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The Weight of a Heron Marked Sword (ATTN: Kynwric)

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Heart racing, Edana rolled out of the way of the blade falling towards her head. She lifted her sword defensively to block the kill-shot to her skull, the hard stone floor bruising her knees as she scrambled for enough room to find her feet again. Something caught on her foot, and she tugged on it to pull it free, only to feel it tightly wrapped in whatever had caught it. She growled in frustration, unable to look away to see the cause as her attacker, a tall, dark haired swordsman with no small amount of skill, started swinging at her, again. She parried them all away, by the end, swatting at the sword to unbalance it as fatigued pulled at her arms. He hacked down on her, heavy blows that bore her to the ground as exhaustion took over her limbs and she dropped to the floor under them. She panted from exertion, sweat beading her brow, and a scream of frustration and pain filling her lungs as the blade came down one last time, pain exploding in her head.

Wish a gasp, Edana jerked herself awake, her fingers touching the pain in her forehead as she opened her eyes to take it in the room around her. It was her room in the barracks, a spartan space with very little furniture. She'd cracked her head on one of the four pieces she owned, a small set of drawers that stood next to her bed that contained her maintenance kits for her weapons and a few odds and ends she'd picked up over the last few years here in the Yard.  She cursed, realizing she'd fallen off the bed, the blanket she'd been sleeping under wrapped around her foot, trapping it. She eased it off her foot and rolled to sit on her backside, her knees bent and her forearms braced upon them. The moon glittered off of a blade laying on a table on the other side of the room and she grimaced, looking away quickly. 

 

It was a heron-marked sword. The smooth double edged blade was heavier than she liked her blades and the hilt was a hand and a half for a normal sized man. It wasn't balanced or fitted for a woman. It wasn't made for her. She'd taken it from a dead man three months ago. The nightmares had haunted her ever since. The Captain hadn't believed her capable of defeating a Blade Master and he'd questioned her and checked her story with Kynwric multiple times before giving up and accepting that she'd done what he'd considered impossible. She'd killed a Blade Master. 

 

She'd gotten lucky is more like it.  She'd never admit it to the Captain, but she felt like a fraud every time she held that sword. As if he knew it, the Captain required her to add it to her nightly kit while she was on duty. He said it gave hope to the others, that if Edana could manage it, anyone on that wall could do it, too. She had worn it every time she'd left this room ever since, mostly to rub salt in his wounds about it. He didn't have to know she felt like a fraud. It was bad enough she was living with it. 

 

She rubbed her eyes and looked out the window at the pitch black sky and sighed. There was no way she was getting back to sleep, now, and only one way to make sure she was exhausted enough to catch a nap before her shift on the wall came due. She rose and dressed quietly, taking time to wrap her legs to keep the pants from flapping on top of her boots and her forearms to keep her shirt from tearing under her vambraces. She laced her armor steadily, finally lifting the dreaded sword from the table and sliding it home into the sheath at her hip before walking out of her room, out of the barracks, and out into the yard to find a pell demanding death. The pells were far enough away from the sleeping quarters that she wouldn't wake anyone and maybe, just maybe, she could convince herself that she was good enough to have earned the sword she was using to destroy the thing. 

 

She stood in the moonlight, closing her eyes and feeling the air move around her. She pictured a stream, smoothly bending and moving along its banks and moved through sword forms without touching the pell in front of her. She made the movements more of a meditation, a function of breathing more than fighting. She searched for peace among the comfort of the shifts in muscle and weight and, when she found none, she stepped forward and brutalized the pell, instead. 

 

She heard movement behind her, but didn't stop until she was sure the movement was drawing closer. She turned, sword slashing in a flat arch from her hip to ward off whomever was wandering the Yard at this unfathomable hour. She pulled the shot short as Kynwric stopped just out of her reach. She straightened a bit awkwardly and slid the sword home again, swiping her hands at her face which bore the tell-tale tracks of tears she hadn't realized she was shedding. "Master Kynwric, to what do I owe the pleasure? Don't you have a wife to keep warm on a night like this?" 

