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Stories in this Fandom are works of fan fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Recognized characters, events, incidents belong to Mercedes Lackey, Tor Publishing and their inheritors.

Tests of Blood - 34. Chapter 34

Dalen was tired, but not exhausted as they rode through the countryside of northwestern Valdemar. Herald Nevin rode next to him, and their two escort Heralds, Luan and Vern rode behind them, chatting softly. He had been surprised when he learned Luan and Vern were a lifebonded couple since he hadn’t known any before meeting the two Heralds in their late twenties.

Over the past nine weeks, the four of them had gone from a competent team able to work together to an excellent team that had managed far more than the simple scouting expedition they’d set out on from Burnham. It had taken Dalen another five weeks after the arrival of Gavin before he’d convinced Dellinar to let him go, and only then with the company of Herald Nevin. Fortunately, Herald Nevin had insisted that they only have a minimal escort, and had chosen the lifebonded couple who had Gifts that would work really well with their ‘team’.

It had been an inspired choice since Vern’s Farsight was three times stronger than Dalen’s, and Luan’s mixture of Firestarting and Fetching had been honed to a fierce combination skill that Dalen had never imagined before. In fact, he had spent many nights on their journey trying to learn her trick where she used the two Gifts in combination to actually throw balls of fire through mage shields. His Gifts in those areas were not as strong as hers, and so he was nowhere near as effective, but it made for some interesting lessons as they camped during the nights.

This scouting run had ended up being more than just a chance to look at two of the Haighlei camps. They had gotten those looks, and Dalen had been able to confirm that the Haighlei were indeed using Valdemarans in their blood rituals, and they’d confirmed that most of the camp guards were focused more on keeping people inside from escaping than on watching for attackers. That, and the fact that the numbers of Valdemarans being used in the blood magic rituals was actually quite low were the only good things about their scouting runs on those camps.

In addition, they had visited four villages that had been deemed too ‘unknown’ to risk a visit by Heralds on Circuit. The news from those villages had worried Dalen even more once he realized that the worst critics of the Haighlei were the ones being used in the blood rituals, and turned into ‘converts’ that would then go back to their homes and preach the wonders of the Haighlei. Even in these villages on the remotest edge of the Haighlei controlled western districts, there were small churches established to the Haighlei religion, and attendance was mandatory every rest day. As far as Dalen could tell, they were not being used for blood rituals, and none of the Priests he saw were Gifted, but something in the temples were being used to identify youngsters as soon as their Gifts began manifesting, and a few days later, armed patrols of Haighlei would show up to escort the youngsters to Haven for education as a novice Priest.

Two weeks ago, their small group had happened on a caravan of these soldiers that had rounded up eleven Gifted youngsters. As they were surveying the caravan of soldiers that had two large covered wagons with the children locked inside, two riderless Companions had made themselves known, and insisted they do something about their Chosen confined in the wagons.

There were about twenty soldiers with the Haighlei, a mid-level Journeyman mage who was no match for Dalen. Nevin had resisted doing anything until Dalen gave him no choice by sending up a flare of mage energy into the night sky similar to what might happen when a Gifted youngster first used his untrained abilities. That brought the Haighlei mage and half the soldiers hounding in their direction. Fortunately, as Dalen had intended, it gave the Heralds just enough time to set up an ambush.

The Haighlei had found Dalen, wearing farmer clothing he carried in his backpack for this type of situation, and warming his hands on a fire. It made a good excuse for his flare of magic, and the Haighlei assumed, as he’d hoped, that he was a runaway just learning his gift. The Haighlei mage was surprised when he tried to reach out and use his trained magic to take control of Dalen only to find Dalen was not untrained, and was far more powerful than the mage.

Their mage duel had been short and ended with the Haighlei mage dead from a smoking hole in his chest where Dalen’s lightning had penetrated his shields. The soldiers didn’t last much longer, and a very angry Nevin led them back to the Haighlei camp where a greatly reduced number of soldiers proved ineffective against stopping the Heralds from freeing the prisoners in the wagons.

The two riderless Companions had fought along with them against the camp’s soldiers, and then had taken their newly Chosen off towards Burnham before Dalen had finished counting and examining the other scared children. He had planned to make a Gate back to Burnham for the two new Trainees, but they were already gone. Instead he made a Gate to a point half a day’s ride from the town of Errold’s Grove which was further north and still under the protection of its local lord and k’Valdemar Vale.

