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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Ghosts of the past


Corwin
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Katar was a lot hotter than the lower Rift but no less desolate. In the morning Saline took breakfast in her tent, procured an account of The Wonders of Mist from one of the other Sisters and read the opening chapter from the view of a miner’s wife– a good take on the whole choppy mountains thing. During breakfast she pondered just how she was supposed to find one woman, albeit a very special woman, in such tangled terrain without an apparent system of villages, roads or paths. Only random way-posts left by adventurers marked the distance between here and the windswept plains of the East, and the Manetherendrelle beyond. Apart from her love for the missing woman, Rory Sedai, and a report Rory’s party sent from Katar several years ago, there was little to go on.

 

Besides, she had pushed the party hard in the past weeks and it was beginning to show. “Please make it a rest-day,” begged some of her companions from within the confines of their tents. “It’s so hot outside.”

 

After some tries at persuading the others around camp to wake up, tired and annoyed, she started telling herself what she was doing was senseless—were Rory Sedai still alive, only retired to some distant back-story of the misty mountains would the Tower not have kept tabs? And Saline’s companions needed a day off; she should use this time to decide where they were wandering next. She sighed, stretched one of those joint-clicking stretches, drank the rest of her tea and decided to go for a walk to loosen up. Saline was still perusing the introductory pages of her borrowed account as she walked, trying to think of somewhere to continue the search, when a cloak caught her eye.

 

As was popular in the Warder Yard to be wearing the fancloth, especially the color-changing ones which camouflaged; some of the Sisters might have brought their bonds along. But this one was different. She saw the insides of this when she hid underneath it, when she had been a newly raised Aes Sedai on her journey to Elmora. Then she had seen the last of it when she demanded that its wearer put it away, and he obeyed. To have glimpsed it again . . . it should not be here—or anywhere in the world, for that matter.

 

. . . It can’t be! Something in her heart turned. She had glimpsed the upset darkness around the Yellow Sister, whom he bonded again, at her loss. It was not feigned; why else would such wounds be visible for all to see?

 

Gladness quickening her steps, she followed his fancloth for two way-posts, before she noticed the clearing and the snug little cottage peeking over the small stone terrace. Saline had been more than obvious tracking him and he had let her, leading her far from listening ears. He had always been somewhat paranoid, and it was rubbing off.  He unlatched the door, and after the briefest of hesitations, she stepped in. Wariness encroached upon her mind when the fancloth swirled to reveal him.

 

There was something different, edgier, wild look to his eyes. Meeting him the last time confirmed her belief in non-bonding policies, especially for failed Gaidin . . . to have failed twice though. She tried to bring him back into the Tower’s services and even though he claimed not to need Aes Sedai after the showdown with Eleanor it was a relief for the Red to discover his second bond. That was then. What happened to him? Why was he here, of all places? She reviewed what little she knew of him despite being known to her for many years. Saline had kept tabs on him, as she had of most important figures, although all that was abandoned when she left Rory. And now I am paying the price. What if Rory is hiding from me just as he is from his Sister? Does he not realize how devastated we are?

 

Saline was the first to speak. Loudly, unable to control the overwhelming rush of emotion driving her questions “What is with this place, Cor? Does Eqwina Sedai know where you are?”

 

“I am an old man, Aes Sedai” He responded just as angrily, brushing the dreadlocks off his face. “Leave me be.”

 

“Not until you tell me about Corwin's death.” She retorted, noting with some interest vistages of another occupant, the lingering smell of something other than sweat in the heat, “and whose bedroll is that, old man! Don’t tell me you need a Lugard wife* for those cold nights.”

 

 

*Ooc: a Lugard wife is akin to the Dutch wife, where a Dutch merchant travelling is lonely for companions and uses a large substitute pillow . . . to satisfy his needs.

