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The Blood of Visionaries

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“I think I dreamt this.”

Vanyel’s voice was thick and burred with sleep. He’d been drowsing for nearly a candlemark, weariness dragging at him that he’d set himself determinedly to resisting. He knew, logically, that Tylendel would still be there when he woke, but everything was so new between them. It was like reading a book until dawn, too captivated by the story to set it aside, even for a few hours of rest. Vanyel couldn’t let himself sleep when Tylendel was here in his bed, when there was so much of him to touch and so many things to whisper to each other in the dark.

He thought for a moment that Tylendel must have succumbed and drifted off at last, but then Vanyel heard the rustle of the pillow as Tylendel lifted his head and tucked it in closer against Van’s neck.

“What do you mean?” Tylendel’s own voice was soft, his breath warm on Vanyel’s face. His arms seemed to tighten around Vanyel automatically, and Vanyel pressed himself back into the warmth of Tylendel’s chest, the curl of his embrace.

“The way we were, a moment ago. What you did…”

Tylendel seemed to remember, and brought their linked hands up, so that he could kiss the inside of Vanyel’s wrist. Vanyel sighed, so happy that he felt warmed from the inside out, and closed his eyes so that he could better focus on the heat radiating from the hand Tylendel had pressed over his heart.

“The way you touched me, just then. I think I had a dream about it.”

“I hope it was a good dream,” Tylendel murmured into his ear, and Vanyel laughed silently and twisted around in his embrace. Tylendel obligingly made room for him to resettle, and they fit together this way, legs twined and chest-to-chest, as well as they had a moment ago. Vanyel felt as though there couldn’t be any way they wouldn’t fit together, that their bodies would reshape themselves to make a place for one another.

“How could it be a bad one?” Vanyel asked, arch and coy, and Tylendel laughed and teased his fingers along Vanyel’s ribs until he squirmed and gasped, trying to fend them off.

“You used to have nightmares,” Tylendel reminded him. “I seem to remember one in particular that brought me into your room.”

“Not about you,” Vanyel whispered, although Tylendel had been in that dream, offering Vanyel a hand to escape the sharp-edged, numbing ice. “You weren’t what caused the nightmares.”

“Ah, but you did dream about me, then?” Tylendel teased. This time Vanyel was tensed and ready for him, and caught Tylendel’s hand before those strong fingers could dig into his ribs.

Vanyel didn’t answer right away, because Tylendel was right there, so close that Vanyel could feel the warm breath on his face each time Tylendel exhaled, and Vanyel was more interested in putting his mouth to better use. Tylendel obliged him again, and they kissed until Vanyel’s lips were tingling, until Tylendel was half-on top of him and Vanyel had nearly forgotten the question.

“I dreamt about you,” he whispered, once he had use of his tongue again, Tylendel nuzzling against his cheek. Vanyel felt Tylendel’s eyelashes tickle his skin, and his own fluttered in answer, eyes closing again. “About us.”

“Mm, I want to hear more about these dreams,” Tylendel murmured, his thigh sliding a fraction higher in between Vanyel’s legs. He yawned, widely enough that his jaw cracked, and huffed out a soft chuckle. “But maybe tomorrow. We need to get some sleep. Lessons in the morning.”

Vanyel’s heart beat faster at the first rebellious thought in his head, but he whispered it anyway, foolish and brave. “I don’t care.”

Tylendel’s eyes blinked open, slowly, as if his eyelids had to drag through treacle. He studied Vanyel, and Vanyel stared back at him, feeling nervous and defiant and so in love that it made his chest ache.

His heart skipped when Tylendel suddenly smiled, and then Vanyel found himself rolled onto his back, with Tylendel braced above him, honey-gold curls falling into his eyes.

“Well, if you don’t care,” Tylendel laughed, “then I don’t know why I should either.” He leaned down for another kiss, and Vanyel surged up to meet him halfway.

 

 

“Did you really have dreams about me?”

Vanyel looked up to where Tylendel was sprawled across an armchair, a steamed bun dangling half-eaten from one hand and a weighty history book propped precariously on his chest. It was too early for the afternoon light to set his hair afire the way it did nearer to sunset, but he had a halo of burnished gold that made him look...well, nothing like an angel in the temples, Vanyel thought. If anything, Tylendel would be the mischievous devil sent to tempt saints into sin.

Tylendel’s eyebrows arched, and Vanyel blinked at him. “What?”

Tylendel laughed and rolled onto his side, tossing the bun onto a plate and somehow saving the book from meeting a page-bending fate on the floor. “I said, did you dream about me? Before we got together?”

“Oh.” Vanyel blinked again, but he could feel his cheeks warm at the memory, and Tylendel’s grin grew to match it, until Vanyel had to duck his head to hide the blush. “Yes. You were...kind. You offered to be a friend.”

“Just a friend?” Tylendel’s tongue clicked against his teeth. “That doesn’t sound very interesting. Why do I think it was more than that? Could it be how charmingly pink you’ve gone, ashke?”

Vanyel flushed harder, but managed to lift his head and heard himself say, daringly, “Once, you were naked.”

Tylendel crowed with delight and began to roll off the chair onto the floor, until the heavy book began to slide and he had to juggle it back into his lap, sitting more or less upright to keep it from falling. “Was I as handsome as I am in real life?”

Vanyel feigned thoughtfulness, tapping his lips with one finger. “More, I think,” he mused, and Tylendel launched himself from the chair in protest, the book thumping forgotten to the rug as Vanyel hastily crab-walked backward to avoid being wrestled to the floor.

Tylendel caught him, of course, and Vanyel didn’t fight too hard, letting himself be weighed down by Tylendel’s solid, comforting warmth. He was on the verge of suggesting they move to their bedroom when Tylendel broke off from the kiss, burying his face in Vanyel’s shoulder and shaking with laughter.

“What?” Vanyel asked, bewildered, and trying not to interpret Tylendel’s mirth as laughing at him. It was still too easy to brace himself against hurt, to fear the worst.

“Savil’s on her way back,” Tylendel answered, raising his head to include Vanyel in his amusement. His eyes sparkled with it, and Vanyel felt his apprehension fading at once. “She says she wanted to give us forewarning, even though she knows we couldn’t possibly be getting up to any mischief in the middle of the day, when we’re meant to be studying.”

Vanyel smiled tentatively back, stroking Tylendel’s hair away from his forehead. As much as he tried to shrug off the unease, he still felt a pang every time Tylendel shared his thoughts with Savil, or with Gala. Even Staven shared Tylendel’s mind and emotions, and he was leagues away.

Tylendel gave him one last, quick kiss, and then rolled off of him to retrieve book and bun, hurling himself carelessly into the armchair as though he’d never left it. Vanyel watched him, unwilling to tear his eyes away and return to the dull, dry history of Valdemar as it had been centuries past, when he had Tylendel to look at instead.

Tylendel caught him watching and smiled. “Do you still think you dreamt me?” he teased, cocking his head a little to one side.

Vanyel blushed again, and wondered if he’d ever grow out of that habit. “Not you,” he protested. “Just...what you did, last night. When you put your hand over my heart,” he rushed on, when Tylendel’s sudden sly look and opening mouth heralded another comment about which thing he’d done last night that would no doubt turn Vanyel scarlet. “It felt...familiar.”

Tylendel’s sly look faded into thoughtfulness. “Do you feel that way often?” he asked after a moment. “Like you’ve dreamt something before that comes true, or that you remember something before it happens?”

Vanyel hesitated. “I’ve always had some dreams that felt more vivid than others, if that’s what you mean,” he said carefully. “Before you, I dreamt about...about the ice, but that was more like a direction for me to follow. I suppose I dream about people a lot, and situations, but no more than anyone else.”

“And what about now? Do you still feel that way now?”

Vanyel took in Tylendel, lounging in the chair with one leg hooked over the arm and his lunch once again forgotten in his hand. The sun had moved on while they’d rolled around on the floor, and the light was just starting to tint Tylendel’s hair the colour of the oncoming sunset.

“Sometimes,” he confessed slowly, “I feel as though I’ve known you all my life. Or...since before I was born, even. Like I must have met you, or dreamt you, because everything about you is so familiar. Like I knew you even before we met.” Vanyel felt his cheeks warm again, and looked down. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”

“No.” The softness in Tylendel’s voice made Vanyel look up, needing to see the expression that went with it. “No, it doesn’t at all. I think...sometimes I feel the same way.” A smile bloomed on his face, and he said cheerfully, “And we know my Gift isn’t ForeSight. Maybe yours is, and you’re destined to be a great seer.”

“Ha,” Vanyel replied eloquently, and Tylendel grinned at him. “If you’d met my family,” Vanyel told him dourly, “you wouldn’t say that. I don’t think any of them can see past their own toes.”

“Well, it’s obvious that you got all of the beauty and brains in the family,” Tylendel teased him. “Maybe you got the ForeSight, too.” He twisted toward the door, which opened a second later as Tylendel called out, “What do you think, teacher-mine? Does the blood of visionaries run in Ashkevron veins?”

“Why don’t you ask him whether he sees you surviving tomorrow’s mage lesson, and that’ll be your answer,” Savil answered tartly. She had her arms full of scrolls, but shook her head at Vanyel when he half-rose to assist her. “No, leave it lad, I’m not going any farther than the table here. What was that about all the beauty and brains, impling?”

“That no one else could compare to the teacher who’s stolen my heart,” Tylendel replied without missing a beat, clambering onto his knees on the armchair and clutching his hands dramatically to his chest. “Vanyel may have my body, but you--”

Savil sputtered and raised a scroll over her head as if to throw it. “Off with you! Both of you. Go run off some of that energy outside. You could do with a breeze to cool all of that hot air.”

Vanyel’s surprised eyes met Tylendel’s own, and then they were both scrambling to their feet, racing to sneak off separately to Companion’s Field and leave the history books behind.

 

 

“Gala says maybe you have the potential, and that’s why you have the dreams. Like premonitions, almost. Intuition.”

Vanyel hummed acknowledgement without really listening, busy burying his hands in Tylendel’s hair and twisting the long strands around his fingers. It was good to be out-of-doors, even with the constant fear that they’d be discovered here, and that his father would find out and yank him home--or worse, send him to the priesthood to vanish into a monastery. Savil’s suite had become their sanctuary, but it was too easy to feel cooped up there, trapped inside the walls as well as protected by them.

“Did you feel anything different about me when we met? Or do you feel anything now?”

Vanyel arched his eyebrows at Tylendel, whose head was in Vanyel’s lap, neck craned to look up at him. “Well,” he drawled, “I certainly feel something different around you…”

Tylendel threw a fistful of grass into Vanyel’s face, and Vanyel laughed, spitting out the blades that caught on his mouth.

“I could test you,” Tylendel said, almost offhand, and Vanyel froze for a moment in confusion before he remembered what they’d been talking about. “Take a look, I mean. I’m not as good at it as Savil is, but I know how.”

Vanyel was slow to respond, still catching up to the conversation. “You mean...you’d be in my head.” He was still uneasy with that idea, knowing he could never reciprocate, that he’d never really know what Tylendel thought or felt about anything he found in Vanyel’s mind.

Tylendel saw his apprehension instantly and moved to reassure him, sitting upright and rearranging himself so that they both sat cross-legged, knee-to-knee, Vanyel’s back against the tree. “I wouldn’t be reading your thoughts. I promise you, I’ll never do that without your permission, not ever. This is only...looking at you, in a different way. The same way…” Tylendel cut himself off and bit his lip, and Vanyel knew with a sinking heart that they were both remembering Breda, and the test that had revealed Vanyel’s lack of Bardic Gift.

“I don’t know,” Vanyel said slowly. He was reluctant to deny Tylendel anything, but this seemed as though it would only be further disappointment, for no reason. “It was only a dream.”

“I think there’s more than that,” Tylendel said, unexpectedly somber and startling Vanyel out of his own self-pity. Tylendel reached out to take his hands, warming them in his own between their laps. “I...feel things around you, sense things you’re feeling. And it’s not just my Empathy--you feel things about me, too, don’t you? I’ve seen it a couple of times now. Even Savil said it’s amazing how in-tune we are.”

“So you think I have…” Vanyel’s voice was nearly a squeak, which he swallowed to lower again. “Gifts? Heraldic Gifts?”

He couldn’t hide the horror in his voice, which made Tylendel laugh, though his face was creased in bemusement at Vanyel’s reaction. “I wouldn’t go that far,” he promised. “But maybe you have potential that’s leaking over, and that’s why you and I can sense each other a little.”

Vanyel drew in a deep breath, and surprised himself by looking around the grove. “What does Gala think?”

Tylendel looked startled at the question, then pleased that Vanyel had thought of it. “I don’t know. She knows I feel deeply for you, but what you and I have...she and I don’t share that kind of bond. It’s different with her. It’s kind of like…” Tylendel’s face scrunched up in thought. “She can see my side of things, my emotions for you, but where I can sense a little of what you feel for me, she isn’t aware of you at all. It’s hard to explain.”

Tylendel looked sheepish at the admission, but Vanyel was grateful that he tried, at least. He wanted to know and understand everything about Tylendel, and Gala was a part of that. A very significant part.

“All right,” Vanyel heard himself say, and exhaled a gust of air from his lungs. “Do it.”

Tylendel chuckled, and his thumbs ran over Vanyel’s knuckles. “No need to steel yourself, love. This won’t hurt. You probably won’t feel a thing, actually.”

“‘Said the Healer to his wife,’” Vanyel quoted the old joke dryly, and Tylendel grinned before his expression went distant, his gaze vacant, as he stopped looking at Vanyel and seemed to look through him instead.