A team of Tayledras mages and scouts, as well as four Gryphons were in Errold’s Grove by the time the four Heralds escorted their charges to the safety of that village. The mages in k’Valdemar had sensed Dalen’s Gate in their area and responded with one of their own to protect the village along with the two dozen Guards that were currently stationed there. Dalen’s team had spent three days there, talking with the k’Valdemar mages and meeting Bart’s father for the first time.

That had been interesting to say the least, as he spent equal times sharing stories of how Bart was doing as well as Gavin’s progress as a Herald. Adept Firkin was equally proud of both of them, and Dalen now had two more letters from the man in his saddlebags. Both of them would be getting more letters from their father when Dalen returned, which would be soon now.

“This far enough?” Nevin asked as the sun slipped below the western horizon and they approached an abandoned farmstead on the edge of the Pelagirs Forest. There were a few doorways to choose from, and two of them big enough for the Companions to fit through easily.

“Yes.” Dalen replied tiredly. At least this Gate would not be as tiring as the ones to and from k’Valdemar. He’d been spoiled by the Permanent Gate and its ease of travel. Here at least, he was only having to expend half the energy for a trip all the way to Burnham.

“Good.” Nevin said firmly. “We need to warn our Northern agents about the Haighlei troop buildup we found two days ago. Are you certain it was necessary to go this far away?”

“Yes.” Dalen replied as he dismounted in front of the doorway. Ever since the incident with the caravan, Nevin had been doubly suspicious of every move Dalen made. “If I made a Gate too close to them, and they have an Adept with them, he could try to divert my destination so we came out on top of them. I’d rather not take the risk if it is not necessary, and this time it is not necessary.”

“I don’t know.” Nevin frowned. “You seem to have different opinions of what is and is not necessary.”

“Damn it, Nevin!” Dalen felt his temper finally break, and was surprised that this time Jadev didn’t tell him to stop being disrespectful. For that matter, the other two Heralds were just calmly watching the interplay. “I was not a child rushing in to be a damn fool hero! Two of those children were going to be Heralds, and the others would be forced into using their Gifts against their own families and their neighbors, all of whom are our people! You were stuck on being cautious, because I’m the damn Heir! It was our duty to help them and I will never recant that action! I am a Herald first, last and always! My duty to the people of Valdemar will always come first.”

“Your duty as the Heir is to not risk your life.” Nevin countered.

“Then by all the gods that have ever blessed Valdemar, I will abdicate any claim to the Throne as my great-grandmother Elspeth did before I put my life above those of our people!” Dalen growled angrily. “If I can help them safely, I will – as I chose to do that night. Yes it was a risk, but it was a manageable risk, and I could probably have just used my superior mage power to blast all of them to cinders without help from anyone else! You notice I didn’t try to take on the Haighlei at either of those camps? I couldn’t have freed the Valdemarans there by myself, or with the support I had at that moment, but give me a Company of Guards and enough Heralds and I will go back and free our people. Yes, I will risk my life for the people, but no, I won’t do it foolishly. Making a Gate too damn close to where one of those mages in that troop camp can interfere would be another foolish risk and so we ride for two days! If they were chasing us and it was either risk the Gate or be killed, then I’d make a Gate despite the risks!”

“Good.” Nevin said with approval in his voice that Dalen hadn’t heard in weeks. It caused Dalen to step back a moment, and to take a calming breath.

“What do you mean by that?” Dalen asked cautiously.

“Your Internship period is over, Herald-Mage Dalen.” Nevin said simply and Dalen arched an eyebrow in a silent demand for more explanation. “There normally comes a time in every Internship, where the mentor Herald challenges his intern, becomes demanding and critical of everything they do in order to see how the Intern reacts. When the intern reaches the point where they challenge the criticisms of their mentor, and effectively defend their decisions, then the intern is considered to have completed the Internship period. I imagine we’ll be having a Herald Celebration when we get back to Burnham.”

Congratulations. Jadev said with pride in his mind’s voice.

You knew. Dalen let some of his residual anger leak towards Jadev who turned his head to make a whiff at Dalen’s hair.

