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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Saidin 101... In the Darkness We Run


Wayward_fool
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The sun dawned as it did every morning. The dark, cloudy sky promised another day of harsh cold winds that had replaced a blazing summer. Hot and cold. Ice and fire. Just perfect for the lesson at hand. But neither heat not cold touched the black coated men of the Farm, if anything, it encouraged the few who had yet to learn this strange skill of ignoring the temperature, to work harder and faster. The Yard thronged with activity now, a constant boom of explosion or flash of steam or sizzle of fire, accompanied by the shouts and screams of trainers and trainees.

 

It was into this chaos that a black coated man stepped, his sleeves embroidered with the twin lightnings that marked his rank. His face was ice, but his short cropped hair danced in the breeze. Skechid Aram Teobon was not looking forward to the few hours ahead. But it had to be done. Too many recruits arrived in the middle of the night, too many of them overly excited about the Power. Too many dying and burning out before anything could be done. Too often by self experimentation. As a result, even Storm Leaders had to deal with training, whilst they were still in the Tower. Skechid hated lessons. It wasted his time and generally proved to be relatively boring.

 

A group of newly black coated men stood in a ring around the centre of the Yard. They looked apprehensive and many had expressions of fear. Skechid could almost smell their panic.

 

"Good morning." Skechid spoke softly, but his voice carried over the throng of the Yard. "Welcome to the Black Tower. I am Storm Leader Skechid, member of the Guardian Council. And today, by all luck that you have, you are to learn how to channel. Which many of you might already have figured, you can. Saidin is not a toy. Nor is it a friend. It is a raging flow of power that destroys and burns. It will not be something you appreciate. But while you are here, it will be your daily companion. You will do nothing without it. Every chore, lesson, task will be performed with the Power until it becomes second nature for you." Skechid seized the Power. The filth coursed through his veins. Ice and fire. A thread of Fire shot out from his hands and formed a giant ball of Fire that caused the air in front of Skechid to waver. He ignored the look of horror nor the one or two who stepped back. "This weapon will be your only weapon from now on. But first..." The Fire extinguished and Skechid smiled icily. "You run. Around the Yard thirty times. And for every round, the person who finishes last gets an extra round. The absolute last will answer to me. Understood?" The recruits saluted fist to chest, Skechid make a note to teach a few of them how to salute properly. "You may begin."

 

And they ran.

 

((OOC: Turn up, share your thoughts, and during the run, get to know each other. After that, we begin with the Power. *grins* Let's GO!))

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He was neither the last nor the first to finish the run.

 

As he stopped to rest, the world before him was predominately a coming together of sounds. The ceaseless sound of hammering, the furious howling of a mad storm, the roaring of the recruits, it all echoed in his ears. The brown-haired boy felt he was very close to them, but he had not moved. He was watching and waiting, but it was like being in a war zone, when time had slowed.

 

He was in the center of what the men called the farm.

 

“. . .”

 

It was lucky that nobody here died so far. The thick layers of clothing had reduced the (cold and some) damage, but there was also the matter of timing—if they kept experimenting with saidin like that, people might die. They already had five students heavily injured, and numerous students sustained light injuries. The possibility of death would rise if Ful got training from here. Fifteen years was too early to die, thought Ful. This was why, although he had been living in Isha’s house for half a year now, he never once strayed near here for lessons. But after the one-eyed attack leader was killed, Ful could no longer get away with only attending basic weapons training. People had said that Isha had gone mad when the witches caught and then executed him, but Ful knew from living together that Isha was already mad for years before his death. The Shienarian was forever mumbling incoherently to himself, while staring wildly at Ful and the Asha’man Linten. So Isha did have such great instability within him. Perhaps the aes sedai Isha and Linten had brought back was one of those factors that sped Isha to his death. That must be it. But, never mind.

 

Grey eyes soft like ashes stared listlessly at the men before him dressed, like he was, in black funeral clothing. Were they anticipating death as well? Either way, the other side held the upper hand. This Skechid person, who made the fireball as naturally as somebody else scratching their nose, seemed to be saying “here is the power you want.”

 

This feeling differed from the time in the past when he had to hide from powerful people threatening him.

 

But he didn’t have time to ponder the past now. Very soon, he would face his own madness.

 

A chill ran down his back, but had nothing to do with the weather for once.

Ful Haert

Black Tower Recruit

 

Edit: Winter rather than hot summer

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Nandiel stood in the snow, toes beginning to freeze through his boots as he waited for their instructor to arrive. His eyes widened as he saw the lightning bolts upon the man's sleeves. He hadn't been at the Tower long, but he'd been instructed quickly by the other recruits as to the ranks of the Asha'man and how such things were designated. They were to be taught by a Storm Leader? He wasn't sure whether to be honored or frightened. Then the man spoke, "Welcome to the Black Tower. I am Storm Leader Skechid, member of the Guardian Council. And today, by all luck that you have, you are to learn how to channel. Which many of you might already have figured, you can. Saidin is not a toy. Nor is it a friend. It is a raging flow of power that destroys and burns. It will not be something you appreciate. But while you are here, it will be your daily companion. You will do nothing without it. Every chore, lesson, task will be performed with the Power until it becomes second nature for you."

 

Nandiel had been mistaken, they weren't to be taught by a Storm Leader, but a member of the Guardian Council, now Nandiel was terrified. He shifted uneasily on his feet as he watched the man create a fireball. "This weapon will be your only weapon from now on. But first..." The fireball vanished, "You run. Around the Yard thirty times. And for every round, the person who finishes last gets an extra round. The absolute last will answer to me. Understood?" Nandiel sighed, what was it with these Asha'man and running. He was fairly certain in his short time at the Tower he'd done more running than he'd ever done in his entire life. In imitation of a few of the recruits that had been there longer, Nandiel gave a salute, fist to chest. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't the worst of the lot, he'd had some practice saluting to the Lord of Kore Springs before his life in the Tower. "You may begin."

 

With that said, Nandiel began to trudge around the Yard for the full thirty times. Ten times he had been last, so he ran an extra ten rounds around the Yard. He never was the first to finish a round though. When he was finally finished he came to a stop next to a brown haired young man a few years younger than Nandiel by the looks of him. Panting slightly as he rested his hands on his knees for a moment, recovering from his run through the snow, Nandiel would straighten and turn to the brown haired young man (ie Ful), he extended his right hand. He then spoke between gasping breaths, "Hello, I am called Nandiel. I've seen you around the Tower, but I've never caught your name."

