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Aug 05, 2020 8:23 PM
tiny leareth comes back and is very sad
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Essi walks through the outskirts of Smithtown with his head down and his hands shoved deep into his pockets, trying to be as invisible as possible and look bigger and older than his thirteen-and-a-half years both at the same time. 

It's not that he wanted to run away. It's just that - well, Hardorn doesn't like mages much these days. Not since the war. Essi lives with his uncle since his pa died, and his uncle is Superstitious, and thinks mages are Nothing But Trouble and probably possessed by demons, and unfortunately, Essi is one. (A mage, he's pretty sure he isn't possessed by demons.) He tried to hide it for a while but one too many weird things happened in Uncle's sight, and he thought it better to run off before he got a beating for it.

Essi reaches the outskirts of town, shivering, because it's a cold late-autumn day, already past Harvestfest. At least it's not raining, but it'll probably frost tonight. He finds a tree that offers some minimal shelter, and starts gathering wood together. 

...He doesn't have a flint and steel with him. And he doesn't at all know how to use his magic, yet. But he'll give it a try. 

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- and he comes rushing back into the world, everything at once, toobrightooloudtoomuch, and - it hurts, almost unimaginably, it takes him a long time to figure out that the pain isn't physical at all. For a long time he can't orient to it any more than that, only lie on the blanket of dead leaves under the tree, whimpering quietly. 

Belrun.

He remembers her name, and her face. Remembers looking at chicken eggs with her, for some reason. She was a Healer - what - she went to Valdemar... 

It takes a very long time, after that, to put the rest of the pieces together. The ones he even has, anyway, he's lost so much. Is still losing it, maybe. He feels like there's a crack right through the centre of him, and everything is wrong and broken and awful, and it's so hard to think... 

Leareth. That was his name. 

The far north, on the other side of the Ice Wall Mountains. (Fortunately, it appears that the child whose body he just stole - pause to feel some distant grief for that, the quiet promise that someday, somehow, he's going to fix it - anyway, Essi knew some geography and the mountains should be north and west of here.) He was laying the final preparations in place, there. Damn it, it's such an inconvenient time to die again.

Vanyel. A silver-haired Herald-Mage greeting him in a snow-coated pass - not a real memory, though, it was a dream. Telling him things. What exactly he told Vanyel is a blur, though. 

He remembers meeting Belrun. That part is crystal clear. Kind of a lot of his memories are of Belrun, in fact. Some of them are useful conversations. Some of them are very much not that! 

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It's getting dark, and it's starting to rain, or maybe sleet, the moisture falling on him is very cold. 

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Focus. He needs to pull himself together, and not freeze to death, and then reconsolidate something that will hold until he finds his lifebonded. He really hopes Belrun will remember what shape of person her lifebonded is supposed to be, because the whole broken lifebond thing is really interfering with his ability to put together coherent core memories. 

...Urtho. He remembers that much. Well, mostly he remembers Belrun telling Vanyel about it, actually, but secondhand will do. He can build most of the rest off conversations with Belrun too, actually, it's easier to focus on those. Explaining to her what he'd done in the past, and why. Her conviction that they ought to at least try to find a better way...

It takes him half the night, and then he curls up with his paltry heat-spell under his little mage-barrier to keep off the rain, and sleeps very badly. 

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It does frost overnight, and the freezing rain doesn't stop. When he wakes up, the branches of the tree he's under are encrusted with glittering ice. 

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He gets up, shivering, and jumps around a bit until he's warm, then starts walking down the road, in the direction of Valdemar. He'll need to pass through in order to reach the north anyway, and maybe things won't have utterly fallen apart yet, with the negotiations that he left in progress, and he can get in contact with someone... He can't remember any of his people's names, that's so irritating.

(Belrun, Belrun, Belrun, he needs to find her - it hurts, and imagining her in this much pain as well is almost unbearable - if she's even still alive - no, she's tough and stubborn and he has to believe that she is, at least until he gets confirmation one way or another, believing something on faith isn't exactly his style but it's the only way he can keep going, right now.) 

Eventually it occurs to him that one, he would probably be able to think better if he ate something, and two, he could reach the border faster if he can catch a ride of some kind.

...Right, inventory, what Gifts does he have? Essi thought it was just mage-gift, but he wasn't very clear on the exact distinctions there, and it seems like he has some fledgling Mindspeech as well. That's helpful. He doesn't have a lot of range, but at least he remembers some of his habits and training, and he can snoop on the surrounding area. 

