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Different Doesn't Mean Dark


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OOC: Continued from Searching and Journeying.


IC:  After dismantling the tent and packing it away Shawn buried the remains of their fire and collected the horses.  He brought Sorie, Carina Sedai's stallion, over to stand beside her and waited patiently to offer her his help mounting, even if he knew she didn't need it.  She seemed to just be standing there staring off into the distance, thinking of who knew what.  Shawn knew better than to interrupt, so he merely stood there waiting.

  He was perplexed though.  For all her talk of speed and urgency he had thought she'd be pleased that his preparations would afford them and earlier start.  He expected her to leap onto her mount and ride away as soon as the tent was packed.  As it was she seemed not to even notice he was waiting.

  Finally she acknowledged that he was waiting for her, but only to announce a change of plans.  Traveling?!?  He'd heard of it of course, rumors had been flying around the Yard about this ability the Aes Sedai had somehow rediscovered, but he'd never seen it done.  Not knowing himself how Blaize would react, Shawn put an arm under the stallion's neck and pulled him close to whisper comfort in his ear should it prove necessary.

  Suddenly a line appeared in the air and rotated to form a square large enough for him to ride through.  Amazing!  Looking through the gateway he saw a grassy plain in darkness.  Morning light bathed the clearing where they stood, so it was clear to Shawn that the other side of the gate was in the West and still a few hours away from dawn.

  Shawn mounted up and tied Sorei's reins to the back of his saddle.  he had no idea what was on the other side so he wanted his hands unencumbered.  He reached over his shoulder to draw his katana and readied a knife for throwing in his left hand, then nudged Blaize forward with his knees.

  On the other side Shawn glanced around then made a quick circuit around the gateway, apprehensive at the risk of possibly being unknowingly surrounded.  Satisfied that the plain was safe enough he signaled to Carina and she walked through, the gateway blinking out behind her.  She'd mounted before he had the chance to offer his assistance and he prayed she didn't think him rude for the neglect.

  Handing her back her reins he nodded toward where the gateway had been, "Well, that was something alright.  Shave several weeks off our trip at least.  If you are ready, I believe I saw a road over that way."

  A few minutes later they found the road and followed it south.  His previous attempts had met with mixed results but Shawn was determined to get to know his traveling companion better.  Besides, riding in silence served no one.  "So tell me, Carina Sedai, if you don't mind that is, have you any family out in the world?  Any descendants of other relatives that you've kept in touch with over the years?"

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  Carina stepped through the gateway and let it go. She mounted Sorei quite easily and they were on their way.

  "No," She said, feeling a light stab but pushing it down immediately, "My parents, that is my birth parents, died before I was old enough to remember them and my adoptive parents never had children of their own. The White Tower is my only family now." Her voice was matter of fact, though not hard. She didn't mind him asking questions, so long as he knew not to blurt the answers he learned around the Training Yards. Young men were foolish sometimes, trying to impress their peers with knowledge they should keep to themselves. They followed the road for several hours, that led them smoothly between the woods and heading north keeping the foot of the mountains to their right.

  "What about you Shawn? Are you leaving anyone behind going on this trip? You seem young to have any children, but then some families start out young." She hadn't given him having a wife and children a second, or first for that matter, thought when she asked him. Cold as that may seem to some, it was not generally something a Sister would consider when she needed a Guard. They knew what they signed up for when serving the Tower and had agreed to the consequences. And besides, she didn't force him to come. She had clearly asked and he had clearly been given the chance to refuse. She almost hoped he didn't have a wife or kids, as that would make her task even more difficult for then she'd have a responsibility to see him back to them safely. Not that she would do otherwise, the burden of must increased quite substantially nevertheless.

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  "Well, it seems we have some similarities to our backgrounds.  I have actually lost what I would call my family three times.  The first was when I was but seven years old and I washed ashore in Amadicia with no memory of my family at all.  I've spent many hours over the years, especially when I was younger, trying to wrack my brain for memories of my family but I've never gotten anything except my name and my shaved head that I know was tradition for the men of my family.  For all I know I still have family out there looking for me but I know of no way to even begin searching.  Besides, I gave all that up when I joined the Tower."  He needn't tell her that he still dreamed of finding his family.  His loyalty to the Tower was absolute now but it would still be nice to know where he'd come from.

  "You'd think that losing your family would be a singular event but for me it was not.  The young couple that adopted me was a blacksmith by the name of Uzziel, and his wife Alexis.  They loved me and raised me as their own and more caring parents I couldn't have asked for.  Uzziel was the best man I've ever known and he taught me much that has stayed with me even now, shaping who I am, and that's in addition to starting my training at the forge.

