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A Journey Begins With One Step (Attn: Owen)


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    There was only one thing that Owen hated about training, the boredom of it. Having helped train members of the Wolfkin for nearly 5 years, Owen knew off by heart what would happen, and that was the cause of the boredom he felt in this early lessons. The lessons for a guardian were far from boring, and Owen was usually able to keep both the student and himself interested quite easily.  Today was not as boring as some though, helping Rhya learn to defend herself was a worthwhile task and one that Owen though would provide some interesting moments, just how interesting he did not find out until that night when they had just finished their evening meal.

    "I trust you slept well last night? The singing was entertaining enough but I doubt the other guests would appreciate being disturbed at that hour of the morning." Although her tone was dry, the twinkle in her eyes belied any censure. Her next question was posed in a deliberately light voice, however, as she had no wish to spoil the mood. "Niall spoke of Ehlana and Iris last night, Owen. Will you tell me about them? Only if you don't mind. I don't intend to pry ... but I'd rather hear it from you than through idle talk."

    Oh yes Owen had seen this tactic before, trying to put an opponent on the back foot, to offer them misdirection, so that they look one way while your attack comes in from another. Owen would almost have smiled at the obviousness of Rhya’s tactic, but the subject matter of the question deserved respect, as did Rhya for having the courage to ask it.  Despite all that though, Owen was not sure he wanted to delve into that area of his life, the two events happening so close together that they almost blended into one.

    Owen reached out for his tankard and drained the contents. “Don’t go away, I will be back in a moment.” Owen’s chair scrapped across the floorboards as he stood up and then made his way to the bar. Niall was there in a flash and was soon filling a tankard for Owen. As he placed the tankard down on the wooden bar Owen’s hand closed over Niall’s, his grip firm but not to the point of pain. “Sometimes my friend I think you do forget that something should not be said in the light of day, and some things should never be discussed, we will have to talk about which things those are later. For now I have to go and explain two painful events in my life to someone who need have no knowledge of them just yet.” Releasing Niall’s wrist, Owen picked up his tankard and was just about to turn away when Niall placed his hand on Owen’s arm. “She had a right to know Owen, she is in love with you and she should know what she is letting herself in for.”

    “In love?” Owen burst out laughing so incredulous was he that Niall would say such a thing. “My friend, she is not in love, she is just a little over wrought. The change was not an easy time for her.” Shaking his head, and grinning at the ridiculous thought, Owen made his way back to the table to answer questions he would rather have avoided.


    By the flickering light of several lanterns Rhya moved through her routine, repeating what she had learned the day before and then fluidly moving into the lunge and then back to the guard position. “Very good Rhya, but when you extend for the your stroke, you must make an effort to not over extend yourself. Repeat the last part of the routine you just performed.”

    Rhya took a moment to gather herself and then did as Owen had asked. As she was at full extension Owen told her to hold in position and then moved behind her and with no great effort pushed her over. Rhya did not fall all the way to the ground; she managed to catch herself and only stumbled a couple of steps. “Keep you feet apart Rhya, do not place one behind the other, that is a fatal mistake that will cost you your life if you do that in battle. Now try the whole thing again, we have all day and can stay here until I am satisfied you know what you are doing.” With a grimace Rhya turned away from Owen and prepared herself, taking a few deep breaths before starting.

    As Rhya performed the routine, Owen paced around the stable loft, watching what she was doing but also mulling over their conversation from the night before.

    Ehlana, well she was the Commander of the Band of the Red Hand, from its instigation until her death in battle against the Seanchan. You see, I was supposed to be her bodyguard, but we had become separated. She was in a fell mood that day, something that made her lose her usual caution and common sense. No one knows exactly what happened as her body was never found, but there is no way she could have survived the carnage.”

    Rhya did not respond immediately, she knew Owen was not telling her everything, how she knew she couldn’t say, so she kept her silence for a while but when it seemed obvious that Owen was not going to say any more she decided to speak. "People used to think we were lovers, we used that fact against them as you would a cloak in the dark. Ehlana was my twin sister, the last remaining member of my family, she was very dear to me.”

    After he had finished talking Owen would say no more about Ehlana, and before Rhya could ask him again about Iris, he changed the topic and she did not have the heart to ask again, one small victory was enough for her that night. However, in the grey light of the next morning it was not victories that were upper most in her mind, Instead she was fully focused on trying to master this lesson Owen had assigned her, she did not want to be in here much after dark with the way temperatures had plummeted during the hours of darkness.