 

~Edana

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"Bloody meeting, something big is happening and she's been dragged off into some 'it can't wait until a decent hour' meeting." Kyn replied as he stopped just at the very edge of Edana's range with that overlarge sword. "You should really get one of those that fits you, that one is a little big." He said as he examined the Pell on which she'd been practicing. He moved past the danger line andexami we the pell more closely, nodding or shaking his head depending on what he saw from the chunks that had been hacked away from it. "This one is done for," giving the pell a swift kick from an angle and falling it, "let's go get a drink."

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Edana watched him, without comment. She knew he'd be happier if Loraine decided to forget all about her oaths and duties in the Tower and let him find them a place to disappear for the rest of their lives. That his Aes Sedai showed no signs of doing that must rankle more than he'd like to admit. His examination of the pell drew her attention to the damage she'd wrought with the blade still clutched in her hands and she sighed. She'd destroyed the thing and couldn't remember a single swing she'd taken since she'd stepped out here. She flinched when he kicked it over and took a deep breath as she slid the blade awkwardly back into the sheath at her hip. "You know I have no problem finding the bottom of a mug as long as it's filled with something that doesn't make me toss cookies on the way down." 

 

She turned, moving out of the Yard, knowing his longer stride would catch up with her in a few steps. "Are you particular to a location or do you trust me to find a good one?" she asked without looking at him. She nodded to the guards as they passed out of the gate and into Tar Valon proper. "There's a little hole in the wall place that stocks good country drinks, not the swill they make here in the city. It's a few blocks towards the west gate and nestled in between storefronts so it is somewhat hidden except to those who know where it is. The Winged Horse, do you know it?" 

 

~Edana

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"Lead on, you're much better versed in watering holes than I am... and no, I do not think I'v ebeen to The Winged Horse before." Kyn said, as he took a few quick strides to catch up to Edana, leaving the yards behind and meandering through the side streets of Tar Valon. He almost hoped to be best upon by some street toughs or brigands, he knew Edana could use a straight up fight... and he wouldn't mind one either, considering all that was going on. Finally, he asked her a question, "First one, face-to-face?"

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Edana turned her feet towards the tavern, not really in any hurry to get there. She didn't realize until her spoke that she'd been hunting for a fight with every step she took. No one meet her gaze directly, so it must be obvious in her body language. She sighed and tried to relax, knowing she'd never really make it that far. "First one?" she asked, her own thoughts jumbled as she tried to make sense of his question. The sword at her hip seemed heavier, then, and she'd looked away before he could answer. "Oh," she said softly. "Yes." 

 

"I've killed men in battle, trollocs by the hundreds, rabbits, dark friends..." she sighed. "I've never fought anyone who simply believed they were right, though. At least, not since I left Camelyn." She'd thought her brothers were dead, but not by her hand. Not directly, anyway. Was that why this bothered her so much? 

 

Damn, she needed a drink, or a fight, or... She shook her head. No, she didn't need a man. She'd learned that lesson, already. Had the dress to prove it, too. No, a fight or a drink or both? Was it too much to ask?

 

~Edana

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"And never killed one." He nodded, knowingly. "Well, it won't be your last, that's for certain. And I meant what I said about getting a sword that fits you, that thing looks ridiculous, hang it on a wall or something." He pushed the door to the tavern open, letting her go first, he as still a farmboy from Amadacia, and she was still a woman, never mind how dangerous either of them were. 

 

He picked a table near a rowdy bunch, recognizing the need for Edana to punch something before she either inebriated herself, or well, found herself some comfort some other way. He always preferred punching things to inebriation, at least then you knew why you hurt the next day.

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Edana didn't answer, mostly because she didn't need to. She slid into a chair and waved to the barmaid, who hustled over, batting her eyes at Kynwric. Edana arched her eyebrow, watching to see if he even noticed. She ordered a bottle of whiskey, which made the girl double take before she hurried off again. "Does that ever annoy Loraine?" she tilted her head at the barmaid returning with her bottle and bustling back to fetch whatever Kynwric wanted. 

 

His answer was drowned out by the table behind her and their lewd comments about the barmaid.

 

"I bet she'd be good for a night."

 

"She prefers the big ones, fellas. That makes her mine..."

