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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Can you hear the wind blow? Punishment is due Attn Rhya and others


WhiteWolf
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    The thick clouds skidded across a leaden sky, driven hard by an almost gale force wind that shook the tops of the mighty trees in the Stedding as if they were nothing more than matchwood. It was slightly easier in amongst the trees, but away from their shelter it was almost impossible to stand up against the wind. Standing on the balcony of his treehouse, Owen could feel the mighty oak moving with the wind, not enough to worry him, but enough to bring back the memories of his time on one of the large barges that carried stone from quarries in the Black Hills. It had taken him some time to get used to being on board that wallowing barge, and for three days he had not eaten and only drunk enough water to stave off thirst. Turning to his companion Owen considered postponing today’s exercise, but then allowances for the weather did not happen in real life and so Owen dismissed that train of thought. “Come, Rhya, it is time.”

    Swiftly Owen and Rhya climbed down from their home and Owen led them to a large cleared area halfway between the center of the Stedding and their home. A large pile of rocks, easily twenty feet high, occupied a large part of the cleared area and it was to this mound that Owen led Rhya.                      “Despite what you thought were good reasons for leaving the Stedding, you need to learn that your life is not your own right now and that when told to do something, or in this case, not do something, you really do need to listen. We do not make these rules to annoy you, nor are they petty rules; they are all based in years of experience. You are not the first to behave in this manner, i too fell foul of the rules and one a couple of occasions i had to be forcibly returned to the Stedding. “

    Owen did not give Rhya time to respond, they had spent all of yesterday and most of the evening discussing Rhya’s transgression and Owen was not going to spend any more time going over the same old ground. He knew she was upset, almost angry with him, but he also knew that she understood why the rules were in place, but was not yet able to admit that to herself.

    “You see before you a large pile of rocks, i need you to move them from this position to one 20 paces over there, nearer to the tree line.”

    “Why did you not have them delivered there in the first place, Owen?”

    “Because just like you, some people do not follow simple orders.  You should be able to finish this task before sunset tonight. There are a lot of rocks, but you are fit and healthy and should be able to finish the work easily. You may start when you are ready.” Rhya knew enough about Owen now that she realised that he did not mean in her own time, but to start right there and then. Gathering up the first rock, Rhya grunted as she lifted it and then waddled her way over to where Owen had indicated he wanted the pile moved to. When she returned to pick up another rock, Owen indicated the water skin he had laid on the floor and said he would be back around midday with some food.

Owen

 

The WhiteWolf

 

Ranger Leader

 

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Closing the door to the house he was staying in, Winter was almost swept off his feet by a gust of wind. Grabbing the door frame he cursed under his breath at the bad weather.

 

He wouldn't be leaving the safety of the in doors except for Forest had told him there was something he had to see, the humor in the sending had persuaded him to brave the wind. Though when he got to the center of the village, he had to admit it was anything but funny.

 

Rhya was moving a large pile of rocks, stone by stone, to near the treeline and making another pile. Shaking his head, for he had heard what she had done through way of mouth, he made his way over slowly due to the still howling wind.

 

When he reached her she barely paused in her task, so he stood there and waited to see if she wanted help.

 

John Winterwinds.

Too good for his own good. 

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Rhya had long held the view that when an unpleasant task was in front of you, the sooner you got on with it, the sooner it would be over. On this occasion however she had serious misgivings about her ability to complete the job. Not only was the weather doing all it could to make her work miserable and movement nigh on impossible but she quite simply did not have the physical endurance to heft all of the large hunks of solid rock herself in the time given.

 

“So, not only a punishment…to be done in public no less... but a task at which I will inevitably fail,” she muttered angrily. “Double the humiliation.”

 

Dropping yet another rock at the new location, she turned, leaning hard against the wind and glared back at the original pile in disbelief. She had already lost count of how many trips back and forth she had made and there wasn’t even a visible dent made in its size!!

 

Blood and bloody ashes, she cursed silently, her anger working itself up yet another notch.

