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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Hrafnhildr

Let's have some fun (attn : Masan)

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Fang shook her head. I don't understand him... she thought, before sighing. If there's really an emergency why would he take the chance to go through the corridor and the common room? Jumping from a window was not that hard for the Tairen girl, she knew it from experience.

 

"And I can walk quietly, thank you very much!" she answered the Arafellin. How could she explain him that she was better at hiding and sneaking indoors than in the woods? She had had to be creative to escape the many social events she had had to assist to in her Father's manor.

 

"I'll do as you say," she went on, checking her pockets and daggers a last time.

 

Masan opened the door and took the lead. Fang was at his heels, moving as slowly and silently as him. They both had the same idea: their eyes were focused on the wooden floor to detect which part would creak if stepped upon. It took them a couple of minutes to reach the stair case.

 

"Almost half way done!" she whispered.

 

Without further notice, she jumped but first on the handrail and glided down. She landed softly on her feet, a grin on her face.

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Masan watched Fang soundlessly slide down the banister. There was no way under the light that he could mimic that! He let her know this by glowering down at her from the top of the stairs as he gingerly began his arduous descent.

 

Praise the light! He'd only made softest, and most quietest creak on two steps before reaching the landing and whispering harshly. "You might as well be a little brother for the amount of showing off you do." Masan nodded sternly, once, and then took the lead back up towards the door to the kitchen. It was open a crack and revealed no light in there, fortunately even Marva seemed to have gone home long ago. If they could cross through the back yard joined to the stables they could saddle Boko and be galloping out of town as quickly as her legs could carry two riders. It would be slower than if it were just him but they just had to get past the perimeter of the town and they could slow her to a trot or a walk, and once a safe enough distance they could dismount and let her bear only the saddlebags and use their own feet for the journey south. Light he just hoped there were no more flubs between then and now. 

 

Masan shouldered the kitchen door open the rest of the way, relieved to find the hinges well oiled and, without thinking, reached behind himself for Fang's hand so neither of them stumbled or fell in the shadowy room.

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Fang kept on grinning hearing Masan's comment. He may have been glowering and talking sternly but she was proud of her move.

 

Of course, she could have done like her companion, balancing her weight from one foot to the other, taking one slow step at a time, but this would have taken ages. And, she was not really feeling patient at the moment.

 

And yeah, I like to show off, she added in her thoughts, fighting not to laugh.

 

The Arafellin took the lead once more. He advanced towards the kitchen door which, fortunately, was slightly open, enough for them to see that the room beyond was completely dark. Maybe I should get some food before going? She thought. I could take a bread or a piece of cheese? 

 

Fang bit her lower lip, hesitating about the best course of action. To get supplies would help her for the next couple of days. She wouldn't have to lose time hunting to fill her stomach ... but what if the theft was noticed? Would the innkeeper send men after her? Would he talk to her Father's men? She whispered a curse. She didn't like to hunt and was very bad at it.

 

As her companion shouldered the kitchen door to open it completely, she felt his hand taking hers.

 

"I don't need help to walk in the dark!" she protested, trying to keep her voice low. Still, she didn't move her hand. Masan's touch felt strangely reassuring especially since he had already been in the kitchen's inn - no later than that evening.

 

The Arafellin didn't answer immediately. He stirred her towards the end of the room avoiding what seemed to be pots and crates laying on the floor. Since, she only had one free hand, she decided against trying to steal anything. Not only because she was not sure she'd manage to get something interesting but also because Masan would probably notice ... and she didn't want to have him angry at her.

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"Better safe than sorry." The Arafellin quoted, the usual mirth in his voice absent. Masan was still in a heightened state, trying to maximize stealth when he knew very well that he was not a stealthy man. He was certain, with the training his grandfather had given him coupled with the year when he was fourteen that his grandfather made him 'live like a soldier' and by that, he meant Masan had to live in a tent on the old man's land even in the winter. His mother had been indignant about the whole affair but he'd stuck it out because he'd wanted to prove to his grandfather that he would fit perfectly in that lifestyle; that there was nothing soft about him.

 

Right now though he was feeling like he had when he'd been seven and he just knew his grandmother KNEW he'd stolen her pie and that once he got back she would give him a proper switching. To think he'd once thought that the worst punishment in the world! Now the idea of being executed or gentled? Light! One was just as bloody bad as the other! He couldn't have that! But he had also promised Fang the Right of A Woman Alone. In the Borderlands a woman could go anywhere, whenever she wanted and be in no danger. She could conscript any capable man to her protection by calling on her Right! Even if Fang had called on it, he was honor bound to see her safely away from here. Sure he didn't want to be executed but without his honor he may as well be for the midden heap he'd be for abandoning it and Fang to her fate! 

