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From Tear with love.

Corey LeMoine

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Agardo Renar had come to realize a number of things during his long mad flight from Tear.


He had learned that he was not as good a man as he once had thought himself. He'd found that out when he stole a pure blood Tairen stallion, and again when he'd sold it for barely enough coin to feed himself for a few more days. He'd learned it any number of nights that he'd rummaged through refuse piles or snatched food from market stalls.


He'd learned that the world was so much wider than he'd ever known or thought to know. The first mad stage of his flight, from Lord Belcelona's ranch to Far Madding, had been by far the longest journey of his life. That city had blown his mind, both with it's size, and the crazy customs of it's people. Then there were the long mind numbing stretches of empty road with not a soul to be seen for days at a stretch.


He'd learned that no matter how good you are with your fists, it doesn't matter when someone pulls a knife on you. The less he thought about that the better.


Perhaps most importantly he'd learned that he could follow a course of action with a single minded will. All of the hell that he'd been through, all of the humiliation and injury had been unable to turn him aside. One thought above all others, one destination had called him onward.


Tar Valon


Agardo pulled his scrap of cloak around himself as a frigged wind cut across the south harbor. Tar Valon stretched out before him, only a single impossible bridge separating him and the city that held Enola. The air was amazingly clear this mid-morning, and the enormous humbling height of the White Tower stood above everything. Standing there with his mouth agape, Agardo almost thought that the tower was a construction of his starved and frozen brain.


“Hey, I asked your business son,” The guard at the base of the bridge looked bored and faintly disdainful. Agardo was used to it. “there's no begging on the streets of Tar Valon, the sisters won't put up with it.”


Agardo shook his head, unsurprised to mistaken for a beggar. He'd done some begging on his journey northward. “No sir, I need to go to the Tower.” It was an effort to stop his teeth chattering long enough to speak clearly.


The guard nodded, obviously deciding that Agardo was no threat, and Agardo made his way into the grand city. It was beautiful beyond what he thought human hands capable of, or was it Ogier, he couldn't remember. By the time mid day had come, Agardo was forced to admit the absurd, he was lost. Lost when the only place he wanted to go was visible from every point on the island. He couldn’t help but to stop and laugh in the middle of the street, by now oblivious to the strange looks that he drew.


Eventually nearing dusk, he made his way to the foot of the Tower grounds where he was stopped by yet another guard who looked at him disdainfully. Agardo stepped boldly forward and cut the guard off before he could ask.


“I'm here to become a Warder.”


The guard took in the sight of him, and Agardo admitted to himself that he wasn't much to look at. Middling of height and dark skinned like most Tairens, he had lost a good deal of weight from what had once been a rather stocky frame. His beard was shaggy and unkempt and his hair had grown long. His clothing was torn in many places, and his boots had worn out at the seems.


“Go home and sober up friend, sleep it off.”


“No!” Agardo nearly shouted. “I've rode walked swam and ran leagues and leagues across this whole light forsaken land. I've been beaten and kicked and stabbed and robbed and none of that stopped me. My sister is in that tower and by the Light and my hope of Salvation and Rebirth, I will become a Warder.”


The guard looked hesitantly over at his partner “Maybe you should go get someone else to handle this.”


“Yeah...maybe” The second fellow turned an trotted deeper into the Tower grounds.


Agardo pulled the cloak tighter and shivered.

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Visar was visiting an old friend still in the Tower Guard at the gatehouse where he kept his shift. They had been talking for a few minutes now, Visar admitting with some nostalgia that he had liked the simplicity of being in the Guard. However, his friend kept reminding him that most of the time, it had been rather boring, and they laughed at talked about some fun times they had had in taverns and on particularly interesting watches. It was good to catch up with an old friend, Visar thought. Doing various things for Rasheta and for Thera Gaidin had left him little time for socializing with friends, and he found that with just enough time to unwind it made the busier moments all the more bearable.


A guard ran in suddenly, saying there was a suspicious looking beggar at the gates, demanding to be let in as a Warder. Visar raised his eyebrow and he and his friend shared a look. Visar gestured his friend that he didn't need to go anywhere.


"I'll handle this, I'll let you catch up with your shift work. I'll have a pint with you this weekend if our schedules allow it, deal?"


Parting with his friend, Visar followed the guard to the entrance, where he found a shivering young man huddling in clothes that were so worn down they were practically rags. The sun was going down; it would be dark soon, but there was still enough light to see what was going on. Visar took a closer look at the lad before he said anything.


