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Double Dodge (attn: Merdyn)


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Ful’s shiny pin was displayed between the third button of his field jacket and the stud of the right hand breast pocket. He was short but lean, with long dark hair that he kept pinned back into a bun, and a slender, sharp nosed face framing knowing dark eyes and a refreshing smile.


His promotion to dedicated, and the responsibilities that came with it, was never going to be an easy ride. Ful took his lessons seriously, and had been promoted on Nox’s advice. The two sides of himself - saidin and the void - had taken a long time to gel, but now they seemed to be pulling together as one fluid unit and for that Ful was grateful. He appreciated that his skills improved in both aspects, which mixed well and complemented his fighting; though he had the endless work of healing to do, he had put in for training soldiers. He could facilitate well, and was somewhat of a people person, so found himself quickly approved to teach others. Ful would do his best to bring some of the soldiers up to scratch, and if one of those students were successful, Ful was going to be nothing but proud.


He breathed deeply and waited for his first student, whose name he was not told, just that the soldier was pretty advanced and needed more front-line combat experience. They were to fight hand-to-hand, with channelling of course. An asha’aman used every tool he had, his gift, his body . . . 

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                Ful is one of the Dedicated! I am so very happy for him.


                Merdyn was getting dressed in the lone cabin assigned to him. It wasn’t far off from his beloved kitchen, which he had begun to refer to as ‘The Mess Hall.’ That was where he and Ful had gotten into a little mess with some over-grown weevil. It literally seemed like only yesterday. They were both Soldiers, but now Ful was ready to take the next step. Merdyn couldn’t be more happy for his friend.


                Now I just have to get there myself… Not much longer now, I think.


                Donning his black coat, sans the pins, Merdyn buttoned it up swiftly. A long cord hung from his neck, a golden cameo swung at the end. Inside the cameo was a miniature painting of Merdyn’s late-lover, Killian. It was the one thing he had left of the man. If he ever lost it, the World very well might burn for it. He loved Killian more than he thought possible. Light send that he has found shelter with the Creator.


                Tucking the cord and cameo into his coat, Merdyn gave himself one last check in the cracked mirror on the wall. Thick honey-colored hair, cropped closely to the scalp; with a full beard to match. Merdyn cut an impressive figure, well-defined muscles drew the black coat taught over his torso. The result of years of study under some of the finest fencing tutors Andor had to offer. Most didn’t know that Merdyn’s muscles were just for show. He wasn’t a very experienced fighter, but he knew how to handle himself in a battle. He at least knew how to keep from getting killed.


                Ful is handy with the sword, the bout with the weevil proved that. Hopefully, he can take my skills to the next level.


                With that, Merdyn left the cabin and set out to find Ful.





                There he is.


                Merdyn spotted the slender Dedicated. Keeping as silent as a leopard, Merdyn snuck up on his friend and readied a weave. Within moments fireballs were exploding in the air around Ful and Merdyn. They were small things, and when they burst, they each looked like flowers floating in the air. Small popping sounds filled the air as the fire flowers faded from existence.


                “Congratulations, friend! I know this may be terribly out of line for me since you are now one of my Tutors, but I couldn’t resist. There are no Illuminators in the area, so this is the closest thing to Fireworks that I could make. You have earned this rank, Ful; and my respect.” Merdyn dropped down, fist to heart and another on the ground. He made the typical Andoran salute, and the one he gave Ful was worthy of the Queen of Andor herself. Rising from his bow, Merdyn offered Ful one of his characteristically warm smiles and added, “I understand that you are to teach me some fighting skills today, Sir.”

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Light, but those illuminations were beautiful. What strength and skill to weave such a display. This was unexpected . . . 


Ful clapped as Merdyn performed an official salute. The other - well built and handsome - rose and greeted him.


In reply, he pushed a hand out towards Merdyn’s face, forcing the other to dodge back, but it was a ruse. The real sting was Ful’s left leg, sweeping round at knee height. He was on Merdyn in a heartbeat, crashing him onto the grass with his weight, one hand gripping his short hair and yanking his head back, one knee in the small of his back. He dug his knee into the other’s spine and leaned in, “Thanks Merdyn. I won’t go easy because we’re friends.”


