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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

To Kidnap a Mocking Bird (second attempt)


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It took everything that Mehrin had not to chuckle at Drea's question. When the idea had first struck him, he had been afraid of how she would react to the situation, apparently a misplaced fear. "Your bird is safe for now, and will continue to be as long as you comply. That is all you need to know." Safe in his belt pouch and wrapped in wool padding, as Mehrin had placed it before Drea had even come in. If she kept it, it probably meant something to her. Mehrin's own meal arrived shortly after, a piece of roast beef and roasted potatoes. He wasn't too picky.

 

The two ate in silence for a short amount of time, Mehrin keeping to the shadows as much as possible. Having to keep the hat on made it difficult, but he managed. "I've been authorized by a mutual acquaintence of ours to be as pleasant company as possible," Mehrin finally said, breaking the silence. No doubt there was no illusion to who he was, but it was fun nonetheless. Taking a moment to savor a mouthful of the beef, he continued, "As such, I'll try to be civil until the conclusion of this dreadful business."

 

A slice of potato disappeared into the shadow, and Mehrin's hand lingered a bit longer, hiding the grin that was spreading across his face. When he had regained his composure, he calmly asked, "So, how has your day been? Not too stressful, aside from this bit of drama, I hope."

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Drea leaned back in her chair, her stomach full. She had long since given up on holding back her expressions and a smirk raised a corner of her lips into her cheek. She liked this; she genuinely enjoyed the attention, the secrecyl, the witty puns and especially the company.

 

"So, how has your day been? Not to stressful, aside from this bit of drama, I hope." Mehrin asked, not looking at her. Has he even more than glanced in her direction the entire meal?

 

Drea observed the others in the room as she answered; a pair of blacksmiths in another corner, covered from head to toe in black, a young woman, maybe only a few years younger than Drea, played some sort of flute on the stage, and to no surprise a few men near the entrance gambling, one of which being the man whom approached her earlier.

 

Drea groaned and rolled her eyes. "Horrible. What a day! First off, I only got a few hours of sleep last night- the rain kept me up. Then I had a training session with Cokato Frazee. The man's an imbecile. Can you believe he actually thinks scouts shouldn't have to learn to fight? Not even hand to hand. To cut it back a bit, he was punished to the point of exhaustion. Three hours of sword training with me in the morning, ten laps around the Citadel with a scout pack and weapons, four to the Field of the Fallen and back and just because it needed to be done, I threw in the rest of the day's worth in stable chores. I decided to give AD the afternoon off. Let's see if he thinks he can run away from Trollocks and Seanchan now." She sighed briefly. "In fact, he should be on his way to receive his next punishment. Any ideas?" Sadism seeped from her voice. It wasn't that she enjoyed seeing people in pain, or doing the hurting, but this man was an exception.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There were times that Mehrin was glad that he didn't work with the scouts all that often. This Cokato Frazee justified that gladness, in Mehrin's mind. The running was an appropriate punishment, in Mehrin's mind, as was the swordwork. The stables seemed to be a nice touch, too. "If it were up to me, I'd say send him to do sword training with the infantry. Maybe some one-on-one training with Eb to top off whatever bruises you've given him; she likes to beat sense into the dumb ones, too." The scouts almost needed to be able to fight in hand-to-hand situations. "I'd also make sure he keeps on with the heavy labor. Find a blacksmith who's not doing any work and have him carry the anvil for awhile."

 

Settling back, Mehrin lifted his hat enough that he could look Drea in the eyes. It took as much willpower as he could muster not to allow himself to drown in those eyes. "Make sure that he learns to follow any order that you give. Every time he balks, make his punishment harsher." He hadn't needed to say it; all of his predecessors had used the same tactic when training their soldiers. With a slow smile, Mehrin added, "Just don't become a stone-faced scout officer. You're too beautiful to have a face chiseled from granite."

 

The game had gone on quite long enough. Dropping his hat onto an empty chair near his seat, Mehrin withdrew the balled-up wool from his belt pouch, sliding it across to Drea. "Your bird is quite safe," he said warmly. "Thanks for coming at such short notice." It was nice to be a normal man again. Not a commander, not a soldier. A man. Smiling, he asked, "What do you think? Too harsh for him? Maybe he could be set following one of the cavalry's warhorses with a bag."