 

Masan had navigated them past the clutter in the kitchen and gingerly unlatched and pushed open the door leading to the yard behind the inn that was used to store things and walk the horses kept in the adjacent stables. They would enter through the back, bar up the door and then exit through the front and into the pitch black streets. He wasn't used to the IDEA of streets this dark but he'd come to realize they were common place since he'd come south! He supposed without the threat of the Eyeless around every corner people COULD sleep peacefully without the lamp lighters on constant patrol.

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As soon as the inn door was closed, Fang still holding Masan's hand started to giggle.

 

"We made it!" she said, trying to keep her voice low. "We made i-"

 

Before she had the chance to finish her sentence, light appeared behind one of the inn's window. She had no idea whose window it was... but it send cold sweat gliding down her back. A patchwork of scary imaged passed through her mind.

 

"Let's go!" she shouted, taking the lead.

 

She ran as fast as she could towards the stables, hoping that none of the horses would start making noise.

 

She didn't remember where Boko's saddle was nor how the stables were set. She knew that buckets and pitch forks where laying on the ground here and there, but not exactly where. More over there could be more horses in them now... What if the innkeeper has moved Boko in another box? It's so dark! she thought.

 

Finally letting Masan's hand go she went on " You take care of your horse. I wait for you here ... ".

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Masan did not stop to question, didn't stop to stare indignation at the little woman for ordering him around. There was no time for that if they were to get free of this place. With all the swiftness he could muster he threw Boko's saddle on her, muttering apologies to the horse who, moments before, had been enjoying her sleep. She didn't seem horribly amused with the situation herself.

 

Next came the saddle bags and checking the saddle girths. Certain that they were all snug he swung into Boko's saddle in one smooth motion. 

"The door Fang, open the door to the street!" He demanded, guiding Boko to the front as Fang seemingly scrambled to obey. It was a frantic few minutes for everyone short of the very confused horse. Once the doors were pushed open enough Masan reached down for Fang's arm and helped pull her up to sit on the back of the saddle. "Hold on tight this is going to be rough!" He warned, prodding the tired animal with his heels and driving her into motion. She quickly reached a gallop as they rushed through the inky blackness of the streets with only the thinnest sliver of the moon peeking out from the clouds to guide them by. He was quite used to this kind of ride; Boko liked to run fast for short distances when he let her and this sprint would be no different but carrying two riders would tire her out quickly compared to when it was just him, and he felt Fang bouncing hard on the back of the saddle behind him. So she didn't start bloody lecturing him he shouted back. "Make sure no one is following!" 

 

 

 

Sorry I've been missing in action for so long, I just got Skyrim Special Edition and I think I left reality for awhile.

 

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OOC:  I was playing to Skyrim before starting Mass Effect Andromeda, so I totally understand.

 

Rough? That's the least I can say about this ride ! Fang thought as she bounced on Boko's back. She was happy she was not the one leading the horse, she was not sure she would have been able to lead it in the forest in the dark...

 

"Make sure no one is following!" the Arafellin shouted.

 

"What?" she replied, trying to place her mouth closer to his ear. "And how do you want me to do that?"

 

She was not a flaming acrobat! Boko was going so fast that she didn't feel safe moving too much on the saddle. She tried to turn but it was not enough for her too see what was happening behind them.

 

"I can't see a thing!" she protested. She cursed between her teeth. "We can't go like this for long. I suggest we stop and listen!"

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Fang made a really good point. He'd been letting anxiety rule him, not completely within the void. He slowed Boko to a trot, to which the mare tossed her head appreciately and got to work on catching her breath.

 

"Sorry, you're right." He said, releasing Boko's reigns and guiding her with the pressure from his knees. "You are very observant, do you hear anything I can't?" he asked, straining to listen to the sound of the crickets and night time insects around them. Now that he had release saidin the world wasn't as vivid and clear as it always was when he held that foul power. 

"I suppose I should say I'm sorry for chiding you over panicking earlier. I guess we found my fear; bloody death." He chuckled humorlessly. "I'm not afraid to die, but, I'm afraid to die too soon. Before I can make it mean something. I'm going to die eventually. We all are. And when I go I'll join Baun in peace in the mother's last embrace. But I'm not ready to run to her arms yet." He confessed, reaching behind himself and patting Fang on the knee. "We'll ride a half mile then walk a half to relieve Boko. I hope you got enough sleep because we'll likely do this the rest of the night. At least you're safe and they'll be too busy dealing with my mess to follow after you quickly, if they even suspect you might be with me. They most likely won't." He felt fairly confident that they'd not left any clues that would suggest that Fang was not his sister, and by her running with him they probably cemented the idea that she was his kin into their heads. What sane woman would willingly travel or be anywhere near a man who could channel? Frankly being blood kin may not even save some men from their own families turning them over or putting them down. Fang was probably safe from her father's toadies for now. He'd make sure she was okay, but he'd abandon her if he came to suspect that he became a danger to her himself before they reached Tear. 

