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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Martial Weaponry 201


Arath Faringal
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The frigid, early morning wind blew around the solitary figure on the Black Tower training grounds. For once, Arath did not ignore the cold, instead relishing in the feelings. He did not do that often enough. Feeling. Heat, cold, or emotion, he found himself putting them all aside. Not feeling seemed to make it easier to get by without dwelling on difficult issues. And so he stood in the biting cold wind, enjoying the feeling and thinking. The last few years had been interesting. Unexpected, and even boring at times, but interesting nonetheless. As the sun crept over the trees, Arath siezed Saidin. It still amazed him sometimes. How alive the storm of ice and fire made him feel, yet how close to death the taint felt. He would never be able to forget the filth of the Dark Ones touch, even if it were to miraculously disappear. How long would it be before it took him?

 

As the rest of the farm began to stir, Arath allowed his distrurbed thoughts to slide off the void, and once again began to ignore the natural elements. He needed to be calm and focused for the task at hand. He was returning to his old role as an instructor, and could not afford the distractions of emotion. The Dedicated in today's lessons had been progressing well, but some of them had been spurning their lessons in the sword. He would rectify that mistake. Harshly if need be.

 

He wasn't sure how long he stood waiting before the first of his students arrived. There were a full dozen of them today, but he waited only for the first three before he began. Siezing the Source, Arath wove Spirit and cut each Dedicated from the source with a thick shield. Tying the shields tightly in place, he gave them their first simple instructions. "Today, you learn battle plan B. What to do when you can't channel. Go to the weapons shed at the north end of the training grounds and grab your weapon of choice. Move!"

 

As each new man arrived, Arath repeated the procedure, shielding them and sending them off for their weapons. When the last of them had finally arrived and gone off in search of a weapon, Arath channeled his own blades into being. Kneeling down, Arath placed each hand on the ground and channeled Earth, Air, and Fire. Moments later, he wielded a pair of solid earthen blades, each glowing a with a strange red hue. Less fire than he usually would have used since he didn't want to actually harm the Dedicated, but he had found this glow to be rather intimidating. Especially when they had never seen anything quite like it before.

 

Grounding the tips of his blades in front of him, Arath waited for the Dedicated to return. Light willing, this class would go well.

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Baran shivered against the early morning breeze and tried to shrug deeper into his coat. The weather had made him glad that he had chosen a stout wool uniform instead of the silks he had seen some of the Asha'man wear. Whatever trick they had learned that let them ignore the elements couldn't be worth walking around in a material that seemed better suited to sleepwear than anything else. He closed the door to his barracks behind him, casting an almost wistful glance back at the building as he started to walk to the Training Yards. The other Dedicated the building housed were all still asleep. And warm.

 

He snorted, his breath turning to steam as soon as it left his nose. His thoughts seemed dangerously close to whining. He had been raised better than that. He forced himself to unclench, despite the shivers that wracked his body. Baran could hear his father in the back of his mind. "If you're cold, work harder!" The memory made him grin, and he started to jog towards the Training Yard.

 

Baran was warmer when he reaches his destination, the breath coming out of his mouth in long, slow breaths. His earlier training in the Black Tower had helped him increase his endurance on foot. So much so that he looked to be the first one to the Training Yard. It wasn't a race, of course, but that didn't stop a warm feeling of victory from welling up in him. Ahead, he saw the instructor, a man named Arath Faringal. He had heard about the instructor, had heard that he had done great things in the service of the Dragon Reborn, even going so far as killing one of the Forsaken. The Forsaken! It wasn't the first time Baran had felt nervous during his time at the Black Tower, but it was certainly the first time he felt nervous for a reason other than facing down an Asha'man. Now he had to face down an Asha'man that had survived Dumai's Wells.

 

He stopped in front of Arath and saluted. "Dedicated Baran Dholwin, reporting as ordered, Tsorovan'm'hael." The title was unfamiliar on his tongue. Baran hardly knew a word of the Old Tongue, but he had made sure to learn the correct terms of address for his superiors. He had hoped the effort would impress the higher ups and help him advance more quickly. It hadn't so far.

 

Two other Dedicated arrived soon after him. He had heard more were supposed to participate in the lesson, so he was surprised when Arath decided to start the lesson early. He was a little surprised when the other man Seized Saidin, this was a weapons class, after all. His surprise quickly flashed to panic as he tried to emulate the Asha'man. He was Shielded! He couldn't keep himself for battering at the Shield in the first few seconds, but quickly reigned himself in. The Storm Leader had done it for a reason, but what was it? He had heard he had let himself be Bonded by one of those Aes Sedai. Was he going to force it on them? Then Arath gave them their orders. Baran almost sighed in relief.

 

He jogged over to the shed and chose his weapon, a sword. It was the natural choice for him. He had been practicing the forms, most of which were fairly useless with a different weapon. He had tried with a mining pick, and it hadn't worked out very well. The Healers had laughed at him when he told them how he ended up with a hole in his thigh. He hefted the weapon and swung it a few times to get a feel for it. Unfolding the Fan swept up into Lion on the Hill, which left the weapon up in a ready position near his shoulder. Baran allowed the blade to fall again with a nod. It wasn't a bad weapon. He took a few more swings and jogged back to where Arath was waiting for them.

 

He stopped when he saw what Arath had done while waiting. Those blades had to have been made with the Power. He tilted his head, studying them. Definitely Fire and Earth, but what else had he woven into the things? What did he plan on doing with them? Besides beating the Dedicated to a pulp, of course. He grimaced, remembering the "training" he had endured in Skechid's class. After what he had heard, Baran didn't think Arath would be any easier on them.

