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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

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                Merdyn exhaled deeply. This day had been coming for a very long time now and there just was no way around it. Memories of his first days at the Farm came rushing back in a flood of memories. The happiest ones involving his friend, Ful, and his teacher, Nox. They were the only people that had mattered around here, as far as Merdyn was concerned. That should have made all of this easier, he had sparred with Ful before. There hadn’t really been a winner in that instance, however. More of a draw. Merdyn was hoping for a repeat of that day. Nox wouldn’t be easily tricked, so Merdyn wouldn’t be using any Illusion clones on him… at least he wasn’t planning on it.

 

                The sun had hit its midpoint in the sky. There was no more putting it off. If Merdyn waited any longer, he’d have to wait till tomorrow; if that were the case he’d end up putting it off again. No. Now was the time.

 

                One of the other Dedicated had pointed Merdyn in this direction. They said they saw Nox heading back to his small house. Merdyn wasn’t sure what the Asha’man would be doing in there; he didn’t want to interrupt him if it was anything serious. But then Merdyn remembered the last time he was here. Nox hadn’t been upset at the intrusion. Merdyn even suspected he had welcomed it. Would Nox be that welcoming today? Or would he send Merdyn away, scorning his request? There really was only one way to find out.

 

                Taking another deep breath, Merdyn knocked at Nox’s door and braced himself.

 

                Today he was going to challenge Nox to a sparring match for the right to the title of Asha’man.

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Nox hadn't even sat down on his bed to tug his boots off when there was a knock.  He called out "It's unlocked."  It was never locked but no one had to know that.  If Nox was worried about someone stealing something he could just use the Power, but he wasn't worried.  He owned nothing of import.  His clothes were all Black Tower Issue.  There was nothing else here except books and his few furnishings.

 

Nox wasn't surprised to see Merdyn.  He was nearing the end of his training.  Nox knew he was ready to attain the pin.  It was just a matter of dueling an Asha'man.  Nox wondered if that's what he was here for.  

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                Merdyn popped his head into Nox’s room, giving him one of those characteristic grins of his. It didn’t look like he was interrupting anything, in fact, Nox was still very much in uniform. The room was plain and straightforward, just like Nox, whom Merdyn had never heard beat around the proverbial bush. He appreciated that about the man. Oh, he could be the strong silent type when he wanted to be, but Nox was never foolish or frivolous.

 

                Entering the room fully, Merdyn looked down at his collar and fingered the empty space opposite of the pin that marked him Dedicated. With a sigh, Merdyn dropped his hand to the side and looked back up at Nox. “Looks a little lonely, doesn’t it?” Amusement quickly covered Merdyn’s face, eyes glittering, a chuckle in his throat, “I also seem to remember you saying things would change once I became Asha’man… well, consider this a formal request, Nox; I challenge you for the right of Asha’man.”

 

                The words left his mouth and the weight on his shoulders went with it. There. He said it. Nox would either accept the challenge or send him away. Part of Merdyn didn’t want to stick around, he couldn’t bear it if his teacher refused him. Trouble was that his feet seemed to be glued to the spot. Merdyn looked at Nox hopefully.

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Nox eyed where those fingers touched and he closed his eyes remembering the very words Merdyn echoed back at him.  He'd said those words to comfort the man, before he'd even heard the story of his life.  He'd meant them.  He'd been offended and Nox hadn't wanted that not even a little.  He had a nice smile.  And he had ... Nox pushed it away as he stood up.  "Anything short of a killing blow is fair game."  

 

There was no formal way of doing this.  When he'd challenged Adrim, it was only because Adrim kept hinting at it.  Telling him he was ready but Nox didn't believe him.  He had ignored it at first, but then he saw soldier after soldier become dedicated and then finally Asha'man after Nox had already taught them.  It was his own mental state that kept him from trying.  Nox had eventually won, he opened a gateway behind Adrim and the entrance behind himself and in a quick moment he was on top of Adrim with a flaming sword at his neck.  This was not his test, he would do what he must to challenge Merdyn.  It was only right.  He deserved to feel as if he earned the second pin. And then maybe...

 

 

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Merdyn’s face remained much the same, smile stuck in place, but his stomach sank at hearing Nox’s reply. Somehow this was worse. It hit far too close to home. Merdyn still hadn’t completely shaken his first lesson with Nox or the aftermath of that. Did he have any scars from the incident? If so, Merdyn was the cause and he hadn’t even been strong enough to heal him. All of that had changed. Merdyn had come into his full strength and learned quite a deal. Even his old wounds from the past and the memories of Kyllian had healed further. He was a man now, fully grown and ready to take on the world.

