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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Fresh Meat! attn Toromin


Eqwina
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Today had begun like every other before it; with the morning list of punishments, a cup of coffee complete with Thera’s extra special ingredient, and worst of all THE headache. It was only a dull throb now, but Thera knew before long it would explode into something much worse.

 

As if on cue the slight ache reared its head and Thera had to close her eyes to stem off the pain. She could tell already this would be another grand day in the yards. Buckling on her sword Thera left her coat on the chair and headed out for morning rounds.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Near 12 hours later and her head still pulsed with pain. Thera sat at her desk with her chin on her hands assiduously ignoring the stack of papers at her elbow. No matter how many times she pulled them back, her caramel colored eyes continued to drift East. East and slightly North as if she could penetrated mortar and stone to see Serena. Thera’s anger had long since faded, now she worried over how long this distance could last. It was not natural for a warder to be separated from her Aes Sedai for so long; even if the distance was only emotional.

 

A sharp rap at the door pulled Thera from her thoughts and she quickly shoved her flask back into her drawer. Who could need her attention in the middle of the afternoon? Glancing at the window just by the door Thera saw that she had wasted much of her day lost in thought. It seemed the stacks of papers would have to wait a little longer to receive her signature.

 

“Come” she bellowed at the heavy slatted wooden door. When Mari entered with a scared looking boy in toe Thera’s face contorted into a smirk. Fresh meat indeed.

 

”An odd day huh?” Thera said looking at the young man. “Thanks Mariasha, I think I can handle him from here” She shot her fellow Gaidin a wink before motioning for her to shut the door. In the same gesture she beckoned the new recruit closer. “Well get in here where I can see you! I don’t have time for your lolly gagging.”

 

Thera had to fight back a laugh as the young boys face flushed a deep red. “I know that look” she chuckled “I bet your odd day included a woman, more likely a girl. Let me guess, a novice?” no response. “An Accepted then?” His already red face flushed to the color of the sun, and this time Thera made no effort to hide her amusement. “Not too close to the shall I expect if she spoke with you. Get the look of fear off your face boy, she is a long way from choosing a warder yet” Thera idly wonder how many young kids over the years had fallen for a pretty fresh young face, and found themselves bonded before they could blink. The mirth faded as Thera realized she had been one of those young fools. Coughing she moved back around to her chair.

“Sit down and tell me your name and about your strange day.” Thera flopped down and kicked her boots up to rest on the edge, careful not to send the papers flying.

 

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Toromin cleared his throat, taking the offered seat and trying desperately but in vain to banish the flush from his face. How could she have whittled down to the truth so quickly?

 

"Toromin Doanshar... ma'am." He still didn't know what title he should give, if any. He blinked in surprise when the Warder propped her feet on the desk. Perhaps she wasn't as bad as he'd thought at first. She didn't have flames shooting from her ears or daggers from her eyes. "I've come from Whitebridge. To be a Warder." Light, he was tripping over himself again. Where was his practiced speech now? He couldn't begin to remember it.

 

"The day hasn't really been so strange, ma'am... just the whole journey from home. I did accidentally knock down the Accepted..." His face flushed again at her widened smirk, despite his attempt to keep it at bay. "I hope she doesn't get into trouble for getting her dress dirty. I know they're supposed to take care of them."

 

He suddenly remembered parts of what he had meant to say upon meeting the Mast-- Mistress of Trainees, and sat up straighter in his chair, everything coming out in a jumble and not in the order he had intended. "I'm here with my father's permission, if not his blessing. I'm sixteen, old enough to make my own life decisions." He faltered for the briefest moment, but continued right on. "I've studied the Aes Sedai and the White Tower, and the Warders, and their place in the world... and..." He faltered again for a moment, trying to find the words that teased him from the edge of his tongue. "If there's one thing I aim to do with my life, it's to protect the Aes Sedai and the White Tower, from their enemies." He gave up on anything else he was planning to say, remembering little else even of what he had said to the Warder who had met him at the gate. "The world needs the Aes Sedai, and they could use protection from the world. I'm here to... to be a sword and shield against the Dark."

 

He settled back slightly into his chair, not having realized he was sitting on the edge, and looked positively mortified. I can't believe I blabbered on like that. I must look like an utter idiot, and she's the Mistress of Trainees!

