Tempting Offers
by Lara
January 2005

This is a piece of amateur fiction and not intended to infringe on the copyrights of Mercedes Lackey or her publishers. No profit is being made.

Happy birthday CC!

The little hummingbird took a sip of honey-nectar from the bowl on the table, looking pleased with itself and pleased with the care it received after its long flight. It was not a bondbird, and so did not understand the importance of its journey, but it had sensed the touch of gratefulness when the guiding spell had lifted as it reached its target. So the bird understood it had done something good, and that the honey-nectar was a reward.

In a way it was good that the hummingbird had not understood what was being asked of it when the spell was put into place. If it had known that it was carrying a message, and what the content of that message was, it might have hesitated. Or it could have become too eager, and in turn careless. As it was, the hummingbird was content now and would carry a message back, again without knowing. And after its return to its home Vale it would soon forget that it had ever delivered a message that had made Firesong frown thoughtfully for a while now.

The message bird had been unexpected. Firesong was in contact with no few people living outside k'Chona Vale, where he and Silverfox currently stayed, but none of them used message spells. Letters were delivered in the old-fashioned way, either by giving it to someone who was journeying in the right direction or by sending a bondbird. Incorporeal messages carried by small birds were much rarer and only used for important or urgent matters.

Firesong had yet to decide which of the two this message was. His father had sent it, asking him to come to k'Vala to take over the education of one of his students. That in itself was not something that would warrant a message bird, unless said student was completely out of control and nobody could handle him. Since Starfall was an Adept too, Firesong doubted that this was the reason. So not urgent... important, then.

"Is there a particular reason for this frown?" Silverfox asked, making Firesong flinch. He had not heard his partner enter, and judging by the smile on Silverfox's face, he was very well aware of that. For a moment he wanted to retaliate and not tell Silverfox about the message, but he wasn't going to be that childish.

Although it was a very tempting thought.

"My father sent a message bird."

"And that put you into a bad mood?"

Firesong shook his head. "No... but it makes me wonder. He does not usually do this."

Silverfox shrugged. "Perhaps it is something important or urgent," he said.

"I gathered that much," Firesong replied dryly.

Silverfox perched on the armrest of Firesong's chair and looked down at him. "So what does he say?"

"That he has a student who would be of interest to me."

"And is he right about that?"

Firesong didn't want to admit it, but he nodded. "Yes. A Valdemaran boy who is a Healer Mage and who might reach Adept level. Of course that interests me. Teaching Valdemarans is much more entertaining than Tayledras students usually are."

Silverfox gave him a sympathetic smile. "And Starfall knows this."

Of course Starfall had to know. He had pointed out that Darian, as the young man was called, showed potential and that surely Firesong would be interested in this. That the boy was Valdemaran had not been mentioned explicitly, but Starfall had hinted heavily at it.

"He knows."

"So what will you do?"

Firesong sighed. "The question is what we will do. If I accept to teach him, then it will have to be in k'Vala. Or rather, in the new Vale they are setting up. But I am not leaving without you, so if you would rather stay here, then Father will have to look elsewhere."

The smile on Silverfox's face wavered a little. "You know that I will go where you go," he said quietly.

"I know." And that was not making Firesong's decision easier. The relationship between his father and his lover was strained, and he doubted that Starfall had changed his mind about kestra'cherns since the last time they had met. He did not want Silverfox to have to listen to any comments about his dishonorable intentions towards Firesong. "Father has said that you would be welcome..."

"Then there is nothing to worry about, if he has reconsidered his opinion."

Firesong looked up at him. "What if he only says it because he wants me to come and knows that I will not go if he treats you like before?" he asked.

"Do you really believe that?" Silverfox asked him gently.

After a moment's consideration, Firesong shook his head. Starfall could be stubborn and did not easily change his mind, but he would not deliberately mislead someone. He might not be happy about Firesong's choice of lover, but if he said that Silverfox would be welcome, then he would at least try.

"Then this is no reason for us not to go. Ashke, you know that I do not mind traveling. So if you want to go, then we will. If you would rather stay here, it will not make me unhappy either." Silverfox smiled at him. "And if you decide to go somewhere else entirely, then tell me what kind of clothes to pack."