Of course I knew, and of course I kept my mouth shut. Jadev said. You didn’t need my help to pass this test, and Companions only help when it is needed. We’re not crutches for our Herald to lean on and grow fat because they do not exercise their own abilities to the fullest.

Oh. Dalen said, surprised by this insight to Companion behavior.

“Congratulations, Dalen.” Luan said as she came up behind him and gently squeezed his arm. Vern just gave him a pat on the back and a look of approval. “I remember when I went through this period. I was ready to strangle my mentor.”

“I heard she almost did.” Vern laughed gruffly and then dodged the half-hearted swing of his mate. Dalen felt the tension of the last few days leaking out of him, and turned to Nevin.

“So your criticism of my decision at the caravan was just a ruse?” Dalen asked.

“I was about to give in and start talking about how we were going to rescue those kids, when you went reckless and sent up that flare of magic.” Nevin said and there was only a slight edge to his voice.

“It wasn’t reckless.” Dalen protested. “I knew damn well how long it would take them to get to where we were.”

“Yes, but did you know how many would come after you?” Nevin countered.

“They wouldn’t leave their camp unprotected.” Dalen said. “The Haighlei aren’t stupid enough for that. I have studied them the same as you and everyone else back in Burnham. Father insisted on that before I left, and he grilled me twice a week on their most common tactics and what we know of how their officers are trained to deal with different situations. He made sure I was prepared for just this type of situation.”

“Maybe I should spend some more time with the Lord Martial.” Nevin said with a slight chuckle and a shake of his head. “Okay, so maybe it wasn’t as reckless as I presumed it was at the time.”

“Thank you, Herald.” Dalen said and Nevin nodded.

“You are most welcome, Herald.” Nevin replied and Dalen felt a slight flushing of his cheeks at the affection in the older man’s voice. “You are going to make a fine Herald, if you don’t manage to get yourself killed anytime soon.”

“I’ll do my best to keep that from happening.” Dalen retorted.

“Good, how about we get home?” Nevin asked in a more jovial tone. “They should have gotten the new Heralds Collegium completed enough so that I can take a bath again.”

“You can always use the facilities in the Vale.” Dalen said. “They may be redoing those but I know they planned to keep the residential dome largely intact.”

“I always feel like I’m skinny-dipping in the forest in there.” Nevin laughed.

“Tell me about it.” Luan added. “This brute always gets frisky in there and I have to remind him that we’re not alone hidden in some forest.”

“Maybe I’ll use the facilities in the Heralds Collegium.” Dalen joked as he faced the doorway and began to spin out his energies. Invisible to the others, who were not mages, tendrils of white power reached out from him to the doorframe of the Gate, infusing it with his power as one Terminus. Once the doorway was glowing a soft white even to the eyes of the other Heralds, more tendrils reached out in a southeasterly direction, seeking the Burnham Gate. He found the Gate before he’d even started to feel anything but the slightest drain of power, and the doorway flared with power as the image of the other side of the Burnham Gate appeared.

Before they had left, a team of workers had begun work on an area of the park about two hundred feet from the entrance to the Vale domes. They had begun by digging a foot of ground up and grading it so that it was perfectly flat. In total, they had an area one hundred feet wide by three hundred long, and a wide path between the Gate area and the dome as well as a similar path wide enough for two wagons and then some that led to the closest street of Burnham. Then the masons had come in with their new poured substance that they called concrete and created a flat surface that would allow wagons to move quickly back and forth.

During the time when Dalen and the others had been gone, they must have finished because now the Gate opened onto the new travel platform, and Dalen saw the Tayledras, and probably Gavin, had been busy adjusting the foliage so that now it ran right up to the border of the concrete platform, making it look less ugly. In the distance he could see what he assumed were artisans doing something with the new concrete to make it look less austere.

“Let’s go.” Nevin said and led the way through the Gate with his Companion right behind. Dalen was the last through, and after exiting the Gate, he turned to rub the side of the stone Gate frame on this end. As he did so, the Gate closed and he took a deep breath while reaching out to the Heartstone. The Burnham stone was almost enthusiastic in its welcome to him, and the power he’d used for the Gate was quickly replenished. Feeling better, he turned and looked around the Gate platform.

