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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Phelix

Practice (OPEN)

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The room was cavernous, with vaulted ceilings leaving plenty of room for weaves and maneuvering. This room had been used for thousands of years by Greens and Reds developing their battle skills. The walls were strengthened with the One Power much the way the walls of the city had been to prevent the structure of the building being damaged, no matter what weaves the women inside worked. The floor had a thick layer of rock and earth placed over smooth stone to allow practice with the weaves men were most likely to use.

 

Today, Elin had reserved the room for her own practice. She had not done so in years, since she was new to the Ajah, but if she was going to travel with Jagen Sedai, she would have to be prepared for anything... even the men they bonded using the Power against them. 

 

Elin shuddered at that thought. She was weak in the Power, even among women, and all of the records and the older sisters who had experience hunting down rogue men said that most men were stronger than the average woman. Whomever she bonded was likely to be much stronger than she was. If there were dangers... if men attacked them wielding saidin, Elin would not be able to match them strength for strength, so she must be smart about things.

 

First, she wove a shield. That weave came to her easily as it was commonly practiced among the Red. She let it dissolve. Embracing the Source, she wove a shield and a flow of spirit, sharpening it and wielding it like a blade. Elin let one blade disappear and wove another as quickly as she could. 

 

Weaving the Mask of Mirrors, Elin created a strawman version of an Asha'man, and she began an exercise. Most channelers settle into a rhythm when they fight, weaving as quickly as they can, but usually finalizing each weave on the same beat. Some weave quickly, throwing a completed weave every third heartbeat. Others take longer, weaving every fifth. Slow, clumsy channelers take ten beats or longer. 

 

Unskilled channelers have physical gestures that can be tells for their weaving. Some twitch their eyes in the direction they weave. Others wag their fingers. Sisters of the Red were taught to watch for those signs, it's rare that a man or woman can create false tells. 

 

Elin set her illusion to moving, mimicking the tells of a real man, and she began to react to the "weaves" "he" was throwing.

 

As she warmed up, she refused to allow her body to sweat, ignoring the heat in the room, the heat of exercise. She altered her weave, causing the illusion to move and walk, and she began to dart and weave, moving against the illusion's motion.

 

Elin had her focus entirely on the illusion and her practice against it, paying no attention to the entrance to this practice room.

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Rory was gone. Saline felt as if part of herself had been taken away, some part holding up her courage like a prop. With Rory, to a degree impossible even within her own ajah, Saline had come to feel a sense of togetherness so strong it was easier to think 'we' rather than 'I'. 

 

But the green sister had left something behind. Saline laid in her bed, thinking of her best friend, her confidence, her strength, the feelings she stirred up. It was that strong bitter memory of Rory which she would keep, remembrance . . .

 

Her world, her life, had changed greatly of late, with the rise of the amyrlin and the consequent alteration of their preparations. It was only proper that she changed with it. A new time.

 

Jagen Sedai and other sitters of the hall had made up their mind to visit the black tower and allow aes sedai bond the male channelers. 

 

This made some of her sisters very excited. 

 

Saline was not. It made her think of Corwin. 

 

When she and Corwin traveled to the borderlands, he was already gone, mad from his loss, his sadness for Eleanor Sedai, doubly so for the loss of his bond, of his will to survive. Still, Corwin upheld his duty and protected her on their journey to confirm Rory’s death, and for that Saline was in the warder's debt.

 

It also made her afraid. Saline’s job when she chose red was to find and fight men who could channel. But she had not known about bonds, then. Reds didn't bond warders. Because she met Corwin, she had seen that loss of a bond was something serious. The trade-off for gaidin, such buffs as strength and long life, did not seem fair once his partner died. Corwin's stoic despair recalled to Saline's mind another memory, that of a gentled man she once took care of with Faile Sedai . . .

 

After her return, Saline had prepared a list, a stack of books. She had read them all. Then read them again. Swallowed the teachings and ideas, feeling much improved in her learning, as a person. But even after reading all those books, however long she looked, none of them had answers to still her doubts.

