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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Matalina

Around the Farm (open)

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It had been an adventurous few days and being back at the Farm with nothing particularly strange going on Nox found himself more at ease.  He knew the anxiety would be there later.  It always was, but right now he was at ease.  He was home.  Adrim was not far away if he was needed.  Part of Nox's job was to teach gateways.  He wasn't the best at it.  Certainly others showed more promise, but he had the ability to make larger gateways.  It was one of the few things he was proud of.  Being an Asha'man was his only accomplishment.  

 

Today he had a few students.  They were picking up the basics.  Skimming and Traveling two different things.  Sometimes you got both other times you just didn't do any and had to rely on others.  Nox could do either.  There was already his habit of knowing an area inside out before he stuck down roots of any kind even if they'd be shallow.  It had helped him learn skimming at first, but Nox soon realized he knew many more places and with only a little bit of effort Nox was memorizing placed he'd been and could gate anywhere that he'd studied.

 

Nox took the time each time he went to a new place to study where the gates would open, or could potentially open.  Never anywhere where he could kill someone with an opening gate.  Someplace safe.  And Nox always looked for those safe places.  It was a habit of living on the street for too many years.

 

The lesson was over and the two students were talking to one another with excitement.  One of them had managed to open a gateway large enough to walk through.  With practice he could do more.  The other was still perfecting knowing the area he was in and still couldn't open a skimming gateway.  But he showed promise.  

 

Nox sat on the fence outside the stable yard watching them talk as they walked away.  it had been a good day.  The weather was nice and the sun was cooling down now that it was on it's downward path just before nightfall.  The long shadows  cast were a comfort.  Soon the stars would be out and Nox could finally rest.  He liked his uneventful day...

 

Except behind the stable was a large explosion, it shook the stone buildings and Nox was on his way around the building to make sure everyone was alright...

 

[[ I have no clue what happened as of yet, but figure I'd start off with a bang.  ]]

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The afternoon had passed slowly, the hours moving like thick honey on a chilly day, while Rhys worked to try to make a ter'angreal that could heat water. He hadn't yet actually made any ter'angreal, but he was confident that he could do so. Some of the others thought this was just how the madness was showing in him, but if that's it, then it's a relatively benign form of madness.

 

Today's experiments involved a large trough of water and a cone of stone with weaves of fire and air spiraling up its length. Rhys wasn't sure how to make the weaves actually be a part of the stone, so he was still spinning the weaves onto the material then tossing it into the water, but that was providing interesting results. The cone shape of the weaves caused a small vortex of hot water to form, but the motion of the water cooled it at the same time.

 

By the time the evening hours had come and the sun set in the west, Rhys had a journal full of notes, a cone of stone, and a trough of warm water... but still no ter'angreal. 

 

An idea struck him, and he wove the flows, then used other flows to mold the stone around the existing weave, and then anchored the existing weave to the insides of the stone cone. When he moved the cone, the weaves moved too... that was promising. He dropped the cone into the water, and the vortex began to form, the water began to circulate. Good... good. He reached out with a thread of fire to turn off the original weave, but it sucked in his bit of power.

 

The vortex spun faster, the water grew hotter... it was beginning to steam now. Rhys tried to cut the fire and air weave with more air, with spirit, with earth even, but it just incorporated those threads into its own spinning. The water was bubbling, boiling now, and Rhys could see the cone bouncing on the bottom of the trough. Finally, he reached out with water, hoping to cool it down, but that was a mistake.

 

The thread of cool water energies collided with the roiling weave, and the cone exploded. The water absorbed most of the energy, but the trough cracked as the power pushed out. The stones around the area shook for a second, and water jetted high into the sky before falling, drenching Rhys.

 

He spun around and quickly wove air and a bit of fire to dry his journal and notes, and then began weaving to dry his clothes and hair. He didn't even notice the shard of stone embedded in his cheek.

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When Nox arrived everything was wet.  Well not everything, the man in question was drying himself off and the paper on the table was dry.  Priorities, Nox smirked.  

 

Everything looked fine.  "You alright?"  Nox looked him up and down trying to assess the damage but other than the way his clothes fit Nox really didn't see much wrong until he got to his face.  A small shard of something was stuck in his cheek.  Nox sighed, his talents were with healing and delving was not anything he excelled at.  