 

What made the whole situation worse was that her anger was, for the most part, directed at herself. She had known the rules, she was well aware that she would get into trouble over it and still she had gone ahead and left the Stedding. There was no doubt in her mind that she deserved a punishment, none whatsoever and she fully appreciated the reasons behind it... if not the manner in which it was being conducted.

 

Yet she did not and would not regret her actions given the circumstances. Oh not the plausible excuses she had used to argue the matter with Owen, repeating to him about the lack of Trackers, Shadow’s insistence on her leaving immediately and her genuine wish to help the Wanderer. No… rather the circumstances of her own state of mind, her fear of losing him, the stress of waiting so long in that cramped room and her irrational need to escape. For need it had surely been. She could hardly explain all of that to him and confirm irrevocably what a fool she was.

 

Rhya sighed, pushing the hurt away and ploughing back through the buffeting wind to collect her next rock, her thoughts whirling almost as rapidly as the air currents around her. I let him down… broke his trust. The one person who has given me so much, taught me so much, and the first time I’m left alone... what do I do? The complete opposite of what I was supposed to. Well, this is what father would call justice.

 

“Rhya, there will always be men who commit crimes and they will do so for many reasons but a good man who does so is differentiated from the rest by his acceptance that he takes responsibility for his actions and pays the price.” Her father’s voice resounded in her head as she hefted an awkwardly shaped rock and struggled to keep her balance before setting off once more for the tree line.

 

As she forced one foot in front of the other, thinking over her father’s words, Rhya found her anger dissipating to be replaced by a steely determination. “So be it,” she uttered from between gritted teeth, “it may not be precisely a crime but I shall pay the price. If it takes me forever and a Light blasted day, every rock will be moved. Rhyanon Chaede will pay her dues.”

 

She dropped the rock beside the others accumulating in front of the trees and without stopping set off again for the next load. It didn’t cross her mind to cheat in any way regardless of the fact that a horse and cart would be simple enough to come by. Owen had told her that she must move them and she took that quite literally.

 

As she neared the first pile once more, she spotted a figure approaching and as it came closer, she recognised Winter. Her face flamed red and she thanked the Creator for the same elements she had so recently cursed and which now disguised her embarrassment. Pride stiffening her spine, she lifted her chin and mutely nodded a greeting to Winter. She would not ask for help… she would not. Owen had not said she could and she was not about to break another rule. Besides, she wouldn’t wish this task on a single other living soul.

 

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Rahien sat by the window, where he had sat sipping a steaming mug of tea by a roaring fire. He was pleasantly warm in comparison to the storm outside. He gazed out at the mighty oaks as they swayed and reached for the leaden sky above them.

 

The clouds looked as if they might bring more snow. Summer had held on for far too long, but no one could deny that winter had returned with force as if to make up for time lost. The tea had begun to cool while he sat, and it was almost gone.

 

He was about to turn away from the window, when he saw Owen and Rhya walk out into the open. Rahien had not seen Rhya since his arrival at the Stedding and had only seen Owen once. Apparently he was to be his personal teacher of sorts and was Rhya's already. Rahien was curious to see what was going on. He watched as the silent exchange was had between gestures and attempts not to be pushed over by the wind. It seemed to be a little better thanks to to trees rimming the clearing, but not by much.

 

The two finished and, much to his surprise, as Owen walked away Rhya bent to an enormous pile of rocks. She struggled with one and slowly waddled over to the treeline, dumping it unceremoniously to the ground. Rahien's eyebrows climbed higher as she moved back to the pile, obviously intent on repeating the feat.

 

Draining the last of his mug and tossing his cloak around his shoulders, he made his way out of the room, and to the front door. It was closed tightly and he opened it letting a draft blow in, reminding him to make sure his cloak was pulled tightly around him. He had caught the fox himself to fur the cloak.

 

Stepping out into the wind he braced himself and made his way over to the pile. He did not understand all of it, but he was smart enough to put two and two together. It was his fault she was having to do this and he was not about to let her endure it alone. He barely noticed Winter off to one side. Without attempting to be heard above the wind, he bent to heft a stone the size of his head.  Passing Rhya on her way back he kept his eyes down and strained to the treeline.

 

He would not let her suffer alone. Not for this...