The WhiteWolf

Ranger Leader


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  • 1 month later...

High block, low block, lunge, guard position and repeat. Rhya shifted through the moves, feeling more fluid each time, growing more comfortable with the weight of the blade in her right hand, though still conscious of the lack of anything in her left. She was pleased that she’d made the right choice of weapon, so natural was it beginning to feel and certain the rest would come with time, effort and practice. She had a good teacher after all, and one whom, she judged, was intent on making her at least capable with a blade.


“There is much to learn yet though”, she muttered to herself, ignoring the sweat running down her back and the distracting flicker of the lanterns placed conveniently around the loft. There were no words to describe the importance of these lessons to her. She couldn’t explain why it mattered so much to her, save for a perfectly natural wish to not be defenceless and a typical Saldaean fascination for both fighting and weaponry. Yet, somehow it went deeper than that.


“Keep your feet apart Rhya, do not place one behind the other, that is a fatal mistake that will cost you your life if you do that in battle. Now try the whole thing again, we have all day and can stay here until I am satisfied you know what you are doing.”


She righted herself from Owen’s sudden shove, noting his instructions and then breathing deeply before trying again, paying closer attention to her footwork, spreading her weight more evenly and keeping her balance on the balls of her feet. Ah yes, now I see, she thought, thankful of her ability to absorb a lesson quickly. It was rare that she made the same mistake twice but she was not about to rely on that and become over confident either. Honour, to a Borderlander, was bred into the bone and when someone took time to impart knowledge to you, it would be most dishonourable not to pay heed. And so, she worked, steadily and with focus, thinking of nothing but the task before her.


Finally, during a short break, Rhya loosened the ties at the neck of her shirt, picking at the material to loose it from clammy skin and helped herself to several scoops from the water barrel with great relief. Perching on an old wooden tack horse, left by the wall, she turned a shrewd gaze on Owen, her mind returning to the previous night’s reaction to her question. To be fair, he had answered it. At least in part. That was not what occupied her thoughts now. She had made her awareness known and hadn’t truly expected a detailed recounting of what were deeply personal and painful events and she was content to let it lie until … if… he chose to raise the matter again.


What she could not leave though, was the brief exchange she’d noticed between Owen and Niall. She had no idea what words had been exchanged, though she could guess from Niall’s expression and hadn’t missed the tension in the set of Owen’s shoulders. It had not been her intent cause to trouble between the two. Part of her regretted even mentioning her own conversation with Niall and eventually she spoke.


“Do not be too hard on Niall, Owen,” she raised a hand to forestall him as he seemed about to interrupt. “No, listen and listen well. Niall is your friend and he cares about you and your welfare a great deal. Any light blinded fool can see that. He had no intention of breaking your trust or your confidence. You surely know him well enough to realize that and that it is something he would not do lightly. Sometimes our friends can see what we need better than we can ourselves and Niall had his reasons. Think on that. Ask yourself how many people you have brought here and under what circumstances? Then ask yourself why, if you trust someone, Niall should not? You pride yourself on your own skills, on your ability to train others, your knowledge, your sense of others and your awareness of your surroundings… but in some instances, Owen, you are just a man, and as unaware as any other of what is right under your nose.” Rhya clicked her tongue lightly in exasperation, determined to have her point heard. Owen at least appeared to be listening though she could tell nothing from his face. “Consider that there are some things you don’t know and maybe Niall does. That is all I’m saying. Just... keep it in mind."


She stared at him for a moment, hoping her words had sunk in, before standing again and reaching for her sword hilt.




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  • 2 weeks later...

    Owen was more concerned with eating than talking, although his continued silence might be interpreted by Rhya, as a lack of respect and that would not do. “There is a lot you do not know yet Rhya. It is often said that the young do not do as they are told, and that applies for some who are not so young.” Owen glanced towards Niall to make sure that Rhya got his meaning.

    “How did Niall know you were trustworthy? He does not know how long you have known me, nor the depth of that knowledge and as such he should have been more circumspect with what he said. We are a hunted people, have been for more years than I care to remember and when we trust a two-leg we have far more to loose if they break that trust.”

    Owen held up his hand forestalling the inevitable response from Rhya. “For now just listen, I know what you are going to say, and in this instance you are wrong to say it. Niall has both my respect and my friendship, and considering that he should know better than to talk about matters that were best laid to rest. Don’t go disturbing the dead and you will not be plagued by ghosts, that is what I have always thought.”