 

But if he didn't notice it chances are it wasn't too bad and it was his cheek he was not likely to bleed out if they pulled it out.  Nox approached slowly so as not to startle him anymore.  Some people were jumpy - he knew he was after a fright.  "You have a shard in your cheek."  Nox grabbed his shoulders and turned him towards me and looked him straight in the eyes with a smile.  "Let me pull it out."  Nox grabbed Saidin and curled it's might around him.  It was a precaution if the blood was too much.  

 

Nox grabbed the small shard gently between his thumb and forefinger of his right hand, and pressed softly against his cheek with his thumb of his left hand his fingers curled his chin gently.  Nox was acutely aware of the fact that he was touching another man but he watched the shard.  "You ready?" Nox flicked his eyes to the other man waiting his ascent before he'd pull the small sharp shard from his cheek.

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Rhys was entirely distracted with making sure his clothing dried correctly. Once he had achieved the rank of Asha'man, he'd started wearing lace at his collar and cuffs again. He got several side eyes and many men snorted and laughed, but no one in authority told him he couldn't wear lace. And lace like this would wrinkle until the whole pattern was obscured if it didn't dry properly.

 

It took feeling the hands on his shoulders to realize that someone else had approached. The eyes that met his were surprisingly calm, gentle... things one doesn't find in the Black Tower often. 

 

"Yes, I'm ready." Rhys blushed, and his cheek oozed a bit more blood as his face tried to turn red from embarrassment. Feeling around on the inside of his mouth, he wasn't sure if the shard had cut through his cheek entirely, or if it had caught in the muscle. 

 

He could feel Nox holding the power, and he had to quiet the part of him that saw that as a challenge. He wanted to seize saidin himself just to show his own strength... but he did not. He was his own Master. He did not need to answer every perceived challenge.

 

Bracing himself, he waited for the other man to pull the shard free.

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Nox nodded with his ascent and then he pulled on the shard with a sharp tug.  Slow might hurt more, but it might also bleed more now.  But Nox held a weave of air just in case, but the blood only slowly oozed out of the hole.  Nox pressed his thumb to small wound and held up the shard on his palm.  

 

The blood was dripping down even with his thumb applied.  "This might be yours." Nox grinned before he added.  "You might want to get something to put on this until it stops bleeding or you are going to have get blood out of the white.  And blood is not fun to get out of things."  

 

Nox remembered all the times he had to wash the linens from a brutal john.  Or even from a beating out of his clothes when someone caught him with their girl or even the hate beatings from when he was caught with another boy.  His life hadn't been easy, but getting blood out of things was something he'd learned how to do, and he could help if it happened it was much easier now with Saidin.  "I could use Saidin, but..." But he didn't want to overstep his bounds.  His thumb was still pressed to his cheek stemming the blood.  It was slightly awkward.  Nox didn't know this man.  Didn't know anything about him from before - only that he was here and he could channel.  

 

Nox grabbed the other man's hand with his own free one and pressed his hand to his cheek.  Blood dripped from his thumb and Nox carelessly wiped it on his black coat.  It would still need getting out but at least for now it wouldn't be seen.  It was a good reason to wear black if there was any other.

 

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"I'd never had to wash blood from clothing before coming to the Tower." Rhys murmured. Then he came back to himself. He holds his hand against his cheek, noting the difference in feel between his fingers and the other man's. There had not been any folk that he had grown close to in the Tower, and none outside it since his time with the Tinkers. The feeling of warm skin on his own was heady.

 

"I must apologize if my experiment startled you. Things, they did not go as I had planned them to." He blushed and pulled away from the other man. He made sure his notes were secure, then began bustling about the broken trough. "It really wasn't meant to explode."

 

He laughed nervously. "My name is Rhys. I mostly trained under Asha'man Dendric. I didn't see you in my classes. With whom did you train?" he pauses. "Do you want me to take the blood from your coat?"

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Nox grinned as the man blushed for a second time.  Either he was shy or accustom.  Both were intriguing.  "It's probably a good thing it didn't happen earlier.  Or we might have had a gateway open up on top of the M'hael or something.  Accidents happen with the power.  It's how we learn."