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The ever present wind howled through the grounds of the Black Tower. The black wool of his coat swirled around his legs. Lir stood straight backed and proud, his hands clasped at the small of his back. His shoulder length golden hair was held back by a steel circlet on his brow. His calf high boots were polished, and his black trousers pressed and sharp. The silver sword at his throat shown with high polish. In countenance and bearing he was every inch the proud, even arrogant Asha'man that the world was beginning to expect. That he held himself so even when alone, as now, was perhaps a mark that he took himself too seriously. He was honest enough with himself to recognize the flaw. He was adamant in the thought that the Asha'man would be leaders in the coming war, and he was determined to look the part. He stood outside of the dedicated dormitories. When he saw Baran go jogging by, he made his way out to the training grounds.

 

It was odd to be on the same level as Baran, the man who had introduced him to channeling in the first place. Lir had talked to many dedicated and Asha'man, and they all confirmed what he himself was experiencing. Growth in Power came in fits and starts, several weeks ago his ability had surged and he had been raised to the sword pin. Dolwhin was an ambitious man, and a dangerous one. Rumors said that he had murdered one of his close comrades just before his own raising, though Lir had discovered that the official verdict was self defense. Lir would never forget that the man had shown him compassion even through the rage he had felt at the time.

 

He strode across the grounds confidently, in Cat Crosses the Courtyard, balanced and with a hand on his sword's hilt. He was still only just proficient with the blade, but his weeks of harsh physical training here at the Tower were visible in his young and athletic body. He maintained the void, and let both anxiety and excitement wash over him. He arrived a few minutes after Baran, and was surprised to see a Storm Leader, and one so politically powerful leading the class. Asha'man Faringal was deeply involved in the Black Tower's maneuvering with the White Tower. It was a subject that Lir was intensely interested in. He was convinced that the conventional armies of the world were going to be insufficient to the needs of Tarmon Gaidon, and that both Saidin and Saidar would be needed in the coming years.

 

He felt Arath seize the source, and was not overly surprised. After all, the One Power was used for nearly every task here on the grounds. He recognized the net of spirit that the older man wove, and was simply shocked at the speed and complexity of it. Before he could even try for the Source, the shield was around him and tied off. Lir probed at the knot, he knew that it was possible to work through one, they had tried on simple knots in one of his classes. He did not think he could untie this one without many hours of uninterrupted work. Fear rolled along the edge of the void. How long had this man been collecting the taint? What could any group of dedicated do to stand in the path of such a man if he snapped.

 

"Today, you learn battle plan B. What to do when you can't channel. Go to the weapons shed at the north end of the training grounds and grab your weapon of choice. Move!"

 

Lir wore his sword now, as he did at nearly all times. He slept with it next to him in bed, and when he bathed, he hung on a peg of air within reach. Increasingly, he felt uncomfortable when the weapon was not within arms reach, and the last time that he had been away from it for only a moment, he had broken out into a cold sweat. It made him nervous to think about. It was not a rational behavior he knew. Holding firmly to the void, Lir pushed such thoughts aside. He stood at attention and saluted the Storm Leader, hoping he would not get a scolding for staying when the other men went running.

 

Asha'man Faringal began to channel, and Lir leaned in to pay attention. Threads of earth, fire, and air. Lir thought he saw how they went together, reading weaves was still tough for him, but he was persistent and getting better. He thought he saw how the weave could be toyed with to give different results. He was constantly amazed at the complexity of the Power. How much had been lost over the course of three thousand years with no culture of Saidin use. It pained him to think that they had to relearn it all from scratch. It also annoyed him that so much of the teaching here was based on oral tradition, and technique passed down from man to man.

 

Keeping his face calm and impassive, Lir stood at attention silently watching as each new man made his way to the training ground and was shielded. They would begin soon enough, and he would need every ounce of energy. Out of a hard lot, Storm Leader Arath was a hard man, and they would be pushed to breaking this morning. Lir was determined to impress the man. He wanted very badly to be involved in the communion with the White Tower, and this was the first chance that Lir had ever had to interact with him. He shivered as the wind flared up again, and could not wait until they showed him the weave to ignore the cold.

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Gavin dusted himself off as he got up off the floor. How did I end up there in my sleep? I know I've been having weird dreams lately, but the floor? This is getting out of hand. He banished such thought however. Or rather, they were banished for him as he assumed the Void and seized saidin. He quickly channeled Fire into his washbowl, and winced when the ceramic cracked from being heated too quickly. Well, Fire isn't my strength. At least I can fix that. Before too much water could escape, he channeled a bit of Earth to mend the cracks.

 

After washing up, Gavin threw on his coat, doing up the buttons as he was settling his feet into his boots. Light, I never knew my life would be so ordered. So much different from what I've known. I've been here for a while, yet I still have trouble acclimating. It was true, too. Just when he thought himself accustomed to the rigid order imposed by the Black Tower, he would be called back to his days roaming the roads with his father and sister. He quickly banished thoughts of Cassandra before they could get out of hand. His temperament had been bad enough those weeks in Tear, immediately after her disappearance. And while his moods had not grown any worse themselves, the ability to lash out with the Power lent some. . .severity. . .to his mood swings. He made sure he was alone and away from anyone nearby before doing anything destructive, and he hadn't hurt anyone yet, but the loss of his sister still weighed heavily on him. Many a tree just beyond the walls of the Tower had been reduced to smoldering stumps during one of those black moods.

 

Today was his first weapons class as a Dedicated. It had been a short time since his raising, yet there were so many things that still needed to be done. He reluctantly strapped on his sword. Bloody, flaming swords. He jogged to the location of today's class, and was surprised. First, he was only the third person there. He knew from talking with some of the other Dedicated that many needed to take the weapons classes. He had assumed that there would be more. The other thing that surprised him was their teacher. He had expected Skechid, the Asha'man that oversaw their regular beatings during the Soldier weapon classes. Instead, Asha'man Arath Faringal stood before them. Gavin had heard of Arath of course, even seen him once or twice, but never met the man. He had heard stories though.

