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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

A Test of Skills and Courage (attn Kura)


Eqwina
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Thera sat at the table watching Matty clear away the dishes and she couldn’t help but see the boy who had protected her against her older brothers, and who had jumped into the lake to save her when the skirts her mom had forced on her almost drug her to the bottom. Sweet memories of the past intermixed with the fond and the hilarious, but none could block out the image of her brother in the black coat.

 

“ I am proud of you Matty, I always have been.” As they had grown up and she had began to surpass him at all their favorite tasks the dynamic of their relationship had changed, and older brother or no she had often felt protective of him. That protective feeling had often led to lectures and comparisons of which she was now ashamed.  “I am sorry if I ever gave you reason to believe I was not….” Unconsciously her hands began to slowly stroke her stomach. “After mother died, I…I didn’t want to feel anymore or love. It was too painful to even think about and then when you left, I…I..” Thera cleared her throat. “Well I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you as well and it seems like perhaps I have tried to push you too hard and I hope that my..urging..did not push you to this.” Her sharp eyes cut to the door that Sereth had disappeared through, but she saw no movement and her ears caught no sound.

 

The man seemed nice enough, in fact many people she had seen seemed like normal people, but they were doomed and to her eyes that painted an all too clear a picture of death. The last time she’d been near to this place she had failed Serena, she had allowed her Aes Sedai to be taken by one of these men. To this day it pained her to think about, even with the bond long dissolved.

 

Mathis was still standing silently at the counter with a wet dish motionless in his hand. “I am going to retire for the night Matty, it has been a long ride.” Crossing the room she kissed him gently on the cheek and was pointed toward her room. Once safely behind closed door Thera let out a breath she hadn’t know she was holding. Light! Her brother really was one of them. Sending up a small prayer for his continued sanity Thera readied herself for bed, her thoughts consumed by tomorrow’s spar.

 

Thera Trakelyn

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With one of his playful smiles Mathis stood up and began gathering the dishes. She was not the only one who could be full of surprises. Walking over to the counter he still marveled at how his sister could have learned to cook so well.

 

He positively hated dishes, or anything else that resembled house work, but he didn’t want Thera to think he was still an irresponsible lout. Every so often he would glance over at her, and then down at her still mostly flat stomach. He tried to picture it large with child, but the image wouldn’t form. He was amusing himself picturing his sister in a dress with a child on each hip when her words made him drop a dish. Luckily it was only wood, but Mathis turned and gaped before he could stop himself.

 

He could hear the pain in her voice and wanted to reassure her that he’d always known her feelings, but the truth was he had not. For some years he had felt inferior to her, and it had been her change in attitude. When she spoke of their mother his own heart clenched and his hands tightened on the plate. Even now with all the Power he had he couldn’t bring his mother back, but what if he’d known about Saidin back then….it may have helped. Shaking his curls from his face he refused to think anymore about her dying. It brought back to many pictures of the house and the small grave under the apple trees.

 

“I am going to retire for the night Matty, it has been a long ride.”

 

Setting down the dripping dish he returned his sister’s kiss and showed her to his room. Taking spare blankets from the chest in the corner he made sure he was settled before heading back down to finish the dishes. Every so often he would pause and stare up at where his sister slept, he still could not believe she had come; and with child. Shaking his head Mathis flopped down into one of the chairs and pulled the blankets to his chin.

 

Try as he would it was a long time until sleep came. He struggled with how he could perform well in front of Sereth and still keep his sister safe. He knew that he would give up the first if it kept Thera from any harm. Tossing and shifting around in the large chair Mathis dreamed fitful dreams.

 

Mathis Trakelyn

 

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Sereth awoke the next day fully rested, his enthusiasm causing him to practically glow. Despite perhaps having to deal with an insubordinate subordinate, and a crazy, pregnant warrior woman, he couldn't help but be excited. He'd be channeling to help someone... even if it was in a harsh way. For one who had very little talent in healing, yet the extreme depth of kindness that Sereth possessed, this was a wonderful thing.

 

Plus it'd be fun.