 

                Still, Merdyn couldn’t help but be a little nervous. What was he expecting by challenging Nox? He knew better; of course, this would be a real fight… so long as neither of them was seriously injured, everything would be okay. Merdyn resolved to find a way to disable Nox in combat with little injury to either of them. Then he would just have to pin the man with flows of air or a flaming sword or something. They could end it after that and Merdyn would become Asha’man…

 

And then? He had a few ideas. But he never thought that Nox… No…

 

Stranger things had happened before though…

 

“Ok, but I'd rather not do it here. I’d hate to mess up your living space,” Merdyn said and led the way out of the house.

 

A few moments later, they were standing in the same spot where Ful had sparred with Merdyn, but for very different reasons. It seemed fitting in a way. Merdyn stripped off his coat and undershirt, revealing a finely muscled torso and sizeable arms. His skin had a healthy glow and was unblemished. Tossing the coat over a barrel, he turned to face Nox. He gave the man the up and down, cocking an eyebrow at him, “Swords or no? I’m ready either way, Nox.”

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Nox couldn't help but stare as he pulled his coat off.  That wasn't something Nox was willing to do.  His clothes meant the world to him and no one saw him disrobed without due cause.  He wasn't shy about his body, he wasn't shy period, he didn't hide the pursed lips as he admired the other man and the words made him smile.  "Whatever you think it will take to beat me."  Nox said.

 

Fighting is what they had all been trained for.  They were living weapons.  Nox in a fight would pull fireballs out of need, instead the he several balls of air that spun around him  at his will.  Nox could fight with a quarterstaff but he didn't have it with him.  The One Power was enough of a weapon and if necessary he could form the staff of earth and air and fight melee, but Nox wasn't about to let the man close enough.  

 

Nox diverted the flows and and created a secondary weave, one of water and air and a touch of heat.  And he used it like a whip cracking it in the air.  He could feel the strain already, a third diversion was possible but only if necessary, Nox prepared himself for the taxing task he knew he could do but it would be a last ditch effort to survive.  A shield of rock and stone to dome over him in the event that all else should fail.  This was not a fight to the death but it was a real fight.  And Nox had no intentions of losing it.

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                Merdyn did not miss the look that Nox was giving him. A moment of surprise registered on his face and then another of clarity. There was no mistaking that expression. He had worn it often himself, but never so openly or boldly as Nox. A light blush actually appeared on Merdyn’s face. He did not remove the coat for Nox’s benefit, merely to ensure nothing got in his way when they fought and to avoid getting set aflame. He had seen that happen all too often around the Farm.

 

                Still… He was suddenly thankful that he had removed the coat. That answered a large question in the back of his own mind. Nox was interested in him; at least physically. Now that conversation at the Soup Kitchen had made sense. Merdyn wasn’t trying to court Nox at the time, he had just wanted the man to lower his walls a little. He meant a lot to Merdyn and it was torture that the other man was so withdrawn. They were friends, at least Merdyn wanted to think so… But now… Well, he was beginning to see Nox in a new light and it was very exciting.

 

                They would be having a very serious conversation tonight whether Nox wanted to or not. Merdyn would be an Asha’man and Nox would have no excuses; not unless one of them ended back up in the Medic’s Tent.

 

                That would be later, though; right now Merdyn had to focus on Nox and his weaves.

 

                Merdyn channeled Earth, mimicking Nox’s first flow of air; although Merdyn shaped the earth into ten whirling blades that spun around him. They moved fast and brought a ‘whooshing’ sound to the ears, as Merdyn moved, they moved. This in itself was a testament to how far he had come; a few months ago he couldn’t make a molehill with the element.

 

                It appeared that Nox was trying to prevent Merdyn from getting anywhere near him; which was fine, Merdyn would find a way… somehow.

 

                Then a thought occurred.

 

                With a quick twist of his left wrist, Merdyn wove Air and Fire together. The flows of fire jumping almost instantly at his mental commands. The threads snaked together and Merdyn whipped them around the perimeter of the training grounds. This was a risky move, but it would ensure Nox couldn’t get too far from him. Merdyn released the weave and pushed on it; a bright flash occurred where the weave landed and fire sprang up in its place. It was large enough that Nox would have to channel another flow to dose it. Other members of the Black Tower were congregating around the sparring match. Merdyn felt better about that; if the fire got out of hand, there were plenty to put it out.

 

                Merdyn looked directly into Nox’s eyes and gave him the cockiest look he could muster. Then he charged.

 

                The earthen blades swung away from Merdyn and flew directly at Nox. Without missing a beat, Merdyn readied a second flow. If he could distract Nox with the other two movements, he might be able to severe at least one of the weaves.

 

                If.

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Nox smirked at the cocky look on Merdyn's face.  He remembered their first meeting, over slept, trollocs, and pain...  It had taught good lessons.  Not everything works out for the best.  