 

Both towers faced dangerous situations. Can such a bond be kept intact? If not . . .

 

If aes sedai bonded with an asha’aman, what happens to the other when one dies? 

 

The next day, Saline stepped into the vault of the training room there. She had not slept well; her face staring back in the looking glass had looked terrible. Saline needed to practice with some gnarly weaves in earth she had certain aptitude for, was helpless in holding on, wanting to drill, drill, drill until her body remembered. But it seemed like this training room was in use already. Saline wondered if she should wait. 

 

Then she saw them.

 

Illusionary shadows surrounded the aes sedai. They danced with her weaves, over asymmetric shards of rock and earth. Some of the intact blocks of the chamber were rearranged into slabs, and not randomly by blasts. It provided a smooth surface for Saline to step forward into the room to face Elin.

 

Saline Wastrel

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah

 

Ooc: Nice to meet you! Saline is young- seventy years, returned from borderlands. A taraboner, braided hair, rosebud mouth. She's strong in earth but not other elements. Wants to practice with Elin since the illusions are already there, if that’s ok.

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OOC: Perfectly fine! Elin is short and pale, with dark hair. She's young, only in her late 30s, and is mostly strong in Spirit. She's weaker than the average sister, but her skill is decent.

 

Elin paused for a break, keeping her breathing calm and steady, when she noticed the other sister taking a ready stance in the practice room. The woman looked familiar, but Elin couldn't put a name to her. "Hello sister, would you like the room for your own use or shall I adjust the illusion to address the both of us?"

 

She hoped for a shared practice, hoping to see the measure of the other woman. If the White Tower was beginning a public relationship with the Black Tower, it would be important that every sister be prepared for violence. Even with the best of intentions, some of the men had to be mad... and mad men almost always used the Power for violent means.

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Ooc: Yes! Please let me know if anything needs to be edited. :smile:

 

Without even breaking stride, Saline watched as the pale, lithe woman of startling beauty sparred with her illusions, radiating presence and confidence; this one danced with so many. Her face had not yet lost completely its frailty of youth to agelessness. Saline was amused to see that the illusionary shadows didn’t conceal their tells — certain gestures copying channelers of the flesh. Then the figures vanished like smoke; the illusion broke.

 

The woman became aware of Saline's approach. She had stopped channeling and looked up. “Hello sister, would you like the room for your own use or shall I adjust the illusion to address the both of us?” asked the aes sedai, her voice perfectly calm.

 

“Quite a trick,” Saline said. Her accent was the very softest end of tarabon. Her lips were as red as the shawl covering her simple dress. “I tried to learn it once, in the hope it might impress my teachers. You have great skill with illusion. What’s your name?”

 

Elin. Elin. So many new names and faces to remember.

 

“My name’s Saline. Yes, I would like you to help me practice. I’m a little rusty."

A smile crossed her face, thinned by care. 

 

“Start as you’re ready. Does that sound good?” she asked.

 

“Good,” she said, nodding when she felt Elin draw on saidar

 

Across the large room dark figures stood, grim, silent, watching them. Mist fumed around them, battleground vapor for masking movement. The black figures didn’t come any closer, so she chose an intricate weave which took time to prepare.

 

She wove strands of earth and fire - twisted them together, quickly and skillfully. She’d done it a thousand times before. She could have done it blindfold. Each flow fell and wound into place.

 

The nearest figure lunged forward at Saline.  

 

“Oh good," she murmured, having miscalculated; she wasn’t expected the enemy to make a move so soon. Her little project was nearly done. Should she abandon it to protect herself?

 

There was a loud crack, and the shadow’s head exploded in a clap of light. It was so bright and quick it hurt her eyes. Enemy flows, the dark figures began to whip their way, slipping through the strands of air and spirit shielding them both. 

 

“Thanks,” Saline said appreciatively, still savoring the feel of saidar. There were things on her mind. Her anxious thoughts about what awaited them. Her trepidation about the upcoming battle. Doubts. In contrast, the other looked unperturbed. “You seem untroubled, if I may say so. I can only suppose it is because you have done this so many times before?"