“Huh,” Tylendel said a long moment later, shaking himself all over like a dog who’d been caught out in the rain. “Well.”

“What?” Vanyel’s heart hammered in his throat, trepidation crawling up his spine at that reaction even though he tried to tell himself, reasonably, that there was nothing to fear.

“Nothing. It’s fine, love.” Tylendel squeezed his hands again, then let him go and rearranged them so that his back was against Vanyel’s chest, bracketed on both sides by Vanyel’s legs. “You do have the potential for ForeSight...and a lot of others...but it’s not active. It’s just funny...for a second, when I was using the OtherSight, I could have sworn...I felt as though my Gifts could connect to yours somehow. Like you were reaching back to me.”

None of that made Vanyel’s heart pound less, although it helped when Tylendel matter-of-factly wrapped Vanyel’s arms around himself and leaned back into him, almost the same way Vanyel had the night before. “I didn’t,” Vanyel spluttered, alarmed and, as he’d suspected, not without a pang of disappointment. “I didn’t feel a thing.”

“Hm. What was that you were saying, about the Healer and his wife?” Tylendel’s head fell back onto Vanyel’s shoulder, and he started nibbling distractingly on Vanyel’s neck.

Vanyel blushed, and tried not to let his appreciation of Tylendel’s attentions become too obvious, while they were out in the open with no way of satisfying them. “I used to think that was all sex was,” he admitted, letting his eyes close while Tylendel hummed encouragement. “Mechanics. Like tuning a lute, fitting a peg into a hole. I didn’t dream…”

His breath caught as Tylendel’s mouth fixed on a sensitive area of his throat and sucked, bringing all of Vanyel’s attention to that single spot. When Tylendel let him go a moment later, he looked pleased with his handiwork, rubbing what was no doubt a blossoming lovebite with his thumb.

“I’m going to have to explain that, you know,” Vanyel told him, trying to sound scolding but mostly ending up breathless.

“No, you won’t. It’s low enough you can hide it under your collar. The only other person who’ll know it’s there is me.” Tylendel was unrepentant, and still as pleased with himself as a cat with cream. He twisted enough to kiss Vanyel’s jaw, just below his ear. “And I like having secrets with you.”

Vanyel felt himself go shy, and was suddenly glad that Gala wasn’t there with them to witness this. “I like that, too.”

“Mm.” Tylendel kissed his cheek once more, and then finished twisting halfway around to give Vanyel a heated look from beneath dark-gold lashes. “You know we have places to put our pegs, as well.”

Vanyel didn’t know what he looked like, but it was enough to send Tylendel into bright peals of laughter, clutching his stomach until he nearly fell over. “Shut up,” Vanyel stammered, certain that he’d turned scarlet by the flaming heat in his cheeks.

“Your face!” Tylendel gasped, and Vanyel pushed him over, trying to feel irritable but unable to be anything but embarrassed and dumbstruck at the possibility. He’d never imagined…

Tylendel finally wheezed to the end of his laughing fit, lying on his back on the grass with a huge grin on his face. Vanyel tried once more to be annoyed, but there was grass in Tylendel’s hair and his entire body was loose and relaxed and happy, and Vanyel couldn’t do anything but smile helplessly back down at him.

“Gods, I forget what an innocent you are,” Tylendel marveled. “You make me feel like such a lecher. You looked so shocked just then, I half-expected you to clutch a necklace of pearls to your chest and faint dead away.”

“I’m not so innocent,” Vanyel grumbled, and Tylendel rolled onto his stomach and slithered forward into Vanyel’s arms, prompting him to unfurl his arms and legs in surprise to make room for Tylendel to press against him.

“Maybe not,” Tylendel replied agreeably. His mouth opened over Vanyel’s, and in the second just before they kissed, he breathed, “But there’s no harm in making sure of that, is there?”

 

 

“All right, that’s enough.” Savil let her hands fall to her sides, drawing her magic back into herself. Tylendel took a moment longer to relax, but even without the duress of a direct challenge from her, his shield was all over the place, pulsing erratically as it had been all afternoon.

“Ah,” Savil warned, for what must have been the tenth time at least, as Tylendel started to release his own magic into the ground. “Properly, and no cutting corners.” He was too impatient by half, this student of hers, and too eager to take shortcuts he couldn’t afford.

Savil watched with a critical eye as Tylendel dispelled his own mage-energies, and then she folded her arms over her chest and cocked an eyebrow. “Well, youngling? You might as well tell me where your head is this morning, because it certainly isn’t here. Something on your mind?”

Tylendel winced at the reprimand, and his toe scuffed the wooden floor. He mumbled an apology, but Savil could see that he was already distracted again, mulling over whatever had been weighing on him. She waited him out, wishing they hadn’t cleared out all of the chairs to make space for mage work. They’d decided to work in the suite today, since neither of them had been throwing around any flashy offensive magics, and she’d have liked to rest her tired old bones while her much younger student sorted himself out.

She would have bet a bushel of apples that his distraction was of the lovelorn variety, which meant that unless she missed her guess, this was about her nephew.

“It’s Van…” Tylendel began, and Savil had to school her expression not to show a smile. Tylendel seemed to be taking his time choosing his words, which made Savil wonder if that Empathy Gift of his was in play. “If he was a Herald, his father couldn’t pull him back home. He’d be safe.”

Savil straightened bolt upright at that. “If he was a Herald? ’Lendel, you know as well as anyone that’s not how it works. It’s not an appointment--the Companions do the Choosing, not the Heralds. And he doesn’t have any of the Gifts.”

Tylendel’s jaw set in familiar, stubborn lines. “I know that. But he would be Chosen, if he had them. I’m certain of it. There’s so much good in him, Savil…”

“Lad, no one knows how or why Gifts become active, but Van’s past the age when it usually comes about. It’s not something you can force…”

“I can,” Tylendel said, in a grim, determined tone that made Savil go cold. He melted almost at once, seeing her reaction, and turned to pleading. “I can sense them in him, and I...sometimes I almost feel like he can, too. He has dreams…”

“’Lendel, you know what it’s like to have your Gifts triggered by something outside yourself. Do you really want that for him?”

“I was broken open,” Tylendel argued, eyes flashing dangerously. “I would never do that to him, or to anyone. But if I could just...bring his potential to the surface…”

Savil grew more alarmed with every turn this conversation took. What’s going on in your head, child? “I’ve never known anyone who could force Gifts, and surely not safely. And lad, even if he did wake up one morning with a Gift, there’s no guarantee he’d be Chosen. He might end up in Bardic, or with the Healers, or not at all.”

“He’d still be here!” Tylendel exploded. The force of it rocked Savil back on her heels, but it wasn’t purely anger she sensed fueling his words, more desperation. Oh, love…

She took a careful look at him with her Mage-Sight, but while his aura was pulsing wildly with his heartbeat, it was all his own magic, and he hadn’t drawn on anything outside of himself. She still had her shields on him, as well--if he did crack and lash out, she could defend herself without doing him any real harm.

“It’s two years,” Tylendel said bitterly. “Two years of only seeing him in the suite, or the grove, of pretending not to notice him outside of that, or worse, having to snub him, and we’re all he has here, Savil. The only other thing he has in Haven is that preening little court of his, and it disgusts him as much as it does the rest of us. The trainees ignore him, the nobles fawn or feud over him, and if he does make a friend, what is he supposed to do? Lie to them for two years? What kind of friendship is that?”

Ke’chara,” Savil said carefully, not unsympathetic, “I know two years seems like a lifetime at your age…”

“All it will take is one mistake,” Tylendel flung back at her. “One person seeing us, or guessing, or saying the wrong thing, and he’ll be gone. We can’t live like that for two years, Savil, constantly afraid we’ll be caught.”

“What you’re suggesting is impossible,” Savil cut him off, as firmly as she knew how without being cruel. “Awakening Gifts doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do besides stick to the plan and wait this out.”

“He has the potential for ForeSight,” Tylendel insisted. “If I just...encouraged it…”

“He has the potential for Bardic, too, it doesn’t mean he’ll ever be a damn Bard!” Savil snapped, and too late she heard - they both heard - the shocked intake of breath from the doorway.

Vanyel looked pale as a ghost, his eerie silver eyes wide and all the colour gone from his face. “I’m s-sorry,” he stammered, taking three steps backward through the open doorway and all but fleeing as soon as he was through it.

“Van!” Tylendel called after him, anguished, but he was already gone. Tylendel threw a poisonous look at Savil, who winced inwardly in apology but didn’t let it show on her face. Gods save her from teenagers--she’d never been all that good with people, and they had emotions magnified to the highest degree.

“Go after him,” Savil sighed. “I’d say we’re through here.”

It was unusual to see her carefree, cheerful trainee with such stormy sullenness in his eyes - and aura - as he had now. “I can’t,” he reminded her harshly, and then he turned and went into the bedroom he shared with Vanyel. The door shut firmly enough behind him to tell Savil she wasn’t welcome there right now, apology or not.

She sighed and rubbed at her eyes, and the headache growing there, with the heel of her hand. Well, she thought tiredly, that could have gone worse. Though I’m hard-pressed to imagine how.

 

 

“I’m sorry about earlier.”

Tylendel had waited until the candles were snuffed and Vanyel was in his arms to bring up the day’s conversation. They’d made peace earlier, with tentative smiles over dinner and light touches, but as tuned in as they were to one another, Tylendel could still feel the bruise beneath the skin.

Van shifted a little, but took a moment to answer. “It’s all right,” he said finally, and when Tylendel didn’t say anything, waiting for more, he sighed and rolled over so they were face-to-face. “She’s right. I’m not going to be a Bard. Wanting something doesn’t make it happen.”

“It was all you wanted, though,” Tylendel murmured, extending his Gift as much as he could, trying to make sense of the tumult he could feel behind Vanyel’s words.

“Yes, but…” Vanyel propped himself up on his elbow, looking down at Tylendel. Moonlight through the garden door washed his pale skin with just enough light to define his features, although it was almost impossible to read his expression. “That was when I didn’t have anything, not really. Now I have you.”

“I don’t know that I’m enough to make up for losing your dream.”

“’Lendel...you’re enough to make up for everything.” Vanyel’s voice was hesitant, but there was such earnestness in it that Tylendel believed him. Vanyel bent down to kiss him, and Tylendel let himself wind his fingers into Vanyel’s raven hair, invisible in the dark room.

He knew there was more Vanyel wasn’t saying, could feel him holding back somehow, and tried again to coax it out. “Music, though…”

Vanyel was silent for long enough that Tylendel searched for something more to finish that sentence, but he was finally rewarded by Vanyel’s soft, wistful answer. “I only wish...I could share it with you. Whenever the students come over from the Collegium to play, I can’t go and fetch you to hear them, or bring you with me to a concert.”

“You can tell me about it,” Tylendel reminded him.

Vanyel ducked his head, and though he couldn’t see it, Tylendel could picture the flush. “Yes, but that’s not the same as hearing something with you, and sharing the experience. I can’t...I can’t be with you, only tell you about everything after it happens.”

Tylendel could see the problem. It wasn’t unlike what he’d argued about with Savil this morning, their isolation from each other and from the world, outside of the suite. “Let me think about it,” he told Vanyel, because he didn’t have an answer that would satisfy either of them, just then. “Is there anything else you want to share with me?”

He could well imagine the arch look Vanyel gave him just then, because his Empathy was still active, and Vanyel’s aura washed over with desire and love.

“Besides that,” Tylendel laughed, although he pulled Vanyel back into his arms, wanting them to be physically close as well as open with each other.

“Besides the obvious…” Vanyel’s voice turned thoughtful instead of teasing. “I’d like...I think I’d like you to see me at weapons practice, sometime. It’s...it’s the only thing I’m really good at, here.”

Tylendel reached out automatically to soothe the embarrassment he could sense, rubbing Vanyel’s shoulder in reassurance. “Not the only thing. You’re getting better in your classes every day, and you’re still good at music…”

“I’m only improving because you’re helping me,” Vanyel replied dryly.

“That’s not true. You work hard,” Tylendel told him. After a pause for thought, he added, “I wonder if we could have Savil arrange for us to spar. That’s not too friendly, but we’d get to be in the same place for a while, and I could see your blade-work.”

Vanyel snorted. “Not friendly at all. Maybe we should turn it into a duel.”

Tylendel smiled slowly as an idea began to grow. “That’s not a bad idea at all, love. Actually, having some kind of public confrontation might help us to keep any rumours at bay. Not that there are any,” he said at once, feeling Vanyel tense in his arms. “But with you living here in the suite, with me...well, it will be easy for people to talk.”

Vanyel was quiet for a minute, thinking, and Tylendel loved so much that he did now, taking the time to work through something rather than simply reacting. It was progress, and something Vanyel had been improving at steadily besides history and religions.

“I could start talking about you, to the girls,” Vanyel offered tentatively. “Just little things, like...sniping at you, for your choice of bedpartners.”

“Oh, and what do you have against my choice of bedpartners?” Tylendel asked, amused, gathering Vanyel into his arms to squeeze him.

“That there were any others before I came along!” Vanyel replied at once, laughter in his voice.

Tylendel pouted at him, an expression surely lost in the dark. “But then I wouldn’t know how to do this…”

Vanyel moaned, and his entire body canted toward Tylendel’s hand, now busily making a case for itself. “’Lendel, I can’t think when you do that…”

“Tell me what you’ll call me,” Tylendel teased, without stopping his attentions. “What are you going to say, when the girls are listening?”

“G-gods,” Vanyel stuttered. His fingers dug into Tylendel’s shoulders, hanging on. “I’ll say...I’ll say you’re a...a cocksucker.”

“Right so far,” Tylendel affirmed cheerfully. “What else?”