 

"I mostly trained with Adrim."  Nox corrected himself with others.  "Asha'man Adrim. I've been here almost since the beginning."  Adrim hadn't been his only teacher, but Adrim was the only one to tolerate him in his quirky mannerisms.  And the only one to actually care how he was doing.  And that was a big deal to Nox.

 

Nox waved his hand at the offer. "I'll get to it later.  Nox gave Rhys a wry grin.  "Its had far worse smeared on it in its time."  Nox chose his words carefully and accentuated the right ones.  He wanted to see if Rhys would blush again.  His cheek had been soft, his neck too now that he'd thought about it.  But Nox knew better than to do anything more than flirt.

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((Mind if I step in?))

 

Storm Leader Skechid brushed his hands over his tired eyes. It had been a long night, followed by a busy morning. It seemed like the Eyes and Ears reports would never end. Being Master of Spies was no joke. At first, it had seemed fun. Handling the intrigue and portends of the world, but these days all it involved was reading and signing paper work. Paperwork. Yucks. Whilst nothing was alarming in itself, the lack of overly exciting news worried him. The End Times were coming, Skechid was sure of that, and there should have been way more activity in the world that there seemed reported. Wearily, he rolled up the scroll in his hand and wove a quick weave of Fire, burning it to ashes which floated away in the afternoon breeze.

 

He barely had time to pick up the next scroll when an explosion woke him up from his revelry. Ordinarily, he wouldn't have bothered. Explosions and such were common place in the training grounds and more of often than not, the casualties could be treated by nearby Ashaman and didn't need his bother. But he was bored. And reading through the night had made him slightly fidgety. Reweaving the Wards that protected his room from prying, he slammed the door shut behind him and headed towards what appeared to be a gathering commotion.

 

"So what's going on here?" Skechid enquired as he stepped into the circle of activity around 2 men who seemed to be at the centre of it. Skechid waved away the salutes, fists to chests. One of the men had a shard embedded in his cheek, blood poured down his face into rivulets. "Is that something that needs tending to, or are you capable of settling it?"

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The other man's tone implied... interesting things, but before Rhys could reply to them, a much more senior Asha'man arrived. He hadn't wanted to gain the attention of a Storm Leader. Resisting the urge to wilt at his words, Rhys squared his shoulders and faced the other man.

 

"I was working on a research project, Storm Leader. The results were less than ideal, but should provide good data." He pulled his hand away from his cheek, hoping that the flow of blood had mostly staunched itself.

 

He kept himself parallel to the first man to join him, hoping that any could keep any fall out from landing on the good Samaritan.

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"Interesting." The word slipped out of Skechid's mouth as he let himself feel the residues of Saidin which had been woven. Clearly the newbie had beene xperimenting with Saidin and perhaps they had somehow stumbled upon something. That was quite common these days, considering the fact that so much was lost in terms of knowledge of the One Power. These so-called experiments were the only way they could learn more about Saidin and its uses. "Nonetheless, it is dangerous  to try weaves without proper instruction. You should be more careful."

 

Skechid gestured for the injured man to step forward. Laying his hands on the man's face, he channeled the usual weaves of Water, Spirit and Air, Healing the man's injuries with the basic weaves of Healing. "Just as well that he's been injured. This is called Healing. I don't really need to explain what the weave does, as you can see for yourself. Not all of Saidin is dark and destructive. Perhaps it would do you both good to learn some of the more positive aspects of the One Power." He stepped back as the man's finished convulsing, cheek now smooth as a baby's behind. "I am Skechid, Storm Leader and Head of the Black Tower Infirmary. Pleased to meet you both."

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[[ always welcome - the more the merrier :) ]]

 

There was a strong voice behind him and Nox's eyes immediately went to the ground and he turned around and stood with his hands behind his back.  He didn't like the tone the new man had immediately taken with him.  He was some Soldier nor was he Dedicated.  He'd earned both pins.  Yes he could use lessons in a great many things but he was not a child.  The anger and fury coiled inside of him but he kept his exterior cool.  Years of practice when the johns and janes were cruel.  Money was money and for Al'tar the more he made the better off Nox was.  Al'tar hadn't sampled many of his own offerings but he enjoyed torturing Nox.  