 

As Gavin arrived, he noted that the other two Dedicated present. Lir was the young man that Gavin played stones with, raised to Dedicated on the same day as Gavin himself, though Lir had arrived to the Tower days after Gavin did. Baran, the other Dedicated present, was the stoic man that Gavin had offended during a conversation involving the Power and a tree, now twisted around into a screw. Baran had been raised somewhat before Gavin, and though they had started on the same day, Gavin had been late to show up to their first class. Gavin liked both men, though he stepped lightly around the ambitious Baran. Following the death of another Soldier, rumors had been circulating about that man.

 

Gavin's surprise upon arrival at the training site quickly turned to panic, if not quite fear, when Arath shielded the three of them. Struggling against the shield, Gavin fought for the Source as hard as he could. He had been shielded before, of course, during the course of some of his training, but he had been prepared for it then. Now, his instinct told him to fight.

 

"Today, you learn battle plan B," Arath stated. "What to do when you can't channel. Go to the weapons shed at the north end of the training grounds and grab your weapon of choice. Move!"

 

Gavin ran quickly to the shed, along with Baran, though Lir seemed satisfied with his own sword. Upon arrival, Gavin was taken aback by the contents of the "shed". While small in stature, the building housed a bewildering array of weapons. Some of them were obvious. Swords of varying sizes. Daggers and knives. The latter called to him, but in the back of his mind, Gavin knew they would be almost useless in a close-in fight, particularly against Shadowspawn. He eyed a pair of long daggers for a moment, then moved on. Some of the weapons he knew would be easily wielded by foot soldiers. Maces and morningstars. A few flails. Others, he couldn't even puzzle how to use. Things with long chains. Short staves held together by chain links. Even a whip, of all things. One was more likely to hurt himself than hurt a foe with one of those.

 

Running out of choices, and about to return to the long daggers, Gavin came across a few polearms. Quickly dismissing most of them as unwieldy, something caught his eye. It was a spear, or rather, it had been a spear at one point. Or a pike. The blade was three feet long and sharpened on both edges, and it looked like someone had chopped off the haft to be about the same length as the blade. A guard had been constructed separating the two, and leather wrapped the haft from top to bottom. Hefting it in his hand, Gavin was shocked to find that it was nearly perfectly balanced.

 

Gavin stepped from the shed with his odd polearm, and saw Arath standing there with two swords made from the Power. Gavin settled his shoulders and prepared to be beaten, yet again, by someone with a sword.

 

 

((OOC Edit: think along these lines for that weapon, but with a straight blade that's double edged.))

Edited by Clepto
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It took a little longer than he would have liked, but eventually all twelve of the Dedicated had arrived, been shielded, and had retrieved their weapons. A few of them looked as though they had chosen unfamiliar weapons, perhaps thinking they would have the chance to learn something new here. Did they expect him to go as easy on them as Skechid had? They were in for a rude awakening if so. Using the Power, Arath amplified his voice a little more than necessary and issued his next orders.

 

"Everyone hold your weapon out in front of you. You will be giving your all in this class, so I need to make sure you won't kill each other." The dedicated formed a line and held their weapons out for Arath's inspection. Starting at one end, the Storm Leader slowly moved from person to person, weaving a strip of air along all the sharp edges in order to protect the blades and his students. One fool who looked as though he was holding a mace for the first time presented a little bit of a problem, but Arath simply covered the head of the weapon in a spongy weave of air that would hopefully dampen any blows he managed to land. Not that there appeared to be much danger of that the way he was holding it.

 

Once he had finished, Arath centered himself on the group again and resumed his instructions. "Pair up. You'll spar with your partner for two minutes, and I don't want you holding back at all. Your objective is to take your enemy down. I don't care what you do. Fighting dirty, cheap tricks ... whatever it takes. You go until I call time, or until one of you is down on the ground and beaten." The dedicated all quickly paired themselves off and waited for his signal. Arath obliged them with a simple weave of air which resulted in a thunderclap. At once the silver pinned warriors turned on each other with varying degrees of skill. He watched them all from the sidelines, picking out examples for the next part of his lesson.

 

OOC: Okay, you get to write a little mini-battle with your partner. Probably an NPC Dedicated, though if you really want to, 2 of you can work it out together. Make the fights go however you wish. Win, lose, full two minues, 15 seconds ... however you want. Just make it interesting.

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Baran was unsure what it was that Arath would do to the blade he had chosen. As he watched the Storm Leader moving up the line, he was glad he had not brought his own sword for this. For some reason, the idea of another man channeling at his weapon disturbed him. He discounted the strange thought and instead concentrated on the weave Arath was using, trying to memorize it so he could use it to practice in the future. It would make sparring much easier if he could cushion the blade with air instead of bringing a practice sword with him wherever he went. He had refused to practice with real blades ever since Jholan's death. No sense in having to kill another friend if he went mad, after all. This, however, would make it safer to practice with real blades, so he wouldn't have to worry about killing an ally anymore.

 

After his blade had been...cushioned, he supposed, they were told to pair off and prepare to spar. Baran almost wanted to roll his eyes. This was almost exactly like Skechid's class. He glanced over at the Asha'man for a moment, trying to understand what he would do next. If he was anything like Skechid, he would have them all attack him after the sparring, which meant the whole purpose was to tire the students out before the melee. Well, not this time.

 

The other Dedicated blanched as Baran pointed at him. The man had chosen a mace, and was obviously unfamiliar with the weapon. He would be easily beaten, which meant Baran would have more energy in case Arath decided to offer yet another beating to the group of Dedicated. Not that they hadn't received enough of those in weapons classes. He brought his weapon up as he faced the other Dedicated, who was looking more nervous now than he had minutes earlier. He didn't understand why people had been acting so strangely around him recently. He certainly hadn't told anyone about Jholan's death, yet they all acted like he was going to murder them at any moment. He certainly wasn't a madman, yet people seemed to treat him like he was already halfway there.