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Ma’am indeed! Thera’s smirk deepened. By the color in Toromin’s face she believed his story that he’d only knocked the child down, but it was the light in his eyes that confirmed her suspicions. He was well and truly hooked. Fool! He would figure it out in his own time. For now she would keep him so busy he could scarcely think. A few long days and a couple sleepless nights and with luck she could help him forget. It would save him heartache in the end.

 

Thera kicked her feet off her desk, and leaned forward resting her chin on her knuckles. Her eyes flashed with anger, but not at the boy in front of her. Once, she herself had had that kind of dedication, that passion, that longing to give something back. Sadly that had all died, it seemed like only logic and booze remained.

 

“So you think you want to be a Tower Guard? Better yet a warder? Maybe bonded to that pretty little thing that kissed you just now?” Oh yes, she knew about that. One thing every trainee learned quickly was that Thera had eyes and ears everywhere. Nothing happened on these tower grounds with out her knowing. “Perhaps in ten years I can make you worthy of her, but will she wait that long? One so beautiful and audacious certainly will need protecting.” Thera winked, before standing and making her slow way to the table by the window. She allowed him time to dwell on what she’d said.

 

Thera did not approve of warders or tower guards having any sort of relationship with any woman or girl of the tower. But it was a fact, and with some young men a little reminder that the girl who had caught their eye would not wait forever made them train three times as hard. With a slightly unsteady hand she filled one goblet with water, the other with wine. With her flask out of reach Thera need something to steady her emotions.

 

“Toromin Doanshar I will give you this last chance to change your mind.” She paced slowly around his chair as she spoke. “Life in my yards is not easy. It is being said that I am the harshest Mistress the yards have seen in a hundred years. A rumor I earn ten fold. Yes I am tough, but the men and women who survive are the greatest warriors in the world. They are quick on their feet and in their minds.”

 

Thera reached out and grasped the arm rests of Toromin’s chair; pinning him in place with her stare as much as her grip. “Do you still think the Tower is where you want to be?”[/i]

 

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Who had given her the idea that the Accepted had latched onto him? They had only just met. Surely she hadn't thought that highly of a little country buffoon.

 

The young man tried to look brave... he had read the books, he had a good idea what a Mistress of Trainees was supposed to be like, but he also knew that right now he must look like a kitten who had just turned a corner and bumped into a dog. He had seen a flash of the flames and daggers. He really wasn't used to... but no, life was obviously going to be different from the way it had been growing up back home. Entirely different.

 

"Yes," He managed to force out. "There's nowhere else I'm meant to be." He sounded braver than he felt, but he knew there was much more he could be saying, more he should say. Grand things, impressive things, an empassioned speech... but nothing came to mind under that hard gaze. Not unfriendly, but... serious... accustomed to... to dangerous situations, he realized. He still wasn't used to it, though, and he looked uncomfortable.

 

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Thera released the arms of his chair and handed him the goblet of water. She could tell that Toro was nervous as hell, but he held. It showed he had some semblance of a backbone.

 

“Good, I think you will do just fine” she laughed as she went to pull the roster out from her desk. Maybe she would pair him up with Llugh and see how long his back held. Was that too mean? Or just good fun?

 

In a clear hand she wrote his name in the ledger; Thera set the book aside but did not close it; there was more left to find out.

 

With her head she nodded to the rack of weapons along the wall. “You ever used any of those before?” Lined up gleaming in the light were weapons of every shape, size and type. Their fierce edges gleamed in the light; all had been kept honed and cleaned by trainee’s set to a punishment for one offence or another.

 

”Cat got your tongue boy?... Have you ever used any of those? Do you know which weapons you want to train with?” Her caramel eyes were wide and she tilted her head expectantly. “Light boy don’t clam up on me now..tell me what you know.”

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The young man stared at the weapons on the wall, but whipped his head back around as the voice of the Mistress of Trainees rose demandingly. "The sword!" He blinked, realizing he had answered the wrong one of her questions. "I mean... I wanted to train with the sword." He had spent time during his journey to Tar Valon pondering the sorts of weapons he would feel most comfortable with once it came to it, but he hadn't expected to make any sort of actual decision right away. "I've never actually used a weapon. I mean, I played sticks with my friends when I was younger..." He felt his cheeks warm a little at talking about when he was a little boy to the Mistress of Trainees. "But I've never used a real weapon. I've never had to."

