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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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James

The Streets of Tear

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Thanking the guard for allowing him through, Marden Veniso touched his heels to the stallion between his legs, spurring it on through the western gateway of Tear. He looked travel worn, the broad rimmed hat and cloak he wore marked by travel. He had travelled from Far Madding to Illian before arriving in Tear, hoping the Aes Sedai would think he would flee north to Kandor which he knew so well. He was sure he'd been seen, yet no one had made a move on him yet, save for a trio of brigands who had thought to lighten his purse but had ended up fattening it instead.

 

The winter hadn't helped him in the slightest either, the game had been poor as Marden travelled through the wilds, the heavy snows almost burying him on several occasions. Even now, the sky was a bleak grey above, light snowflakes falling on the cobblestones to be trodden underfoot by his steed. Leaning forward in his horse, as if he were about to fall out of the saddle, Marden made his way slowly through the town, looking for an inn. Eventually, one came into sight, though Marden couldn't make out the name of the place from the defaced sign that swung over its door.

 

Riding around the side to the stables, Marden slipped out of the saddle gently onto the straw strewn stones, his boots striking the ground solidly. He'd managed to put on a bit of weight since he'd won free of Far Madding, though his ribs still showed. Seeing the stable boy, Marden called the lad over and handed him the reins. As the boy led the stallion away, Marden reached for his money pouch and looked inside, he didn't have much left. Taking out one of the few silvers he had, he walked over to the boy and placed the silver in his palm, asking him to take especially good care of the horse.

 

Slinging the saddlebags over his shoulder, Marden strode into the common room, his face lacking anything resembling emotion. Walking to the bar, Marden looked at the obese innkeeper that was talking to one of his patrons. Waiting for a moment, Marden dropped his saddlebags with an audible thud on the bar. He didn't dignify the innkeeper's scowl with a reaction as the man waddled over to him.

 

"How much for a room? Couldn't be more than a copper a night in this place." Marden made use of the Andoran accent, last thing he needed was word getting around of a Kandoran in Tear that wasn't a merchant.

 

"Bloody lout. It'll be an Andoran crown from you, and if you cause any trouble the bouncers will throw you out regardless." The innkeeper didn't seem too impressed with him, but Marden hadn't come to the inn just to sample the man's personality.

 

"Them?" Marden looked to the pair of thugs at the door, cudgels in hand and short swords at their sides. "They couldn't handle a rat without its teeth let alone me. If this is all the security you have I'm only paying two silvers and be glad for that generosity."

 

"Look, I don't know how things are done in Andor these days, but this is how things are in Tear. Five silvers, or get out and don't waste my time."

 

Marden reached for his pouch and tossed it to the innkeeper, it was all he had left. "And my meals had better be for free, or I'll be wanting those silvers back." Ignoring the innkeeper's response, Marden took the key to his room from the innkeeper and grabbed the man's fingers, pulling him close as he spoke. "And if I find anything missing when I come back, I will know who to look for, do we understand each other?"

 

Getting a quick response from the innkeeper, Marden let go of the man and turned about as he picked up his saddlebags, ignoring the pair of bouncers who watched him carefully. Making his way up the stairs to where the rooms were, Marden tried a few doors till he found the room that was his.

 

Stepping inside, Marden threw his saddlebags to the floor at the foot of the bed. He knew he’d been ripped off, but this sort of inn was one where people went when they didn’t want to be found so the innkeeper could get away with his extortion. Shutting the door, he pulled his boots off and laid down on the bed. Hard as a rock, but that wasn’t a problem for him as he relaxed for the first time since he’d left Illian.

 

He’d stayed in Illian for a week, which had been far too long in Marden’s estimation but he’d had no choice. The sores were only becoming worse outside and he’d needed treatment. Spending a week in the care of a wisdom hadn’t been pleasant, he had been reminded all too much of Nela Sedai, except that the wisdom hadn’t been nearly so condescending. That and she’d actually done a good job, the sores that hadn’t been gone were well on their way by the time he’d left.

