Phoenix Rising

BY : themysticaldragon
Category: S through Z > Valdemar Series
Dragon prints: 201
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do NOT own ANY of the rights to the Valdemar Series, those all belong to Mercedes Lackey, who has given me the inspiration. I make no profit from this or any writing.

A slim figure slipped quietly into the darkened suite, dragging several lumpy packs.  A gittern case slung carefully over their shoulder slipped as they slumped against the door.  It was well past midnight, and hardly anyone should be stirring, yet a shadow separated itself from the couch and moved into the dim firelight.

 

“Luna?”  A soft voice whispered into the darkness.  “Is that you?”

 

Luna whimpered in pain as she tried to force her tired limbs to release the packs.  The shadow moved closer and began to take them from her, lastly taking the gittern from her weary body and setting it gently on a chair.  She wanted to drop right where she stood, but she was cold, wet and covered in various layers of mud and muck.

 

“How can it snow, rain and sleet all at the same time?  I don’t think I’ll ever get warm again.”  She sighed.  “At least I won’t have competition for a bath.”

 

Stefen chuckled as he picked up a soft bundle of fabric that was draped over the back of the chair he’d set her gittern in.  He would deal with her packs once he got her settled into bed.  A trainee who was heading out to foal watch passed by them and he asked if they could pause for a moment to bring some food to the suite.  They nodded and dashed down to the snack pantry to fetch Luna some food.  He caught up with Luna as she was easing into a tub of hot water.

 

“Why didn’t you stop at an inn?  You look like you tried to make it back from the boarder in record time.”  Stefen asked.  “Oh don’t tell me.  He had company?”

 

“Oh he did indeed.  We’d just taken our room, last one at that inn and had just settled into bed when he strolled in, bold as a bad penny and told me that I had spent enough time with ‘his man’ and I needed to go find another bed to sleep in.”  Luna growled.  “I would loved to seen his reaction to what Corden did, but I wanted to be home.”

 

That had been nearly two days ago.  Luna had simply gathered her things and saddled Surya.  They had left in the middle of the night and stopped at a waystation.  She and Surya had grumbled nearly the whole way home, stopping only to eat and attend to needs of nature.  She’d been so angry at the time she’d wanted to beat the brat black and blue.  She washed quickly, but decided to relax in the hot water for a bit.

 

“And what did Trey do? I can’t imagine he went along with you being tossed out in the cold.”  Stefen asked, confused.  “I honestly don’t know though, he’s turning into someone altogether different.”

 

“When we first met Daryl, he seemed rather friendly and welcoming.  He was fine with the fact that Trey and I are together, but lately it’s like when we’ve had assignments he acts like we were together the whole time.  I only met up with Trey on the purest of accidents and we passed some time together that night, but once he showed up it was ‘oh sorry love’ and out the door I went.”  Luna shook her head.  “I can’t do this, it hurts too much.”

 

Luna had loved Trey for years, they started their relationship the first time she’d visited her Tayledras brother, Brightmoon.  Now she was twenty six and it seemed that they were drifting apart.  She’d had more years with him than many relationships lasted outside of those rare few who lifebonded. 

 

She eased herself from the tub, taking the towel Stefen offered her.  She dried off and then wrapped the towel around her body, not noticing the startled look he’d given her overly thin frame and lacing of scars over her side.  She began drying her hair, wrapping the towel around her head before turning back to him.  That was when she noticed the look on his face.

 

“Healers did the best they could, but I got hit with something flaming.  It looks way worse than it was as my leathers took the brunt of the hit.” Luna giggled.  “I can’t say the same for the person who threw it at me.”

 

What she didn’t tell him was it was a spear a Karsite soldier had pulled from a fire and plunged it into her side.  It had all happened so fast she was down before she’d even known she’d been hit, and Surya had the man dead beneath her hooves before anyone could get close.  How this soldier had gotten through their lines was beyond anyone’s guess.  She’d suspected that they had mages in their midst, and possibly had an idea that there were none in Valdemar’s forces.  She still had little idea why she’d been sent there, beyond the damaged crops near the border.   She wasn’t even among the fighters.

“I have a good idea, though you weren’t among the fighters.  Let’s get some food into you and you can sleep in my bed tonight.”  Stefen waited as she dressed in her gown and tossed the towels in the basket.  She picked up the filthy outfit and dropped it in as well.  “You know that’s an invitation that is always open.”

