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Previous scene: Gone Too Long




                Merdyn stepped through the Gateway that his Warder had created. His feet landed firmly on the packed earth of the Embassy's Traveling Grounds. Nox was right behind Merdyn. The Gateway disappeared without ceremony. He glanced over to Nox and smiled warmly, still feeling relaxed from their night together.


                The pair had awoken well before the dawn. Merdyn had thrown together a large meal and Nox had made a Gateway to a hot spring located somewhere in the north. They had broken their fast together and bathed each other there before returning to their hut to dress for the meeting with Calder. It had taken a little over an hour and Merdyn had found himself wondering why they had not done something like that sooner. He was positively beaming.


                Dawn had just started to break over the horizon, casting a hazy glow to the violet sky overhead. The air was crisp and smelled of nature and the green things that surrounded the Citadel complex. Merdyn looked around, impressed with the structure that had been erected for the Asha’men. He had only ever been to the Citadel once and he had still been a Soldier at that point. It felt like that had been a lifetime ago to Merdyn, so much had happened since then. He had never actually even been inside the Embassy, so he was not sure what to expect.


                Merdyn took Nox’s hand and gripped it firmly. He spoke warmly to his Warder, “Do you know anyone in the Band, love? The last time we were here, I don’t think I spoke to anyone but you or Ful… What sort of people are our comrades?”

Edited by Oddpositions

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Nox had been to the Citadel before.  He'd made gateways to and from the Black Tower.  Though he preferred Tear to any other place, but he'd taken shifts both here and the White Tower.  The stedding where the wolfkin were was not Nox's favorite place to be so he tried very hard to stay out of those missions.  Things had been interesting the last time he was there.


There was a certain spring in Merdyn's step and Nox could feel the happiness beaming through their bond.  He was loved, and loved the man he was forever connected to.  And that alone made everything worth it.  Nox didn't exactly remember names well so he shrugged.  "I've met a few.  But I don't remember their names."  He was pretty much just along for the ride anyway.  


It was still early yet, and they or rather Merdyn would meet whoever it was and he'd go off and do whatever it was Mer would do. Nox was proud of the young man who'd come to him as a soldier and had progressed to Asha'man and into his heart.  But Nox made no presumptions about his own worth.  He was just here as Merdyn's transportation.  He had no tact, no diplomacy.  He was just a thief and a whore to most people who knew him.  And in the Black Tower little changed, but instead of stealing and selling his body, he ferried people around saving them precious time.  And he was happy with that. It was better to know your place than to try to over extend.  Nox was just grateful Merdyn saw more than what others did.

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"Comm-" Eb snapped her mouth shut and jammed her hands into her pockets in an attempt to prevent them from furling into fists or throwing knives. With a short, bitter laugh she realised the paradox inherent in smothering aggression to avoid a diplomatic assignment. Perhaps things might turn out easier if she did let the knives fly? Surely then he'd realise that she was the last person in the Band, ever, that should be entrusted with this? Nothing else had worked.


Calder fixed her with a level stare. "Captain."


She looked back at him, teeth grinding together. This was it - the point of no return, either way. Swallowing the flood of curses swirling in her mind, she nodded her head to him.  


"Consider it done, then."





Outside the bounds of the Red Keep, Eb paced.


First, decide if they're trustworthy!? 


She spat, putting an end to sudden echoes of manic laughter and her memories of helplessness, of Mehrin's body at the mercy of the One Power. Of his death. She balled her hands into fists to stop them shaking, shook her head to stave off the tears that threatened to spill.


For Bloody Light's Blasted Sake!








The tiniest sliver of pre-dawn light crept into her room and she scowled at it, scruffing a hand through her wild jet-black hair and over her face. No bloody rest for the blasted... she pushed aside the comforter that hadn't, yet again, and stood.


Her mouth still tasted of the Bandy she'd bolted down the evening before. Food hadn't seemed like an option then, nor did it now - despite the audible protestations of her stomach. She strapped on her swords and took a swig from her waterskin, swilling and spitting as she reached the door outside. 


Ignoring the headquarters looming before her in the hazy violet light of dawn as pointedly as she ignored the grumble in her gut, she turned a hard left and made for the stone wall. Left again there, she jogged alongside the grey granite, feeling justified in her own rough blankness of heavy mood. The watchtower grew in front of her as she approached. The scowl on her face deepened. About here, on the other side of the wall, would be the Embassy of the Black Tower. The scowl deepened further, the scar on her cheek twisting sourly with it.


Right there.


Too close


And soon - too soon - her newest 'charges' and she would be there, too. Together. She shivered and picked up the pace, veering left again at the end of the Range and keeping her head well down until she reached the Yards. She reached them quickly enough, and discovered without any great surprise that no-one else was about yet. Shrugging, she ditched the idea of a spar and settled into the open space of the smaller yard to work through general sequences. 


The swords slid from their sheathes and came to settle in front of her, twin blades perfectly still, pointed forward and up at forty-five degrees. She closed her eyes. SPIN-STAB!  She stepped back and dropped a knee, flicking the hilts down and around until she could catch them again and drive the blades backwards, behind her, hard, either side of her leg.  SWISh -


She worked through several routines, dancing against her memories and a sense of futility - dipping, stabbing, thrusting, stepping, slicing, whirling. In her mind's eye, as well as in practice, she replayed move after move after move as she made it, adjusting angles and limbs and weapons a hair here, an inch there. Usually the drills were a ritual that calmed and focused her, as much as anything ever had. These days though, the ache of frustration and loss in her chest remained unaffected by even them, no matter how much her muscles stretched and strained. This was, afterall, where he'd first trained her. Where she'd learned two swords were better than one, that best practice often occurred before the sun truly graced the sky. 