    That was not entirely true, but it served Owen’s purpose for now. “However, I respect the courage you have shown as it cannot have been easy to ask such a question, especially as the answers may not have been to your pleasing. But seeing as you still have so much energy left, and are able to think of things other than your training I suggest we return to our training. There is a few hours of good light left us and the sooner you learn the basics, the sooner we can move onto other matters.”

    Owen rose from the table and returned his plate and tankard to the bar, not looking back he walked out of the bar and across the snow covered yard, only their tracks from earlier were visible, and then only just as a fresh layer of snow virtually obliterated them. Even though Rhya looked like she would rather be anywhere else at that moment, Owen did not let that interfere with the rest of their training and had her demonstrate what they had been working on through the morning. When he was satisfied with her performance he told her they were going to spend the afternoon working on attack routines. “As with defence moves, attacking moves can be much more effective if you use your opponents strength against them. This requires both timing and control to achieve and that is what we are now going to concentrate on. I will lunge at you and then you will parry, turning my blade to one side with your own sword. We will start off by moving slowly so that you can get comfortable defending yourself, then we will gradually get quicker and quicker, think of it as learning a new dance.”


    Owen drew his sword and waited until Rhya had done the same and nodded her head to indicate she was ready. Owen’s left foot moved forward and his blade moved, slowly towards Rhya’s right hand side. Her blade moved towards Owen’s and deflected it out wide. “Do not forget to move your feet as well Rhya, that will become more important as we speed up. Now try again”.

    This time Owen did not move as slowly as the first time, and Rhya got her blade there just in time, but was off balance and had to stumble backwards a couple of steps. Owen showed her where she had gone wrong and they faced off against each other. Each thrust was met by Rhya’s parry, taking Owen’s sword either to the left or right depending on which direction he was attacking towards. As the pace increased so did the need for Rhya’s footwork so that she could avoid losing her balance.

    After about half an hour of this, Owen called a halt. “Now it is your turn, start off slowly and build up your speed. Do not worry about hurting me, just concentrate on what you are doing, lets begin.”



The WhiteWolf


Ranger Leader



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  • 5 months later...

OOC: Finally! lol




She ignored the trickle of sweat down her spine, the pain in her arms and the fact that her blade seemed to weigh ten times as much as it had that morning with equal disdain. These lessons, in her opinion at least, took precedence over anything else that might be vying for her attention. Owen's earlier comments troubled her but she accepted that there was a time for dropping certain subjects and that this was one of them, pushing the entire episode to the back of her mind with surprising resolution.


The sunlight which had finally filtered through the clouds mid afternoon was fading rapidly now, casting shadows in the corners of the loft and creating odd angles over her opponent's face.


Fading almost as rapidly as I am, the thought surfaced with an inward chuckle.


Her balance was improving she felt. The repetition of the exercise and the increase in speed was forcing her to place her feet carefully but with growing instinct. She lunged again... and again... and watched as Owen blocked with apparent ease each time. Altering her hold on the sword's grip slightly, she continued, attacking to the right, but a too fast step forward caused her to catch her toe on a loose board and stumble as Owen side stepped neatly, parrying the wild thrust. Sighing, she settled herself again, gathering her concentration and starting over.


It was truly like dancing in Rhya's eyes, the movements graceful, considered, precise... well, for the most part. There is some way to go yet, she acknowledged an hour later, unaware of her own innate grace of limb and instead feeling like an utter clod-hopping fool with each mistake. Their light footfalls echoed in the rafters of the loft space, like ghostly whispers in the silence of the falling evening as the faint smell of long dried hay stirred in the air with each cloud of dust they raised. They carried on oblivious for a further half hour however, until Rhya, by now winded and her determination worn away, gasped on a choke of laughter, "Mercy oh mentor mine. If we do not quit you will be carrying this lass back to the inn!"


In the gathering gloom she could barely see Owen's expression but she had no trouble hearing the amused tone in his voice as he relented and agreed. He might not take it easy on her but there was no denying that it would be impossible to see for much longer, neither of them having thought to bring lanterns this day.


With barely hidden relief, Rhya lowered then sheathed her sword, removing her grasp from it reluctantly and rolling her shoulders to ease the aching muscles while she caught her breath.


The words were spoken before the query even formed in her head.