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Winter had been standing there for what must of only been a moment when Rahien walked by and scilently started to help Rhya. Up until that time Winter had been wrestiling with his thoughts of should he help, or should he just watch. He mainly wanted to avoid the wrath of Owen.

 

The apperance of another wanderer made up his mind, and he walked over to the pile, picked up a large rock, which surprisingly helped to anchor him to the ground, and started the long walk towards the other pile of rocks.

 

Winter did not know if Rhya wanted the help, nor did he care right now, she had befrended him when he first came, and later at the Hole in the Wall, and that was enough to make him want to help.

 

John Winterwinds.

Helping.

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As far as Rhya was concerned, if she never saw another rock in her life it could not be too soon. She looked miserably at her hands, the palms covered in a cross cross pattern of scratches and cuts and knew there would be bruises appearing soon too. She had already dropped one rock on her foot and caught her fingers between two others. It might have been better with gloves for protection but she had decided against that as it prevented getting a decent grip on the rocks.

 

The morning was well advanced now and thankfully the howling gale had lessened about an hour before, the merciless buffeting of the elements easing enough that they could at least walk upright without fear of being blown clear across the Stedding. Rhya eyed the first pile of rocks, noting in satisfaction that it was visibly reduced now, before bending and reaching for the water skin that Owen had left.

 

Taking one very long draught of the cool, clean water, she then  re-capped it and stretched, knuckling her lower back to work out the dull ache that was starting there. Her gaze shifted to the far end of the clearing and the two men who were both placing yet another burden on the new pile of rocks. Despite her frame of mind, Rhya had been first startled at the silently given help and then filled with gratitude. Neither man had asked if she wanted assistance, showing an unexpected tact and understanding that warmed her heart and had unbidden tears springing to her eyes which were hurriedly dashed away.

 

She thought she knew Rahien’s reasons having warned him on their arrival that she would be likely to get into trouble but she was uncertain why Winter had chosen to help other than sheer kindness. Regardless of their motivations, both had gone up in her estimation and made a friend for life in Rhya, though they knew it not.

 

The brief respite over, Rhya chose yet another rock to heft and groaned in disgust as she took her first steps towards the trees, feeling a telltale wetness against her face. Within a few minutes, a misty drizzle of light rain began to fall steadily from the skies, adding a further layer of misery to what was an already excessively unpleasant task.

 

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Rahien struggled with yet another child sized boulder, moving it to the treeline. It was an interesting task, and he was not quite sure what the point was despite pointless labor. Grunting despite himself, he heaved the rock to the pile mindful of it tumbling down the pile onto his foot. That had happened one already and it was still throbbing a little.

 

His cloak had been whipping about steadily since picking up the first stone, but work had warmed him beyond the need for it. Hanging it on one of the trees, he had tied it to make sure it had not blown away in the wind.

 

The thought of the wind brought him to the realization that it had died down a bit. Glancing at the sky he noticed the clouds had grown darker and it looked as if it might rain.

 

Silently cursing, he trudged his way back to the pile of rocks. His hands hurt where he has scraped them and the dirt stung. His thoughts however were on Rhya and how she had broken the rules to save his life.

 

He had spoken to others here at the Stedding about the Howling and its effects. Going feral was something he was truly scared about as he could see it happening all to easily. He liked the dreams he had of being a wolf. It felt right. She had risked her life, and this horrible punishment, to come to him in his time of need. He would not abandon her in hers simply because his hands hurt a little.

 

As he bent to reach for another rock, a groan came from Rhya. Before he could think to look up to see why he felt it. The drizzle was soaking through his clothing quickly as he carried his burden to the treeline.

 

Just how annoying this light rain would prove, became apparent on yet another trip for the treeline. The rain made the rocks harder to hold and he almost dropped it on his foot, the other one.

 

Rahien thought about the fire and his tea. Today was turning out to be most unpleasant...

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Winter sighed heavily as he placed another rock in the slowly growing pile near the tree-line. This one had been about the size of a small child, and weighed about the same.

