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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Christine

C'mon, Lass, lets ride like the- Lass? Where'd you go?

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Braxton was doing well in his training, and while trouble had found him every once in a while, and she hadnt been able to spend as much time teaching the young fool as she wanted, he was doing well. But, training was hard on the poor trainees, and now, two weeks before midsummer’s day, it was time for him to face reality and leave the safeguard walls that the training yards and the White Tower put around then. It was time for him to learn survival. Deneira alread had it figured out. She would take him into Braem woods, as if going to Caemlyn. She would tell him that she was being sent with a message to the Captain of the Guard to the Queen, and that she wanted to take him along with her, to learn. He had jumped upon the idea, and she was glad. They would travel from dawn to dusk, and she would teach him all she knew. That night, he would put his learning into effect at their camp. When he slept, she would leave him there, and go a few days ahead, so that in three or four days, depending on whether or not he went the right direction, she would await him. She hoped that he wouldnt get lost, though.

 

She awoke him at dawn on the day they were leaving, and led him to the stable that held their horses. She had two packs, one for them each, and they were going to ride hard and fast until midmorning. He had tried to sleep a little longer, but a bucket of icy water had convinced him that it was time to get up. They left the city, with plans on returning just in time for MidSummer’s Day. They rode hard, and his eyes kept awake as they rode into a wood that held no sign of civilization. Midmorning came, and they stopped for a few minutes to eat a midmorning brunch of cheese, bread, a fruit each, and water.

 

Pointing out a vine that grew up a tree, she spoke. “That is poisonous, so I suggest you not touch it. But if you look at those herbs right there-“ she pointed to a small plant growing under another tree, “-are very good on any poisonous plants that may rash your skin. Mix it with water after you crush it, and put it on your wounds as a pultice.†He nodded. “You can eat anything as long as it is cooked, but not every animal is safe. Any thing that has bright colors, like some snakes or some toads, are poisonous, so the idea of staying away is what I suggest.†He nodded. “Any questions so far?â€

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Being woken by a bucket of ice water was not bad once you got past the mind-jarring shock. Taking his age and the subject of the dream that still lingered in his mind, it could have been seen as a blessing in disguise. Braxton spent too much time sighing. This thought did not stop him from doing so as he dressed.

 

The Mistress of Trainees had not left his thoughts since that day in the docks. Braxton was the first to admit it was a very long time ago but he saw her in all her alluring beauty several times a week. His conversations with her--usually for disciplinary reasons--amounted to stuttering and goofy laughter. Many times he had written her sonnets, but he lost the courage at the last moment and ate them while her back was turned. . . He had almost choked three times. Ahhhh. . . if only she had come to his rescue. She looked as though she had strong hands. . .

 

***

 

Braxton concluded that the wood in which his mentor and he stopped was sparse. Sparse and boring. He hoped he would get to meet the Captain of the Guard. Maybe even the queen! There were at least five heroes who had done that. The entire concept of entering Caemlyn was a touch daunting; he had never been there before. He was confident that he would weather it with his mentor's aid.

 

He listened to the lesson with customary quiet. He thought nothing of it, as it was not unlike a mentor to take any opportunity to instruct their students on the finer points of life. It was an interesting topic, but not very useful. Braxton had no intention of eating plants, nor staying in a wood or forest of any description.

 

Any questions? "Yes. How far away is Caemlyn, my lady?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

[/i]

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He paused for a moment, then answered quickly. â€Yes. How far away is Caemlyn, my lady?" Laughing softly, she knocked him upside the head with her hand, playing. “Caemlyn is as far as you make it, young one. One week, or one year- it all has to do if you know where you are going.†She looked up at the sun that was almost midsky. Pointing to it, she said, “The sun is our guide, and the north star at night. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, as does the moon. Using your brain, if it is the morning, and the sun is to your right, which direction are you going?†He thought about it for a moment, the answered correctly, south. She grinned and slapped him on the back. “Thats right... lets just hope you remember that. Caemly is to the south, so just head south until you hit a road, then ask where Caemlyn is. More than likely, it is to the west, do that is where you head. Simple as that.â€

 

He nodded his head, and she pointed her finger at him between the eyes. “What I say is useful, and one day, you will be greatful for all I teach you. Remember that.†He nodded his head, and she led him on. “Water can be found if you dig deep enough. If you don’t have a spade, then a knife or a stick does perfectly well in making a hole. If you are lucky, you can find a stream, but if you cannot, then dig for water. You have your shirt on your back, and if you strain that water through it twice, then it is clean. Not once, but twice. Even better would be if you has a pot and boiled it out, but you might not always have that with you.â€

 

She spotted a ditch ahead, and ran down to it. “Come here, put your hand on the ground and feel it.†He did so. “Do you remember the rain from two nights ago? The water ran down into the lower ground, and it made the ground still wet, days later. If you are going to make a camp, then you need to do it on higher ground. In this lower area, the water runs down, so if it rains, then it will be a little bit of a wet night.†He nodded.

