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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Matalina

Ironic Accusations (open)

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Aiden had been writing Taylor on and off since he left the Ranch.  They had been close.  He had a crush on Kate, but Kate was oblivious.  Kate was going to be Aes Sedai so he had moved on.  Gotten married and was starting his own family.  He had number 3 on the way.  Taylor wanted a big family.  But then to run a Ranch it was kinda a prerequisite.  His father had liked men, so their family was small.  But it didn't matter, they had cousins working the Ranch too.

 

Taylor was excited that Aiden had made Tower Guard.  He always wanted to be a swordsman but he wasn't very good at it, despite the same training as him.  But that was alright, Taylor had a brain and he was using it for both the Great Lord's advantage and making the Ranch prosper specially after the Children came, and the bubble of evil.  It had been a hard few years back then.

 

It was a lifetime ago

 

Aiden wrote:

 

Taylor,

 

I'm so excited that Merth is having another child.  Maybe one day I'll make it back up that way and I can meet your little brood.  Cel sounds like a handful, and Tria even more so, I can't imagine what this one will be like.

 

Maybe on your next trip south to buy horses you can stop by Tar Valon, and I'll take you out and we can get a drink.  We've never done that before - stealing them from the kitchen don't count.

 

I have some pretty great trainees this season.  One who is absolutely green and another who has her head in the game.  Thankfully they seem to hit it off and the others follow in their wake.  I think my mother would be proud that I've come this far.  That I've done as well as she did.  I wish she could see me now.  Dad too, I hope he is doing well up there all by himself.  He always was a loner.  It was no wonder he and Mom had been friends.

 

Take a care and kiss the family for me.  

 

Aiden al'Ker

 

Aiden folder the letter and put his seal on it with wax so Taylor knew it was from him.  It was just a simple pair of crossed swords his mother had used for ages.   Aiden dropped it off in the mailroom and went to find his trainees he was sure they weren't working hard.  He grinned at the possibility.

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Across the quad from the barracks, Giles hurried through the office quarters with the dockets and enlistment papers he’d finally managed to prepare for the quartermaster. He’d hoped to have these done by the end of last week, but now it was well into the second week. There had been inspections to run, the settlement of enlisted students, the dispute between tower guards supplies and other necessary materials signed and yes, paid for, and those supplies actually physically present. Giles worked closely with the quartermaster, several standard officers, and clerks to reconcile, to curtail such losses inside the warder yards, but to little avail. 

 

In the early days, long before this new quartermaster came, Giles had a freer hand in the black market procuring medication, bandages, weapons, and other supplies - such as laundry. He had been a ringleader in this regard for such unofficial activities, but since his recent promotion this year to blade master Giles kept his hands clean. He was a good liar, with a gray sense of morals; certainly not above fudging some numbers while other unknown persons took over his previous sticky-fingered enterprises. 

 

His reason for taking on this extra paperwork had been two-fold. The first to keep careful tabs on the quartermaster and his clerks as to the disappearance of certain resources, the second - and more important - he wanted to gather intelligence on these men whose dockets he compiled. Thanks to his work, Giles now had his eyes on a few people. People who looked for power and control. Men that looked to his rank, and obeyed its power. 

 

And Giles was a big, powerful man. Heavily muscled from carrying the weight of his two handed sword. He had a back and shoulder that came out like a flower bulb. On the grounds, Giles was often seen red-faced from shouting at the trainees. He was not well loved, but then again, he didn’t need to be.

 

For you see, Giles was not only a thief; he was also a dark friend looking to recruit other friends. His purpose was to serve the dark lord, and secure loyalties to the powers that be while deflecting attention from himself. This made him doubly criminal.

 

Besides power and rank, there were other ways of securing loyalties. The trouble was that the warders were loyal. They were loyal to the tower and loyal to their aes sedai. They kept secrets and closed ranks behind their fanned clothes and stony faces. 

 

Under the eyes of the Watchers, the underhanded dealings that went on at the heart of every nation, every division of this world were especially stealthy here. Not even Giles knew who were black in the ajahs above him, nor was he eager to meet any dark friends who the black ajah bonded. He suspected he would not survive such an honor.