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Baran tramped out to the training fields with the rest of the Trainees, thankful for the thicker wool of his coat. The winter was proving to be colder than anything he could remember, despite the relative closeness of his home in Cairhien. He stamped his feet in his boots every few steps, trying to make sure that he would avoid losing a few toes to the cold, rather than the Taint. He had heard this was going to be the first Channeling class. Hopefully it would be. He was getting tired of eating cold food and raw meat. It would be good to get something warm on his stomach. That, and raw meat tasted terrible! He would rather his food be burned beyond recognition than raw.

 

They finally got there, slowly forming themselves into a ragged circle, shivering against the cold. The storm leader - at least that's what he hoped the lightning on the man's sleeves meant - in charge of the class chose to appear then, addressing them in a quiet voice that somehow managed to boom out across the yard, audible to anyone even close to the place. Probably something to do with the Power. He gave an impressive display with the Power and lectured them about it's more dangerous qualities. Baran nodded, resisting the urge to make it shorter, more curt. Even though he was as impatient as some of the more vocal recruits, he wasn't about to let it show. He would leave that to the Andormen and the rest of the recruits, who groaned at the mention of another run. Baran allowed himself a soft sigh at the prospect. The last one had hardly been enjoyable. Still, he was one of the first to start jogging towards the edge of the training yard. He would be burned if he was going to run extra laps!

 

The first few laps weren't as bad as he had expected. Baran hoped at first that all the running he had done had helped him build up enough stamina to make all thirty laps as easy as the first. No such luck, though. By the twentieth lap, he had started to drop away from the front of the pack, struggling to keep a steady pace. He was barely ahead of the last few recruits by the time the thirtieth lap came around.

 

He came to a stumbling stop back in the center of the yard. He leaned back and planted his hands on his hips, looking up at the gray sky as he exhaled, his breath coming in great, burning clouds of steam. He looked at the other recruits, most of whom were resting, trying to regain their strength. He recognized the one recruit he had met earlier, the boy Nandiel. Better to avoid him. No need to provide a distraction for anyone during the class. They would all need their concentration for what they would be doing. After all, the man had said Saidin was a dangerous tool.

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Even if he wanted to forget what happened that day, he couldn’t. To Ful, it was a branching point of his fate. His brother Gavin had already left to become a Child of the Light. And Ful had come down to Caemlyn by the North Road. He met Linten upon his arrival, and that changed everything. Nothing in his education had prepared him for what he encountered.

 

A tool is made to be broken. He had known this since he was very young. He had wanted to be a destroyer like Blair. But now he would have preferred if the Master’s tools were broken for a better reason than carelessness. However traumatising it was to be left out of a mentor and Isha’s guidance, he wanted to ease the tremendous amount of pain he witnessed. Could it be possible to use saidin for purposes of healing?

 

How could that be possible though?

 

“. . . What did you say?” Ful’s gaze swung to the man.

 

Nandiel introduced himself again, breathily. Ful resisted the urge to repeat his question. How troublesome. He had refused to show himself whenever guests were around the attack leader’s house using the excuse of his dislike of meeting strangers, and now he was outside grasping a strange boy’s hand. Isha would have been dumbstruck at the change.

 

He shook his head, scolding himself for revisiting the possibility of returning to Jehannah. How foolish I am to even consider such a thing! Besides, after being exiled by his wealthy family, no guild of craftsmen would ever accept Ful’s apprenticeship.

 

“Aaaaaah, I’m Ful,” he replied, swallowing back more words and looking away. His sharp gaze swept over the other students once again, lighting on a particular man. “Um . . . You know him, Nandiel? That person was staring at you for a bit back there. And sighing.” Swiftly the other boy followed Ful’s gaze.

Ful Haert

Master of Deflection

 

Ooc: I hope this is alright. I didn't want the Grimm's boy to be left out of the discussion. Oh come on you know it's going to be great fun :)

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Skechid eyed the recruits cooly. The last two had collapsed from exhaustion and were Healed practically on the spot. Their pale faces indicated their fear. Which was a good thing. When Saidin coursed through your veins you had to be used to fear. Too many died from burning out. But yet what choice did you have but to push them. To force them to their limits. It was important that they became weapons as soon as possible.

 

"Good. We begin." Skechid began to explain about the Void and the Flame. "Stare into the flames and focus. Feed everything you have into it. All your emotions, your hope, your pain." His voice droned on. It was the first step. And the first lesson. To see that flame and feed and feed until there was nothing more but yourself. And then... "Seize the fla-" He could hardly finish his sentence when a scream rang out from one of the recruits. His body already charring and turning into ash as his screams died away. Skechid did not reach him in time. But no expression showed in his face. "Let us continue. He said and turned back to his visibly shaken class. They had to learn to be hard.

 

"I want you to achieve the Void and the Flame. And then, when you are ready, draw that flame towards you and fight. Fight for your lives. As you will from this point on." Skechid smiled a deadly smile even as a group of Soldiers cleared up the ashes.

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Healing was possible.

 

As was death.

 

Both incidents took place in the blink of an eye, it felt.

 

The last could not be helped since the situation developed so rapidly.

 

He was soundless, like a balloon without air. During the training hour Ful's expression hadn't changed. He still wore a slightly bitter smile that failed to reach his eyes. From weapons training the flame and the void was a concept Ful became familiar with. Slowly he fed his anxieties about saidin into the flame, looking as though his heart was elsewhere.

 

It was a loss to the farm that one of its recruits had spontaneously ignited. It'd be very painful to lose the capacity to channel, since they all have access to that power, but Ful thought it was another matter to damage the body.

 

Wouldn't cutting off access to saidin be a preferable outcome to losing body and heart?

 

Probably, but the problem was-- !

 

". . ."

 

His heart jumped.

 

What is this awful heat? It was far too warm. He felt as though he were boiling alive. The moment the oily heat hit his stomach it was gone again. But . . .

 

Was this the taint?

 

Ful looked at Sketchid for confirmation. It was all Ful could do to suppress the anger rising in himself.