 

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Drea laughed out loud. She liked Mehrin's humor. :I can honestly say that the thought crossed my mind, but perhaps it is a bit too harsh. I don't want to kill the man. Not yet at least."

 

Abruptly, a tall man staggered up to their table. It was Cokato, long blonde braids swinging as he panted heavily, obviously fatigued fromhis laborious day. He was nearly as tall as Mehrin, and Drea took pride in knowing she could have killed him with her bare hands had she no morals. Mehrin on the other hand, wasn't even an option. Not that she'd even dream of killing him, but it was impossible regardless. Cokato sat down on an empty chair across from Drea's, slouching and breathing heavily, his arms flopped to his side and head nearly fell off. "Drea, I'm done with the stables. Can I go to my room now?" For such an intimidating looking man-tall and muscular- he sure was a baby.

 

Drea shot an 'I told you so' eyebrow to Mehrin who was trying not to laugh. Was this a test? Had he sent Cokato to act this way to see how she'd handle discipline among a relationship- or possible relationship.

 

"First of all," she looked back to the slob in front of her. "It's Captain Raylin not Drea. Few get to call me that and you are not privileged enough yet. Start listening to me the first time and maybe I'll let you call me Miss Raylin or Captian. Until then, Captain Rayling when you talk to me, about me or around me. Got it?" Cokato nodded sleepily. "Second of all, stand up straight you lout! Feet together, shoulders back, chin up and eyes open and forward. I don't ever want to see you slouch in front of any officer, especially the Commander! Blood and ashes, Frazee, are you blind and dumb now? Get up!" Drea stood too, to emphasize her point. The one sitting in an argument normally had the advantage, but Drea's tone was more than intimidating enough for Cokato to finally jump to his feet. "Now, you will go to your rooms when I tell you to go to your rooms. My question is: do you still think you can run away from Trollocs? Do you feel strong enough to las tdays on your feet, with a pack, supplies and enough field knowledge to last weeks, maybe months of running from those beasts?" Cokato's eyes went wide. "That's right. Months. You obviously didn't grow up in the Boarderlands, did you Frazee? Well it can last that long and does." He gulped. Drea tried not to look down at Mehrin, who's eyes she could feel on her. Pressure fed her frustration. "Fine. Go to your rooms. But you better get some sleep because I have another fun day for you tomorrow, Frazee. There's a woman in the infantry, Eb, who you need to meet. I'll be sending her to your room before dawn and you'll become her apprentice until she feels you're good enough. Each day, when she's fed up with you, you'll be sent to Master Hibbing's forge for another apprenticeship. Whatever he tells you to do, you will obey. I will have full reports each day from both Ebony and Master Hibbing on my desk so don't think I'm not watching you." Was it harsh? She didn't give a bloody damn at that point. "Now get out of my face before I add to it." If Mehrin wanted to add anything, she knew he would. Then again, she was almost fearful of him taking something away too. Was she being harsh?

 

With cokato out of the room-or nearly- Drea sat back down and smiled calmly. "So, Mehrin, how was your day?" She took the bird out of the cloth and turned it over in her palm, examining it carefully, then wrapped it back up and tucked it safely into her pouch as she listened to Mehrin speak. She was glad to have her bird back and glad to have Cokato take care of, at least for the night.

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The memory of the scout recruit's face nearly made it impossible for Mehrin to speak. The more that Drea had said, the more crestfallen he had looked. If the training didn't kill him, he'd make a damn good scout. However, any glee that he felt at the man's punishment was soon lost. "Honestly? It was horrible. More and more, people seem to be coming to me for less and less. To start the day was my monthly visit from one of our little lordlings demanding preferential treatment. We'll see if he likes two months working in the kitchens; maybe he'll learn to shut up." Sighing, Mehrin rested an elbow on the table, his hand supporting his head. "I don't know why I'm still here; I was never meant to be a commander. Life is so much simpler on the front lines. Kill or be killed, you know? You always know who your enemy is."