He could see a small lean-to creation that was already heavily decorated with wood carvings and had several chairs as well as a small table underneath. Herald-Mage Unger was underneath it, chatting with someone in the uniform of a junior Guard officer. A third person, a clerk by appearance was making an entry into a large journal on the table in front of her. Dalen also noticed that the platform had an entire squad of Guards posted around it who were now returning to their slightly relaxed stances instead of the attentive stances they had been in since the Gate activated.

“Impressive.” Nevin said with a shake of his head. “This actually looks organized and defensible.”

“Like I said before we left, I doubt they can tap into the Gate to use it for an attack here, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.” Dalen said. If Mavren had been under the lean-to, he might have gone to talk to her, but Unger was someone he’d only met once or twice and he got the distinct impression the man didn’t like him all that well.

“Thank the Goddess you are here.” An out-of-breath Moonscream panted as he came running up the path that led to Burnham city itself. Dalen frowned at his out-of-breath state.

“What is going on?” Dalen asked after Nevin just looked at him. Now that he was out of his Internship period, he knew Nevin would defer to him in these types of situation.

“It’s the King!” Moonscream said just as there was the sound of Companion hoofs on the concrete and Dalen looked to see the King riding his Companion. Dell was wearing combat leather Whites, and had a sword as well as a wheel-lock pistol in his belt. Bart was right behind him on Anton, although Bart was still dressed in the slightly formal cloth and satin Whites that he used for every day Court affairs. Several dozen Guards were also on their mounts, following the King and King’s Own. Behind them a few mounted nobles also appeared, and Dalen realized he was in the middle of something very serious. His Empathy was sensing a great deal of anger and frustration from the King as well as Bart.

“Good, you’re back.” Dell growled as he turned to look at Bart next to him. “There now, King’s Own, you can’t argue that I can’t leave because he’s back now.”

“That isn’t…” Bart started to protest, but Dell cut him off and turned to glare at Dalen.

“You’re back, so you can take over while I’m gone.” Dell growled. “Now get out of my way, I need to use the Gate.”

“What is going on, your Majesty?” Dalen asked cautiously without moving a muscle. Behind him he could feel Jadev giving him a silent but urgent warning for caution.

“I am leaving to take care of something.” Dell growled.

“What?” Dalen pushed.

“Not you too!” Dell growled. “Look, just get out of my way. Your buddy Bartholomew can explain it all to you.”

“Your Majesty, unless you’re going to meet an invading army that is about to run over free Valdemar, I think you need to explain to your Heir what is going on.” Dalen countered in what he hoped was a calm voice. The agitation and anger he was feeling from the King was spiking.

“The Gods damn you too!” Dell roared. “Unless you want to end up on the throne after me, you better move your body out of my way!”

“Explain.” Dalen growled as some of the anger rubbed off on him.

“The Haighlei somehow figured out that the King’s family has been in hiding inside Boltsdale.” Bart was the one who finally explained. “They managed to get inside the town and take her highness and the children before the Skybolts could stop them.”

“Oh.” Dalen said with a shake of his head. He noticed Gavin coming out of the Vale dome at that point, a cautious look on his face. It was with a little bit of interest that he noted Gavin was now wearing brand-new Whites. The clothes looked really good on Gavin.

“I will not let them have my wife and children as a hold over me.” Dell said. “I’m worthless as King as long as they are hostage.”

“You are right, of course.” Dalen said.

‘Finally!” Dell growled with satisfaction and he turned a glare on Bart. “See, even Dalen agrees with me!”

“I agree that they must be rescued and rescued quickly.” Dalen said. “That is why I will go. I will take Herald-Mage Gavin with me. I assume he is on Internship? We’ll take his mentor as well then.”

“You’re to be his mentor, since you’ve passed your own internship.” Nevin said with a grin while Dalen’s eyes widened. Any other time he’d have argued strenuously he wasn’t ready to be a mentor to someone who was actually a little older than him, but now was not the time for such a discussion.

“You can’t go.” Dell growled. “I’m not staying behind and the two of us can’t both go into danger at once. I’ll take the kid with me, if you insist.”

“You are staying here, your Majesty.” Dalen growled. “One of the first things I learned in magic was that a mage with out-of-control emotions would always lose to a mage in full control of himself and his emotions. Can you say you are in any shape to confront mages that might be your equal or better? Can you say that you are in a fit state to even try and take me on? I may not have your years of experience, but I am calm, and in full control of my abilities.”