 

And the wisdom, Sarie, had been generous, giving him some poultices for free to use while on the road. She’d bought his story of becoming lost in the wilds and nearly dying out in the snows, his starved form giving his story some weight. While it didn’t quite explain the sores, Marden hadn’t needed to, he’d just feigned ignorance instead.

 

As much as Marden wanted to nap, he knew he didn’t have the luxury available for now. He was out of money and he needed to make some one way or another, and considering his current means, Marden had little doubt it would be less than legal. Pulling his boots on once more, he stretched before standing and making his way to the door.

 

Making his way out onto the streets, Marden made his way towards the Merchant’s Quarter, his cloak trailing him in his wake. It took some time and directions from a few people, but soon the merchant stalls came into view. Finding himself a vantage point near a fruit shop, Marden settled where he was and watched the flow of the markets.

 

It took a couple of hours, probably because Marden missed it at first, but he soon saw a pattern. A group of men would pass through the street every half hour. Not grouped together, but it was the same faces, same clothes, all of them with weapons of various sorts from short swords to cudgels. The way the merchants looked at them as they passed, Marden knew exactly what was going on. Someone had set up a nice protection racket, and Marden had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do.

 

The sky was beginning to darken when Marden saw what he was looking for. As the group wandered through the streets, a short fellow in a red tunic went from stall to stall, collecting the daily payment, a percentage of the day’s profit. Marden didn’t move where he was from the wall as he watched from under the brim of his hat, as if dozing.

 

The group took their time, but they soon worked their way through the street, leaving a disgusted group of merchants in their wake. Marden knew there was nothing they could do, and the thugs were probably paying off the local city watch to leave them alone. Pushing off the wall, Marden walked down the street with his cloak wrapped around him. He followed them for a good twenty minutes before they were done, which made Marden whether he was asking for more trouble than this was worth. There were only eight of them, which meant for this large a street there had to be more, yet Marden knew he had few choices. He could always just kill one of the merchants, but there was no point. They wouldn’t have nearly as much money as the group he followed, and the group would try to kill him for killing one of their clients so either way he’d have to fight them.

 

Watching as they slipped into an alleyway, Marden quickly made after them. They had noticed him shadowing them, so they were there with weapons drawn when he stepped into the street. Marden simply parted his cloak and pulled a small crossbow he’d stolen from a bowyer in Caemlyn from his belt and pointed it at the one in the red tunic.

 

“Today’s earnings, now.â€

 

“There are eight of us and one of you, even if you kill one of us, that leaves seven of us.â€

 

â€I don’t have time for this.†Squeezing the trigger, Marden frowned as the bolt buried itself in the man’s forehead, he’d been aiming for the chest. Tossing the crossbow to one side, he drew a short sword he’d picked up in his travels with his right as his left hand sprouted a dagger as if by magic in a murderer’s grip. These thugs didn’t have the training or battle experience that Marden had, and ever since he’d left Far Madding and the absence of saidin had returned, he’d lost any fear of harm to himself that he’d once held.

 

Parrying as he stepped forward into the first thug, Marden’s dagger buried itself in the side of the man’s neck before ripping free, sending a shower of hot blood through the air onto the snow underfoot as the man grasped at his neck, his life seeping away. Lizard in the Thornbush claimed the next two that came forward, leaving one to drown in his own blood and the other clutching his mangled manhood.

 

The next two came more cautiously, working together as the other two attempted to move around the side. Rushing in, Marden parried to the left as he spun and ducked under the Arc of the Moon, Low Wind Rising cleaving through the man’s side in response as he spun about.

 

As the newest corpse fell into one of the other thugs, Marden stepped forward as he knelt underneath the Courtier Taps his Fan, burying his dagger in the man’s bowels. Standing and ripping the dagger up in one smooth motion, Marden jumped back from the corpse, pulling his dagger clear as he leapt clear from the Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose.

 

Fear was clear on the faces of the last two, and they were wary as they stepped forward. Letting them attack, the Falling Leaf swept aside their attacks, allowing Marden to step in and swipe with his dagger, finding the throat of the man on the left. Taking a few steps to avoid the blood shower and the attack launched by the sole survivour, Marden stepped in again, exchanging a few blows to back the man into the wall. Catching the desperate blow, the Courtier Taps his Fan was undone as the Grapevine Twines, a thrust with the dagger ending it as it found the man’s heart, splitting it in twain.