 

This guy and those other guys, they were trampling all over people's lives. Checking the tense atmosphere around them Ful decided to swallow his words . . . but was he just going to . . . to let . . . ?

 

Isha's angry countenance surfaced in Ful's mind, but right now his head felt too full to be concerned about that sort of imaginary worry.

Ful Haert

Black Tower Recruit

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”Aaaaaah, I'm Ful,” the younger boy replied. Nandiel would nod and shake Ful's hand.

 

“Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Ful.”

 

Ful then deftly changed the subject, ”Um...You know him, Nandiel? That person was staring at you for a bit back there. And sighing.”

 

Nandiel followed Ful's gaze and then chuckled, mostly to himself, “Oh, that. That's Baran. He's a friend, though he does like to keep to himself every now and then. Judging by the look of him at the moment, I'd say he'd rather not be distracted. I think he wants to pay attention to the class.”

 

Just then Skechid began speaking again, teaching them the Flame and the Void. Nandiel directed his attention to the Storm Leader as he spoke and wore a puzzled look on his face after words. Feed all his thoughts and emotions into the Flame, achieve this thing known as the Void where there was no thought? That sounded difficult. But he wanted to be an Asha'man, so he'd learn it, or he'd die it seemed, as one of the recruits proved by bursting into flames. Nandiel was visibly shaken by that.

 

He attempted to picture a flame in his mind, but images of the recruit that had burst into flames kept replacing it. He grunted to himself and grimaced every time the flame in his head changed to that gruesome scene. This was proving more difficult than he thought if he couldn't even form the Flame. He thought that would be the easy part. He sighed and tried once more to form an image of a flame inside his mind and keep it as just a flame.

 

Finally, he succeeded at that task. He then began to try to feed all his thoughts and feelings and worries and everything else into that flame, to burn them away until he felt nothing. It wasn't easy, thoughts kept popping up inside his head, disrupting his concentration, shattering the Void that he was beginning to form rather tentatively. After each failure, he would sigh and begin again, fighting to keep the Flame a simple flame. Then he attempted to feed everything he felt, even the cold, into the Flame.

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Baran nodded slowly as the Storm Leader, Skechid, he had said his name was, explained about the Power. The older man spoke about emptying yourself of emotion, of creating a Void by way of a Flame. Baran's first few attempts showed that it was easier said than done. For one thing, his mind kept wanting to wander, to think of other things than the Flame and Void. For another, when he finally did manage to keep his concentration he was unable to throw all of himself into the Flame. Fear, for one, was a rather difficult thing to manage. Fear of dying, fear of going mad from the first touch of Saidin, fear of becoming something other than what he was.

 

Then the man next to him burst into flame, screaming. It wasn't the death that bothered him. He had been in cave-ins before, had seen men crushed, screaming, by ton after ton of falling, merciless rock. That he had survived had been a miracle. He hoped it had been. Had he already Channeled? Was he mad already? Baran shook his head, closing his eyes and concentrating again. He pushed the thoughts away, the emotion that threatened to drive him mad faster than The One Power ever could. He was not selective this time. He didn't separate and examine the thoughts and emotions he was feeding into the Flame. He just threw the whole confusing pile away, allowing it to be consumed, leaving him blessedly empty.

 

The Void snapped into a sort of crystalline lens, then. Everything seemed clearer without the trouble of emotions cluttering his mind. They were still there, of course, but quieter, muted, as though they were coming to him through an invisible wall. He stood for a moment, reveling in the feeling. The sunlight from behind him felt warm, though it seemed to pass through his body and into his flesh. Wait, the sunlight? It was winter, and the sun hadn't felt nearly as warm as this. It had to be the power. Panic battered the walls of the Void, threatening to shatter the wall separating him from himself, yet connecting him with everything. What had Skechid said to do? Seize it. Hesitantly, Baran did so.

 

The Power filled him, trying to freeze his bones while it boiled his blood. The Taint was immediately apparent, he could feel it seeping into him, but it was like a dribble of swamp water in a thirsty man's cup. Saidin tried to scour him from the face of the earth, and he struggled to prevent it. It seemed a losing battle at first, but as he fought against it, the battle seemed to wake something in him. The same stubborn streak that had seen him through years toiling in the dark refused to let him die even in the face of one half of the Power that turned the Wheel of Time. He wrestled with the power, and in the struggle found himself. He was alive.

 

For a moment, Baran mastered the Power, and used the moment to force it away. He bent over, gasping in shock of what he had just felt. How long had he been touching the Power? Moments? Hours? He couldn't say. The only thing he was sure of was the Taint. He could still feel the last bits as they settled into the depths of his soul. Light, the vile stuff was inside him! He felt a vague urge to try to cut himself open to try and clean it away, but it was easily resisted. Instead, he followed his body's natural impulse.

 

He fell to his knees and vomited onto the ground in front of him, purging the morning's breakfast of raw mutton and bread. Eventually he was empty, but his body kept trying to push the Taint out of him, forcing pure bile out of him and onto the mess he was leaving in the grass.

 

When he was done, he wiped his mouth and stood, his face reddening. To show that kind of weakness in public was beyond humiliating. It would take years to reverse the damage he had just done to his reputation. Still, he had Seized Saidin and survived. That had to count for something.

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Blaze came trotting up to Nandiel, pawing at his leg as he attempted to form the Flame and the Void, shattering what progress he had made. The Soldier would look down at the white and orange puppy and frown. Blaze just looked up at Nandiel with his green eyes and tongue lolling out of his mouth, something like a grin plaster on his face. Nandiel would roll his eyes, "Blood and bloody ashes, would you get out of here, Blaze, I'm trying to learn something. I don't have time to play right now." This harshly whispered at the dog through clenched teeth.

 

The pup would continue to look up at Nandiel, comprehension not dawning in its eyes. It pawed at his leg yet again. Nandiel let out a sigh, and formed an image of a flame in his mind once more. He began feeding everything into that flame again, just tossing it all on the fire to watch it burn, especially that incessant pawing at his leg. He was freezing, he fed that to the flame as well, then he began to feel something warm.