 

No, researching members of the tower guard was enough knowledge for Giles. And of late, he had his eye on a certain tower guard. Giles was quite unsettled by the presence of Aiden, or rather - the lack of knowledge surrounding his past. He wasn’t able to gather any useful data on the young man, and the lack of such data threatened Giles. He wasn’t convinced: didn’t believe that Aiden had no past of interest and was determined to dig any dirt he could find on this enigmatic tower guard. It didn’t help that Aiden seemed to gain favor with others while Giles himself was not liked by the men. This made Giles loathe Aiden on principle. He bent his mind to make Aiden out to be a miscreant somehow . . .

 

Giles’ route took him down a grand passageway outside the men’s quarters, past the bustling central hall and toward the archway of their mailroom. The door was unlocked, and a lamp was on. A duty mail-sorter there rose from his makeshift desk and saluted him when he entered. “Sir."

 

This one he didn’t recognize. A thin haired young man instead of Giles’ go-to officer in the mailroom. Without hesitation, Giles approached him with a derisive snort. “Where’s your badge, boy?”

 

“What?” said the new man on duty, his milky blue eyes dilated, opened. Confusion tinged his clipped accent.

 

“Your badge? All assigned to mailroom duties need to wear one.” 

 

By the time the flustered officer came back from the office area with said badge, the mailroom was empty. Giles already rifled through the envelopes all over the desk, and the bureau of already sorted correspondences. He quickly found the specific letter he knew would be there; he had waited for. His left hand deftly slipped the new correspondence out of the pile and into his hip pocket. He would open this in private. 

 

With his buddy manning the mailroom later on, replacing this letter to its rightful owner would not be a problem. 

 

. . .

 

An hour later Giles moved with easy grace through the barracks. He knew what he was doing. His blade master dress uniform fitted him well. He grasped the door handle, turned it, but didn’t open it. Giles held it fast as he leaned in, putting his ear to the red painted wood. Total silence. 

 

Having thus secured the area, Giles got to work with his picks until he heard the corresponding click. Gaining access, the blade master turned the handle and went through the door low and fast. Then he carefully shut the door behind him and turned around. He stood for a thoughtful moment, staring into . . .

 

Well, he didn’t rightly know what. The letter from Aiden to Taylor Rashad was ordinary. Much too ordinary. He peeled back the sealed envelope - lifted its wax with care - reading the contents inside, but couldn’t make out the underlying message the letter held. It could be in code, a cypher bound to one of the books on Aiden’s shelf. Or perhaps there were other letters which could give context. On the surface this letter was that of a well adjusted tower guard recalling happy days of friendship at the Rashad ranch. Definitely Aiden was not what he seemed.

 

Giles didn’t know what he was looking for, but he knew where to start. The answer — he had to find it here, in Aiden’s room. When he read Aiden’s letter he saw no point in delaying this search. He wasn't happy to do this much, to stick his neck out here. In truth, of late Giles felt empty and unfulfilled. Life had left him hollow and grim, and this type of thing seemed all too characteristic of the jobs he'd found himself doing since his promotion to blade master. 

 

Bottom line was, Aiden was on familiar terms with Taylor Rashad a dark friend publicly known to Giles and others. It couldn’t be innocent correspondence, and Giles burned to learn what Aiden’s association with Rashad ranch was - what they wrote back and forth on. This in combination with Aiden’s impenetrable past made him a very suspicious character. Giles needed to know.

 

A large room. A writing desk. Single bed. Unremarkable carpet. Rather simple, one could even describe it as minimal decor, actually. Small, curtained window. Tricky to know where to start. Giles scanned the books on the shelf, then moved quickly through the oils and waxes on the writing desk, pausing here and there to read a label or sniff a bottle. The carpet was soaked with spilled ink as he accidentally knocked it off the desk and his palms was quickly stained black. Giles saw how there were blown sprays of ink everywhere but did nothing to clean up the mess. He pulled open his hip-case and wiped his hands with a napkin and continued his search.

