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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Matalina

Attention to Details (Survival Training) - Open

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Aiden missed the country.  He always said that whenever he took students out for Survival training.  His mother had taught him how to survive in the woods, and in a city for that matter.  It had been an interesting experience, especially as Aiden got older and his mother left him for longer and longer periods of time.  This was some of the best parts of teaching trainees.

 

Outside of the barracks Aiden waited for his classic class.  They had been instructed to get up and bring their gear for a few days out in the woods.  It was their job to bring whatever they could carry that would be useful on the trip.  Aiden had set aside a day's hike from the city, and three days out there with a lot of hiking in between, and then depending on the aptitude of the trainees he'd see about letting them find their way home.  But some weren't exactly brains, so Aiden wasn't sure that would happen this go around.  One could only hope.

 

Aiden himself brought his bedroll, a tarp for cover, but no tent.  He enjoyed the outside and he knew how to take cover if necessary in the forest to stay the driest.  Though he prayed it didn't rain.  It was unlikely, but it could happen.  He also brought a long hemp rope and stakes for climbing rock faces if necessary.  There was enough rations in his pack for six days and a water canteen.  He packed his herb supply kit and bandages just in case.  His weapons were with him as was a nice warm cloak.

 

Aiden also brought a secondary pack with supplies he'd need for the lessons he was going to teach.  It was early.  Aiden waited for his group of trainees, it would be a good trip.

 

[[ Early Rise, List your gear you THINK you might need on the trip, keep in mind you have to carry it all, no horses allowed. ]]

Edited by Matalina

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The corridor wound away, passing mystifying turns, stairwells, and series of empty chambers. It was a maze. Ashley’d turned so many times, he wasn’t even sure of the basic compass orientation above ground anymore. But he was confident here. There wasn’t much to feel cheerful about in his grim-set trainee life in the yards, but now he was happy he didn’t even consult the map anymore. Occasionally he paused to check the stenciled wall signs, and once backed up and rerouted to an upper level via the stairwells. But his confidence never wavered.

 

He came at last to a small side hall that seemed particularly dingy and long out of use. He was, by his best estimation, in the very basement levels of the city, lower than even the cellar levels. Racks of old work uniforms and crates of surplus equipment had been stacked there out of the way. Ashley pushed open a metal door, painted blue. The tower guard, an older man with greying hair shaved in close to the sides of his head, looked him over then nodded. He looked dangerous even while sitting at a writing desk, and super alert considering how ungodly early the time was.

 

“What do you need?"

 

Ashley blinked away the dust that filled his eyes, then coughed to clear his throat. It was absurdly hot in there, but the tower guard on duty wasn’t even sweating. “Sir I need supplies for wilderness survival class this morning. Can you help me?"

 

The tower guard shook his head as he waved to the racks all around him. “Take whatever you like. But I can’t advise you as to what to bring. It’s part of an exercise to think for yourself.”

 

Ashley had worked that much out from Aiden’s instructions. He thought fast as he looked desperately around at what he had to work with, envisioning every possibility, all the tight situations they might be in. For a moment, he imagined himself and Loraen lost in a dark forest without Aiden to guide and protect them.

 

No. That was just fearful thinking. Ashley snapped around from his reverie and randomly grabbed some items he thought might be useful: tinder, rope, a container for boiling water, some netting for catching fish. He carried his axe, as always, and his steel dagger. He silently prayed his lucky star was with him, as there’d be no point regretting anything while in the wilderness.

 

“Anything else?” the man asked.

 

There was a long pause. Ashley felt his pulse racing. He felt a sudden gnawing in his gut and realized it was fear. Fear of the unknown and the unknowable. Fear of leaving the city he’d grown familiar with. He suddenly remembered the things that made him join up with the warders in the first place.

 

The tower guard laughed and patted him as he gave Ashley some food packs to put into his rucksack. “Ah, you'll be okay since you’re in a group. Just work with what you have. You don't want too heavy a pack. Weighs you down.”

 

Ashley thanked the man fervently and jogged his way outside the barracks to meet Aiden and his classmates. He wondered what Loraen and the others prepared . . .