His initial assessment was that the lad was not much of a threat, other than looking hungry and cold. The young man was Tairen, looking somewhat similar to Visar's height and build if with darker skin, but he was a little taller and just a little lighter. He looked very thin, like he hadn't eaten well for weeks, and he carried a knife at his belt but no other visible weapons to be a threat(ooc: that work?). And his discomfort in the cold, which Visar had already gotten used to for this autumn evening, was plain to see; he was shivering loudly. Granted, having a well-tailored woolen coat and cloak that wasn't about to fall off helped.


Visar frowned, seeing something familiar in this man. Other than the fact that he was a fellow Tairen, the man had a desperate yet determined look in his eye. Visar saw something of himself in that face, a similar desperate man seeking shelter from Tear.


"What can I do for you, young man? Tell me your name and your business here." Visar said authoritatively, yet his voice was warm even though his breath fogged in the growing twilight. The lad told him that his name was Agardo, and that his sister had joined the White Tower to become an Aes Sedai. The young man insisted that he be allowed to become a Warder. Visar frowned. He had never known any Warder chosen by an Aes Sedai to be their brother. It was generally looked down upon. But the lad wanted this so badly, Visar could see it in his eyes. Still, Visar thought he would give the man a realistic idea of what he was about to get into before he allowed him in.


"It isn't easy to become a Warder. Many recruits are deemed unworthy of becoming a Tower Guard, and only the best of Guardsmen, only the most talented, dedicated warriors, are selected by Aes Sedai to become warders. And it isn't any easier if you manage to become one. I should know. Our road is a hard one, with many dangers. It takes years of exhausting, dedicated training to master the arts you will need to be a good warder. You would start as an unpaid trainee, but you would have a place to sleep, food to eat, and equipment to loan, courtesy of the Tower. Does that life really appeal to you so much?"


Visar waited for Agardo's answer before he made his decision to let the man in or not. If the man had done half of the things that Visar did in order to escape Tear, he might have a criminal background, which would be a delicate matter to take care of as well. Visar had been lucky to be allowed in to train, but once he had admitted his crimes to the Tower authorities, he had paid for it with service that he had the rest of his life to pay back, he felt. However, he understood that young men made mistakes out of desperation. If the young man was honest with him, then it would go easier for him overall.

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The man standing in front of Agardo wore it as comfortably as he wore his fine woolen clothing. He stood straight backed, and held himself in a way that was lordly. No, not lordly, Agardo thought, Lord Belcelona never looked like that. There was something else about him too, something about the way the gate guards looked slightly nervous, like a horse who smelled cougars about. There was a sense of pressure about the man, of violent action ready to explode. Though he simply stood there looking Agardo over, the stranger seemed ready to pounce. The sword at his side, to the mind of a Tairen peasant, added to the sense of lordship.


"What can I do for you, young man? Tell me your name and your business here."


When he asked, Agardo felt the need to obey this man and found himself relating much of his sorry tale. It actually felt good to speak the words and relay the things that had been eating away at his insides. He listened to the stranger's lecture, and finally made the connection that he must be a Warder. There was a gravity to his words, and they sat heavily upon Agardo. He had never let himself think to hard about the consequences of his actions for fear that he would lose resolve, and only now with this hard man in front of him did he begin to doubt himself.


"My Lord, I cant promise you that I'll be good enough for what I want, or for what you need. But I can promise you that no one will work harder to try. I'll keep going until it breaks me right in two, whether that means that I become a Warder, or that I just learn to protect myself and my sister in a way that I couldn't when she needed me..."


He didn't have the words to get out the emotions that he felt. The combination of determination and dread, of pride in how far he'd gotten and shame at how he'd done it. He was short on book learning no doubt, and the Warder made him nervous on top of that.


"You can trust me My Lord to be the best that I've got in me."


He hoped that would be enough.

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The young man gave his story nervously, obviously intimidated by Visar, but he could almost certainly tell that Agardo was being honest.


"My Lord, I cant promise you that I'll be good enough for what I want, or for what you need. But I can promise you that no one will work harder to try. I'll keep going until it breaks me right in two, whether that means that I become a Warder, or that I just learn to protect myself and my sister in a way that I couldn't when she needed me..."


Visar almost cringed at the young man addressing him as a lord, but continued to listen. Trying his hardest was the best that Agardo could hope for.


"You can trust me My Lord to be the best that I've got in me." Visar nodded at that. He believed the boy, and had already made his decision.


"Well then we'd best get you situated," Visar said, and nodded to the two guards that Agardo should be let in. "Carry on, guardsmen. Agardo, come with me." Visar offered, and then strode off to the mess hall.