 

Ed tried to ignore them, but after setting a mug in front of Kynwric and winking at the much larger man, she was pulled backwards, off balance, and into a bulky sailor's lap behind her. She squalked and fought a their hands got familiar and Edana crackhead her neck, unbundled the sword belt, dropped it on the table and turned towards them swinging.

 

~Ed

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"Eh, does what even both Lor?" Then he glanced up at the barmaid who was batting her eyelashes at him, ordered his ale and sent the lass on her way. He was a little startled when the sailors pulled the barmaid into one of their laps and began to get friendlier than they should have, but he gave a grin as Edana unbuckled her sword belt and set about correcting them. He noticed the barkeep had taken up his cudgel and was about to come out from behind the bar, Kyn then stood up and raised his hand to the man, beckoning him to stop. it was unusual that anyone didn't immediately do what Kyn asked them to, and the barkeep was no exception even though he gave it a second thought before uneasily keeping an eye on the ensuing brawl. Kyn has hoped to get at least one drink served before Edana got in a fight, but if she needed it that badly who was he to stop her... he as glad he'd brought a full purse to take care of things. Absent-mindedly he reached down and picked up the sword and belt, making sure it didn't get scattered in what was sure to be a confounding mess very shortly. 

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The fight didn't last nearly long enough, they never do. The heavy set sailor pushed the barmaid away when he saw the fist flying and only hesitated a second when he saw Ed's braid swinging along with it. His friends were content to let him handle "the little wench" at first, but when she cracked a wood trencher across his face, they seemed to take umbridge to it and leapt to his defense.  They didn't seem to have any compunction about beating up a woman, and it made Edana laugh as they tried. They didn't even do the gentlemanly thing and come at her one at a time. They tried collaborative brute force, which Ed turned back on them with a duck here and a punch there. She tried to save the furniture, but it was obvious that these sailors had no such decorum. They crashed a table, busted up a chair, and even tried breaking a window. After playing with them for a few minutes longer, she sighed, deciding that the damage was bad enough, nabbed the coin purse off one man's belt and tossed it on the bar, then tossed all three miscreants into the street outside the tavern a smile only slightly lifting her busted lip.

 

"Jackenape got a lucky shot in," she muttered, grabbing an upended chair with her free hand and setting it right. The barmaid reached for Kynwric's arm and clung tightly and Ed just laughed and dropped back into her chair, poured a few fingers of whiskey and returned the stare of some other patrons in the tavern. "Keep your hands to yourself or you'll be next," she glared at them, emptying the glass and tossing a nod at the bartender, who put his cudgel away and counted the coins in the purse. Satisfied it was enough, he slid it in his apron and had two plates of a thick brothed beef stew delivered to the table, saying the kind sailors had been generous enough with their apology that there was enough to buy a meal or two. 

 

Ed downed another whiskey and winced as the liquor touched her lip, which had stopped bleeding, at least. "It's a sad day when even a trio of sailors can't satisfy the need for a good fight," she said, eyeing Kynwric. "Seems the wee lass has an eye for you, Master Kynwric..." 

 

She grinned over the rim of her glass and shook her head. "If she only knew, eh?"

 

~Edana

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"It's misplaced... she should be hanging all over you, you're the one who fought on her behalf. I just watched and enjoyed the show..."  He shook his head bemusedly, shooing the barmaid off to her work, and then he put the sword back on the table in front of Edana. "You need to pick better targets, they weren't even a challenge... and if you don't drop the Master crap I'll start in on you, Mistress Edana." he returned to his Ale, adding bites of the food they'd been brought in between.

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"Light preserve us all, don't give her any ideas. I have enough problems being a woman in breeches without adding other women to the mess," She grumbled, pouring and emptying her glass again before picking at the food. "And if you start calling me Mistress, I'll add your other titles in there, too. You think I don't know your wife is a Lady, noble-born? HA!" 

 

She didn't move to take the sword or address her targets. Any target was a good target, just then, even if they didn't satisfy her need to... what? She wrinkled her brow in thought, burying it in the trencher in front of her. Why did she feel the need to fight? What was it about that blasted sword that...

 

"I didn't earn it," she murmured, staring at the offending blade. "I shouldn't have beaten him." 