 

Rhys was more than happy to speak first and Nox only added, though rather quietly, "I was only helping."  But the Storm Leader called Rhys over and the moment he grabbed Saidin Nox's raised his eyes to watch what was going to happen.  Nox had been healed many times.  Injuries in the weapons training were common, and sometimes some of the newer boys and men had a problem when they found out where Nox had come from.  He'd been kicked a time or two for liking men, and a time or two for being a whore.  All the while they shouted at him to stay away from them and their wives.  Like it was my choice.  No one ever bothered to ask why?  Adrim had.  Adrim had helped him when few others saw nothing more than the whore he'd come up as.

 

When Rhys' cheek was healed Nox noticed the ring of gawkers.  Some watching to see if the frilly lace boy would fall into Nox's bed he was certain as they never made a move to help Rhys.  They were all Soldiers and Dedicated, the Asha'man were all much too proud to be seen doing what the lower ranks were.  Nox knew his name.  And he offered his own.  "Nox, sir.  This is Rhys."  Nox stood straighter and pulled his coat down.  "Both, full Asha'man sir."  He almost added - see the pins, but he decided his smart mouth would only get him in trouble.  And Adrim would be angry if he got in trouble - again.

Edited by Matalina

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Rhys settles into his solid stance when Nox speaks. It's an interesting name, and the man who bears it seems layered. It startled Rhys to realize how many people were watching them. A number of Dedicated and Soldiers even... some of them he had begun teaching the theories of trade. The rules of trade in a village market are the same as the laws of trade between nations, just scaled for quantity.

 

Some of the young men didn't understand why they needed to learn these things, but there were a few bright minds who soaked in every bit of knowledge Rhys could give them. He wasn't an expert, by any means, but he was the son of a Councilor of Far Madding, the former Husband of another merchant of Far Madding. He knew what he was talking about when it came to trade.

 

He could see the smirks on some of their faces. He would have to re-establish his authority with them. Setting that aside, he focused on Nox and the Storm Leader. "The positive aspects are exactly what I am investigating, Sir, in my time between teaching the Soldiers and Dedicated. I have made interesting progress on rediscovering how to craft ter'angreal. If nothing else, I have developed several useful weaves even though I have not yet figured out how to imbue the weaves into an object."

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"Recrafting ter'angreal?" Skechid whispered with an upturned brow. Was that even possible? Of course, it was simple and common place in the Old Age, but these days few had the ability to even study those relics much less make them. Skechid's own Talent with Healing was marveled to be rival to what was done during the Age of Legends, but so far with ter'angreal... "How many of these items have you studied so far? We are far from being archived in terms of our own ter'angreal store. Light knows someone could afford to tidy it up. Perhaps you would be keen to check them out? WIth supervision of course." Skechid was sure Arath would have no issues since the M'hael hardly dealt with common place issues such as stores.

 

Skechid wove a Gateway and gestured for the two men to follow him. "The ter'angreal store holds many items of Power, collected from various sources. I, myself, have only looked through some of them. Many have uses unknown to us... would you be keen to look at them together?"

 

The Gateway opened up to a dark cavern, guarded by 2 Ashaman who saluted the Storm Leader hurriedly. They were not expecting visitors. But their dangerous stance spoke of ready defense and no games. Weaving Spirit to unwind the Ward that guarded the gate to the cavern, Skechid led the two others in.

 

((Sorry for slightly slower responses as I live in ASia and the time difference means I sleep when you post and vice versa))

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Ter'angreal.  Nox had no such desires.  No such aspirations.  Building things with the One Power was different, but ter'angreal that was using the power to use the power.  Kinda, sorta.  Nox didn't understand it.  It was complex.  The theory involved hurt his head.  But the gateway opened and they were being lead into a cavern full of things of power.  

 

The two men at the entrance were on the ready and only slightly relaxed once the Storm Leader opened the ward.  That was worth coming for.  Not the undoing the ward, but seeing it in person, knowing how it worked.  That was something Nox could understand.  He had no talent for healing, and no talent for making ter'angreal.  He didn't even have a talent for traveling.  His only talent was his penchant need to know the minute details every place he was in.  To know every exit, every nook to hide in, every shadow and every place there might be valuables stashed.  But mostly it was his anxiety that did that.  Order was paramount.