 

Stepping back as the man fell, Marden kicked the corpse over and placing a boot on the man’s stomach, ripped the dagger free. It had been a short and bloody fight, and it more than anything, it annoyed Marden, his time could have been spent better. Wiping his blades on the corpse, Marden dropped them as he wiped his hands in the snow. It was then that a stinging sensation ran through his dagger hand, some of the blood was his. One of the bastards had managed to slice the back of his hand open, he’d have to clean it out properly later. Taking his cloak off next, Marden was surprised at how little blood had landed on it. Rubbing it through the snow, Marden flicked it a few times in the air then turned it inside out before putting it back on.

 

Sheathing his weapons, Marden didn’t take long to loot the corpses. They’d all had a few coins on them, and the protection money had a number of fat gold crowns in it, not a bad haul overall. Collecting his crossbow, Marden placed it inside his cloak before stepping out into the street. No sign of the City Watch, though no doubt they’d appear before long.

 

Making his way back to the inn proved difficult, especially since he didn’t know the name of the place and couldn’t ask for directions, but he eventually found the place. Buying a small bottle of spirits at the bar, Marden kept his left hand out of sight as he made his way up to his room with the small bottle in hand. Throwing his cloak onto the bed along with his sword belt and the crossbow, Marden realised that the innkeeper had finally had a water barrel and bowl brought up to his room.

 

Dipping the bowl in the barrel, Marden sat down on the floor, placing the bowl on his left as he let his hand soak. Uncorking the bottle with his teeth, he spat the cork onto the floor and poured some of the spirits into the crimson water in the bowl. Wincing, he proceeded to put the bottle down and sort through his saddle bags with his free hand until he came across the poultices that Sarie had given him.

 

It took a moment to pick the right one, but soon enough he was rubbing the poultice into the wound. Looking through the saddlebags for a spare tunic, Marden pulled it out and taking his knife, cut a long section out of it. Throwing the contents of the bowl into a corner of the room, he took the bottle and poured most of it into the bowl. Placing the strip of cloth in the bowl with it to soak, he took a swig of the bottle before pouring the last drops into the wound over the poultice.

 

Putting the bottle beside him, Marden pulled the strip out and wound it carefully around his hand between his thumb and forefinger. He’d still be able to hold a dagger in it but he wouldn’t be nearly as nimble with it for awhile. Throwing the bowl’s contents into the corner again, he left the bowl sitting near the barrel as he stood up.

 

He hadn’t eaten all day save for an apple he stole while he was in the markets and the smells coming from downstairs were getting to him. Putting his swordbelt back on, Marden reloaded the crossbow before clipping it to his belt, then shrugged his cloak back on. Stepping outside, Marden placed the bottle behind the door before shutting it. If anyone went into his room, they’d knock the bottle over, and the innkeeper would regret letting thieves into his room.

 

Making his way downstairs, Marden went to the bar to the innkeeper. The innkeeper was his usual sour self but the innkeeper disappeared into the kitchen sure enough to fetch him his meal. Heading to a table where he could place his back against the wall, Marden looked through the patrons. All of them looked at least slightly dodgy, and all of them were armed in some form or another. Marden had been right in the choice he’d made, no one was going to look for him here, it would be too much trouble.

 

Marden didn’t bother to thank the innkeeper as the man dropped the plate before him. Attacking the meal before him, Marden polished it off within minutes and soon had the innkeeper fetching him a second serving, and some Tairen Ale while he was at it. The second serving he took his time with as he allowed himself to relax slightly, but not too much as he watched everyone inside as people left and others entered.

 

Marden’s eyes narrowed as a man entered the inn, something at the back of his mind trying to free itself yet stuck there. The man was lean, a calmness seemed to exude from him that wasn't unfamiliar, yet for the life of him he couldn't place it. Taller than himself, the man had a cleanshaven face and mousey brown hair would have reached his shoulders if not for the leather thong that held it in place.