Firesong laughed. "You really mean that, don't you? If I told you that I want to travel to the Forest of Sorrows and stay there during the winter, you would come."

"Of course," Silverfox said, winking at him. "I have you to keep me warm, after all."

Suppressing a grin was hard, but Firesong managed and pretended to pout. "I knew it! You only love me because I keep your feet warm."

"I must admit that you make a lovely bedwarmer," Silverfox teased, then leaned down to place a quick kiss on Firesong's lips. "Seriously, Firesong. This is your decision, not mine."

"I am not sure whether I want to take another student," Firesong said slowly, reluctantly abandoning the teasing and returning to the issue at hand. "After Icemoon I have my doubts."

A frown crossed Silverfox's face. "Surely there cannot be a second one like him."

Icemoon had shown promise, and at first Firesong had felt flattered that he had been invited to teach him. It was always a source of pride to guide a student, especially one who had Adept potential. But it had soon become obvious that Icemoon was more interested in Firesong than the lessons, and the young man had been blatant enough about it to upset even Silverfox. Firesong had eventually stopped to teach him and had not taken a student for months now, even though there were one or two young mages in k'Chona who could have benefited from it. He was simply wary after Icemoon, and it did not help that his previous few students had not quite fulfilled his expectations. Firesong wanted a challenge, and he lately was not getting it.

"Hopefully not. Father's student has hardly grown up yet, though, so he should be easier to handle." Or at least easier to discourage if he got the wrong ideas.

Silverfox nodded. "The young ones are too awed of you to think that the fabled Firesong might indulge in lowly things like love," he said, reaching out to stroke Firesong's cheek. "I don't think I will discourage that belief... I like having you to myself."

"You have me, ashke," Firesong promised.

"So will you help Starfall?"

"He certainly wants me to... and he knows what to offer to catch my interest. He has even mentioned that Firefrost is teaching the young one and that she is out of her depth with him." Seeing Silverfox's puzzled expression, he gave him a quick smile and explained, "She was my teacher for a while, and I know that any student who challenges her must be good. So he is offering me an intriguing student who might become an Adept and who, from the looks of it, is going to found his own Vale."

Silverfox gave him a knowing look, and Firesong felt certain that his lover was very well aware how tempting it was to be the mentor of someone who would doubtlessly become important.

"A Valdemaran as a Vale Elder? That is interesting."

Firesong nodded. "Yes, and it makes me curious. This Darian must be special if the k'Vala Elders allow him to do this. Actually, Father said that he thought I would be an ideal teacher because of my experience in working with Valdemarans."

"He is right about that," Silverfox said. "If Starfall thinks that Darian can lead a Vale, then he cannot possibly be like Icemoon."

Firesong looked at him. "You are not jealous, are you?" he asked. If Silverfox was going to be unhappy if he took another student and felt that he could no longer be certain of Firesong's attention, then there would not be another student. It was one of the changes Silverfox had wrought in him; before, Firesong would have enjoyed to see a lover struggle to ensure that he still had his affection. But he would never do that to Silverfox. Firesong sincerely loved him, and sometimes it was him who worried about being able to keep Silverfox.

"No, I am not." Silverfox reached to toy with a strand of Firesong’s hair. "I admit that I was… worried… while you taught Icemoon. But I know that you love me, and that you would tell me if you fell drawn to someone else."

There was little Firesong could say in reply to this. He felt almost ashamed that Silverfox placed so much trust in him, even though he knew that he would do all he could to never make his lover regret having such faith.

"We could always go and see... and decide once we get to know the boy," he said. He knew that if they went, they would stay in k'Vala unless there was a pressing reason to leave. But the more he thought about it, the more tempting it became to see whether his father had judged the suitability of this student correctly. Besides, he felt flattered that Starfall would admit that he was no longer able to handle that student, and that he asked Firesong for help. Receiving such a request from his father was more than a little satisfying.

Silverfox smiled. "We could do that," he said softly. "I like the thought of traveling with you again."

"Oh?" Firesong grinned at him. "I want you to remember that you said this when you feel like complaining about my cooking."

"You will not cook," Silverfox said decisively.



Firesong gave him a playful look. "How are you going to stop me?" he asked.

Silverfox leaned closer. "I have some ideas," he said, smiling as he kissed him.

The End

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