 

“Now, you came from a farm. Have you ever hunted for rabbits or squirrels? I might have you hunting in a day or two.†She went to her packs and pulled out a small trap. “We are going to set this while we eat lunch, and then see what we catch for dinner. But, while we walk, we are going to talk about how to make it.†They walked as they talked, both leading their horses, and she let him hold it for a moment, then took it back. “You see, it is made out of string and wood. Just a basic square box, you could take sticks and tie them together. The top is held up by string, and if it is disturbed, then the hatch falls down, catching whoever enters. You might catch a snake, or a rabbit, or a squirrel. And never forget, you can eat anything if you cook it long enough. Any questions?â€

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He wished she would stop doing that. There would be an effect; it was academic. The distant ring in his ear sang a melody of promise. Braxton appreciated sound. It would not be wrong to say he depended on it. Alone in the wilderness with an exquisite woman and all he could think about was how much he wanted her to *stop* touching him; her hands were very pretty....

 

Forecasting direction by the positon of the sun? Next she would tell him it were possible to use the stars as a guide, or that trollocs were real. The lesson continued. Braxton cared little; her voice made up for any short fall in topic. Following close behind her would have been a bore, were it not for the view.

 

 

What? "Oh. Yes, M'lady, I did hunt on the farm." More or less. When forced to hunt Braxton sent the dogs instead. The act was not of laziness, for Braxton was not lazy. It was act of resignation to truth. He hunted with the skill of a stone performing unassisted flight.

 

Parapets, damoiselles, high seas, sword fights, monsters; danger! In what way could petty woods and survival tips compare with these; the flames of his desire? Fame was not won in nothingness but in glorious battle!

 

Who would want to eat a snake anyway? Do I have any questions?--Bah! "Do I have any questions? No, m'lady. I listen attentively to those things you believe I should know."

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He was sassing her, and she knew that, but she had a feeling if she told him to stop that, he would just keep on doing it. Stupid farm boy... they were all the same. One of these days, she would pop this boy so hard... but she still felt a little bad about the time he had stabbed his leg, and letting him get in trouble with Aran, so she owed him a little time to be foolhardy and woolheaded. “Good. What I am teaching you is important, and believe me, I have used my training, over and over. I suggest you take your lessons seriously.â€

 

He nodded his head, and they continued on, some of the time riding, some of it walking. Night soon came, and it was time to set up camp. Taking the bags off of the horses, Deneira tied them both to a tree, then sat down on a log. Relaxing, she pulled out her bed roll and laid down on it. He looked at her, and she waved him off. “You had better of listened. Go get somme wood and start a fire, then get some food, cook it, and don’t forget water. Go ahead... oh yes, and I will be fine. I have my own food. You will be the one that goes hungry tonight if you mess up.â€

 

Smiling to herself, she settled back, pulling an apple from her bag. Waving to him as he walked off, she pulled out the letter that was in her bag. She had needed to ask Shawn to write it for her, telling him that she was busy getting her bags together. He knew the truth, but her pride blocked her from admitting it out loud. He had written it, and she smiled as Braxton walked off, knowing he was going to get a smack in the face with this one.

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Pah! He did not care if she had ample food for herself. He hoped that she did not. How soothing it would it be if he were to return from a nice meal--belly as plump as a ripe tomoto--to be greeted by a dry husk of a mentor once worthy of a name. Yes. He savoured the taste of such a delicious scenario. It would be a slice of justice: it would serve her right! This was the current pattern of Braxton's thoughts as he tramped off into the wood.

 

Twigs, dry grasses, fallen logs; branches. All and more fell victim to Braxton's assault. When he could not gather any more from the ground he began the surgical amputation of nearby foliage. When he could no longer reach to rench branches from trunks, out came the whip: uncurling like an angry rattler; blasting offending through offending "produce" . . . . It also burned time. This was important.