 

Giles did not bother to restore items as originally placed, however. There was no time, no point. Giles planned to use evidence he took, and surely that would be missed by its owner.

 

Boxes under the closet turned up more of Aiden and Taylor’s letters. Giles frowned. The same mundane drivel. Asking after family. Friends. Horses. He snatched those then as he turned away, the mirror revealed an unexpected prize toward the far end of the closet. 

 

". . . Wow."

 

He smiled and took up the stealth cape of the warders, the revered fan cloak, swept it back over his shoulder. Giles hastily returned - he went out into the hallway, leaving the tower guard's room in disarray, the door unlocked. He hadn’t sorted out in his head about the letters. There were a fair number of them, but he would tease out the underlying messages, in time. He could use those letters, and that surprising warder cloak he found in Aiden's possession. More incriminating than the letters, this. Excellent.

 

Blademaster Giles

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Aiden was exhausted after he'd given his trainees a good working through.  He hadn't just watched he'd run with them, did all the exercises with them.  He had even sparred hard with them, teaching them to work together as a team.  Or with anyone else.  There was always an Aes Sedai to practice, and there was always a willing Accepted to play the part of the damsel in distress while the trainees kept the opponent at bay.  It was their job to keep the steel from the magic.  

 

His muscles were sore in all the right places and he was glad for the workout.  He rolled his shoulders as he walked to his room.  The door had been opened a crack and Aiden was certain he had closed it.  The tension in his shoulders grew as he pushed it open.    His once tidy room was now trashed.  Books thrown across the room his bed was rumbled after he had meticulously made it that morning.  Aiden ran a hand through his short-cropped hair.  What had happened he thought to himself.

 

There was a rustle behind him and Aiden turned on his heel. "It was Giles, sir.  I saw him leaving.  He looked proud of himself."

 

Why would Giles want to trash his room?  What had he been looking for?  Aiden was confused.  And then he noticed the trunk that was hastily shoved under his bed.  "No, no, no...  Aiden muttered to himself.  He didn't.  The carefully wrapped fancloak of his mothers had been taken.  The swords dumped precariously into the trunk.  "Blood Trolloc!"  Aiden snapped his mouth shut at the curse and stood up shaking himself.  This was no time to get upset.  

 

It didn't matter what else was missing he needed to get that fancloak back before anyone else saw it and started asking questions.  Aiden didn't want to explain why he had it because he definitely hadn't earned it.

 

Aiden looked at the young trainee who'd been witness to Giles leaving.  "What way did he go? How long ago?

 

The boy pointed down the hall towards the yards.  Aiden nodded even as he muttered a thank you to the boy.  He stalked.  He tried not to run, it wouldn't help matters any, but he was upset.  Angry.  And Aiden prided himself on not getting angry.  He took deep breaths and slowed his pace.  It wouldn't do any good going into this with a hot head.  He knew better.  The void only did so well if it came to a fight, your mind had to be calm, and right now Aiden's wasn't.

 

By the time Aiden reached the yards, his smile was faked but he wasn't ready to punch the older man.  He wasn't ready to kill him.  But he was ready to stop him.  Out in the middle of the yards, Aiden saw the familiar profile.  He called out, "Hey Giles, I think you have something of mine.  I'd like it back."  This was going to go down in public at least it wasn't so bad, knowing who his parents were would definitely explain a lot of things to his superiors.  What could go wrong?

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Having just put the last letter between Rashad and Aiden up on the public post board, Giles turned around at the shout. Aiden’s smile was strained. Giles didn’t think Aiden even noticed the post board behind him yet. Perfect timing.

 

No one had dared mess with Giles before his promotion. Strong and tough, with cropped hair, Giles was raised from the slums, an environment that had schooled his his wits, reflexes and fighting smarts. 

 

“Let’s see,” he said, slowly and clearly, fixing Aiden with his cold green gaze. Hatred for the other rose and his words grew louder. “You’re a member of the tower guards. I’m the blade master. I’ve just given this training group here a direct order to make use of this time by polishing their weapons. Which they are happy to obey during our chat."