 

As the man talked with the bartender, Marden found himself confused and nervous. He knew this man from somewhere, yet after a year in Far Madding, a lot of his memory was blurred or lost, who was this man? Had he fought in Dramon Calgar’s army? Was he an agent of Tar Valon? Maybe a Warder or Tower Guard, he certainly had the height to have dangerous reach should he be a fighter. Something persisted in the back of his mind yet he shunted it aside, he wasn’t about to take chances.

 

Keeping his head down, Marden returned to his meal, not wanting to give himself away. Watching the man from underneath the brim of his hat, it wasn’t long before Marden became aware that he was under scrutiny. He was sure the man was watching him, he must have noticed Marden’s glances, that or he’d been sent to watch him, or to kill.

 

While he kept a blank façade, inside Marden was fighting the urge to run. The more minutes that passed, the greater the urge. He had to restrain himself from reaching for the crossbow, it would give him away to everyone inside, and more than that, there was a twinge of doubt in him. It was something at the back of his mind, and it only agitated him further, there was something he wasn’t remembering, or seeing.

 

Standing from his meal, Marden made his way to the front doors with a quick stride, barging into someone stepping inside and putting them on their arse as he began walking as quickly as possible down the street. He could feel eyes on his back but he didn’t stop, the possibilities running through his mind as he walked under the crescent moon.

 

It was then that it struck him, one of the alleys he’d passed through to get to the inn. Taking a left, Marden proceeded to walk for a good ten minutes, catching glimpses of the man shadowing him out of the corner of his eyes as he turned down different streets and alleys. It was with relief that Marden found the alley he’d remembered from his earlier wandering. Turning into the alley, Marden caught a glimpse of his shadow, the man was keeping a good distance, trying to hide himself. Seeing the door ajar as he remembered it, Marden shoved the door open, making sure to let the door smack against the wall as he turned and hid himself in the shadows opposite the door. The light as poor as it was, one couldn’t see into them and with the noise he’d made, he doubted the stalker would notice.

 

Sure enough, the footsteps quickened as Marden took his crossbow out from beneath his cloak. The stranger walked towards the door as Marden took aim, right in the back, the finger wrapped itself around the trigger as the man stepped inside the doorw-

 

Marden froze as a loud screech emerged from the doorway and the man stumbled back, a cat upon his chest, trying to rake at the man’s face as it hissed. It jogged something else in the back of his memory, something about cats and himself, something that had happened in the past. Something was familiar about this, and Marden found himself filled with doubt.

 

Shoving it aside, Marden made a compromise as he put the crossbow down. Drawing his dagger with his right hand, Marden snuck up behind the man as the stalker finally got a hold of it and threw it away from himself. As the cat ran away, Marden slipped his left hand underneath the man’s chin and pulled it back while his dagger placed itself along the throat.

 

Snarling, Marden’s tone was desperate yet filled with anger as he hissed, his false accent discarded as his Kandori lilt became clear. “Who are you? Why are you following me? Who do you serve? By the Creator answer me true or I’ll slit your throat here and leave you for the scavengers to pick at.â€

 

 

Marden Veniso

Loyal to the Dragon, Dramon Calgar

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The Sailor's Sin was most definitely one of the less savoury dives that was scattered throughout the docks district in Tear. It had a well earned reputation for, well, sinful activities, but the arm of the law could only extend so far and so deep into the criminal underworld or those who sought to make use of its services. Indeed, the law itself often made use of the establishment for one means or another and it was for this reason, perhaps, that it had been left to fester - a non-malignant canker as much a part of Tear as the Stone itself.

 

That Dalinar's informant had chosen this place to meet wasn't anything particularly surprising to him. It was out of the way, it was ignored by those who might do something about it, and there seemed to be a curious honour between the patrons of the Inn that one's business was one's own within these walls. Typically, that code could probably be bought out by a high enough bidder, the M'Hael thought to himself, but then the consequences of being bought out, and then discovered, were likely too high to make any price worthwhile. Yes indeed, it was a curious crowd of denigrates that he had found himself involved with.