 

“I know, and believe me since Daryl entered the picture I’ve been more than tempted to take you up on it instead of sleeping on the couch.  I haven’t because I knew it would hurt Trey, but now I really don’t care.” She said with venom and stalked out of the bathing room.

 

Stefen followed her and made it to the door before her.  He opened it with a slight bow and charmed a little giggle from her.  The room was lit by a fire and a few candles, food sitting on the small table and her packs were empty.  It took getting used to being waited on after spending several years handling her own things.  That was the life of a field Herald though.  She got little time to herself, and half the time she spent that recovering from being in the field.  At least she had a short respite before going back to sector riding.  She could use the distraction of training a new field Herald, and she knew she would only have enough time to repair her tack and uniforms before she had to pack up again.

 

“So how does he even know when you two are out at the same time?  I thought he’d gone down into Rethwellen this time.”  Stefen said. “Unless there is something he is keeping from you.”

 

“He’s drawn away from me, that is a given.  I didn’t even know he was out until we happened to meet up at the same inn.  They gave us the same room as we are Heralds and it was the only room they had.  How Daryl knew, I’ll never know.”  Luna laid slices of cheese and meat on some bread and ate that, sipping at some juice.  “How he even knew what room is beyond me.  Trey just gave me this look and I knew.”

 

Stefen sighed.  He’d warned Trey years ago that if he chose to have an open relationship with Luna, it would have to be one of mutual trust and mutual understanding.  Luna had been fine with several of the lovers Trey took, even when they didn’t understand that she was much as a partner as they were.   There were many jealous arguments and many times Luna simply gave into their demands.  Any of them who tried to force Trey to choose between them and her ultimately were the ones who were left in the cold that is until this Daryl came along. 

 

“Daryl is in his Journeyman part of Bardic, so I guess he tries to use that.  I don’t think he is using his gift to affect Trey in any way though.  I haven’t noticed it.” Stefen mused as he nibbled at a slice of cheese.  “But I do think they have lasted longer than any of his other lovers.”

 

“He could be just a little nicer.  He acts like I’m the intruder into their relationship even though he’s only been with Trey for three years.  He knew when they got together that we were a couple.  I’ve been kind, I’ve been patient.”  Luna sighed.  “I’ve willingly stepped aside many, many times and he treats me like…”

 

“Horse droppings.”  Stefen added dully.

 

“Worse than that,” Luna flopped over on the couch, kicking her feet over the arm.  “I haven’t spent more than a few marks with Trey, and we certainly didn’t get all that far into romance before trouble comes in and tosses me out on my rump.”

 

“As I’ve said, you always have an open invitation to my bed.  And yes, my little Luna, that means exactly that.”  Stefen said, giving her a bold look.

 

Luna gave Stefen a long look.  She shook her head and dropped her hands over her face.  She was sure the man had lost his mind.  Trey’s lover was also a Bard and would not hesitate to find some way to race across the whole land spreading her shame to whoever would listen.  Worse yet, he’d find his own way into the Sorrows and paint her in the worst possible light.  The Heralds were rather discrete, but she refused to play the game she was being forced into.

 

“Stefen, I don’t have any choices.  I either find a way to break it off with Trey or keep living in misery.  If I was to even sleep beside you, you know damn well that Daryl would run with that saying that you and I were having sex.  Trust me, it’s tempting to take your invitation, but I can’t.”  Luna groaned.  “It’s like I’m intruding on a lifebond.”

:My lady, may I intrude in on your thoughts.: A dryly accented but cheerful voice brushed her mind.  :Trey is certain you have gone back to the battle.:

 

:Corden, Trey can go hang from a tree in the Sorrows for all I care right now.: Surya said sourly.

 

:Easy, Surya.  If Trey hasn’t acknowledged that the bond is there, it’s just going to continue to go on like this.  Worse still, he completely flips if I mention it to him.: Luna told Surya.  :I do not hate Daryl and I know he does not hate me.:

 

:No, Daryl doesn’t hate you, it’s just that Trey is making both of you miserable.:  Corden said  :He doesn’t mean to make you feel the way he does, he’s been in tears since you stormed out.  I’ll try talking to Trey again.  I think you are right though.  If I can get him to accept that bond…:

“Stefen, do you think it’s at all possible that Daryl and Trey could be lifebonded.?”  Luna moved her hands and looked at Stefen.  “It all fits, when Trey is not around Daryl and I get along just fine.  It’s just when they’ve been apart for a while is when Daryl is  a bit bitchy.”