The more combat experience Merdyn got, the better it would be when the real fights start. Ful held back from going further and breaking the other’s nose, like he would if this fight were real. He had skills and he would use those skills.


Ful got off him and took the pack from the grass covered ground. There were wooden lathes inside. “Get up and take one. We’ll practice with these first." 


Ful said, "also, don’t call me sir.”


Remembrance that was also what Nox said made him smile. He wasn’t strong enough in saidin to travel like Nox or Merdyn eventually, but he could slam heads - quickly with the base of his hand against the back of the neck - smash noses, and yank hair. Those would be the useful skills he’d impart his students, together with rudimentary preparatory weaves. Like flash, to blind your opponents. His goal was simple: they would create opportunities with saidin, and be prepared to smash people nose-first into the ground. 

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                WHAT THE-!?


                The wind was knocked from Merdyn as Ful’s full weight came down upon him. Stars swam his vision, and the world seemed to lurch as Ful pulled Merdyn’s head back, hard. A loud groan escaped his lips at Ful’s words.


                I don’t know why I ever anticipate things going smoothly around here!


                Ful got off him and commanded Merdyn to grab a lathe. Pushing up off the grass, Merdyn began coughing. A moment passed before he fully regained his composure and rose to his feet, not before swiping a training sword from the pack.


                “Why don’t any of you around here like to be called sir?” Merdyn said before assuming the Void. He pictured a little flame inside his mind and fed all thoughts and emotions into that. It had been a while since he had practiced this while fighting. As of late, it was always with Saidin, so it still came quickly to him.


                Merdyn let all tenseness fall from his body as he assumed the sword form known as ‘Cat Crosses the Courtyard.’ It was a truly cocky stance, yet it enabled Merdyn to remain highly alert for anything Ful might throw at him. The only downfall to it was that it left Merdyn wide open for an attack. He was ready though. Depending on what Ful did next, Merdyn was all but ready to launch into ‘The Courtier Taps His Fan.’


                He had no doubt that Ful would use some cheap moves like that last stunt. If he didn’t know any better, he’d have thought he was back in the Tavern! No matter. Ful was here to teach Merdyn, but surely traditional sword forms were better? Perhaps this was a test of some sort… Still, better to be ready for anything.

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Before Merdyn had even stopped coughing, Ful was on his feet, his - not one, but two - wooden blades raised in front of his face. Unfolding the fan. He let a smile cross his face at Merdyn’s remark about not liking to use “sir” here, because it was true. Even Isha was just Isha . . .


Ful waited, attentive, ready. His face, thin and pale, was confident, the look in his dark eyes soft. He kept his gaze on the taller soldier, apprehensive of the other’s superior reach, of Merdyn’s practiced balanced form, keeping both his blades raised against a head blow. Ful was no master of the blades. He was just a merchant boy from Ghaeldan who had made the pilgrimage here when he’d heard the news in Tear because it seemed like the right thing to do. Along the way - and it had been a hard journey - he’d somehow become somebody to look up to. Soldiers looked to him for opinion and direction, more than ever since there were new recruits who’d reached the cold, austere reality of the camps. He felt the heaviness of the responsibility he accepted.


But then, of course, most men never asked for their responsibilities. The men here could fight, fight disciplined. That was what made them scary, in both saidin and their weapons. To bind, to maim, to kill.


Ful had no idea where that sudden, sobering notion had come from. But it was enough to make him clear his mind as he deepened his breathing and became one with the void. He bent his knees into a crouch, taking care to spread his feet - just so - and instead of flowing into a basic guard stance from this leopard in the tree, he chose to begin their spar aggressively as he executed his first attack: Arc of the moon. Ful stepped up, taking into account Merdyn’s height, swung his left sword from up high and stabbed down toward his opponent’s neck.


Arc was a great choice for speed, sacrificing power, as it landed high, making for faster draws whether blocking or attacking next. He lowered his right blade below shoulder height and lunged forward, slashing deep into the groin. The kingfisher takes a silverback. Used to disable the leg or groin muscles. Easy form to deflect in a spar, a move such as Falcon swoop would push aside his lathe in an instant, but surprisingly efficient in battle. Doesn't matter if he's tall once he's on his knees.