 

He smiled back. It was a most unsettling smile. “I don’t know what you’re on about. And where’s my honorific that comes with rank, young Aiden?”

Edited by Lih-Lyh

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Aiden did his best not to grit his teeth at the man's attitude.  He hated people who thought they were better than anyone else.  Bloody title gone to his head.  And he wasn't about to call the man master much less blademaster.  It's not like he was long with the heron anyway.  Aiden was confident he could beat the man easily.    But it wasn't something Aiden wanted to test right now.  

 

The board behind Giles was full of notices and reports and various other pieces and he noticed his own scrawl etched on a piece of paper and he frowned.  He walked past Giles careful not to push past him.  Last thing he needed was for the piece of Trolloc turd to become anymore offended.  

 

On the board was his neatly written letter to Taylor. Aiden grabbed it and ripped it own from the pin that held it.  "Why is this here?  I know I put it in the mail room to go out with my seal on it and everything."  Aiden didn't need to look farther than Giles.  He'd been snooping in his room.  Proof was hard to come by, except he had to have his mother's fancloak.  He needed to get that back. It was his now!  

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“Don’t talk that way. You really don’t want to be doing that.” said Giles smoothly. “But I notice you haven’t shown respect to my rank since this conversation began. Would a ‘master’ or a ‘sir’ really kill you?” Some of the men took interest; a few shuffled forward screwing their eyes in confusion. Others looked ready to jump in, and all the people in the yards near them had got to their feet. 

 

Was there to be a fight? If a fight occurred, would it help to get involved? Would Giles thank them? Probably not. He’d want to assert his command over Aiden alone, to make the point, an example. The tower guards clearly thought this way, as they stood down. 

 

“I’ll deal with this,” Exerting his authority, Giles turned back to Aiden. He said archly, “so what, the mail clerk screwed up and gave me your letter. Go hunt for the dimwit if you like. Why are you being this protective if there is nothing to hide? What is your relationship with the Rashad boy? A well known dark friend?"

 

There, he had delivered the first blow. They were in public. Would Aiden attack him outright for the implication? Giles slid the haft of his heron marked sword out, making sure Aiden and their audience know it wouldn’t come to fists. He didn't even reveal his trump card yet.  Why did Aiden have a warder's cloak in his room? It really was deliciously suspicious.

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Aiden rolled his eyes.  This man was a grunt, a scallion, he was nothing.  He was beneath him.  He had far more training, and just because he didn't have a heron on his blade didn't mean that he couldn't best the idiot.    Aiden refused to call him master or sir, he was not better.  Just an idiot.

 

The yards were getting curious.  Even the half attempt to control people only made them look more.  Aiden sighed.  "You thought it was important to show off my hand writing?  Or a letter to my child hood friend.  Who yes, his BROTHER, was a known darkfriend.  A child who is now dead both in reality and in their hearts.  A man who swore his soul to the Dark One if no family of ours."  Talyn's biggest mistake had been communicating from the Tower, if he'd used better subtrefuge ther would be no problem.  "Taylor is an upstanding citizen of Cairhein, the sole heir to his family's ranch that I grew up on.  He's nothing but a ranch owner.  And I think you'd find it impossible to find proof that he was a Dark Friend even if he was one.  I've known him since I was a child and he's nothing but a good man."

 

Giles slide his sword from the scarab and Aiden sighed.  He made sure to flash the heron too.  Arragont and pompous son of a goat.  "Why did my letter need to be posted to the board?  Unless you can't read."  Aiden knew he was goading him a little, but he didn't care right now.  He just wanted to know where the fancloak was.  But he wasn't about to air his laundry in public.

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“I can read your crappy writing,” Giles snapped, lowered his weapon and spat on the dry ground. He could feel the grit crunch against his teeth.  