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Corwin went through the dry heat of the day fetching his supplies.  Ever since he had taken care of those men, Corwin began the rumor he had taken a Warder's cloak and was hiding out.  It kept most of the people wondering, and when he would wear the cloak on occasion, it did nothing to help qualsh the rumors.  A result of it all was the prostitutes of Katar seemed even more interested in him now.  But that was only because there was mystery.  As soon as the mystery faded, so would the women's attraction.  As he approached mid morning, his hair was matting up from the sweat, and seemed like it was in the dreadlocks he used to have.  Those these weren't near as neat and even as those were.

 

As usual, someone began following him.  He didn't loose them too fast before he figured out who it was and made his way directly to the prostitution house.  If she was a Black Ajah Eqwina had sent, she would have just killed him immediately.... Something more was going on.

 

Once he had gotten to the house, it was early enough that many of the women were passed out still, luckily.  She began asking her questions right away, and as he looked he couldn't exactly put a name with her face.  She seemed somewhat familiar, but he couldn't pin it down exactly.  Not that he expected to know everyone in the Black Ajah, they were secretive after all.  It had been a great surprise when Eqwina not only admitted to being in it, but that she was the head of it.  He had seen her use the Power in ways he didn't think were allowed, so that she was in it was a suspicion of his, but to have her confirm it like that... it surprised him none the less.

 

The woman had to be familiar with him though when she asked, What is this place Cor?  Does Eqwina Sedai know where you are?  In some ways he read into it she was playing with him.  The fact she knew him and he still couldn't pin down how he knew her.... well she could very well have been sent to kill him by Eqwina, and just be playing cat and mouse now.  None the less he tried to hide the anger from his voice, yet failed, I am an old man Aes Sedai, leave me be.  He brushed the matted hair from his face and decided he had let his hair grow too long lately.  He was becoming partial to the shorter hair, and his beard did nothing for this heat.

 

He was about to turn and leave when she shot right back Not until you tell me about Corwin's death.  And who's bed roll is that?  Don't tell me you need a Lugard Wife for those cold nights.  The prostitute must have been stirring and that caught the woman's attention.  Well he wasn't going to stick around for the woman to realize she had company, so with a quick and short reply under his breath he said Some people must stay dead and never be found.  With that Corwin left the room and began heading back to his new "home" in the Mountains of Mist.  If the woman chose to follow he would talk to her more when they had privacy, but not in a place she had an advantage over him of people recognizing she was Aes Sedai, and thinking they had finally come to get their revenge for him killing the Warder those years ago.  It was an ridiculous rumor he started when he was drunk and it caught on to some.  After all, most people believed the real truth came out when a man had enough wine in him, or in Corwin's case enough whiskey, to not realize he was telling things he shouldn't.

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"Good day, Aes Sedai!" said Mr. Bernard politely as soon as Saline stepped up, "And how are we this day?"

 

"In health, I think, Mr. Bernard. Is that patron quite well?"

 

"Quite well to my way of thinking, I should say, Aes Sedai, quite well," replied the proprietor, laying the docket on the counter. "Can I help you with anything?"

 

"Er. yes! Where is he going?"

 

"Hah he is bound for home, I warrant; man never really stays still in one place despite being deep in his drink." He nodded, rolled down his sleeves, before disappearing into the storeroom and rummaging noisily.

 

She wondered if that was what Mr. Bernard told all the wives and angry mothers who came looking "Is that so?"

 

"Exactly so!" Came a voice from a large pile of girls uniforms and a realistic rubber Myrddraal. Aghast at the tastelessness involved in this sordid business, Saline wished him well and went after the Gaidin.

 

An hour later . . .

 

"Hey Corwin." She said, worried, "why are you avoiding me? It's me, Saline. The Red you protected for a while. I thought we said we'd be honest with one another."

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Corwin turned around and thought some before his reply.  It was all coming back to him now, and the woman wasn't all that bad back then.  Yes I remember.  Corwin motioned for her to follow and they found a private room.  Waiting a moment, he made his request, if you could make this room a little more... private that would be appreciated.  Saline eventually nodded her head and he began.