“That’s entirely possible.  It would make more sense that way, because then you both are sensitive to it.”  Stefen moved to sit by Luna and stroked her head.  “That would explain both of your irritation with each other at times.  It’s late and you are tired.  Come on and get into bed.”

Luna eased herself from the couch and went into Stefen’s room.  Tonight she didn’t care where she slept, as long as no one would come in demanding her attention anytime before noon.  She noticed the bed was turned down on both sides and she eased into the bed, pulling the covers up to her nose.

“I love the smell of lavender, it’s so comforting.” Luna sighed.  “It smells better than anything I’ve smelled in the past few years.”

“I can imagine.  I can also bet Trey will probably be in by morning, if not a little later.  I left a note that you are not to be bothered until you wake up on your own.”  Stefen said.  “And if he has to sit on needles until you are ready to talk…”

“All I want is for him to be happy.  If he truly is lifebonded to Daryl, it would be so much easier for all of us if he just accepted it.  You’ve told me before that you felt out of sorts until you confessed just how you felt to Van.  Looking at it now, I know what this is.” Luna started, but was interrupted.

:Good thinking.  I made them stop at that waystation.  I told him we were not leaving until they talk this over.  Daryl really does like you and hates it that he takes his frustration out on you.  He’s not jealous, even though he’s seemed like it.: Corden said into her mind. :I know some think because you can talk to me that it’s you Trey is lifebonded to, but it’s not.  Daryl wants to try to make it work with the three of you, the way you and Trey have talked.  Don’t expect us for a few days, and please tell Stefen it will be alright.:

“Ah, Corden says he’s made them stop for a couple of days and refuses to go another step until Trey talks to Daryl.  Now Surya won’t be tempted to put hoof prints on both of them,” Luna giggled, then added as she drifted off to sleep.  “I don’t have to kill anyone at least…”

Stefen watched as Luna drifted off to sleep.  She’d been gone for nearly two years, using both her Bardic and Heraldic training getting information smuggled out on the movements of the Karsite troops and brigands.   She was a lot thinner than he remembered her being, and her scars worried him.  The one on her side looked rather nasty, as if they’d had to clean more than just material from the burn.  He knew that she’d played down the injury deliberately to keep him from worrying too much.

He had been up late, having spent the evening with Medren.  He’d put the candles out but wasn’t exactly ready to sleep yet so he just lay on the couch watching the fire and dozed off until he had heard her coming in.  He’d laid out a robe and her bed gown earlier that day, expecting that she’d be in within the next few days.

 

It wasn’t like he’d not been gone for the past two years himself.  He’d spent more time in the saddle traveling than in the past few years than he ever dreamed.  It was still the same; it seemed as if he’d only just begun the task everyone kept wanting mages.  Still the people seemed to think that Treven was hiding away mages somewhere, they refused to believe that Vanyel was the last.  They understood he’d given his life to save the kingdom, but surely there was a mage somewhere.  He’d decided not too long after Luna became a full Herald at sixteen that he’d tell no tales of her, and the other Bards had readily agreed.  Her gifts were odd enough as it was, and the things she did had saved countless people from danger and from starvation, but her gift was too close to what some could call true magic.

Another thing that bothered him, even as he was totally ungifted in the sense that Vanyel was, he could feel the underlying tension in her as clearly as the pain he was sure she felt in her scars.  It wasn’t just sexual frustration he felt, but resentment more towards Trey than anyone else.  He wasn’t exactly sure how he could help her there, but he’d find a way.   Finally, sleep claimed him, though he still had thoughts buzzing in his mind like a hive of busy bees.

Luna woke early the next afternoon, hearing birdsong outside.  She stretched, wanting nothing more than to roll over and go back to sleep.  She had to get up and get moving.  She needed go and make sure her uniforms were being seen to.  She also had to make sure Surya’s tack was being repaired.   She pushed the blankets back and moved from the bed trying to get her brain into focus.  

She got up and dressed in an outfit she’d brought back from k’Treva years ago.  It was lovely shades of soft greens that gave her a radiant glow and highlighted her hair.  In all the time she’d had the outfit and wore it, it never really faded.  It had been made in a similar design to her Whites, but with softer lines and was a little more fitted to her curves.  She wrapped her cloak around her and went out to start her day.

She went down to the kitchen to get something to eat then out to the stables to see Surya.  Her Companion looked fine for their mad dash in the previous night.   They’d decided not to stop when the snow started, figuring that with them not being too far from Haven, it would be easier.  What she didn’t expect was the alternating bands of sleet, rain and snow.