"Owen, when are we going home?" She was startled by the clearly plaintive note in her voice considering how recently she had been longing to get out and do something. Suddenly, being back at the Stedding held an undeniable appeal and her own choice of words sank in. Home....

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  • 2 months later...

    Owen and Rhya were four days out from Nail’s Inn and were making good time, thanks largely to the improvement in the weather. It was still blisteringly cold out on the plains, but it was this bone biting cold that made the going firmer, thus allowing Owen and Rhya to make better time.

    At each night’s camp, Owen had let Rhya do most of the work, allowing her this opportunity to hone her newly learned skills. Obviously he did not let Rhya do the tasks all on her own while he lounged around, instead Owen accompanied her when she set snares, or when she built their shelter.  He would offer advice and point out where she had gone wrong, something that happened less and less. Although she grumbled about these tasks, Rhya went to them with a will, knowing that soonest started meant soonest finished.

    Eventually, after what turned out to be an uneventful journey, Owen and Rhya crossed the boundary of the Stedding and made their way through the mighty forest that helped to hide their home. As they drew closer to the centre of the Stedding, children’s voices could be heard, shouting and screaming as they played their games amidst the trees surrounding the central square of the Stedding.

    Rhya was in front of Owen, looking around herself for the children, wondering what game they could be playing that required so much noise. Just as she was turning back to speak to Owen, she saw a blue of motion, but did not know what the object was.  Just then she heard a low groan quickly followed by a heavy thud. Without looking Rhya knew the source of the sound, and she also knew events had taken an unexpected, and unforeseen, turn for the worse.

    Reaching Owen’s prone body, Rhya knelt down, but was unsure what to do, her mind totally unprepared for this turn of events. Coming to her senses, Rhya called out to two nearby children and told them to run to the Infirmary and tell whoever was there that there had been an accident and they were needed quickly. Not bothering to check if they had done as she told them, Rhya turned back to Owen’s prone body and slowly reached out to touch his face. Rhya withdrew her hand quickly, the coldness of Owen’s skin momentarily shocking her.

    Regaining her composure, she again reached out, and slowly turned Owen’s head to the left. There were no obvious injuries, and puzzled as to what had caused Owen to fall over she turned his head the other way and a small gasp escaped her lips as the sight of the blood flowing from Owen’s head made her realise that this could be far worse than a simple fall. Head injuries were never simple and could kill the strongest of people.

    When she could tear her gaze away from the wound to Owen’s head, Rhya saw what had caused the injury, laying by the side of Owen’s head was a small stone. Obviously the object that she had seen out of the corner of her eye had been this stone. The randomness of this accident caused Rhya to sit back on her heels shaking her head in disbelief before eventually realising she needed to d do something, anything , to try and help Owen.  The only thing she could think of was to try and stop the flow of blood and she quickly cut a piece of cloth from her shirt and pressed it to the wound.

    By the time Sages showed up, Rhya was almost beside herself. She could not stop the flow of blood, or even slow it much, and she had been unable to wake Owen. Hands moved her out of the way, and while the frantic Sage worked on Owen, Rhya stood to one side, doubts about Owen recovering growing within her like weeds in a flower garden.

    After what seemed like a lifetime to Rhya, the Sage looked up from her work, a single tear rolling across her cheek. “I have done everything i can Rhya, it is out of our hands now.”

    “What do you mean out of our hands? You know who this is, you must do something!  Rhya practically screamed.

    The stunned look on the face of the Sage told her differently though, everything that could be done, had been done, now it was just a matter of time. If Owen survived the night then his chances would improve, slightly, but he was in a desperate situation. 

    Gently, several of the Wolfkin lifted Owen’s body and carried him to the Infirmary. A solitary figure followed, slowly, behind. Her tear streaked face cast down, her feet shuffling through the dust as if she was being dragged against her will to a place she had no intention of going.

    In the distance a lone wolf howled out, the mournful sound joined by another wolf, and then another, until it seemed the whole forest howled in rage at this nights events.



The WhiteWolf


Ranger Leader


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  • 1 month later...

With a jerk, Rhya’s head came up, banging with a thud off the wall behind her chair. She was uncertain how long she’d been sitting there but it was long enough for her to be dozing off in the constant warmth that filled the Infirmary. Aislyn had said that the window should be kept closed to prevent infection despite Rhya’s protests to the contrary. Her argument that Owen would prefer the fresh air and did not like to be hemmed in had fallen on deaf ears.