 

Mehrin drained the water cup on the table before him, refilling it before continuing. "In other news, it seems that the Ogier believe that the first couple levels of the keep will be inhabitable pretty soon. As soon as it is, I'll be moving Renalie into one of the higher rooms. She'll like that, living in a castle." He smiled at that. It hadn't taken too long to go from gruff soldier to father, even if he didn't always know what he was doing. There were several fathers in the Band who could help him when he needed it. And there was Drea, the woman he hoped would help him raise his daughter. As beautiful and caring a woman as he'd ever seen, and one of the deadiest. The Band had a way of doing that to people.

 

"On a more amusing note, old Robb al'Davos came by today to see if he could sell me a few casks of this year's brandy. 'My best year ever,' he told me. He seemed a touch upset that I wouldn't try any, but I bought four casks to be used at the next Red Trench." Mehrin didn't bother mentioning that, from the smell, Robb was right, and it had taken a lot of willpower to say no. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic...

 

"Shall we move the conversa-" Mehrin found himself cut off by the door slamming open. "Commander, I demand an audience!"

 

With a heavy sigh, Mehrin saw who it was. Certar Nerome, second something or another of House Whoever. "Blood and bloody ashes, he's done already?" he muttered as the man stormed towards his table. "If I'm off-duty, I'm allowed to throw him through a window, right?" he asked Drea.

 

"Now see here, you-"

 

Mehrin simply stood up. The man was not small, but he still stood a touch shorter than him. "Well? What do you want? In case you're too thick to realize it, I was attempting to enjoy a pleasant evening, which is more than I can say for you. You will report to Captain Waburn on the wall. Tell him that you've volunteered to cover the entire night for one of the men without any breaks. If I learn otherwise, I'll handle your public flogging myself. Now get out." The man had visibly paled. As if he weren't there, Mehrin sat down again and said loudly enough to be heard, "Some people are too stupid to realize that their lives have changed." He added more quietly, "Light, I hate this job."

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Drea hid a grin behind her hand and furrowed her brows as much as she could with a smile on her lips. Mehrin was so touchy about nobles, maybe too touchy. She made a mental note to ask why later.

 

"Mehrin," she reached across the table when he sat down and laid her hand on top of his arm. "Who here hasn't thought about life outside the Band? Show me one person who hasn't either dreamed of going home or starting completely over." She kept her hand there. It felt natural. "I mean, come on, this isn't exactly heaven. Currently the living conditions are less that decent, the food is atrocious and the company has its ups and downs. But I don't know if I'd be happier anywhere else." She smiled broadly. Regrettably, her hand left his arm so she could take a drink of water. They were both quiet as she drank, but it was a comfortable silence.

 

"You know, there is one place I think I would be happier." Mehrin's eyebrow arched. "Home. I've often dreamed of going back to Fal Dara to see my parents, maybe my brothers. I've sent letters, but letters can't reassure them I'm alright." She shrugged. "Its just a dream. Maybe someday there'll be a battle up there. Tarmon Gai'don, perhaps?" She forced a laugh, when in reality the thought of never seeing her family again was more painful than the other people she's lost in her life. "What about you, Mehrin? Where would you go if you weren't in the Band?"

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"I honestly couldn't tell you, Drea," Mehrin said. "When I left home, I swore that I wouldn't return unless I could go back without being a failure. It would be nice, though, for Renalie to meet my parents." Not his true parents. As far as he knew, his true family had been killed off in its entirety. And they could stay dead, as far as he was concerned. "If I were to leave, I don't think that there's any one place that I'd want to visit. Whereever my feet bring me would be more than fine with me." Mehrin chuckled quietly as he took a drink, then continued, "But now that I talk about it, I'm not sure that I want to leave. Maybe I just want a demotion." It took Mehrin a moment to realize how loudly he had spoken, but the overwhelming silence in the room gave him an idea. Looking around at the somewhat shocked faces, Mehrin couldn't help but laugh. Sometimes that was all there was to do in some situations. "You ain't gettin' rid of me that easily, folks. As you were."