 

Nandiel smiled, basking in that warmth for a moment, reaching out for it. All of a sudden his stomach was turning as he felt something rancid, next thing he knew he was fighting for his life as a flood of burning hot ice raged through his veins. He was terrified and yet he had never felt more alive. He opened his eyes and looked around, he could make out the individual fibers on Ful's coat, and the individual hairs on Blaze's coat. He'd never been able to see this well before, every color seemed more vibrant, even the black all the men were wearing seemed more vivid somehow. This felt incredible. Was this the One Power, was this Saidin? Why had he ever been afraid of this? It was wonderful.

 

Nandiel simply stood in the snow, fighting Saidin for control every minute as it felt like it would wash away everything he was, and relishing every second of that fight for survival. Blaze continue to paw at Nandiel's leg, looking up at him with even more affection now, if that were possible. Nandiel would kneel down and pet the pup. Before getting an idea, they were supposed to do everything with teh power now, right? He reached out with that power, not sure how he was doing it, and scooped up some snow. He compacted it into a ball, waved it in front of Blaze's face and then sent the snowball flying. Blaze went running after it.

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Still a painful expression on Ful's face he watched as others' expressions turned calm. One man, the friend Nandiel named Baran, was interesting to watch.

 

Ful wondered if Baran was feeling what he had felt.

 

How should I know?

 

Baran started breathing so heavily that Ful backed away a few steps.

 

He could see a light . . . it was a very intense light. Caused by saidin?

 

Baran bent over and, still breathing hard, hawked into the ground.

 

Sweet lands!

 

Ful wanted to turn and flee but he knew that pursuers would catch up very fast, and retribution even faster.

 

The smell however was overwhelming.

 

Invoking the flame and the void again, Ful experienced saidin for the second time. Confusion caught him. The fire inside was very hot and somewhat oily to feel, but some of it was nice, too, not gentle, but rather made Ful feel very alive. His senses were sharper, as though without his link to saidin he was only breathing. Again the smell of sick, like sour milk or bad meat, came to him strongly and made his stomach stumble.

 

Hardly being able to bear it anymore he wheeled around seeing Nandiel beside him.

 

"I see. Nandiel, is that your pup?" he asked without any feelings.

 

Maybe the animal would clean up the sick.

 

Ful Haert

of the Upset Stomach

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Skechid hardly blinked as the dizziness struck a few of the recruits. They would learne ventually that the nausea never quite went away. It was a good start. It had not been his intention to lose of the recruits that quickly. But it would stay in the minds of those who would think that Saidin was a toy. Too often it was viewed too lightly. But then again, they were told to push. To stretch the limits. Skechid was a Healer and he knew the dangers. But these were dark times, and the Black Tower had to be strong enough to stand. Perhaps this was the only way.

 

"The One Power consists of five different elements. Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Spirit. Whilst most women are strong in Air and Water and men in Fire and Earth, it is not a comparison for what we are capable of. As people who have touched Saidin, we hold immense power with us. And this power has to be controlled. With this control, you will be able to take your foes apart. You have just learnt to seize Saidin. An important step, but only a small step compared to what lies ahead." He gestured to the huge pile of firewood beside him. "Today your task will be simple. You will continue to practice seizing Saidin. But before that I want you to take 3 logs from this pile and place it in front of you." He moved 3 of them to the left of him with flows of Air. "And I want you to do this." With deft flows of air, he moved the logs one by one to the right of him. "Without using your hands." He smiled. "The last three to complete this task will do ten rounds around the Yard again."

 

He nodded. "You may begin."

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Blaze thrust the entirety of his head into the hole in the snow the snowball had made. He moved his head from side to side searching for it, before pulling his head out of the now expanded hole with a mouthful of snow. Nandiel would simply shake his head, chuckling slightly. The flame and the void and saidin as well suddenly gone. That was a loss, truly. Nandiel suddenly felt empty and lifeless without saidin flowing through his veins. That fight for life was what it meant to live.

 

Nandiel turned his attention to Ful as he asked his question, "I see. Nandiel, is that your pup?"

 

Nandiel scratched his chin for a moment as he thought about his answer, "I suppose you could say he's mine. Though I think it's more I'm his. He adopted me the moment I stepped foot on the farm. Hasn't really given me a moments peace since."

 

Just then Blaze came trotting up to Nandiel's feet. Panting the dog would lay down in the snow. At that moment Storm Leader Skechid would give them their next set of instructions. Nandiel let out a sigh, just throwing that snowball had been difficult enough, now that he thought about it. How was he going to pick up a log?

 

Nandiel would grimace and then set himself to seizing saidin once more. It was difficult to find it again, but he was going to be an Asha'man. He'd grab saidin by the neck again whatever it took and move those blasted logs. Just see if he didn't.

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Baran nodded slowly as Skechid spoke about the different elements involved in channeling the One Power. It made sense that it would work that. The only thing that confused him was spirit. What could that possibly have to do with causing a person to explode, or bringing lightning from the sky?

 

Then the Storm Leader gave them their first task for the lesson. Not separating the flows, not learning to hold onto Saidin. No, the first thing he wanted them to do was move a log from a pile. It was insane, and yet the man was still standing there, looking at them expectantly. And this was supposed to be simple? He half-shrugged, half-shook himself, which was the closest he would allow himself to get to an angry outburst, and set about trying to reassemble the Flame and the Void.

 

It took real effort to force the contents of his mind into the Flame again, but at least this time it seemed a little easier. He could only hope that practice would make it even easier. He couldn't imagine Asha'man working this hard to seize Saidin. If they did, they would be killed before the Last Battle could even get started. Eventually, though, Baran floated again the calm of the Void. He felt the warmth of the True Source just out of reach, so he reached for it again. This time though, he got nothing but air for his effort. Saidin didn't go anywhere, he just wasn't able to grasp it. Exhaling softly, Baran tried again, and again, and again. When all his effort proved ineffective, Baran let go of the Void and started to reconstruct it again. Maybe there was something wrong with the way he was using the Flame and the Void.

 

Once again, Baran found his mind encased in the crystalline perfection of the Void. Again, he reached out for the One Power. This time though, he was immediately successful. Saidin pulsed in him, blackening his flesh while it froze his bones and evil sank into his marrow. He took a moment to simply glory in the Power he was holding before turning his attention to the pile of logs.