 

And here inside this cavern full of items of power Nox shuddered.  The disarray of the things, strew across the cavern floor discarded wherever. Crates of items spilling over the edges.  Nothing was organized and Nox could feel the distress rising, the anxiety making his heart speed up.  Nox wasn't sure why he was here...  But now that he was, if he was going to stay he was not going to be able to let this sit in disarray.  But Nox stood in place, hands clasped behind his back, left grabbing the right wrist and squeezing - almost to the point of losing feeling in both hands.  It was all he could do to not touch anything until instructed.  This was not going to go well.  He couldn't study these things.  He couldn't do anything here... why was he here?

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Rhys was thrilled at the way things were progressing. Being invited to 'tidy up' the stores of ter'angreal in the Stone of Tear. Light! He quickly gathered his pen, ink and journals, and followed the Storm Leader through the Gateway.

 

There were two Asha'man on duty, guarding the holding, but Rhys only had eyes for what came next. He studied the ward the Storm Leader unwove, and then when the doors opened, his eyes leapt from item to item. Their disarray was distressing, but there was so much potential here.

 

"Do you have a preference on organizational patterns? I would think by size and shape... if only we knew their purposes."

 

Rhys' body was tense, like a racehorse at the gates, ready to burst into action, waiting for the command. He was only just aware that Nox did not share his manic energy, but he could discuss that later with the other Asha'man. Perhaps over dinner. It would be nice to sit and get to know someone, yes... dinner and wine.

 

He kept his eyes on the Storm Leader now, waiting for instruction.

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Skechid looked at the two men before him. He sensed eagerness in one and slight distress in the other. He could empathise with both, since his own first impression of the store was one of intrigue and shock. Intrigue because he could remember feeling the resonance of Saidin in the place and it throbbed. And shock because he never realised there were so many of these relics.

 

"Ter'angreal are dangerous. No less dangerous than a knife in a baby's hand, so it would do you good to not be too eager. Many of these items are unknown for their usage and purpose and there have been instances of... accidents." As their eyes grew accustomed to the dark gloom of the cavern, they could make out deep gashes and chunks of rock that had been blasted off the walls. Here and there there were remnants of broken pieces of... something. Best not to look too close. "First of all, let's get some ground rules straight. There is not to be any channeling in this place, under any circumstances. No touching of anything unless I give you permission and definitely no handling of anything that is marked with a barricade." There were a couple of those. And Light only knew what they did, but Ashaman before them had done... experiments, and the results were not kind.

 

"I want you to start with this pile." He gestured to an old box that was frayed at the edges and held a couple of odd looking things. "You can touch these and feel them for whatever you can describe and tell me what you feel or what you think it can do. And we will progress from there."

 

((I'm thinking of hunting darkfriends, interested? Probably someone evil trying to steal ter'a greal somewhere. I'm bored. Just suggesting. FIghting's always more fun.))

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Rhys does not waste any time. He rolls his sleeves back, tucking the lace in so it won't get in his way, and he begins lifting objects out of the pile.

 

At first, he does not bother with sorting. He is moving them so as to spread them out so he can actually see what is there. The objects run a gamut, from simple every day shapes and objects like cups and vases, even a knife, to the more complex and complicated things, like statues and one bizarre miniature fishing net, complete with weights. The lines seemed to be made of silver and the weights of something harder than simple glass.

 

A slow grin spread across Rhys' face as he felt the resonance within the objects. Some were strong, while others were barely echoes of the fiery battle of holding saidin. None seemed to really speak to a purpose to him... just power.

 

Quickly, Rhys was absorbed in his own world, not paying attention to the other Asha'man there with him.

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Nox watched as Rhys got straight to work.  They were told to work with one pile but Nox didn't think that was the best place to start.  He didn't want to learn, he wouldn't be able to do anything in this room.  The chaos was earth shattering.  He looked to the Storm Leader who probably wouldn't understand.  No one understood.  Adrim barely understood.  He was more adjusted to Nox's phobias - his quirks and kinks.  

