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To Be Empty No Longer


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Shadar was gliding silently down through the dark corridors of the Fortress. His hands folded in his sleeves, he stroked the tip of each middle finger across the sheath strapped there. He was taking his training seriously and truly wanted to be an assassin for the Great Lord. Arcon had helped him with certain techniques, but was quick to point out where he lacked in finesse as far as Saidin was concerned. Shad was pulled suddenly from his reverie when a flow of Air spun him roughly around to face a hooded figure. He halted his tongue when he saw it was a Dreadlord. Actavius he thought his name was. The Dreadlord wasted no time in speaking.


"Shadar Al'Niende you have been summoned this day to test for adept. Do not question, do not delay, and do not seize Saidin or you will die on the spot." Actavius intoned.


He had the slightest strain of frustration in his voice, barely noticeable. Shadar speculated vaugely that it must have been the difficulty in finding him. He had taken to stalking the corridors frequently. Shad obeyed quickly and fell into step behind the Dreadlord, his head bowed. Hidden by his wide hood, his thoughts raced wildly. He knew this test would come eventually. That was about all he knew. Arcon had been cursedly tight-lipped about the whole thing. Following twists and turns Shad had never known existed, he was soon thoroughly lost.He prided himself on his knowledge of the many dark and sometimes dank corridors of the Fortress, yet he had never seen this part of the apparently enormous place. Suddenly they stopped, so quickly that Shadar narrowly avoided bumping the Dreadlord ahead of him. Not a good thing to do.


"You will enter this door and make your way out again by another. Should you fail, you will die. Please the Great Lord and survive... He paused in his ominous litany for emphasis, "And you will be raised to the rank of Adept. Now go.


This was all the warning he had before the door before them swung silently open and the light in the hallway dimmed. Silently he glided forward, refusing to give Actavius the satisfaction of seeing him glance backward. He would face what was to come, and survive. He would serve the Great Lord.


Darkness shrouded him as the door closed behind him. Reaching back to touch the only surface he was sure of save the floor, he was surprised to find smooth stone. Running his hand across its surface a short way confirmed that the door was not there. He froze and listened to his surroundings. Actavius had said if he failed he would die. That meant this test was potentially deadly and would require caution. Silence met his breathing, the only sound save the steady beat of his heart.


Before he could react, his flesh pebbled and everything...fuzzed. That wasn't quite accurate, but It was the best he could describe it. It was over so fast that he almost doubted it had happened.


Lowering his hood softly, he seized Saidin. Glorious life filled him to bursting, ecstasy pounded through him, driving the Taint into his bones. He reveled in it only a moment, his enhanced hearing catching the faintest rustle ahead. Weaving the finest threads of Fire and Air he could muster he formed a small ball of light two feet ahead of him. The corridor ahead of him sprang into being, smooth stone walls flowing upward to arch into a high ceiling. No sign of the reason for the rustle. Cautiously he started down the corridor, holding the weave two feet ahead of him. Gently the floor sloped downward, carrying him into the depths. The ground leveled out and he came to three branches in the corridor. Splitting his weave he sent a small ball of light down each of them a few feet. Nothing looked immediately life threatening so he let the weaves go and channeled one single ball of light immediately in front of him. Shrugging slightly he chose the left branch in the corridor and started down it softly. Soon enough he came to another, and another, always going left. He had heard somewhere that it was the safest way to traverse unknown tunnels, that way you could always go back the way you came. Just as he was feeling like he was wandering uselessly, the corridor opened suddenly before him. Sending the sphere of light to the sides a few feet he found that the chamber was at least ten spans across. Cautiously he floated the sphere of light upward. Finally he gave up when the ceiling did not materialize. Suddenly he felt a faint rumble in the air around him. Instantly he released the weave but not the Source, his skin was pebbling again. A woman was channeling Saidir.


Before he could react, a solid wall of air, rushed from the tunnel behind him tumbling him over and over into the chamber. It was over almost as quickly as it had begun. He crouched low on the stone floor straining for a noise, for some indication of position. His skin had smoothed once more but that did not mean he was alone. Thoughts skittered across the Void. What was a woman who could channel doing here? Where was here? Was it a Dreadlady? Suddenly a faint light appeared off to his left. He could just make out a man carrying a lamp and approaching looking confused. Shadar drew breath with a hiss. It was Galan. His eyes narrowed and he circled to the right, softly, silently. The horse trader was supposed to be dead. The thought floated outside the Void. It made sense but there he was. You could not get more reality than that. Something said that was wrong but it slipped away like haze in the darkness.


"Hel-Hello?" croaked the man quietly. Fear drew his voice out in a quavering croak as his head swung from side to side, searching the darkness. Shadar approached silently from behind. He drew his daggers and tensed himself, preparing to strike. Suddenly Galan whirled, oil spilling from the lamp as he grew in size. Shadar froze in the ring of fire that now surrounded him and gazed up at Galan, now 3 times his size.


"You!" his voice boomed. "How many times do I have to tell you? You goat-brained son of a Trolloc?!" Fear sliced through the Void and Shad almost lost the Source. His skin pebbled and he wove without thinking. Lashing out at the weaves he could not see. He did not catch them all however. Invisible blows of Air struck him from every direction, pummeling him. All was black outside the ring of flames, but Galan loomed in his sight. Tears streamed down his face as razors struck him from every side. Inside him something snapped. Drawing on Saidin he channeled the sun itself through his veins. The pain was close to matching what he felt on the outside. His muscles knotted and his throat corded as his cry of rage echoed through the darkness. He had had enough, enough of being afraid, of cowering in dark places and being empty. No longer would he be empty, Saidin raged through him, filling him. Filling him with heat and power. Lashing out he wove Fire and Air and Spirit. He felt contact with unseen weaves but they were beneath notice. Weaving Air he savagely beat Galan, beat him until he was little less than a unrecognizable pulp. He felt his weaves shift on contact but he was not clearheaded enough to realize it. The onslaught did not slow and his skin felt as if he were naked in Saldea. It was someone else's skin, someone else's hands. Blows landed as he screamed in defiance. Up ahead he saw a door and blindly crawled toward it, his body aflame with agony.


"I will be empty no longer! I will serve the Great Lord! I will be his hand in the darkness to silence all those who oppose him! I WILL NOT BE BEATEN AGAIN!"


His throat was raw and he tasted blood. Every breath seared like inhaling flame. Saidin was gone, but so was the darkness and pain. Weakly lifting his head from the floor he squinted in the dim light.


"Adept Shadar Al'Niende, your test is complete. Up the stairs and to the left you will find a door. Exit by this door and none other. From there you should find your way to your room easily enough. Well done."


Getting slowly to his feet, Shadar did something he had not done for a good many years. He grinned. Tears streamed down his face in open joy but he could not stop the emotion from his face. At last, he was empty no longer. He would serve the Great Lord.

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