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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

What lurks beneath...


James
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Finishing his cup, Joran Mandara gripped it tightly before hurling it at the wall.  That stupid, arrogant, stuck up bitch!  Ikena Adelar was entirely too sure of herself, so disrespectful in her refusal to see him.  When he'd first seen her in the Shon Kifar camp, he'd immediately been interested in her, she'd even had quite an unusual story.  Her family weren't the most powerful by any means, but they'd had enough funds to secure the purchase of her own damane, making her almost unique amongst sul'dam as one of the few to have her own personal damane.

 

She'd been beautiful too, was beautiful, but little had Joran known that beneath that alluring exterior was a presumptuous whore who had no idea of her place.  As her social superior, even if they were both of the Blood, she should have been grateful for the opportunity to dine with him when he had invited her in Shon Kifar.  Yet she had rebuffed him!  Several times!  Word had spread and that had angered Joran immensely, he knew that people whispered behind his back.  His position undermined by the refusal of a social inferior.

 

Some twist in the pattern was the only explanation for being placed on the same ship as her, that or the fact he had arranged it personally.  He never had anyone refuse him, especially someone of her status, he was going to silence the whispers once and for all.  The pair of them on the same ship, he would have as much opportunity as he needed to win her over, or coerce her into it, one or the other.  Damn her pride or whatever it was that caused her to refuse the opportunity that he was giving her, to cast it in his teeth.

 

The entire time on the ocean, not a single acknowledgement, not a single hope lifted that he was in any way going to be able to get her to accept him.  It was intolerable, and the whispers had grown, he knew they had.  There was nothing wrong with him, he was from a powerful family, his visage was pleasing, he had everything to offer and was desirable yet this woman still stubbornly held out against him.  He knew there were smirks, he knew there were jokes, gaffs, things said amongst those of lower rank that should not be said.

 

All because of her.

 

She was the root of this, all because of her outrageous presumption to refuse to dine with him.  To refuse...  It burned, knowing that she refused what she had no reason to refuse, and she had no doubt spread the lies of him.  He had been courteous, he had treated her as was due her place and more, she laughed at his attempts and ridiculed him behind his back, just like the others.  The words and thoughts to describe what he would do to punish her for her audacity, many passed through his mind, things that would destroy her, dark thoughts that fed upon themselves more and more as h-

 

Leaving his quarters, Joran closed the hut door behind him as he looked about.  It was late, there were few if any people around save those guards that had been posted.  All of them his inferior in rank, none had the authority to restrict his movement or question his intention.  A very simple intention that he would allow nothing to bar, not anymore.

 

She would pay for what she had done.

 

He would make her pay.

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The last thing she wanted right then was an interruption.  In fact she had half a mind to ignore the soft knocking at the door but there was an insistence in it that made her think twice.  She took a deep breath to calm herself.  She had taken a long hot soak to rid herself of the last few days tension but she knew it would only last until she left the hut again.  Her duty made her aware of what was happening around her, but the mission was only a small part of the stress that seemed to plague her of late.  No, the mission was like any other in that aspect.  She knew the work and Chali would perform as she always did, with total efficiency and not a trace of anything else.  The true reason for her stress and the undeniable fact that she had taken to keeping to her hut when duty allowed was because of Joran Mandara. 

 

She sighed as her thoughts came to him.  The man was stubborn beyond all belief.  It wasn't unexpected to find herself the object of a man's affection.  She knew of her beauty but it was like any other possession she had, something used when needed and put aside when not.  Joran, however, had shown an interest and a certain amount of disdain for her personal feelings about the matter.  She was a sul'dam and with Chali at her side, they had been rising fast within the ranks of the Imperial Army.  She wanted no man at her side, wanted no distraction for the prize she sought at the end of it all.  But except for refusing his dinner invitations or keeping out of his sight there was little she could do about it.  In fact she had thrown insult to him by refusing dinner at all, but if had any honor at all he would have had his eyes lowered whenever she came into view over his own refusal to acknowledge her feelings in the matter.  Not only was this a personal issue, but she didn't feel it was right to engage in this sort of relationship while on a mission anyway.  The man just refused to see it.

