CHOSEN

BY DEBORAH LEMIEUX

(AKA HERALD-IN-TRAINING DRIANA)

It was looking like it was going to be another cloudy day as Driana hurriedly finished tying the laces on her merchant's dress, as she laughingly thought of it. It was an ankle-length woolen dress dyed a bluish-green which she wore when preparing to deliver manuscripts to prominent patrons.

Dri raced from her room, grabbing her cloak from beside the door. Catching sight of the candle marking the time, she yelped, "Havens! He'll skin me alive!"

Taking the descending stairs two at a time, her dress hiked to her knees, Driana ran out the front door of her home and across the gravel walkway into the back of her fathers shop, to arrive breathless at the front desk as her father came out of one of the storage rooms to her left.

"There you are, Driana. I had feared you were going to sleep the morning away. Here is the manuscript Tann wanted. If you hurry right along you can be back in time for your nooning meal. Your brothers should be here by then," Justir said. He was a tall man with his dark hair going silver at the temples.

Driana took the wrapped manuscript he handed her and stowed it in her pack. After securing the pack, she swung her leather cloak around her shoulders and, kissing her father's bearded cheek, exited the shop. Taking a sharp right, Driana traveled for a time along the main thoroughfare of Haven, nodding pleasantly to those merchants who greeted her.

Following the winding street, she finally left the market section of the city and entered the area reserved for nobles or wealthy merchants. Dri always felt exposed as she walked toward the palace. All those huge looming edifices continually reminded her of her insignificance and her lowly state of existence. It seemed to her that unfriendly eyes stared out of the dark windows, judged her, and found her wanting.

She was still musing on these gloomy thoughts when she reached the small side gate to the palace grounds. The guard, whose wide gray eyes and scarred cheek were illuminated by the nearby lamp, glanced at the young girl standing before him, and said, "Another book to be delivered, Miss Driana?"

"Yes, Peyt. My Grandfather wanted this book on campaigns in King Roald's time. May I go in?"

The guard merely nodded, a slight smile on his face as he marked on his sign-in sheet the identity and purpose of the visitor .

Driana entered the palace grounds and followed the paths that led to the guards' barracks. As she walked along the path nearest the large green space called Companion's Field, Dri noticed out of the corner of her eye that a Companion was slowly following her from a discreet distance. Finally she stopped and turned to look in his direction. When she did that, the Companion paced forward until he was right in front of her.

Driana glanced around wildly, and began to inch away, unsure of what to do, when the Companion blocked her retreat and captured her gaze. It was like being wrapped in a blue silk cocoon, surrounded by light and warmth and protection.

In the midst of this feeling a deep, masculine voice spoke, :I am Casn. I Choose you. Never again will either of us be alone. I am yours. You are mine. Chosen, I love you.:

Dri opened her eyes to find herself gripping the soft neck of her Companion and weeping softly into his mane. When she loosened her arms, he nickered softly and gently pushed her toward the Heralds wing, the opposite direction she had been heading.

Protesting weakly, Dri glanced unsurely over her shoulder. "I have to deliver this--"

:Later,: Casn's voice intruded in her mind. :You must register with the Heralds.:

Dri allowed herself to be steered over to a door to what she knew was the Herald's wing, though she'd never been inside. A woman in a guard uniform was stationed there and, after looking at Driana and the Companion following her, said, "Newly Chosen, Youngling?" Dri nodded weakly, and the guard smiled, took out a sheet of paper, and marked something on it. "Your name, and His?"

"This is Casn, and I'm Driana Justir-daughter."

"Not old Tann's granddaughter?" the guard asked in amazement. At Dri's nod, the guard continued, "I'll bet you were delivering another one of his books. If you'd like, youngling, I can finish your errand for you when I take Casn back to the Field."

"Oh, thank you. I would really appreciate it. I wanted to take it to Grandfather myself, but Casn insisted we come here first."

"Well, you did the right thing in listening to your Companion. Now if you'll follow me, Ill take you to a room to wait until we can get you settled into the Collegium.

Dri started to follow the guard through the door, but hesitated, and turned back swiftly hugging Casn's neck and whispered to him, "I love you." He sent a wordless feeling of the same back at her and then gently nudged her toward the door where the guard looked on in gentle amusement.

Driana followed the guard down a short hall and into a room where a tall man in Heraldic Whites was reading behind a desk. "Herald Teren?" the guard asked, as the man looked up swiftly. "This is Driana. She was just Chosen by Casn. I'll leave you now, Driana," she said, turning her gaze on the silent child. "If you'll give me the book for Tann, I'll see that he gets it."

Driana handed over her satchel and the guard withdrew, leaving her facing the Herald. "You have a relative living here, youngling?" the Herald asked gently.

"Yes, sir. My Grandfather Tann. He's one of the guards, sir," Dri answered quietly.

The man nodded and began the process by which a child was entered in the Herald's Collegium as a student.

Much later, when she was preparing to sleep, Dri noticed that night had fallen, and she had not even thought to inform her family of her circumstances. She had been so busy getting settled in her new lodgings she'd completely forgot about anything else. With that thought she fell asleep.

A loud ringing jarred her out of her sleep early the next morning and she groggily got up and went about her morning ablutions.