“I’ll say...ah! I’ll say you chase men so that you can be the pretty one.”

Tylendel laughed aloud. “That doesn’t make sense at all. I’ve got you, don’t I? And you’re the loveliest of anyone at Haven.”

He could imagine Vanyel’s blush, even if he couldn’t see it. “I’ll say you like to play the girl, in bed,” Vanyel gasped, gaining confidence or perhaps simply losing any inhibitions as Tylendel thoroughly distracted him.

Tylendel chuckled. “Also true, although I like it both ways. Which reminds me, you and I need to continue that lute-tuning conversation about pegs and holes.”

Vanyel moaned, hitching forward toward Tylendel’s teasing hand. “I’ll tell them you like to wear petticoats and corsets and dance waltzes in your bedroom!”

Tylendel burst out laughing, so surprised that he forgot for a moment what he was doing, which led to a groan of frustration from Vanyel. Tylendel covered his face in kisses, and rolled on top of him to fit their bodies together in a way that made them both gasp.

“That’s good,” Tylendel approved. “Use that. In the meantime, though, I think I can teach you a few things to expand your range of insults…”

Vanyel sealed his agreement with an extremely thorough and enthusiastic kiss.

 

 

“Oof.” Tylendel held both hands out to his sides, sword dangling from his fingers. “Enough, I surrender. I think it’s safe to say this isn’t going to work, not without a significant suspension of disbelief.”

Savil had descended on the training salle that morning with all four of her charges in tow, barking enough sharp-tongued orders to have everyone else scurrying to the exits. With Mardic and Donni providing cover, opinions, and a lookout, Savil had gone on to Heraldic business, and Vanyel and Tylendel had taken to practicing for the duel that still needed some work, as Vanyel had disarmed Tylendel now in nearly every bout.

“You’re sure you have to be the one to win?” Mardic asked from the sidelines, scratching his chin. “It seems pretty believable to have Van put you on your backside in the dirt.”

“I don’t know,” Vanyel said worriedly, shaking back dark tendrils of hair that were starting to go lank with sweat. “In a real fight, even a play-acted one, it seems like there are too many ways for it go go wrong.”

“I won’t hurt you,” Tylendel promised. “And I know you won’t hurt me. Van, I trust you.”

“No, he’s right,” Donni chimed in. She was sitting atop a pile of gear that needed mending, keeping her fingers busy with repair work while she watched them spar. “If someone tries to interfere, or one of you slips, those long blades could be disastrous.”

“What about knives?” Mardic asked, but he’d hardly gotten the question out before Donni was shaking her head vehemently.

No. If you think swords are bad, knives are a thousand times worse. There’s no good outcome for a knife fight, even a short one. The best you can usually hope for is a Healer to be close enough to come to the rescue.”

“Unarmed combat?” Tylendel suggested, tossing his sword from hand to hand and eyeing Vanyel’s slim build. “I’ve been grappling for longer than you have, I’d wager. I have a twin brother.”

“Oh, is that what we’re calling it now?” Donni asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Donni!” Tylendel gasped, clutching at his heart. “I was just talking about my brother!”

“Stow it,” Mardic advised. “Lots of harm can come from that as well...it’s not just thrust and parry…” He raised his voice over the sound of Donni and Tylendel’s synchronized sniggering. “...and it’s harder to fake.”

“We could wrestle, more than brawl,” Vanyel suggested, tentative as he always was in offering his opinions. “Just sort of...roll around.”

“Oh la,” Donni sang, fanning herself with her free hand, although Tylendel found her sincerity utterly unconvincing. “That will get you an audience, anyway. Somehow I don’t think it will stop any rumours.”

“Start some, more likely,” Mardic agreed, frowning in thought.

“Maybe we can start it somewhere we won’t be seen right away. Make it a lot more noise than it’s really worth, until we get caught.” Giving up on the sword, Tylendel tossed his blade off to the side, near the weapons racks.

“Clean that, or Savil will have your head,” Mardic advised.

Donni snorted. “Savil? Weaponsmaster Kayla will have more than that!”

“She only wishes,” Tylendel boasted, swaggering toward his sword...only to yelp as the tip of a blade pricked his backside.

Vanyel grinned at him shamelessly and pulled back the swordpoint. “She’d better not,” he said, voice suddenly shy.

Donni hopped down from her perch, dusting off her hands on her tunic. “All right, I think we can call this little experiment finished. It’s only a matter of time before you two start making eyes at each other where anyone could wander in, and you can practice wrestling just fine on your own back in the suite.”

“In your bedroom, please,” Mardic added, eyes twinkling. “Where the rest of us don’t have to see it.”

“The number of times I’ve walked in on you...” Tylendel began.

“Will it be shirtless wrestling?” Donni asked thoughtfully, interrupting him. “Because then I might not mind.”

Ashke, you’re blushing,” Tylendel teased, dancing back out of sword-range. “Do you think you’ll be able to manage stripping off your tunic in front of a crowd, without turning such a lovely, delicate pink?”

Vanyel replied with one of the choice phrases Tylendel had been teaching him for their upcoming confrontation, and set Donni and Mardic to hooting with laughter.

 

 

Ashke, what have you done?”

Vanyel looked up from contemplating his own hand and winced as Tylendel joined the rest of them in the suite for dinner, his mouth hanging open in dismay.

“I always forget I’ve lost some of the feeling in this hand,” Vanyel admitted ruefully. “I never seem to have any trouble with feeling it after I raise blisters.”

“Have you put the salve on it?” Tylendel asked, dropping onto the couch beside Vanyel and taking his hand to inspect the damage.

“Not yet,” Vanyel said hesitantly. Tylendel’s touch was steady and warm, supporting Vanyel’s hand in his own as he peered at the reddened calluses on Vanyel’s fingers.

“I think he was waiting for you to do that,” Donni piped up cheekily.

Vanyel opened his mouth to protest, but then Tylendel looked up, his brown eyes warm and amused, and the planned argument died in his throat. “Were you?” Tylendel asked, stroking Vanyel’s fingers lightly and making him shiver. “I can do that. I’ll go and get it.”

“It’s fine,” Vanyel said, and it wasn’t even a lie. He could hardly feel any pain, now that his senses were focused on Tylendel’s touch, and each point of contact between them. “You should eat, first.”

“You’re hurting,” Tylendel replied lightly, raising Vanyel’s hand to his lips to kiss one of his bruised fingers. “Everything else can wait.”

Donni made a polite retching sound, and then snickered.

“We’ll have to bandage these fingers, to keep the salve on,” Tylendel carried on, raising his voice a little. “I don’t know how you’ll be able to eat dinner then. I’ll just have to feed you myself.”

Savil’s groan carried over Donni and Mardic’s snorts. “Gods save me, I’m surrounded by teenage lovers. I may suffocate.”

“I know what you mean,” Donni agreed cheerfully. “I don’t think Mardic and I were ever that sweet, and we’re the ones who are lifebonded!”

Vanyel was about to duck his head to hide a blush when he saw Tylendel’s expression change, going suddenly startled. Savil was making a retort about Mardic and Donni being exactly that sweet, so Vanyel took advantage of the noisy conversation to lean in and ask softly, “What is it?”

Tylendel shook his head, then glanced at Mardic and Donni, and back at Vanyel. “Nothing,” he said, and after a moment, biting his lip, “I’ll tell you later, all right?”

Vanyel wanted to protest, but he trusted that Tylendel would do as he said, and it sounded as though this might be a private conversation. Vanyel felt a stab of apprehension - was it something to do with Mardic and Donni? Had Tylendel realized he wasn’t that much in love with Vanyel after all? - but as always, Tylendel seemed to know what he was thinking, and folded Vanyel’s sore hand in both of his.

“I promise,” Tylendel murmured, and leaned in to brush a light kiss over Vanyel’s lips. “I just need to work it out a bit, first.”

Vanyel nodded and subsided, at a loss for what to do until Tylendel spoke up again, eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Since my hands are busy keeping yours warm,” he suggested slyly, “maybe you should be feeding me.”

“I’ll never last with you two on circuit,” Savil announced cynically, startling Vanyel by breaking into their private moment. “With this much cooing, I’ll mistake you for doves and roast you for supper some night!”

 

 

When Tylendel closed the door to their room that night, Vanyel was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for him. Tylendel’s expression turned abashed. “Am I that easy to read, love?”

Vanyel picked at the blanket as he thought about that question. “Not exactly. Or not your face, anyway. It’s more...like what you said before, about us sensing things from each other. I can tell you’ve been...hopeful, almost, about whatever it was that caught your attention. And you’ve been thinking hard all night since then.”

Tylendel pushed off from the door and held out his hands to take Vanyel’s, coming to sit next to him on the bed. “What Donni said, it got me thinking. She and Mardic are Lifebonded, but Savil’s been trying to teach them concert work, how to merge their Gifts together, and she hasn’t had any luck. I was just thinking that you and I have a connection, an emotional one, but you don’t have any Gifts to merge with mine. If you had an active Mage-Gift, for instance, I could draw on your power, or you could offer it to me, or we could sort of...direct the flow of it, I guess. But since you only have potential…”

“Potential to be a mage?” Vanyel asked, startled. He hadn’t thought...Tylendel had mentioned a potential for seeing the future, and he knew about the Bardic Gift now, but he hadn’t considered what else might be locked inside him, like a trap waiting to be sprung.

“Like Savil said…”

Tylendel seemed to remember then which conversation he was referencing, and looked briefly stricken, but Vanyel squeezed his hands. “Go on.”

Tylendel exhaled in relief. “Like Savil said, it’s only the potential, and you’re old for it to wake now, so it probably never will. The ForeSight...that’s the only one I really wonder about, because of your dreams.”

“But if you don’t have ForeSight, and I only have potential, how would we work together like Mardic and Donni?” Vanyel asked, puzzled and trying to see through the maze of logic to whatever conclusion Tylendel had reached.

“Well, that’s just it. We can’t work together the way we are, but if you trust me...I think that maybe I can use that same kind of technique to sort of stretch your potential a little.”

Vanyel bit the inside of his lip. Tylendel was looking at him with all of the hope and pleading in his eyes that Vanyel could feel from him, but what he was proposing sounded dangerously like it might awaken something in Vanyel that he would rather stayed asleep.

“I trust you,” he said at last, squeezing their joined hands. “’Lendel, you know I do. But why...if you don’t think it will change anything…?”

Tylendel took a deep breath. “ForeSight is rare,” he admitted after a moment. “Even if you’re not Chosen - and there’s no reason to think you would be - you’d be valuable to Valdemar. That might be enough for Savil to remove you as your father’s heir and keep you here at Haven.”

“With you,” Vanyel finished.

“With me. I can’t guarantee it will work...I can’t guarantee that any of this will work, honestly ashke, but if you wanted, I could try.”

Vanyel thought about it for another minute, and Tylendel let him, waiting in silence for Vanyel’s decision. He wasn’t sure about the idea of being able to see the future, but if it kept him here in Haven, with Tylendel, and openly at that…

“Go ahead,” Vanyel said, squaring his shoulders and turning a little on the bed to face Tylendel straight on. “I want you to try.”

He hadn’t realized that Tylendel had been holding his breath until it came gusting out of him in a sigh of relief, followed by a shaky grin. “All right. Look...I’ve never done anything like this before, so if it feels strange, just tell me and I’ll stop. All right?”

Vanyel nodded, and Tylendel scooted around to face him as well, settling their hands on the bed between them and holding Vanyel’s eyes with a serious expression. Vanyel thought it would be like the last time, when Tylendel had tested him for potential, that he’d sit here and probably fidget and then they’d shrug it off and go to bed...but after a moment, he began to feel something.

It was so startling that he sat bolt upright, but Tylendel’s attention didn’t waver, and the feeling didn’t even flicker. It was very faint, a sense of Tylendel like a tiny, almost-invisible thread, dangling somewhere just at the corner of his eye. Only the thread was in his mind, and it was tugging at him, just the tiniest bit, as though Tylendel had turned into a fishhook and caught Vanyel on his line.

The tugging sensation continued, growing stronger and more determined, but Vanyel’s sense of Tylendel didn’t really change. He didn’t feel more connected, or more aware of Tylendel, and the pulling in his mind didn’t seem to be achieving anything.

Time stretched out, until Vanyel couldn’t have said how long they’d been sitting there staring at each other, and then all of a sudden Tylendel gasped for a deep, shuddering breath, and the pressure inside Vanyel’s head dissipated.

Almost as soon as he moved, Tylendel flinched in pain, both hands dropping Vanyel’s to dig the heels into his eyes. “Oh gods, my head.”

Vanyel frowned and sat forward, worried. “I can’t...I don’t feel anything. Are you all right?”

Tylendel didn’t move his hands away from his eyes, but Vanyel could see him form a lopsided smile beneath them. “It’s nothing I won’t live through. I might regret it, though. It might be overextension, it happens sometimes. We use up too much of our Gift at one time, and…gods.”

Vanyel covered Tylendel’s hands with his own to help him block out the light, and guided him down until he was lying half-on Vanyel on top of the blanket. Then he moved his fingers to Tylendel’s temples and began massaging, the way he did sometimes when Tylendel had an ordinary headache and put his head in Vanyel’s lap.

“Don’t know what I did t’deserve you,” Tylendel slurred, relaxing slowly under Vanyel’s hands. “Feels like a dazzle-headache, almost...oh, that’s good.”

“Shh,” Vanyel ordered, threading their legs together. “Go to sleep. I’ll get the candles in a minute.”

“’M still dressed,” Tylendel murmured, but he didn’t seem inclined to change that, or to move at all.

“You can sleep in your clothes for one night,” Vanyel told him. “Just lie still.”