 

She shook the thoughts from her head and looked through the open doorway to Chali sitting calmly at the edge of her bed.  "It's company my sweet Chali." She said softly to the other.  There would be no reaction and though the words need not be said at all, she still tried to treat her damane as humanely as possible.  There had been little enough to give her hope that she might someday reach Chali, but hope remained none the less.  "Behave yourself."

 

Ikena opened the door slowly, taking the time to get herself composed.  Her eyes jerked up quickly though as a hand darted in the small crack and grabbed her by the throat.  He pushed himself in the room, grasping her tightly with one hand while the other closed the door behind.  She tried to speak his name, but Joran's hands were too tight on her throat.  No air came until she found herself slammed against the wall of the small hut.  A small groan found it's way out as he relaxed his grip slightly, but only enough to allow a thin thread of air. 

 

Panic welled up inside her but she pushed it back down.  She was trained in combat, but the trouble was that he was as well.  She tried kicking him, but she found his stance blocked her efficiently.    She tried to reach his face with her nails, but his reach was longer than hers and he moved easily out of the way.  Even as she hit his arms, bruisingly hard, he did not stop. 

 

His hand at her throat kept her from being able to shout out for help, and she knew with a certainty that even though Chali sat close by, watching, the damane would not raise an alarm for her Mistress or help her in any way unless she was commanded to.  The same challenge that had made her pick this damane of all others was about to be her own undoing.

 

Joran pulled her forward then, releasing his grip on her throat and turning her around, his arm going back around her throat even as he pushed her back against the wall.  She knew what he was doing even as she tried to stop him, but there was no way around it.  He was too much bigger than she, too much more experienced in combat for her skills when she was without her most useful weapon. 

 

He leaned over into her ear and whispered in a voice that was thick with passion and anger, "You should remember your place Adelar."  She felt his free hand pulling at her clothes and knew there was no escape. 

 

Ikena Adelar

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Standing, Chali's steps were almost delicate, they were certainly measured as she left the room she was quartered in for the one that had caught her attention.  Mistress Ikena was struggling with someone, a man, soldier, his name both irrelevant and forgotten to her.  The crying, pleading, cursing, violence, Chali was aware of all of these things as she approached the pair.  Stepping behind the man even as he began to free his breeches, Chali reached for his braid with one hand and the other she balled into a fist as she slammed it into the small of his back.  Yanking with all her strength, Chali pulled him off both Ikena and stumbling backwards, tripping over his own feet and smacking the back of his head on the floor.

 

Ignoring Mistress Ikena, Chali turned around and began to walk toward the man who seemed both shocked and infuriated by her actions and her appearance.  He was scrabbling for something behind him, his sword belt, his blade came free of it's sheath as he got to his feet.  Not pausing in her approach, she remained uninimidated or perhaps simply ignorant as she continued to make her way towards him.  The man seemed even more infuriated by this as he pulled his blade back leaped forward, slashing at her with his Katana.

 

Responding in kind as she leaped forward in turn, Chali's shoulder slammed into his sternum even as she quickly relinquished the blade from his hands.  Bouncing off him even as he took a step back, Chali was already spinning and responding to his attack with the Low Wind Rising.  The edge raking across his abdomen, the man's innards began to spill on the floor but Chali did not stop there.  The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain cleaved one of the man's raised arm from his torso and a vicious kick knocked him onto his back.

 

Somehow the man had it in him to try and haul himself backwards, but Chali did not mind.  It only required her to take a couple of steps forward before administering a simple coup de grace, lopping the man's head from his body with a single swing.  Still as the head bounced across the floor, it wasn't until it came to a stop that Chali straightened.  The bloodstained blade hanging by her side in much the same way a child would hold a stuffed toy, as if only half aware it was there.