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"I almost thought you had seen one of these male channelers," Fang said giggling. "One of the servants, back home, saw one, one day. At least, that's what she said she saw. She was almost as pale as you." The young woman stopped the comparison there. She didn't want to add that they had both reacted in the same "panicky" way.

 

Masan didn't reply. She had expected him to tell her something like "I am a soldier, and can't be compared to a serving girl, blah blah blah", so the silence made her feel extremely uncomfortable. 

 

She used the quiet to listen to her surroundings, just like her companion had asked her to do. But nothing came to her ears besides the usual sounds that she had encountered in every other forest. So, she decided to turn her body, enough to see what was happening behind them. As she did so, she placed her hands on Masan, to get some support while turning. His body seemed unusually stiff. She wasn't an expert at understanding people by touching their body, but it made her wonder whether she hadn't said something she shouldn't.

 

"All clear!" she announced after having looked thoroughly behind them.

 

Could that Baun be a channeler? She thought. Does Masan know people who could channel?

 

Her father had grown up in a family that rejected any kind of channeling. So he had always told Fang to get as far as channelers as possible. Not that she had seen any. So far, she took them for cheaters. Life seemed to be so easy, if you could use the One Power to do your chores. She knew about the Towers, though, and was happy to stay away from both of them. After everything she had done, she was not ready to enter another prison.

 

Or, maybe someone he cared about died because of a channeler ? Nah! I guess he would have commented on what I said then...

 

Taking a deep breath, she tried to find a way to make the Arafellin talk again.

 

"I have to say that I have no opinion about them. It's not like I have met any so far. But I am sure they must have it hard with everybody so scared of them."

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Masan couldn't help the stiffening of his shoulders. It was an impulse! Did she suspect him? Luckily she had giggled it off. Phew. Just a horribly nerve wracking coincidence. 

"It's okay, you just had my mind going over stories from when I was a boy that my ma used to tell me to spook me. Stories about Men who could channel going mad and killing their families and odd things like that. Heh. Now that they're organized to fight the shadow maybe it's unfair to judge them like that. But there's still the fear, you know? Sometimes deep inside I'm that little boy afraid that the man who can channel will hurt people I care about." Masan felt his gaze slipping far away as he looked up at the dark sky, hours away from dawn and the stars still glittering away above them.

He snorted once. "But don't worry. I'll pummel any channeler that comes after you." He grinned. 

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"My mother never told me stories," Fang said with a shrug. "Well, if she did, I don't remember them."

 

Feeling bitter, she spat on the ground. "She abandoned me when I was a kid."

 

"But," she added after a small break. " I am sure I can handle these channelers better than you ... if we meet any ... I am faster than you."

 

They both laughed, Fang welcoming the distraction from her memories. Speaking of her mother always made her feel so bad. However this time she didn't dwell on them.

 

Time passed, and they decided it was time to let Boko walk free. Fang jumped from its back, happy to be allowed to use her feet. Indeed, even if she was getting used to the animal, she still preferred to travel on foot. There were less chances for her to fall that way. 

 

It was getting cold, unfortunately. An icy wind from the North made the young woman shiver.

 

"Shouldn't we stop for the night?" She asked. Somehow, she hoped that her travel companion would tell her that he knew a little farm not far from where they were, a farm that would welcome them for the night...

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Masan clicked his tongue sadly. "Unfortunately," He began, "There's no towns for miles and it's better we put as many miles between ourselves and my mess as we can before dawn's light." He explained, watching glumly as the girl shivered. She really did not have anything she would need to live rough as a soldier. It's not that she couldn't do it, but she had none of the proper resources she would need to do it and thrive.

 

Masan could tell that it was cold, but he was used to the cold of the Borderlands. This was a pleasant spring night compared to home but she was Tairen and was probably hating her life right now. "We have to keep walking, but if you reach into that saddle bag you'll find my cloak. It's not pretty but it's thick, heavy wool and it'll keep the wind off you." He promise, indicating the saddle bag on the other side of Boko. "Just wrap up and keep moving and the cold won't be too bad. We'll stop for some bread and cheese come first light, a short break for a fire and some hot tea. By sunset, with any luck, we'll have found the next village and, should the light shine on us, hot food." He promised, hoping that he would be able to KEEP that promise.

Edited by LadyGreyfist

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As Fang pulled the cloak, she felt a pang of guilt. She looked towards Masan to check whether or not he was called. It was hard to tell, though. The man moved forward with a determined look on his face.

 

"Thanks for the cloak, " she said as she wrapped it up around her shoulders.

 

They walked in silence, side by side, moving as fast as they could. The sun descended in the sky making it harder for the young woman to see where she set her feet. She tripped a couple of times but fought on to advance. She didn't want to show herself as a weak girl. She wanted to show her companion that she could do it.