 

He straightened and tried to act braver than he had so far, trying to show the woman he wasn't a scared little rabbit, now that he was here in the Warder Yard. "I'd like to learn about all weapons, but the ones that have interested me most so far are the sword and bow. Perhaps..." his voice faltered briefly at a flash in the Mistress's eyes. "Perhaps the katana, and the crossbow. For grace and reach with the sword, and the ability to pierce armor at mid-range with the crossbow."

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Not an uncommon choice, the sword and the bow. Thera herself thought of her sword as just an extension of herself.

 

Katana even? Perhaps she could take some part in his lessons as well, Thera thought as she idly caressed her hilt. It would be good to teach again; maybe it would help to remind her of her own roots. They seemed buried too deep as of late.

 

Dipping the pen Thera wrote Katana and Crossbow across from Toromin’s name. The children often scoffed at being forced into a decision so quick, but she had found that most often their first instincts ended up being the right choice. Glancing quickly over the roster Thera saw that there would be no shortage of trainees to help show the new boy the ropes.

 

As she closed the heavy leather bound book and placed it back in the drawer Thera glanced out it window. It was too dark to give him a tour, but she still had some time until full dark.

 

“Since your exploits with the girl caused you to arrive so late, there is no time for a tour tonight. It will have to wait until morning.” She stood and shrugged out of her coat, then unbuckled her sword and laid it gently on her chair. “Lucky for you” she said with a smirk. “there is still time for a nice leisurely run, you can leave any thing you don’t want to carry here, I assure you it will be safe until you return.” While Thera waited for the boy to unburden himself she went through a few stretches. Her red curls tossed this way and that as she bent and stretched to limber tired muscles. She had no intention of completing all the laps with the boy, just enough to show him the way and burn off some steam that had been gathering throughout the day.

 

”You say you want to be a warder” She smiled over her shoulder. “Lets see just how well you will fair shall we?” Thera stepped high as she jogged for the door. “You can start with 100 laps and we can build from there.” Without looking to see if Toro followed Thera bolted out the door and set off at a ground eating pace. Few boys, or girls who arrived in the yards could complete the full hundred their first day, very few could do it their month, but just in case she always set a pace that assured their failure.

 

Contrary to the whispers, it was not a cruel punishment. Simply a first lesson.

 

OOC: RP your reaction to the run and the things you encounter and so on..when your done (a long time later I assume) Thera will be in her office eating dinner.

 

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Toromin followed the Mistress of Trainees out the door, making sure she wasn't looking back as he noted how... really fit she was. He was young and in perfectly good shape, but her body looked strong and nimble from years of training and exercise. The young man turned his eyes down to where her feet met the ground in a quick and steady rhythm, hardly kicking up any dirt as she ran, sure and confident with every step in her gait.

 

He kept up with her for several laps, trying but failing to keep from breathing hard, and when she turned away from the path they had been setting, he started to slow to follow. A sharp look from the Warder set his feet right back up to moving, though, and he fought the urge to look back around at her as he rounded the bend. I wonder what she thinks of me, he found himself thinking. A real Warder, of the White Tower... Light, I'm actually here!

 

The comforting burn of exertion in his thighs encouraged the lad, and he took the opportunity to really examine the grounds as he ran. The White Tower absorbed the vast majority of his attention whenever he faced it along the circuit, but there was plenty to see the rest of the time as well. He wasn't alone in the Yard, though he didn't yet know anyone else. Few bothered to glance in his direction, and he decided it must be a regular thing to see trainees running laps.

 

<hr>

 

It wasn't too long before that "comforting burn" began to progress into an ache, and Toromin tried to ignore it. It wouldn't go away, though. He had done plenty of running, of course, what youth didn't? But this was far faster than he had run for any real length of time. This wasn't an endurance pace... it was practically a sprint!