 

 

Chali

Damane

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Relief flooded Ikena as Joran's body fell away from hers.  She gulped for air through an unrestricted throat as she looked up to see who had freed her from her attacker.  Shock instantly warred with fear within her as she saw her Chali walking calmly towards the man as he freed his sword.  There was no emotion in the way she moved, no feeling of anger or remorse or fear from the damane and as Joran  moved into action she watched as Chali countered with a deadly grace she had never suspected the damane capable of.     

 

Shock won as she stayed seated, watching Chali as she killed her attacker.  Weapon in hand, Chali looked up and it was the same emotionless eyes that Ikena had always seen.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she stumbled up from the ground.  The movement freed her from her shock and she grabbed the bracelet quickly and slapped it on her wrist.  Chali had been so thoroughly broken that pain didn't seem to register for her, but Ikena knew that every step Chali had taken had been excruciating.  She didn't want to think about how much the woman hurt for having killed a man with that blade.  "Chali, drop the sword." She said, trying to keep her voice steady.

 

The blade fell to the ground without comment or sign of relief.  She stepped closer to the damane, her eyes searching the girl.  She reached out with hands that shook and cupped Chali's face.  "Is there really something in there my sweet Chali?"  No recognition came and though Ikena had expected none, her heart was jumping in her chest.  Chali did what should not have been possible when she killed Joran, but more important to her than that, Chali had come to her aid without command or request. 

 

"You did something very good today Chali.  Something unexpected and I am proud of you for it.  Do you know what you've done Chali?"

 

Ikena   

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There was a distinct clang as the Katana slipped from Chali's fingers and bounced about on the floor beneath her feet.  Mistress Ikena had told her to do so, so it was done.  Mistress Ikena was also holding her leash now, everything was as it should be.  Particulars like Mistress Ikena only having shreds of cloth hanging from her, the blood that covered her own clothes, or the corpse and its severed arm and head sitting in an expanding pool of crimson, these were things that Chali knew but didn't acknowledge consciously.  There was Mistress Ikena and there was Chali, that was all that mattered.

 

Feeling her face being cupped in Mistress Ikena's hands, Chali didn't respond as Mistress Ikena posed her question.  She had learned to recognise rhetorical questions from Mistress Ikena, this was a question she was often asked and she had answered it so many times that it Mistress Ikena had ceased to require her to answer it.  Though now Mistress Ikena spoke further, she said that Chali had done something unexpected and that she was proud of her.  She asked if she knew what she had done, what she had done to make Mistress Ikena proud.

 

Chali pondered the question, but she was unable to conjure an answer from the thoughts within her mind.  Still in her contemplation of the question, she worked over the problem again and again that was posed to her.  What did Mistress Ikena believe she had done?  She couldn't arrive at an answer, and not even the tiredness that she was aware of could be blamed for the lack of result.  "No Mistress Ikena."

 

 

Chali

Damane

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Simple words.  She shoudln't have expected anything more, but the simple words were all she got from Chali.  The damane had rarely given her any hope that she might still be able to unlock the secrets of her past, but not only had she gotten hope today, she had gotten far more.  She had been beyond shocked to find that Chali had acted on her own, but as her actions sank in she knew that Chali had done more than that.  She had done the impossible.  Even if Chali had been a normal damane, she should not have been able to move from her room.  Nor should she have been able to pick anything up that she deemed to be a weapon.  Chali had demonstrated a unique inability to register pain in the past, but Ikena would never have thought her possible of what had just happened. 

 

Chali was unique, but like any two edged weapons, she could easily cut both sides.  Would there ever be a time when Chali was able to take a weapon to her?  The thought was frightening and yet enticing as well.  Would Chali be able to act on her own again if she thought Ikena was in danger?  Would she ever act if she thought her own life was in danger?  The questions continued in her mind until she reached one she actually could answer.  Should Chali be put down for such an act?  Yes.  Without doubt the damane had demonstrated that she was no longer controllable with the leash.  Would Ikena ever let anyone know what had happened and have her killed for it?  No. 