 

Fire leaped up around them and Nox felt the panic settling in.  He wasn't generally afraid of fire, but when there was no way out it made his insides screech, the burns may not have scared his body thanks to Adrim, but he remembered all to well the flames that had licked and charred his legs.  Nox tied off the whip he'd made and held it close in hand.  

 

Merdyn had thrown the earthen daggers at him and Nox added air to his original weave, the balls of air spun faster. Nox wove the air into a giant ball and slapped it together.  The concussive force of the outward blow should stop the shards and put out the flames in one go, but it could make things worse and the fire could spread.  Nox hoped that it was not the latter, but there were people around them to put it out.  At least he hoped the gathering crowd wasn't stupid.   With the momentum of the blow outward Nox snapped the whip and it wrapped around Merdyn's leg.  Nox tugged...

 

[[ I'll let you decide the results of the two actions :) ]]

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                Like a heavy thunderclap, Nox’s weave extinguished most of the flames and reduced the earthen blades to soil on the wind. A few onlookers hooted; hell, even Merdyn was impressed by that one. Air was one of the most useful elements to use, although Merdyn would never have guessed that. It was incredibly versatile, perhaps only matched by Earth. Almost. Fire was great, Merdyn’s favorite, but there were just some things you couldn’t do with it.

 

                Merdyn felt a tightness on his left leg and without warning he was on his back. Nox had the whip in hand, reeling Merdyn in like a particularly tasty fish. That wouldn’t do. He channeled.

 

                A silvery slash materialized in the air and opened quickly. The edges of the Gateway slammed to the ground, cutting off the whip-weave; it’s remnants fizzling away from Merdyn’s leg. The momentum carried Merdyn through the opening and emptied him onto the Traveling Ground, which was only a few buildings down from where they were now. Merdyn jumped back through the Gateway, coming out at the same point where he entered, Nox on the other side.

 

                Before letting the Gateway drop, Merdyn wove together Air and Fire, surrounding himself with the weave. In one swift movement, he let go of the Travelling weave and finished the other, an aura of flame sprang up around Merdyn’s entire body. He was giving Nox that look again.

 

                Weaving air once more, Merdyn created 5 thick flows meant to bind Nox to the spot. Inverting the weaves, Merdyn placed each flow in a circle around Nox. If the man moved in the wrong direction, or even go to close… Well, he would be trapped with invinisble arms of air, making this an easy victory. No injuries, no bloodshed, no tears.

 

                Merdyn winked at Nox and folded his arms across his chest, waiting…

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Nox tumbled backwards and was on his feet in a lithe motion as the whip broke at the edge of a gateway.  Nox was impressed with the ingenuity of the weave used.  But then Merdyn stood there smirking at him.  He did nothing else which meant he had done something Nox couldn't see.  Inverted weaves were impressive specially when fighting, but the fight was still early on he had time and energy, but the longer the fight went on the harder it would be to channel.  Nox had no intention of yeilding.

 

Nox planted his feet where he was.  He didn't know what lie around him.  Unless Merdyn made him move there was nothing going to make him go.  The cocky grin Nox rolled his eyes at as he wove water above Merdyn and let it dump down on top of the air and fire weaves dousing the flames leaving Merdyn soggy.  Nox grinned but he tried to hid the natural reaction as he wove another weave quickly.

 

A hole grew in front of Merdyn, growing wider the more power Nox threw into it.

 

 

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                Merdyn began coughing immediately, water cascading down his body, muscles tensing and flexing with each violent cough. That only made things worse as water was getting into his nose and mouth despite the coughs. It was over as quickly as it had begun and the water and fire were nothing more than memories. Merdyn was still soaked, though, water droplets glistening in the afternoon sun.

 

                A large hole opened up before Merdyn, growing wider by the second. His eyes goggled and he jumped back a few paces. Merdyn really didn’t want to hurt Nox, but he was running out of ideas. He left his trap where it was, Nox would have to move eventually or gateway across the field, but even that might set the trap. To add to the distraction, Merdyn wove 3 globes of light and poured as much fire into them as he dared. The three balls shone like the sun and Merdyn sent them to swirl around Nox’s head, fully intending on blinding the man or making him stumble into the unseen hands.

 

                Merdyn charged at Nox again, skirting around the growing hole and only paces behind the globes.

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Blinding light.  But not a singular source.  If he couldn't see he couldn't channel it was a brilliant move.  Though he heard him coming with the power coursing through his body, the sounds of soles on ground were almost as loud as the roar of a crowd, still he didn't know what lay outside his immediate vicinity moving was perilous.  