 

A break from the monotony of waking up, channeling his brains out, and trying to stuff them back in with conversation and books. Of course he found ways to spice up his life, and he'd never shirk his duties, but sometimes, well, a man gets bored with his everyday life. Maybe Mathis was right... he needed a woman. All of that however, was for the future, for now he had a maze to build.

 

He seized Saidin, and drew upon earth and fire, raising twin walls of earth, and hardening them with fire. Each wall was around ten feet tall, and thirty in length, completed with an observatory deck sitting atop the end of walls. It was a simple start... he wanted to have Mathis work on the detail work with him, not to mention he needed it to be easily adaptable. This was after all, a weapon versus saidin course, and if one expected the same from a channeler, well, they wouldn't last long to put it plainly.

 

Weaving a gateway to the raised platform, Sereth Arian drew fully upon Saidin. He needed to wake up the siblings, and he needed to make a point. Weaving air, earth, and fire in copious quantities, he called down a searing white lightning strike from the clear blue sky. He held onto this weave for a full five seconds before releasing it, the thunder echoing in his ears long after he did so. The target was the very opening of his twin earthen walls, and he accented it all by weaving, inverting and tying off twin pillars of fire at the entrance. Sereth was not a subtle person.

 

When the pair showed themselves, Sereth stood proudly atop his creation. Weaving an inverted weave to increase his volume, he spoke. "Welcome, Thera Trakelyn, to my little creation. Your brother and I will be fixing it along the way, if you choose to continue with this challange?" His voice altered voice boomed, but there was an honest question at the end. He had demonstrated a portion of the power he had under his command, what she would be up against.

 

"The objective is simple. Take this," he wove Earth, rising up a replica, in both shape and weight, of the sword she carried in front of her, the blade tip stuck in the ground. "And hit me and Mathis with it, assuming he agrees to these terms." Again, he was testing the pair... Sereth would make it an excruciating challenge for the both of them.

 

The Black Tower would never settle for less.

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The Black Tower was quiet at night, at least when compared to the days, but it was the silence that made Thera writhe. Every small noise made her jump, and her hands twitched wanting to grip her sword. She was not a child to let fancies or stories of the forsaken scare her, but being in the Black Tower its self was enough to make even the strongest cringe. It felt a little too like dealing with the Dark One, and yet she could never think of her brother in that way. What about Sereth?

 

When sleep finally came it was surprisingly restful and untroubled by dreams. A kind of contentment settled over her while she slept and when she woke she was an arrow focused on its target. After emptying her stomach of its dinner and pulling a meager breakfast from her bags she went down stairs to find Matty still asleep in the chair. Feeling childish, and frustrated that he was still asleep, she upended a pitcher of water over his head; it wasn’t as cold as she could have wished but it served its purpose. Chuckling she ducked when the ceramic pot flew towards her head, he always did have a temper when he woke. To make amends she went to get towels to clean up the mess only to come back and find the both the floor and Matty dried. Suppressing a shiver she cracked a joke and tossed the towels back on the table.

 

Suddenly the world crackled and shook and Thera’s sword came out of its scabbard in the flash. “What in the Bloody sheep swallop!”  Looking around for the house sized monster that caused the racket she could only shake her head when Mat explained. “I will teach him some bloody subtly.” She muttered to herself as they walked out the front door. Only she never got the chance as his voice boomed all around and her eyes were filled with the great mounds of earth.

 

As an answer to his question she removed her sword belt and laid it well off to the side. If he wished to arm her only with earth….she would accept.

 

Thera Trakelyn

 

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Mathis squirmed and tossed in the chair, often times twitching violently when the blankets fell or he did. Several times in the night his twitching caused him to hit the floor, and like a fool each time he regained his chair.

 

His dreams only made it worse, too many images of his sister’s death or the child’s flashed through his mind. All caused by his hand. He was soaked in sweat and stiff when a cold deluge nearly drowned him. Spluttering and swearing loudly he picked up the pitcher with a flow of air and hurled violently at the offender. Only after the pitcher crash against the wall did he realize that had Thera been slower he could have woken up fully to living one of his nightmares. Not sure how to apologize, or even if he should Mat cleaned up the watery mess and got himself dried. The ‘bath’ at least saved him from having to change this morning. Shaving could wait, if he did, it seemed that the type of women who like Asha’man were the type of women who liked their men a little rough. His boyish good looks did not lend themselves to rugged, at least not when he shaved.