 

She looked at the damane and shivered slightly at the blank look she had come so used to seeing.  Her Chali, her sweet Chali who had given her family more honor than she could possibly have dreamed when she had sunk the majority of her fortune into the girl, who had given her more wealth than she would have thought as well.  The damane who had saved her life of her own accord.  She took a deep breath as she stroked Chali's face lightly.  "You acted on your own Chali." She finally said.  "I did not ask you to interfere with this man, and yet you acted anyway.  Tell me why Chali."

 

 

Ikena Adelar

Sul'dam

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Feeling the hand caress her cheek, Chali was immobile as Mistress Ikena stated that she had acted on her own.  She had not been asked to intervene, yet she had done so anyway.  Did she have an answer to give Mistress Ikena about why she had acted anyway?  Silent in her contemplation, Chali found that she had no answer for it at all.  She had acted, where should not have she had acted.  Something teased the edge of her consciousness but she brutally suppressed it, there was to be no confusion.  Either there was or there was not.  There was not.  "I don't know, Mistress Ikena."

 

It wasn't enough for Ikena.  Not enough by far.  She thought about Chali and decided to go back to something else.  "I want to give you something new to try Chali.  Listen very carefully."  When Ikena was sure Chali was listening she continued.  "Tell me everything you heard and what you thought about each thing."

 

Chali thought about what had happened, vocalising her thought as she was trained to do by Mistress Ikena as she recounted what had happened.  "You left to answer the door, I was seated.  I heard the door close, struggle.  Saw the man as he pushed you back against the wall.  I stood and pulled him off you, he tried to kill me and I took his sword from him and killed him.  You took my leash and told me to drop the sword so I dropped it.  You then began to ask me about what I did and I began to ans-"

 

"That is what you heard Chali, but what did you think?" Ikena pushed.

 

Focusing on the new question, Chali leafed through each individual memory, trying to find something she had felt.  There was no point to it, she felt nothing, she was not capable of feeling, she simply was.  Yet at the same time, she could not say she had not felt anything with certainty.  Something teased her mind, something she tried to grasp as she was instructed even as she naturally deflected it.  Her head began to throb, it made it more and more difficult to think but the pain was not important, she had been given an instruction.  So she continued regardless, her role was to do as she was told and nothing less.

 

Ikena began to feel it faintly.  She was used to the pure concentration that Chali was capable of, but behind that she was able to feel the pain building as Chali continued to think on what Ikena told her too.  It grew quickly to the point that Ikena wasn't sure how Chali wasn't rubbing her head.  Still, nothing.  She watched for a sign that Chali had been able to get something, anything, but there was still nothing, only a look on her fact that wasn't blank, but didn't give anything away either.  "Stop Chali."  She finally said, afraid that her damane would do herself real damage. 

 

As much as she was disappointed though, Ikena smiled.  Chali had been trying but something was in her way.  Something.  Which meant there was something behind it after all.  She wanted to dance with the importance of that, but in the end she simply laughed and embraced the damane.  "We will continue Chali.  We will find a way to get you back and we will break whatever they did to you." She said.  "And tonight I will get your special treats for dinner and we will bath together and I will brush your hair until it shines.  But we have a mess to clean up first."

 

She looked at the man lying on the floor and thought about what to do.  "We will need to send for the Guards.  When they come, you will not speak to them.  You will not speak of this incident again unless I ask it of you, do you understand."

 

Ceasing her thoughts, Chali felt the throbbing subside slowly as Mistress Ikena spoke about breaking something that was done and of special treats and dinner and bathing together.  Of brushing her hair until it shone.  These things Chali simply accepted as things that would be, even as her mistress's words turned to the situation at hand.  The order that was given was simple and easily understood, she would speak to no one of what had occurred unless Mistress Ikena instructed her to do otherwise.  "Yes, Mistress Ikena."

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