 

Without really know how he was doing it, Baran channeled at the pile, igniting one of the uppermost logs. He channeled again reflexively, sending the log in question careening off into a snow drift, where it sizzled out in seconds. He couldn't stop himself from grumbling as he channeled again, this time missing the log entirely and blowing the snowdrift into a thousand sparkling individual flakes that drifted gracefully down around the blackened log.

 

Baran did his best to focus and pulled at Saidin again, sending...something to drag the log towards him. His irritation got the better of him and he pulled a bit too strongly. The log leaped from the ground it was rolling across towards him. He was barely able to get his arms up in time to keep it from smacking into his face. It fell to the ground in front of him. He sighed. One done.

 

The second was easier, he seemed to be able to roll it along the ground with fewer problems. Not to say that it didn't bump into a few feet or other logs, but it eventually came to a stop next to the damaged log. The third was actually more difficult, mostly because he decided to try to duplicate the Storm Leader's feat. The log's flight was shaky, dipping randomly, but it didn't fall onto any of the other cringing Soldiers. Instead, it came to rest on top of the other two logs with a resounding thud.

 

Baran sighed and tried to crush the rising sense of accomplishment as he reached up to wipe at the sweat pouring down his face.

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Forgetting his stomach for a moment Ful took a good hard look at the puppy.

 

"Waaaah so evilly cute!" Ful tittered. "So he's got you whipped!"

 

What, he was fifteen after all.

 

Then their instructor wanted them to perform another task. This time moving three logs with saidin. He spoke as though it were the most matter of fact thing to do in the whole world.

 

His nausea returned as Ful regulated his breathing with eyes closed, restoring, with a few fumbles, saidin and the oily crap that was the taint. Ful couldn't believe that stuff was battling within his body. It was so horrible.

 

He also found out that he was no good at separating the flows of air. It took several attempts just to budge the first log. He didn't want others getting hurt. And he certainly didn't want to burst into flames himself.

 

Was this what they call plunging somebody into water so they were forced to learn to swim, or drown?

 

Being the weakling he was, Ful took this moment to succumb to his bodily maladies. "Excuse me" cupping his hand over his mouth and trying not to faint, he shoved past Nandiel in a wide-eyed and staggering form of nausea and fear.

 

Yet now was no time to relax. There were still the second and third log to go, and he didn't want to be the last three finished.

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"Waaaah so evilly cute!" Ful tittered. "So he's got you whipped!"

 

Nandiel would smile and scratch his head, "Yeah, I guess you could say that. Though isn't there some sort of saying, 'The owner doesn't train the dog, the dog trains the owner?' I forget."

 

Just then Nandiel was shouldered aside as Ful brushed past him. Nandiel would shrug, he guessed Ful and Barran had weak stomachs. He knew the effect of the Taint on Saidin was stomach turning, from personal experience, but this was getting ridiculous. Still panting Blaze just looked up at Nandiel then over at Ful. Nandiel would sigh and look over at the pile of logs. He formed an image of a flame in his mind and then fed everything he was feeling into it, creating a void. He'd then reach out for that flame, siezing control of saidin and fighting it for his life. That oily taint turning his stomach once more, he swallowed down some bile, determined not to sick up.

 

He'd then try to do what he had done with the snow to one of the logs. The first log he grabbed someone else was already dragging, so he moved on to a different one, barely managing to lift it off the ground. He'd half levitate, half drag the log over next to him. Setting it down, he'd place his hands on his knees, taking a moment to recover. He'd look back to the pile of logs, and then grasp at another one, making sure not to grab one someone else had already claimed this time. The second time around he was mostly levitating the log through the air, though just barely above the ground. That was set down next to him, and then he'd start on the third log. This time around he levitated it the whole time, and a decent distance above the ground as well. That was set down next to him, and he released saidin, breathing heavily.

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Skechid released Saidin and helped the young man up. Channeling was never easy and the first timers tended to get injured alot. Fortunate for them, Skechid's skill with Healing was almost legendary. In the Black Tower, there were none who was comparable to Skechid skill. The man who had been Healed looked about in wonder and down at the arm that had merely seconds ago been in fragments. He seemed to shudder a bit before saluting fist to chest, ready to continue the lesson.

 

"Good." Skechid said cryptically. Three men huffed and puffed their way back into the clearing, having been the last three to complete the task. One of them had actually destroyed the logs and had thus volunteered to run anyway. Skechid nodded as they joined the group of Soldiers.

 

"That wasn't too bad, all in all. No casualties this time round. Except for a few logs." Skechid smiled wryly. But the smile never touched his eyes. "All in all, it was a good practice... for chores." A few of the men groaned, but the rest kept silent. "Chores are a big part of the running of the Black Tower. And all of it has to be done with Saidin. You will learn more as the days go by. But that is not your purpose here. No, gentlemen, you are not here to clean up the world, you are here to fight a battle. The Last Battle to be exact. And thus, we need to build you into weapons of mass destructions. Armies of the Light ready to defend the world. Noble sounding, but really not a job for everyone. You will not be weak. You will not be safe. And most of all you will not be a shame to our Tower. And for the next part of the lesson, your journey to become a weapon, begins." Skechid seized Saidin again. The filth of the Taint almost made him nauseous, but he ignored it. "Of the five Powers, Air is probably the safest for now. Not that it doesn't have its uses for destruction, but as a beginner, it will allow you to use it without too much manipulation." He channeled Air and lifted all the logs and moved them into a single pile. "What you did before involved picking up things. Moving things. Which is great for chores, but much too controlled for battle. The next part, will be far more fun." He gestured for one of the Dedicated assisting him to step forward. He remembered the boy's name is Jarrion. "Of the five Powers, Air is probably the most malleable. It can form the winds, it can hold someone in place and it can form shapes that will push an opponent aside." Jarrion walked over to the far side of the training yard and began setting a line of straw dummies.

 

Skechid gestured at the line of dummies in the far distance of the clearing. Made from straw, they were man sized and not at all menacing. "Your next task will be fun. And slightly less painful." He lifted a log with Air and swung it. All eyes watched as it flew and hit one of the dummies on the face and watched it fall. "That is your lesson. Using only Air, throw the logs, hit a dummy and make it fall down. The last two dummies to fall will do runs. Ten laps. The first three to fall, will get to attend a weapon's training with me."