Forced to side-step, Ful returned to guard position - positioning his lathes close, low wind rising - he thrusted one of his lathes into Merdyn’s face next. Hummingbird kisses the honeyrose. A versatile blow, and powerful enough to split open a trolloc's head. Or give nasty headaches, from his experience.

Edited by Lih-Lyh
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                Ful was on Merdyn within seconds. It was clear that, although Merdyn had great form, he still had to work on his reaction speed. The wooden lathe connected with Merdyn’s neck, and then with his groin. Not the groin.


                Merdyn instinctively embraced Saidin. He was a little proud of himself for having that reaction, it may prove to save his life in the future. Still, he had to restrain himself. Every urge in his body said to shoot fireballs at Ful’s crotch. It wouldn’t be fair, though.


                Light! That hurt though! If his lathe had connected just a hair to the left and… I better not think about it.


                This time, Merdyn was ready. Ful made a swipe at Merdyn’s face (not the face! Anywhere but the face!) Dodging and rolling to the left, Merdyn sprung back up with Lion on the Hill, his lathe slicing at Ful’s torso. It was a move that brought one’s sword up from the ground in a grand sweeping motion. The form ended with one’s sword in the air, their body extended fully. Without any effort, he brought the sword back down, flowing to Watered Silk. The lathe connected with Ful’s dominant arm, the lathe coming to a rest, tip to the ground.


                With a quick backstep, Merdyn put distance between himself and Ful. Merdyn didn’t give Ful a chance to react, for Merdyn was now running at the other. With a quick leap, Merdyn was literally spinning in the air, sword extended in his right arm. He felt his lathe collide with Ful as Merdyn landed in a crouching position.


                Merdyn looked up at Ful, “This is just the warm-up, right?” He gave the Dedicated a mischievous grin and winked. Leaping once more to his feet, Merdyn danced backward, putting distance between the two of them once more. He brought his lathe down to his side, both hands on the hilt. Leopard in the Tree was the name of this form. It helped keep Merdyn alert, hands on his weapon, he was ready to draw at a moment’s notice.


                I’m getting tired already! Ful and I might need to spar once a day if I keep on this way… I haven’t even seen my thirtieth nameday yet! I should not be so winded!

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Ful was small and bright and so lightly built it seemed soldiering was entirely the wrong profession for him. But he could fight, and survive. He put time in on the archery range, ran a few sparring sessions and exercised. Ful also took the wooden lathes he’d been issued with great reverence. They were a loaner for the week, the Ful was pretty glad he took multiples. 


The small dedicated was still getting used to using two weapons at once. He believed in diligent practice. He believed in pushing himself and testing himself. He’d always admired Isha’s blade skill - the giant attack leader who fought four at once- and knew it took a lot of practice to keep such close-combat skills honed.


Merdyn was sharp, quick, confident. It was likely it’s been a long while since he fought physically, and was therefore coiled tight like clip-springs. Ful came up short, and lowered his wooden swords slightly. He allowed himself to be distracted with his remembrance of Isha’s drilling. 


A flash food of acute pain flared across his right arm, and the knuckles of Ful’s fist. He was forced into a frantic, defensive back-step to avoid the downward attack, but was not able to dodge Merdyn’s reach entirely. The soldier spun in the air and his slash struck true.


Ful dropped onto the grass, choking. The lathe stuck him in the stomach. Were he the one with the attack advantage, Ful would have followed it up with another strike across the back of the head as he went down. Merdyn now retreated into a balanced, guard position.


He sucked in air, reached into his pocket and felt the comfortable grip of his dagger hilt. A clean hit with unsheathed blade. But he was told specifically no live blades. That rather took the fun out of it. His other hand grabbed a fistful of earth and pocketed it into his trousers.


“Yes, nice. A warm up.”


Mischief in mind, Ful grinned back. He threw aside his uniform and his inner shirt and resumed the spar. He was stripped to the waist, sweating hard, ducking and spinning, lashing out with his lathes. He circled Merdyn, jabbing and striking. Ful’s lathe spiraled until the circular motion locked the lathes, Grapevine Twines - a move to disarm the opponent. He switched to Kingfisher again, jabbing the bundled lathe at Merdyn’s leg, then at his stomach. Parting the silk.