 

The loud crash and the lighting hardly phased him now, not like when he first arrived. After he calmed Thera down enough to explain she led them out to meet Sereth. She was so intent on what lay in front of her that mat didn’t think she noticed that he stopped just outside the door. The…structure Sereth had created was amazing and looked deadly. A knot formed in his middle and he rushed up to stand next to his sister. He would protect her, no matter what.

 

As the challenge was called out Mat’s eyes closed and he sent up a silent prayer. Thera would not refuse, and as predicted she watched as she stepped up to meet her fate.

 

With tightness around his eyes he looked up at Sereth and glared. He would accept this, because he had no choice, but later he would make the overly showy man pay. For a moment he stared at the platform, trying to find a way to get up. Glancing at the earth sword, he grasped Saidin and shivered with the renewed grandeur of life. Almost clumsily he wove steps so he could walk up to meet Sereth. With his back still turned to Thera he whispered for the man’s ears alone. “If you harm even one hair on her head I will kill you.” Turning to look down on his sister he tried to remain calm, but nerves gnawed at him.

 

Mathis Trakelyn

 

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Sereth cut the weave for amplification and turned to his student, ignoring the woman whom he was to test this day. "Mathis, you are my friend and housemate, and I value the time we spend together." His voice was oddly hard, given the words he spoke. "But let me make this clear, if I have been to gentle on you before. You are in the Black Tower. You are a potential Asha'man; but if you ever threaten my life again I will cut that potential short." Sereth's hard tone grew into granite as he spoke, and he left no doubt as to the sincerity of his words.

 

Suddenly, he brightened. Not to his normal chipper self, but to the working, task oriented man that had developed given recent events. "Now, soldier, I want you to demonstrate what your sister is up against. I want platforms built up around the walls, and I want fresh walls strewn out. We'll be building a multi level maze here, I have a rough plan, but its open to improv." His instructions done, Sereth Rose up even higher earthen walls, pulling out shelves from the mounds, and punching in holes for her to dive or crawl through.

 

He chose to jump through the course himself where he could, not wanting to waste the energy forming a gateway. He did his best to work around Mathis' work, updating the schematics in his head every time the man changed the course. Sereth made sure to include ten-foot plus gaps, holes he knew he'd have to sit and ponder about to get body through, and plenty of higher elevated decks from which he could channel at the poor lass.

 

Finally, after a good twenty minutes of excruciating channeling, Sereth stood above the entrance of his maze, and called for Mathis to join him on a lower deck. From within his coat pocket he pulled a long strip of jerky, and munched happily on it. He'd need to keep his strength up; Creator knows he'd probably done too much of the set up too close to the main event.

 

So what was the end result? Sereth sitting atop of a precariously perched fourth story of risen earth, walls only as thick as his study of architecture said that he could get away with. Filled with several levels of pitfalls, observation decks, and walls, lots and lots of walls. He did his damnedest to make sure that she would almost always be within sight, while at the same time keeping her too busy on the path ahead to worry about keeping an eye on him. The way she held her sword though... Sereth took a steadying breath.

 

"Thera, it’s ready. Begin when you are ready." Sereth pulled out another stick of jerky, throwing it down to his young friend. It was going to be a test... for all of them.

 

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Mathis blinked and was slightly taken back by Sereth’s hard tone. The disparaging little man was many things, but he was never hard. The way he bounced from serious to cheerful made Mat see him in a new light and suddenly he wondered if his friend had all his wits. Running a hand through his curls he tried to focus on his words only.

 

Grimly, as grimly as he had ever embraced the source he took dirt from the earth and began to build and flesh out the platforms and walls Sereth had already begun. From below he could almost feel his sister’s focus, she was never anything less. Turning so he didn’t have to see her he focus on creating niche’s and wrong turns, adding ‘trap’ of holes and dips in the ground. He tried hard to find the balance between what would be easier enough to keep her safe and yet enough to make a challenge. A few times he saw work he had done been changed just slightly and he did not hesitate to do the same to the things he disagreed with.