 

“Elin, I want to try something,” she warned the other, readying the combat weave upright in her hand, and then swung around, alerted by a sound from behind her. Her mortar charges began to catch off and explode. Fragments of splintered stone were hurled up into the air on spurts of fire. A stray stone flew in her face and she slapped it away with a thin thread of air. Saline stepped back into the bellowing smoke, hastily constructed a raised platform of earth and air on which she observed the effects of her handiwork. These blasts made the smoke and dust swirl around curiously, like ripples on water. Then she saw the shapes moving towards them in the smoke ahead.

 

Saline shot two of her explosive stones at another figure who charged at her, then ducked another blow. She barely spared a side glance at Elin who fended off the others on her own, accurately reading and countering each attack. 

 

In this exciting way, she and her sister introduced and pushed themselves until the dark figures vanished again.

 

Saline Wastrel

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah

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Elin gladly began the weaving, increasing the complexity of the attacks, adding more figures. She was stretching her skills to create these weaves, but by relying on patterns and natural variations, she was able to give them a strong semblance of real danger.

 

Once she had the weave set with its cascading patterns of action and reaction, she made sure that the new sister, Saline Sedai, had begun her exercise, and then Elin joined in again, tackling the men Saline chose to leave.

 

It took effort not to be distracted by Saline's greater strength and the weaves she used. Where Elin cut and slashed like a knife duelist in Ebou Dar, Saline's weaves were more like a swordsman in battle. It was quite impressive. Especially the other woman's strength with Earth. Elin could never have replicated those weaves.

 

In a lull of the 'battle', Saline spoke, “You seem untroubled, if I may say so. I can only suppose it is because you have done this so many times before?"

 

"No, sister, I am relatively new to the Shawl. So new that I haven't had time for any of these weaves to get rusty from when they were taught to me by sisters of the Ajah. I simply know that I must be prepared if I am to join Jaglen Sedai on her mission to the Black Tower. If I must be prepared, there is no room to doubt or be afraid." Elin spoke with clear tones, keeping her passion in check.

 

Later, when Saline raised a platform of Earth while exploding stones and creating a duststorm, it was all Elin could do not to stare. Any one of those things was beyond her, yet Saline achieved them all with ease.

 

After the hours passed, Elin began to grow weary. The illusions were tied into their pattern, so maintaining them had not drained her, but the constant dance of weave and counter weave had been hard work.

 

Elin watched until Saline was at a natural pause in her own fight, then Elin paused the illusions, holding their weave in place. 

 

"Sister, would you object if I ended the practice session now? If you do not object, I have some questions I would ask you as well." Elin waited to hear what the elder Red decided.

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“Sure,” Saline said, smiling. She was very happy with the fit of her new dress, even more happy with her training. Elin’s control over her illusions was impressive; her skill allowed them to practice against attackers that moved quickly, intelligently. 

 

And it was good being active. Confinement and idleness allowed minds to stagnate; anxieties to fester . . . 

 

The ringing of a bell marked the passage of time. “Shall we eat lunch and then talk? That is, if you’d care to join me.” She didn’t have the strength to go back to her room, shower, and then have to come back out.

 

Saline walked beside Elin, out of this training room and turned the corner. Then they went down the stairs - Saline taller, leading the way; the other sister followed.

 

Below the training hall, there was an extensive warren of arched stone passages, vaulted training rooms, pantries, larders and wine cellars. Saline took Elin through a passage, then turned left through to the one of the tower's kitchens. Lamps had been lit here. The kitchen was busy with noise - filled with heat and steam and the smell of roast meat and herbs - the pot girls, cooks and servants sat talking and relaxing in the cool entrance, beaded with sweat, as they took their breaks from cooking, cleaning, and between serving. 

 

"We can help ourselves," Saline held up her hand as the conversations in the kitchen stopped, as the staff began to scrape back chairs and rise. “As you were.”