Ful let out a curse. He exhaled as he ducked sharply, and turned his body in a low spin under the lunging blade of his opponent. Then he came up clear and parried the weapon aside. He kicked out savagely with his heavy boot, then turned and sliced under the guard, drawing his left lathe across the other’s torso. He drew saidin which flung the bit of earth from his trouser pocket to Merdyn’s face.


At once, he cracked his dominant lathe across Merdyn’s knees, then rammed the blunt end of his free’d lathe into the small of his back as the other folded forward and crumpled. 


“We use everything in our fights. Weapons. Our body. Saidin. All the dirty tricks to stay alive.”


Things were interesting now that saidin would be allowed in their fight. He couldn't wait to see what Merdyn would bring.

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                Ful took his shirt off.


                It had been so long since Merdyn had been with someone; the sight was a welcome one. Ful was not Merdyn’s type, but he had a beautiful body. The view of it was enough to throw Merdyn off just a bit. As a result, Ful got in a few good swings, knocking the air from Merdyn.


                How pathetic am I? The sight of a man without a shirt is enough to get me out of sorts. Do better, Merdyn. You have no interest in Ful in such a manner, so this shouldn’t affect you.


                I’ll have to visit a Pleasure House… Light knows there is no man at the Farm that entices me. Ful is like a little brother to me… A little brother that is currently beating me senseless, but a brother nonetheless. It would not be appropriate. Focus, Merdyn! Focus!


                Merdyn was blushing at the sight of Ful, but he didn’t realize it. That’s when the dirt was thrown in Merdyn’s face. He stumbled a little, coughing out flakes of dried soil.


                What a little shi-


                A lathe struck Merdyn’s knees and then his spine. Within moments, Merdyn was doubled over coughing; whether from the dirt or the blows, he couldn’t say.


                “We use everything in our fights. Weapons. Our body. Saidin. All the dirty tricks to stay alive,” Ful had announced, standing over Merdyn.


                Thanks for telling me that. Friend.


                Merdyn had recovered, but he made as if he was still recovering from the blows. Before Ful could think, Merdyn embraced Saidin and wove together every single element, except Earth.


                Rising from the ground, Merdyn looked to his left and to his right. A great gale of laughter erupted from Merdyn.


                Light! It worked! I wasn’t sure if it would!


                Before Ful was Merdyn, but not just one Merdyn, there were now six of him. Before Ful could react, Merdyn and his five clones scattered, mixing themselves up in the process. The five clones and Merdyn surrounded Ful. The real Merdyn was directly behind Ful. The weave he had cast was one of Illusions. Merdyn had never woven it until now, although he had seen plenty of Soldiers use it to prank the Dedicated. After a week of pranks, Merdyn had memorized the weave. It was sheer luck that he cast it successfully on his first try.


                Six lathes came up in the air, and all fell at the same time, knocking Ful on the head. The clones had no more substance than air, so Merdyn cast another weave. This one gave more force to his lathe; enough strength to feel like six different people were striking you. With any luck, Ful wouldn’t notice which Merdyn was actually hitting him and which were doing nothing more than swinging ethereal lathes about.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ful yelped. His head hurt. He was not prepared to fight Merdyn and his five identical clones. What an ingenious way to weave illusions. Ful threw himself flat against the ground, ducking another head blow from all six lathes. Thoughts formed slower than actions as he raced around the multiple opponents, scrambling as he tried to detect the source of Merdyn’s attack. He swung his lathe into Merdyn’s shoulder only to have it cut right through air. Sigh. Another illusion.


As they dueled, the rains came. There was no warning, just a sudden assault of fast, fat raindrops. Within seconds Ful was drenched. He looked up, then around him. The white tree trunks washed black. Panic should hit the men as they spread out in bewilderment. Yet the rain had provoked no emotional response from the illusions who surround him. He marked the real Merdyn carefully, turning to face him with his gaze.