“If you don’t…” Dell started to growl, but then his face went blank as his Companion spoke with him. Dalen hoped she would break through the King’s anger, and sure enough, Dell’s face slumped in defeat. “Who will all go with you?”

“Gavin, myself, and Heralds Luan and Vern.” Dalen answered immediately. He could feel the assent from the two Heralds nearby. “A small party will be best to conduct the investigation in Boltsdale. Once we’ve figured out where they took your family, I will send for reinforcements before we chase off after them.”

“Fine.” Dell growled.

“I think this is a worthy plan, but shouldn’t you take more than just two Heralds and an Intern Herald?” Nevin asked.

“I passed my trial, Herald.” Dalen growled. “There is no need for the hyper-criticism.”

“I am just worried four might not be enough.” Nevin protested and Dalen realized he too was on edge, most likely from the reflected anger of the King. It was a trap common to anyone with more than the merest trace of that Gift. He took a deep breath and reinforced his mental shielding.

“Four will be enough.” Dalen said. “We’re going to investigate Boltsdale, not confront the abductors. More than likely they Gated out as well as in, and I might be able to trace them from the Gate residue, if it was recent enough.”

“This morning, early.” Dell growled.

“Then I should be able to do this if we hurry.” Dalen said with a sigh as he turned to Gavin who had moved closer to him. He was about to tell Gavin to get Jolandra when the Companion came up with her full gear already on her back.

“She was delayed finding someone to saddle her and get gear for a couple days on the road.” Gavin said with a smile. “I was going to tell you welcome back but, you’re just heading out again.”

“Save it for later.” Dalen said firmly and turned back to the King who was a great deal calmer now, but still mounted.

“Find them.” Dell growled angrily, his every muscle tense.

“I will.” Dalen promised. At some point, Herald-Mage Mavren had appeared and was now standing at the side of the Gate.

“I know the Gate point for Boltsdale.” She explained with a shrug before opening the Gate, and Dalen walked through after spending no more than a few minutes at home.

That was fun. Jadev stated with little humor as they found themselves a few hundred feet outside of the walled enclave that was the town of Boltsdale. It was near the Hardorn border in the East of Valdemar, and was the town ceded to the mercenary company known as the Skybolts. They were still a Company, now led by Captain Janwen and still were the exclusive hires of the Valdemar Crown, as they had been since the time that Herald-Captain Kerowen had brought them to Valdemar during the Ancar Wars. She had been Chosen during the second phase of that War, and had remained a Valdemar Herald until she died of old age, comfortably in bed.

It was said that it was the last way she’d expected to die since she’d trained to be a mercenary at a very young age.

She had been the best, and her soldiers had been the best mercenary company of their day. If they were still a normal mercenary company, they’d likely be the best today. It was they who kept leaping at all the new technology available for combat, and that drove the Guard to improve itself. Without the leadership of the Skybolts, it was likely Valdemar would still be using crossbows and regular bows instead of firearms.

What was fun? Dalen asked his Companion as they rode for the town’s gates. He could see sentries on the walls, and didn’t doubt that they’d be met at the Gate by an officer.

Facing down the King in his wrath. Jadev sighed. He is extremely upset.

I know. Dalen replied. I am too, but I’m doing my best to stay calm.

“I didn’t know they built any walls like this anymore.” Gavin said as they got closer to the main gate.

“It’s a Skybolt thing.” Dalen shrugged. “They’ve even reinforced the interiors of the walls in order to make them more resistant to cannon fire.”

“Astounding.” Gavin said with a shake of his head. They were passing through the Gate now and as Gavin continued talking, Dalen returned the salute of the two soldiers standing on either side of them. “This place is on the Hardorn border, right? Who do they think is going to attack them here?”

“Hardorn was friends with Valdemar for two centuries before Ancar.” A strong female voice said as they finished riding through the portcullis. Dalen looked to their right to find Captain Janwen looking at them from a perch on top of the wheel that would close the iron gate. Janwen had medium-length dark brown hair that was kept in a ponytail, and was wearing leather armor in the blue and white of the Skybolts, a blue slightly darker than normal Valdemaran Guard blue. “In the blink of an eye they became an enemy strong enough to nearly wipe Valdemar off the map. Their royal family is descended from the aristocracy of the Eastern Empire, and you never know what may happen.”