 

Ashley Wilkes

Trainee

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Loraen had adjusted well enough into her new surroundings, and circumstances. While she spoke to the other students, offered insight if they seemed open to it, and commented if involved in a conversation, she mainly stayed to herself, observing and listening to all she could. The only student she truly felt a connection with was Ashley, and she would join with him in exercises and conversations whenever the opportunity arose.

 

The latest instructions intrigued her. So, they were to learn survival techniques? This very much interested her. She wore her sword at her hip, and used her quarterstaff as a walking stick. She had a pack and a cloak. Following directions, she stopped to gather the supplies she thought she would need. The guard told her to take what she would, and she peered about carefully inspecting the myriad of items available.

 

She did not want to carry too much, nor did she want to be unprepared. In her pack were already rations, mostly consisting of dried meat and fruit. In with this, she packed away a length of rope, a small sheathed knife, and a rolled tarp. She pulled the pack strap over her head, and then crossed her water flask over her head from the other side. Thanking the guard, she headed out.

 

Stepping outside, she caught sight of Ashley making his way down the corridor. She quickened her pace to move in alongside him. "I just hope I packed the right things," she confided to him. "I hope Aiden has us work together. At least that way if one of us thought to bring something another did not, we stand a better chance." She offered him a smile. "It will certainly be a learning experience."

 

As they made their way to where they were to meet Aiden, she could not help but wonder what the others would bring. She also could not help but fear that perhaps she had forgotten something that she would come to regret leaving behind.

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“Loraen,” said Ashley with what seemed like relish. “Let’s get onto the fun bit. Why don't we look at what we got?” They dropped their packs for now per his suggestion and loosened up - he halted in his tracks and looked down. Ashley thumbed Loraen’s tarp, checking the contents of her pack. He sighed enviously, replaced the items carefully in her pack, then looked about for his pack. He'd do without the tarp, the cloak rather than turn up late. No going back now.

 

“Yes, let’s definitely group up if Aiden will allow it.” He was quiet for a while, studying the serious, beautiful profile of Loraen’s face. She excelled herself, as ever. She greeted those - friends? acquaintances? - who approached her with a dignified attitude as they walked through the corridor. He couldn’t do something like that at all. He would definitely feel confused right away and then look for a place that was out of the way. But Loraen understood the method of interaction here. She participated in the hallway chats without running away so naturally. Her presence made him feel at ease. Though she didn’t talk about her background with him, she was good with people. And  popular.

 

After thinking this, Ashley felt like a gust was blowing in his chest. Was he the only one who couldn’t get along with people? He wasn’t dissatisfied with his nomadic background as a tinker, but he was unable to imagine what the normal households other people talked about were like. But if Ashley had grown up in a normal family, would he be able to naturally do things to fit in?

 

He couldn’t imagine such a thing as he continued to observe the girl beside him.

 

Ashley escorted Loraen to where Aiden’s morning briefing was set to begin. The petite girl was carrying the bare minimum for light movement, stealth and basic survival. He cleared his throat. “I see you’re enjoying the back-up of your support weapon on this trip. Both of my weapon selections are weighing me down.” 

 

They joined the conversation circle of the other students gathered around Aiden. Ashley looked pale but determined to be more like the others, like it was no big deal. He made a very brief, nervous response, a little tilt of his chin when he approached the group but otherwise was silent. Next to this scene, he quietly looked at Aiden. Even their mentor Aiden could do this kind of interaction, mingling with dignity or saying a witty joke to make everyone laugh. He didn’t know what to think about that. That was how things were - he thought.

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Loraen examined their contents. Ashley had made some good choices she thought, though she caught a hint of indecision in his face for a moment, but then they were on their way again to the designated meeting place.

 

When Ashley mentioned her quarterstaff, she nodded. "I am sure it will have multiple uses, and I am hoping to learn a few of them while we are on this trip. She briefly touched the sword at her hip. The other was still in her room. "I though one blade might come in handy, but two was a bit much." She hoped she would not be penalized for not having both her swords.