 

You of all people should understand that people do things for odd reasons.  Well lets just say the Tower wasn't safe anymore and I doubt it ever will be again.  The only way to get out with my skin was to fake my death, and since I am no longer bonded, well no one knows of me... well, that's how it used to be atleast.  He still didn't know if he could trust her.  She was a Red, and they hated men so badly, yet she was trying to treat him as a friend suddenly.  If she was really a Black, then he was going to not make it out of this alive, but then again he had been expecting that since he had left the note for Eqwina.  If certain past acquaintances of ours show up, this could become very messy.  I would recommend you leave.

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More private? They were in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, excited and rejuvenated, she did as Corwin requested. Visible colored strands accompanied the heady rush of channeling saidar and she sighed when the pleasantry coursing through her veins left. The weave was easy enough and necessary, for many in the Tower had kept their childhood tricks and habits alive, yet she would not have expected it here. Still, the gaidin had always been paranoid. Who knows, just because he's paranoid doesn't mean they're not there.

 

Still she felt glad to be remembered. He was impressed by her honesty of admitting her weak strength in the power and, thus agreed to put aside his fancloth. Their trip together had taught her many things, least of which the training in stamina he gave her when she learnt how heavy sandbags were. Fighting was hard, unglorified work, brutish and mostly monotonous. But it never crossed her mind to bond, not even as an initiate.

 

At some point, Saline didn't recall when, she sensed most novices and accepted wanted warders in a bond that was relatable to what one had with their parents. The warders' job was to be, to exist as themselves in decorative fancloths and performing their routines. Like one's mother and father, the warder were in the background, the steadfast rock that got ignored for most of the time, and clung to during moments of stress, and danger, and less often of happiness.

 

The thought of Corwin having life outside of his Aes Sedai ran through her head as she listened without much comprehension. Well she understood him faking his death but why had he? And was he warning her to stay away in case she might get hurt? Suddenly her anti-dreadlord training with Tower Guard Nerome, Rory and Lillian flashed past, sending shivers on her spine. But Corwin never saw the dreadlady Nerome had encountered? Saline ran the list of names they both knew through her head; it was short, consisting basically of Corwin's second Aes Sedai, the innkeep in Elmora, Shoar the Warder whose feats she heard about but never met (another interesting subject, she fancied) and the daughter he had somewhere in the Yard.

 

". . . Explain. Which acquaintances? I want to understand. Are you afraid?" He must've been, to kill himself off. But he was really good with those katanas. Was he too old for them? "And it's too late, I'm not letting a friend go the second time. You can leave with me. Or we can stop running and fight whoever that's trying to hurt you."

 

Not for the last time her low strength in the power plagued her as it seemed that a shadow passed over her ageless features.

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Explain. Which acquaintances? I want to understand. Are you afraid?  And it's too late, I'm not letting a friend go the second time. You can leave with me. Or we can stop running and fight whoever that's trying to hurt you.  He couldn't help but grin, she for some reason must have felt a mothering complex.  In a way it was nice she felt such loyalty to him, but it was ultimately unnecessary.  No.  You knowing their name will only put you in that much more danger.  You say we can fight them off?  They will have us dead before your oaths let you fight.  One of our duties as Gaidin is to protect our Aes Sedai, well I have none right now so I am protecting you by suggesting you leave.  Believe me, if this acquaintance shows up, they will be furious at me and be willing to kill.  Which wasn't completely true.  If she saw him first, and in a controlled environment... well she might see past her anger for once, but even that was a long shot.

 

Clearly his blunt warning was doing next to nothing to get her to be careful and leave him.  Suddenly he felt another wave of depression hitting him, it seemed the effects of the Bond leaving were even stronger this time... perhaps because he had felt so strongly for Eqwina.  Taking the Flame and Void, Corwin sat there and stared at Saline until the depression subsided.  Why are you here Saline?

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Slowly she admitted, "I don't really know, Corwin. I am searching for somebody who is very special to me. She was last seen in the borderlands, but her journey starts here. So I've mainly been chasing ghosts in my mind for a long time. It's curious that a person as alone as I, should be offering myself to the forgiveness of others. But it's the only way I know how. For the first time in a long while, my mind is clear, my body healthy. She's everything. Once I find her, I won't leave her again."