 

The room set him on edge.  And he was frozen in the dim light of the torches.  He wanted to help, to put order to the chaos, but he didn't know where to sort.  The power of the objects all called to him, but he couldn't even begin to think about touching them.  Not so anxious, not so volatile.  He knew his limits.

 

Nox screwed his eyes shut and counted.  Five things he could see.  Nox didn't open his eyes but he knew the storm leader stood watching.  There were more than enough objects to count but Nox focused on the order in the room.  Rhys with his black coat and white lace was off to his left working.  The torches flickered  casting their wavering light.  It was hard to pick just two other things.  So Nox left it at that, there were two piles of things he had noticed at first glance but he didn't go further.  The piles only increased his anxiety instead of lessening it.  Four things he could touch.  His fingers immediately darted to the cuff of his black coat, up the middle to finger the buttons along the side.  both hands touched each pin at his neck in succession and he ran his fingers through his hair absently.  Three things he could hear.  There was a small drip in the back of the cavern... drip drip drip.  With a little focusing he could hear each of the men breathing, and Rhys was putting objects down and moving on to the next.  Two things he could smell.  The cave was damp and musty filled with the smoke from the torches.  Nox lifted his coat sleeve to his nose and covered it while taking a deep breath.  He'd built into the sleeve for this very purpose a pouch to carry dried herbs and plants today's version was cinnamon sticks he'd taken from Adrim's room when the first Aes Sedai had come to the Farm.  And 1 something he could taste.  Nox smiled at the thought of kissing Rhys and wondered what the man might taste like.  

 

But he pushed the thought away.  It wasn't a good idea to think such thoughts of a man he hardly knew nor was it proper to actually pursue a man that was here at the farm.  They were all rather dangerous if their wives caught you or their lovers or whatever.  It was best to stay away from them when you were at home.  And this was as home as Nox was ever going to get.

 

Nox opened his eyes and took a deep cleansing breathe.  The dust in the room made him choke but he set to work.  Unlike Rhys Nox wasn't trying to understand them.  If the Storm Leader asked Nox would tell him the truth, but now he was set to organizing.  Though he didn't know their purpose nor did he care.  He took the items Rhys had already touched.  "I'll sort.  You study."  Nox said as he took the piece from Rhys that he was currently discarding.  His fingers brushed the other mans and Nox smiled before he grabbed another item by the top with careful fingers.  Nox made sure his fingers touched as little of each item as humanly possible to carry the items without dropping them.  He didn't want to make any mistakes.

 

[[ sounds like fun.  I have no plans just going with the flow. ]]

 

 

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Rhys was slightly startled when Nox volunteered to help. The other young man seemed... on edge... but the tips of Nox's fingers grazed Rhys' wrist, and Rhys was glad for the flickering light that might hide his blush. Since his return to the Farm, after walking home from Arafel, he had not found anyone interesting, or interested, in a more intimate kind of friendship. Perhaps Nox would be interested... or perhaps he was trying to sound out Rhys' weaknesses and habits... who knows what lies in the minds of asha'man.

 

He turned to the Storm Leader. "This statue, Storm Leader, has a weak resonance... but it seems to hold depth." The statue was of black stone and shaped like a lion in mid-roar. 

 

[[I'm into whatever. Lead on!]]

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Skechid nodded coldly to himself as the two other Black coated men began their work. He peered into the darkness of the cavern. The cave lookd ancient, carved by water that has since receded when the area was affected by the Breaking. The late Storm Leader who had found the cavern was a personal friend of Skechid's, one of the first few Ashaman who had joined the Black Tower during it's founding. But he was long gone. The Taint had taken him and Skechid had been the one to administer the poison. Even though it had happened a long time ago, the memory still burned him. Too many had been lost. And too soon.

 

His attention was distracted by a movement in the shadows. Somewhat like a flickering of a torch but...

 

"Who goes there?" Skechid bellowed as twin daggers appeared in his hands. The other two men looked up in alarm, but Skechid ignored them. His eyes scanned each shadow and tried to map it against what he remembered when they first entered.

 

There.