 

There was an earthenware pitcher of lemon water, and some freshly baked bread on the table. Saline carefully filled a tumbler on the table beside the pitcher and prepared a tray of toasted bread, cheese, butter; then they passed the servants into the long hall where only aes sedai ate. 

 

The hall was crowded and noisy like the kitchen they passed through. Conversation, laughter and the chink of glasses. Not counting the servants, there were sisters here, lingering over their late lunches, having kaf, sipping their teas. She even saw a few sisters drinking adult beverages, though it was midday. 

 

She sat down with her tray at one of the corner tables lit with glow-light. Saline took a sip from her glass - the water was cold and the lemon flavor refreshing. Satisfying.

 

“Now, is this place alright for our talk?” Saline looked at Elin. They could also stroll outside if it was a private matter. Their conversation would be overheard by eyes and ears outdoors, but less easy to do than inside the tower. However, here in this bright and noisy hall, there were many conversations, which was also an advantage, like hiding a tree in the forest.

 

“Before you ask me what you need to know, Elin please tell me this. Sitter Jagen’s trip to the black tower - what do you understand this mission to be about?” From her point of view it was a good chance to put aes sedai through a proper shakedown prior to real battle with other channelers. To note, if it turned to disaster, if this party had comprised of expendable, young bunch of sisters with little experiential value. But she was not prepared to inject that small dose of cynicism into a sister newly raised to the stole. Though more than twice Elin's age, Saline didn't consider herself to be wise from her lived experience. Worried, if anything.

 

Still, best make the most of this situation. She enjoyed the subject matter of Jagen’s field trip, and the other woman had brought up the topic first during their practice. Picking up her piece of bread, Saline waited for Elin's reply.

 

Saline Wastrel

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah

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Following Saline, Elin kept the shock showing from her face. Saline was very relaxed with the servants and all. But if the elder, stronger, sister felt that was the appropriate manner to hold, then Elin would not contradict her.

 

When they finally sat, with lemon water and a light luncheon, Saline spoke. “Before you ask me what you need to know, Elin please tell me this. Sitter Jagen’s trip to the black tower - what do you understand this mission to be about?” 

 

Elin took a sip of her water and gathered her thoughts. "The mission to the Black Tower is a nesting doll of purposes. On the surface, it is about building bridges between the two Towers so that we might work together against the Shadow. Beneath that, there is another purpose: to ensure that the men who live there, who have been afflicted by the Taint on saidin, are as safe as can be, and if they are not, that they are dealt with by sisters trained to do so. Below that purpose, there is another purpose, to learn if we can truly work together as Aes Sedai did in the Age of Legends. I am sure that there are further layers of purpose, if one chooses to dig more deeply, but these three are enough reason that I volunteered to join the Sitter's excursion."

 

Taking a break, Elin realized that she had let her tone become almost passionate, so took another sip of water before continuing. "I had intended to ask if you were going to be joining us on the mission... if you supported it." Elin let the sentence drop there, allowing the senior sister to decide if she chose to hear the question.

 

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“If you supported it.” Not one to be deflected, Elin pressed on. She had tossed the last part in for good measure. Saline breathed deeply; the petite woman seemed agreeable, and accommodating enough, but did not mince her words. Elin's question was two-fold; the first was easy enough to answer. As for the second half . . .

 

“I tell you what I’m going to do,” she said, leaning in close. “This mission, because of all the good reasons you say, it’s pretty vital. It's a chance for us to learn how to prevent another breaking, together with the other half of the power. Not going to lie, it’s dangerous too. But what I plan do on this mission is spend the time proving that we’re indispensable to both towers. As members of the red ajah, we’re going to prove our worth.” She dropped her voice. She didn't want her ajah to lose face by seeming divided in front of outsiders, as that would look weak; here they were a team. 