 

It was a grim thought, but easy to confess to a man who had faked his own death. "I can't give her up. Believe me, I've tried."

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Listening to her story, he knew he wouldn't be able to get her to give up.  In some ways it reminded him of how things were with Eqwina.  It was possibly the stupidest thing he had done with giving her reason to find him and a general direction to go, but part of him didn't regret it.  No matter how much he tried to hide it, she was a part of him, their time together hadn't been that long for him, yet she would be there.  He very well might have sealed his doom, the woman had such a temper it was ridiculous she was ever able to get far as an Aes Sedai.

 

With a sigh he told her It's not much, but you can stay at my camp if you wish.  I have a student coming that I can't leave here, but if this acquaintance of ours shows it, I will have to leave for your own safety.

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Melenis made her way through the Mountains of Mist, sighing at the lack of aptitude she had for mountaineering. Fortunately for her she had been on quite a few survival lessons enabling her to compensate for it, but that didn't make it any easier every time she found a ledge she was unable to go around, or a worn path where a small rockslide had created a natural blockade of sorts. Corwin wasn't making this easy on her, nor had she expected him to.

 

There were two sets of tracks, strangely enough, one much more visible than the other. When following Corwin's trail, the man seemed to be able to shake off pursuers without even knowing they were there, but the second set of footprints made her task much, much easier. Which was good, as it hadn't been the first time in several weeks that she had been forced to turn back for supplies.

 

As she hoisted herself on top of a small rise, brushing the dirt off of her earthen colored robes -- somehow sporting Aiel colors seemed strangely appropriate to her -- and looking around at the scenery to fill out the map of the area she had in her head. That looked passable, better to avoid the ridge to the left... Sighing, she looked up for a second to check the amount of daylight she had left, and made her way down to a small clearing that had remained mostly unseen until she had almost been on top of it. Given that she needed to track down a Warder it was only logical that she would have to act like one, and as she sat down on a small rock to unpack the bread and cheese she had divided into rations earlier that day she couldn't help but wonder just how close to her goal she was...

 

 

Melenis

Hunting a Warder

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Saline banished any half-formed thoughts she entertained about getting closer to Corwin. The Gaidin was hardly around, only staying long enough to grab a change of clothing and a bite to eat before he was off meditating, hunting, or whatever else he did from before the break of dawn to long after nightfall when the mists would rescind like her statements about Corwin's bed partners. She had never seen him sleep in their camps to Elmora and now, she doubted he could fall asleep even if he tried. He was restlessly venturing out everyday for some peace of mind nobody else could offer him, not even a friend.

 

Still she was glad to have stayed. It was proof, which she desperately sought, that Saline wasn't a stone. She cared enough for others to put actual effort into maintaining her friendships. And she did what she could, mainly cooking soup and preparing other meals in attempt to entice some appetite from the diminishing old Warder.

 

Due to her having to clean up her abundant leftover cooking she had become comfortable, soft even. So Saline took a few days from the month to retrieve her pots, pans and scimitar. And would go back and forth when she needed some more supplies for cooking from her camp. Today she was carting some bottled sun-dried tomatoes in a vinegrette she had squeezed from olives and lemons, when she spotted somebody tracking. Or rather, resting. Survival had not been Saline's forte but she had a couple lessons in wilderness (although it was not what she expected) and winced at the hard ration of cheese and dried bread.

 

"Hold up," said Saline surveying the young woman's earthy clothing "are you Corwin's student?" At the nod, the Red Sister smiled kindly and started to set dishes and forks on top of a picnic cloth she rummaged up "I'll take you to Corwin's place. He's been expecting you. Anyway I have some morsels of blueberry pie if you'd like some?"

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Melenis looked at the newcomer, detecting no hostile intent in her and thus felt no need to slide her hand closer to the ashandarei on her back. Furthermore, she had also recognised the ageless look for what it was, as all those that had been trained in the Yards for more than a week would be able to tell the difference. The Aes Sedai asked if she was Corwin's student, which took her slightly off guard: She had not expected him to send someone to get her.

 

- "That i am, Aes Sedai. One of the lessons was for me to find him."