 

A thunderclap sounded the beginning of sparring, and Baran's opponent wasted no time. He stepped forward and swung his mace in a horizontal arc, obviously intending to take Baran's right arm out of the fight immediately. Baran danced back, surprised. He had expected the other man to wait for him to attack. It made sense, though, attacking first. Baran was familiar with his weapon, the other Dedicated wasn't. Better to strike first to try to eliminate Baran's advantage than wait for an attack by a better prepared opponent.

 

The man's swing went wide, and he stumbled to the side as he compensated for the weapon's weight. Baran stepped forward, eschewing common forms in order to end the fight quickly as he had been ordered. He swung the blunted weapon low, knocking one of the fellow's feet aside, bringing the weapon up in an arc and slamming the pommel down on the base of the man's neck. The extra force was all that was needed to send the overbalanced Dedicated to the ground. Baran continued the assault without mercy, kicking his fallen opponent as he tried to stand. The blows forced the Dedicated to roll onto his back. Baran lowered his blade to point at the man. He quirked an eyebrow in question. His opponent shook his head and reached for his mace, which had fallen nearby.

 

In response, Baran stomped on the outstretched fingers and pivoted on the foot, kicking the other Dedicated full in the face. The man fell back, unconscious. Baran kicked the mace away and Folded the Fan, though he wasn't wearing the weapon's sheath, and so was unable to actually let go of the weapon. After a few moments, he realized how foolish he looked holding a weapon in place and instead rested the sword on his shoulder, waiting for his next order.

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Lir attempted to memorize the weave that cushioned their weapons with air. He was not sure that he got it. Air and water were both weaker for him than the others, but it was more his difficulty at reading weaves that prevented him from picking this one up on the first try. He resolved to make time to practice it, after the power wrought weapons though. When the Storm Leader called for them to pair off, Lir's eyes shot straight towards one man.

 

Vincent Inago.

 

Inago was one of the only other dedicateds to come from a noble family. Though he had renounced his blood claims just as Lir had, Vincent was much more proud of his past. He came from a larger household than Lir, and a richer one if not as old. He had been closer to the high seat for his house as well. And he still wore the ridiculous oiled and pointed beard so fashionable amongst the Tairen nobility. They were of an age, though Vincent was maybe five years his senior, and the man seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in being just slightly better than Lir in nearly every way. He had been raised to the dedicated faster, by all accounts he was stronger in the power and he certainly had an easier time learning weaves. He also counted himself a great swordsman, and made sure that everyone around him knew it as well. He had been trying to goad Lir into a duel ever since he'd gained the sword pin.

 

The other men in the class were pairing up quickly, and many of them were avoiding eye contact with Inago, doubtless because they had heard many of his self praising tales. Lir however saw this as a chance to improve his reputation as well as take the Tairen down a few notches.

 

"Vincent Inago." Lir made a bow every bit as graceful as he would have offered at court. "I do believe you've been waiting for this for some time." He kept his face calm and maintained the void. Saidin calling to him from beyond reach threatened to break his resolve, and he supposed that was the point of the exercise.

 

"With pleasure Gilbearn." The older man smiled and raised his own curved sword, the weapon of nobility in many nations. The glint in his eye did not bespeak of calm, but rather of malice and anticipation. He slowly approached in Cat Crosses the Courtyard.

 

Lir leaned forward with his knees bent, assuming Leopard in the Tree. He'd never liked the more defensive stances, and as Vincent approached, Unfolding the Fan met Parting the Silk. Lir grunted, Vincent was nearly as fast as he was, and stronger to boot. The meeting of the swords felt off to him, the padding of air threw off the feel of the blade, and his timing suffered. The Tairen brought his sword down quickly, but altered the blow in mid swing, and only a quick Parting the Silk kept the blade off Lir's ribs.

 

Just like that, Lir found himself in a defensive fight. He was forced backwards into Lion on the Hill, and the defensive stance allowed him to block many of the strikes that came over and over again. Light, I never would have thought his boasting was true. Lir furiously thrust at Inago's face. The blow was parried easily, but it bought him just enough time to feint a few more attacks and clear his head.

 

Ok then, Inago was clearly the better swordsman. Lir realized that he was not going to win this fight by thinking like a swordsman, he would have to think like a tactician. He poured all of his efforts into blocking his opponents attacks, making no effort at offense. What was his advantage? Inago knew that he was the better swordsman, and Lir could use that to his advantage. He let the speed of his counters diminish, as if he might be tiring out. Don't let him think you have a chance. What else did he have?

 

Lir's back foot slipped in the frozen mud, and Inago's sword slid against his shoulder in a drawing cut. The Tairen gave a snarl of pleasure and redoubled his attack, but sudden understanding came to Lir. This was not a sword fight at all. It was a duel with clubs, and the man in front of him was too locked into his own way of thought to realize it. Vincent thought of the draw cut to his shoulder as a point of victory, and in a real duel it would be sapping his blood and strength, but here and now it was simply wasted effort.

 

Lir began to present opportunities to the Tairen lord as he continued to feign a growing weariness. Over the course of several strokes, Vincents sword struck him in the thigh, and an exposed bicep. The look of hunger was growing on the man's face Lir knew that Vincent was feeling confident and ready to strike to end the bout.

 

Lir jumped back and with his best attempt at feigned desperation, he assumed Heron Wading the Rushes, his sword held high. He wobbled slightly as if off balance.

 

"Stupid," Vincent growled, "think you're faster than me eh?" He stayed on the balls of his feet, just out of Lir's striking range. "You'll never take my head before I gut you."