“Love you,” Tylendel sighed. Vanyel leaned over and kissed him once, lightly, and then settled in to wait for Tylendel to fall asleep.

 

 

You are quite alone.

Darkness. I am. Darkness.

You have only to stretch your hand out to me, Vanyel, and take my Darkness to you--and you would never be alone again.

I could even bring back your long-lost love to you.

Think of Tylendel--alive, and once more at your side.

Vanyel woke clawing at the covers, drenched in sweat and panic, tears on his cheeks and his throat clogged up so that he couldn’t breathe. Someone caught his flailing arms and he nearly lashed out before recognition set in and he flung himself against Tylendel’s chest, weeping out the emotion brought on by the nightmare.

Ashke? Van? What is it, love? You were dreaming, only dreaming…”

It took some time for Vanyel to calm himself, and longer for the tears to dry and his shuddering, desperate gasps for breath to ease. Tylendel still murmured into his hair, words Vanyel couldn’t quite take in yet, but the sound of them soothed him, a steady, reassuring stream of love and care.

When he’d sobbed himself dry and raised a shaky hand to wipe his face, Tylendel was ready with a handkerchief.

“You haven’t done that in a while,” he said softly, touching Vanyel’s hot, tear-stained cheek. “Not since that first night we were together. Was it the ice dream again?”

Vanyel shook his head, but couldn’t bring himself to speak. This was more horrible, far worse than merely ice--this was Tylendel dead, torn from him, a gaping wound left behind and pain with every breath, and Vanyel wishing for nothing more than to join him in death.

There had been ice in the dream, and a field of dazzling snow, but it was the face that haunted him more than the ice, a beautiful face that twisted Vanyel’s stomach with revulsion, a face that looked so much like his it could have been his mirror, but…

Darkness. I am. Darkness.

He groped over the side of the bed, lunging halfway across Tylendel for the chamber pot, and vomited up his dinner of chicken and greens. He felt Tylendel’s fingers on the back of his neck, holding back his hair, his touch cool against Vanyel’s fevered skin.

When his heaving finally stopped, and he’d rinsed out his mouth with the water Tylendel offered from the bedside pitcher, he fell back onto the bed, shivering. Tylendel hovered nearby, sitting upright on the side of the bed but not reaching for him yet, worry in every line of him. Vanyel groped blindly for him in the dark and buried his face against Tylendel’s side, breathing in the scent of him still in the clothes he’d fallen asleep in, eyes squeezed closed as if that could keep the dream-images from replaying in his head.

Tylendel wrapped his arms around Vanyel and they tucked in close together for a while, until Vanyel trusted his voice not to break and the tears not to start again.

“It was you,” he whispered, not opening his eyes, just turning his face so that his cheek pressed against Tylendel’s shirt. “You were dead. It was so horrible…”

“I’m right here, love,” Tylendel murmured, gathering him tight into his embrace. “I’m alive, I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Vanyel stayed there for the space of a few more ragged breaths, and then he hauled himself up to sit with his back against the headboard, Tylendel scooting up beside him only half a beat behind. Vanyel rubbed his sore eyes with his knuckles and tried to clear his head, to banish the terror and anguish of the dream.

“It was...I saw myself, I think. Only it wasn’t. It was someone so cold, so horrible...and you were dead, and he...I...offered to bring you back, but it was wrong, it was all wrong and I knew it, I didn’t want you like that, but you were gone and it hurt so much…”

Tylendel opened his arms when Vanyel curled in against his shoulder, and his hand stroked Vanyel’s sweaty hair. “And you were alone,” he said softly, in understanding, and Vanyel nodded mutely in return.

They didn’t speak for a long while, until Vanyel’s eyes had adjusted to the dark and grown heavy again, and he thought he just might fall asleep, in spite of the lingering fear. Tylendel seemed to sense it as well, or perhaps he was falling asleep himself, because he twitched a little and murmured, “Can you sleep again, do you think?”

Vanyel nodded, and they slid down together onto the bed, Tylendel pushing the rumpled bedding aside for them to crawl back under and shedding his clothes from the day. Vanyel started to shiver again, but Tylendel rubbed his arms and pulled him in close, and soon he was warm and drowsy and lost to sleep.

This time, thankfully, he didn’t dream at all.

 

 

“Are you ready to talk about it?”

Tylendel’s question was gentle, but he’d been quietly worrying over Vanyel all day, and Vanyel thought he’d put this off for long enough. They were alone in the pine grove--Gala had risen and wandered off a short time ago, and Vanyel realized that Tylendel must have asked her to give them some privacy. He sighed and sat up from where he’d been lying with his head in Tylendel’s lap, and Tylendel leaned back against the familiar tree trunk, waiting.

“It didn’t feel like it did before,” Vanyel began hesitantly, trying to call up the feeling of the dream again while remembering that he was here in the grove, with Tylendel, safe. “Or...it did, a little, but I wasn’t alone by choice this time. You were…” Dead, you were dead, and I couldn’t bring you back... “...gone, and I was surrounded by ice and snow, but even though I was alone, I wasn’t.”

He realized how muddled it sounded as he explained it, and took a deep breath to try again. “I haven’t dreamt about being alone since you came along. Truly. I know it sounds like that old fear, but in this dream you’d died, and missing you hurt with every breath.”

Tylendel shifted a little, his hand inching forward on his knee for Vanyel to take if he needed the comfort. Vanyel appreciated the gesture, but he shook his head slightly, eyes on the soft carpet of pine needles beneath them. He needed to get this out, and he didn’t think he’d be brave enough to do it if Tylendel offered him a place to shelter and hide.

“There was a man,” Vanyel continued, his breath starting to turn shallow in spite of his attempts to keep it even. That face… “He looked...’Lendel, he looked just like me. Like he was a mirror image of me, but we weren’t the same person. He was twisted somehow, wrong. I could feel it just by looking at him.”

Tylendel looked as though he wanted to say something then, and Vanyel winced a little, not sure he could move forward again if he lost momentum now, but then the moment passed and Tylendel subsided.

“He told me how alone I was,” Vanyel whispered. “And that I didn’t have to be. That I could choose him, and I wouldn’t be alone. And he said…” Vanyel’s breath hitched and he forced himself onwards. “He said he could bring you back from the dead, to be with me.”

Vanyel shuddered a little, feeling guilty for his immediate rejection of that thought, both waking and in the dream, but also relieved that he’d made that choice and not hesitated. “I told him no.”

Tylendel waited until it became clear Vanyel didn’t have anything more to say, and then he reached out to pull Vanyel into an embrace, hugging him fiercely. Vanyel went gratefully limp against him, clinging to his tunic and closing his eyes to better feel the small warmth of the day.

“You’re not betraying me by being afraid I’ll leave you,” Tylendel said softly, and when Vanyel shook his head in protest he overrode it. “No, listen to me, Van. It’s normal to be afraid of that, and gods, ashke, you’ve been more alone than most, and have more reason to fear we’ll be pulled apart. My duty, your father, both of our families and holdings, the Heralds...there’s more than enough there to feel anxious about losing each other, and it’s not surprising that’s carried over to your dreams.”

“But it felt so real,” Vanyel whispered. That was where the real fear was, the sense that this would happen one day, more than just an invention of his own mind.

Tylendel pulled back enough to study him for a while, and then asked carefully, “Do you want my honest opinion?”

Vanyel nodded, and Tylendel reached up to draw his thumb across Vanyel’s cheek.

“I think you and I are both anxious about what might happen in the next two years, that it feels so out of our control, and we’re both worried that you might be yanked home or shipped off to a priesthood if any word gets out about us. Last night I put all of these ideas into your head about seeing the future, and you dreamt the worst possible future, all of those fears suddenly real and threatening. But you dreamt yourself, offering you that choice, to be alone and protect yourself or to love, and that’s a little too spot-on for me to think it’s anything but your own mind trying to frighten you.”

Vanyel nodded, trying to introduce Tylendel’s calm reasoning to his sense of the dream. “He had dark eyes,” he offered. “So he wasn’t exactly me. I guess he was...something I could be, if I let myself? A darker version of myself.”

Tylendel nodded. “You’ve been changing so much since you came here, ashke--I could understand worrying about losing yourself along the way, too.”

It was easier to breathe now, in the light of day and with so much practical sense overcoming the night’s horror. Vanyel laughed a little around the loosening constriction in his chest, proud of himself for being able to do so now. “I even made up a name for him. Myself, I mean. Shadow-me. In the dream, he called himself Leareth. Darkness. You can’t get much more literal than that.”

It took a moment for him to realize that Tylendel had gone white, and was sitting very, very still. “’Lendel?” Vanyel asked worriedly, anxiety seeping back into the cracks of his mind at once at the expression on Tylendel’s face.

“Say that again,” Tylendel whispered, and Vanyel felt a chill.

“He told me that his name was Leareth, and I said...I knew, somehow...that it meant…”

“Darkness,” Tylendel finished, still pale. “It does. Ashke, that’s the word for darkness in Tayledras. How did you know it?”

Vanyel furrowed his brow in confusion. “I...I just did, the way you know things in dreams. And Leareth said he’d chosen it...that in choosing him, I would take his darkness to me…” He trailed off and shook his head. “I must have heard you and Savil using it, somehow…”

Tylendel shook his head. “We haven’t spoken it outside the workroom, really, at all. Savil’s very protective of the Tayledras--she won’t even teach Mardic and Donni the language, only me. She says she wants to take me there one day. I don’t know how you would have heard it from us, much less a translation.”

“Maybe yesterday…” Vanyel was aware that he was grasping after improbabilities--anything to explain away the situation as just a dream, and not some vision of a terrible, bleak future. “You said that we’ve started leaking over to each other a little…”

“Feelings,” Tylendel countered, sounding regretful but firm. “Sensations, sometimes. Not words and languages. We haven’t been Mindspeaking--I know, Van, I know what that feels like. And you don’t have the Gift.” Vanyel willed him not to say what was coming next, but Tylendel continued implacably on. “I think, whatever we did last night...it worked.”

Vanyel folded his arms across his chest, trying to warm up. “But that means...it wasn’t real, was it? The dream? You can’t be dead.” You can’t leave me, he thought, panic welling up.

Tylendel reached out and caught Vanyel’s hands, which had knotted into fists. “What you saw might have been one possible future, or it might have been something else. We don’t know for sure. We don’t have to try anything else…”

“Yes, we do!” Vanyel’s voice was shrill with alarm. “If there’s any future where you die, ’Lendel, we have to stop it, we have to find out why, and how, and change it…”

“All right,” Tylendel agreed, and Vanyel could hear the relief in his voice, as well. “Gala’s not here...do you want to try it now?”

Vanyel nodded, and they shifted around to face one another again. Tylendel’s expression was tense and worried, but gradually, as he gazed into Vanyel’s eyes, the creases smoothed out and he went distant, silent and still.

Vanyel felt that fishhook sensation again, the thread of Tylendel that this time felt more like a wire, and he tried to focus on the dream and how it had felt, to guide Tylendel to the right place so he could find it again, whatever he’d touched last night.

Tylendel began to pull at him, slowly and inexorably, the hook tugging at Vanyel’s mind. Please let this work, Vanyel prayed, and opened himself up to let Tylendel in.

 

 

However they fell asleep, inevitably by morning Tylendel had moved away and sprawled across three-quarters of the bed like a cat warming itself in a patch of sunlight, and Vanyel had curled up on the far side, possibly out of self-defense so that Tylendel couldn’t roll him off the edge.

It wasn’t Vanyel moving that woke Tylendel, then. Nor was it the soft whimpering Tylendel became aware of as he rose slowly from sleep. No, what had woken him, he realized, was the sense of anguish and despair that swamped him as if it were his own, and which rolled off of Vanyel in waves of utter misery.

Tylendel blinked awake and dragged himself over to where Vanyel was huddled, still sleep-muddled and confused by how he could sense Vanyel’s emotions so clearly, without any effort at all. There were tears streaking Vanyel’s face even in his sleep, and every muscle was bunched and defensively braced against whatever tormented him in his dream.

“Van,” Tylendel murmured, his voice thick with sleep. He laid a hand on Vanyel’s shoulder and squeezed, shaking him just a little to try to wake him up. “Van, you’re dreaming.”

Vanyel woke with a gasp, but instead of turning to bury himself against Tylendel’s chest for comfort, he curled tighter into a ball, hiding himself away. Tylendel shifted closer and wrapped himself around Vanyel from behind in an embrace.

“Talk to me, love,” Tylendel pleaded softly. “What’s going on?” When Vanyel didn’t respond, he tried to explain, “I can feel you, sort of. What you’re feeling. I want to share it with you, so you’re not carrying it alone. Let me help you. Please.”

Vanyel shook his head, but Tylendel just held on and waited while Vanyel stopped crying and gradually calmed a little.

“Another dream?” Tylendel asked gently, reaching around to wipe the streaks of tears from the hot, swollen skin beneath Vanyel’s eyes. Taking a small risk, he leaned over Vanyel and lit one of the night-candles. Vanyel flinched away from the light, turning his face into the pillow, but Tylendel thought he felt a sense of relief at the escape from the dark.

After a long pause, Vanyel finally croaked, “I killed you.”

Tylendel froze with shock, but immediately forced himself into motion again, stroking Vanyel’s hair back from his face. “In your dream?”

“You were dead again, and it was my fault,” Vanyel repeated, his voice gathering a little strength, though not enough to wake any of the others in the suite. “And it wasn’t just me thinking that. In the dream, I could hear people’s thoughts, and they all blamed me. All of the Heralds.”

Tylendel drew in another startled breath. This sounded like another true-dream, the ForeSight at work...but if that was true, what sort of bleak future was Vanyel seeing, and why?