 

Time passed and it grew even darker.

 

With the night covering her, it was easier for Fang to speak. "Masan?" she called with a slow voice. "Do you know where I could go?"

 

She explained that she had no place to go. She was in Andor because she had had to run from her father's men but she didn't know what she should do next. She didn't want to keep on running but she didn't want to find herself in a golden cage either. Tar Valon could offer her some kind of protection if she enlisted as a Warder there but this was not the kind of life that she wanted. She wanted to stay free or as free as it was possible to.

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By first light they had stopped only long enough to make a small fire. It hardly gave any warmth but it was enough to boil his small travel kettle and make enough tea for them to share. In silence they ate the hard flat bread and cheese he kept wrapped in wax paper in his saddle bags. All this in silence as Masan rolled ideas around in his head about what he would do if they were caught. He'd swear up and down to Fang's ignorance, of course he would. It was only the bloody truth. But he couldn't let them get caught. Not just for himself, because if they were Fang would be questioned and might even be held for a reward from her father. No that couldn't be allowed to happen; he couldn't ruin her freedom with his own mistakes. It wasn't her fault that he was a monster.

 

Once done he packed the small kettle away and kicked dirt over the small fire and, still in silence, pushed them onward.

 

Apparently, as the sun was dipping lower and lower on the horizon, it seemed they would, in fact, not reach another village before night fall. They would have to sleep rough and make another meal of flatbread and cheese. For dinner he'd pull out some of the dried meat he had, but there wasn't much of it left. They'd have to replenish their stores in the next village. 

 

It was then that Fang broke the silence that had been hanging over them all day. "Masan?" Her voice was small, and fragile. Nearly like that of the child he'd initially taken her for. She wasn't that much younger than him, but still, light, she was so young.

 

"Do you know where I could go?" the sound of it tugged at something hard in his chest. Light she was so young. She didn't have the lifetime of preparation that his grandfather had seen he and Baun had gotten. He'd not served, but he lived like a soldier with his grandfather as his captain. The closest to actual service he'd ever done had been to be part of the town watch, patrolling along the walls of their village and keeping an eye out for any disturbances beyond. He and a few of the other lads had taken care of a trolloc or two, never single handed but it still gave them experience. What did Fang have? A time of picking pocket for fun? She was good with those knives, there was no doubt, but her training was so... rough. She'd been trained to be a menace in a city, not live rough like a soldier. 
 

Masan rubbed a hand across his face that ended with a sharp tug on the braid that bore Baun's bells. What would Baun have said to that question? He was so much better at this sort of thing than Masan.

 

Fang would hate being a warder, it seemed. She was too free spirited to commit herself to one person for the rest of her entire life. 

"I can't really tell you what to do." He confessed. "I mean. All I know is soldiering. Do I think you could do that? Yes. You'd need some more bloody training; throwing knives aren't the standard battlefield fare after all. But do I think you have the determination and the stubbornness and the adaptability? I do. Thing is, soldiering is no fun. It will kill you eventually if you stay with it for long. There are always lords and ladies looking for people to fight and bleed for their squabbles and so long as you're alive you've got a tent over your head, something in your belly and steel in your hand. But you can't do it forever. You have to think of soldiering as a way of putting away gold to go do something else that won't kill you as easily. There has to be a plan, you know. But I can't tell you what that plan would be for you." It was the honest truth. 

"And it's kind of hypocritical of me to even give you any bloody advice on the whole, 'having a bigger plan' sort of thing. I don't have one myself. I don't plan on living long enough to need a plan." He told her, making sure to look her directly in the eyes so that she would know the sincerity of that comment. His mind's eye drifted back to what felt like a time so far away. He remembered being in the loft atop the barn that Baun's father owned. He remembered the prickle of the straw as it dug into his shoulders and the sting of Baun snatching up one of his braids to pull him into a soft kiss. He remembered the dusty smell in the air as Baun laid their next to him, eyes closed and breath drowsy, whispering about the future. Their future. A future that Masan, now, could never live.

 

Baun would go to Shol Arbela first, establish work and a place to stay until Masan could follow him after what would be the loneliest year of Masan's life. Once together they would enlist with the King's army. They'd figured they'd stay in the same unit, fight with and protect each other and then, when they had saved up a lovely pile of gold, go live one of the many different futures Baun liked to whisper to him in times when the world felt like just the two of them. He'd been so young and foolish and so heart achingly in love. He didn't care what future Baun decided on; farmers, carpenters, inn keepers whatever Baun wanted. All Masan wanted was just to be with Baun. But the bloody wheel weaves as the bloody flaming wheel wills and Baun now knew the peace of the mother's last embrace and Masan was left to walk the land with his heart buried six feet beneath the soil on Baun's family farm. It was a permanent and constant ache dulled only by how badly he wanted to kill as many shadowspawn as he could before joining his beloved.