Brushing the running raindrops off his face with a calloused hand, Ful said to his friend. “Huh, it’s been some time since it rained.”


His trouser felt cold and clammy. There was no point to put his shirt back on under the deluge of rain. “Great work, friend. Shall we take a break until the rain lets off? Or would you like to keep fighting in the mud?”

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                Rain? Light! I hadn’t even thought… where did it come from? This will surely ruin my Illusion… No time to alter the weave… I’ll have to work on that later…


                Right before the rain had started to fall, Merdyn was certain that Ful had realized which of the clones was the real one. It had been a gamble using a weave to try and trick another channeler. He had been certain it would not have worked, but it was the first thing to come to mind.


                All Ful would have to do was take a moment and sense which of the Merdyn’s was holding Saidin. Not even a weave could have fabricated that feeling… Not so far as Merdyn knew… Was there a way to avoid detection when channeling? Merdyn filed that away in his mind for later. Surely some Asha’man knew the answer to that. Hopefully, the answer wasn’t Compulsion; a channeler could make the Queen of Andor think that she was talking to the Creator himself using that weave.


                The White Tower forbade Compulsion, as far as Merdyn understood, but he didn’t know if the same was true for the Black. Still, the thought of using something so obscene on another person was enough to make Merdyn sick up. The One Power could be used to accomplish almost anything. Surely there was a way to fabricate sensations using the One Power without a Compulsion weave…


                As if in answer to Merdyn’s earlier thoughts, Ful spun to face him. There was no mistaking that gaze. The Dedicated knew he was looking at the real Merdyn now. He didn’t do anything, however. Merdyn jumped as a cold drop of water struck his face and Ful called out to him.  


                Ful proposed a halt to their practice. Merdyn had just been readying another weave of the Power. He had meant to try that one involving thick flows of Earth from a few days ago; the one he had failed at when the Trollocs attacked. That was an embarrassment Merdyn would not soon forget. If he had been a little quicker and if the weave had actually worked, then Nox, one of his unofficial mentors, might not have wound up in the Medic Tent. That was of little consequence now. What was done was done.


                Merdyn released Saidin as Ful asked his question. The lathe dropped from his hands and it seemed every muscle in his body flared up in protest. He had not realized he had let the Void go when Saidin left him. It was all he could do not to collapse there in the mud, “As lovely as these raindrops feel, I think that’s a marvelous idea.”


                Letting out a deep sigh, Merdyn bent to pick up the fallen lathe and walked over to Ful. The young man still hadn’t put a shirt on. It was an effort for Merdyn to make eye contact with Ful. It hadn’t been too hard to ignore the Dedicated while they were sparring, but there was nothing to occupy Merdyn’s mind now. Every time he looked at the lithe Dedicated, Merdyn’s eyes inevitably drifted. It wasn’t Merdyn’s fault. It just had been so long since he had enjoyed the company of another man…


                I’ll definitely have to visit a pleasure house tonight… Light. What a pervert I have become. You’d think that I’d have spent years in Ebou Dar or Arad Doman, what with the way my thoughts have been lately! Have you no propriety Merdyn!? You’re surrounded by men. This will inevitably happen. But what will happen when you let these thoughts take hold on the Battle Field? A finely turned calve is nothing when you’re taking a sword to the gut. Get it together, Merdyn!


                Merdyn shook himself a little and continued on, “In some places of the world, they say that mud is miraculous when worked on the skin, but I don’t think I’d like to test that theory today. I have already bathed once, and I do not wish to do so a second time in one day,” Tossing the lathe on the pile with the others, Merdyn looked anywhere but Ful, glistening in this rain and without a shirt, “You’re more of a threat than I would have first guessed upon meeting you, Ful. I’m not the best fighter in the Black Tower by any measure, but you certainly worked me to the bone today. The Shadow better watch their behinds once you attain the second pin. I thank the Light you’re on our side!” Merdyn broke out into a hearty chuckle, wiping raindrops from his eyes.


                Merdyn’s stomach rumbled something fierce, “I don’t suppose you’d care to grab a bite to eat before carrying on with the day’s labors? Chores and lessons will be impossible if I don’t get something to eat in the next hour… I’ll fix us up something, instead of the volunteers, if that makes a difference to you.” A smile was plastered across his face as he spoke to his leaner friend.