 

They were not in the meeting spot long before other trainees began arriving. A few boasted over their bulging packs, and others making jokes. Loraen tried to offer encouraging comments to a few of them. She noticed Ashley looking a bit pale and moved in to stand at his side.

 

"I'm looking forward to what Aiden will show us on this trip," she whispered to him. "There is always something to learn." She directed her attention to Aiden, eager to witness his inspiring introduction to this venture.

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All students were accounted for - five in total and as typical Lorean was the only girl.  Aiden had high hopes for her and hoped her friendship with Ashley pulled him along.  It was definitely an awkward friendship but it was a friendship.  A tinker was not an easy life.  Ashley had a lot to offer this group if he would only step up.

 

Aiden didn't ask to see their packs.  They brought what they would and they would suffer by the same means.  There was only so much you could learn by being told what to do.  "If everyone is ready we will head out."

 

They traversed through the city, Aiden allowing the trainees time to look and peruse the shops and if something caught their attention he didn't stop them from any extraneous purchases.  Some might be useful, but some might not be.  The part of learning had begun.  Temptation was always available.

 

One of the trainees stopped to gawk at a golden goblet.  It was faux and guilded with jewels.  But he bought it, the merchant had hawked his wares and was happy.  Aiden figured it was about 10 extra pounds that the boy didn't need to carry.

 

Another bought a sweet sticky bun as they passed the shop.  Aiden had tried not to roll his eyes and would wait for the boys stomach to roll in the heat of the afternoon when Aiden refused to stop.  Everyone here should be able to make it to the first camp site without stopping.  Again, this is what they'd been training for.

 

The third boy, he bought nothing.  He carried his pack on his back with a bright smile.  Aiden didn't see a bedroll, and his pack looked way too light.  Aiden hoped the boy at least remembered to bring food.  He wondered if the others would share.  Or would he need to hunt for his own food.  Time would only tell.

 

Once out of the city Aiden began his lecture as they crossed the grand bridge toward Dragonmount.  The spire loomed in the distance and Aiden wondered what it might be like to climb to it's peak.  He'd never done it before, and he wouldn't likely get a chance to this trip either, trainees weren't great climbers in retrospect.  Aiden began explaining the things they'd learn - basic first aid, basic cartography, hunting/fishing, scavenging, shelter, how to start a fire.  Some of them laughed at the simplistic task, but it never surprised Aiden how many couldn't do it.

 

They would hike for two hours before Aiden planned to stop for a quick snack and water refill, he'd made the trip enough times he knew that's about how long it was to their first water source.  But it was also enough time on a warm day to drink all your water and start panicking.  Maybe they'd learn how to spot signs of water without being told, but probably not.

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Ashley's former life on the road meant he saw what a majority of city people couldn’t see: the world outside their city. His first encounter with Tar Valon told Ashley that there were more humans than he thought, living in close proximity to one another. But the majority of people would never see each other. Even Ashley didn’t know everyone at the yards, much less the city at large. Then he considered the numerous cities spread across this world like stars, where people wanted to meet up, trade and converge. For the normal city person, it was rare to travel through isolation and wilderness. To cut through wilderness of the country and travel to another city was taxing, and extremely dangerous unless you knew what you were doing. Thinking of this, he found it was interesting — how incredible that they overcame the hardships to come here. That they were given the chance to meet one another here. 

 

This was his thinking as the person standing right in front of Ashley began to haggle with a tattooed face merchant over an impressive looking golden goblet. Ashley tried to imagine how the trainee would eat from the large goblet. How exhilarating it would be, if after a long day of deprivation, for the boy to drink from a heavy golden goblet as a king ought to be. The trainee bought the goblet at the agreed price, against his friends’ wishes. Such strong determination gave off a proud and lonely air. His situation was so different from the rest of them. After laughing secretly to himself, Ashley forgot his misgivings of their trip.

 

Besides, the other two boys he knew also bought whimsical things. And then there was that boy who bought nothing, brought nothing except his pack. It surprised him, he had judged the others would be more prepared than him. Ashley stared at the three students with an amused gaze, his shoulders shaking at their actions in the city. The conversation continued as the group finalized their preparations. 