 

She needed to fight to prove she was good enough for that blade on her hip. None of the Masters of the Tower had believed her worthy of it and, yet, here she was, lugging it around with her everywhere.  It was a ballast, an albatross. She could see it now, so clearly. She poured her glass full and drained it again, the alcohol finally making her nose a little numb. She would never feel she had earned that sword. It had almost been her life's blood in that fountain. She hadn't bested him, she'd gotten lucky. It settled like a stone in her gut and she continued staring at the sword on the table. "I don't think having a better suited sword made for me will be enough to rid myself of that knowledge, Kynwric."

 

~Edana

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"Shouldn't, would't, couldn't as my mother used to put it. You did beat him, in a fair fight. You well know that things happen in a fight, you also know that taking advantage of those circumstances is also part of a fair fight." He picked up his mug and took a long pull from it, "Replay the fight in your head, did you just stand there and play forms with him? Or did you move, maneuver, and reinterpret the forms to fit the fight?"

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She refilled and,lifted her glass again, using the draining of it allow her time to think. She hadn't just stood there, forms were far from her thoughts as she fought him off, and she'd used her training on water to get the better of him. Why then did she feel like a fraud? Because he was dead by her hand? 

 

She sighed, setting the glass down with a few fingers still left. "I have reviewed every step, every breath, both while I was awake and asleep. Logic says you're right, that I bested him and that the sword is mine, by right." She swirled the whiskey in the glass without drinking it. "My conscience disagrees. I don't feel worthy of that sword. There are so many things I haven't learned or have only freshly learned. How is it possible to both earn the mark and still have so much left to do?" 

 

She took a drink and pulled the glass away without lowering it, looking at him over the rim. "And am I just being obstinate refusing to discuss bonding, now that I have it?"

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"Your conscience is wrong, and you should never stop learning, for the day you do that sword will pass to another. I still learn, practice, and worry that one day I'll not be good enough for whatever stands in front of me." He pause don the bonding comment, he knew what his bond meant to him, what it did for him, but he also knew it wasn't for everyone. "Refusing to discuss it, maybe. Refusal to commit to one, no. Bonds are serious, it is like having a wife... maybe more serious than having one."

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Edana snorted, shaking her head. "Every time I've been close to someone, they nearly destroy me trying to get away. I don't think I'll ever trust anyone that much, again." She took a slow drink. "I will protect them all, bonded or not. I swore my oath to protect the Tower, defend every single one from the newest recruit to the oldest Aes Sedai. More than that, though..." 

 

She shook her head and,set the glass down. "I am not sure I'd survive anything else." Sandre leaving had brought all of the defeated emotions to the fore again, the lash of pain so familiar to the betryal of her brothers. She eyed the blade, again, still laying on the table. They would claim she had beguiled the owner, somehow, and, thus, not have earned the blade. Was that why she had such a hard time accepting it? "I've never earned anything in my life that I wasn't degraded by those around me for. I've become accustomed to everyone thinking I'm not worthy, I suppose. It's hard to accept that maybe I am. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to be worthy of more. It only paints a larger target on your back..."

 

~Edana

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"Then perhaps a bond is not for you, I will defend a sister, as I would anyone. However, for Loraine, I will move heaven and earth to keep her alive. I would kill anyone, any where, any time. I would die to keep her alive even 5 more minutes. If it was needed, I would put her before family, before friends, before myself... and that is what it takes to be bound to a single Aes Sedai, in my view... I will say there are less, umm, dedicated Warders out there, though."

 

"How many heron-marked do you need to kill to feel you've earned that blade? 2? 3? You are worthy of it, I've seen you fight. I've fought you. Your skill is sufficient, your confidence is what seems to be lacking... and when you don't have the luxury of worrying about it, your skill shows its quality. Besides, who among those who would mock you could stand in front of you now? There might be a dozen in all of the Yard, many of those did not earn the Heron in combat, they were judged and deemed worthy. You earned it the harder path, and yes, you have a larger target painted on your back, it is the way of being what you are."

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Edema tilted her head at him, lowering her glass. "You would do most of that for her even if you weren't bonded, Kynwric. I can hardly use your bond as a measuring stick. Those kinds of relationships don't come around every day." She shook her head, then, looking down at her fingers curled around the glass.