 

Fang didn't need to be a part of any of his plans for revenge. She was a smart girl, she'd find a path for herself that didn't lead to leaping into the grave with both feet. She was a whole lot more clever than he was. Masan was certain she'd be alright. Maybe she'd find someone to serve and save up for a life after service. She'd be fine.

 

He realized that his face must have hardened into quite the gruesome expression, or maybe it was what he had said to her. Whatever it was, the look Fang gave him made him soften slightly. "I'm sorry." He said, trying to come off as soothing but being unsure of how successful it was.

 

"You know, it's not getting any lighter. The sun will be completely down soon and we're both really tired. I have a small bow cased and a small number of arrows." He was a horrible shot but it didn't matter as much when one could slow a fleeing rabbit with weaves of air. "Let's find a place to camp for the night and I'll let you practice the bow a bit. It's a more conventional soldier's weapon." He hoped to get her mind off of the darkness of his earlier thoughts. 

Edited by LadyGreyfist

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Masan’s answer didn’t fully satisfy her. Working for Lord and Ladies was definitely not something she wanted. She had tasted to that kind of life, even if she had been a lady – or at least a little miss - at the time and she knew how things would turn out. She would never be seen as a person. She would be a tool to be used by her master or mistress. She wanted more.


 


Her companion told her about a plan. As if she had one… The only thing that filled her thoughts was the need to escape her father but it was not that kind of plan the Arafellin was talking about. He was talking about her finding a purpose.


 


What do I want? she wondered.


 


When she was in Tear, she hadn’t need anything. Her father had given her more that she had ever wanted. Of course, everything had always had a catch. She had received a dress covered with pearls because she had to assist to a ball. Children from abroad had been invited to play with her so she would know more about the customs of their birthplace.


 


Then, she had managed to find ways to escape the manor and to hang around other people, orphans who had for only home the Tairen streets. She had played an act with them, so that they would treat her like one of their own. They made her discover a whole new world, but she couldn’t return to them. She could try to find an equivalent to their little group in another city. There were orphans everywhere, after all… But did she have what it took to become a thief?  


 


Sticking around Masan could bring her some kind of safety. But she didn’t want to be selfish.


 


He probably has his own plans, she thought. Taking a deep breath, she took a step towards Masan. She poked him in the ribs.


 


“Why so serious?” She asked him out of the blue. “I can’t wait to try that bow!”


 


***


 


It took them some time to find a good camping site. Fang wanted a place with water nearby so she could freshen up her face. It made her think that to live in the streets was probably not a good idea for her. She liked to be clean and to sleep in good and comfortable beds.


 


After some negotiation, they managed to find the perfect spot, close enough to a small stream but still offering enough cover.


 


Fang offered to get some wild berries and to start a small fire. Her stomach was rumbling, she was hungry again.


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At the gentle shove in the ribs Masan smiled and sighed out is his nose. "Burn me, I'm sorry. I guess I get gloomy sometimes. I lost someone I loved. A lot. And when I get thinking about him I get missing him and I become no bloody fun to be around. You shouldn't have to deal with my weights and I shouldn't taken them out on you." He said, gently patting her atop her head to ruffle a few strands of her bangs loose from the braid he'd twisted them into. She had cheered him slightly. It wasn't her fault that he became one moody blighter when he got to missing Baun and planning is own death. Not glorious death, of course, no death was ever glorious, but it would be a death that would MEAN something and that was all he wanted out of what was left of his life.

 

They looked around for a camp, Masan suggesting several locations but all too far away from water for Fang's liking. He stomped down on any of her suggestions that didn't have proper cover though. He didn't want just anyone being allowed to come up on them after all. Eventually they found one that appealed to both of them. Fang offered to go fetch some berries and start a fire but Masan waved her on. "If you just want to find the berries that's fine. I'll collect some kindling and get the fire going and heat up some water for tea and to wash our faces and hands in." He said. "If we work together and get that done a little faster with the last of the sunlight you can practice the bow." He didn't mention that he was feeling too lazy to dig his flint rock out of the saddle packs and, as soon as she had wandered off the find the berries, he'd use saidin to create a spark for the fire. He needed to practice doing things like that, so he could prove his metal to the Dragon's Men in Tear. He didn't know if they turned men away who weren't what their idea of strong was. He wanted to prove what he had figured out on his own to them to increase his odds of being accepted for the Black Tower, where he'd get much better training. As it was he'd figured out what he thought was air relatively easily, but earth and fire were a little bit more dangerous to practice with for him. He'd tried water over and over and over, but he could move it only a little. At best he'd been able to make some ripples but not nearly enough to slow fish the way he was able to use air to slow forest game. Was he just bloody terrible with water? Was it something he could even learn to get better at? Masan didn't really even know. There was so much about saidin, about the One Power in general, that was a mystery to him. He hoped that once he found a mentor with the Black Tower he'd be able to have some of those questions answered. But for now it was practicing with little, safe things; like creating sparks.