 

Eight. This is the numerical value attributed to the quantity of armloads it required to equal the satisfaction of the young Trainee (phew). As a child he had often climbed the piles of harvested wood. The compulsion to do so now was strong. He resisted on the grounds that his mentor was weird, and may not understand the simple joy in crowning himself king of hiw own miniature mountain range. There was no way Braxton was actually going to light his fire before his other preparations were complete. No. He was not going to go away and gather supplies while his mentor lay on her bedroll like a reptile bathing in the sun on a sheet of rock. His mentor bathing in the sun on a sheet of rock . . . .

 

The water search demanded more in the way of time. It also demanded a proper receptacle. Luck was with him for he found a small brook close to the campsite -- a few hundred yards between trees, saplings, ferns, and other such merry forestry (yuck). Braxton could either spend his entire afternoon carting water to the campsite, or he could simply fill the jar for immediate use and worry about more later. He chose the latter. Braxton was not lazy. Quite the opposite. He poured his entire intellect around any given action to find ways of minimizing its necessary physical output. Fine. Maybe he was lazy.

 

Trap hunting requires much skill and much patience. Braxton waived his rights to either and instead set a simple deadfall with a heavy stump and a piece of dried meat as bait. Mission thus accomplished he walked a few yards, settled down, and went to sleep. The day had begun its descent into evening when Braxton finally awoke. He had not heard the subtle sounds of his meal. Nor the solid thump as the wood had brutally dispatched it: dispatched and tenderised.

 

It was not yet full evening when Braxton returned to camp, and there was light enough to start his fire. The darkness seemed to deepen and mature as the flames began their slow dance. Braxton was unsure what manner of creature he had killed. Probably a badger. He resigned himself to eating it anyway. How bad could it be? When all was in readiness Braxton returned to his mentor. "I am finished," was all that he said.

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“Good. Sit down, and lets eat.†They talked for a bit while he cooked his food, and they enjoyed it passing stories or just watching the stars. Deneira had missed being outside. It was a good time, to be on the open road, expeccially under clear skies. She hoped that Braxton was enjoying this trip as much as she was, and enjoy the break from tower life. Then again, she wasn’t the one being left alone…

 

The evening went by fine, and at one point, he had to relieve himself, and she slipped some drugs into his water. He returned and drank the water, and she watched him slowly fall asleep. Good… poor chap wouldn’t know what hit him. She collected up their things, even to the point of his personal belongings, and left him with only his bedroll, his knife, and the note, which she set on top of his knife beside him. He surely couldn’t miss it there. Mateo hadn’t even left her a note when she had to do this… idiot mentor.

 

Traveling down the road ahead, Deneira looked back on her sleeping mentee. Well, hopefully he wouldn’t get in to trouble… and anyways, she was only one big city ahead!

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One eye opened and swiveled around like a periscope. The other eye opened. Both eyes blinked several times in unison. A frown formed. Braxton finally crawled from his bedroll with an oath—or several, if we’re going to be technical about it—an angry insect emerging from its cocoon. If one were to squint, perhaps, his madly flapping arms would appear as inchoate wings attempting to take flight.

 

After much flapping and consideration, Braxton dropped to the ground where he was and contemplated his next move. This suited him just fine. He did not particularly like his mentor anyway. He spent the next hour or so quietly fantasizing the many creative and spectacular (and perhaps impractical) uses his knife would be suited for. Gutting, skinning, stabbing, clothing removal . . . .

 

Another hour later: hunger. Yes, that is what he felt: hunger. He would go hunting . . . later, when he felt “motivated.†Braxton did not intend to move. He had a good mind to die right then and there, to drop dead. That would show his mentor. Wouldn’t she feel bad? “I’m not moving,†he said aloud.

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Were it not for cramp, Braxton was certain he would have remained lying where he was. Were it not for hunger and thirst, Braxton was certain he could have fasted. Were it not for the damp, and the many insects biting through his trousers, Braxton was certain all would have been pleasant.

 

As it was, Braxton sat chewing leaves – probably poisonous – while “dinner†cooked above the small fire he had managed to build. Animal or not, it was going to be eaten. To his best estimation several days had past; still his mentor had not returned. Typical. The woods proved to be dull, and itchy like you wouldn't believe. Braxton had had enough, and he would play this little game if for no other reason than to feed his mentor the leaves he had discovered to have potent “cleaning†faculties. It had been uncomfortable.

 

The young trainer decided that when his meal was completed, he would find a clearing and so judge the position of the sun. From there he would be able to calculate the rough direction in which he needed to go. Game would be scarce, because that was how lucky he was; he was confident that he possessed enough body fat to feed himself for several more days.