 

Lir said nothing, simply waited with his blade, no, his club held high. The Tairen charged, and plunged the tip of weapon straight into Lir's stomach. The force of the blow knocked the wind from him, but the point, blunted by air rolled off the curve of his body. Lir brought his club down onto Vincent's head with just a bit more force than was probably necessary. Inago's eyes crossed and the forward momentum of his thrust sent the man tumbling into the mud.

 

Lir nearly sheathed his sword before realizing that it would not fit in this state, and drove it blunt point first into the mud. He walked over to his fallen classmate and looked down at him.

 

"You mistook this for a duel Vincent, there are no duels in real war, just circumstances and the men who react to them." He held out his hand.

 

Inago stared at him for a long moment before taking his hand and rising to his feet. Lir saluted him, fist to chest. "That said, you're bloody good with the sword mate." Inago saluted back, and they both grinned.

 

"And those spindly arms are stronger than they look."

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Gavin watched carefully as Arath wove the blunting weaves around their weapons. I'll have to remember that for later. He mused to himself the battlefield applications of that weave. If one were fast enough, and deft enough with Air, one could weave that around an opponent's weapon during combat to blunt an otherwise damaging blow. And if the opponent was not a man who could channel, they would be none the wiser until they failed to kill with a strike. Gavin chuckled to himself as he went over some ideas for that weave in his head.

 

He listened intently to their instructions. Fight like you mean it. Gavin looked at the dozen assembled, and was unsurprised to see Haver there. Gavin was raised to Dedicated first, but Haver followed only days behind. Gavin was slightly stronger in the Power, but Haver was better with the sword. Where Gavin was fast, Haver had brute strength. All in all, they were pretty evenly matched, though Haver regularly cracked Gavin's ribs when they sparred together. And while Gavin figured that he would fare much better with this new weapon he'd found, he had no experience with it, and Haver had plenty of experience with the sword.

 

"Well, it looks like it's you and me again Ogier," Gavin said to the huge Saldean. Haver laughed at the nickname Gavin had given him. "Did you think it would be otherwise?" Haver replied, "I hope you're better with that swordspear thing than you are with a normal sword. I don't want to hurt you." It was Gavin's turn to laugh. "We'll see my friend, we shall see."

 

They squared off with one another, slowly walking in circles, gauging each others' defenses. Haver stalked with his sword held in front of him. It was some sort of form, but Gavin could never tell one form from another. For Gavin's part, he held his odd weapon with the haft across his torso, point towards the ground somewhere behind him, with a grip that would let him sweep up and across with a powerful cut. He didn't think that it would actually penetrate the large man's defenses, but the extra leverage afforded by the long haft would help him match Haver's strength.

 

Haver lunged forward with a downwards slice that would cleave a man from shoulder to hip. Gavin quickly swept his weapon up to meet the attack. The blades met with such force that they bounced off one another and both opponents were knocked back a step. Gavin recovered slightly quicker, and with a quick flip of his grip, brought it down in an arc intended to take Haver's hands off. With these weaves on the blades, there was little chance of actually maiming the man, so Gavin put everything into it.

 

Haver took a hasty step back to dodge, but couldn't get his sword up in time to block. Gavin's blow struck the back edge of the sword, knocking it to the ground. Gavin had too much momentum however, and his follow-through caused his blade to strike the ground. Haver was quick to capitalize on the weakness, and planted a full kick to Gavin's chest, knocking him backwards. Gavin, suddenly even more thankful for what his father had taught him, and rolled with the kick in a backwards somersault, snapping back to the ready. He could feel his sternum having been cracked, and would have to be more careful of getting inside the giant's reach again.

 

By the time he came out of his tumble, Haver already had his sword back to hand, and squared off again. "I have to admit Gavin, you're better with that weapon than I thought, though you still need practice if you ever hope to beat me. Maybe I should break a couple more of your ribs for you so you can learn." Though it sounded an insult, Gavin knew it was otherwise by the smile on Haver's face. It wasn't a malicious smile, far from it. Besides, during their private sparring lessons, they taunted each other almost constantly.

 

Gavin didn't rise to the bait, which was just as well, since Haver assaulted almost immediately. Gavin managed to block the sideways slice, and dodged the next thrust. Haver parried Gavin's thrust, and came down with an overhead cut that Gavin blocked squarely, but was barely able to stop due to the man's strength. Light, he's been holding back on me. He's much stronger than I thought.

 

The fight went on for another minute, and it didn't go well for Gavin. It was all he could do to not get cut in half, even with those blunting weaves. He found this new weapon easier to wield, but Haver was right, he definitely needed practice. Even staying almost completely on defense - he only managed to attack a few times - Haver still managed to land several glancing blows. Gavin was already feeling the bruises, and his cracked sternum certainly wasn't helping matters. I need to outsmart him. He's much more skilled with his sword, and much stronger to boot. I'll have to fight dirty.

 

Gavin thought briefly about kicking dirt in the large man's face, but squelched that thought quickly as his boots were likewise squelching in the mud. It was a sticky mud too, and would resist being kicked about. Gavin's reverie cut short has he backed into a tree. Ducking quickly and rolling to the side, he barely avoided Haver's strike, which took a chunk out of the wood. Feeling something jabbing him as he rolled, Gavin got back to his feet, and remembered one of his knives tucked back behind his belt. Thinking quickly, he pulled the knife out, but left the sheath on so that he wouldn't actually kill Haver, then threw as the big man was charging. His knife flew true, and struck Haver in the throat.

 

It didn't even slow him down.

 

With the sheath still on, the knife struck Haver's throat, and bounced off, and Haver's full powered swipe knocked Gavin off his feet. Gavin fell to the ground a good two paces from Haver, and he could feel at least two cracked ribs. If it weren't for the weave, he'd have been cut in half.

 

Haver sheathed his sword with a grin, then offered a hand to help Gavin up.