 

 

(I had thought I'd replied to this forever ago, turns out I must not have hit post and so it's been just sitting vacant. I think this is about the jist of what I'd written before.)

 

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"My..." hair, Fang started as Masan ruffled her hair. 

 

She usually hated it when people touched her hair, but this time it hadn't really mattered. She wasn't a lady anymore. She was Fang, who could afford to look like a trolloc if she wanted to.

 

"I'm sorry," she muttered. She didn't really know what it was to lose a loved one. She had never had a serious relationship but she could imagine that it was the kind of thing that would hurt a lot. Leaving her friends in Tear had been tough, and she hadn't really loved any of them. She had kissed Fox a couple of times but that was completely different. Fox had only been interested in her because ... Fang sighed. Because we were kids fooling around, she told herself. 

 

***

 

The young woman followed Masan's directions as effectively as she could. She worked fast to have the camp ready well before sun down.

 

"Done!" she said with a wide smile. "Now, where is that bow?" she asked even if she knew exactly where to find it. Without waiting for Masan to answer her question, she immediately rushed to it. The weapon felt very strange in her hands. It was heavier than she had expected. Some of the novels she had read as a teenager came back to her mind. She pictured herself as one of their legendary heroes, Birgitte Silverbow, then started laughing. She would never be as pretty as that beautiful warrior with her long golden braids and she would never be as good as her with a bow...

 

"What do I do with this?" she asked.

Edited by Chaelca

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"Hold your horses." Masan laughed softly, and groaned slightly as he pushed himself up from where he was sitting on a log beside the fire and had been warming his hands. 

"Alright then, we're going to need the quiver, but I'm going to stick the arrows in the dirt in front of you so you have a couple at the ready. You're going to be stationary and trying to hit a stationary target... pretty much the only thing I can hit myself." He grinned, taking a fist full of the arrows (he didn't have many) from the quiver and driving the heads down into the soft, sandy soil. He walked a few paces over to a large tree and, with his belt knife, carved a cross into the bark. "See this target is pretty close, and is nearly as thick as a man. Well. Maybe not as thick as me." He chuckled, flexing his shoulders for the joke. "But it'll do. The object is to try to get the arrow as close to where those lines me as possible. It's alright if you don't hit it, and just as well if you miss the entire tree. It's you're first time and mostly it's to get you used to the motion of pulling the string back."
 

He plodded back through the brush to stand beside her, fists on his hips to inspect the target from the distance she would be firing it. Pleased with his work he turned to her once more.

 

"Also, and I am bloody serious about this part. Don't EVER aim even in the general direction of Boko or me or I WILL be hunting for little bears. I so much as feel the wind whistle past that horse I will put you over my knee again and give you one that will make the last one you got feel like butterfly kisses and, even worse, you will lose bow privilege." He warned. Mentioning himself had been less important. He once stood against a tree with a gourd on his head and let Baun shoot it off. (By the light they were so bloody stupid as children it was a wonder he was even still alive with the foolishness they got up to.) But he would not stand for his horse to be threatened. She was his pride and joy, his wonderful girl and as much as he was sure Fang knew the rules he just felt it was important to drive home the first rule of learning the bow. It was a rite of passage from his home village. His own grandfather had walloped half the boys in their village for not taking their lessons seriously and shooting at cats and stray dogs. Had she been his sister by blood she'd have started her lessons with the bow by getting a crack on the bottom from the long one his grandfather had carried with him to the lessons. Luckily he'd spare her that part and just give her the stern-captain talk. 

 

He could only maintain the officer's scowl for a minute or two before breaking into a wide grin again. He gently took the bow from her and instructed her to watch, he'd pull back a knocked arrow on the string a couple times to show her the position. "It'll get heavy once you get it back to your cheek, I can pull it back easily because it's not a heavy weight, but it also can't fly far. It's for hunting, not fighting after all, but it's as good as any to practice with." At that he let the string relax and handed the bow back to her. "There you go Birgitte, have fun but be safe."

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Fang raised an eyebrow when she heard Masan. He had told her that he could only hit stationary targets, and that she couldn't believe. How could a soldier like him be that bad with a bow? How did he do to eat since his departure from home? He didn't look like a starving man. Or maybe, he's good at setting traps? The young woman had read tales about people who could build devices efficient enough to kill wild boars and had always wondered if these could be true.