 

Sighing again, for he and resigned himself to help, he walked back over to the shrinking pile of rocks and waited for Rahien to pick up another, he heard Rhya groan. Then the rain came.

 

Cursing his bad luck he picked up another rock and started after Rahien. At least the wind had not picked up, and it was not snowing, which would of been worse then the rain.

 

As he drew close to the second pile the rock he was carrying slipped and landed squarly on top of his foot. Holding back the tears, and a rather nasty curse, he picked it up again and limped over to the to the second pile, and put it down, then limped back to get another rock.

 

John Winterwinds.

Ouch...

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With the added help the work went more swiftly than Rhya would have thought possible and several long, tiring and generally horrible hours later it seemed there just might be an end in sight.

 

Energy flagging and seriously contemplating the emptiness in her stomach, the only thing that kept her going was her stubborn nature and debating what to have to eat. She amused herself with picking her favourite foods and putting together different combinations of treats trying hard to ignore the constant mist of rain and the pain in her toes. Taking her boots off that night was not going to be easy.

 

She glanced over her shoulder to see Rahien and Winter dropping their rocks onto the pile and turning for the thousandth time to collect more.

 

Soon, it will be over soon, she repeated the words to herself like a mantra and trudged onwards pushing dripping strands of hair from her eyes. She had no illusions about rule breaking and knew that if she felt it was warranted she would do it again but she did sincerely hope she wouldn’t feel that way for a long, long time.

 

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Alaya had finished her chores for the day and had decided to sit in the communal lounge for a while with a book, seeing as the weather was turning for the worse. She glanced out of the window as she settled down to find her page and was startled to see a few figures trudging back and forth seemingly carrying rocks from one place to another. She watched them for a while and wondered what they were about. It didn't seem that the task had any useful purpose so maybe it was some form of punishment though she couldn't think for what.

 

Alaya wrestled with her conscience, her book forgotten on her lap. She was still fairly timid and the thought of butting in on someone else's punishment made her nervous, but on the other hand, the weather looked like it was worsening and by the looks of the piles they still had a fair bit to go. Maybe if she helped by bringing them some soup or something, surely that wouldn't land her in hot water? Biting her lip she watched the figures a bit longer and then made up her mind.

 

Once she'd decided on a course of action she moved swiftly. Grateful that the kitchen was deserted, she did not want to have to explain to Miryana or Aislyn why she was heating up soup for three people, she popped some cold soup on the hob and left it to heat whilst she dashed to her room and got her rain cloak and some spares from the laundry, just in case. Returning from that task, she stirred the soup and got out three clean flasks. Tapping her foot impatiently she waited for the soup to heat up then carefully shared it between the flasks then, grabbing a fresh half loaf of bread, she chopped it into large chunks and put it into a bowl, covering it with a waterproof cloth.

 

She was just out of the door when a thought struck her. Stupid! Stupid! She berated herself. How are they meant to eat with hands that have been carrying rocks?? Think girl think! Running back into the kitchen she dumped the bowl of bread and stoppered flasks on the table and wetted some rags for them to wipe their hands on. She also, after a small hesitation, took a tube of salve for cuts from the medicine cabinet. Then with arms carrying the bundles of food and clothing and her heart in her mouth, she went out into the rain towards the figures.

 

She waited by the smaller pile of rocks for the others to notice her. Now she was closer she recognised who they were. Rhya, Winterwinds and Rahien. What in the Light had they all done to deserve such a punishment, for that was certainly what it was.

 

She'd not had the chance to speak with any of them really, her chores and shyness being the principle reasons. They were coming back wearily towards her now, so she swallowed and smiled hesitantly. "Hello. Soup?" Was all she could bring herself to say.

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Tai trudged back and forth in the rain, cursing the Light-forsaken weather. If the rocks were not bad enough, the icy rain slipped between his hands and the rocks that seemed to weigh more than he did. It felt as he had been doing this his whole life, each rock weighing more and more. Hefting another rock he carried it to the pile, arms trembling. He wasn't sure he could continue in this manner for long. Life in the woods had by no means been easy, but it was not exactly hard labor to be sure.