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There's a farm nearby! There are donkeys grazing in a pen, but without anyone watching them, and no one is watching the storehouse either. 

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It takes some strategic distractions, and trying very very hard to stay on task and not get lost in how miserable he is, but a candlemark later, Leareth is in possession of a stolen donkey and a stolen sack of potatoes, as well as several raw eggs snatched from the chicken-coop in his belly and a couple more in his pockets where he hopes they'll stay intact.

He rides down the road. 

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It gets even colder the next night. 

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Leareth doesn't freeze to death, due to his heat-spell, but he wakes up unable to feel his fingers and toes. He would consider staying in inns, except that he doesn't have any money, and he doesn't feel great about stealing lots of coin from people here, the region seems pretty impoverished. He does pickpocket one traveler, though, in order to buy some better food than plain potatoes at the next village market, and some grain for his donkey. 

It takes a week of hard, miserable riding, frequently sobbing for a while when he's out of sight of other travellers, before he hits the Valdemaran border. It's guarded. 

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A blue-uniformed guard greets him. "Please state your business." 

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It's completely implausible that a small thirteen-year-old dressed in rags would have important news for the King. "My auntie lives in Haven," he says instead. 

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It takes a few more minutes of invented explanation, but he's eventually allowed past. 

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Ugh. 

He had forgotten about the vrondi but it doesn't take him long to remember, because they start watching the instant he tries to warm himself with a little heat-spell. Great. Now he's got a broken lifebond and is being constantly watched by air-spirits, this is even more miserable than before. 

He grits his teeth and keeps going. 

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The next day it's snowing. 

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Leareth is starting to admit to himself that he has a problem, here. 

He's probably still two weeks of riding away from Haven, at this rate, and he isn't sure that he's even going to make it. He's risking freezing to death every time he sleeps. He has to struggle to bring himself to use magic, knowing that the vrondi are watching. If he steals again, he risks getting caught and ending up in trouble with the Valdemaran legal system. He can't Gate; he hasn't been to Haven in this lifetime, and his mage-gift is barely awakened and isn't strong enough yet anyway. He's not eating enough. He's barely getting any real sleep; it's amazing he can still think or do magic at all, at this point. Also now he's ended up with a nagging cough and sore throat, and if he keeps traveling from dawn to dusk and sleeping outdoors he'll end up with pneumonia.

(Not to mention, two more weeks on the road is two more weeks of his lifebonded thinking he's still dead.) 

Maybe ending up in trouble with the Valdemaran legal system isn't such a bad idea. 

Hmm. He needs to think it through, to the extent he even can. He doesn't know that Haven has anyone friendly waiting for him, so summoning attention to himself is a risk.

...But Vanyel isn't going to be cruel about it, even if the alliance has fallen apart. They were almost friends, before, and - well, Vanyel knows what a broken lifebond feels like. 

Leareth pulls together all the courage he can muster, and spends ten minutes throwing around as much magic as he can, making pretty lights and knocking over some trees and sending levinbolts harmlessly into the air. At the end of it he's attracted what feels like an army worth of vrondi, and he sits down on the snow and hugs his knees to his chest and waits. Miserably, but that's no different from usual. 

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:Ugh, Web-alarm in the east, who's on it?: Sandra sends to Savil. 

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:Ask Van. I'm in meetings:

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And so Herald-Mage Vanyel uses Farsight to scope out the region of the alarm. 

:Nothing?: he reports back. :Or, no - there's a very harmless child sitting there looking exhausted. Hardornen, I'd guess. Could be a new mage-gift: 

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:I wouldn't assume that looking harmless means he is. But I suppose we'd better collect him before he does any damage by accident. Goodness! We haven't had mage-gifted trainees in so long: 

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:This one isn't Chosen: 

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:Yet. Anyway. Where is it? I'll pass word down the relay, but if he's tossing around uncontrolled magic like that, might be better for me to Gate in and bring him direct to Haven rather than sending him along in some poor merchant's caravan or pulling a Herald off circuit: 

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:I can do i–:

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:How about not. Armor hills? I can Gate to Leder's Crossing tonight and collect him: 

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There were some parts Leareth didn't think through. Namely, that it's below freezing out, he's a small thirteen-year-old without much body mass to keep warm, and now he's utterly exhausted. He lies in the snow and hopes that someone, anyone, is going to show up before he manages to die again. 

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Someone does. A Herald shows up, picks him up, tries to talk to him. 

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