 

He entered the Sin, spoke briefly with the bartender and then found a table on one side of the Common Room. It was a little closer to the fire than he would have liked, the days were warming up now following the bitterly cold winter, but he didn't intend to spend longer here than necessary. Lifting a hand and catching the eye of one of the waiting girls, she swaggered over to his table.

 

"What can I do ye for?" She asked with a forced sunny smile as she stood over Dali's table.

 

"Just an ale," Dali replied quietly. Without any acknowledgement, the girl swaggered off again. Dalinar cast his eyes across the room. His eyes lingered on a face for a moment, something tugging at the corners of his memory, then moved on.

 

His ale returned and he murmured a polite thankyou to the barmaid. She chuckled a slightly rich chuckle. "Not so many as would thank me just for a drink, here. I could offer ye something to really earn yer praises, if ye like." The last was side with a broad wink and now a less forced smile than before.

 

Not wanting to offend the girl, Dalinar gave her the coin for the ale - a mug more froth than liquid by all appearances - and added, "A generous offer. I'll think on it, then," before turning his attention back to the rest of the room.

 

Again his eyes scanned over the faces in the room. His informant was late, not that surprising really, though curiosity made Dalinar wonder what was keeping him. His eyes settled once again on that shape that had drawn his attention before. A face kept low and shadowed under the brim of a hat, Dalinar wondered for a fleeting moment if he saw the gleam of light reflected in the eyes of the stranger on the other side of the room.

 

He sipped at the mug of ale in his hands, and examined the room around the stranger, trying to watch him out of the corner of his eye. After a minute or two, Dalinar caught the stranger lifting his head just slightly and looking his way again. Curious.

 

Another informant paid to spy on me? Or a civilian just wanting to stir trouble? Ten more possibilities skittered through Dalinar's mind. The Asha'man were not well loved, or well accepted in Tear. After all the city had been renowned prior to the Dragon taking the Stone, for its intolerance of all things related to the One Power. If he had been recognised as a channeler, and a male one at that, things could get nasty.

 

The curious stand-off continued for several more minutes without development until eventually the stranger stood abruptly from his meal and quickly strode outside, knocking into another patron as he made his way between the bouncers and through the Inn's main door.

 

Waiting a few moments, but not wanting to leave it too long, Dalinar stood more casually from his table, drained his ale, and also headed towards the door.

 

As he stepped outside into the evening air he saw the hatted figure disappearing ahead of him around a corner. Keeping to the shadows and moving with the swift and silent grace of Warder's training, he set off after the man.

 

A few streets and an alley later, Dalinar thought he had finally cornered the man. A door smacked open on its hinges ahead in the darkness, and Dalinar let a small satisfied smile steal its way onto his lips. Clumsy, he thought to himself as he lengthened his stride and found himself in the shadowed doorway.

 

Steadying himself, he began to step across the threshold into the gloomy building but was halted in his tracks by an inhuman hissing screech as a feral cat leapt from its hiding place behind the door. Upset at having its sleep disturbed, it proceeded to scratch violently at Dali's arms, face and neck, spitting ferociously as it did so.

 

Surprised at first by the creature, it took Dalinar a moment to recover and tear the cat off him, casting it out into the street with a mighty heave that had little regard for the cat's welfare. See if it lands on its feet after that! Dalinar thought with a silent curse.

 

He heard the movement behind him, too large to be the cat, a moment too late. As Dalinar tensed, too slow, a hand snaked under his chin and pulled his head back uncomfortably and a knife found its way to the exposed flesh of his throat.

 

A snarling voice spoke harshly in his ear, a Kandori accent lilting through the words. "Who are you? Why are you following me? Who do you serve? By the Creator answer me true or I'll slit your throat here and leave you for the scavengers to pick at."

 

Extensive training and a sense of control above most men's brought the Flame and Void, and the sickly sweet glow of Saidin to Dalinar's fingertips in an instant. That voice, for some reason, seemed familiar. A whisper of something from the past, though not that long ago. A slightly metallic taint tickled his nostrils in the air and made him wrinkle his nose against the odour.

 

Still tense, Dalinar responded slowly. "I am a stranger in this city, following you because your eyes watched me too closely at the Sailor's Sin to be passing curiosity. I serve the Dragon Reborn, as does any Light-fearing soul in this city he has claimed as his own." In the distance, the serpentine Dragon banner still snapped in the breeze over the Stone of Tear.