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Guest Estel

Alianna sat, staring at the embers of her fire. The pre-dawn light cast the surrounding forest in a misty haze that made it appear almost surreal. When one is close to just a single cricket, its noise is loud and harsh on the ears but once you are surrounded by thousands upon thousands of them, all lifting their ‘voices’ to the skies, it becomes a chorus; a hum that is soothing on the tired soul. Alianna was tired. So tired. It wasn’t the tiredness of reaching middle-age, nor of resting after a long period of work. It was the exhaustion she felt from finally letting go of some of the grief she had held inside for so long.

 

She was curled almost into a sort of sitting-foetal position with her knees tucked under her chin and her arms wrapped around them. It wasn’t the chill morning air, rather, there was some comfort in being small. Something along the lines of presenting the smallest target to the world, she figured.

 

Almost half a week back, she had left the small group she had joined to go off on her own. It was a necessary part of healing. She needed time to reflect on the past and consider her options for the future. There was an enormous part of her that had died at the edge of the crater where Chachin had stood and she wasn’t sure if it would ever really heal completely. She was still very depressed, but thoughts of death were becoming fewer and farther between.

 

But that wasn’t the only reason she was here. It had been months since she had last chased a criminal and she now found herself not-so-suddenly strapped for cash. After following rumours of a suspicious pair, Alianna had broken off from Anton and Dilora, with plans to meet up later. So here she was now, probably a day or two behind them- if her limited skill in woodcraft was any guide- wondering who it was she was following.

 

ooc: alright, trying to establish Alianna's presence, if you want I'll edit.

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OOC: All good. Come upon my character whenever you wish. :)

 

Braxton swayed with the stirring of the breeze, as he trudged slowly through the underbrush. In theory he was going in the right direction--in theory. This was dependant entirely upon whether or not he had obsorbed his lessons properly and not mixed up his directions. Was it East, or West?

 

Trees, trees, ferns; dirt. An endless kaleidoscope of de ja vu. Nothing different. Everything the same. He half expected to see his own footprints in the mud. The White Tower: a den of light skirts and cut purses. Sadistic feminists and emasculated Warders. At least, that is what Braxton told himself as he seethed with sullen silence.

 

The thought of kicking his mentor like a naughty puppy was a cool drink of water to his raising ire. He could never accomplish such a miraculous coup, but the thought of it was so delightful that he let it play in his mind for serveral hours.

 

There was nothing to do other than walk, and fantasise about the various excruciating scenarios of his vengeance. Then . . . she did have very soft hands.

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Guest Estel

The youth swayed slightly before shaking himself and moving onward. Alianna sighed. Either this man knew she was following and was feigning weakness to draw her in or he was a very poor criminal. At least she hoped he was a criminal, the handful of coppers she had left were barely enough to buy her a drink at the cheapest tavern.

 

However, there was no point in spying on him further, she had learned as much as she could about him from this distance. Hefting her quarterstaff, she walked forward warily. “Who are you?â€

 

Ooc: sorry...kinda short...at a loss for what to write...

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“Yes, Mrs. Beetle. I have been working out. So good of you to notice—now, now, Sir Vern, the dinner table is for polite discussion and not arguing. Where were we? Ah yes.†Turning to a small fern. “How are you enjoying your meal Sir Ellisley? Yes. She has worked hard. What? Tastes like bark? Good Creator, man, I dare say I would know if I were eating wood!â€

 

In a strict sense the comment was accurate. The meal consisted of a thick, tangy paste, the chief ingredients being a handful of bugs compounded between two rocks. Some bark shavings, and a few leaves from various local plants . . . . Well, they had the appearance of plants. Okay, they were green. Most of them. All of this was wrapped in an appetising flax leaf and garnished with . . . well, I'm not sure on that one, actually.

 

Among visions of knights, round tables, and bizarrely out of proportion coconuts bent on conquest, Braxton accepted the new voice with ease. Throughout the day he had been involved in discussion with various forms of animal life—except for one very rude snake who had little to say and was intent upon swallowing his toes. What was it to him if one more wished to make themselves known?

 

“Ah!†He began to speak while straightening and turning to face the new speaker. “I hear you animal sister and what are you? Badger? Fox? Bear? Oh . . . human. I see. Well. What do you want? You're not having my food. It is mine. Say, can I see your hands? Fine. Hey, no need to be aggressive about it. I'm sorry, but you have caught me at a rather bad time: right in the middle of dinner! And me without anything to offer you. There may be some beetles over there if you are really hungry, I cannot seem to find any rabbit. I have been wandering this forest for so very long. You wouldn't happen to know a way out, would you?â€

 

Ooc: I hope that is enough for you to work with. If not drop me a line and we'll talk.