“Valdemar’s royal line is descended from the same source.” Dalen retorted the slight on the Hardornen Royal Family. He knew many of them, and liked them from the occasions that he’d met them.

“Yes, but Valdemar fled the Empire.” Janwen countered. “Tremaine only left because of the Mage Storms, or he’d have finished conquering Hardorn before getting ready to take on Valdemar.”

“That is a common enough debate for historians.” Dalen said with a sharp look at the older woman. “I am afraid that the business of the day requires we not spend the time relaxing in purely mental exercises.”

“No, we have plenty of problems in our own times that we do not need to argue what-ifs about something that happened nine decades ago.” Janwen agreed. “I think I like you, pup. You are Herald-Mage Dalen Ashkevron, correct?”

“Yes, and you are the notable Captain Janwen, leader of the Skybolts.” Dalen replied with a nod of his head that matched hers. “With me are Herald-Mage Gavin Firkin, as well as Heralds Luann and Vern.”

“It’s good to see you two again.” Janwen said with a nod to the two older Heralds. “I heard you got saddled with babysitting for the last few months.”

“It wasn’t that bad.” Luann said with a grim smile. “The boy knows how to pick a fight.”

“That’s a high compliment.” Janwen said. “My cousin there was in training with the ‘bolts before that white beast came up and grabbed her.

Why do people insist on calling us beasts? Jadev asked rhetorically and Dalen smothered the smile on his face before it was taken the wrong way.

“I didn’t know you were from here.” Dalen said to Luann who had the grace to flush slightly.

“You didn’t ask.” She mumbled, garnering a laugh from Janwen.

“I should have.” Dalen said with a shake of his head. “Still, that will have to wait for a better time for me to correct. Captain, you know why we’re here. Please take us to where her highness and the children were taken, and describe for us the events as they happened.”

“We had two mages with our Company, before this morning.” Janwen said as Dalen and the others dismounted. A Skybolt came over to escort the Companions to a location where they would be tended while they waited and Janwen led them deeper into the town. “We haven’t heard hide or hair from the Haighlei until now, and they caught us flat-footed. There wasn’t even a hint of anything that would have made us suspect their eyes were turning in our direction.”

“They are learning not to foreshadow their movements as much as they did before.” Luann said sourly. “It will cause many more headaches before this is all over.”

“Yes, well, like I said we had no warning signs.” Janwen stated. “That doesn’t change the fact that it occurred here, on our watch, but try as I might, I can’t see how we could do anything different. The bastards opened up a Gate inside the city walls, and they used one of their captive mindspeakers to interrogate one of my troops. From there they went in a tight force up to the house where the Lady Consort was living with her kids. I recognized one of the mages in their robes as being one that worked with us for a few years before transferring back to Haven when the war started.”

“You’ve received the reports about them.” Dalen said.

“Yes, we know they’re controlled, but it explained how they could make a Gate inside our defenses.” Janwen continued. “We tried to stop them, and our mages raised the alarm from the outset, but they managed to get into the house and take all of the King’s family hostage. Then they took out our mages, killed them outright, and another Gate opened up inside the home, letting them all leave.”

“This is the home?” Dalen asked unnecessarily as they stopped in front of a normal-appearing home, except for the guards outside and the broken door.

“Yes.” Janwen said.

“Gavin?” Dalen asked his friend who nodded. They didn’t need to tell the others to wait outside. All of them were well experienced in working with mages. Two hours later they were done, and giving each other speculative looks.

“Haven.” Dalen said and Gavin nodded. The traces were clear, the Haighlei had taken Dell’s family to Haven. This was going to be fun…

If this is what you consider fun, I think I may have Chosen the wrong person. Jadev said, and Dalen smiled tightly at the joke. He knew Jadev would never have chosen anyone else.

© 1987 - 2022 Mercedes Lackey, Tor Publishing; All Rights Reserved; Valedmar and its world belong to Mercedes Lackey. Everything else belongs to dkstories. Copyright ©2013; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Stories in this Fandom are works of fan fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Recognized characters, events, incidents belong to Mercedes Lackey, Tor Publishing and their inheritors.
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I don't want to be nervous but I'm feeling wary about Gavin. His bonafides seem in order but his appearance is awfully convenient.

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