 

The Arafellin took a couple of arrows from his quiver and stuck them into the dirt, right beside the young woman. She looked at them wondering about their weight. She would have loved to take one in her hands to analyze it, its wood, the feathers used for the fetching…

 

When she raised her head she saw Masan carving a cross into the bark of a nearby tree. She didn't know why but she suddenly felt guilty. It was hard to tell whether or not the tree had felt anything but it seemed cruel to use it as a target. She would have preferred to train on a fallen apple or something similar. Something dead...

 

"See this target is pretty close, and is nearly as thick as a man. Well. Maybe not as thick as me." Masan chuckled, flexing his shoulders for the joke. Fang giggled. She had seen men twice as wide as him. "But it'll do," he went on. "The object is to try to get the arrow as close to where those lines as possible. It's alright if you don't hit it, and just as well if you miss the entire tree. It's you're first time and mostly it's to get you used to the motion of pulling the string back."
 

Fang shook her head. She didn’t want to miss the tree! She would do what ever it took to hit the cross and if she missed the first time, she'd try a second a time. And if she missed again, she'd try a third time and so on. She swore she would not go to sleep before she was completely satisfied with herself.

 

Somehow she felt like she needed to prove to her companion that she was gifted when it came to wielding weapons. She didn't want to disappoint him. Also, she thought that since she was good at throwing daggers, she should be able to use a bow. Shooting arrows mustn't be that different from throwing daggers... she told herself. Failing at it would be a mark of shame, at least in her own eyes.

 

Before she could grab her first arrow, the Arafellin started a strange monologue about not aiming in his direction or his horse.

 

"Do you think I am stupid?" Fang asked upset. "I know you like your mount. I’ll never hurt it!" She spat on the ground to show how unhappy she felt at being treated like a child. "And you better not touch my backside again! If you do, I'll kill you!' 

 

What Masan had told her had hurt her much more than she would have expected. She had thought of him as an equal and, with his last words, he had placed himself in some kind of superior position that made her scream deep down inside. Who does he think he is? My father? She was boiling inside. Well you should see what I want to do to my father...

 

Her ego had been hurt when Masan had caught her after the "event" at the bandits' hideout. But, she had accepted his reaction because she knew she had gone a bit too far. She also had to admit that she hadn't been on her guard. Him catching her had been her fault. Things were supposed to be different now.

 

Her eyes met her companions. The fact that the man had started to grin made her glare even more.

Edited by Chaelca

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The sullen look on Fang's face wiped the grin off Masan's. "Of course I don't think you're stupid. This is part of the training too. Okay, time out for a second." He said softly. "Part of training to be a soldier isn't just getting better with a weapon or a tool, it's training into a mentality and an ability to set yourself as an individual aside and operate like the extension of one being, with your commander as its brain. The thing is, you're not always going to like your commanders, and they're not always going to get to know every face in their service. My grandfather taught me the same way." He explained, his face becoming fond. "I was always his favorite grandson. He didn't hide it well. But if he was training us he went hardest on me, would be the meanest to me, the least forgiving to me. Because my brothers were going to work the forge the rest of their lives. They just needed to know the sword or the halberd well enough to protect themselves and their families. I was being prepared to be a soldier. So, when it was just us, not training, he was doting and kind; like I'll try to be to you when you're not being a bloody woolhead." The fondness in his eyes only increased.

 

As he stepped behind her, though, his voice hardened and became impassive. "But when we were training, he was not my grandfather. He was my captain and I was his subordinate. I had to learn to be able to take an order and accept commands even when I hated it, or was embarrassed or was made to look a fool. I had to not care. You care a bit, still, if you look the fool. So, when we aren't training I'll be your brother but when we are, I'm going to be your captain. If you can learn to stomach it and push through, then any band will be ready to sign you up into service. But if you let a bruised pride get to you easily, you won't be as valuable to a band. If I'm going to teach you I'm going to make a flaming good soldier out of you before we reach Tear. Now, eyes front, and draw the string to your cheek a few times to get your muscles acquainted with the motion." 

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Fang kept her glare on for a couple of seconds, until Masan started talking about his grandfather. His words surprised her and made her hunger for more. The young woman didn't remember her grand parents. She had always wondered what they had been like. Could she have been a favorite grandchild? Did they even know she existed? Or were they dead and buried for many years? She would probably never know.

 

"I am not a woolhead" she protested, pouting.

 

The Arafellin didn't reply. He stepped behind her, still talking about his past and his training. As he did so, the young woman pictured a younger version of her companion dressed in a soldier outfit - too big for him - with a bow in his hand, an elderly figure bossing him around. It made her smile. 

 

"So," he went on. "When we aren't training I'll be your brother but when we are .... "

 

A brother?

 

Fang almost dropped the bow she had in her hands. She turned her head towards Masan, the end of his sentence completely lost to her.