 

 

Dali.

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Marden looked like a slug had just crawled onto his boot at the mention of the 'Dragon Reborn'. The voice likewise sounded familiar, though he couldn't place it by any means. Was this a hunter? Was it a friend? He'd been so long without friends to have forgotten what it was. Pulling the man's head back a little further with a quick jerk, his voice was rough as a file. "Piss on your False Dragon. There has only ever been one true Dragon, and his name is Dramon Calgar. You are familiar to me, and if you are familiar to me that can only mean that you are of the Tower. You had me once but you shall not have me twice whoreson. You think to cage me again? Where are your fellows?"

 

The name struck hollow through Dalinar. Dramon Calgar. Dramon had been a hard man, but one of few Dali had ever trusted since joining the Black Tower. It was Dramon who had introduced him to his gift. Saidin. Such a curse. When the Forsaken who had once been Ishamael, an identity that the Dragon had not lightly shared with the M'Hael, had taken possession of the Black Tower by force he had left Dramon a cripple. Dalinar had spent time on most days except the most pressing just trying to keep him alive. Whatever the Forsaken had done to him, it had barely left him a thread of life to cling to.

 

Normally, that should have been enough for Dalinar's Talent to coax back into health and yet with Dramon something was stopping him, something was missing. Though there was life, Dalinar wondered if there was still spirit left in the body he tended on a daily basis. He snapped back to the present, his neck twisted at an uncomfortable angle and a knife blade pressed against the flesh of his throat. Only the Flame and Void kept strain from showing in his voice as he replied. "If you know Dramon Calgar, then you would know me also. You would know that I served at his side. My name is Dalinar. Dalinarius Traachanshield."

 

A hint of flinty harshness crept into his voice even despite the Flame and Void, "And if you knew him well, you would know that your knife would be hard pressed to injure one who served him unless they were blinded or sleeping."

 

Dali? There was only a moment of indecision before Marden turned the man about, the dagger pulled back to strike if he had to. While the light wasn't good, the name jarred his memory, and memory came back to him. Dalinarius Traachanshield, he had been one of his companions in the service of Dramon Calgar, yet he had nearly killed the man.

 

The dagger slipped from his fingers to clatter on the cobblestones as he staggered several steps back in shock. What had he become, what was left of who he once was to forget Dali so and nearly kill him in the street. Yet he was confused, Dali was as loyal as he to the Dragon Reborn, why did this man serve a pretender? A False Dragon? "Where have you been? Where are the others? Where is Dramon? Is he safe? Who is this Jarron you serve? Does he serve Dramon as well? Wha-"

 

Dalinar held up a hand in a gesture for silence. In his head he was cursing loudly, but in truth his voice was low and his mouth barely moved. "We should get off the streets. We've probably attracted too much attention as it is." The man obviously knew him, obviously knew Dramon, and should have known better than to draw eyes like this. Something had clearly shaken him up badly.

 

In his head, Dalinar ran through a list of possibilities. This man must have been away from the Tower for some considerable time. A list of names, a very short list, came to mind. There were very few men who had made it away from the Tower and not been found, either alive or dead. And fewer still from before Dramon's defeat.

 

"If you know the city better than I do, then perhaps you know somewhere we can go without sparking any gossip in the wrong circles," Dalinar said as he continued to analyse the names in his head.

 

Pausing for a moment, Marden nodded in assent as he collected his dagger from the ground along with his crossbow which he'd left back in the shadows. Removing the quarrel and clipping the crossbow to his belt, he looked up to Dali as he spoke simply. "Go back to the inn, my room is the twelfth." Tossing Dali his key, he continued "I'll be there a few minutes after you, so as to lessen the suspicion around us. Be sure to ward the room against sharp ears."

 

Watching the man depart, Marden took a few minutes, keeping to the shadow in silence. He knew he should be wary, yet the man was the spitting image of his comrade in arms. Yet the White Tower could be tricky, could they have woven the image and voice his compatriot upon one of their agents? How could they know him though? Had he been captured as well perhaps? Or maybe they knew him from his days at Tar Valon.