 

 

 

((Edit: Good call Arath, I fail at reading))

Edited by Clepto
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Arath supervised his sparring students with a pained look. Many of them weren't taking this seriously. Only a small handful of the dozen or so dedicateds seemed to show any promise at all. It didn't take him long to decide which ones would participate in the next part of the lesson. Giving the last couple of pairs an extra minute or two to wrap up their fights, he walked down the line and administered healing to those who were in the worst need of it. Generally the ones who had lost their fights. Once he was finished, the Storm Leader returned to his place in front of the group and addressed his students again.

 

"Most of you," Arath said loudly, "are horrible. You wouldn't last five minutes against a farmer with a pitchfork, let alone a Trolloc or a Fade. Thankfully, not all of you are total losses. And a few of you are going to help teach the next part of my class. Gavin, Lir, and Baran, you three will stay here. The rest of you, run a lap of the training grounds and assemble back here."

 

Once the rest of the disgruntled class had left, he focused his attention on the remaining three. "Each of you have something to offer the class. A reason for why your fight ended the way it did. Lir, you seem to have had some prior training, and took full advantage of the unique circumstances of this spar. Baran, you ended your fight quickly and effectively, even if you the force you applied was a little ... excessive. Gavin you lost your fight, and obviously have no experience with the weapon you chose. Despite that, you controlled yourself well, and treated the situation as though it were real. If we could put the three of you together we'd have a decent fighter.

 

"So, what I want you to do is explain to the rest of the class when they arrive why your fight ended the way it did. Explain what advantage your particular attribute can give you in battle, what part of you they need to emulate, and why it will help you to defeat me when I spar with you. I expect you to at least hold your own long enough to make your words credible."

 

Ignoring the incredulous looks on their faces, the Storm Leader turned to monitor the rest of the class. It was always interesting to see what the Dedicated would come up with. Occasionaly it didn't work out too well, but Arath had learned enough about twisting words lately to make just about anything work to his advantage.

 

OOC: Again, sorry for the delay. Whoever wants to go first, give a nice little speech to the class, then prepare for a humbling. Go ahead and write the first part of your spar with Arath. He'll hold back long enough for everyone to get the idea of what you're talking about. I'll take over the end and wrap up each fight based on however you leave it hanging.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Them? Baran's head quivered as he suppressed a shake of his head. How was it that this man, an Asha'man of as much note as any he had seen or heard of, had decided that the rest of the lesson was to be taught by his students? What reason could there be for it? Did he expect them to fail miserably? Was he trying to break them down in front of the other Dedicated as a reminder not to try to rise too far, too quickly? Baran gave the Asha'man a carefully weighing glance as he revised his opinion of the other man. Maybe the reason he had become so powerful was because he had used every opportunity to persuade other Asha'man that he was not a man to be trifled with. Even training classes. What better way to instill a sense of fear and respect then by beating the most powerful men in every class into a pulp?

 

The thought brought Baran up short. Did he really think of himself as one of the most powerful men in his class of rising Asha'man? After some careful consideration, he realized that he did. Maybe not the strongest, but among them at least. He shook his head and tried to compose himself. He would have to address the other Dedicated when they came back for their run, after all.

 

By the time the runners got back, he was cool, calm, and collected. Inside though, he was terrified. He had addressed single students, ones who had been cowed into obedience more by the silver pin on his collar than by anything he said or did. Here, though, he was addressing men he had learned to Channel with, men who had seen him try and fail more times than he would have liked to admit. These men knew him in a way that no Soldier could have. He was nervous, and the sweat starting to bead up on his face gave the lie to the calm expression he had forced across it.

 

The men lined up, some panting despite the fact that they had most likely been doing the same thing since reaching the Black Tower. Baran's eyes sought out the man he had sparred with. Their eyes met for a moment, and the other man quickly broke the contact, looking away and down at the ground. Baran's lips pressed against each other until they became a thin line, and he nodded to himself. Arath wasn't the only one who had struck fear into the hearts of at least some of these Dedicated. It hadn't been his intention to do so, but the Wheel weaved as the Wheel willed. He use this to his advantage.

 

"Dedicated of the Black Tower. The Tsorovan'm'hael would like me to tell you why I won. The answer is simple. I won because I did as he instructed all of us to do. I did not hold back. I won because I had chosen a weapon I knew over an unfamiliar one. I won because I did not try to fight fair. In battle, in a real fight, a trolloc isn't going to care if you drop your sword, or trip over a root. It will kill you." He turned and started to walk as he spoke, trying to keep what he intended to say in mind. Not looking at the men as he walked seemed to help the nervousness.

 

"Some of you who saw me sparring will probably think I used more force than was necessary." He paused, walking a few more steps. "Those of you who think that would be right. As I figure it, if you beat a man once and then help him up, you'll get one of three things: An apology, a knife in the back, or another fight. You might even get all three. It makes sense to me to want to eliminate the chance of having to fight again. Now, if you beat a man badly enough, I think he'll stay beaten. Beat him worse, and he'll never raise his hand against you again." The words made him think of Jholan's body lying in the snow, for some reason.

 

"Now, if I understand our mandate well enough," Baran glanced back at Arath, hoping he wouldn't receive a worse beating because of what he was saying, "The Lord Dragon wants us to be living weapons for him. We're not here to learn to Heal and aid others. We're here to kill, not to pat ourselves on the backs and tell ourselves that our enemies had a fair chance. So it seems to me that if we're going to go about defeating the enemies of the Lord Dragon, we should be willing to crush them so far into the dirt that they will never get back up again. If he wants them alive, we should be willing to put the fear of the Light into them to make sure that they will do no harm to the Dragon Reborn. Now, the Tsorovan'm'hael has asked me to demonstrate before he pummels me into the ground." Baran nodded as he finished. The last bit had earned a chuckle from a handful of the men. Did they understand, though? His words had made sense to him, at least. Whether or not they had made any sense to the rest of the Dedicated was another matter.