“I can’t believe that would ever happen,” Tylendel said firmly, banishing any private worries until he could deal with them in the morning. “I trust you, Van, you would never hurt me. You would never hurt anyone.”

“One of them said, ‘I’ll never believe he didn’t have something to do with the boy’s death. ’Lendel was just one more addition to his stable of admirers. If he’d left ’Lendel alone, if he hadn’t played on his...weaknesses…’”

“That’s absolute rot,” Tylendel interrupted, ignoring the way his heart had sped up at Vanyel’s eerie recitation. “Who showed up in whose bed, hmm? And you know better, Van, I can...I can feel how much you love me. You can too, can’t you? That’s what woke me, feeling how upset you were. You can’t hide manipulation from an Empathy Gift, that’s not how it works.”

Vanyel whispered, quietly enough that Tylendel had to strain to hear it, “‘- trade this arrogant little toad for Tylendel. Damn poor bargain.’”

“Stop it,” Tylendel ordered. Dread was creeping up his spine with each new word. This wasn’t the vague fear of being left alone--this was something specific, and detailed, and too real. “No one is trading either of us. It was just a dream.”

Vanyel rolled over onto his back to look at Tylendel. His eyes were otherworldly in the dim candlelight, and the shadows darkened the angles of his face into something that might have come from his own nightmares.

“It wasn’t, though, was it?” Vanyel asked simply, and Tylendel found he didn’t have an answer.

“You would never hurt me,” Tylendel repeated, which was the only thing he felt sure of. “Whatever you saw, it couldn’t have been what it seemed.”

“I saw you, on the bier,” Vanyel said, his voice hollow and flat. “I tried to...pay for what I did to you.”

Whatever the price had been, Tylendel suddenly didn’t want to know it. He laid one hand along Van’s pale cheek and said softly, “Even if it was a possible future, it’s only one of many. We can change it.”

“How?” There was no hope in Vanyel’s voice with the question, only bleak exhaustion.

That was a damn good question. Tylendel knew next-to-nothing about ForeSight, and less still about how Vanyel’s Gift - if Gift it was - seemed to be manifesting out of potential alone, without becoming fully active. He guessed it had to do with the way the two of them were becoming more connected, but that didn’t tell him anything about how to manage it. There was no way for Vanyel to receive any training, not without revealing more secrets than it was safe for anyone to know about their relationship. Tylendel didn’t even know if there was a Foreseeing Herald here at Haven who could train him.

Maybe he was looking at this in the wrong way.

“You know, what you and I are doing...the way we’re sort of connecting, when I try to access your potential...it feels a lot like concert work. That’s working together with another Herald...another Gifted,” Tylendel corrected himself, “to accomplish something together. It’s one of Savil’s specialties, which is why Mardic and Donni were assigned to her for training. If we went to her, and asked…”

“No!” The vehemence of Vanyel’s refusal startled Tylendel enough to jerk him back a few inches. Vanyel twisted his hands in the covers, anxiety in every line of him. “She’ll say no, you know she will, she already did once when you asked her. And now we know something terrible is going to happen, and I’m going to lose you, ’Lendel, you’re going to die if we can’t find a way to stop it, and if she doesn’t believe us, if she forces us to stop and I don’t dream again, I won’t be able to save you…”

Tylendel wanted to argue, but he had a sinking feeling that Vanyel might be right, and even though he’d been the one to start this, it was Vanyel’s decision now. “You know I’ll support you, whatever you want to do,” he said carefully. “But I don’t know what to do to help you. And I want to help you.”

Vanyel swallowed. He seemed to be working himself up to something, but when he spoke, it wasn’t at all what Tylendel had expected.

“Herald Jaysen,” he whispered.

“Herald-Mage Jaysen,” Tylendel corrected automatically, and then found himself brought up short, at the haunted, knowing look on Vanyel’s face. “You dreamt about him?”

Vanyel nodded, and Tylendel thought of the Heralds Vanyel had said he’d heard in the dream, and the one in particular whose thoughts Vanyel remembered so vividly. He knew that Jaysen was a close friend of Savil’s...and that Savil had made a point of calling Jaysen out on Tylendel’s behalf more than once.

The comment about Tylendel’s weaknesses suddenly made a good deal more sense than Tylendel would have liked, and hot outrage kindled in him at Vanyel hearing the kinds of cruel taunts and slurs Tylendel had been defending himself against for years.

Vanyel didn’t confirm or deny this uncomfortable conclusion. Instead, he just squeezed his eyes closed and said, “Start with him.” Then he rolled over again, away from Tylendel.

Tylendel had never been put off that easily. He gathered Vanyel up in his arms again, determined this time not to let go.

 

 

“But where are we going?”

It wasn’t the first time Vanyel had asked, but just as before, Tylendel refused to answer, shushing him and hurrying Vanyel down the dark corridor. Tylendel had been unusually animated in their bedroom after dinner, coaxing Vanyel into the black silk tunic that always made Tylendel’s eyes linger when Vanyel wore it, fussing with his own determinedly untidy curls, even borrowing something of Vanyel’s to wear so that he wasn’t in drab Herald-Trainee gray.

He’d told Vanyel to meet him by a certain tapestry in the palace, ignoring Vanyel’s protests that they couldn’t risk being seen together. “Stop arguing, ashke,” he’d teased when Vanyel said ‘but…’ yet again. “You sound as though you’re caught in a loop.” Then he’d pulled Vanyel into his arms and kissed him hard, whispering, “Trust me,” and any further protests had been silenced.

That didn’t mean Vanyel had ceased to be curious, especially when ‘by the tapestry’ turned out to be Vanyel standing in front of it, and then being startled by Tylendel reaching out and yanking him behind it while the corridor was clear of observers. They were in some kind of passage now, behind one of the palace walls, with their way lit by a small mage-light Tylendel had cupped in his hand to shield most of the brightness.

“You can’t tell Savil I showed you these,” Tylendel whispered, glancing back over his shoulder at Vanyel as he slowed just before a corner. He laughed nervously. “She’d have me strung up by my toenails. Not a word, all right?” He reached out and squeezed Vanyel’s arm, and even though he didn’t say it aloud, his eyes begged trust me.

Vanyel did, so he nodded, and was rewarded by the grateful, mischievous flash of Tylendel’s smile.

“We have to be quiet now,” Tylendel breathed, leaning close to put his mouth next to Vanyel’s ear. Vanyel shivered, suddenly not minding the secrecy and sneaking around, especially not when Tylendel’s hand found his in the dark.

Tylendel led them around the corner, and the mage-light winked out just before they turned. Vanyel bit off a startled exclamation, but once his eyes adjusted, he saw another source of light: A tiny pinprick hole up ahead in the wall to their left.

He could hear something now, too, muffled murmurs like a conversation heard from underwater. Tylendel crept forward toward the light, putting his face up to it without letting go of Vanyel’s hand.

He grinned when he stepped back, and gestured for Vanyel to look as well. Vanyel did so, curious, and his eyes widened as he saw what was on the other side of the wall.

“That’s court,” he whispered, awed by the rich decorations and garments of those within. Vanyel wasn’t invited to the formal court entertainments, but he knew this must be one of them--everyone inside the room was dressed in their finery, and a stage in the corner played host to several musicians tuning instruments. Not any musicians, either--full Bards, dressed in scarlet.

Realization hit him a moment later, and he covered his mouth with his hand to keep from exclaiming. “Is this a spyhole?” he hissed, scandalized and not a little thrilled at Tylendel’s daring.

Tylendel’s grin was unabated. “Every court has them,” he whispered, leaning in toward Vanyel’s ear again so that the sound wouldn’t carry. “Valdemar doesn’t use them as much as others, but they’re still here.”

Turning, Tylendel swept a bow to Vanyel and gestured to the floor. “May I show you to your seat, my lord?”

Vanyel folded himself up against the wall, mind still reeling. Tylendel settled in beside him, reaching over to take Vanyel’s hand again and give it a reassuring squeeze. Vanyel still didn’t know what they were doing here, but Tylendel was vibrating with anticipation now, and seemed disinclined to make him wait any longer to find out.

“You said you wanted to hear a concert with me,” Tylendel breathed, his hand warm in Vanyel’s. “This should be one of the best.”

A lump rose in Vanyel’s throat, and he fought down the prickle of tears at Tylendel’s thoughtful kindness. “You did this for me?”

Tylendel made a sound that might have been a snort, had it been above the volume of a faint whisper. “Of course I did. I love you. Now be quiet, they’re about to start.”

Vanyel swallowed down the lump in his throat as the tuning finished and a hush fell over the audience, and then he was washed away by the music as the first Bard’s clear voice rang out in the hall, carrying through to their hiding spot.

By the time the first set ended, Tylendel’s head was on Vanyel’s shoulder, his eyes closed as he listened. Vanyel was still fighting tears, joyful for once, overwhelmed at the power in the music and at being able to share this experience with Tylendel, even if it was from behind a wall.

They crept out the moment the concert ended, before the nobles could spill out into the corridors and block their stealthy exit. Vanyel went first, with Tylendel promising to follow close behind and meet him back in their room.

Tylendel was hardly through the door before Vanyel pounced on him, pressing him back against the door with heated kisses before they stumbled together toward the bed. Vanyel only paused once, searching Tylendel’s eyes as they touched each other’s faces, tracing beloved features and following the path of his fingertips with more kisses.

“’Lendel, if this works...if you can awaken ForeSight in me, somehow...could you do the same for the Bardic Gift?”

Tylendel’s breath caught in surprise, but after a drawn-out pause, he exhaled and nodded slowly. “If you wanted,” he whispered. “If that’s what you want, then of course, I’ll try. I want you to be happy, Van.”

“I am happy,” Vanyel promised, and drew him down onto the bed to show him just how much.

 

 

Staven’s dead, and they’re celebrating!

Damn you all, I’ll teach you to sing a different song!

You want magic? Well, here’s magic for you--

Vanyel woke in a cold sweat, terror paralyzing his limbs. For long moments he could hear nothing but his heart thundering in his ears, feel only the trickle of sweat between his shoulder blades, see only...what? A harvest festival. Tylendel, wild-eyed and grief-stricken.

Something else...something…

As he came back to himself, he realized that the night was too still and silent. He turned to look and found Tylendel watching him somberly in the dark, anxiety and unhappiness etching creases on his forehead.

For a moment, all Vanyel could see was that other Tylendel, screaming--

He’s dead, you bastards!

Then Tylendel - warm, loving, worried Tylendel - reached out and rested his hand on Vanyel’s cheek, and there was no other.

“Tell me?” Tylendel asked softly.

And Vanyel realized that he couldn’t, that there was no way he could tell Tylendel that his twin had died, would die, when he understood now how close they were. It wouldn’t help anything if Vanyel didn’t know how to stop the events from occurring. It would only make Tylendel sick with worry, and perhaps transform him into that mad, rage-filled shadow of himself that Vanyel had seen in the dream.

He closed his eyes and shook his head, and tried to think of some excuse.

“I can’t remember,” he lied. Then he supplemented that with something closer to truth, if still misleading. “Only pieces. Fragments that don’t make sense. I don’t--I don’t know what it means, or...or how to stop it.”

Tylendel moved forward to wrap an arm around him, and Vanyel snuggled into him gratefully. “It was bad, though?” Tylendel asked softly, hardly making it a question.

Vanyel nodded, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to speak. He could sense the next question on Tylendel’s lips - was I alive this time? - and Vanyel couldn’t answer that, couldn’t tell him that it had almost been worse, because he’d been alive but not Tylendel, not the person Vanyel knew and loved.

“I need more,” he blurted, surprising himself only for a moment before he grew determined. “I’m only seeing glimpses, and I don’t know when they happen, or why, I don’t know what leads to them or what to do about it. I need to see more.”

“Van…” Tylendel began reluctantly, and Vanyel redoubled his efforts.

“This is important, ’Lendel. This is your life, and mine, and now that I know something terrible is going to happen, I need to know how to stop it. You said it’s only a possible future, that we can still change it. We have to change it.”

Tylendel still looked worried and unhappy, but Vanyel could feel him weakening, even before he asked softly, “What do you want me to do?”

Vanyel nearly shook with relief. He’d thought, for a moment, that Tylendel might say no. “Open up my--my potential, as much as you can. Maybe if it works properly, if I’m...active, I’ll be able to see how to change that future.”

Tylendel shook his head, but it wasn’t quite disagreement. “I don’t know that it works like that, love. What if this is all you see?”

“We have to try!” Vanyel couldn’t keep the desperation from his voice. He clung to Tylendel, his fingers digging into soft skin and muscle until Tylendel winced and Vanyel released him. “’Lendel, please. The bond between us is getting stronger--I know you can feel it, too. If you can just open up that channel--”

“All right,” Tylendel promised, closing his eyes for a moment. “All right. I will. Tomorrow?”

“Now.” Vanyel made his voice firm, in spite of the way all of him felt like quaking jelly. “Do it now, and I might dream again, and see the rest of it.”

There was another long pause, and then Tylendel leaned in to kiss him. Vanyel returned it with frantic passion, pouring his need and desperation into the kiss to try to make Tylendel understand.

He was so caught up in the embrace that he almost missed it when the hook caught in his mind, and the thread-line--a rope now, strong and well-anchored--began to pull at him.

It hurt this time, which neither of them had expected, but when Tylendel immediately tried to pull back, Vanyel just clung harder, moaning in desperate plea for him to keep going. There was a hesitation, and then the rope went taut, pulling faster and harder, as if Tylendel just wanted to finish it, to hurt Vanyel for as little time as possible. Vanyel moaned again, this time in pain as the pressure increased and the hook pulled at his mind, trying to tear him open.