:They made sure I had some very nice warm gruel and blankets.  They sent you off to your rooms because you looked like you’d fall asleep on your feet.: Surya nuzzled her.  :They took the tack this morning to overhaul it. I think they’re going to give you new gear, I really don’t mind, the newer the better. Doing an internship assignment in new gear will make us both feel better, and you do need some time to feel better.:

 

:I know, between  all those we lost down on the lines and me loosing the baby, I haven’t been able to process any of it. Then this whole mess with Trey, I hope Corden kicks him.: Luna thought sadly as she hugged Surya to her.  :There’s something different with Stef, and I don’t know what it is.:

:You both are lonely.  He misses his love and you miss being in love.  Corden says they’ll be back in about two days.  Trey thinks he’s lifebonded to you, not Daryl.  He’s going to end up killing that poor boy.  Daryl is sorry about how you are feeling about all this than Trey is.: Surya sighed.  :Go, I’m good here.  Stefen made sure your new gear has been ordered and has been started on.  Go get warm and spend time with your friend.:

Surya nuzzled her again then pushed her back out of the stables.   Luna went back to her suite.  When she came back from her Internship, Kasie had pulled her aside and explained that her ground floor accommodations had to be swapped out for a Herald who had lost her leg.  She hadn’t minded the swap, as the new suite also had two bedrooms.  She never expected that Stefen would stay on with her even after she made full Herald or when she reached Master Bard at twenty one.

:Surya how am I going to tell them how I lost my baby.  Why didn’t the healers tell me I was pregnant?  That’s why they pulled us away from the border, well me at least.  I have to tell Stefen at least.:  Luna asked as she stoked the fire in her room.  :I can’t have my son buried anywhere around here, that’s why I had them do the pyre.  I want to leave him in the Sorrows.:

:No one will fault you for your thinking.   That little one who saw to your things last night put the urn in Stefen’s room, on that little shelf he keeps that focus stone on.   His sister was one of those with you the night of that fire and she helped the healers keep you alive.: Surya said softly.  :She taught him all about the things he would need to do as a Trainee, apart from what he’d need to do in lessons.  Until he was chosen, he was her little ‘squire’.  She had custody of him after their parents died.:

:So he knew enough to know I would want that hidden, not from Stefen, but if Trey saw it in my room, he’d ask.:  Luna sighed. 

She heard the door open and Stefen stepped in, looking no worse for his late night.  She wasn’t sure how he’d beat her awake that morning but she had slept better than she had in many, many weeks.  She got up and went into his room and found the shelf.  She took the tiny urn and carried it into the living room and set it on the mantle.  She focused on the flames, as they blurred as tears streaked her face.

Luna stared at the fireplace, watching the flames dance.  She really didn’t want Stefen to know how close she’d come to death then.  She had to tell someone, she couldn’t carry the pain any longer.  She felt his arms wrap around her shoulders and put her hands over his.

“The scars, they’re from a flaming spear or something that a Karsite soldier plunged into my side.  They’d pulled me from the front lines to the farms north of Horn.  A fire broke out and I and the other Heralds there started working on putting out the fires and protecting what homes and barns were there.  We never saw them until they started attacking.”  Luna shivered and Stefen held her tighter.  “I didn’t know until after I had been injured that I was pregnant.”

 

She’d been shattered when they’d told her.  She was far enough along to know and feel the child moving, but she was so busy with everything else she mistook the symptoms for the stress she was dealing with.  She’d spent two weeks in the hands of the healers, but there was more damage to her body than they could heal and sustain the pregnancy.  They ended up having to take out more in surgery than they wanted. 

 

“Oh, my little one, I’m so sorry.  I take it you have never told him either.”  Stefen moved her to the couch and helped her sit. 

 

“Only after I was healed, given how things are between us, I say it’s more of a blessing.”  Luna began playing a little.  “The funny thing is when the fighting got bad, and I do mean really bad, they pulled me from the lines and stabled Surya.  I made do with a nice little mare and played the Bard.  There was no fighting where we were, and I was helping fight a wildfire when this soldier just popped up right by us and he grabbed a spear or arrow or just some sharp stick and came at me.  It was the damnedest thing too, as I had my hair bound up and was in my Scarlets.”