 

He realized he had slowed down a little from when the Mistress of Trainees had been with him. What was her name again? ... T... Thera. My first day, and I'm almost forgetting names. I really need to learn to commit names to memory now. So many more people to meet than the ones I grew up around back home. Light, am I missing home already? I've only just arrived! It's nearly a month since I left, though... The aching burn brought him back out of his thoughts, and he angrily pushed it aside.

 

He tried to make his legs move faster, to return to the fast running speed from when he started, but his legs wouldn't hear of it. He still wasn't moving slowly, but he wasn't sprinting anymore. More than a jog, of course, but still just this side of running. He allowed himself to slow to little more than a jog for just a few seconds until the burning subsided, then resumed the run. That was better. That's all it took? I can do this. Only 68 laps to go... Oh, Light, is that all I've done? His feet didn't falter, but a wave of dismay washed over him. He was still running, but that heat in his legs was building again. How could he possibly keep this up for as long as it would take to finish? I'll just have to try.

 

<hr>

 

His breathing was more labored by now, and the burn in his legs had returned, joined with an uncomfortable warmth in his ankles and calves. He willed it to the back of his mind again, and tried to remember what had taken his mind off of it last time. Tar Valon... he grinned despite the discomfort in his lower body. I'm actually in Tar Valon. The city of dreams, around since the Breaking of the World, glittering in sun or moonlight, impervious to attack, home of the most powerful people in the world, the Aes Sedai. And the Warders. And I'm going to BE a Warder. A strong and handsome and brilliant and graceful--

 

His foot caught in a shallow depression in the dirt, and his arms windmilled as he shifted quickly to regain his balance. He gained chaotic speed and momentum momentarily as he leaned down into the trip, then shifted his weight upwards and back to get back into control. He had learned that trick as a boy, and it seemed to work even better now that his body was more mature and his center of gravity was easier to gauge and manipulate.

 

He slowly brought himself up short, holding his throbbing right foot in front of him and wishing he could get away with taking his boot off, but if the Mistress were to see that, he'd be in trouble for sure. He wasn't sure what trouble would be for a trainee in the Warders, but he was not going to find out, sure as the sun was-- Well, the sun was down now, but when it was up during the day, it was yellow.

 

He slapped a hand roughly on a fence post beside him in mild anger, and jerked it back up in pained shock, waving his hand and hopping on a foot, sucking in a breath and wanting to scream in frustration at the splinter in his palm and ache in his toes. He relaxed into rocking the foot at the knee like a fast-moving pendulum while using a fingernail to push the splinter back out of his hand. Three of them, in fact. The rest of the fence posts looked smooth enough, why did this one have to have splinters?

 

He had taught himself a few other tricks while playing as a lad. That chaotic speed and momentum he had experienced by accident this time could be summoned at will if he needed an inhuman burst of speed, but it was dangerous as well. The legs could not completely keep up with the body in that state of constant near-falling, and it could be kept up only so long before each step became a labored exercise in balance and coordination. A single misstep at that speed and bodily angle could result in a broken leg or knee, or worse if running downhill. But the few times he had tried it in races with his friends had left them wide-eyed in disbelief. Once one of them even joked that he had been cheating somehow, but it was only a joke. He was pretty sure, anyway.

 

Toromin had almost broken his neck one day fall-running down a hill while alone. He only ever practiced his tricks while alone, worried that his friends would make fun of him or think he was trying to show off, or would tell his parents and get him into major trouble. Almost broken his neck, and gotten a rough but very effective first lesson in tumbling. He hadn't practiced that trick very much, though. Tumbling got him dirty and sometimes bruised, and both were rather difficult to explain at the supper table.

 

A sudden noise echoing off the inner wall of the Warders Yard yanked the young man out of his reverie, and he sped back off into his laps. It didn't sound like a sound that had been directed at him. He certainly hoped his little break hadn't been noticed.

 

<hr>

 

It was far too short a time before the heat built back up in his legs, and turned into a burning pain again. He really couldn't keep up a very quick pace to make 100 laps. It just couldn't be done. The burning in his chest that he almost hadn't noticed over that of his legs began to compete with his legs now, and the young man had no choice but to slow it down a little. If she catches me, she'll think I'm weak, but it hurts... I'll just have to hope it's good enough.