 

No one seemed to have noticed Ashley’s indecision while shopping. 

 

There were so many choices he didn’t know how to pick the correct type. He felt helpless with his slow intuition. He asked Loraen a question, who was looking at a display in the stalls. 

 

“What kind of tarp or bedroll do you think I should get? It’s not easy to pick with so many here.”

 

After paying for the item Loraen suggested, he packed up and hurried across the grand bridge to Aiden’s side. It was an exit from the city he knew, as this was also the point of his original arrival to this city.

 

The break time from relentless hiking and lecturing finally came, and saved Ashley from collapsing behind Loraen. After wiping off his sweat, he plodded to a suitable fallen log and toppled onto the ground. He now understood how he was so tired. This much exercise with a pack took a lot of his strength, and the extra weight carried took his mind off the hike. He made unnecessary moves because of a lack of focus, which in turn wasted a lot of his energy. He relaxed his breathing and his mind, reaching for the void instead of giving into his feelings of weakness, of tiredness and pain. When he had collected himself, the sounds of the trainees - some shrill and others lowered - vibrated through his exhausted body. 

 

“Hey, does anyone have more water?” the boy carrying his golden goblet asked. 

 

Ashley laughed — a single “ha!”

 

The five of them looked at him. He said calmly, “no, not enough to fill that. Now where can we get more water?”

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Loraen took the opportunity to travel through the city to examine the architecture and the activity. They were provided the chance to examine what venders had to offer, and though she was content with what she had packed, she joined with the others as they considered the wares being offered.

 

When she saw an item especially overpriced, she would try to indicate an item of similar quality for a better price. Occasionally the seller noted what she was doing and offered her an acusational stare, but she would simply smile, and offer the occasional word of advice to her fellow trainer. If they listened to her or not was entirely up to them. One young man was set on a particular gold goblet, and she did not waste her breathe when she noticed the gleam in his eye. On the other hand, Ashley sought out her insight regarding a tarp or bedroll. She quickly scanned the items readily available and indicated one that was reasonably priced and looked durable. For some reason it felt good when he went with her suggestion.

 

Nothing in particular stood out to her. She was the daughter of a merchant, after all, so she was used to examining wares, considering the value, the cost, potential profit. She had what she needed, or at least she hoped she did. Besides, the only thing that caught her eye was a necklace with a pendant of a rose in bloom. The was nothing very grand about it, so she was not sure what it was the struck her about it, but she looked at it briefly, before turning away to continue their journey through the city and into the wilds beyond.

 

As they hiked, Aiden began to lecture. There was a way that she spoke, knowledgeable, but approachable, and she listened intently to what he said. As he spoke, she looked about at their surroundings. Dragonmount stood in the distance. Very impressive. Perhaps someday she would make her way there. For now, she hiked along with her companions, eager to learn all she could.

 

The heat of the day was coming along. Occasionally, she took a sip of water, but was careful to not drink too much, as she was not sure where the next water source would be. She was happy when Aiden finally called for a break. While Ashley collapsed onto a log, Loraen found a nearby tree to lean up against.

 

The young man who had bought the goblet asked if anyone had any water. She considered pouring some of her own into the gaudy goblet, when she heard Ashley let loose a "Ha!" He seemed to have realized what he had done when he promptly recovered, and inquired as to where they could get more water. Surpressing a laugh of her own, Loraen moved over to the boy, and went ahead and offered a bit of her water, which he accepted with a blush.

 

With a sip herself, she turned to Ashley, and winked. She cocked her head to the side to listen. She was sure there was a reason that Aiden had chosen this spot in which to take a break. "Does anyone hear running water, from a river, or even a stream?" At least her question managed to get the others to stop their chattering and get quiet for a moment.

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The silence made him uneasy. He knew he had come to a place that he shouldn’t have, but he had no idea how he could have avoided being here.

 

“I can hear water running.” A thin, tall male student replied to Loraen’s question. “We should send two or three people to see if there’s a creek. There’s no point in all of us going. Some of us should stay in the area, gather some wood, and start a fire to boil the water, just in case it’s not clean. I’ll go get water, who wants to help?"