 

She wasn’t the only Herald there who was in something other than their white uniforms.  All of them had been attacked, down to the very last one.   There was at least twelve Heralds with her, most of them in common peasant clothes; she was the only one in red.   Of the dozen Heralds that were trying to keep the peace in this village, only five survived.  It seemed a horrible waste of life, especially with those who were not even on the fighting lines.  It was still a puzzle they were trying to figure out, but all she could do was recover and get back to getting information.

 

“You spent two years down there, and most of that time you weren’t near fighting, why didn’t they send you home when you got hurt?”  Stefen held her gently.  “They told us there were some heavy casualties outside of Horn.”

 

“We’re not sure.  I sent the reports back with the first courier out when I was called back.  Mind you, I was more than ready.  I’m so damn sick of Karse and their antics.”  Luna leaned into the embrace and sighed.

 

There was a knock at the door causing both to groan.  Luna handed her gittern to Stefen and stood to answer the door.  A page in Royal livery stood there with a note in his hands.  He held it out, nearly dropping it before she could take it.   The boy looked rather awed to see her, and it seemed like he’d not been expecting for her to answer her own door.

 

“King Treven wishes to speak with you this evening, after dinner.”  The child said and turned to dash off.

 

Luna looked at the note, seeing it said what the child had told her.  It wasn’t to be a formal meeting at least.  She knew what it was about, it was to cover the information she’d smuggled out in the weeks before she left.  She truly hoped that she wouldn’t have to attend a Council Session over this.  She knew the price she’d paid to get the information she got out many times over.   She didn’t mind playing covert, her having the Bardic Gift, she’d been able to swap roles to gather what she’d needed and got it to couriers in time.

 

She moved over to the couch and gracelessly dropped on to it.  She was so very tired, so weary of endless war, death and grief.  Things never stayed quiet to the south for very long.  She’d made a new friend not too long before she came back from the lines. He was a kindly young man and he’d held her many times when her grief over losing her unborn son overwhelmed her.   She’d learned so much from him, how his family fled from Karse when he was just a toddler, before any of the other Sun Priests came to test children.  His parents had more reasons than just his budding Gifts to flee.  They and many others felt that something had been warped in their religion and they could not abide in it.

 

“Did you know that Herald Justin was born in Karse?  He never talks about it because his parents fled when he was very small.  He doesn’t understand how those there can’t see how things are so warped.”  Luna sighed.  “I’ve shared my own story with him, how the rot took over in my village and people who were too afraid to not believe it.  They use manipulation and fear to make you follow what they want you to.  It’s the same there, if you don’t follow the way they teach, you are made an example of and usually end up dead.”

 

Stefen heard stories from Vanyel about how the religious fanaticism had taken over and anyone Gifted was taken in and subverted and if that person was too old to be deemed useful, they usually were burned alive.  It always seemed to come in waves though.  Things would go wild for a while, then they would seem to ease up, as if all available fighters were either dead or too injured to fight.  It hardly seemed likely it would ever end, he couldn’t blame the people of Valdemar for wanting mages, but there were simply none to have and they had no one to train them.

 

For the most part, as long as they could keep covert Heralds posted in areas along the border, they could keep most of the attacks from getting through, but there were times that it seemed that those where were taking great pains to not be obvious were the ones who were killed first.  Luna had nearly given everything to protect the Heralds she’d been working with and those innocent lives that simply lived in the border villages.   He often wondered after he’d lost his love  if some of the enemies weren’t just targeting the Mages, but Heralds in general. 

 

“It’s been that way for a very long time, even back when Van was on the front lines.  It’s something we could never figure out.”  Stefen sat and Luna laid her head in his lap.  “How far along were you?”

 

“Well, I had thought, because I wasn’t showing much I wasn’t that far along.  However, the Healers told me that there would have been no saving me had I not been pregnant.”  Luna’s eyes filled with tears and Stefen gently stroked her hair.  “I was just over seven months.  I still had damages to me, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  I lost him though.  I woke a bit after they did surgery and they let me hold him.”

 

Stefen’s heart contracted painfully.  He could see the pain in her face as she pulled up the shirt she was wearing and traced the lacing of burns and other scars along her left side that went from her hip to her naval.  A small, thin line ran from there almost to her right hip.  He gently eased the cloth down over her skin and held her hand gently.  Her little son was a hero as he’d given his life to save his mother.

 

“What did you name him?” Stefen whispered.  He knew the name she chose, there was no other name that would be fitting.  She had one person in her life who had given their own, not only for those he didn’t know, but for all that he loved.

 

“Vanyel” Luna said, then burst into tears.



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