 

The rumble of his stomach for the millionth time announced unnecessarily that he was hungry. It was as if his stomach thought he needed reminding. It already felt as if it were gnawing on his backbone! Pausing for a moment after dropping the millionth rock, he rested while Winter and Rhya deposited theirs. He felt tired in his bones, and his muscles shook slightly with fatigue.

 

On the weary trudge back to the Light-cursed pile of stones, he noted that there was someone waiting for them with quite the bundle. He had seen the girl around the Infirmary once, or maybe twice in truth, but did not know her name. Thinking this was part of whatever had Rhya out here he shared a questioning glance with her. She shook her head just slightly, showing that she did not know either. Trying to keep a puzzled look from his face he finished the walk over to the girl.

 

"Hello. Soup?" On cue his stomach growled loudly again, he had not eaten anything this morning and the work had left him tired. He found the strength to blush fiercely however. Silently he waited for Rhya to speak. Was this ok? It was her punishment, she would know the rules...

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Rhya halted abruptly in her travels back and forth almost running into Rahien as she had her head down against the rain. When she saw Alaya standing before them with what seemed to be food she was taken aback and shared a baffled look with Rahien. She did not know the girl well as Alaya had kept to the Infirmary since arriving, but Aislyn spoke well of her.

 

She thought a moment about what to do. It would be rude to refuse the food and there was no doubting they were in need of it. The punishment was hers alone with nothing to stop either of the men eating if they wished. She couldn’t imagine that Owen would object and she was certainly not going to be responsible for them becoming sick.

 

Glancing at the rocks, she saw there were not many left. Another couple of trips, which she could manage herself and they would all be where Owen wanted them. With a sigh, she spoke.

 

“Thank you Alaya, this was thoughtful of you. I’m sorry you had to come out in this weather but the food is appreciated. Rahien, Winter, help yourselves and get warmed up a little.”

 

She watched as the two took soup from Alaya with obvious relief but when the girl looked to her she shook her head slightly with a faint smile and turned away. She had a task to complete and she was not going to break any more rules.

 

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With relief he took the warm flask of soup from Alaya and grinned at her. It was pleasant of her and a welcome relief. He had only just put the stopper in his teeth when he saw Rhya shake her head and return to the rocks. With a sigh he smiled at Alaya and set his soup aside.

 

Hoping it would not cool too far he hefted another rock. He would not let her do this alone. It had nothing to do with guilt, he simply would not let her finish this alone hungry. There were only a few more stones left and with the two of them the trips would be few. Nodding to Winter to dig in he whispered to him.

 

"Go ahead, with the two of us it will only take a few more minutes."

 

Hefting the rock to get a better grip on the slick piece of stone, he hurried to the treeline, trying to catch up to Rhya. The food was waiting.

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The appearance of someone with food was a blessing, though a small one at that, but well appreciated.

"Now if only the rain will stop?" Winter thought to himself as he accepted the flask of what must be soup. His suspicion was confirmed when he put it to his lips, vegetable soup if he wasn't mistaken.

He was about to take another sip of the blisfuly warm soup when he heard a voice from beside him,

"Go ahead, with the two of us it will only take a few more minutes." Turning he saw the other two had not stopped in their work. Shaking his head he placed the flask in his pocket and lifted another rock and said with a smile "You know, in the Borderlands, a man wouldn't be caught leaving all the work to a woman." Sadly the only laughter was his own at that joke, well Forest chimed in a moment later when she got it, but none of the other two-legs did.

John Winterwinds
Humor is better then soup.

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Alaya smiled as they took the flasks from her then looked on in puzzlement as they each went back to lifting the rocks. She took the flasks back off them and checked they were all secure before taking a deep breath and dumping the bundle on the ground, ensuring that the cloths and flasks were protected from the weather by the oilskins. If you can't help them with food, Alaya, you might as well join in!.

 

Bending down she picked up a rock and staggered under its weight. She'd never had to do any hard labour before, the most her parents asked of her were a few household chores and sewing, so this was entirely out of her range of experience. Trying to straighten up under the burden she staggered in the direction of the other pile, the others already coming back towards her.