His head felt like it was splitting in two, and for a moment Vanyel found himself actually afraid of what they were doing, and of the determined look on Tylendel’s face, unsure whether or not Tylendel would stop this time before he’d ripped Vanyel’s mind apart.

It ended so quickly that Vanyel reeled, and Tylendel gasped into his mouth, panting for breath. “I can’t,” he whispered. “I can’t hurt you, Van, I can’t bear it.”

Vanyel could feel the emotion behind those words, echoing down the line that still somehow existed between them. It was even stronger now, and he could only think that had to mean Tylendel had managed to draw on his potential as he’d intended, and everything would be fine. Vanyel would dream now, and he’d change the future, and no one would die. Not Tylendel, not Staven.

Everything would be all right.

 

 

“Gods, look at you. You’re a mess.”

Vanyel looked up to see Tylendel watching him, warmth and fondness in his eyes, and the twinkle of desire that always made Vanyel’s breath catch. He finished re-wrapping the ankle that had accidentally been twisted in their feigned fight, and sat up on the edge of the bed, feeling exposed without his shirt but also shivery-good at the way Tylendel’s gaze drank him in, heated and lingering.

“Someone wrestled me into the mud,” Vanyel replied, rolling his eyes but still preening inside at the way Tylendel was looking at him.

Privately, it was a relief to have this moment together, to see Tylendel's skin glowing against golden oak in the candlelight and the soft smile on his face that was for Vanyel alone. He'd known all through their public fight that Tylendel's sullen, spiteful anger was an act, but after the dream he'd had of Tylendel's raging grief and madness following Staven's death, seeing any dark shadow over Tylendel's features made him shiver.

Tylendel clucked his tongue. “Do you need me to defend your honour? They’ve left you black-and-blue.”

Vanyel shook his head. “You should see my opponent,” he said with a knowing smile.

Tylendel laughed and hurled himself across the bed beside Vanyel, reaching out to trace one of the dark bruises on Vanyel’s back where he’d ended up lying on top of a rock. Tylendel’s black eye was now a fascinating rainbow of color that he sported proudly, to the fascination of many of the other trainees.

“We should have practiced more,” Tylendel lamented, pressing his thumb over the mark it had clearly left on the inside of Vanyel’s elbow when he’d pinned Vanyel down and sat on him.

Vanyel rolled his eyes again, and smiled carefully, so that his split lip wouldn’t crack open again. “How? And where? We were lucky to manage as much as we did.”

“I know,” Tylendel replied, leaning forward to kiss one of the matching bruises left by his fingers. “I just wish I hadn’t hurt you.”

Vanyel shivered and closed his eyes. “I don’t mind,” he admitted quietly. He didn’t regret it, either, in spite of the mess they’d made of one another--they were safer now, and it didn’t hurt so much, really. Most of him just ached.

Tylendel chuckled. “Kinky,” he teased, and the shift in context, the idea of Tylendel bruising him for reasons other than a play-fight staged for witnesses, made Vanyel’s breath catch suddenly with how much he wanted that.

When he opened his eyes, Tylendel was watching him, and his eyes were dark now, the cheerful lust replaced by something more serious.

“Do you want kinky?” he asked, his fingertips trailing over the bruises on Vanyel’s side.

Vanyel blushed, the tips of his ears going hot, ducking his head to avoid Tylendel’s knowing gaze.

“Huh,” Tylendel said after a moment, and Vanyel risked looking up at him again. “You know I won’t hurt you. Not really.”

Vanyel thought about that, about the pained look on Tylendel’s face when he’d tried to open up Vanyel’s potential, and how different it had felt from when they’d been wrestling in the mud, when Tylendel had ripped his tunic to shreds right off his chest and pinned him down with his full weight behind it.

“I don’t want you to hurt me,” he answered cautiously, swallowing. “Not really.”

Tylendel’s hand curled around his arm, and when he squeezed, Vanyel could feel each individual bruise that had been left by his fingers. He gasped, but it wasn’t pain, not really--just the lingering ache, and a feeling of connection so strong that he could almost believe they were sharing the sensation.

Tylendel pulled him down onto the bed and rolled on top of him, his weight solid over Vanyel’s hips and both hands now pinning down his arms. “Shall we do a dramatic re-enactment?” he asked, his voice low and suggestive, just before he leaned in and nipped Vanyel’s neck.

Vanyel moaned and pushed up against him, mostly to feel the flex of Tylendel’s muscles as he leaned harder into Vanyel to hold him down. “No black eyes this time,” he whispered, breathless.

Tylendel chuckled and nipped him again, harder. “Shall I split your lip for you?”

No,” Vanyel laughed, though as soon as he said it, he was reconsidering. He didn’t want Tylendel to elbow him in the face, certainly, but if Tylendel kissed him hard enough to re-open the cut, and licked his lip to awaken a sweet, bright flare of pain…

His breath had caught again, and Tylendel was staring down at him, a little smile on his lips. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, ashke?”

Vanyel’s smile was tentative, treading carefully with his teasing as they explored this new territory together. “I could struggle, if you wanted. If we’re wrestling properly.”

Tylendel shifted deliberately on top of him, and Vanyel’s eyes fluttered closed. “Going to put up a fight?” he murmured, amused. When Vanyel opened his eyes to look at him, he was almost afraid he’d see a shadow of the Tylendel from his dream, a hint of that darkness in him that had frightened Vanyel so much when he’d woken. Instead, he saw nothing but love, and trust, and warm affection that banished any lingering shadow haunting Vanyel’s mind.

“Please,” he whispered, flexing his arms against Tylendel’s hold.

Tylendel chuckled again, and leaned down to kiss him. “You should put on another tunic you’re willing to lose, peacock,” he murmured, teasing, against Vanyel’s lips. “So I can tear it off you.”

Vanyel’s reply was emphatic, and completely without words.

 

 

Hearing Vanyel play his lute Woodlark was new enough that Tylendel didn’t like to interrupt him, or even call attention to himself while Vanyel was lost in the music. The song he was playing now, though, was haunting enough that Tylendel wasn’t able to keep himself from asking about it, once the last sad chords had faded away. Vanyel sat still, staring out through the open garden door, his fingers poised motionless above the strings as the echoes of the song finally died out.

Tylendel stirred, loath to break the silence, but also wanting it to end--uncertain of the pensive, troubled mood that rippled through Vanyel’s music. “Ashke? What was that? I don’t think I’ve heard it before.”

Vanyel blinked, and turned slowly, as if just realizing Tylendel was in the room with him. His lips parted, but it was a moment before he answered. “I’m...not sure. It’s something I heard in my dreams, I think.”

A tingle of unease went down Tylendel’s spine. “In your nightmares, you mean? The new ones?” The ones we believe are visions of the future?

Vanyel’s fingers touched his lute strings, but didn’t call forth any sound. “This one...it wasn’t a nightmare, not really. It was just me, playing the song. It’s about death.”

Tylendel tried not to consider that an omen, but so many of Vanyel’s dreams had featured death, he found it difficult not to worry. “That sounds like a nightmare to me, love, a song about death. Was it about anyone’s death in particular?”

Mine, Tylendel thought privately. Vanyel always dreams my death.

But Vanyel surprised him, though not in any way Tylendel would have wanted. “I was thinking about my own death,” Vanyel said slowly. “But it wasn’t bad, or frightening. I think...I think it was all I wanted, really, to die. It felt like such a relief, to think of finding that peace. To meet the Shadow-Lover.”

Goosebumps broke out on Tylendel’s arms. He tried to hit a note of lightness with his voice, teasing. “Should I warn him you’re already mine, Vanyel-ashke? I wouldn’t want him to be jealous.”

Again, the silence stretched, and Vanyel’s gaze went distant before he focused on Tylendel, his eyes dark, stormy silver. “You were dead,” he said simply. He swallowed, some of the eerie mood seeming to lift from him, until he looked only young and frightened and unhappy. “You’re always dead, in every dream...no matter when, or what it’s about, you’re always dead. I used to dream about your friendship, about us becoming lovers, and they were the happiest dreams I’d ever had. Now you’re never in them, because you’re already gone.”

There was a distance between them, Tylendel realized, which felt - no, Felt - like Vanyel withdrawing from him, pulling back into himself the way he had when he’d first arrived. Tylendel wanted to tell Vanyel he didn’t need that armor anymore, but he knew already what Vanyel was preparing for, whether he realized it consciously or not. Vanyel believed that Tylendel would die, and soon, and he was afraid of being hurt. Of being left behind.

The worst part was that Tylendel didn’t know how to reassure him, because if Vanyel was dreaming true, then there was every chance Tylendel wouldn’t be around to ease that pain.

It should have terrified him more than it did, but Vanyel was the one suffering right now, and that mattered more to Tylendel here and now than a future he might not have.

“I dreamt that I was drowning,” Vanyel said softly, curled in on himself a little, his shoulders hunched as if anticipating a blow. “I was on fire, burning, and I threw myself into the river, and I wanted to die, because you were dead, and it was all my fault… I prayed that I would die, but no one would let me. They kept telling me I had to live, even though all I wanted was to die…”

There was a terrible lump in Tylendel’s throat. He wasn’t imagining that Vanyel’s dreams were getting worse--the content might be more or less horrible each night, but Vanyel’s reactions to them were changing. He no longer woke up retching and sobbing, fighting against a future he couldn’t see clearly. He was beginning to accept that the fight was one he couldn’t win, wearing down against the onslaught of visions that all told him the same thing. He hadn’t even woken Tylendel with this last one, or mentioned it that morning. He was shutting Tylendel out, and that created a pain in his chest Tylendel couldn’t bear.

“Van,” Tylendel said carefully into the silence. “I think we should get help.”

That provoked a reaction, Vanyel’s eyes going wide and his back straightening. “We can’t. ’Lendel, they’ll stop us. They’ll take the dreams away.”

Would that be so bad? Tylendel wondered, but aloud he only said, “I know. But it’s hurting you. And you’re...you’re pulling away from me.”

Vanyel held his gaze steadily, and Tylendel saw his own fears reflected there--that Savil would stop Vanyel’s dreams, that Tylendel would die, that she’d take Vanyel away and send him back to his father as punishment for what Tylendel had done, believing they were better off apart. Every one was horrible, and felt like a death sentence hanging over their heads. But the longer they kept silent, the worse it became, and Tylendel didn’t know if they could find their own way out anymore.

“I won’t leave you,” Vanyel pledged, his grip tightening on his lute. “And I won’t let anyone take you from me, either.”

Tylendel’s heart ached at the words. He wished he could believe that either of them would have any choice.

 

 

I do not believe this--Vanyel Ashkevron?

I come a-hunting you, and you walk unarmed into my very hand!

Wester Leshara holds you responsible for the death of his cousin Evan, did you know that?

He sent me an additional commission to deal with you as I had with young Staven Frelennye.

But--now I don’t know that I am going to oblige him by killing you.

Rare and beautiful, Vanyel Ashkevron.

And I wonder, now--given what I know of Tylendel Frelennye--were you only the friend of Tylendel, or were you something more than friend?

“Van?”

Vanyel startled, shaking his head and setting down the letter now trembling in his hand. Last night’s dream replayed so vividly in his mind that he almost felt he was asleep again and experiencing it anew. He felt sick and weak, and even Tylendel’s sturdy strength within arm’s reach couldn’t dispel that sensation of hopelessness.

He hadn’t told Tylendel yet about the latest dream. He’d felt unclean when he’d woken from it, his skin crawling, revulsion causing bile to rise in the back of his throat. He’d been...touched, he thought, against his will. He remembered a kiss. He remembered not wanting it, but not being able to say no or fight it.

He remembered Tylendel, as always, being dead.

Rare and beautiful, Vanyel Ashkevron.

Vanyel shuddered, and Tylendel was at his side at once, reaching for the letter on the desk. Vanyel wanted to keep it from him, but it seemed all he had the strength to do was lean into Tylendel’s side, burrowing into the warmth of the arm Tylendel immediately wrapped around his shoulders.

“Love, who is it from? What’s--”

Then Tylendel fell silent, and Vanyel squeezed his eyes closed. The dream hadn’t been all his imagination, then. Tylendel knew who Evan Leshara was. And that meant that Evan Leshara must also know Tylendel.

There was so much barely-controlled emotion in Tylendel’s voice when he spoke that Vanyel couldn’t unravel it. “You dreamt this.”

Vanyel nodded, then shook his head. “Not...not this. But the name, yes. There was a mage, hired by a Wester Leshara. But...but he said that Evan Leshara was dead.”

“He should be,” Tylendel snarled, and it was so uncharacteristically vicious that Vanyel recoiled from him, pulling away in his chair. Tylendel folded at once, remorse in his eyes as he withdrew his arm, though it hovered near Vanyel’s shoulder, ready to embrace him again. “I’m sorry, love. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s...there’s something I haven’t told you, about my family. About the Leshara. Savil made me promise not to bring you into it.”

Wester Leshara holds you responsible for the death of his cousin Evan, did you know that?

Vanyel shuddered. “She might have been right.” His fingers skimmed over the brief note on the desk. “I think it’s too late for that, though.”

“What did you dream? Do you know how Evan Leshara died?”

By my hand. That thought didn’t feel quite right, but it didn’t feel wrong, either. Whatever had happened, Vanyel had had a hand in it. He’d held himself responsible.

That wasn’t what chilled him, though, and held his tongue.

He sent me an additional commission to deal with you as I had with young Staven Frelennye.

Tylendel’s love for his twin, their closeness, was something he’d shown Vanyel more honestly than he did anyone else. There were echoes of other dreams now tangling with this one, the bleak, haunted look on Tylendel’s face when he said, Van, I was with him, I felt him die!