 

"You may begin."

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Baran turned with the rest of the Soldiers to look at the training dummies set up on the far side of the field. They were supposed to throw logs all the way over there? He didn't think he would be able to throw them that far with his arm, let alone with his limited ability with the One Power. Still, he didn't have much time to think about it if he wanted to escape running more laps. The newly-reassembled log stack was already beginning to quiver, logs falling off or struggling to rise into the air.

 

The young Cairhienin gritted his teeth and concentrated on building the Void. Did the Flame consume him more quickly this time? He wasn't sure. Time didn't seem to work quite the same way to him when he was trying to channel. The Power was there almost instantly this time, the warm feeling of sunlight just out of his field of vision appearing with the Void. He reached out for it, struggling for a moment to touch it. He pulled it into himself, pulled the Taint along with it, but even knowing it would kill him it was starting to seem like it was worth it to feel Saidin flowing through him.

 

A log flew over his head, no doubt launched by a more apt pupil than him. It landed well short of it's target and bounced on the frozen earth, bits of turf flying into the air from the force of the impact. Baran channeled at a log of his own, unconsciously stretching out an arm and making a grasping motion with his hand. The log in question rolled towards him as he duplicated what he had done before. He figured if he understood how he had brought the log to him, it would be easier to figure out how to throw it with enough force to knock down a straw man.

 

He inhaled sharply, the way he would if he lifted anything heavy, and heaved up on the...thread, he supposed, pulling the log up into the air with an upraised fist. It was a bit too much force though, as the log levitated up into the air, well past his head. Baran made adjustments with a grimace and brought the thing lower to the ground. When he got the height right, he finally hauled back and hurled the log, his hand snapping up and around in a throwing motion. He used too much force of course, and the log sailed well over the dummy's head.

 

Baran grumbled and reached out his hand again, pulling another log from the pile. It still wobbled a bit as it floated over to him, but not quite as much as the logs he had lifted previously. Maybe he was getting better at the whole channeling thing! He suppressed a smile and tossed the log. This one bounced into the ground near where the other had landed. Not enough force this time, it seemed. He grabbed another, not paying attention to the steadiness of it's flight. He was focused on the dummy. For a moment, it seemed like he was part of it, or it was part of him. Was that the Void, that feeling of connection, of being part of everything else? Whatever it was, he took advantage of the moment and loosed the log. It landed squarely on the dummy's lower half, exactly where the groin would have been on a real man. Baran colored a little when he saw where it had hit, but sighed in relief all the same when the dummy tilted backwards and fell to the ground.

 

He released the Source and stretched before looking around at the other dummies. Was he one of the first? Light, he hoped not. He was already tired from all this channeling, he didn't know if he would survive weapons training as well.

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Nandiel perked up at the thought of attending a weapon's training, he'd always dreamed of having a sword of his own, foolish boy. He tried for the flame and the void again, failing a few times due to his excitement, before finally achieving it. He'd then reach out for Saidin, the Power seeming to flow out of his grasp like water through his fingers. He began to panic then remembered the flame and fed that into it along with his excitement. He reached out for Saidin once more, trying to grab it in a stranglehold and pull it towards himself. This time it worked, the Power rushed through him, and he felt alive again. He looked down at the pile of logs beside him and then at the dummies. This was going to be harder than throwing a snowball.

 

He reached out with saidin, his right hand mimicing what he wished to do with the power. He'd then hurl the log, like he had hurled the snowball. Much like Baran's first attempt, Nandiel's went sailing over the dummies head. Blaze looked up at him like he was crazy, expecting him to fetch something that big. Nandiel would just chuckle and pick up the next log. He tossed it again, this time aiming lower with his release point, realizing he had more or less lobbed the first one.

 

This time around he launched a line drive that hit one of the dummies square in the chest, knocking it over easily as he had thrown it with a great deal of force. He hadn't been the first to knock over a dummy, that had indeed been Baran, but Nandiel had managed to be the second, only a minute or two behind Baran. He smiled to himself, he was going to get to attend a weapons training class, and with a Storm Leader, what luck he had! Whether that luck was good or bad, well who knows, though Nandiel seemed to think of it as a good turn of events.

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((OOC: Apologies in advance for the length, I'm catching up to the whole thread in one post.))

 

"You run. Around the Yard thirty times. And for every round, the person who finishes last gets an extra round. The absolute last will answer to me. Understood?"

 

Gavin was the last one to arrive. Having already missed the few minutes to grab a meal, he hurried to where the other recruits were gathering in time to hear the order to run. Dropping his bundle and cloak, Gavin ran. While Gavin ran around the yard, he had plenty of opportunity to ponder. For Cassandra. I'm doing this for Cassandra. Light, I must be mad already. Wanting to learn to channel, but I don't see what else I could do.

 

Even with the late start, Gavin did not do too badly running. As a gleeman, he was used to his own feet, and could walk all day without too much issue. He and his sister had also had plenty of experience running as well, particularly after their father left. On several occasions, they had been chased away from farms and villages who mistook them for drifters. Twice they had had the dogs set upon them by farmers who thought Gavin was looking at their daughters. And on one memorable occasion, a man in Lugard had tried to force himself on Cassandra, earning him a knife in the hand from Gavin. They ran long and hard that night. Even with all of that, Gavin had not run this distance in quite some time, and his worn boots were beginning to ache his feet when he finally finished.

 

"I want you to achieve the Void and the Flame. And then, when you are ready, draw that flame towards you and fight. Fight for your lives. As you will from this point on."

 

Gavin looked askance at the other recruits, glancing from them to the the charred remains, to the Asha'man, then back. Suppressing a shudder, he set to work. Imagining the Void was not much issue. Since Cassandra's kidnapping, Gavin had been filled with a gnawing emptiness. Assuming the Void was little more than embracing that emptiness. Although he had been fighting it since she was taken, he welcomed it now as a means to an end.