 

Grappling was not the most effective way of handling the situation but it seemed to be the only one.  Nox wasn't the strongest man at the farm, by far scrawnier than most.  And Merdyn had pounds on him.  It was going to hurt.  And he couldn't see.

 

Nox braced himself in the blinding light waiting for the impact that drew closer.  He didn't want him that close, at least not in a fight he thought to himself... and he had another thought.

 

The crash jarred Nox and he tumbled backwards with Merdyn's momentum.  Nox's breath left him as they thudded to the ground behind him.  The added weight made it hard to catch his breath  but he didn't need to breathe to lean up and find the other man's lips with a press of his own.  Nox hoped to stun him enough to gain the upper hand and roll him over and pin the man below him.  It was a long chance he knew it, but all was fair in 'war'.

Edited by Matalina

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                Merdyn’s ploy worked! Nox did nothing but stand there as the balls of light danced around his head. Merdyn was a pace away and dropped the hands of air completely, then dropping the balls of light as he shouldered Nox to the ground. The pair tumbled backward, dust and dirt kicked up in their scuffle of tangled limbs; Merdyn’s chest heaving with labored breaths.

 

                Without thinking, Merdyns hands shot up and pinned both of Nox’s wrists to the ground. He was about to slip a shield between Nox and the Source, but he just didn’t have the strength at that moment. Merdyn wasn’t even given the option before Nox’s face shot up towards him, their lips colliding in a hot, sloppy kiss. Oh, Merdyn wanted it, but this was not how he pictured it happening.

 

                Surrendering to the aches in his body and his heart, Merdyn’s grip on Nox’s wrists loosened; he brought his left hand up to Nox’s face and caressed it softly. All thoughts of the Asha’men, the Black Tower, and even their onlookers were quickly forgotten as Merdyn became lost in the moment.

 

                Then he had a thought… This was too perfect.

 

                Blood and bloody ashes! He thought to himself.

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Nox wanted to stay right where he was, he didn't care who was watching, but there was a time and a place for that, and the training ground was not that place.  Nox kicked and used a weave of air to help shift himself on top of Merdyn.  The man looked like he realized only a second to late that he had been duped.

 

Nox grinned proudly down at the man who was pinned beneath him.  If they were alone he would have leaned down and kissed him again.  He was proud his ploy worked but more importantly he was proud of Merdyn.  "Are we done?  You are worthy to attain the pin, but if you want to keep going..."  Nox leaned down and whispered, "Though privacy might be better."

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                Merdyn didn’t even fight against Nox as he shifted positions, it was too late… And part of him didn’t mind the swap. A smile crept across his face. It was warm, genuine, and, most importantly, sultry. He cocked an eyebrow at Nox as his former teacher proclaimed him worthy of the title Asha’man, and better yet, it appeared that Merdyn was worthy of Nox.

 

                “My place or yours?” was all Merdyn asked.

               

 

                Maybe I should’ve challenged him a few months ago… Merdyn thought to himself wryly.

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Nox smiled at his smart comment as he stood up and offered Merdyn a hand.  "You meet the M'hael, get your pin and then stop by. My place."  Nox smiled, tho there was a lot to talk about.  So many things. So much clarification, his anxiety started but Nox remembered all the times Merdyn had seen it. It wasn't going to get any easier...

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                Merdyn clasped Nox’s hand and was hefted to his feet with ease. They were both the same height, but where Nox was lithe and slim, Merdyn was broad and built. Even their features were contrasting, Merdyn light of eye and hair, Nox with his chestnut hair and matching eyes. The two looked good together. It was almost a disappointment to Merdyn that it had taken him so long to reach this conclusion.

 

                He had feelings for Nox.

 

                Stealing another kiss, Merdyn whispered to the other man, “Just don’t run away on me. I’ll be right behind you.” He gave him that characteristic, goofy grin and walked off, grabbing his coat and under-shirt from the barrel. Merdyn shrugged the things on, barely lacing up the shirt and only doing up a few of the buttons on his coat. Light, but he was hot! Between the duel with Nox and then just Nox in general. Merdyn needed to feel the air running over his body, cooling the perspiration that covered him from head to toe.

 

                Looking around the yard, Merdyn noticed that everyone was still watching. As soon as the crowd saw Merdyn look up, the entire group broke out into cat-calls, whooping noises, and wolf-whistles. Merdyn rolled his eyes and channeled a quick flow, amplifying his voice with the one power.

 

                Yelling at the crowd, Merdyn fixed them each with a stern stare, “What!? Have you lot never seen two men sharing a beautiful moment before!? Go on! Off with you all! There’s a Pleasure House in town if you all are that desperate that you have to gawk!”

 

                The crowd laughed heartily at that and started dispersing. Merdyn rolled his eyes a second time and made his way to meet with the M’Hael.

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