 

“Was a dark friend? His brother swore his soul to the Dark One?” He echoed, stressing the word in secret pleasure. It was enjoyable to finally announce the great lord aloud, if only in such a manner. Delightful. “Your letter was posted for the safety of all, so that everybody could see for himself the mysterious association you have with . . . unsavory characters.” 

 

Giles had all the attention he needed as he held up the warder fan cloak he unfolded out of his uniform. He held up the colorful material, tapping his index finger against the fabric in anticipation. He said at last the big reveal, “Aiden you are a thief and a liar. Is this what you’ve been looking for? Why do you have this? I know you’re working for the shadow." Great lord, he corrected.

 

It was in the air. A smell of steel and hate. This trial was going to cost the boy. For Giles was waiting for him. Old and hard and cunning, like a wily beast ready to pounce.

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Aiden laughed.  "So I'm a thief and a Dark Friend?  How quaint."  One of the two was correct but no one here knew that.  Well two souls did, but they were high in the White Tower and not out here in the Warder's Yard.  

 

Aiden rolled his eyes.  "The letter is proof I'm a dark friend.  Let's see."  Aiden read the letter out loud.  "Tell me Giles, where on earth does it say I'm a dark friend?  

 

But he held up the cloak and Aiden sighed.  "That's my mother's.  She died years ago.  I've kept it and her dual swords that were made by our very own black smith here in the Yards, in a trunk in my room.  Where you took it from, so who's the thief now? "  Aiden smirked.  "Guards!  Guards!  I've found the theif that trashed my room and stole my belongings and my mail!  He doesn't deny it!

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Giles folded his huge arms and sighed. He wasn’t sure what to expect, except something mysterious. This made perfect sense that Aiden’s mother was a Gaidar. He closed his fingers around the sword handle by his belt. He’d come a long way to implicate Aiden in public, and he wasn’t about to waste this confrontation so generously. Giles didn’t want to back down. But they were scaring people and things could get ugly if the real guards, or worse yet, aes sedai came.

 

A crowd had gathered and grown. Turned around to watch, shouting over the heads of others. Several in the crowd looked agitated. Their row had caught the attention of the men near to them now, some pointing at Giles as if to deter him. But he ignored the mutters, the pointing.

 

This just made him worse. Giles didn’t question Aiden any further.

 

Walking to where there was clear space, he drew his sword and said, “I inspected your room for clues, that’s all. Fight me. You don’t get to slander me, you stinking dark friend." He'll win and have Aiden thrown out like bath water.

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Aiden sighed.  This guy was a complete son of a goat.  "Fight you?  Why? You are a thief, the proof is in your hands." Aiden held up his hand with the crumpled letter in it.  He continued to push the man too far - he knew it wouldn't end well, but all his calm cool composure was rubbing raw by the idiot in frot of him. "And here where you posted my letter!"

 

***

 

Giles leapt forward, knocking down Aiden's hand and ripping the letter, it's remnants fell to the ground.

 

Was this it? Was this the long awaited moment in their drawn out conversation?

 

It stung deeply that he had been called a thief so many times over: a thief and a liar and true to the dark one. The camo-cloak of Aiden's mother now swirled about his shoulders, his face a bellowing rage. Who the hell was this tower guard to defy him, Giles who was blademaster by right? He would keep this cloak, it belonged to him now, as the strong always won- and if Aiden wanted his cloak back he could fight for it. 

 

***

 

Aiden growled.  "You didn't earn that cloak, give it back." Aiden drew his sword.  "Or I will make you."

 

Giles laughed as he swung his sword arrogantly towards Aiden.  It was a quick movement and Aiden had to stide step in order to parry the move.  And in that step Aiden pulled the flame and void around him in a quick and effortless thought.  It was years of practice.  Years of training long before he had ever picked up a blade - or any weapon for that matter.  He had mastered the flame and void before his mother would let him touch a weapon.  He was perfect in it.  He felt nothing, saw everything.  He was one his sword.  He was one with Giles who was radiating with emotion.  Giles flung wildly, using his great sword.  The opposing philosophy of the sword always made Aiden wonder how it could work at all.  But Giles was a blademaster - through trial of combat.