 

The first dagger flung missed a moving form narrowly and clicked off a stlagtite harmlessly. But Skechid was already moving. In his mind, Saidin sang to him. But it was too dangerous to channel here and indeed, it took every ounce of his will to not give in to the song of the One Power.

 

"Well, well, well... if it isn't the Healer of the Black Tower." Skechid spun and almost caught the figure that appeared behind him in the chin. But the other man moved fast and avoided it easily.

 

Shadows melded together and now there were six other men in the cavern. Three behind Skechid and his two and another three blocking the entrance.

 

"Karavin." Skechid hissed between clunched teeth as he felt the Shield slide into place. His own strength in the Power meant nothing when the other man was holding on to a figurine of a bird in flight... an angreal of average strength. But it meant that Karavin was incapable of channeling much more, since he barely matched Skechid's strength with the angreal. "What is it you're up to?"

 

"Mmmm... I'm not sure who sent you here, Storm Leader, but whoever it is was foolish. This store belongs to me and I intend to use it for my own purposes. To fight the dark and take over the role of the M'hael. I will birng glory to the Black Tower. And you've come on a rather inconvenient day. Of all days to decide to visit this place."

 

Skechid could hardly believe his luck. Of all days.  It meant they had been doing this for a while. "Let us go." He suddenly recognised two of the men as the guards of the cavern. Bloody fools.

 

"No. Let's play a game. If you can fight us all and live... you win. If you die... well... you lose." Karavin grinned. "Sadly, my coronies here are too new to use Saidin in this cavern, barely able to light a candle unassisted, but still... I bet they're capable of so much more."

 

Skechid knew that the other Ashaman had better sense than to channel when surrounded by such items of Power, so perhaps they had a chance. But even as he tightened his hands on his dagger, he could feel the Shields on both of his other men. He wondered who held the Shields, but he knew they would be able to do little whilst holding it. Perhaps they had a chance.

 

He barely had time to react when the fight began. This was going to be one of those days...

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Nox wasn't sure what was happening.  One moment things were going well.  Rhys was busy with the items bringing his attention to items.  Nox sorting all the items into rows.  He listened to what Rhys said before things got crazy.  Men surrounded them.  Even the two at the door.  

 

The power fled his reach, not that he had tried more than touching it.  He knew better, but it was such a temptation now that there was danger.  The shadows were deep and they were outnumbered.  Nox grabbed Rhys shoulder and pulled him in the direction of the shadows while the others seemed more focused on the Storm Leader - probably thought he was more dangerous.  He let the man do what he thought best but that was the only indication he'd given he was going to play a much more dangerous game in the darkness.

 

Nox didn't have a weapon on him.  Other than the One power.  Two of the men followed them into the rock formations that created the shadows.  One of them called out.  "How cowardly of you.  I'd heard that about you, Nox.  Adrim's little lap dog."  

 

The other man laughed.  "His little bitch more like it."

 

Their taunts weren't new.  He'd heard so many over the years they thought they were being original.  Nox had heard them all.  But he said nothing despite the anger rising in his blood.  He hated people who thought they were better than him.  

 

Nox reached into the void like he would grab the One Power, but it was still not there.  Not that he needed it.  The world became one with him.  The shadows were less dark.  He wasn't adept at fighting hand to hand in the ring, but he had been in enough fights in his youth that brawling was easy.  And now that he had actual training, that brawling was not quite so useless and pathetic as it had been when he was a child.

 

The two following him split up to try to corner coral him, but Nox moved deeper into the shadows luring them into the darkness and the tight rock formations worked to his advantage.  For a change being slim was a good thing.  Nox hid in the shadows between two rocks towering high above his head.

 

One of them passed him and Nox reached out as he snuck past his hands around his neck and his arm over his mouth and nose.  There was a muffled yell as Nox used all his weight to pull the man backwards so he could get a better hold on him. He squirmed and fought Nox, but as the air from his lungs began to burn he started to struggle less until he was lying still on the ground.  Nox checked for a pulse before moving him into the shadows deeper.  He hoped he didn't run into the other guy too soon.

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Everything changed so quickly. One moment they were working calmly together, the next Nox was pulling him into the shadows. 