 

Focused on his speech, the Arafellin looked perfectly honest. There was no reason to doubt him nor what he had just said. Something deep down urged her to stay cautious, but it was getting harder and harder to keep her walls up with him, after all they had been through.

 

A brother, he said that he'll be my brother...

 

It felt so strange to have someone at her side who'd want to have her back whatever could happen. She never had a brother, a sibling, someone she really could count on.

 

"... eyes front, and draw to string to you cheek a few times to get your muscles acquainted with the motion," Masan's directive voice brought her back to reality.

 

"Y..yes." she stuttered.

 

So many thoughts were rushing through her mind that she had to fight to use the Void technique.

 

C'mon girl, concentrate! You'll think about being a little sister later... Now, you have to focus!

 

Fang took a deep breath and did as told a couple of times. She pulled the string a first time, then a second, then a third time, and so on. Each try was easier than the last. She had not imagined that drawing a bow would be that hard. Already her arms was tiring down. Of course, she didn't dare to mention it. She didn't want to look weak.

 

"What do we do next?" she asked when she felt ready to go further.

Edited by Chaelca

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Masan smiled softly as he stood aside and watched her go through the exercises.

 

"What do we do next?" she asked.

 

He motioned to the arrows driven into the earth beside her. "Practice firing those into the cross I carved into the bark of the tree. It's okay if you don't get it dead in the center. The string is kind of heavy so it's going to be learning more about getting used to pulling it back with an arrow and aiming in the right general direction. If you can hit the tree, you're doing fine." It was a pretty big tree so he imagined it'd be difficult for her to miss it with her skill when it came to aiming knifes and daggers. But aiming the tip of the arrow would come with practice and getting accustomed to pulling back the heavy string of the bow.

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Fang growled out of frustration. She had already tried to fire four arrows and none had made it to the tree.

 

Masan was silent, and so the young woman wondered whether or not he was taking her for a fool. A little voice deep down told her to stop being upset. Calm down, it was saying. But, it was not working. She was very close to throw her bow aside. The only thing that prevented her from doing it was the fact that the bow was not hers. It was Masan's. It was one of his prized possessions.

 

"I'll never manage to shoot a flaming arrow on this flaming tree!" she ended up saying.

 

She handed the bow back to her companion, but he refused to take it. Instead he encouraged to have another try. "Remember about the Void?" he asked.

 

"Yeah..." she said, rolling her eyes.

 

"So?"

 

"All right, all right."

 

Before trying again, she took a deep breath. She tried to push everything she was feeling, her frustration, away. As far as she could. It's only then that she drew the bow and shot.

 

"YAY!" she shouted. Her arrow had planted itself on the bark of the tree. She had missed its center by a good 15 centimeter but she didn't care. She had touched her target. It was all that mattered.

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Masan gave a great whoop and punched the air. "You got it! That, Little Miss, is a wound bad enough to stop someone who was charging at you from going any further. He's not dead but he's not a threat to you now from so far away. So, what did you think? Worth training with that every night on our way to Tear?" He asked, walking over to the target and collecting his arrows back up and returning them to the quiver. 

"Also, tea is done if you're ready to take a break. We can have something to eat and drink, then you can practice some more." He began filling a tin cup of tea. They only had one so they'd have to take turns having tea until they could come across another. He'd let her have tea first, as he saw himself as the oldest. "But not for too long, mind." He added, handing the steaming cup to her. "We'd best get some sleep now that we can actually stop and do so." 

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Fang took a sip of her tea. It wasn't as good as the one she had back in Tear but she still enjoyed it.

 

"I think I'll try to shoot some more", she said, looking at the bow and the quiver that laid next to it. "I'm not tired."

Masan raised an eyebrow, as if to protest. 

 

"But I understood what you said about getting some sleep ...." she cut him. "We need to be fit to run, in case my father's men find us. Or these brigands' friends. Now that I think back about it, it was way too easy. They must have been others... " she added stifling an yawn that brought pink to her cheeks.

 

"Right, you are not tired? That's what you said?" the Arafelin chuckled.

 

"I am not!"

 

To prove it, she emptied her mug at once before jumping on her feet. With a quick gesture she grabbed one of her daggers that she threw right in the middle of the "X" Masan had carved earlier on one of the nearby trees.

 

"See?" she said with a grin.

 

***

 

The second part of Fang's training didn't last long. She found it hard to focus and stay concentrated. Frustration at not being able to shoot perfectly prevented her to keep her thoughts on the business at hand.

 

"Well done!" Masan interrupted her. "You did well," he said taking the bow from her hands.

 

The young woman opened her mouth to tell him that she was not done. She wanted to keep on shooting until she'd be able to touch the middle of the X at least 3 times in a row but she knew it would be hard to achieve that, at least that day.

 

A pat of the Arafellin on her back made her yield.

 

"All right, but we'll train again tomorrow, right?"

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