 

The sun had long vanished over the horizon, and moonlight glinted off the occasional smooth bit of dirt or wide blade of grass lying along his running path. If there was a chill in the air, it was completely undetectable to the boy drenched in sweat... and dust... and pain. He alternated between a halfway decent run, and a determined regenerating jog. At first the runs lasted longer than the jogs, but soon they were half and half. With twenty-five laps left to go, the jogging was in danger of outweighing the running.

 

<hr>

 

As he jogged to try to regain some strength and at least slightly relieve the fire in his muscles, the young man looked over at one of the gates into the Tower grounds and saw a Tower Guard who had apparently just come through, looking his direction. He couldn't see the Guard's face in the dim moonlight and at this distance, but Toromin got the impression he was easily recognized as a new trainee.

 

To the boy's shock and dismay, the Guard started purposefully toward him, smoothly and dangerously as a wolf approaching a fox that had encroached on its territory. Fear of trouble knocked fatigue aside and Toromin leaped back into a run, rounding away from the approaching Guard. He didn't look over his shoulder, but as he rounded the next two turns, the Guard came back into the young man's view, and he was relieved to see the Guard simply standing and watching. After a full lap with only a slight decrease in speed in an effort to pace himself, relief washed over the boy again as the Guard nodded with satisfaction and retreated in a different direction.

 

He couldn't help it, though. Once he appeared to be unwatched in the grounds again, Toromin resumed the alteration between jogging and running. No amount of fear of punishment could spur his legs any more. He was utterly spent. Only ten laps to go, and the young man didn't see how he could possibly finish it. He was barely more than walking at this point, and felt ready to fall face-first into the dirt and die. Just let his arms and legs turn to jelly... and die. He kept moving, though. He didn't know how, but he kept moving.

 

<hr>

 

He gave the fence post that had splintered him a swift kick as he jogged by it again, and quietly cursed at himself for forgetting that was the foot he had stubbed. Hopping for a few steps, he then shook his head at himself, considering it a lesson learned in expressing frustration through violence. It wasn't the way he had been brought up, anyway, lashing out like that. Or cursing, for that matter, he noted with disappointment in himself. Mum and Da were too good for that, and I am, too.

 

Thinking of home made his heart ache, and he almost lost the will to go on. His little sister, Maddie, grinned and waved to him from a chair in front of the fireplace back home in Whitebridge, holding a book up for him to read to her. Light, he missed Maddie. He missed his mother and father, too, and his bed. Light! He missed his bed! A soft pillow beneath his head... the sound of crickets outside his window... He was walking now, and suddenly kicked a foot forward to resume his run, furious with himself.

 

He looked around to see if he had been noticed, if he was in trouble, and realized with a small start of surprise that he had completed another two laps even in his daydreaming. As he passed the point where he and the Mistress of Trainees had started the run a thousand years ago (or so his feet told him), he felt a bitter mixture of ecstasy and agony. He was only three laps away now... just three to go, but he wasn't going to make it.

 

He shoved the thought out of his mind, but he had no strength to fight it. He fell to his hands and knees in the dirt, heaving gulps of hot, dusty, dry air. His whole body was on fire, from his toenails to each and every hair on his head. His arms and legs wobbled like willow stalks as they tried desperately to hold him up. His rear end fell back onto his heels, and even that hurt. He couldn't stand right now if someone held out a hand and helped him.

 

He sat there for several long moments, watching in delirious fascination as drops of what sweat remained to come out of him merged into tiny little puddles in the ground beneath his enflamed face. He idly wondered whether it might help ease the pain to drop his face into those little puddles, but the pain in his hands warned him that the dirt would sting too much. He thought he heard a voice behind him, too low and too far away to be directed at him. He could hardly be brought to care that it meant someone else was there to see him.

 

Toromin chuckled wryly to himself. Maybe they wouldn't see him. It was dark enough here at night. There were no torches lit where he was running here, though he wasn't in the shadow of the Tower where he would really be close to invisible. He let his lungs cool for a few seconds longer... just a few seconds more... just a little more. The pain started to recede. With the pain lessening, however, he could feel the other feeling taking its place. Tired. So tired. Never been so tired. Never half so tired. I could sleep right here. I wouldn't even have to lie down. Just like this... The young man's arms wobbled weakly beneath him, and he knew that part wasn't true, at least.