For all the good it can ever do. 


She stared at the first true rays of sunlight, peeking now over the eastern wall, and shoved the swords angrily back into their sheathes. There was nothing for it. They had to prepare and use every chance, every skill and muscle and weapon that they had. 


Even those that were capable of so much more than just stabbing them in the back.


She marched out of the yard, out of the Citadel proper, and towards the Embassy.







The air inside the cordoned-off travelling Grounds split, and twisted, whirling wide. Although she was still a distance off, Eb stopped short, hissing out the breath that threatened to get stuck in her throat. Her heart hammered, visions of the last time she'd seen such a gateway flooded her mind, threatening to drown her in the memories and terror once again. There were reasons she'd been avoiding this place as much as possible since her return. She sucked in a breath, forced it down to the bottom of her lungs. Let it out.  Repeated the same again.


What in the ruddy Light is WRONG with you!?  She yelled silently at herself, forcing a few more breaths until she was calm enough to move on.


The hole in the air had disappeared. In its place were two men, each of them with their hair cropped close to their scalps. Eb watched as they exited the Traveling Yards. Tall. Thin. - she shut down the mental evaluation of their stances and physical forms even as it began.


Channelers, both of them.


Nothing else mattered. How could it?


They were holding hands, talking as they stepped out of the yard with a nod from the guard at the gate. Eb looked from one to the other. 


"Your stuff goes there," she jerked a thumb towards the on-site barracks.

"For now. Whenever it arrives."


And so it begins.


"I've been told that the first stop is the city, for breakfast," she turned to leave, assuming they would follow.

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Nox blinked at the abrupt nature of their greeting. He was used to hostility in the Black Tower, but most people saw the black coat and were scared.  This wasn't scared, this was something else.  Though fear makes you do stupid thing.  Nox grinned at Mer and squeezed his hand.  This was his show, but Nox couldn't let it be.  This woman didn't know him.  Knew nothing of his past or how he had gotten here, and there was no reason to be angry at them  They were just following orders just like she was.


Nox tugged at Mer and they followed, catching up to their guide. "Breakfast sounds wonderful.  Right Mer?"  He grinned as his love still holding his hand.  "Though we already ate.  I don't think I could eat another bite." Nox pulled a bag out of a pocket in his coat, he'd been saving the crusty bread with left overs in it for later.  Mostly for Mer cause he'd get lost in whatever work he was doing.  And Nox didn't want to stray too far from him to take care of him if he didn't have to.  "I brought some of Mer's leftovers.  Maybe instead you can show us around and you can have this instead.  It really is wonderful.  Mer's an excellent cook.  He runs the soup kitchen at the Tower.  All the villagers love when he cooks."

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                Merdyn’s eyebrows climbed up towards his hairline at the ‘greeting’ offered to them on behalf of the Band. Was this the Eb mentioned in the missive? He opened his mouth, ready with a snide comment to lob at the woman, but Nox pulled him forward and jumped in before Merdyn was able to utter a word. He closed his mouth and resigned to being towed along by his Warder. The woman jabbed a finger towards the barracks, informing them that they could stow their belongings there. Merdyn did not bother to inform her that they would be returning to the Black Tower at day’s end.


                Nox pulled out the cloth bag that contained the leavings of their food wrapped in oiled paper and cord. He didn’t exactly offer it to the rude woman, but he may as well have. Merdyn wasn’t sure why this all bothered him so, but it did.


                Growing up as a noble had hardened him in regard to social situations. Light, even his time spent at the Black Tower had only served to strengthen his backbone. Why should this woman get under his skin so? Perhaps it was due to the prestige he had felt at being called to both the White Tower and The Citadel to serve as an ambassador of sorts. Or perhaps it was the disregard she had shown to both Nox and himself. Or maybe she just had one of those personalities that gave a chafe to one’s good mood.


                Whatever the reasons, none of them mattered.


                This Eb, whoever she was, would have to be dealt with as if she were the Queen of Andor herself. Merdyn and Nox were here to represent the Tower and its interests. Nothing more. If Eb didn’t like them, or if she refused to treat them with respect- well, that was of little consequence to the powers that be. They would just have to bear it.


                Merdyn clenched his jaw and forced a smile onto his face. Nox would no doubt feel the irritation through the Bond, but he would just have to endure it as Merdyn tried to squash the emotions.


                You are essentially a male Aes Sedai, man, Merdyn thought to himself, Buck up and act like one. Those women of the Tower wouldn’t be cowed by some brutish captain. No. They would be doing the cowing, they would-


                Merdyn shook his head and banished the thoughts. He was not Aes Sedai. He was Ashaman. What those women could get away with was more than any man of the Black Tower could dare dream of. No. It would be better to woo this woman into compliance. Get on her good side. Charm the living Light out of her.


                The smile was coming a little easier the more he thought on that.


                “Oh, yes, we are quite stuffed,” Merdyn called out in a cheerful tone to the back of Eb’s head, “You are more than welcome to the food we brought. Although we would be just as fine sitting with you while you break your fast in the city, perhaps we could have some tea instead while you do so?"


                This was going to be a long day.

Edited by Oddpositions

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