seem to matter. He walked slowly, not questioning why he was going this way. The gate to the Companion field stood open and he entered.
The sun was warm on his black hair and he stopped to stand there, eyes closed, unsure if he had the strength to continue. Perhaps he should lie down right here...
::There you are. Finally. I've been waiting for you.:: He heard the voice in his mind, warm and slightly amused and so, so loving.
He opened his eyes to see the sapphire blue eyes of a Companion looking back at him. The pain in his head vanished and all he felt was her presence, so much larger in his mind than he saw with his eyes. A spirit strong enough to shelter and protect his, to hold him when he faltered, and be with him, always.
His fingers touched her mane, and then gripped the silky softness, collapsing against her as he dissolved into tears.
::It will be well, my Chosen,:: Yfandes comforted him. ::All will be well. You and I are now together, and I will never leave you.::
After his tears had subsided but he still rested against Yfandes' side, he heard Tylendel's voice call, "He's over here!"
Lifting his head and wiping his eyes, Vanyel saw both Tylendel and Savil approaching. And for the first time since Staven had been killed, Vanyel felt a surge of pure joy in his chest and he grinned, waving a hand in excitement. "Yfandes says I'm her Chosen!"
Vanyel laughed to see Tylendel and Savil turn to look at each other at the exact same moment with matching expressions of astonishment.
Tylendel ran toward him and engulfed him in his arms, laughing in his own joy. "Congratulations, ashke."
Vanyel kissed him, and reached out a hand to touch Yfandes, unwilling not to touch her right now. He was hardly able to believe all this was real until Savil put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly.
"Herald-Mage Trainee Vanyel Ashkevron. I am so proud of you, nephew. So proud."
Eyes burning again, Vanyel put his head into Tylendel's neck and prayed this dream would never end.