 

As conversation slowly resumed, Mehrin returned his eyes to the woman seated across from him, and once again found himself struggling not to drown in her eyes. It was a pleasant struggle that Mehrin hoped would never end, though. "Apparently, they don't want me to leave, either," he said, hiding his mild amusement behind dismay that was only partially feigned. He may be able to send any man or woman here to their deaths, and the gates of the Citadel would open to him if he ordered it, but he was as much a prisoner as that man they'd caught trying to force himself on one of the serving girls. Which only reminded him that he had to take care of that problem, too. Enough! You're not here to work. "Tell ya what, though," Mehrin said, making his voice light. "If I ever get the chance to get out of this place for awhile, I'll personally escort you to Fal Dara. After all, a woman can't have enough protection on the roads these days. Who knows what kind of brigands are waiting out there for some helpless victim." Even as he spoke, Mehrin had to fight the laughter coming into his voice; only an Aes Sedai would be better protected on the open road than Xandrea Raylin.

 

There was a moment of silence at the table, as if both Mehrin and Drea were lost in thought. Finally, Mehrin spoke again, a bit more hesitantly. "Looking back at it all, the death, the battles, the loves lost, do you ever think that we might have made a mistake joining the Band in the first place?"

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Drea was flattered at his offer to accompany her home someday. The thought of him meeting her family was comforting. She smiled at his words and tried not to laugh. She liked the fact that she may look harmless but was more deadly than the Commander. She’d be the one to protect him, not the other way around.

 

“Made a mistake? Not in the least, Mehrin.” If she never joined the Band of the Red Hand she wouldn’t have met him. She wanted to tell him that, but not yet. It’s too soon. “I have accomplished more here than I ever could dream of accomplishing at home. If I were back in Fal Dara I’d be married to some sloppy, fat man and spend the rest of my life surrounded by bratty children and sewing dresses for the Ladies.” Drea bent lower to the table and whispered “Don’t tell anyone, but I can’t wield a needle worth your weight in gold crowns.” She winked and returned to sit up. Her upper back and neck hurt from the long day and she massaged a knot on her shoulder blade. “My mother is a seamstress and had taught me as much as she could before my brothers started sneaking me out to play war with them. My oldest brother, Kimal, gave me that bird you so lovingly kidnapped earlier tonight. I miss him a lot.” Drea sighed and tried not to let the memories of her family ruin her night. They were supposed to be happy, but her longing to see them all again overpowered any goodness in the recollections. “How about you, Mehrin. Don’t tell me you regret joining the Band.” Her voice was surprisingly playful.

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Mehrin took a moment to gather his thoughts before answering. He had thought about this very thing several times, but he had never actually shared his thoughts with anybody. "It's a difficult question, believe it or not," Mehrin said, making sure to keep his voice quiet. "The Band has been responsible for so many great things in my life. I'm probably more wealthy now than I could ever have been, had I stayed in eastern Andor." It wasn't a statement of greed; it was simple fact. "Likewise, I've met so many people, great people, who I would never have met otherwise. I like to think that the knowledge and experiences I've had here have made me a better person. But..." Again, Mehrin paused, taking a deep breath. One of these days, he'd learn not to ask questions that he didn't want to answer.

 

"But I know that they haven't," he finally said. "A killer is not a better person, and that's part of what this place has done to me. On the same token, I've met many great people, but how many of them have I seen dead and buried? Ana Malon, Renalie's mother. Killed by some man named Joar. Kuro Ketsukei, Infantry. She died at Bandar Eban. Krachend of the Deep Shade Hold of the Dragonmount Aiel. I haven't seen him in years. Edward Sykes, Infantry. Died at Emond's Field. Anya Tarin Winter, Infantry. Died at Emond's Field. Altheus, Medic. Died on the march from Bandar Eban. So many others, I can't even remember their names, just their faces." Keeping the sadness from his face was difficult, but Mehrin managed. The burning in his eyes was just his imagination, nothing else. "I joined the Band to protect myself, a stranger in need of other strangers. Food, shelter, safety, that was it. Recently, I've found myself looking at the sky, remembering what it was like to simply be on my own, knowing that I had nowhere that I needed to be. There's a part of me that misses that freedom." Looking at Drea, he continued, "Do I regret joining the Band? Yes, I do, but there's no place in this world that I'd rather be."

 

It took Mehrin a moment to say anything else. "So, if you had to leave the Band, what one thing wouldn't you miss? Flat-out, I can tell you that, for me, it'd either be all the saluting or the food. Light, even the Commander can't do anything to fix that problem!" Mehrin welcomed his quiet laughter. Anything would be better than what he'd just put the conversation through.

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