 

Rhys rolled his eyes while this... Karavin... monologued like the cad in one of the penny novels back in Far Madding. He couldn't tell from here, but Rhys was sure that the fool even had a thin mustache that he could twirl. The fools taunting Nox only added to the imagery.

 

When Nox stalked off into the darkness, Rhys did not stand still. He held himself calm and quiet, wrapping the Void around his shoulders and mind like a cloak. The light of saidin pulsed just out of sight, but Rhys forced himself to ignore it. Drawing deeply in this place might cause any of the artifacts to surge to life, or it might create a loop of power, forcing too much saidin through the mind and heart of any of the men in the room, burning their talent out and possibly snuffing their life.

 

With quiet steps, Rhys stalked through the rows of objects. He had no weapons with him, having gone immediately from his experiments to this cavern. He wasn't very comfortable with blades or staves anyway... he'd learned to brawl here at the Tower, and these men were going to learn it. 

 

A loud thumping noise indicated a fight off to one side, away from where The Storm Leader stood... Rhys approached from an oblique angle, stepping in behind another Asha'man... this one was a younger fool. Barely in his 20s and believing that his aggression made him stronger. Rhys slammed his fist hard into Delmar's kidney, then wrapped his other arm around the fool's neck, pulling him to the ground. One hand covered Delmar's eyes and most of the rest of his face... most men believed they had to be able to see to channel. Delmar was one of those.

 

The fool was full of the power, but the weaves just would not form correctly for him. Rhys chuckled as he forced a lace handkerchief into Delmar's mouth, and within moments the other man stopped struggling. When Delmar had been still for a full count of 60, Rhys released him from the grapple and quickly bound his wrists and ankles with his own belt. The handkerchief went over his eyes to make a blindfold.

 

When he was done, Rhys looked to see if anyone had noticed what he had done. His eyes searched the dark for Nox first, then for the Storm Leader.

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Skechid surveyed the scene as the commotion cleared. The other two could clearly handle what was needed and Skechid's own twin daggers disappeared into his sleeves. Not many knew the danger of his Adderstings, but one slight cut of the blade would mark the end of a life. Skechid's own face darkened as the rogue Ashaman Karavin seemed to shimmer in the hot air and disappear.

 

"What in the Light?" Skechid heard himself whisper. That was not a known weave and something told him that it was not exactly something taught by the Black Tower. Nor could he feel the residue of the weave. But the man was clearly gone. "Round up our prisoners and let's go. I don't want another surprise."

 

With dark thoughts in his head, Skechid stepped out into the sunlight and waited for the other two.

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The darkness was inviting.  Heart pounding.  Too much adrenaline for the chaos to take hold with a panic attack.  It was one reason why he'd kept the lift he did.  Why trouble lurked around the corner.  If he was too busy to think he couldn't worry about the chaos of the room.

 

Nox smiled when he saw Rhys in the shadows.  He wasn't hurt but he was full Asha'man, no need to worry.  These others had been fools.  the Storm Leader told them to round up their prisoners.  Nox sighed and grabbed the arms of the one he knocked out and dragged him out of the room before he bound him with weaves of air.  He'd have added some fire to make it hurt, but that wasn't becoming.  And Adrim would probably chide him.  

 

The cool air of the external cavern felt nice against his heated skin.  He had to keep thinking about the task ahead.  He didn't want to spiral down now.  It was never a good idea.  Nox prayed that the Storm Leader didn't ask him to interrogate the goatherders.  That wasn't him.  He was probably already late for his shift in Tear.  

 

Anxiety started to override the events of the past few moments.  He needed fresh air, needed to see the sky and maybe find a comforting place to hide for a few moments...

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Rhys' draw dropped when the Traitor seemed to shimmer away like a mirage over the lake. It didn't look like he had woven saidin at all, or if he had, the weave had been too quick for Rhys to catch.

 

He helped Nox to gather their new prisoners, and tried to catch the other man's eye with a reassuring smile. Quick action like this can unsettle some men, and Nox seemed to be near an edge... his eyes moved quickly.

 

Out in the main cavern, Rhys addressed the Storm Leader. "Shall we take them back to the Tower, or is there somewhere else you'd rather, sir?"

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