 

"I don't know that my confidence will ever be such that I feel I've earned that blade. I'll wear it, though perhaps after having one more fitting my fighting style made, to pay my respects to the man who lost it. That it all. My father's sword held the same respect in my eyes, and maybe they both need to occupy more space on my wall than in my head." 

 

She raised her glass again. "I'll never stop working on getting closer to earning it. Never."

 

~Edana

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"Never stop working, never stop learning, that is good." He shook his head at her, "But you've earned what you have. Use whatever mental gymnastics you have to to justify to yourself the wearing of that badge, but wear it all the same." He took a long drink from his mug and waved that pesky girl away as she started towards them again, "and emptying your head of useless notions would be a splendid idea, you should do it often."

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Edana smirked across the table at Kynwric. "A practice you also follow closely, Master Kynwric?" she grinned at him, refilling her glass. "Dare I wonder at what useless notions drift across your head that require emptying?" 

 

~Edana

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"I wear my blade, Blademistress, every day." He said, taking the bottle from her before she could pour and filling his own glass, then filling hers. "It helps me to remember what is at stake."

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Edana opened her mouth to complain about his taking the bottle, then shook her head. "And you answer questions like an Aes Sedai, Warder," she smirked. She took a drink and set the glass down, but didn't let go of it. "Your stakes and mine are slightly different, as are our methods of emptying our heads of... what did you call them? Useless notions? I prefer beating them into annoyances or drinking them under the table. Sometimes they're useless enough to require both." 

 

She sighed, swirling the whiskey in her glass. "A woman should be so lucky as to have a man as devoted as you are to your wife, Kynwric. I wonder how my life would've been different had I found one, myself." She snorted and lifted the glass again. "Alas, I probably drank more than he and bested him with my fists long ago and now he has no use for me." 

 

~Edana

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"I've had a lot of practice, Guardsman... and you've felt the weight of my stakes previously, you know why I am as serious about them as I am." 

 

"I am lucky to have a woman as devoted as my wife, I can be no less to her than she is to me, my honor wouldn't allow it."

 

"As for you, quit trying to find an equal, and try and find a partner. Loraine and I are not equals, not in any way, but we are partners and compliment each others strengths and weaknesses."

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Edana lifted her glass at that. "I tried that once. To say it ended badly is a painful understatement." She took a drink and set her glass down again, looking out the window. "Most men are intimidated by me and the ones who aren't consider me more of a sister than a potential partner. My Aunt used to say that when things are meant to be they will happen. Perhaps it's just not meant to be." She shrugged and smirked. "Can you imagine me settling down and raising a family?" She snorted.

 

~Edana

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"Heh, I wasn't say look for a husband. I was say look for a Sister. However, both apply the same advice... and you Aunt sounds crackers. If you wait for things to happen, then you will miss things that might happen, or that could be good for you... also, did you learn the sword all at once? Or did it take practice, trial and error?"

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Edana shook her head at the suggestion of an Aes Sedai. He knew how she felt about that idea. "Practicing with a sword is much safer," she quipped, turning her glass in circles on the table without picking it up. "Maybe she's crackers, but maybe she has a point. Some things you work towards and some things can't be forced or practiced. Would you have pursued Loraine if she turned away from you? You don't strike me as the sort, Kynwric. When things are right, they work, and when they're not, they won't. That's not to say that relationships aren't work, because they are, but there has to be something worth saving before you start fighting for it. Can you imagine being bonded to a woman who used you like a tool? Treated you like furniture? Some of the warders in that Tower have exactly that! They're miserable and can't even hide THAT from their Aes Sedai." She sighed and finally took a drink from the glass, but didn't lower it to the table again. "I can't be trapped that way, I'll never survive it." 

 

She held up a hand at the look on his face and sighed. "Yeah, I know. Getting to know her before you agree to it will go a long way in keeping that from happening and bonding someone who doesn't treat you that way is an option..." she rolled her hand as if to say, yada, yada, yada, then sighed. "It's not for me," she said flatly. "I'm a Guard. Have always been a guard, will always be a guard. I don't mind the wall, I don't mind protecting people I don't know, and I don't even mind being hauled across the countryside helping someone find or fight something they think is a good enough reason to die. But I do it because I choose to. Not because someone forced me to." 

 

~Edana

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