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been
a generous trough, easily filled and easily emptied. After she'd drunk her
fill,
and he had washed and brushed her down as she asked, he'd had a bath in it.
Then
he emptied it out and refilled it for her drinking. The cold bath had felt
wonderful; it was the first time in a week that he'd been able to cool down.
He'd also washed up his clothing; it was hanging on a bush just outside. It
was
a lot more comfortable to sit around in his singlet, since there wasn't anyone
but Cymry to see him anyway.
She'd told him which herbs to make into a poultice that did a lot to ease the
ache of his eye and nose, and more to make into a tea that did something about
his throbbing head. She already knew, evidently, that he could cook, and had
left him alone while he readied his dinner over the tiny hearth in the Way
Station. Now he couldn't imagine why he hadn't figured out she was a Companion
immediately.
Unless it was just that the idea of a Companion wandering around in an old
worn
set of tack was so preposterous, and the idea of a Companion deciding to make
a
Herald out of a thief was still more so.
:I told them to tack me up in the oldest kit in the stables that would fit
me,:
she offered, as he scooped the oatcakes off their stone and juggled one from
hand to hand, waiting for it to cool enough to eat. He gave her a curious
stare.
 Ye ye kidnapped me! he accused.
:Well, would you have come with me if I'd walked up to you and Chosen you?:
she
asked, her head cocked to one side. :I am sorry about your nose, but that was
an
accident.:
 But 
:I've known for several weeks that you were my Chosen,: she said, as if it was
so matter-of-fact that he shouldn't even be considering any other possibility.
:I've just been waiting for the opportunity to get you alone where I could
explain things to you.:
 But 
:You've already lost this argument, you know,: she pointed out. :Three times,
infact.:
He gave up. Besides, the cake was cool enough to eat. And he was hungry enough
by this point to eat the oats raw, much less in the cakes he'd just made.
He put a second poultice on his eye and nose and lay back in the boxbed that
filled most of the Way Station. It had a thick layer of fresh hay in it,
covered
over with a coarse canvas sheet; it was just as comfortable as his bed in the
Priory, and although he wasn't sleepy yet, he didn't really want to venture
out
into the alien environment outside his door. He heard things out there; all
manner of unfamiliar sounds enlivened the darkness, and he didn't much care
for
them. There were wild animals out there, owls and bats and who knew what else.
There could be bears&
:You don't for one moment think that I would let anything hurt you, do you?:
The
unexpected fierceness of that question made him open his good eye and turn his
head to look at her, where she lay half-in, half-out of the doorway.
 I don' know anything 'bout you, he admitted, slowly.  Nothin' at all 'bout
Companions.
:Well, I wouldn't.: She sighed. :And you're about to learn a great deal about
Companions.:
 No, I ain't. They're gonna take one look at me an' throw me out, he replied,
stubbornly.
:No, they aren't. They already know who you are, what you are, and that I'm
bringing you in tomorrow.:
 What? he yelped, sitting up straight, keeping the poultice clapped to his
eye
with one hand.
: Well, not everybody, just the people who need to. The Dean of the
Collegium that's the Herald who's in charge of the whole of Heralds'
Collegium.
Herald Alberich, the Weapons-master. The Queen's Own and the Queen. A couple
of
the other teachers. They all know, and they aren't going to throw you out.:
She
was so matter-of-fact about it as if it shouldn't even occur to him to doubt
her. :As to how they know, I told them, of course. Actually I told them
through
their Companions, but it amounts to the same thing.:
He flopped back down in the bed, head spinning. This was all going much too
fast
for him. Much, much too fast.  Now what am I gonna do? he moaned, mostly to
himself.  I can't ever go back th' Watch'd hev me afore I took a step 
:You couldn't go back anyway.: Cymry replied.
 But 
:Skif do you really, really want me to leave you?: The voice in his mind was
no
more than a whisper, but it was a whisper that woke the echoes of that
unforgettable moment when he felt an empty place inside him fill with
something
he had wanted for so long, so very, very long
 No, he whispered back, and to his profound embarrassment, felt his throat
swelling with a sob at the very thought.
:I didn't think so. Because I couldn't bear to lose you.: Her thoughts took on
a
firmer tone. :And I won't. No one tries to separate a Companion and her
Chosen.
That would be unthinkable.:
He lay in the firelit darkness for a long time, listening to the strange night
sounds in the woods outside, the beating of his own heart, and his own
thoughts.
Then he sighed heavily.  I guess I gotta be a Herald, he said reluctantly.
 But
I still think there's gonna be trouble.
:Then we'll face it together. Because I am never, ever going to let anyone
separate us.:
* * * * * * * * * *
In the morning, gingerly probing of his nose and the area around his eye and
the
fact that he could actually open that eye again proved that the poultice had
done its work. He cleaned himself up in the cold water, and donned his shirt
and
trews wrinkled and a little damp, but they'd have to do. They both ate, he
cleaned the things he'd used and shut the Way Station up again. He'd been
stiff
and sore when he woke up, but he knew from experience that only moving around
would make that kind of soreness go away. Besides, at the moment, he couldn't
wait to get back to the city where he belonged. Whatever people saw in  the
country was invisible to him. The silence alone would drive him crazy in a
day.
There was just one problem, of course and that was that he wasn't going home,
he
was going to this Collegium place. As he mounted Cymry's well-worn saddle with
a
great deal more decorum this time he shook his head slightly.  I still think
there's gonna be trouble, he predicted glumly.
:Skif, there will always be trouble where you are,: she replied mischievously.
:We'll just have to try to keep it from getting out of hand!:
Without a backward glance, she started up the forest trail, going in a few
paces
from a walk to a trot to an easy lope. It was very strange, riding her, now
that
he knew what she was. For one thing, she wasn't a horse he didn't have control
over her, and that was the way it was supposed to be, not an accident. But as
they moved out of the woods and onto roads that had a bit of morning traffic,
he
began to notice something else.
Now that they weren't charging down the road in a manner threatening to life
and
limb, people paid attention to Cymry, they clearly knew what she was, and they
looked at her, and by extension her rider, with respect.
Or at least they did until they saw his black eye.
But even then, they looked at him with respect only leavened with sympathy.
And
since they weren't galloping at a headlong pace, but rather moving in and out
of
the traffic at a respectable, but easy trot, some people actually began to
call
greetings to him and her.
 New-Chosen, aye, lad? said a farmer, perched so high on the seat of his
wagon
that he was eye-to-eye with Skif. And without waiting for an answer, added,
 Here, catch! and tossed him a ripe pear.
Startled, he caught it neatly, and the second one that the same man tossed to
him, before Cymry found another opening in the traffic and moved smoothly
ahead.
:If you'd cut that up into quarters, I'd like some.:
He was only too pleased to oblige, since he had the feeling that was what the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]