As they walked, Visar thought that he should make something clear to Agardo.

"Firstly, I am not a lord. You can address me as Visar Gaidin, as I am a warder to Rasheta Ardashir Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. However prestigious my service to the Tower may sound, I am from as humble origins as you are. My birth father was a lowly, poor grain merchant from Tear. It is dedication and hard work, not privileges of birth or blood, which determine your chances in becoming a Warder. Remember that, Agardo, for it will serve you well against some of the more arrogant attitudes here. You look hungry and tired," Visar observed. "Would you like something to eat first? Or would you like to find a room to stay in for the night? The trainee barracks is crowded these days, but I'm sure we'll be able to make room for you."


They took a sharp turn and were soon within reach of possible destinations: the low, gray stone building that was the barracks was just ahead, and not far from it was the mess hall where trainees and guardsmen often ate. Even Visar ate there from time to time. It was free and food was food; no need to be picky about it. He could smell the strong aroma of baked bread even from here, and likely Agardo did too. Visar breathed in and noticed Agardo's smell nearby, likely from his unwashed clothes and body.


"And the bathhouse and launderer are close by, too," Visar added as a not so subtle suggestion.

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Agardo agreed to meet Visar Gaidin at the mess hall after cleaning up and went off in search of the bath house. He hadn't had a real bath since Caemlyn when the amazingly beautiful Nena had made off with his coin pouch. Well at least this time he didn't have anything worth stealing to leave behind while he bathed.


The hot water and sharp clean scent of the rough soap both acted to clear his head, he felt rather like he'd been walking through a fog for the last few weeks. He'd been turning ever inward, living in his own thoughts more than in the world around him. He found a razor and set about the careful work of removing months of ragged growth, his father wore a mighty beard but Agardo doubted that he himself could even pull off one of those silly pointed affairs that the noblemen seemed to favor. He'd need a haircut later as well, both of the gate guards had worn theirs short and he wanted to fit in.


He hated the thought of climbing back into his grimy clothes but when he got out of the bath he found a simple set of utilitarian clothing had been left in their place. Dark brown trousers, a long sleeved linen shirt, and a plain woolen coat with the flame of Tar Valon on the breast. Once dressed, he felt like a new man, even the cut and fit were different in subtle ways from what he was used to back home such as the thickness of the coat.


He wandered out into the fading light, marveling at the lack of holes in his boots, and tried to remember the directions that Visar Gaidin had given him. Eventually the smell of bread and the sound of murmuring voices drew him to the right direction. He nodding greetings to those who looked up and said hellos, and eventually found the older man sitting at a long table.


"Visar Gaidin, I want to thank you for taking the chance on me. Someday you'll have to tell me how you ended leaving Tear for the tower." He took a plate of the simple and yet exotic to him food and tore into it ravenously. "I bet your tell has a lot more adventure to it."

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Visar met with Thera in her quarters, making sure Agardo would be sighed up on the list of trainees, and also talking about the Council of Blademasters that he was about to attempt. She had been through it and told Visar that she would help prepare him for it. He still didn't think he was quite ready, but he endeavored to listen to what she had to say in case it helped. That would begin soon, he knew. Only a few more weeks until the last two blademasters arrived in town. Chances for a Council of Five meeting more than once were indeed rare, and Visar was not likely to get another opportunity.


That business done with, Visar went to the mess hall and got a simple cup of tea. He was not very hungry as he had already eaten supper a couple of hours ago. It was strange not always getting as hungry anymore. While Visar still enjoyed food, he did not crave it nearly as often. He ate well when he could to keep up his good shape, but other than that if he missed a meal or two he tended not to feel bad. It was yet another thing the Warder Bond did. Visar wondered if it made him soft, becoming used to not having to sleep very long or eat as much. Probably not, he thought. Plus it could be quite enjoyable sometimes to push it to the limit without really caring what happened, and with the Bond this was safer, if that was possible, to do so.


He was sipping his tea, lost in thought, when the new trainee came up to him to thank him. Visar smiled and nodded, accepting the thanks that he didn't really deserve. He frowned slightly when the trainee asked him about his story, but after a moment's hesitation decided now was as good a time as any. That was his old life, the life he had ended long ago, and it was no hurt to him to tell others about it anymore.


