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A Battle. Or Two. (-- Ava Sedai)


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Brown cloth swept a sheen of perspiration from the dirty skin.  A bell tolled the early hour in the faint morning air.The thick, beaten fingers that gripped it tightly pulled it back, roughly, across the flesh again, then let it drop.  The dawn was breaking, and the work of Tower Guard Sovald Rul was barely begun.  Rolling his eyes back and dusting his hands, he squatted to take a bundled lathes, tossing it back and forth.


Standing tall again, his back cracked as he straightened and eyed the rising sun that put out enough rays to glance brilliantly off his skin.  Considering, then applying, a thin layer of black around his eyes, then he took his steps forward into the ring.  The other man grinned widely and matched the formal bow as all went to black.  The Flame burned in Sovald as he poured himself into it, encompassing the instant, stretching himself into the world, the lathes, the ground.  His body flowed into the Leaf Floating on the Breeze, and then the first strike.


The clash of wood sounded, feet padding and skin slapping sounded in the yard.  Sovald met the Kingfisher takes a Silverback turning to his left, bringing his lathe up into Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose, pulling the blow to slash down for the stomach instad.  Batted away, he retreated a step.  Back and forth the fights went, minor touches here and there as the two danced, matches being won and lost on accidents.  The two men acquired again the glow of sweat about them as more and more activity began around them.  Another match, they sipped a quick drink, then went back to work, moving faster, more determined now.  Five, then ten, then fifteen, and not a proper blow struck.  The bell rang.  A few watched on amusedly, mostly trainees resting from their morning chores.  Click-clack-click, the two men absorbed totally in each other and infinitely aware.  A woman's shawl appeared off to the side at some point, words being passed to others who pointed at the two fighting men, and she turned to watch.  A brief part of Sovald's mind wondered at what brought Sedai down this early, and yet had her with enough time to watch a fight, but that was driven out by Ribbon in the Air changing to Kissing the Adder, forcing Sovald back even more, nearly stumbling.  Was that another bell toning?  A red welt appeared on his ribs and a sharp sound rang out when he overextended with The Boar Rushes Downhill against a feint.  Another welt on the other side grew red when he parried too weakly.  His wrist burned from the lathes sliding together.  A kick at his ankle made it throb.


The sun burned, and while many people had come and gone, that woman was still there.  Strange.  Or portentous.  The men were evidentally tiring, although the Void managed to keep Sovald from some of it -- still, it was a strain.  Then, as he performed Low Wind Rising, his opponent blocked cleanly downward, and Sovald swept out The Grapevine Twines, twisting fast and hard.  Too hard.  Neither blade flew off, but Sovald saw his droop, and heard something.  Something loud.  A crack.  He tried to drop the lathe, his fingers unresponsive.  Concentrating, it fell, his left hand catching it in time to block lightly and retreat.  He could barely move his right hand, but there was no time for that.  The advances came quicker, the attack more relentless.  Further and further back he fell, slipping in a slash here, a Soft Rain at Sunset being parried off, and he saw Kissing the Adder heading for him, left widew open from the thrust, Sovald couldn't recover his blade back to guard quickly enough.  A touch of wood that swept forward and cracked into him, his attempt to turn away in a dodge fruitless, a killing blow with any true blade.  Sovald hit the ground achingly, rose slowly to grasp the forearm of his opponent and bow.  "Thank you."  He winked at the man, and hobbled off, practice complete for now.


Sovald collapsed on a bench, taking a long drag from the water, grabbing the cloth to wipe some of the sweat off.  As he released the Void, he felt the ache of his ribs, the numbness in his ankle, and the pain of his right wrist.  A long sigh, and he wiped some blood away from his stomach.  And noticed the woman.  Still standing there.  Drinking his fill, he turned to her, still probing at his wrist.  Very painful.  Aes Sedai.  Sovald chuckled a little, wincing at his ribs from the movement immediately after.  If her hair was a little lighter, with those freckles she'd look like little Elvira.  Well, she wasn't quite so little anymore, but he still remembered her and her brother from before he had come to the Tower the first time.  What was his name?  He shook his head, embracing the pain, and made an attempt to stand.  She was watching him, and quite particularly him.  No hope she was just an observer now, or that she was looking for his opponent.  His bow was shallow, partly because of his bleeding and welted stomach.  "Guard Rul, how may I serve, Aes Sedai?"  He concentrated on avoiding biting his lip from the spear of agony from his wrist.


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It had been her idea, but staring into the mirrow now and seeing a plump and tired looking woman, Ava did not know what part of her had come to this idea. It was ridiculous to think that she would thrive under physical hardship, training in the Yards and running with a sword. She was Aes Sedai and did not need such ridiculous training. She was not a Green and had her sound mind to defend her, yet a more sensible part of her knew that not only Greens needed training. After all, a sound mind rested in a healthy body so a White Sister had once told her. And Ava was planning travel soon, preferably not with a whole armed guard around her, this had seemed a reasonable solution to that problem. She placed her hands on her hips and turned sideways to study her posture. A fringe of her dark brown hair moved down the side of her face, a simple clip was produced from a small box on the desk and her hair was settled in place.


She studied the simple green dress again, it had no embroidery on it, just a green dress with a high necked bodice, long sleeves that closed on her wrists, so no wide flapping cloth that could get in the way. The skirts divided for riding and the color preferred by any man in the Yards as the Greens had more business there than any Gray ever had. Ava felt disgusted with herself and wondered what it would take to retreat from this plan. Would the Commander accept a notice that she had changed her mind? Probably not, a hornet’s nest Ava did not attempt to trip into, so new to the Shawl and already making demands? She had best behave and find this Sovald Rul who was to teach her about weapons and how to stab someone. That trick might come in handy after all, she thought to herself with a grimace.


No description was given of the man who was to train Ava, so she found herself asking the first person she met about Sovald Rul. The man, a young trainee with ruffled hair and smears on his face merely pointed at two men fighting a spar. “He’s in a spar Ma’am,” the man said and then pointed to the left of two men who were busy doing some sort of deadly dance. “That’s him right there,” and Ava nodded then proceeded to head on. She felt the strain of being there, not wanting to be there and still knowing that there was no way to get out of it. Again she wondered what had possessed her to think that this man, sweating and bleeding could teach her anything.


She placed herself in a position where she could clearly see him, moreover where he could see her and see that he was to end this spar and meet with his new student. He was spitting blood now and taking another punch, Ava studied his opponent and found that they were equals but the man Sovald Rul was allowing the other to find his weakness rather than praying on his opponent’s weakness. His offense was slower and his defense was sharp and then lacked for a brief moment. The man who faced him knew how to tackle these lapses in Rul’s defense and Ava made a note to remember this. She might be able to teach him something before they were done.


Ava waited for a good half an hour when finally the spar seemed to have ended, she had no idea what had changed since they were both still standing and both bleeding. Who had won? What was the point in ending a match when it was not clear what was gained? She decided to ask that later and now talk to her new teacher, “Sovald Rul?” she was going to ask when he introduced himself already. His bow seemed to physically hurt him and she smirked a curt nod, “Yes, I am Ava Dorelle,” her eyebrow raised, he had no idea why she was here it seemed. “I am your student?” she asked and pushed a leather boot forward, pushing some sand away from the tip as if its presence on her clean boot offended her. “Where do we start my lesson Guard Rul?”


Ava Dorelle

Unwilling participant in her own training

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