 

Aiden watched through the clear eyes of the void as the man who was accusing him of being a darkfriend.  He had no idea how right he was, yet, there was no proof.  And until the day he died, he would keep his secret and that of his families safe.

 

They danced around each other, the clang of metal on metal was bound to draw a crowd.  It wasn't uncommon but it was rare.  And it was rarely one out for blood.  The great sword of Giles came down and Aiden parried it overhead.  The blows were powerful and Aiden wasn't going to keep it up if he had to keep that.  His best bet for now was to tire the man out.  But there was always room for taunting.  Aiden laughed through the coldness of the void, it made his voice harsh and distant "Maybe you are trying to blame me for your failures - maybe YOU are the dark friend."  It wouldn't be the first time someone was framed.  Aiden knew his mother had done it many times.

 

[[ took a liberty with weapon and philosophy ]]

 

Edited by Matalina

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ooc: love it! Also took a liberty 

 

“What?” There was a high, querulous tone of disbelief in his voice. He craned his neck forward and cupped a hand around one ear. “Bloody what!” 

 

Enraged by the accusation, Giles swung about and came forward at Aiden. Everyone else around them shrank back. They knew that mad-eyed look.

 

The moment unspooled as their weapons kissed, then sprang apart. They were on fight time now, that unreal measure of passing moments that seemed an eternity while it lasted, but in reality was just a few seconds. Fight time. Instinct time. Giles side stepped the incoming blow - using that easy, shoulders-back, hip-roll walk he had.

 

Giles rotated on the balls of his feet, the tails of the fan cloak floating out. It was a surprisingly graceful move for someone so solid. Teeth bared, Giles whaled the great sword down into Aiden’s ribs, glancing several loud blows as the guard’s sword came up defensively, protectively. 

 

Giles crowed, loud and laughing. “You foolish boy.” 

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Aiden parried and dodged but it didn't save him from Giles' blade finding a glancing blow against his left knee.  The pain of the fissure was bright across the void, but Aiden didn't feel it.  He'd feel it later.  Blood was drawn but Giles didn't look to stop.  The great sword swung repeatedly, he was strong and powerful and Aiden had inherited his mother's stature and her agility.  But still he couldn't avoid the man forever. 

 

Aiden's own attacks failed as he tried to get inside the man's weaker side.  Aiden sizing him up even as he fought him, recalling any spars he'd seen the man do.  His mind working a quickly as he defended himself.  And then he saw it.  His weakness...  But it was a killing blow, and without any armor it was certain.

 

Aiden spoke through the coldness of the void and exertion.  "This needs to stop.  There are other ways to handle our differences."  Aiden gave him a chance, the next time he saw it he would not hesitate to take the action.  Next time Aiden knew his blade would find Giles' heart when his hands went above his head to swing down at him.

Edited by Matalina

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“Who do you think you are? You’ll have to do a little better than that.” Giles snorted, pulling back a little. He clearly enjoyed this situation. Their audience had stepped back, standing down with lowered weapons in deference. “Aiden, you’re a guard. What did you expect, except that you were going to be beaten?” His laugh was light, mocking. “You’re such an idiot, Aiden. You’re far too ignorant and impertinent for the tower guard."

 

Giles smiled and leaned in close to Aiden’s face, “you’re just full of hot air aren’t you? What do you propose to do about this? Throw a tantrum?"

 

After running many punishment details, Giles had been trained to know when to goad a soldier and when to refrain. Aiden’s murderous body language seem to encourage Giles, as the blademaster resumed his all-out bladed attack.

 

Giles

Ooc: not knowing he’s seconds away from execution ? :D

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Aiden frowned at the other guard's words.  This was not their way.  This was not the way they did things here.  Light, even the Great Lord knew when to pull back, to stop, to negotiate.  Sometimes that was all you needed.  But this man, he was not going to relent.

 

Timing was everything.  And Aiden needed to use all his skills in order to beat this man.    It wasn't that he was better, no, just stronger, bigger and he had the advantage of the great sword at his disposal.  It was heavy and Aiden's weapons were light.  