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Guest Estel

Alianna watched, worried over the strange man’s stranger behaviour. Was he mad? What was he doing in this Light-forsaken forest? So many questions and so few answers. But when the boy took a few stumbled steps nearer to her, questions and answers were no longer important, only that if whatever disease he had was catching, that is stayed far away from her.

 

When he stumbled in range of her quarterstaff, the middle-aged woman didn’t bother to hesitate- those that hesitated would find a knife in their ribs often as not. She used the end of the staff to knock away his reaching hands, though it seemed as if they were offered innocently enough. But spending the better part of your life around thieves did tend to build up distrust. No thiefcatcher worth his- ‘or her’, she reminded herself adamantly- salt would allow a stranger in striking distance.

 

Spinning the staff in her sure, calloused hands, she knocked his other arm away for good measure before taking a few steps back. “I want you to stay away from me.†she growled as he tried to come nearer again, a bewildered look on his face. Years of experience were kicking back in despite being away from her profession for a good year.

 

“Drop you weapons and tell me what your name is! If you do as I say and are innocent of any crimes I’ll let you alone... or maybe help you if that’s what you need.â€

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Braxton leapt back. “Woah. Woah!†Rubbing his arms he gave an expression like that of a kicked puppy and eyed the staff dolefully. “Ouch. I don’t suppose we can talk about this? No. Okay. Wait. Wait. Don’t be hasty. Let’s not do anything I’m going to regret. Here, just let me put down my knife and my lunch and. Ah! No need to hit me again. There. See? Down.

 

“My name is Braxton. Or was. Ms. BlueJay thought th--no. Nevermind. I can see you don’t particular care what she thought. My name is Braxton, yes? And yours? You really should try this (indicating his food), it really is quite lovely and it won’t trouble me any.â€

 

Braxton decided he did not very much care for attempting to wrest the stick from its handler, nor did he very much care for the welt raising on his forearm, nor for any welts he was sure to get pursuant to any attempt at wresting stick from handler. Yes. Braxton was a coward, and he wasn’t going to do anything that may see him subject to a good thrashing. He was only a trainee, after all, and one couldn’t well expect him to go about handling such situations.

 

 

“I am not guilty of any crime I know of. All I really want to do is leave. Say, how are you going to know if I’m telling the truth? Are you a truthsayer? That would be neat. Maybe you have a device that tells you when I’m playing false? No. Oh well. I guess I wasn’t looking forward to it too much. All I want to do is--I don't suppose you know any magic tri . . . nevermind.â€

 

With his best winsome smile, Braxton pointed hopefully in the direction he wished to go.

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Guest Estel

Alianna studied him harder. One minute he was as sane as anyone else and the next... His dubious sanity made him more dangerous. She still wasn’t sure if this all was ruse either. Asking whether she could tell if he was lying or not only troubled her more.

 

Something was odd about this. He was dressed far too well despite the tears and stains on his clothes which looked only a few days old. And no sane being would allow him to keep that large a knife with him, unless he was too good with it to be able to take it from him.

 

There was only one way to find out.

 

She moved darted towards him with her staff, aiming towards his head to knock him out.

 

Ooc: give me a poke if you want anything changed, I wasn’t sure what to do with it and so this is kinda the weird thought that entered my mind...

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Braxton recognized the look, recognized the slight change in grip on staff before the motion began. Unfortunately his brain obstinately refused to cue the rest of his body, and in the second or so before execution he failed to move fast enough. There were two thumps. The first was Braxton being clipped along the jaw with the painful piece of timber; the second, was Braxton crumbling like a piece of sweet-bread onto the ground. “Ouch,†he said.

 

 

There was a moment’s hesitation before she moved back into action. Did he avoid the worst of her hit by luck? Or was he trained? If so, how well and by who? Was he just some rich thief who had managed to make enough to dress well? Or was he perhaps an assassin? A merchant’s guard turned criminal? A professional or an amateur?

 

Questions whirled through he like the staff in her hands. This time she brought it sweeping down, connecting with his sides in a back and forth motion.

 

 

There was not much he could do, although he was not overly convinced he had rightfully earned this particular beating. Contracting the muscles of his abdomen he tried to avoid being winded and took several painful shots to the kidneys for his efforts. Being beaten with a stick was nothing new to Braxton, who had learned the procedure quite well from his grandfather. Flailing about with his arms, he managed to wrap himself around one end of the stick, to alleviate the painful strikes. “You know.