"Well if you have a minute I'll tell it to you now, as short and simple as I can." Visar started. "My birth name was Vizrid Belar. I was a city boy of the Maule, through and through, and it shames me to say that I did not aspire to my father's more generous outlook on life. I was greedy, cocky, and selfish, and did some foolish things growing up. Cheated men out of money; stole things. I had to serve in the Fingers of the Dragon for a few years of my adolescent life. That was not in the least bit enjoyable, but it at least made me strong, and taught me to be careful of being caught." Visar frowned into his tea at his story. It was beginning to sound like something his father or grandfather, if he had lived to see Visar born, tell him to keep him out of trouble as a child. Was he really getting old enough to start telling those? He continued anyway, taking a sip to wet his throat.


"But I was eighteen, or was it nineteen? I was at my bad habits again, and cheated a man wearing a sword out of money. He called me out on it, and chased me into the streets. He cornered me into a dark alley, wanting his money back, and he reached for his sword. I panicked and stabbed him, leaving him to die in the streets. I knew I had to run then. I thought he was some nobleman, and no one would believe a commoner was acting in self defense; they would have hanged me with no trial if they caught me. So I stole his sword, and my father and brother helped me sneak aboard a ship bound upriver for Tar Valon. I had to leave my old name behind. So I chose a new one, and left that life behind, too. Visar Falmaien, which is poor old tongue for "Freedom's Bright Flame". It's as good a name as any, I think."


"That's how I ended up at the Tower: a fugitive seeking asylum with a stolen sword in hand. No adventure or glory, really. Just a dumb boy running away from a crime I shouldn't have committed. And my past crime came to haunt me, and still does sometimes. That man with the sword? His name was Joruil Laedrig: he was the best friend of a nobleman who sought me out for vengeance, a Kivyl Pelory. Challenged me to a duel, which I somehow won back when I was a Tower Guardsman. Wound he gave me still has a scar, though, to remind me of my stupidity. But there is always room in life for starting over. When I saw you at the steps earlier, you reminded me of how I must have looked back then, shivering in this flaming cold northern weather, desperate to leave the past behind me. Burn me, but I've lived here for years and still think it's bloody cold!" Visar laughed. "I hope I'm not boring you with my story, though. I'm not even that old and here I am prattling on like some grandfather at the fire. Tell me something of your story then if you wish. Or you can finish your meal, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to." Visar said, finishing his mug of tea and deciding he needed another.


"I'll be right back" he said, and refilled his cup.

Edited by Visar Falmaien
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Agardo nodded thoughtfully to Visar's tale. It was similar to his own all right, if anything this man had gone through an even darker time than he had. His early life had been very happy after all. He was suited to life on the ranch, he understood life there. He would have to work very hard to wrap his brain around things here at the tower.


"I think I'd like to forget a lot of my tale Gaidin if you don't mind." There were more than a few people in the mess hall, and well Agardo was still rather ashamed of the things he had done to get here.


Seeking to emulate the Warder, Agardo got himself a cup of tea as well. It was not something that he'd really had very often as his family couldn't afford such things. It was bitter on his tongue, and had a deeper darker flavor behind the initial sharpness. It was also very hot and that was good. It's almost strange not to be cold all the time now.


"I know it's late sir, but I want to make sure that I'm as ready as possible to get to work tomorrow. Are there any tools that I should pick up? I mean..I guess I'm still thinking like a ranch hand." He wanted to get started here at the tower as soon as possible, the desire to push on hadn't left him it seemed. At the same time he did not want to become a hassle to Visar who probably had all sorts of strange missions to do for the Aes Sedai.

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"I think I'd like to forget a lot of my tale Gaidin if you don't mind." Visar nodded, knowing exactly how that felt.


"I understand. For a long time I was not comfortable telling my story; in fact, I even hid much of the truth when I first came here, afraid of judgement as harsh as Tear's. But the Aes Sedai and those they place in authority are usually more than fair as long as you're honest. Even when I felt like I had finally moved on, I did not want to remember. It takes a long time to feel truly at peace with things in your past, and some deal with it in different ways."


"I know it's late sir, but I want to make sure that I'm as ready as possible to get to work tomorrow. Are there any tools that I should pick up? I mean..I guess I'm still thinking like a ranch hand." Visar chuckled, but explained to Agardo that he did not misspeak.


"We warriors have our own tools, just as a ranch hand would, and you care for them and occasionally break them just the same. Our tools just tend to be somewhat more expensive. You should stop by the armory when it is best convenient, though I recommend getting some rest for now, as the armory is most probably locked at this time of night. Trainees are lent equipment; I believe you're allowed to choose three weapons that you would like to start training with. But do it when you have time; your first day will be rough, I assure you."

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