  "Unfortunately, our nice peaceful family life was interrupted when an old friend of theirs showed up.  Ely and Uzziel had been bestfriends from the time they could crawl up until Alexis made it clear who she would choose.  Ely left their village and his bitterness led him to join the Whitecloaks.  Flash forward a few years and Ely had been assigned command of the local garrison that Uzziel and I supplied arms for."

  They rode in silence for a few minutes while Shawn relived those dark days in flashes.  "Things started out calmly enough and Uzziel and Alexis spoke on many occasions of their relief that they could renew their friendship with their childhood pal.  But it soon became evident to all that Ely had never gotten over his jealousy and bitterness, that they had in fact only intensified over the years.  Uzziel was executed as a darkfriend without trial and Alexis joined him when she refused to marry Ely.

  "I was fifteen and spent what free time I had following the Whitecloaks around pretending I was one of them.  I came home just in time to see Ely turn on Alexis in murderous rage for refusing him.  I rushed him and paid dearly for my folly."  Many years later the scars from that whip were still criss-crossing his back.  They no longer hurt but they were constant reminders of what lengths cruelty would go.

  "Twice then I lost my parents and this second time would lead me, after many other adventures, to joining the Tower Guard.  As a trainee I met another trainee, a girl that I took an instant dislike to.  Gradually that changed and we had begun to talk of marriage.  My betrothal gift to her was a sword, the peice I used to prove my training complete and earn my title of Master Blacksmith.  Unfortunately, all my time spent in secret trying to surprise her led her to believe I was unfaithful.  She left one day without a word and I haven't seen her since.

  "That is the third family I said I'd lost, the future family we had planned to have together.  I don't know if it's just who you are, or if you've used some trick of the Power on me, but I don't know why I've shared so much.  Very few know any of this and only one other knows it all.  I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable by sharing so much."

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  • 1 month later...

  Carina grinned at his confusion, being used to having people open up to her against their intentions.

  "No, my friend, I didn't use the One Power on you." She chuckled, "But you should be aware, I guess, that people tend to speak up more around me than they usually would. I have never figured out why that is, but welcome it just the same."

  They rode towards the village in the distance at an even pace, neither hurrying nore keeping back, though she wanted to gallop Sorei at full speed. 'Please, let him still be alive' She prayed to the Light in silence. But it wouldn't do for the villagers to see them coming at full speed and wondering what their hurry was. They might draw the wrong, or rather the right, conclusions and think they were there to save the Dark Friend. They were there to save the boy, of course, but not because he was a Dark Friend.

  "When we arrive in the vilage let me do all the talking. Follow my lead and show no surprise at anything I do or say. Arrange for us to have a room at the local Inn and once we're settled in go make friends with the local men. Try to get them to talk about the boy and find out what you can. I will do the same with the women."

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  As they rode they began seeing houses and fields along the road, gradually getting closer together as they continued.  Soon enough they entered the village proper, an oval-shaped field surrounded by community buildings and homes with the road circling around it.  Shawn rode to the largest building he could find, guessing correctly that it was the town's only inn.  Being a small town they probably didn't get many visitors, so he wasn't surprised at all to see that they had gathered quite a crowd by the time they reached their destination.

  He dismounted in front of the inn and looked around.  A young boy about ten years old came running up and looked at the horses and then at Shawn.  He'd probably been told to fetch their horses but was too shy to ask.  Shawn handed over Blaize's reins and, seeing that Carina Sedai had once again dismounted before he could offer to help, Sorei's as well.  "Please bring our bags up to our rooms and be sure to rub them down.  Take good care of those two and I'll reward you before we leave."

  The boy led the horses off, eager to prove himself, and was quickly surrounded by his young friends, while Shawn walked into the inn.  A round, jolly-looking man walked up and, introducing himself, "Welcome to Roldam.  Are you passing through, or will you be staying the night?"

  "Thank you.  Yes, we will need a room please."

  "Yes, well, please do follow me."  The innkeeper led Shawn and Carina up the stairs to a modest room with a large bed.  He spent some few minutes showing them, quite proudly, all the minor features of the room until the boy from before came running up with their bags.  "I'll leave you to get settled then.  If you will be wanting your meal in your room just let me know, otherwise I can serve you downstairs whenever you are ready."

  Shawn found his bedroll and spread it out between the door and the bed then glanced up at Carina.  "I will go and attempt to mingle with the men, and meet you up with you later.  Before I go though I thought I would check, will you be using your true name while we are here, or do you have an alias you would prefer I use?"

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