 

Everyone looked at Aiden.

 

“. . . what?” Ashley said after pausing for half a second. He had taken some time to digest that meaning. This told him how serious his lack of experience was in regards to the danger around them. He squinted toward the direction of the running water. He could hear it, too.

 

If this was a close enough water source . . .

 

Now Ashley understood what Loraen asked. Only a dead end awaited them if they didn’t do this now. He once again looked at Loraen, wondering if she thought they could do this. The problem of this group was that it lacked experienced people. Everyone besides Aiden was a student. 

 

His hand trembled as he looked at her face in the bright sun. It wasn’t fear, but the drumming of his heart waving away that fear. Loraen’s kind and determined spirit had overcome his fear; he was dizzied by her determination, her brightness. This drumming he felt could only be excitement. 

 

Did he think he’d be allowed to run away at a time like this?

 

Wasn’t that what their training was for? What was the purpose of this power within them otherwise? Wasn’t it for times like this? For their survival? 

 

As he finished this thought, he couldn’t sit still anymore. The stirring feeling in his heart intensified. He stood up and said, “I’ll help you.”

 

As he ran toward the possible water source, he kept in mind that the moss grew on the southside away from where the sun was. He wanted to pass this crisis safely, and return to camp.

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One of the young men decided to send a few to look for the source of possible water, with others staying to prepare to attempt to purify it. She was happy to see Ashley volunteer to help find the source.

 

Part of her wanted to join him, but she wanted him to have the opportunity to grow a bit more confident in himself. It might be best if she did not join.

 

So instead, she turned her attention to gathering twigs and dry grass. If necessary, she could start the fire, but she was hoping everyone would be able to contribute to the exercise.

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The trainee's did indeed find the water, though the boy with the sweets was trying very hard not to retch.  Aiden was surprised that the golden goblet hadn't been dropped yet, it would be by nightfall.

 

Ashley had taken some initiative which Aiden was proud to see.  It seemed Lorean was encouraging him as well.  She would make a great teacher.  

 

Aiden was proud of them, they were thinking ahead.  Though the small stream nearby would be clean.  Aiden and every other class before had drunk from the stream.  And while the trainee's may not realize it.  Their camp that night would parallel the same stream.  

 

They would stop while the sun was still up, set up camp and learn how to fish and set traps for the night.  Augmenting their rations.  Though Aiden was sure there was a boy who didn't bring anything.  Silly child.  He was hardly tired, but he'd be hungry later.

 

Aiden filled his canteen from the stream directly after he had followed Ashley in the direction of the water.  Aiden patted him on the shoulder.  "Good job."  

 

After ten minutes Aiden called for their journey to begin again, and Aiden headed deeper into the area below Dragonmount.  As the shadows grew shorter Aiden spoke about the plants in the underbrush, and the animals they could neither see nor hear as well as those they caught glimpses of.  Aiden indicated several plants to avoid and several that were edible.  It might save their life one day.  There were also several plants that could be used for medicinal purposes.  Aiden hadn't taken to herbology like his sister, but he'd learned enough from his mother.  He would never be as good as either of them, but he was decent.

 

The sun was high in the sky by the time they stopped again.  Everyone should be tired, and hungry.  "Eat quickly but don't get sick.  We still have several hours of hiking to do."

 

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Aiden had gotten everybody up. They stood up and looked around, groaning and stretching and bemused. The boy next to Ashley got up so suddenly, his big goblet fell on the ground with a clatter that echoed through the dripping glade.

 

Ashley smiled, spreading his hands in a shrug at the boy. He knew about the weight of the goblet, as he was the one to fill it earlier, nearly dropping it into the stream himself. He nodded in the direction of the trees on the far bank of the swirling, clear stream. The water tasted fine, and after the pair filled up everybody’s canteens, Aiden had praised him for volunteering. This made him want to try taking more initiative. Aiden’s praised fired him up. And it was Loraen who inspired him to help—what she’d done for him. He glanced over and thought, she was always tough and looked more like a guard now than ever.