Vanyel didn’t know whether it would change the future or not, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell Tylendel that his twin would die too, and first. Not yet.

There had been no sanity in Tylendel’s eyes when he’d screamed out his rage at Staven’s death. Anything Vanyel said could push him closer to that, to rash and reckless action, to the future that felt more inevitable with each new dream. Vanyel could lose Tylendel to madness as easily as death.

Vanyel took a deep breath and let it out again. “Tell me,” he said finally, pushing the note away a little, toward Tylendel. “Tell me what I need to know, and then let’s decide what we’re going to do about it.”

 

 

To Lord Withen Ashkevron from Vanyel Ashkevron: greetings.

Vanyel had been staring at the paper for nearly a candlemark, and he hadn’t progressed beyond that single opening sentence. The situation seemed hopelessly complicated, with Vanyel agreeing to feed information to Evan Leshara in order to get close to him and learn his plans, only to then report everything to Tylendel so that Staven would be forewarned.

Leshara had asked that Vanyel speak to his father on Leshara’s behalf, but Vanyel couldn’t risk doing so in case his father decided to take action. Nor could he advocate for the Frelennyes, while he and Tylendel were working to give the impression that they were feuding...an impression that had made Vanyel’s life much more difficult at Haven since their staged fight.

Pretending that he’d written to his father and inventing responses for Leshara was too risky by far, and if Vanyel were caught, it would be too easy for Leshara to figure out what was going on between Vanyel and Tylendel--and to tell Vanyel’s father, who would either pull him home or stick him in a monastery, never to be heard from again.

Vanyel tossed the pen onto the desk and stood up, pacing for a moment before escaping through the garden door into the crisp autumn air. He needed to think, to plan, and he could do that best on his feet.

The lack of uninterrupted sleep wasn’t doing him any favors. He’d woken every night this week from dreams, each filled with horror, loneliness, pain, and grief. He wanted to reach for Tylendel every time he woke, but it was so hard to reach out at all, knowing what the future held. He simultaneously dreaded falling asleep and was desperate to do so, to find any clue that might help them change what was to come, and spent most nights trying not to toss and turn until Tylendel was sprawled out asleep beside him.

Vanyel thought he was starting to piece some of the dreams together, now, although they remained hazy and confusing. He’d dreamt what he thought was Tylendel’s death last night, which hung heavily on him today, and was probably the reason he couldn’t think clearly about writing to his father. Savil’s voice still rang in his ears, and the memory of Tylendel having a magic-induced seizure in his arms was fresh and terrifying.

This isn’t anything a Healer’s going to be able to treat.

Now he’s depleted himself down to nothing, his whole body’s in collapse from the energies he put through it, his mind’s in trauma from Staven’s death.

Death after death, and still they aren’t satisfied!

I don’t intend to let him die.

He needs you, lad--like he’s never need anyone before. You’re my only hope of getting him through this sane.

But Vanyel already knew they hadn’t--they wouldn’t, and Tylendel would follow Staven into death. He hadn’t known it would happen so soon, one right after the other, and that knowledge gave new desperation to his dreaming. If he couldn’t find a solution soon, he would lose everything before the year’s end.

Vanyel shuddered, and staggered a step--his wandering feet had taken him into Companion’s Field, toward the pine grove where he and Tylendel sought sanctuary together outside the suite. The same grove Vanyel had dreamt last night utterly destroyed, the majestic trees smashed into splinters and kindling.

A storm...it had been a storm caused by magic that had destroyed the grove, and there was another one clouding his mind now, violent and terrible. Vanyel clutched at his throbbing head with one hand, closing his eyes against the pressure. It felt like when Tylendel forced open the connection to Vanyel’s potential ForeSight, that same tearing pain of something trying to get out.

He’s dead--oh gods, he’s dead, and it’s all my fault--

Nausea rose in Vanyel at the thought that was so clearly his, but from another place, another time. This wasn’t the memory of a nightmare--it was a new one, only this time he was awake.

It’s all I deserve. It was all my fault--

It was Tylendel’s death again, fresh and all-consuming, and Vanyel couldn’t see the field around him anymore, only lashing rain and the crack of lightning. He stumbled but kept his feet, still driven forward without knowing why, fleeing that terrible, inevitable future.

’Lendel, ’Lendel, it was all my fault--oh gods, it was all my fault--

Vanyel tripped and fell, catching himself on a wrist that twisted painfully, and lurching to his feet again. He didn’t know where he was--had it happened already? Was he feeling Tylendel’s death, so soon? This couldn’t be a dream...

Make it a dream, oh gods--please--

He couldn’t tell if that was his thought now, or his thought in the vision, and he was vaguely aware of movement nearby, but his eyes were squeezed tightly closed and he couldn’t see…

Please--let me die.

I kill everything I care for.

Vanyel moaned, misery and grief choking him, and felt himself collide with a warm, soft surface. A Companion, he realized, and he tried to apologize, forcing his eyes open as the vision finally began to clear, but his throat was clogged and his sight blurred with tears.

Gala, he began to say, thinking she’d seen him and come to his aid, but he knew with a single look that it wasn’t her.

“Yfandes,” he gasped, the relief that swamped him so profound that he nearly fell again. The Companion’s blue eyes widened, startled, but Vanyel couldn’t think past the fact that she was here, she’d found him, it would be all right…

I am here, my Chosen. I love you. I will never leave you.

“’Fandes,” Vanyel moaned again, reaching out to wrap his arms around her neck, and she shied back, but he stumbled forward into her again, and this time she didn’t move away when he buried his face against her white coat, holding onto her for dear life. She was his sanity. She was the sister of his soul, and she was here…

He lost track of time, sobbing into her neck, but eventually it passed and his head cleared--lucidity that brought with it the realization that he’d been clinging to a Companion that wasn’t Gala, one he didn’t know, and who didn’t know him.

But he did know her. The place in his mind where she wasn’t felt like a gaping, empty void. Like the one left by Tylendel’s death…

“I’m sorry,” Vanyel stammered, straightening and taking several hurried steps backward. He stumbled and nearly fell again, and the Companion - Yfandes - started forward in alarm, but Vanyel caught himself and made a shaky bow. “I’m so sorry. I’ll just...I’ll go now, I didn’t mean...I’m sorry.”

Yfandes didn’t seem to want him to go, because she stepped forward again, but Vanyel was hurrying away now, mortified and reeling from what had just happened. He fled - away from the pine grove, away from the field, away from all of it - until he’d reached the suite again, still quiet and empty, and then he locked himself in the bedroom he shared with Tylendel and flung himself onto the bed, where his throbbing headache finally, mercifully dragged him down into darkness.

 

 

:Chosen.:

Tylendel stopped in his tracks on his way out of Savil’s workroom, surprised by the tone of Gala’s voice ringing in his mind. :Gala?:

He’d already reversed course to head out to Companion’s Field, nearly colliding with someone in the corridor, when she mindspoke him again. :No, don’t come here. Vanyel needs you more than I do.:

Gala’s voice was dark with warning, and Tylendel froze in place for a moment before he moved again, rushing for the stairs at the end of the corridor. From the corner of his eye he saw Savil in the doorway to her workroom, watching him with sudden concern.

Not now, not now…

If Savil tried to mindspeak with him as well, she’d know by his whirling thoughts that something was wrong--she most likely already did, if she was watching his aura. They’d been spending a few extra hours working on the ‘trouble’ he was having in mage-lessons, a conceit designed to keep Tylendel out of Whites for long enough that Vanyel could come of age and go on circuit with him. Savil was still attuned to his aura, and they both knew Tylendel was a terrible liar.

:Gala? What’s happened?:

Gala’s voice was flat and displeased. :Why don’t you tell me, Chosen?:

For a second he worried that she’d found out somehow, about Leshara, about Vanyel spying--and then he was afraid that Vanyel was hurt, that Leshara had uncovered their plot, that Vanyel had been attacked…

:Yfandes found Vanyel wandering Companion’s Field. She said that he knew her, that he was upset. He ran away before she could tell me. And you’re hiding something from me.:

Tylendel could hear the frantic note in her voice now, disguised as disapproval. She knew something was wrong, and that she didn’t know what it was. And Tylendel…

Tylendel couldn’t tell her.

:I don’t know why,: he answered, sticking to the strict truth because he couldn’t lie mind-to-mind. :I didn’t know that Van knew any of the Companions besides you, and I didn’t know he was upset. Do you know where he is now?:

He could tell she was worked up by the way their connection pulsed, fluctuating with the strength of her emotions. :You’re not surprised, though,: she accused, making Tylendel wince. You know something. What are you hiding from me?:

:I don’t,: he protested, but everything else he could think to say would have been a lie, and Gala was in his head, ruthlessly demanding answers and chasing after the guilt that colored everything he said to her now.

:Tell me,: Gala demanded, and Tylendel physically flinched from the anger in her voice, given strength by her love and fear for him.

:I can’t,: he pleaded, begging for her to understand. :It’s not my secret to tell, I promised Van I wouldn’t.:

:You’re not protecting him,: Gala shot back hotly. After a moment, more worriedly, she added, :He’s not well, Chosen.:

Tylendel nearly flew down the last corridor to the suite, crashing in through the doors and startling Donni, who was on her way out with an armful of books. “Is Van here?” he asked, trying to catch his breath, automatically moving past her to the door of their bedroom.

Donni sounded confused, but her reply was as calm and unflustered as always. “I don’t know. I only stopped in a few minutes ago, I was just heading out again. He might be in his room?”

The bedroom door was locked. Tylendel jiggled the handle in frustration, then called out, “Van? Are you in there?”

There was no answer. He was twisting the handle again in frustration when Donni appeared beside him. “Is something wrong?”

“Gala thinks so.”

Gala was still with him, he realized, listening in on what was happening. As he became aware of her, she said abruptly, :I’ll tell Kellan,: and vanished from his mind.

:No! Gala--: But it was too late, she was already gone, which meant Savil would know and appear in a matter of minutes. Tylendel cursed fluidly and rattled the doorknob again before taking a step back, considering the heavy oak door and whether or not it was give in the slightest if he threw his weight against it.

“Get out of the way.”

He’d forgotten about Donni--she, sensible to the last, had surmised the problem and was shouldering him aside, pulling a pin out of her short, curly hair. “Don’t tell Savil,” she told him as she crouched in front of the handle, bending the pin to fit it into the keyhole.

He’d also forgotten that Donni, before she’d been Chosen, had been training as a thief. Apparently those skills hadn’t faded with time. Tylendel shifted impatiently, but in less than a minute, Donni had the door open and he was pushing past her to where Vanyel lay face-down on the bed.

“I’ll call for a Healer,” Donni said, and Tylendel was too distracted to stop her before she’d gone.

Great. Someone else who will want answers.

He had more immediate problems, however, because if something really was wrong with Vanyel, then he didn’t care about keeping secrets. His heart beat as fast as though he’d been running, pounding painfully and jammed up into his throat. “Van? Are you all right? Can you wake up for me?”

For a moment, Vanyel didn’t respond even to Tylendel’s shaking his shoulder, and the panic redoubled. He’s been withdrawing from me, keeping secrets of his own...why didn’t he tell me something was wrong?

Then Vanyel moaned softly and shifted on the bed, and Tylendel nearly collapsed with relief. “Ashke, what happened?”

Vanyel lifted a hand to his head and slowly forced his eyes open. His voice, usually a strong baritone, sounded thin and cracked when he replied. “’Lendel? I thought I saw...”

Tylendel swallowed. “You had a vision?”

Awake? And in Companion’s Field? Gods, it’s worked. And Savil is going to kill us.

Vanyel’s eyes focused on him, full of fear, and then his expression turned evasive. Tylendel gripped his shoulders and helped Vanyel up to a sitting position, determined not to let him hide away this time. “Van, tell me. What did you See?”

Vanyel swallowed before reluctantly whispering, “Your death.”

That rocked Tylendel back on his heels, but not for long. He’d known that was what Vanyel kept dreaming about--if he’d really Foreseen it, then maybe now they had a chance of stopping it. More worrying, still, was when and how Vanyel had had the vision. “Did you See it while you were awake? Or did you have another dream?”

Vanyel shook his head slowly. “I was out walking, and I...it felt like I was there, suddenly, everything around me changed…”

Tylendel reached out with his mind toward Vanyel’s, and was shocked right back out again at the first touch. There were cracks everywhere, traces of Vanyel’s Gift - Gifts? - leaking through, and where Tylendel had been forcing open Vanyel’s ForeSight potential, a fissure had stretched, tearing open the channel.

Tylendel didn’t know whether it was a truly active Gift, yet, but it was closer than it had been the last time he’d tried to awaken it. Much closer.

Ashke,” Tylendel said shakily, trying to keep his voice calm while the rest of him spun into renewed panic. “We need to tell Savil. You can’t hide this any longer. It’s hurting you, and it’s...it’s not right, what’s happening to you. We need to get help.”

“No!” Vanyel threw Tylendel’s hands off his shoulders and lurched to his feet, only staying there because Tylendel caught him again when he stumbled. “You don’t understand, we can’t tell anyone, they’ll make the dreams stop, and I have to…”

“Love,” Tylendel begged, sliding his hands down Vanyel’s arms to take his hands, “I think they have to stop. We have to make them stop. Something’s gone wrong, and we can’t just…”

“No,” Vanyel repeated, wild-eyed and vehement. “You don’t understand--”

“Then help me understand,” Tylendel countered. “Tell me what you’ve been Seeing, why you’re hiding it from me. You keep saying you can’t remember the dreams, but you must remember enough. What’s so horrible that you won’t tell me?”