This blasted room makes me feel claustrophobic so the Light alone knows what Owen would have to say, the thought skimmed across her mind as her gaze rested on the mute form in the bed which took up most of the room.

Scrubbing at tired eyes, Rhya reached for the glass of water which she’d placed atop the bedside drawers some hours before and took a swallow, almost spitting the tepid liquid out again immediately. Grimacing in disgust, she replaced the glass carefully, shocked at the urge to smash it against the flagstoned floor. Her fingers crept instead into the small pouch tied at her waist as they had numerous times during the interminable days of waiting. There, they curled around a hard object, the pads rubbing over a smooth surface till they met, by contrast, a sharp, jagged edge.

That such a small stone could be the undoing of a man who had been so much larger than life in their small community was a feat that bewildered Rhya. Owen had always been Owen to her, no more and no less, but she wasn’t blind to the respect and, sometimes, awe, even fear, in which he was held by the other Wolfkin. He was somewhat of a living legend, though he would never see nor believe such a thing. The outpouring of grief, disbelief and concern following his accident had been evidence enough of his importance to the Stedding, its people and, not least, to the wolves.

They had tried to comfort and console her initially but Rhya had shrugged them all off, literally cloistering herself in the Infirmary, her expression closed and distant. She responded to no-one but Aislyn who had chided her constantly. Once or twice Rhya had given in to the Sage’s scoldings, returning to the tree house to ensure all was in order or bringing a Wanderer in to be checked over. She had once even been to the Inn and eaten with Winter and Katrina but, more often than not, she merely sat in the herb garden with Shadow and Ice close by. She could not stomach being far from this room any more than Ice could.

Hope was what held her there day after day. Hope… and stubbornness. She was not going to lose him so soon after finding him. She would not give up as it appeared to her that everyone else had. He lived and he breathed... that was enough. The Sages thought it miraculous that Owen had survived the night after such an injury. Rhya, however, thought it was just as it should be. He was a fighter, a survivor and she knew his spirit was strong.

With a lack of anything else to do, she talked to him. She told him stories of her childhood, of her family, of her love of Maradon, of places she had visited with her father and people she had met during the course of business. She spoke of the Howling and her thoughts on finding him and then the Stedding and of her delight in learning sword play. It had no effect that she could see but her instinct told her his mind could hear the words and so she continued just as if it were a normal conversation.

Her eyes shifted now to Ice who lay near the doorway as though guarding the room and its occupants. “He wouldn’t leave us,” she muttered. The wolf’s head turned, her own lambent eyes meeting Rhya’s look in silence. “He wouldn’t.”

The sending when it came was filled with urgency and yet, had it been any other than Shadow, she would have ignored it. 

Come, we must go.

Go? Go where? I can’t leave. What’s wrong?

Annoyance, or a semblance that passed for it in wolf terms, filtered into Rhya’s mind.

We must help the two legs. No Trackers to go for the he cub.

Images flooded her brain backed by an urgency she gathered did not originate with Shadow but with another wolf. A wolf who was not of the Stedding and its surrounding area. Rhya dithered. She was not far enough advanced in her training to leave the Stedding alone and knew nothing of how to deal with a Wanderer. Why would the wolves contact Shadow? Or her? Surely they would let the Watchers know?

No time, silly cub, we must go now. Come.

Loathe though she was to go anywhere, the idea held a certain appeal. It was an escape of a sort and she could do nothing here. The Sages were doing everything that could be done and likely she was just getting under their feet.

No-one would know. I could be back before anyone even noticed my absence and someone has to do it. I won’t be alone, Shadow will help.

The thought was insistent and in a split second, Rhya’s mind was made up.

Standing, she moved to the side of the bed and gingerly curled her fingers round Owen’s pale ones where they lay almost camouflaged against the counterpane.

“I... there are people here who love you. Come back to us.” She spoke softly, squeezing his hand gently, smoothing her other palm across his forehead, brushing stray strands of silvery hair back from his face. “There is fighting still to be done and I... we...no! I... need you.”

Swallowing past the lump in her throat at the honest admission, Rhya tore her pain filled eyes from his features and turned hurriedly on her heels, heading out of the room and along the main corridor till she reached the front steps. Taking them in a single leap, suddenly desperate to be gone from the building, she took the path to the tree house for the first time in days.

I’m coming Shadow...I’m on my way.

Owen & Rhya's story continued HERE.

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