 

Despite still sitting down, she gave her a respectful bow before introducing herself. Tower-trained as she was she was taught to always treat an Aes Sedai respectfully, and even though there was no one else around in the small clearing that of course didn't mean she could ignore that part of her training. Nor did she want to, for that matter.

 

- "I am Melenis Stormgate, Aes Sedai, Defender of the Tower. And yes, some blueberry pie would be nice. Care for some tea? I picked the nettles this morning, so even though i haven't quite mastered the recipe yet at least it's fresh."

 

She bowed again as if to apologise for the fact that she had little to offer Saline in return. Her face remained smooth as well, what she had been saying was the simple truth, nothing less.

 

 

Melenis

Following her lessons to the letter

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"Mmm! Nettle tea would be very nice thank you," said Saline, practically beaming at the cordial, frightfully kind reception she had gotten from Corwin's student. She also really liked nettle tea. But while some experience in the flora fauna of the land was to be expected from those in the Warder Yard the Taraboner had not expected this young woman to be so well versed in etiquette, or so pretty underneath that dust. Very few were, even when they've earnt their cloaks.Lands, I must have spent too long at Corwin's; I'm actually grateful for the slightest of attention. Shoving the thought to the backburner, Saline focused on the girl. Melenis Stormgate, a strong, forthright name. Maybe some talk would put her at ease. Besides, Saline was aching for more hospitality after, well, Corwin's constant avoidance and dodging her questions it felt great to share some straight forward lore with other people. A gesture from the Aes Sedai indicated the weapon on Melenis's back "an interesting choice. May I see it?"

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Melenis nodded, slowly reaching for the weapon so as not to accidentally startle Saline. Though the fire burned, the water was still not hot enough to make tea with, and she supposed some conversation would help in passing time. Handing the weapon over to the Aes Sedai, she nevertheless couldn't help not to keep a close eye on how she treated the weapon. Even the thought of someone else other than her was enough to make her slightly nervous, but thankfully not to the levels she wouldn't be able to suppress it.

 

- "It was my grandfather's. I watched him train, and later trained with him as a child before came to the Yards to master it."

 

There was a certain tone in her voice that betrayed that coming to the Yards had not been her choice entirely. Were it not for the death of her grandfather, or the betrayal of her father, she didn't doubt she would still be in her home at Far Madding, but those were events she had no wish to share to everyone. She had done so once, while drunk, to a close circle of friends, but even though they had taken it the good way she had no intention of repeating that slip up.

 

And besides, the tea was ready.

 

 

Melenis

Tea > emoing

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It was mid day and Corwin needed to break for food.  It had been a restless morning, he still felt so many mixed feelings about Eqwina he didn't know what to make of his situation.  His meditation had constantly been interrupted with thoughts of her and his calm suddenly broken.  It was a frustrating thing having to begin again so many times.  Deep down he felt this restless knot in his stomach that wouldn't go away.  After a few fours he had turned to training, but even that wouldn't make it go away.  After two hours of practicing his balance on rocks near by, he was drenched in sweat from stressing his muscles and also the heat.  The heat seemed to never go away so long as the sun was up.

 

Once he reached camp he found that Melenis had finally found them.  Saline had be busy since it seemed they were warming up to each other.  When the girl saw him she shot up and he launched into his attack with a swift right hook coming in toward her temple.

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Melenis' eyes went wide when she noticed Corwin arrive, and from the look of him he wasn't in a good mood. Getting up as fast as she could, she was standing by the time her teacher had closed the distance between them, already preparing for a right hook while she still needed a little more time to get her defenses up. Talking with Saline had caused her to lower her guard a little, and this was the price she had to pay for it.

 

Leaning back and out of the blow, she knew it would only be a matter of time before the followup would strike her now exposed midriff, and jumped up to plant both her feet into Corwin's chest and abdomen respectively. Though not something that would be useful in a fight, or even accepted as an option, the move had not been intended as an attack. Either Corwin would step back to avoid being hit, and she would fall into a defensive roll to rise with her defenses up, or he would get hit, pushing the both of them further apart after which she'd have the time to get her defenses up as he recovered. Either possibility would prevent the rather painful followup she didn't doubt Corwin was about to set up unless she'd act now.