If you want to ask me to dinner, there are easier ways of going about it!â€

 

 

His comment stunned her so much she forgot to try and wrest her staff from him. Was he flirting with her! How dare he! Her husband had been dead only a matter of months and he was flirting with her! It was an insult! He was practically calling her a whore!

 

Alianna had a temper, though she rarely displayed it since it was far easier to stay in control of a situation by letting reason dictate her mind rather than emotion. However, this boy’s insult sent her over the edge she had been teetering on since leaving the remains- if you could call the crater that- of Chachin.

 

In a righteous rage, she screamed something along the lines of ‘How dare you, you insolent bastard!’- Light, how long had it been since she had sworn aloud? Then she preceded to bring her foot up and then down on his groin.

 

 

Braxton’s eyes began to water, and the breath rushed out of his lungs. Amid the lights dancing before his vision, he got the distinct impression that she liked him very much, but refused to admit it. Putting a forefinger in the air in the international, “just-a-minute†sign, he attempted to get back to his feet.

 

 

Well, at least her kick got him to let go of her staff. Any attempt by him to defend himself was no longer noticed as she brought her staff back up across her chest and then brought it crashing down on his arm- alright, so she had noticed his odd gesture and had not liked it in the least that the hand was toward her.

 

 

Snatching his hand back with a slightly surprised expression, Braxton decided that this was no longer fun at all. Pulling himself back very quickly, Braxton picked up several handfuls of dirt and threw them at her eyes. He then decided the next course of action was to rush at her and push hard on the staff in an effort to push her over, so that is exactly what he tried to do.

 

 

Later on this incredibly strange event would bring many, many philosophical questions to consider. For example: ‘Would people be better off without emotions?’ or ‘How close were the emotions of anger and passion?’ or even ‘Do humans have any more control over themselves than animals?’

 

However to understand why these sorts of questions would plague the middle-aged, usually sensible and currently horribly troubled/depressed Alianna, the story must be told (despite how much she would like to keep it a secret).

 

So, in her righteous state of rage, she was stupid enough to let him throw dirt in her eyes and he knocked her over.

 

When his body fell atop hers it ignited a feeling she had not felt since... Why did everything lead her to thinking about her dead husband? Couldn’t that memory just leave her alone? Damn him her dying without her! If only she could forget...

 

The young man conveniently on top of her provided what seemed like, in her distressed state, an ideal solution. Instincts kicked in and her mouth found his and her hands worked at his clothing. How long had it been since she had been this close to anyone, let alone a man... well... boy.

 

However, her mind, fogged over by her outburst of rage, slowly began to work again and sensibility and grief soon overpowered her mindless lust.

 

Shock kept her there for a moment before she ripped her face away and slammed her fist into his temple. In moments she had found a rock and slammed it into his head.

 

 

Braxton’s memory of the event was somewhat different. In his mind, the experience had simply been too great for him to remain conscious.

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Guest Estel

The moment the tiny, still slightly sane, part of her mind called her conscience kicked in, she threw him off her with yet another scream. Just to increase her torment, her conscience kept a running commentary in her mind going like this:

 

‘My, my, raping little boys now are we? We have fallen low. What next? Baby snatching? Just because you lost your husband doesn’t mean you have every right to go and take advantage of the innocent, harmless, defenseless...’ “He did have a knife...†‘He’s barely old enough to use the thing! Damnit woman! You’re thirty-six! You can go around kissing boys young enough to be your son!’ “I miss my son.†‘And kissing this boy helps with your grief?’

 

At that point she broke down into tears.

 

It was sometime later before she finally came out of her fit enough to go about her job. She did it mindlessly since thinking would only bring another rant from her conscience.

 

About half an hour later she was watching the hog-tied boy regain consciousness.

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Braxton could feel the enormous bruise on his head without even having to touch it. By his reckoning it contained several oceans, various nations and each was racing the others into his brain. His eyes were covered by the gauze of early waking and for a moment he was unable to recollect his thoughts.

 

“Oh blood and bloody . . . I feel as though I’ve been hit with a roc—oh. I see—that does explain a few things. Here I was thinking that the sharp crack and blinding light were part of the overall experience. That’ll teach me for listening to Aran. What now? I do not wish to be unkind, but I must warn you that in the highly likely even that you intend to strike me again; I can and will chew off your ankles.†Weak smile.

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