When Dri and two others made their way toward the Companion's Field, Dri heard her name shouted. She swiftly turned her head and saw her brother Dest grinning and waving his arms like a fool. She let out a yell of joy and ran full tilt into her brother's embrace.

Dest swung Driana up into a wide turn, her feet held off the ground by a good foot. Gently setting her back on the earth Dest teased, "Give you a simple book to deliver, and what happens? You get yourself Chosen! Mother 'bout had a cat, you know."

"I'm sorry. I meant to let you know as soon as I could, but everything happened so fast that the next thing I knew was in bed and about to fall asleep. How did you hear "

"Well," Dest said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and starting toward the Field, "Grandfather sent a message with one of the guards last night, and then this morning, a page from the palace came and told us that you were here and safe. Mother and Dad were both worried so I decided to come back with the page and see if I could see you. Normally this isn't allowed, and you won't be able to see any of us again for a few more days, but because you are related to 'the great Guard Tann' I was allowed to see you now. When can I meet your Companion? Masten wants all the details, Dri."

"There he is now," she answered and, tearing herself from her brother's arm, ran toward Casn. She hugged his neck when she reached him then, with her arm still encircling his neck, walked over to where Dest stood entranced with awe. "Dest, this is Casn. Casn, my brother Dest."

Dri suddenly had a blank look on her face, as if she were looking inward. Dest calmly waited it out, and when she was aware of her surroundings again, he merely raised an eyebrow in inquiry. With a slight laugh, Dri said, "Casn says to tell you it is good to see that some members of my family love me but that if I don't want to be made an example of, I had best get my tail to class. I must go. I'll come home when I can." And before Dest could comment on Casn's speech, Dri turned and ran to her class, Casn following.


It was about a week before Dri found herself with enough free time to make a quick trip home to visit her family. The day dawned bright and fair, but with a northerly wind that threatened rain in the afternoon. Peyt, once more at the gate, let her and Casn out, with an admonition to not do "anything he wouldn't".

"Oh, I think we can manage that," Dri said laughingly. "Take care, Peyt."

As Driana retraced her steps of the week before, she noticed that the large houses looming over the street were not intimidating to her any more.

:Of course not, dear girl. We have found one another.. nothing can intimidate you while I am here.: Casn's voice sounded quietly amused and reassuring. She was still not used to having all her thoughts known, but she knew in the deepest part of her heart that Casn would never harm her. On a sudden impulse, she leaned down and wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her cheek on his crown. "Whatever would I have done if you hadn't Chosen me? You are so wonderful, Casn. But, if we don't hurry, I won't have any time with my brothers."

In answer, Casn nodded his head in agreement, and increased his pace, yet not so much that any of the pedestrians were in danger. Within a short time, Dri was in front of The Ink, Pen and Wax Shoppe. Somehow, it looked smaller, but no less dear to her eyes. She dismounted stiffly, and led Casn around the north side of the building, along the small cobbled path that led to the stable. Once there, Dri unsaddled Casn and cared for him, swiftly but carefully. "Sorry, love, but we don't have any accommodations for Companions yet. You'll have to make due with this. In reply, Casn gently nuzzled her hair and face.

"Soooo. Talking to yourself, I see. That's a sign of a weak mind, Dri." The unexpected voice startled Driana into a squeak as she turned about.

Seeing who it was, she answered with a smile in her voice, "It takes one to know one, Travrs."

With that she ran into his arms; Travrs planted a sound kiss on her cheek and with one arm wrapped around her shoulders, led his sister around to the front of the house, where the rest of the family was waiting to see her.

Justir looked older somehow, there were more lines in his face, Dri saw. Her mother wore her normal look of perpetual displeasure, only slightly lightening, as she noticed Driana's gray uniform. Dest was relaxing on one of the stone benches near the door, seeming almost asleep, while Masten grinned like the unrepentant rogue he was from his position near the door. Driana took one look at Masten's dark hair, gold eyes and bronze skin and said, "Havens, brother! My year mate Aydry would love to meet you. Are you sure you don't want to settle down?"

Before Masten could reply, his twin gave a shout of laughter and said with a sly wink at his sister, "Him? Handsome? You must be blind, Dri. Now I'm much better looking. Don't you agree, mother?"

Dri gained control of herself and answered. After that, Travrs stopped trying to tease her and things began to get better, until she noticed the time. "I must get back! It's been so good to see all of you. I'll visit when I can. And you two," she said looking at the twins, "take care of yourselves. And write to me. You do know how to write, don't you? I'd love your letters."

Her family trooped out to the stables, and watched as Driana readied Casn for the journey back to the Collegium. As she was getting ready to mount, Justir drew her aside and spoke in a soft voice, "I wish you well. I can see that you are happy with what you are doing. If you need anything I'll be here. I love you, little girl. But where am I going to find an apprentice half as good as you are?"

As she was leaving she looked back and saw the lights in the house glowing faintly. "Well," she said to Casn, whose ears pricked back to catch her quiet voice, "I seem to have come through that fairly well. Thank you for being with me. I could feel you in the back of my mind. It helped, Casn."

:Anything for you, Chosen. No matter what they think, you are going to be an exceptional Herald, and I will care for you come what may.: With those quiet words in her mind, Driana turned toward her new home with the feeling that her future was going to be hers and hers alone.

The End


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