 

He walked in simple gratitude as their group crossed the clearing and walked lightly into the trees, taking care to listen as Aiden gave commentary on local flora and fauna. There were signs of life, insects, small animals, some rabbits and lizards. The trees, the matted frond plants and vines, were alive. They trudged on, as birds called to them from above, and frogs croaked and splashed nearby. 

 

He paused at one spot, listening. He stared into the distance of the treeline behind them. Ashley shook his head. He could have sworn he heard something familiar. But there was nothing there.

  

Some time later, they arrived at their next resting place that Aiden had chosen. Ashley hastened over to the boy who didn’t bring much - he hadn't eaten anything so far - and asked cheerfully while joining him. “I packed too many rations. Can I give you some?"

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Thankfully they seemed to pass their first test. They had found water. She was happy to see Aiden offer praise to Ashley, and to see her fellow trainee encouraged by it. Loraen was sure he had plenty to offer the group once he gained enough confidence in himself.

 

Happy knowing they had water, Loraen was eager to resume the hike. Aiden lectured, and she eagerly soaked in all he offered. A couple of the boys lingered in the rear, quietly chattering with each other, and likely missing out on some imperative morsal of knowledge. She walked close to Ashley, but focused her attention on their instructor.

 

At one point Ashley paused, as though listening something in the woods around them. She thought to ask him what he thought he heard, but peered where he listened and saw nothing. When he seemed to let it pass, she offered a smile and directed her attention back to the scenery ahead of them.

 

When they stopped again, she was happy to take a sit down in the grass. She rummaged in her pack for something small to eat. The boy who had packed nearly nothing looked a bit unsure, and Ashley offered him some of his ration. Loraen reached in to her pack and offered the boy a handful of dried fruit. "Save it for later if you want."

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Lorean and Ashley helped the boy who didn't bring any rations.  That was nice of them. Aiden wondered what the boy would do if Aiden had said no sharing.  Not this stop, maybe the next, after they'd gone through several more lessons.

 

Of which Aiden started almost immediately.  Shelter.  Was first on their list of things.  Aiden asked in general, "Who brought a tent?"  Aiden hadn't seen any when he was  viewing each of them as they walked.  But that didn't mean someone hadn't been prepared.  

 

Aiden explained about wayward pines and what to look for.  But their first task was to build a lean to.  Aiden didn't offer any suggestions.  He wanted to see what they though of first.  He'd help them shore them up and make them presentable.  

 

"Last one to finish a suitable shelter has first watch tonight."

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Evening fell. The hike, and their lessons, continued as the light faded. Ashley believed he understood the bulk of Aiden’s lessons as their party descended. 

 

Aiden waved two of his students forward on either flank, one taking right and the other taking left. Aiden led the front prong himself. Following their instructor, the young man with the golden goblet and Ashley spread into a defensive position, as the others slipped down the steep slope and joined them. By necessity, they quickly became more concerned with keeping upright and descending than raising their weapons defensively.

 

“It opens up ahead,” Ashley said, breathing hard.

 

Aiden walked to the open space with his trainees accompanying him and covering every quarter. Ashley looked back and saw the young men were keeping the line well another dozen paces behind him. 

 

For the first time since he joined the warder trainees, weary beyond measure, Ashley felt tears in his eyes. He didn’t feel scared as his classmates closed in around Aiden and assumed close defensive file, then pointed out they now need shelter.

 

Ashley wiped at his eyes-- he knew a moment of gratefulness, of belonging.

 

He smiled happily as Aiden called upon each of them to make their own shelters. He already had this idea to build a lean-to with his tarp, but it would require wooden stakes.

 

Ashley reached out his hand, slipped it into his leather satchel, and drew out his axe. He looked back up at Loraen’s face, and half smiled. Then he turned and walked away into the wide forest. Away from their camp, and the light falling through the canopy space which their party was under, the forest was dark and green and quiet.

 

He heard a splash and turned around. One of the trainees was walking toward him, shin deep in the green water. He stood up and watched the trainee coming closer. 

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