 

Stubbornly he firmed his arm muscles. They weren't quite so bad as his legs, at least. There was something left in them. He testingly pushed with them, but didn't get very far. Something, but not much. He leaned a little forward, and groaned as the weight of his body rocked forward off his heels. Light, his feet hurt. Everything hurt. Pain was all there was in the world now. Pain... and tired.

 

He was back on his hands and knees again, though, and that gave him hope for one last thing. He wouldn't dare call it an effort, because that would imply he could make it, and he knew that wouldn't happen, but he leaned his body forward and let his right hand drag forward along the ground. Four inches. He had moved four inches forward. It hurt, though, dragging the hand through the coarse dirt. He stifled another groan as he lifted his right knee ever so slightly off the ground and did the same with his left hand. Before they could fall back down, he rocked them forward. A foot. An entire foot. He had moved an entire foot forward just now.

 

Step by stubborn step, he crawled like a dog around the path. His cheeks burned in shame, but every time he tried to stiffen his legs to stand, they wobbled and he fell down again. All the way around, he crawled... for three entire circuits, until there were only a few steps left to go. He stopped at that sight, the sight of the finish. His body involuntarily tried to lean back onto his feet again, but he angrily brought that to a halt. Not that. I won't get up from that. He stared for a moment, and in a final defiant action, thrust his shoulders up along with a knee. He was kneeling now. He had graduated to a kneel. If I can kneel... he thought...

 

Toromin tried to push the other leg up, but it wouldn't give him any hope. He dropped his hand to the ground beside him, braced himself, and pushed down on the dirt while pulling up with his knee. The leg moved under him alongside its twin, and he hurriedly thrust both feet down against the ground as though he were trying to move the very Earth. He rose.

 

He wobbled. He came a hair's breadth from falling onto his back... then he stood. He wavered, but he stood. He leaned ever so slightly forward, and a leg moved forward to catch him. A step. That was a step! And he had walked it! It held him, barely, and he leaned forward again while lifting the other foot off the ground. Seemingly of its own free will, it swung forward and hit solid ground. Another step. Ten more steps his feet miraculously gave to him, and he was done. One hundred laps. He looked to the doorway of Thera's office, light streaming out from inside, and his heart sank. So far away... and he knew he couldn't get there.

 

He tried to take another step, and closed his eyes as he felt himself start to fall. He waited for a sickening crack upon meeting the ground like a clenched fist, but instead felt a completely different sensation. He winced as his shoulders clenched up in pain, and couldn't open his eyes to see what was going on. He felt... lighter, though... like he was floating on a cloud. Light, if he had been this light during his run, he could have finished two hundred laps! Why did it have to come so late?

 

The young man shook his head to clear away the fog, barely feeling his legs moving under him as he moved forward, and managed to get his eyes open in time to see Thera's office in front of him. Suddenly his full body weight came crashing back to him, and he leaned against the doorway, at least gratified to feel the strange pain in his shoulders subsiding. Something made him turn his head around to try to look beside and behind him, and he thought he caught the glimpse of a pair of boots disappearing into night darkness. The sound of a knife hitting a pewter plate brought his head back around again, and he blinked against the lamp light as he tried to focus his eyes through the doorway into the office.

 

He felt he should be saying something, but his throat was as dry as a desert, and his mouth could only hang loosely open while he labored to keep his lungs with breath. He simply stood, or leaned rather, waiting to see whether he would die first or the world would end. Light help him, but he thought he could smell food...

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For more laps than she had intended Thera lost herself in the steady rhythm of her foot falls. Quickly her tired muscles began to loosen, and warmed to an exhilarating burn. Feeling rejuvenated enough to go find a shower Thera veered off the well worn path, when Toromin tried to follow Thera fixed him with a level stare that set him back and quickened his pace.

 

Thera smirked. Even if the boy tried to keep the pace she had set, Thera knew she had plenty of time yet before she would be needed again. With a glance around the yards she saw that there would have plenty of eyes to report how long before young Toromin failed. With no hurry in her step Thera started off in search of bath.