 

She splashed through the mud puddles, the wind tugging at her hood and the rain sending rivulets of water running down her face. She blinked to clear the water away and stared dismally at the bright window of the infirmary in the distance. Why did I come out here?? I could still be in the warmth, in a comfortable chair, with a good book! She grumbled to herself, but persevered. She was almost there....

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    The weather had not abated at all throughout the morning and as Owen made his way to where Rhya had been about her task the wind blew with renewed force, causing the tall trees to wave about with alarming force. Pulling his cloak tightly around himself, Owen forced his way through the gusting wind until he was nearly at the clearing where the rock pile was. Stopping on the edge of the clearing, Owen watched the scene in front of him.

 

    No one in the small group noticed him, so intent where they on their task, and so he stood there for a while, watching as Rhya and the others worked their way through the rock pile. Most of it had already been moved to the position Owen had indicated, but Owen had not said anything about Rhya accepting help. This had been her punishment and hers alone.

 

    A small smile appeared on Owen’s face, and he strode out from under the trees and approached the group. “Well it seems you have done very well here Rhya, but i do not believe i gave permission for you to have any help. Seeing as everyone seems so helpful today, i think Rhya will need your help for a while longer.”

 

    That caught everyone’s attention and Owen quickly outlined what he had in mind. “Unfortunately that pile of rocks is not in the right place and needs to be removed to the correct location.”

   

    Rhya had been stretching her back out and upon hearing what Owen had to say fixed him with a baleful stare but held her tongue, for now, there would be time later to give vent to her feelings on how unfair this was. But then an inner voice whispered to her that if she had not accepted help and done as Owen had asked, she would not now have to move the pile again. At least this time the help would be legitimate. Cursing under her breath, and realising that Owen would not relent, Rhya started to pick up a couple of rocks and started the slow trudge to where Owen had indicated the new position of the pile of rocks.

 

    Owen watched the group for a short time. Although he had seemed annoyed that Rhya had help with her punishment, he was not. It pleased him to see that others were willing to help out one of their own. It was a good sign and one that he hoped would ensure the integration of the Wanderers into the Wolfkin. To outsiders they may appear a dissolute group of individuals, but Owen knew he could depend on any of the older members of the Wolfkin to help him out, and now it seemed the Wanderers were learning that lesson as well.

 

    “I will be back later on to check on your progress.” With that Owen gave Rhya a cheery wave and an encouraging smile then returned to the Ranger’s barracks to plow his way through the mound of paperwork that always seemed to multiply, no matter what he did. At times he had just wanted to build a fire and burn all of it. Ehlana had often said she had felt like she was drowning in all or the paperwork and Owen had laughed at her. Now he was beginning to know exactly what it was she had been on about.

 

Owen

 

The WhiteWolf

 

Ranger Leader

 

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Some hour or so later, still cursing colourfully under her breath, Rhya promised herself that she was not going to make one word of complaint on the subject of her punishment… double punishment. Anger boiled in her veins as she toiled along with yet another rock, nursing her grievance like a mother hen. She found that if she could keep it stoked up, it helped her to find the energy to keep going.

 

Under the anger however was a growing guilt for the inclusion of the other three ‘Kin in this second phase of the punishment. She berated herself mercilessly for not having simply thanked them and refused the help, though she would have found it hard to do so rude a thing and was immensely grateful not to be stuck out here alone. The work was progressing considerably faster with four pairs of hands, albeit shredded and painful hands.

 

The small group had a combined air of misery that was so palpable as they toiled away that it could have been identified from far off. Nobody watching them could possibly walk away with the impression that they were enjoying their labours.

 

The rain continued to fall in sheets, getting heavier despite the high winds and it was well past the point where their cloaks could give them sufficient protection. As Rhya commenced the return journey, she tried stretching the muscles in her back to no avail. Every inch of her ached and she was chilled to the bone. Her companions faired no better and she was particularly concerned about Alaya. The girl was not strong and definitely not made for this kind of labour. Not that she was herself but at least she was fit, with months of being outdoors, walking and some training to keep her from keeling over.