 

“There’s a slight problem I have with us bonding the men who channel though. It’s pretty widespread the effect of the taint on asha’aman. How can we bond potential madmen? Half of these young men are rushed through training like ticking time bombs, earning their silver pins and black coats before they learn properly to control their human urges. It’s heartbreaking. Even if the bonded aes sedai isn’t driven mad by her partner, it’d greatly incapacitate both people if we end up gentling one of the bonded pair - instead of having two useful allies we end up with liabilities- am I not right?"

 

Saline pulled a face. Remembering that time she linked before with an attack leader Arath and Lillian. Two aes sedai, one asha’aman. A basic circle. “Elin, linking’s a good practice to feel saidin. The taint, even second hand, is incredibly sickening. You should try it.” 

 

The taste of bread turned to dust in her mouth. She now lost what appetite the vigorous training brought, just thinking about that oily unpleasant sensation. Sudden chill prickled her arms, and she drew her red shawl closer. Her voice still low, she said “Here’s an idea. Why don’t we practice more together in the coming days?”

 

Saline Wastrel

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah

 

Edited by Lih-Lyh

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Listening to Saline Sedai's words, Elin nods and tries to catch the nuances. "I should very much like to try linking with a man. I have read the few records we have on the topic, but every record is clear in that the words are but a shadow of the experience."

 

She pauses. Saline had asked her opinion directly, but she had laid out her own... did the senior sister expect to be agreed with, or did she actually want Elin's opinion. After a small breath, Elin continued. "While I agree the bond between an Aes Sedai and an Asha'man might have unintended consequences, the benefits are significant. From what I have been told by sisters with warders, the bond creates a deep knowing of the other person. That connection would allow the sister to assess her partner's mental state. Determine how badly he has been affected by the Taint."

 

She keeps careful watch of the older sister's face now and kept her voice pitched to stay here at this table and not be heard by others nearby. "We would have to trust to each other, the Red sisters, to watch both the Asha'man and our own who have bonded them. Who else to watch for signs of spreading taint than the ajah that has guarded the world from it for three thousand years?"

 

"I would very much appreciate more time to practice with you. You have quite a bit of skill, and there is much I could learn from you." 

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Ooc: haha, this reminds me of watchmen's who watches the watcher? I've left it open for Elin to walk back to red ajah quarters or to part here. Thanks for the practice! :smile:

 

Saline nodded, and sipped her drink pensively. There was truth in what Elin said about the benefits to bonding. The bond provided a connection between two people who would share their intimate feelings though what was described to her as a messy ball of emotions. A clever woman could untangle this ball, gaining insight into what was madness and taint. This could be done, yes, at a very big cost to herself.

 

“Sensible. Linking with a man gives you a better idea whether you can put up with keeping the presence of saidin in your mind all the time. To see the black tower, to learn about it, to learn from the asha’aman, these are all things that will benefit us when we need to safeguard the world.” 

 

Saline wiped her lips with the back of her napkin and replaced it carefully on her lap before she said.

 

“What you say makes a lot of sense. If this mission led by our ajah goes well, Elin, it could mean a lot. It could mean a lot for our cause, but also for you, for me, and everybody who supported us. We’ve made our choices. We looked at the opportunity and decided to go to the black tower. All we could do is to make the best of that choice.”

 

“Naturally, our amyrlin and sitters of the hall have so many other missions to scrutinize and approve of, spread across many nations and peoples. This is just one push by the aes sedai, the watchers, amongst many, against the shadow. If we fail, it’ll dilute the effect of all previous missions; a failure here would need to be forgotten, to be seen as not directly strategic to prepare for the upcoming battle. If we succeed, however, it’ll make all the difference. Light knows, it may be you being there - keeping an eye on an abnormal situation at a critical moment - that could pull it off.”

 

“Always learning - that’s a good policy, I think.” Saline said solemnly. “I thank you for our time in practice, and our chat. Shall we arrange this time tomorrow, maybe?”

 

Hearing the younger sister’s reply, Saline got up. Her trust issues would have to wait. For now, she wanted a bath, followed by some more reading in her room. She reckoned they headed the same direction toward the red ajah quarters, though?

 

Saline Wastrel

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah

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