“They’re going to kill Staven!” Vanyel cried, and Tylendel’s mouth went dry, his heart doing another sideways lurch in his chest. “Assassinate him with magic, and then you, right after. Not years from now. Right now, very soon. For all I know they’ve already ordered it, and if I can’t stop it...I can’t lose you, ’Lendel, you’re all I have, I can’t…”

“Who?” Tylendel whispered, feeling torn in two by his concern for Vanyel and fear for his twin. “Who’s going to assassinate him?”

Vanyel closed his eyes and swayed, though he didn’t fall. “Leshara.” At Tylendel’s hissed intake of breath, he opened his eyes again and said dully, “And then I kill him for it, or for Staven. And something I do, something I say, tips Leshara off so that he can kill you. It’s my fault you die.”

“It isn’t,” Tylendel denied automatically, but Vanyel shook his head.

“You haven’t seen it. There’s a river...I nearly drown in it, I want to drown in it, because I’ve killed you, but it’s all so confused, and I don’t know why I don’t die...all I want is to die…”

“Stop,” Tylendel told him, and pulled Vanyel forward into an embrace. Vanyel folded limply into him, as if Tylendel were the only thing keeping him upright. Tylendel didn’t know what to do. It was too late to stop Vanyel’s dreams, maybe too late to keep them from coming to pass...was it too late to save Staven as well? Was there an assassin on the way right now? How could he warn Staven when he didn’t know what to warn him against?

“Listen to me, love,” Tylendel said, keeping his voice low and hopefully steady. “We’re going to tell Savil everything, right now. She’ll be able to take action--whatever you’ve Foreseen, you can share it with her, and mental evidence is admissible in court.”

“She’ll punish you.” Vanyel’s eyes were glassy and distant. “For what we’ve done, she’ll blame you…”

“I don’t care,” Tylendel said vehemently. “Do you hear me, Van? I don’t care what anyone does to me, because I can’t stand seeing you like this, and knowing it’s my fault. I’m a Herald, and I know you don’t understand all of what that means, but believe me when I say that I couldn’t stand by and watch anyone suffer the way you are, much less the person I love.”

Vanyel didn’t seem to register that argument--lost to desperation, he simply switched tactics. “She’ll send me away. She won’t let me see you again…”

“Even if she does, I’ll know you’re safe, so I don’t care,” Tylendel insisted, gripping Vanyel’s shoulders hard. “I can live without you if I know you’re all right.”

There was the sound of a throat being cleared from the doorway, and Tylendel jerked around, startled, to see Savil in the doorway, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Why don’t you let me decide what I’m doing before you settle it for me?” she suggested, the same combination of worry and flinty anger in her voice that had been in Gala’s. Her eyes were hard, but they seemed to soften when she looked from him to Vanyel, and then they widened in shock.

“Great good gods,” she breathed, as Vanyel seemed to collapse in on himself, all hope of avoiding discovery now lost. “What have you two done?”

 

 

“A Foreseer?”

Savil didn’t think Jaysen could have sounded more startled if she’d confirmed that Vanyel had turned into a horse. Foreseers were rare, and for Vanyel to have gone from potential to full-blown Gift at his age was nearly unheard of.

“And a strong one. From what ’Lendel’s told me, he can recall conversations, and to some degree focus on events he’s trying to learn more about.” Savil's tone turned grim as she added, "He's given us enough already to put Staven Frelennye under the protection of a Herald-Mage until this assassination business is sorted out, and Evan Leshara is under house arrest here in Haven until they locate his cousin Wester. The court will need more evidence, but that will hold until tomorrow, when Van's in better shape to deal with it."

Jaysen shook his head, mirroring Savil’s own lingering disbelief, which was the reason she’d called him in to confirm. “I’ve heard of trauma causing Gifts to manifest like this, but you say Tylendel somehow triggered it?”

Savil held her hands palm-up. “He might only be taking the blame, but we don’t know for sure. Neither of them seem very clear on what’s happened.” She rubbed her forehead, trying to will away the impending headache between her eyebrows. “Vanyel’s first vision might have been trauma enough. ’Lendel says Van’s been dreaming his death since this whole thing began.”

“The death of a lover?” Jaysen made a face like he’d bitten into a sour grape, but Savil had enough foolishness to deal with between her protégé and nephew without adding Jaysen’s pig-headed prejudices to the list.

“More than that.”

It was Andrel in the doorway, rejoining them from the bedroom where he’d been looking over Vanyel. He took a seat in the last chair near the fire, and Savil both envied and admired how graceful he made it look. Between court, Heraldic duties, teaching Mardic and Donni, and Tylendel’s extra mage lessons, she felt more like a sack of potatoes being slung onto a shelf.

Jaysen cleared his throat when Andrel didn’t speak up right away. “More, you said?”

Andrel nodded, lips pursed. “One of your students had a word with me, Savil, and from what I’ve seen I think she may be right. It’s more than the death of a lover that’s been driving your nephew--it’s the death of a lifebonded.”

Jaysen’s expression twisted again, but Savil was busy gaping. Apparently not content with turning into a horse, Vanyel had decided to grow wings and fly as well. “Van and ’Lendel? They’ve only known each other a few months.”

“I don’t think these things have a time requirement. Is this open? Ah, thank you.” Andrel helped himself to a glass of wine from the bottle on the low table and took a sip. “I can only guess that’s how Tylendel was able to access Vanyel’s potential in the first place. That’s speculation, mind you.”

Andrel sipped his wine again, and Savil bit her lip so she wouldn’t snap at him to get on with it. They were all tired, and none of them had been prepared for the day’s revelations.

“What I can tell you,” Andrel went on finally, “is that whatever caused it, he does have an active Gift. And that’s just for now. He’s leaking Empathy and Mindspeech, and without knowing for certain what triggered his ForeSight, I couldn’t rule out those becoming active either, even within the next few days. He has strong potential for Mage-Gift starting to show through, as well--so I hope you’re ready for a new student, Savil, because the way this came about, I think you’d better be prepared to teach them together. They’re more sensitive to each other than anyone else, and ’Lendel might be able to help Vanyel learn the basics.”

“A Foreseer,” Jaysen repeated, still sounding stunned. “We haven’t had one of those in ages. No one reliable, anyway. What’s the chance he’ll be snapped up by the crown to work for Elspeth?”

“Not good,” Savil said grimly. “He’s his father’s heir, and his father is a stubborn, hidebound old fool. And I should know. He’s just like me. We might have a chance at Van once he comes of age, but…”

“But he’ll need to be trained before then,” Jaysen agreed, hearing the doubt in her voice. “Leaving him with an untrained Gift for that long, particularly with the kind of dreams Tylendel says he’s been having, we risk him going mad before we can help him.”

“In that case,” Andrel interjected mildly, “what’s the chance of him being Chosen as a Herald?”

Savil snorted. “Not good either. There’s only one adult Companion in Haven who hasn’t Chosen, and she…”

She cut off as Kellan spoke up in her mind, and from Jaysen’s expression he was hearing the same.

“I’ll be damned,” Savil whispered. “Yfandes has Chosen him.”

Will Choose him,” Jaysen corrected her, sounding dazed.

For Andrel’s benefit, Savil relayed, “The Companions say she’s put a claim on him, and doesn’t want anyone else to have a chance at him. She wants us to bring him out to the field now.”

The bedroom door creaked open wider, and Tylendel stepped out, disheveled and rumpled. He gave Savil an apologetic, ashamed look, but there was a hint of defiance in it as well. “He’s already gone,” Tylendel told them. “I sent him out the garden door as soon as Gala told me.”

“Bright Havens,” Jaysen exclaimed. “A Herald?”

Savil rubbed her forehead again, and pointed sternly to a chair when Tylendel started to shrink back toward the doorway. “You, sit yourself down. Don’t think you’re getting off lightly. What you did wasn’t just misguided, it was a violation of ethics. You used your Gifts in a way they were never intended, and someone else was hurt because of it.”

To his credit, Tylendel sat and folded his hands on his knees, appropriately chagrined. “I know. Gala’s already ripped into me for it. I just wanted to...I thought I could help, at first. And then...” He sighed, but Savil had already heard the story twice now, once from Tylendel and once, less coherently, from Vanyel, and she knew how that sentence ended.

“Then Vanyel convinced you to keep at it, even when you knew it was wrong, and stupid besides.” Savil shook her head. “It won’t be just me you’ll have to answer to, ’Lendel. The Heralds will have to hear from both of you, and there may disciplinary action taken.”

“Yes, Savil,” Tylendel replied meekly. She could tell he meant it, but she also knew him, and youngsters in general--he might be sorry now, but he’d do the same again in a heartbeat. She’d have to have more words with him after this, when they were in private.

And maybe...just maybe...she could find a task for him that would teach him some steady patience. Savil turned the idea over in her mind, and then mused, “They might set you back. Years, if they choose to, and you’d have to train and take all of your classes over again.”

Tylendel didn’t look happy at that prospect - nor should he - but Andrel’s green eyes sparkled, and Savil knew he’d caught on to her line of thinking.

“He’d have more knowledge and experience, though. Maybe he should be assigned to tutor the newer trainees, as penance. There is one new trainee who’ll be just starting classes, isn’t there?”

Tylendel’s eyes widened. “You mean...Vanyel?”

Savil nodded. “I wouldn’t hold out hope for that being all, but for a start, I think it’s a fair punishment. He’s starting older than anyone else at Haven, and there won’t be any more trainees along for a while, without any adult Companions to Choose them. It won’t be an easy adjustment for him, and he’s already behind in most of his classes. As far as I’m concerned, the two of you progress and graduate together, or neither of you does.”

“Yes, Savil.” Tylendel’s eyes shone now, excitement and happiness temporarily overriding any dismay at his punishment. Savil suspected that he’d find it harder than he thought, being publicly held back and disciplined, but for now she’d let him enjoy the moment. “Thank you.”

She waved a hand at him. “Thank me later, once it’s official. Go and visit Gala, I’ll bet she has more to say to you, and this is the time for it, while Vanyel is bonding with Yfandes.”

Tylendel’s expression fell again, and Savil guessed that she’d been right, and Gala had quite a few select words for her Chosen. He went without a fuss, though, leaving Savil, Jaysen, and Andrel in front of the fire looking at each other.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Savil asked.

“He’ll need to learn how to shield, and someone should tell Elspeth,” Jaysen said.

“And we’ll need to see what we can do about those cracks, and find out whether we can patch them up. I don’t like the idea of all that leaking,” Andrel put in.

“Not that. Although I agree,” Savil admitted. “But no--I was thinking we need another bottle of wine.”

 

 

Epilogue

 

“Stop fussing with it.”

Vanyel looked up from where he’d been adjusting his belt to see Tylendel smiling behind him in the mirror, dark-gold curls unruly as always, but otherwise tidy and resplendent in his white Heraldic uniform. It was a uniform that matched the one Vanyel currently wore down to the last buckle, although Tylendel managed to make his look slightly worn-in and rumpled, in spite of this being the first time either of them had tried on their new Whites.

“You look good. You look better than good.” Tylendel rested his hands on Vanyel’s shoulders and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, lingering. “You look gorgeous,” he murmured into Vanyel’s ear. “And I’m so proud of you.”

Vanyel flushed. “You’re only saying that because you’re grateful you won’t have to walk me through any more history lessons.”

Tylendel chuckled. “I’m saying that because it’s true. You look like you were made for Whites. Are you going to miss wearing dramatic black all the time, peacock?”

“I’m going to miss colors,” Vanyel complained, fidgeting with his belt and tunic again in the mirror. “But anything is better than trainee gray.”

“Ah, I knew there had to be a secret motivation for you somewhere,” Tylendel teased. “It couldn’t have all been my charming tutelage.”

“Your charm helped,” Vanyel promised, blushing a little in spite of himself. “I hope you didn’t tell Savil what you were using as a reward system.”

“It was a sound teaching method. And anyway, I’m pretty sure she knew. Van, leave it,” Tylendel laughed, turning Vanyel around in his arms and away from the mirror. “You look amazing.”

Vanyel took in the proud set of Tylendel’s shoulders and the way the white fabric looked against his tan skin. “So do you. Truly. I’m happy for you--I know you didn’t ask to be held back to wait for me.”

Tylendel clucked his tongue. “I would have waited for you anyway, ashke, you know that. Savil was going to keep me in mage-lessons until you were of age, so that we could go on circuit together. This is better.” Tylendel’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “Now we’re really going together.”

He leaned in for a kiss that Vanyel was only too happy to grant, and they spent a long, lazy moment entwined, until Tylendel’s hands started to wander and Vanyel found himself more out of breath than he’d prefer, when Savil was going to call for them any minute now to be presented to the court.

“Herald-Mage Frelennye,” Vanyel managed when he’d caught a breath, “Are you taking liberties? Wasn’t there something about being noble and stoic in the Heraldic Oath?”

“Herald-Mage Ashkevron,” Tylendel echoed, not ceasing his nibbling on Vanyel’s ear, “It’s only a liberty if you don’t allow it.”

“Oh well, in that case, carry on,” Vanyel agreed distractedly, and Tylendel laughed and backed them both up against the mirror to do just that.

Tylendel broke their kiss to smile and look speculatively at Vanyel. “So now that you’re of age, does this mean I can kiss you in front of your father?”

Vanyel smiled back at him, his fingers twisting in Tylendel’s hair. It wasn’t as though he could make more of a mess of it, after all. “Now that I’m of age,” he replied with a shy grin, “I think that means you can kiss me in front of anyone you like.”

When Savil came to summon them a minute later, Tylendel seemed only too happy to comply.