 

For the moments when he could forget the purpose of this creation he relished in its nature. It was inherently complex and at the same time so simple. Doing work had never before given him such a feeling of satisfaction. His work with the Guards had only made him wish for women and ale; this did too in fact, but from exhaustion not boredom. Several minutes later, with the work done he took a step back on the platform to better see what they had completed. It was a thing of beauty. Searching out Sereth he looked for from hint of how he’d done in his eyes, but his housemates focus was all on Thera. Taking a moment to rest Mathis used a small amount of the power to rise a “chair” from the dirt. It was not the most comfortable seat but it was better than standing.

 

Catching the jerky, just barely Mathis tried to think of the most mild weaves that would pass both Thera and Sereth’s scrutiny. Today would be a delicate balance for sure.

 

 

Mathis Trakelyn

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Watching mounds of earth rise and shape themselves was a wonder; the Sister’s rarely used their power for something they would consider so frivolous. Even being bonded to Serena she had still never quite gotten over her amazement at what the One Power could do. When she had been a younger woman she had envied what she’d never have, but this…she would never pay the price that came with this power.

 

Leaning slightly on the earthen sword she tried to focus inward and ready herself, but her eyes kept drifting up to Mathis. The concentration in his eyes said he was contributing to her test, and the twist of his mouth said that he was enjoying what he did. Finally she closed her eyes and preformed the excises she used to need when forming the void. They still helped to calm her nerves and further focus her mind. With resisting slowness the thoughts of her brothers inevitable madness faded along with the jumbled worries about Jasine and the child growing inside her.

 

"Thera, it’s ready. Begin when you are ready."

 

It was only 8 words and yet those 8 words had almost made the void shatter. Looking up her eyes searched until she found Sereth. With a final searching glance at to the level of his sanity she raised her sword and advanced slowly towards the maze. That wide opening was enough for 6 but still she crowded towards the center as she entered. Trying to look every way at once she paused at the silence. Somehow she had expected more….. with that thought lightning laced from the clear sky and Thera threw herself well away from the crash. So much for her brother taking it easy on her…

 

Dodging forward to a niche in the wall Thera watched as small swatches of earth raced towards her. They were not small, but not enough for any great harm. Waiting until almost the last moment she dived outward and ducked around a corner. Quietly and carefully she picked her way along the walls, dodging what came at her. So far she had seen no sign of either man since entering, but she had to find them for this test to end.

 

Thera Trakelyn

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sereth wove simple weaves. Rocks fell and exploded do to the grenade weave, forcing his leaping adversary to change direction to dodge. Caltrops rose to slice open her boots and feet. Small fireballs, meant more to scorch than to destroy the lass fell. He got more aggressive as she moved on, sending larger earthen projectiles, even causing the earth to move under her feet. He was pleased to see his student doing the same, even weaving lightning at his sister, though Sereth knew he had no intent of hitting her with that deadly bolt.

 

She disappeared in a hole in the wall, and Sereth moved to the other side of his platform. She had advanced to the second stage of the challenge. From here she'd have to climb up, and leap to the next platforms to advance. It gave the defenders ample time to hit her, it'd be difficult to change direction while she was airborne. Sereth threw more light weaves at the Blademaster, more grenades, more fireballs. He was tired, having exerted himself far to much when he had risen up this maze for her to practice in.

 

He switched tactics suddenly, throwing clubs and bands of air at the ever agile target. A small smile spread over his lips as one connected with her, slamming into her left ribs. You won't be able to see everything a channeler throws at you Thera. He took a moment to watch Mathis' reaction, as he thought he wasn't amused with actually striking his sister. Sereth had given him his warning, he'd need to keep up and adapt in order to give his sister the challenge she deserved.

 

Sereth moved a platform back mid leap, forcing Thera to extend herself and scramble for the edge. He thought he had her there, and prepared himself to throw more clubs of air, aiming for her arms... It was a short fall, perhaps six feet, and a small tunnel led back to the first stage of the challenge, allowing her to try again if she did succumb...