 

He turned and faced Arath and saluted him with his sword, closing the distance between them as he did so. Suddenly he charged straight at the other man, hauling the blade back and unleashing a full-armed swing that dipped towards his legs as the young man dropped to his knees, sliding past the Asha'man. The attempt did no damage of course. Apparently Arath had seen moves like it before, because he jumped as soon as Baran had fallen to his knees.

 

Baran stood, watching the other man warily. Arath just waited though, and watched. Baran strode forward, Low Wind Rising bringing his sword up into the air before Striking the Spark brought his blade to bounce several times off Arath's power-wrought weapons. Baran used the rebound of the last blow to bring the sword in a wide arc, planting it in the ground behind him. As the sword sank into the ground Baran let fly with a savage kick to the other man's groin. All he got for his trouble was a sore leg as Arath batted the leg away with his weapon. The momentum carried Baran behind his sword, which he pulled free.

 

Pulling his weapon up into Lion on the Hill, Baran tried to think of a way out of the beating that was sure to come. It only took him a moment to realize that there wasn't. The thought made his grimace turn to a scowl. He didn't like losing, even when it seemed he had no other choice.

 

"Fine. You've had your fun. Get this over with so I can drag myself back to the Healers." At best, it was a muttered growl, but there was no doubt in Baran's mind that the Asha'man had heard him. Scowling even deeper, he braced himself for the pain he was no doubt about to endure as he battered vainly at the Shield that kept him from Saidin.

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Lir was of two minds about the second stage of the training that the Storm leader had set before them. On the one hand, Lir felt well suited to the task. It would give him a chance to make an impression on the other Dedicated. On the other hand, setting the three of them above the others could lead to feelings of resentment and worsen the feelings of distrust so rampant amongst the men of the Black Tower. Then there was the bit about applying their lesson to a direct spar with Arath himself. Lir sighed, well the best he could hope to do was leave a lasting impression with the Storm Leader.

 

Lir had regained his breath by the time the rest of the dedicated had finished their run. Many of them were casting dark glances at Lir and his two companions. It would not be a friendly or receptive crowd. Burn it, nothing to do but get on with it. He stepped into the clear space that the Storm Leader had occupied before. He maintained his stiff backed stance, and kept the void so that his nerves were pushed aside.

 

“Storm Leader Faringal has asked me to tell you why I won my bout.” He tried to look each man in the eye in turn. “Skill had something to do with my victory, though I am sure that many of you know Vincent Inago to be a very skilled swordsman. So if skill were not the main component of my victory, what was?” He saw Vincent nodding, and some of the others as well.

 

“Aegelmar Jagad once said ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. “ he paused and waited for the men to have time to think over the words. “I knew about Vincent’s skill with the sword just like the rest of you. I knew that he thought he was better than me, and that gave me an edge in our battle. I was prepared in that I knew his assumption about how things would go.”

 

He began to walk around the raised space as he talked, becoming more comfortable as he went on. “What else helped me win a fight against a more skilled opponent? Subterfuge. Artur Hawkwing said that all war is based on deception. Because I knew Vincent’s assumption about the course of the battle, I could lull him into thinking that things were progressing exactly as he expected. I could feign weakness, and tiredness and he was not suspicious because he expected me to be weak and tired.” He thought that some of the men were getting him, others were still disgruntled that he had not had to run with them. Interestingly, Inago himself seemed to be listening intently. Lir thought that the Tairen would leave this practice field a better warrior, and found a lot more respect for the man. It was hard to maintain reason in the light of defeat.

 

“What was the last thing that aided me in the fight? ‘He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. ‘ Adaptability is key in both personal combat as well as larger operations.” He held up his air shielded sword. “ The situation on the battlefield is always fluid, and often beyond our control. I found myself in a duel with swords that did not behave like swords at all.” He swung the sword in a powerful arc. “This weapon behaves like a club, moves like a club, injures like a club. The key victory was adapting to the conditions of the battlefield.” This time he saw more nods, and many of the men were waving their own weapons through the air. “Now I will attempt to demonstrate these principles against the Storm Leader himself.” He cracked a smile at the assembled dedicated. “At least this part of the lesson shan't take very long.” He was rewarded with a few chuckles.

 

He squared off against Arath, his sword held at the ready. Now, how would he try to use the principles outlined in his speach against a foe who was so much better than him as to be in a whole other realm. Know the expectations. He knows that I am going to try and use these three principles. He knows the start of my plan. Ok that was one principle down. How about deception? Lir wracked his brain as he circled warily around his superior. He had a feeling that Arath would lead him on a bit and let him try to demonstrate his points before launching any real assault. Lir licked his lips nervously.

 

He darted in towards the storm leader, swingning his sword in short powerful arcs designed to crush instead of slice. He made his attacks tentative, and darted away again to dodge the Asha’Man’s obviously held back attacks. In and out, quick and furritive, he was making himself seem more intimidated than he actually was. This was deception as well as adapting to the circumstances. Lir was perfectly aware that he was participating in a one sided un-winable fight. his only real hope to make any sort of impression was to use that knowledge to his advantage, and make Arath assume that he had won before he actually had.

 

And so Lir continued his tentative attacking, waiting for any hint that Arath was going to turn the fight in a more serious direction. It was his plan to wait for that moment, and be “beaten” quickly in order that he may catch the more skilled, more experienced man off guard for even just a moment, to launch even a single successful attack.

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Gavin stood in front of the rest of the class. He listened intently to the speeches that Baran and Lir gave, nodding the whole time. Both men were more experienced fighters than Gavin, and he knew that he could learn a lot from them. Gavin had been learning a lot, both from the regular weapons classes as a Soldier, and during his private sparring sessions with Haver. But, using a new weapon, it was clear that he had much more to learn.