 

More than an hour passed while Thera bathed and soaked. When she was shriveled like a prune and the water had gone cold she finally stepped out of the tub and wrapped up in an oversized towel. Thinking the boy would be about ready to give up Thera dressed quickly not even bothering to towel her hair. She wanted to be at her desk when Toromin finally dragged himself in.

 

Her curls had time to dry and the stack of papers on Thera’s desk had dwindled down to nothing, and of the new trainee there was still no sign. He could not have left, but it seemed unlikely he was still trying to run his laps. The sun was well in bed and the moon and stars glittered in the night over Tar Valon.

 

Ducking out of her office by the back door Thera was careful to stay in the shadows close to the building. Her eyes scanned the path and were surprised to see the young man still stumbling along. Suddenly his stumbled halted and Toromin went crashing to his knees. Thera did not move from her place in the shadows. She only watched and waited, seeing what the boy would do. To her surprise she saw him begin to crawl.

 

He began slowly at first, and became more determined as he went. Thera clasped a hand to her mouth to keeping from laughing out loud. She had never seen a trainee finish his laps on his knees. As quietly as she could manage with her shoulders shaking from holding back her laughter Thera crept around the building and back into her office. She found two trays heaped with food and fresh pitchers of water and wine. Leaving the water where it sat Thera grabbed her tray and the pitcher of wine and got comfortable at her desk.The smells of roasted lamb with mustard sauce filled the room and Thera did not wait to dig in. She was just buttering the warm crusty bread when she heard the sound of panting from outside her door. Thera paused, and then laid the food and knife back on her plate. As Thera walked to the door she idly wondered if the boy was still on his knees.

 

The cool night air flooded in, just like the light from the candles around her office flooded out. In spite of herself Thera grinned, but covered it quickly with a frown. “Its about time you showed up. I thought you had already forgotten your promise to the Tower.” Toromin’s hair was disheveled and he had as much dirt on his pants and shirt as he did his boots. Sweat had made his shirt cling to his chest and ran divots through the dirt on his face. Thera walked out into the night and pulled Toromin’s arm over her shoulder holding it in place with her left hand as her right snaked around his waist. The boy struggled, but in his weakened state Thera had no trouble holding him next to her and supporting him as he limped into her office. She walked him as far as the chair by her desk, and made sure he sat down before she disappeared into the back room. When she reemerged she was carrying a steaming bowl of water and two towels. Setting the water on her desk in front of him she tossed Toro the towels. “Wash up if your going to be eating with me.”

 

Thera went back to her meal, but she watched as the young man washed away the dirt. He moved in a stiff manner, but she did not see too many visible signs of hurt. “If your hurting too bad I can send for a sister.” Thera said around a mouth full of food. Toro only shook his head. “Good, well then your foods over there” She pointed to the table across the room with her knife. “While your up can you bring me the water pitcher as well” Thera smiled, a wicked smile at Toro and resumed her meal.

 

She pretended to pay no mind as the groaned and limped his way to the table and back. “Eat up Toromin, we still have much to do tonight and I am sure you would like a little sleep before your training begins tomorrow”

 

They finished the meal in silence and only after Toromin had cleared both of the trays did Thera speak again. “In the morning you will report here to me right after high has rung and I will assign you a permanent room and a training schedule..oh and of course you will do your morning laps.” Thera had thrown in the last as almost an after thought. “A few things to remember while you are here. A trainee’s day begins while the sun is still down, just before high sounds. You are expected to have finished your morning laps without being asked, and I will be checking up on you. Your days will be spent training and practicing with the Warders and Tower Guards. When you are not training or at meals your hours are your own. Though do not expect too many of those at first. Obey all the rules and I am sure you will do well..Break them” Thera smiled. “and you will be spending a lot more time with me.”

 

Thera stood up and motioned Toro to do them same. “Gather your bags and I will show you where you can wash up and sleep.” Leading him out into the night and across the yards Thera kept a brisk pace. “You can wash up in there, the water is already hot but you will have to fill for yourself. Your room is the third on the right. I will see you in the morning.” With no more ado Thera turned on her heel and headed back to her office; she still had a few things to take care of before she could turn in, and because of the new trainee it seemed as if she would once be up all night. Pulling her flask from her pocket Thera downed its contents in one pull and hoped she had remembered to secure more.

 

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