 

 

Melenis

Making evasive actions

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The girl was faster than he had anticipated.  In a moment she was in the air and Corwin was knocked back.  Getting onto his feet quickly he came in, though not as fast this time.  The girl had gained speed, but she was also ready now.  The kick had caught him off guard, but that was what this training was about in a way.

 

As they went back in forth with punches and dodges, Corwin noticed she had seemed to gain more control over her body motions.  Attacks that would have hit her no problem before, now were missing as she had learned to manipulate her body better.  She even landed a couple blows to Corwin's midsection.  Overall though, he was now satisfied.  The next break from each other that came, he stepped back and nodded his head, then turned to get himself some food.

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She was still holding Melenis' heirloom of a weapon, noting it was much heavier than her scimitar, when the girl vaulted into action. The fighter kicked back their intruder, who (after Saline's initial alarm) turned out to be Corwin. Laughing for the first time in weeks at the rather unconventional mentor-mentee reunion, Saline set the weapon on the bedpiles gingerly and turned around to prepare a temporary meal. Humming as she took over proportioning the tea and pie into slightly cracked cups and dishes, Saline was in a better mood than she had been before. And so was Corwin by the look of things, if not entirely happy he seemed pleased with Melenis' progress and she was glad for the girl's company as she mutely handed them their respective shares. The bout had not taken long but what little she had watched of it was very intense.

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After the short spar, Melenis found herself satisfied with the results. She had been training hard, following the lessons Corwin had taught her during his absence, knowing that the next time they would meet he would want to measure her progress. Much to her surprise she managed to dodge most of his blows, and even land a couple herself. Did she improve, or did Corwin start getting rusty? Her self criticism told her it was the latter, though it was likely a cmbination of the two. There weren't many people to train with out here in the mountains.

 

As the two of them broke away, she silently accepted the portion of food Saline offered her, taking a deep breath to test a rib Crwin had landed a blow on. Satisfied that it would merely develop into a bruise, she gingerly took a sip of tea, confirming that it was still a bit too hot to drink and starting on the pie instead.

 

- "It's good... Did you bake it?"

 

She knew from spending a couple of years in the Yards that some Aes Sedai preferred to do their own cooking. There were some with stranger hobbies, she mused, and even though she had virtually no skill in the kitchen herself that didn't mean others did not either. And in this case, she was grateful for the change of diet: sandwiches were about the extent of her abilities in that area.

 

 

Melenis

Not a housewife

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"Like it? My own recipe, very good for you" try as she might, and she had tried mind, just not very hard, she could not resist indulging in a bit of boasting as the two dug into the pie. The tea was still hot but she did not mind a pinch of pick me up after having gone without . . . it was one of the reasons she returned to the wilderness to retrieve some tea and hard to come by ingredients that would spice up even the most basic of cooking. "I could teach you if you like." She taught basic cooking as a class a long time ago. In the Tower at the blues kitchen for the poor she had done and later assigned chores where they had to chop firewood, freshen the reeds, wring the necks of chickens, cut carrots, stir soup etc. However this would be done the traditional way by hand and, being somewhat old-fashioned she found this method of cooking more charming, if slower.

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Melenis nodded as Saline commented on the pie she had baked, agreeing that it was indeed both liked and very much appreciated by the young Tower Guard. At the offer of being taught the recepy however, she found herself wincing painfully at the memory of her past attempts to cook something remotely edible. Cooking was a skill she had never quite mastered.

 

- "Eh, you're talking to the worst cook in Far Madding here. From past experience, if i manage to boil water, it's an improvement."

 

The worst thing was that she wasn't even exaggerating. It took her several tries to boil water, mostly because she added too much water so the fire went out as it boiled over, or add too little for the other ingredients to fit in. Light forbid the last time she had tried cooking meat, it seemed like months before the smell of smoke finally cleared out of the kitchen!

 

 

Melenis

Her cooking is deadlier than her weapon

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