 

The Flame proved to be more problematic however. With his emotions and thoughts swirling on the surface of the Void, he was having trouble feeding them into anything. He imagined a candle flame, and it guttered out after a few moments. He tried a bonfire, and it was doused under the weight of his emotions. Through the Void, two things kept swimming to the surface. Cassandra's face dominated his thoughts. His lost sister. His partner. His twin. The other half of his soul. Fast on the heels of Cassandra's face was the sight of the man who had been responsible for her going missing. One of the men at any rate. Unbidden, the sight of the body with Cassandra's knife jutting from his chest kept rising in Gavin's mind.

 

Gavin could not banish those thoughts from his head. But as he kept pushing them aside in the Void, he kept coming back to the dead man in his mind. Gradually, he began to think about what he was going to do to those who took his sister. His mind began running through all of the things he would do to them. Without knowing what any of the other look like, he subjected his mental tortures on the dead man.

 

By this time, Gavin had long since lost the Void, but he couldn't let go. He kept imagining all kinds of horrific deaths and tortures inflicted on the dead man. In the back of his mind, Gavin remembered that to seize saidin, he had to imagine a flame. Unbidden, the image of the dead man in his head burst into flames. Gavin grimaced, but it slowly resolved into a grin as the Void snapped into place around the burning man. He poured all of his hatred, fear, anxiety, remorse, everything, into that flame until he was filled with an emptiness. With thoughts and sensation floating around on the edge of that emptiness, the Void was clear. While very similar to the despondent emptiness that had plagued him these last months, it was subtly different.

 

For one, there was a burning man in the middle of the Void. For another, it wasn't the emptiness of something lost, but it felt like something was about to be gained. It was then that he felt it. Something lurking just on the other side of the burning man. Gavin tried looking around the flame in his head, and saw nothing. If anything, the feeling of something just out of reach moved so that it always stood opposite. Nothing to do but go forward, Gavin reached. . .

 

And grabbed hold of something. He couldn't quite tell what it was. Was this saidin? He didn't have time to ponder as it immediately began fighting his grip. Gavin wrestled with the thing in his head, and it fought back. And dirty. Gavin felt his bones light on fire, then melt. But at the same time they were freezing and shattering into fragments. He was being dragged through a fire while swimming through salt water. He fought on, though it was mentally exhausting. Once, he thought about giving up, but instinctively knew that down that road lay death or worse.

 

As he fought, the fight receded into the back of his mind. He dared not give up, and it certainly didn't get any easier, but it just seemed to be muted. Gavin opened his eyes, and saw that everything that happened in his mind had only taken a few handfuls of moments. He also saw, everything. He could see his breath misting in front of his face. He could see each individual droplet of water in that mist. He could feel the cold, and he could feel every single grain of earth under his worn boots. Looking at the other recruits, he could tell which ones had been successful for they must have the same look of abject awe that he knew his own face held.

 

"Today your task will be simple. You will continue to practice seizing Saidin. But before that I want you to take 3 logs from this pile and place it in front of you." He moved 3 of them to the left of him with flows of Air. "And I want you to do this." With deft flows of air, he moved the logs one by one to the right of him. "Without using your hands." He smiled. "The last three to complete this task will do ten rounds around the Yard again."

 

Gavin could almost make out what Skechid had done, but could not fathom how. Staring at the logs, Gavin willed them to move. But nothing happened. He tried harder, but still nothing happened. After several minutes, he resolved that willpower alone would not move logs. He looked around, and saw some of the other recruits meeting with limited success in levitating the logs. All at once, Gavin realized what had to be done.

 

He had been going about it all wrong. It was not a matter of moving the logs directly. The Asha'man had spoken of the elements, and Gavin realized that the logs didn't move of their own accord, but had to be moved by another force. Gavin still didn't quite know how he did it, but he clumsily wove Air and picked up one of the logs.

 

It took several tries, and he dropped the log several times, but he finally deposited the first log in front of where he sat. The second log he moved in only two tries, and the last one didn't fall at all. Gavin was congratulating himself on a job well-done, until Skechid spoke up again.

 

"Your next task will be fun. And slightly less painful." He lifted a log with Air and swung it. All eyes watched as it flew and hit one of the dummies on the face and watched it fall. "That is your lesson. Using only Air, throw the logs, hit a dummy and make it fall down. The last two dummies to fall will do runs. Ten laps. The first three to fall, will get to attend a weapon's training with me."

 

Gavin groaned inwardly. He had had enough trouble just moving the logs, how was he supposed to throw them? That far?

 

His first several attempts met with dismal failure. He could pick up and move the logs with little trouble now, but throwing them was a different matter. Half the time, they plopped down in front of him, only traveling a few feet. The other half, they flew much beyond the dummies, not coming anywhere near hitting anything other than the ground. After almost hitting himself in the head when he dropped a log, Gavin readjusted himself to cover his mistake. By rote, he checked his knives -- no self-respecting gleeman ever went without at least one set of knives -- and came up with a plan. Throwing a log is little different from throwing a knife. In fact, once you knew the balance of an object, you could throw anything.

 

Picking up another log with the Power, Gavin tested the weight to find the balance point. The log wobbled back and forth a bit as he found the balance, then hurled it with Air. This time, the log flew out to the dummy and crashed to the ground several paces short. Well, that's better than hitting myself with it. Maybe if I try it like this. The next one landed closer, though it went passed and crashed down just on the other side of the dummy. Better. This time I'll adjust this, and. . . This log hit the dummy in the legs, but failed to knock it over. Aha! Now, with just a bit more force. . . That log hit the dummy square in the chest and knocked it over.

 

Gavin looked around and saw other recruits meeting with success. Having spaced out trying to hit the dummies, Gavin was surprised to find he was sweating despite the cold. He also felt relief however, knowing that he was not the last. Inwardly, he wondered whether he was one of the first three. He doubted it. He had no desire to learn a sword, but he hoped he would get a chance to practice with his knives.

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Pretending--although he didn't have to pretend too much--to have more trouble with saidin than he actually had, Ful waited for the first three to finish before he got started. There was no way he'd actually want to be in a weapons' training class with this man if chucking logs at dummies was his idea of a fun task. He observed that Nandiel had been one of the three to finish first, but didn't have too much time to reflect on this new development since the clock was ticking and Ful wanted to make sure he wasn't among the last three to finish this task.

 

In truth Ful was having a great deal of trouble manipulating the flows of air. Separating them then wrapping them around the log was difficult enough without having to judge for accuracy as well. Plus it felt weird throwing with a log as though he had an unseen arm that was both powerful and long. Ful much rather preferred being able to pick things up with his own strength even if his real arms would not be able to lift one of those logs.