 

Aiden kicked a rock at Giles and the man stumbled over it too focused on his swings.  It left him open as he brought the great sword down again to land a blow.  Aiden spun into Giles and under the swords, momentum and his blade skimmed the edge of his chest and sliced his shirt as he stabbed backward with it finding purchase in Giles' chest.  Aiden didn't have to do any other work as the bigger, stronger man impaled himself on the sword. 

 

[[ Normally I wouldn't have done it this way, but he's an NPC so I took some liberties. @_Kynwric_  I'm sure there is lots of follow up to this particular thread just for this action alone, so feel free to pop in with the master at arms and do what needs doing. ]]

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Lillian sedai, with a little 's' because she was off duty, walked down the steep set of steps, away from the armorers with their steady sounds of forging . . . clank . . . clank . . . whirr . . . clank!

 

A reputable bladesmith was sharpening knives on a whetstone. Sparks flew up. The aes sedai saw the men and women in line waiting for their blades to be edged. She smiled. Lillian’s own blade had already been rubbed in oil, and was now set at the grinder, sparking. 

 

She moved on and, with a rising curiosity, made off down a wider street. Her dark-lashed eyes were bright and vivid as she looked around at the growing crowd, then followed the throng of people flowing into the public square. The place was busy. She edged her way in between guards and arguing trainees, paused briefly, then called out to a young man who looked stiff in his dress uniform.

 

“Master Giles is fighting Aiden!” The freckled young man replied, with obvious awkwardness. She didn’t know this Giles, but Aiden, Aiden - why was the name familiar?

 

“I hope they’re having a good time,” said Lillian with a reflective smile. 

 

“Aes sedai, I—” the other fumbled for words; his eyes wide.

 

“We don’t bite, despite what you may have heard.” Was she so intimidating, or aloof at the tower, her very presence brought fear to the eyes of young people? She’d like to think of the guards as allies. She'd look in the yards more often, get to know more people, she promised herself.

 

“Excuse me,” said Lillian, moving past him politely toward the edge of the crowd. She made her way slowly through the press on the square and, for the first time, caught sight of two men fighting. The young tower guard she recognized from the tavern some time ago. There had been a fight outside too, although he had not been a participant then. Aiden, ahh never mind, that was the face of a promising young man. Lillian stood looking at the two fight for some time, Aiden dueling the bigger, stronger man whom she knew not, and realized she couldn’t think of anything to say or do. Come to think of it, she wasn’t even sure why she’d come. Brawls never interested her, so how come she was pushing her way closer to the front?

 

She was halfway on her way there when Aiden slew his opponent, the other impaled on his own heron marked greatsword. Lillian had pushed people aside at the front of the crowd to get past them to the fallen man. The smell of pain was inescapable, and so was the low, background murmurs of groans and gasps. She hurried but it was too late.

 

“Dead?” she said softly, sadly confirming this as she crouched next to Giles. The big man laid lifeless, his limbs were sprawled around the great sword propped into the ground from his chest. She reached down quickly, closed Giles' eyes. His gaze had bothered her enormously, and there was a grim-set scowl on his reddened face like he wasn’t ready. Like it wasn’t his time. Like he was not going to let go. “Light."

 

Lillian breathed out deeply, and straightened her jacket. She shook her head and looked straight at Aiden, who was bleeding freely from his wound, yellowing bruises all over. She so seldom saw men dueling to the death in the yards, it was a shock. There were plenty of witnesses about. She knew from that evening of tavern celebrations Aiden was well-liked and that he was a good fighter. But this was open and shut, a closed case. The tower guards were a remarkably well-behaved and strict, disciplined group of people. Sure they dealt with brawls, a few feuds and thefts, but death in the yards was beyond rare. Of course, this incident was minor compared with the nature of the battle aes sedai were undertaking, and if the dead man couldn’t be healed then she shouldn’t be wasting her time on this. That was what the guards were here for, taking care of things while letting the sisters focus on the bigger picture. This was squarely a warder yard matter. A matter for guards . . .