 

His head spun with the possibilities, yet his gut instinct, deep below his fears, was that the man was indeed Dali. For the first time since he had won free from Far Madding, he found himself contemplating trusting another soul. A thought that after so long was alien to him, yet strangely comforting as he made his way back to the inn. Up the stairs and into his room, he found Dali sitting in a chair beside the bed, watching him as he closed the door behind him.

 

Flinging his hat onto the bed, he worked at his coat. "Where is Dramon? What are you doing wearing the colours of another man? Is this Jarron actually Dramon? What of the others?" Freeing his cloak, he dropped it on a bedpost before sitting down on the bed next to Dali, stripping himself of the small armoury he had himself beginning with the crossbow as he looked to his long lost comrade avidly.

 

 

Marden Veniso

Loyal to the Dragon, Dramon Calgar

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Guest Dalinar

Dalinar took the key from the man, and with a bare moment's hesitation, lost himself in the night.

 

He took a longer route than normal to get back to the inn through a busier district even this late at night where he hoped it would be harder for anyone to follow if they were. There were enough in the city who did not like the Black Tower's presence there that his shoulder blades itched with nervous tension as he found his way back to the stranger's room.

 

Pausing at the innkeep's lamplit book, Dali offered a false name, handed over an extra coin - enough, he hoped, for confidentiality without arousing too much suspicion, and then made his way upstairs.

 

With a glance and a flicker of thought he laid thin skeins of the Power in wards across the length and breadth of the corridor. They were simple, to sense movement and body heat, but nothing more. If anyone were watching, worse still anyone who could sense the use of the Power, he wanted to draw as little attention as possible. Even this was likely too much.

 

He slid into Room Eight silently, and settled on the bed for a few minutes. He was restless now, and still quite tense, and growing increasingly frustrated as his examination of the list he had formulated dwindled and dwindled in number as he perused each case one-by-one.

 

Satisfied eventually that the wards had lain dormant for a safe period, Dalinar slipped out of the room, down the corridor, and into Number Twelve. He closed the door quietly behind him, and then examined the room which he had entered.

 

It was remarkably, almost deliberately, unremarkable. The few belongings that had been left in the chamber were inexpensive, nondescript and lacking in any particular markings that might give some clues as to the identity or origin or their owner. He was fingering absently at the handles of a well worn looking travel bag that was stained with the hardships of travel, when he felt a familiar trill from the wards outside the room. Withdrawing his hand, Dalinar faced the door, several deadly weaves already on the edge of forming.

 

It wasn't until the door opened and the somehow familiar stranger stepped into the room that he realised he had been holding his breath. The door closed with a gentle clack of the latch and then sliding home of a bolt to lock it and the man turned, tossing his hat and cloak onto the bed.

 

The man turned to him, and launched his barrage of questions, his thoughts spilling out in a cascade of words that was done before he had a chance to give each one space.

 

Dalinar frowned and paused, sorting his way through the inquest presented to him. Buying time, he wandered over to the washbasin in the corner of the room, splashed some water from a pitcher resting there onto a small face cloth, and began dabbing at the cat scratches in the slightly blurry mirror on the wall.

 

He winced slightly, cleaning one gash just under his eye that was a little deeper. They'd need further attention, unfortunately. Cat wounds were notorious for festering and developing infection if not well treated.

 

He laid down the cloth on the basin and looked into the mirror catching the stranger's eye.

 

"Marden Veniso." The name had fallen off his tongue before he'd realised his mouth was forming it. He hadn't really been searching for the name when it popped into his head, but now that it was there he could see the similarities in the planes of the man's face, and the lingering remnants of a once more proudly born posture.

 

He twisted around, leaning against the washstand and looking at the once-soldier. A haunted shadow flickered behind the M'Hael's eyes. "So much has changed since you were lost to us, comrade, and none of it easy to recount in one telling. But this Jarron? No, he is not Dramon. He is the Dragon, our hope for salvation and rebirth, Reborn."

 

 

Dalinarius Traachanshield

M'Hael.

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