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Fighting to maintain the balance between earning his teachers approval and keeping his sister unharmed Mathis wove harsh weaves, such as lighting, but never stuck with the bolts close enough to cause harm.  The eruptions of earth he sprang up harried his sister through the maze, the showers of dirt raining down into her golden hair.

 

Every time she barely dodged a fireball Mathis winced, but he never let up his assault. Thera would not forgive him if she thought he’d gone easy on her.

 

He had to fight the urge to make a platform of air to catch Thera when her fingers barely grabbed hold and started to fall, but always his sister saved him the decision my struggling her way forward. She had reached the second stage of the maze; stumbling and dodging her way closer to the third. It was painful to see his sister struggle, and he was growing tired from the constant channeling. He’d never before had to weave so much for so long. Crouching down on his heels Mathis slowed his attacks, but kept a watchful eye for any other tricks Sereth might possess.

 

After all, keeping his sister alive was his main goal. Impressing the other man only a secondary perk.

 

Mathis Trakelyn

 

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Thera’s heart beat in her ears as her fingers started to slip from the edge of the platform. The small mound of earth shifted and swayed as if drunk and it took all her strength to keep from falling, with none to be spared for pulling herself up.

 

Sweat was pouring down her face and running into her eyes, causing rivlets in the dirt that caked her head to toe. Looking over her shoulder and down Thera saw the lower level of the maze six feet or more below and she panicked. Could a fall like that kill her child?! Why had she agreed to this?! The child was not even born and already she was proving herself a horrible mother! Letting out a scream filled with pain and rage Thera swung her legs forward and then back and clawed her way to the top. For a moment is was all she could do to breathe as her face lay pressed against the dirt.

 

But the showers of earth and lighting began to slowly race towards her, and her weakened arms helped her to get onto her unsteady feet. Stumbling forward she jumped towards the attack before rolling to the right and deeper into the maze. With the tall walls around her she was shielded from some of the worst attacks, but the way the maze heaved and changed she could never be sure how long respite would last.

 

Amidst a flurry of clubs of air and walls she couldn’t see Thera found a “hall” and thing made of air that led slowly up to a square of earth not three paces by three. She had reached the top, but that was not the end of her task. Jumping to another platform, this one with a wall Thera narrowly missed the lightning bolt that struck down where her feet had been. For men that were not trying to kill her, some of the attack had come very close.

 

Thera Trakelyn

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  • 1 month later...

Sereth's strength was nearing its end. He drew heavy breath, but channeled with all his remaining power. He watched in amazement as she leaped from stone to stone, from air to air, dodging his and Matthis' attacks. When he reached the top, Sereth's mind raced. What do I do now...

 

He wove, copious amounts of fire stoked with air, twin walls of flame erupted, forming a sort of corridor from him to the Mistress of Trainees. He purposefully cut out Mathis, a move more to test his reaction than to do any real harm to the woman. The fires ate up oxygen, making it more and more difficult to draw breath.

 

"You've done well Thera Trakelyn. Made it through my maze, dodging attacks, some you couldn't even see. I know several dedicated and Asha'man that couldn't do what you've done today." Sereth placed his hand upon the black leather grip of his own sword, and loosened it in it's sheath, drawing it as the woman advanced upon him. My god she is an intimidating woman...

 

"We're both weapons, more so than this blade, Thera, we both have our purpose. But if I were you, I'd pray you are never sent against a channeler, not a Dread Lord," the Asha'man grinned. "Well, at least not when they can see you coming." Sereth wove bands of solid air, wrapping them around Thera when she was but inches from striking him. He cut the flames, looking into her eyes.

 

"And that is how you defeat us, make sure we don't see you coming. We have five elements of defense against just about anything you can throw at us, but as Aes Sedai, a stray arrow can still find our throat, or a knife in the dark." Sereth wove a gateway, and walked through it to his house, releasing the woman. He left the gateway open for a moment, allowing her the chance to walk through if she wished.

 

It however, took the last of his strength, and he promptly slumped against the wall. He chuckled, "Or exhausting us works... I doubt I could channel a candle alight without burning myself out at this point..." He waited for her reaction. She could win right now, laying the blade against his neck.

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