 

Still.

 

After a few fumbles, he was successful in hurling his log at the dummy which burst upon impact. Wincing as the log thumped back onto the ground, Ful couldn't wait until the lesson was over. Air bending was tiring.

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Baran sighed, though he wasn't sure if it was in disappointment or relief. He had been the first, which meant he was in for a weapons lesson. It wasn't something he was looking forward to, but it would be good to get the thing out of the way. After all, every Soldier was expected to know at least the basics of handling a sword before he could be promoted, and being promoted was something that Baran wanted to do as soon as possible. The sooner he was out of training, the sooner he would be able to go out and make a name for himself.

 

So he stepped back and watched the rest of the Soldiers hurl their logs at the training dummies. One of the recruits was biting his tongue in concentration. At the sight of him, Baran hoped he didn't look as ridiculous while he was concentrating. He made a mental note to look in a mirror the next time he was working with the Power. It wouldn't do to give the impression of a fool if people were going to see him as an example of all channeling men.

 

He nodded slightly as he saw Nandiel hit the target next. He had expected as much from him. The boy was at least as driven as he was to do well here. The third surprised him, though. One of the late arrivals, it looked like. He hadn't seen enough of him to form an opinion of his skills, but he had at least been an experience runner during the laps, unlike Baran himself.

 

A fourth dummy went down, but Baran was no longer paying attention. The Storm Leader had said the first three, and the first three had already knocked down their dummies. Hopefully this would be the beginning of a trend of extra training. He would be an Asha'man, and he would do it before he was too mad to make a difference.

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The class ended as quickly as it had started. High noon announced lunch time, which suited Skechid just fine. He had no patience for teaching, but it was a good way to gauge who he could trust. There were obvious potentials amongst the group, but he did not hold his hopes high. Too often, that resulted in disappointments, and disappointments were aplenty.

 

"Class dismissed, gentlemen." Skechid announced to the exhausted bunch. "There is much room for improvement. But for today that will suffice. I suggest you continue to work with Saidin. And practice grasping it till it becomes second nature. And from there, learn to be a weapon to defend this world against the Dark forces." Skechid named off the people who had succeeded in joining his Weapons training and told them to be in the Yard the following morning. That incited more groans. But it would not come without its rewards. "Our lessons are our way of becoming stronger. Do not be complacent. Be vigilant at every second. There are currents that will pull you down if you even stop paddling for a second."

 

Skechid nodded curtly and walked away.

 

(OOC: Class done, and I left it open as to who gets the weapon's training. Which will start soon. So post your last post stating you managed to get into the class and your reactions so I know who wants the class. THANKS!))

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Baran sighed again, this time he was sure it was in relief. The class would be in the morning! At least he would be able to get a full night's sleep before he spent hours practicing with a blade. A casual glance down at his hands made him wonder if maybe he would even be able to handle a sword correctly. His gnarled digits were good enough to swing a pick, but working with a blade? Some of the sword forms he had seen the more experienced Asha'man practicing looked fairly complex, like they would require a decent amount of dexterity. He slowly flexed his fingers and looked around, wondering if anyone had seen him look at his hands. It wouldn't be wise to show weakness, especially not here, in the Black Tower of all places. He had to be strong.

 

He watched the Storm Leader walk away, leaving the Soldiers alone. Baran turned back around and surveyed the remaining dummies and the Soldiers that were already starting to meander out of the practice yard. So they were going to leave everything the way it was? Seeing the pieces of wood strewn across the yard gave him an idea, though. He was tired from the strain of holding Saidin now. If wielding the One Power was anything like building muscle, now would be an excellent time to push himself to do more with the Power. He walked out into the middle of the field and sat down in the snow, struggling again to Seize Saidin. It took him a little time, but he had hold of it soon enough. The Power still amazed him. Sweeter than honey while somehow managing to be as foul as something at the bottom of a midden heap.

 

He began pulling forgotten pieces of wood to himself, making a small stack next to him. A little effort soon saw the stack burning in a dozen different places. As he settled into the warmth of the growing fire, Baran began to set the fallen dummies back up, watching in amazement as the flows of air seemed to flow around him, yet guided by his hands, which rose and fell in accordance to what he was doing. The fire in his veins threatened to burn him to ash, but Baran gritted his teeth and kept going.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Gavin could not get over the feeling of saidin burning a frozen bath through his veins. After Skechid dismissed the class, Gavin gladly, and reluctantly, let go of the Power. Carefully though, for a moment of inattention would be his doom.

 

That feeling. No wonder so many men have flocked here. Despite the stories and warnings. Nobody could possibly know how alive that it makes you feel until you've done it, and there's no describing it, but Light the feeling!

 

Gavin spat. There's no getting over that though. Ugh. I can eat ice peppers for breakfast, but I can barely stomach that. But still, it will all be worth it in the end. I hope.

 

Abruptly, Gavin was overwhelmed by exhaustion. Unprepared for the physical exertion of wielding the Power, coupled with having run a long ways around the Tower grounds, added to not having eaten since breakfast, it was enough to overcome any man. Collapsing to the ground, Gavin attempted to seize the Source again, but failed due to his exhaustion. After several more tries, he gave up, and simply lay there, reflecting on his life. The joys of holding saidin for the first time. The wretched disgust at feeling the taint touch him, though that was no match for the Power flowing through his veins. And vengeance. Or justice, though both were the same in his mind.

 

Gavin had been one of the first to fell his dummy, so he would be attending weapons class in the morning. He did not relish it. His deft gleeman's hands, callused though they were by his trade, were not meant for a sword. Short sword or dagger, maybe. Knives, definitely. But not swords. Maybe he would be able to learn enough to avoid killing himself with it.

 

Slowly, Gavin gathered his strength enough to haul himself unsteadily back to his feet. After inquiring with a few people in Tower blacks, he was directed towards his bed in the Soldier dorms. It wasn't home, though he would be living here for the foreseeable future as he kicked and clawed and fought his way up the ranks of the Black Tower. He collapsed on the bed and almost immediately drifted off to sleep despite the hour.

Edited by Clepto
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