 

The shocking sight of a blood soaked warder cloak around the corpse’s broad shoulders gave her pause.

 

“Is . . . was he a warder?” asked Lillian, warily. 

 

If the dead man with the fan cloak was positively identified with a bonded aes sedai, she would have a difficult conversation inbound . . . Yet this was not a time for rebukes. The boy would pay for his mistake here soon enough. Lillian could wash her hand of this incident, put some distance from this and move on. But she was wasting her free time here, precisely because this kind of thing was so uncommon here.

 

What in the blazes was a possible warder, a blademaster at that, doing fighting a tower guard? Light, what was going to happen to said tower guard who might have messed up winning a fight this way?

 

Lillian Tremina

Aes Sedai of the White Ajah

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An Aes Sedai pushed forward as Aiden yanked his sword from the falling body.  He'd tried to stop it.  But he wasn't going to quibble over the little thing.  He'd tried, Giles wouldn't stop so Aiden did what he was trained to do - kill a man.

 

The woman looked at him and asked if he was a warder.  Aiden shook his head and spat to the side.  "No Aes Sedai.  He stole that from me.  It was my mother's.  She's dead now.  And if you don't believe me I can prove it.  The clasp was given to Matalina Gaidin by Yveva Sedai of the Yellow Ajah when they bonded.  But it is Raeyn Sedai who would be able to confirm that it was my mother's.  They wrapped my mother's swords which still lie in the trunk that Giles ransacked in order to steal it from me.  Mistress Loari of the armory would be able to identify them as my mother's as she made them custom for her."  Aiden let fly the words before he really understood what he was admitting to.  His mother had been many things here in the Tower - a great many things.  His father had once been Master at Arms.  Though that fact was even lesser known than who his mother was.  

 

Aiden hoped that the names he dropped would be enough to prove his story.  He could recite a great many things about his mother's life.  She'd been Mistress of Trainees once.  She'd taught so many of the people here.  His brother had been page here.  Jefferey Kincaid's father had been Tower Guard as well.  As had Fawne's.  His whole bloody family was linked to this place.  Every single person except Demus.  He was the only one who was truly of the dark places.  And he was more family than anyone else here.  At least Demus had been there when it mattered most.

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What’s this? Lillian asked herself, staring at Aiden in shock. There was a general murmur of interest all around. She glanced around, painfully aware of the crowd’s interest at the names bandied about, and the spectacle of Giles' body.

 

“That’s all; please leave.” Lillian said turning to the people gathered around them, eyes flicked back and forth as she drew herself up. Even the big, powerful young men wearing guard jackets and pale pants who met her gaze shuddered and looked away; the group broke up, muttering to one another.

 

She looked back at Aiden. Those were some storied names Aiden mentioned, and she didn’t want it getting out. Light, but he was Matalina’s boy?

 

Lillian pulled on Matalina's warder cloak, unbuckled the clasp, examining the intricate workmanship of the beautiful cloak. She had to yank it firmly from Giles’ body, then she cleansed the cloak quickly, skillfully with a wicking weave: checking that the clasp gleamed once more, as the threads of the cloak stitched themselves together deftly, as if a wide greatsword didn’t pierce through the fabric mere moments ago.

 

Lillian sighed, then passed the cleansed cloak to Aiden. She noticed the look in Aiden’s eyes when she picked up the cloak while fixing it. “Here. I’ve only got your word for now until we can confirm it with Raeyn and Mistress Loari.”

 

She gestured to Giles’ body, "As for this man's theft of your mother’s cloak, he can’t bloody well admit it now can he? You’ll want to keep silent, if you’re lying, before it gets out. Believe you me, they’ve got all the rope they need as it is. Don’t give them any more." 

 

What next?

 

“Yeah, we'll tell the Master at Arms,” Lillian answered aloud, simply. “If you’re uncomfortable about speaking now, to me, you can think about what you want to tell him, in confidence. I’m Lillian - now, Aiden, do you mind if I heal your injuries before we go?"

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