 

Finally, her annoyance getting the better of her, Rhya came to a halt and waited for the other three to draw abreast of her, each hefting their own burdens.

 

“This is idiocy. At the rate we’re going we will all be ill for a month. Alaya, take a break. Go have some of that soup you brought out to us. When you are done, Winter can do the same, then Rahien. If we are ever going to complete this we all need some energy and we won’t find it on empty stomachs,” Rhya raised her voice, shouting over the howl of the wind that was whipping at them unrelentingly.

 

“But Owen…” Rahien interjected, concern on his face.

 

“But nothing, Rahien. He did not say we could not eat any more than he said I could not accept help in the first place,” Rhya scowled, her irritation plain to see. “I am not going to be responsible for any of you getting sick no matter what Owen may think. Aislyn would have plenty to say on that topic,” she glanced at Alaya again, “Go. Take five minutes.”

 

The young girl made no demur but complied quickly, obviously used to doing as she was told and with a final look at the men, Rhya moved off once more to collect her next burden.

 

And if Owen has a problem with that… well I’ll deal with that later.

 

 

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"Seeing as everyone seems so helpful today, i think Rhya will need your help for a while longer."

 

Rahien suppressed a groan only to surprise himself with a softly muttered curse. He had only wanted to help but now he had made her life worse...Irritably he hefted another stone and made his way over to where Owen had gestured. He all but threw the thing at the ground in frustration. Disgust crept into him along with the icy rain and he muttered another curse, this time not as quietly.

 

About an hour later he was still hauling stones, frustration faded to determination. His bones felt like they would break, his muscles turned to water, and every step felt like he would collapse under the mammoth weight of the stones. He pulled abreast of Rhya who had stopped for some reason. He was about to finish the journey and rid himself of this Light-cursed burden when she spoke, shouting over the wind.

 

"This is idiocy." The wind ripped the words from her lips almost before they left. "At the rate we’re going we will all be ill for a month...If we are ever going to complete this we all need some energy..."

 

Owen would not like this, he said as much. Or tried to anyway, before Rhya cut him off.

 

"But nothing, Rahien. He did not say we could not eat any more than he said I could not accept help in the first place..." Rahien frowned, he had seen what Owen thought of those hairs being split...

 

Sighing into the wind he dropped the stone onto the pile and shrugged his shoulders, trying in vain to work some warmth into them and the pain out. It was going to be a long day...

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Relief flooded Winter as he placed yet another stone onto the second pile, they were almost done!

 

The sound of approching footsteps made Winter look up, perhaps more help was coming.

 

"Seeing as everyone seems so helpful today, i think Rhya will need your help for a while longer.”

 

The words drained him more then the strain of the hours of lifting rocks had. But the hole it left was shortly filled with determination.

 

An hour later, that determination had been tempered into the stubbornness of a cornered wolf, which made Forest come back from the hunting she had been doing to sit down near one of the buildings and watch him.

 

His vision had blured long ago into the haze of being tired so he didnt see Rhya stop and thus bumped into her.

 

She was talking but he only caught the part about how he would take a break after Aalya took one. Which was fine really, he would rather she take a break first anyway.

 

Till he was able to sit down though he would keep working.

 

John Winterwinds.

Tired, hungry, and determined.

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Alaya staggered and put the rock down next to the pile and flinched involuntary as she heard Owen's voice cut through the wind. She stood head bowed and tears pricking her eyes, as Owen said his piece and tried not to groan aloud as he told them to move the rocks elsewhere. Eventually and to alay's great relief,  he moved on and Rhya practically ordered Alaya to take a break and drink some of the soup she'd brought for the others. Much to her shame, Alaya practically fell to her knees at the small pile of coats and food she'd dumped earlier. Wiping her hands on a cloth, still wet thankfully as it had been sheltered from the wind, she grabbed a hunk of bread and took a long draught of the soup. It was still warm and it did much to increase Alaya's warmth and vitality. With reluctance she finished the hunk of bread and rose, rather unsteadily, to her feet.

 

Passing Rhya with a grateful nod she found some energy to half run toward the pile and grab a rock before tottering towards the new location as one of the others went to grab something to eat. She kept her head down against the wind and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, oblivious of everything apart from the weather and the weight of the rocks.