                This better not be a trick to put me off guard… I’ve seen some of the Asha’men do that to Soldiers… One must be ready for anything… But Ful wouldn’t do that to me… Would he? I’ve already acquired a couple dozen bruises at his hand and I don’t fancy earning a few more.

Edited by Oddpositions
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“Right, thanks. We can go back then." Ful nodded, turning away embarrassed by compliments paid to him, the rain water dripping off his nose as he kicked up the wet gravel under the wet trees. The rain was trickling to a stop, but the air was still filmy and damp. Water gathered along the uneven grass and ruts of the lane. He could smell the stove fire and the faint aroma of meals cooking. Although he couldn’t see them yet, he could feel the eyes in all the windows of the back alley, watching them . . . there were black tower sentries everywhere.


Ful turned his gaze round and directed it at the taller soldier. He had always admired and liked Merdyn, even though he was the first noble Ful ever met, befriended. But for a moment, during their fight, he was terrified of the others’ ingenuity. Why hadn’t he thought to slam a shield on the other? He totally lucked out!


They walked into the light of the hall where their kitchen was. 


“A chance to eat your cooking? Do you even have to ask?” said Ful wiped his face with a dry towel, then pulled on a spare shirt and apron. The prospect of being fed a scrumptious meal made him smile. “I'll help you. Maybe tomorrow, if you’re not too tired, you could show me your weave of illusions again and I can try shielding to counter it.” 


It would be nice to hold regular spar practices, to test himself against Merdyn. Maybe the other would be able to evolve the weave further. 

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                Merdyn slipped his own apron on and quickly busied himself. A pig was roasting on the spit. With a deft and sharp flow of air, Merdyn had a few choice pieces cut and placed on a wooden plate. Next came a few peppers, onions, garlic, and seasonings. “That sounds marvelous. The Illusion weave is a curious thing… I’ve been thinking about its applications ever since I learned it. Subterfuge is handy on and off the battlefield. If we ever wanted to scare off another army, all we would have to do is weave an Illusion that made it seem like we had over 100,000 soldiers! Even against other channelers, all one would have to do is invert the weaves. It would gain time in the very least…”


                The pork was chopped up with the vegetables, all with those same flows of air. The food went into a hot pan shaped like half of a sphere. Merdyn tossed everything inside and added a few different sauces. Chili oil, oyster sauce, and black paste. The aroma was overpowering. “If we’re being honest, I think that we should form a sort of intellectual society within the Tower. One dedicated to exploring the applications of Saidin… Or do we have something like that? I feel I am learning new things about the Tower every day.”


                While the cooking finished up, Merdyn seemed to conjure up a pile of cooked noodles out of nowhere and added them to the pan. He tossed it for a few more minutes more and then spooned out two generous helpings for Ful and him. “I learned this dish from one of my Father’s chefs. I forget where exactly the recipe is from, but I know the chef was from one of the western countries… So I would guess there. It is called a ‘stir-fry’. You’re supposed to eat it with two sticks, but we will have to make due with good old-fashioned forks.”


                The meal progressed along nicely as Ful and Merdyn chatted until the rain let up. For the first time in a long time, Merdyn felt like he had found a true friend.

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“Burn you, you’re clever!” Ful tossed back at the grinning soldier, speaking tooth-fully through his big bite of the 'stir-fry' Merdyn plated. “Light knows I can careful remember my name most days, let alone have time to think of inventive weaves.” 


But even as he spoke, he thought of the huge dedicated he trained with, particularly one who Ful had likened to a snake in character, though he was bigger than two Ful’s put together. Perhaps guile and creativity with saidin would help with Ful’s sparring against the wily dedicated, to make up for his lack of strength: in the one power, lack of bulk, and reach physically.


“I never heard of such a society, but if you start one, I’ll join you.” He raised his hands as if in surrender, "It’ll help us become better weapons.”


Ful shrugged as he finished the meal. He pulled out a flask. “There’s apple brandy in this,” he announced as he took a long swig, then passed his flask to Merdyn.

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