 

She paused for a breather and was surprised to see that the pile of rocks that they were working from was noticeably smaller, so it cheered her somewhat and she pressed on. As time passed her arms and legs began to feel leaden and she hadn't been able to feel her hands or toes for some time, thanks to the biting wind. But, as she dropped the rock she was carrying onto the pile and stood up, knuckling the small of her back and trying to prevent anyone noticing how much she was trembling with the exertion, she noticed that the others had also stopped next to her. It took a few moments for her to register that the pile they had been diligently shifting had now disappeared. They'd done it.

 

Alaya smiled in delight and then sat down hard as the last reserves of her energy suddenly left her. 

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    The wind had not abated one bit, by the time Owen left his office in the Rangers Barracks and returned to where Rhya and her helpers were just finishing up the task he has set Rhya and which the others had decided to help her with. Standing under the branches of a tree, Owen watched as the group finished moving the rock pile to the second place Owen had chosen.

    Although it was obvious they were all tired, some more that others, Owen also noticed a grim satisfaction from them. They had completed the task that had been set for them, and now they were basking in the relief that comes at the end of a hard task. Letting them get their breath back, Owen continued to observe them, watching the interaction between them. Owen’s critical gaze took each of them in, noting who was nearing exhaustion and who was not. All of this information would be stored in his brain for later use. To get the measure of a person, it was often advantageous to observe them when they were under stress of one kind or another.

    Owen left the shelter of the trees and slowly made his way over to Rhya and the rest of them. “Come with me, i have just the cure for what ails you.” Without another word, or a backward glance, Owen started walking, listening to the good natured grumbling coming from the group as they fell in behind and trudged after him. Obviously they thought Owen had something else in mind for them, another task as meaningless as the one they had just completed. However, when Owen opened the door to the Ranger Barracks, looks of confusion and surprise appeared on their faces. Owen continued walking, leading them deeper in to the Barracks until they came to a room with steam pouring out of the open doorway. As they entered each realised that this room contained several copper tubs, full of water. There were towels scattered on the benches that ran around the room.

    “No doubt you are all feeling the effects of your exertions today and the best thing for aching muscles is a good soak in a hot bath. If you go through the door over there.” Owen pointed to a barely seen doorway, almost obscured by the steam. “You will find you can change in private. When you come back there two of the tubs will have screens around them, i am thinking neither Rhya nor Alaya want to parade around in front of you two.” Owen turned to Winter and Rahien and winked. “Now when you have finished you bath, some and join me in my office, it is down the hall to the left.”

    The desk in the middle of Owen’s office, dominated it. It was a large unwieldy thing that Owen had inherited when he became Leader of the Rangers. He had wanted to throw the thing out, but no one could work out how to get such a large desk out of the narrow doorway. One of the Rangers had suggested removing one of the walls, but Owen was fairly sure he had been joking, but had not put it to the test. So the desk stayed and continued to dominate the office. For once this suited Owen’s purpose as he had cleared the desk and had it laid out with plates and cutlery, and glasses.

    Owen did not have to wait long for Rhya and her helpers to appear and it was obvious from the expressions on their faces that what they saw in front of them was the last thing they expected. Owen got them all to sit down and then asked if they would like a drink. As they settled into their seats Owen went round the table filling their glasses with some Lentrian Red from his own private supply. Once he was finished Owen sat down and raised his glass towards the group. “Today i saw three people help out a fourth person. I saw three people willingly lend a hand to a task that was not theirs. Today i saw three people who did not shirk from the task that was not theirs. Today i saw three people join a forth and become something greater than the sum of their parts. “Owen took a sip from his glass, acknowledging their generosity.

    “Now i have no doubt you are all hungry and i have arranged for a meal to be served to us here, please take your ease and enjoy. “

Owen

 

The WhiteWolf

 

Ranger Leader[/i]

 

 

OOC if you want this to finish here then thats ok. However, your chars have the opportunity to ask Owen any questions they might have and he is in a good mood so will more than lilkly answer....your choice 8)

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