 

Gavin quickly went through his fight with Haver in his mind, trying to figure out why Arath had singled him out. Haver had thoroughly pounded Gavin. Healing fixes the wounds, but not the memory of the wounds, and the memory of broken ribs and cracked sternum were still fresh in Gavin's mind.

 

Gavin replayed the fight in his head again and again, and couldn't come up with anything. No matter how he looked at it, he still lost. He had almost won, there at the end, but he still lost. He paused. There it is. He didn't just "almost" win. He should have won. In a real fight, if he had been trying to kill Haver, he would have. Well, he would have won the last part of the fight. Haver would have cut him in half earlier. But the point was, Gavin used all of the tools at his disposal. That was what Arath wanted him to teach. Use everything.

 

When it was Gavin's turn, he stood in front of the other Dedicated and cleared his throat, and began speaking in his performance voice. "As many of you may have noticed," Gavin began, "I didn't win my fight. My partner, Haver, is twice my size, with more than twice my strength. He's familiar with his chosen weapon, and I'm using a weapon I've never used before. And he's a better swordsman to boot. So why am I up here?"

 

He paused for dramatic effect. "I used other tools that I had at my disposal. Sure, Haver would have cut me in half earlier in the fight. And I struck him as well. He broke my ribs, and cracked my sternum. But I had his throat with a knife. It is the knife that's important." To illustrate, he idly began juggling his knives.

 

"When we use the Power, we use everything we know. We constantly push our limits and learn new weaves. In battle, we will be expected to use every tool at our disposal to win. And we will be expected to win at all costs. Why should it be different when using a sword?" Gavin made the knives disappear. "The reason I'm up here, is because I used the tools at my disposal to win. Granted, I should have used said tools sooner, but I used them nonetheless."

 

Gavin paused, steeling himself for what was coming. "And now, I will attempt to demonstrate these points as Asha'man Faringal beats me bloody."

 

Hefting the halfspear, Gavin settled into the same stance he had with Haver, weapon swept back, point down, ready to block with a savage upwards slash. He squared off with Arath, and they slowly walked around each other, gauging defenses before committing. Not waiting to be put on the defensive with an unfamiliar weapon, Gavin swept forward with the same upwards slash that he would have blocked with. Arath was ready with a parry, but on his riposte, Gavin jumped back, letting a knife fly. Arath swatted it down with his sword, then attacked back.

 

Gavin was on the defense already, and it was not looking good. Arath attacked with a blinding series of attacks, and it was all Gavin could do to keep up. That Arath was using two swords was a problem. In none of their classes or sparring matches did any of the Soldiers or Dedicated fight with two weapons, so the style was unfamiliar to Gavin.

 

At every opportunity, Gavin threw a knife or dagger. He had nearly a dozen throwing knives on his person at any given time, plus the two long daggers at his belt, but he was running out of things to throw. Arath, wise to the strategy, easily dodged or bat down everything Gavin threw.

 

The fight had lasted less than a minute so far, and Gavin had just thrown his last knife. His ribs were already broken again, and he had twisted his ankle tumbling away from Arath's attacks. Arath delivered a brutal kick, right through Gavin's defenses. Struck in the chest, Gavin felt another rib give way as his body lifted from the ground with the force of it. He knew he was finished, or soon would be, but refused to go down easily. Arath would have to beat him unconscious before Gavin would stop.

 

As his body sailed several paces, Gavin twisted, putting his gleeman tumbling to good use. He landed with both feet and did a backwards somersault to bleed off his speed and soak the impact of his fall. But his ankle betrayed him on the second landing, bringing him to his knees. With his ribs broken, Gavin could barely stand, and Arath was advancing again, both swords at the ready.

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Arath watched in silence as the next part of the class unfolded. Baran went first, his instructions to his peers going more or less how Arath had expected. From what he had heard of the Dedicated, Baran dove into everything completely, without any holding back. Sometimes to the detriment of those around him, such as his unfortunate sparring partner earlier.

 

It was no surprise then, when Baran rushed at him immediately. The flurried exchange of blows took place quickly, resulting in a sore leg and a probably a sizeable bruise for Baran.

 

"Fine. You've had your fun. Get this over with so I can drag myself back to the Healers."

 

Arath said nothing, but a smile slowly split his face. He could see the nervousness in his opponent, even as his anger was rising. Slowly stalking forward, trying to bait the Dedicated into a foolish strike, Arath kept his weapons wide, presenting a wide, and plainly obvious target. After batting aside a few half hearted strikes, the opportunity presented itself. Baran took the bait and made a heavy stab at Arath's torso. Using his right hand blade, Arath knocked the strike away slightly, then spun into action, rolling down the side of the Dedicated's sword and closing in very close. Leaning away from a thrown elbow as he moved, Arath found himself squarely behind Baran even as he tried to turn. Blades slashing quickly in what would have been a killing move, Arath drew one blade across the middle of his back, and the other struck behind his knees with enough force to knock the Dedicated down. A quick kick knocked the sword from the fallen man's hand, and the same foot planted gently on his back prevented him from standing up again. Thankfully, he had the good sense to stay down.

 

Tapping one of his swords idly on the back of Baran's head, Arath turned his attention back to the rest of the class. "Baran was correct in his instruction. We are weapons of the Lord Dragon. We are here to destroy the shadow. But we are Guardians. Protectors of the Light. We are each a powerful weapon, but we are stronger together. We grow stronger together through unity. You," Arath pointed his free sword toward the young Dedicated the Baran had brutalized earlier, "are you feeling particularly united with Dedicated Baran right now?" The young man shook his head. "Would you go out of your way, or put yourself in danger, in order to protect him in a battle?" He hesitated, clearly weighing his options. Finally he nodded. Slowly. "Good man. But that hesitation speaks volumes. Hesitating for a moment in battle would result in ruin."

 

Removing his foot from Baran's back, Arath hauled him to his feet with a simple flow of air. "The world despises and fears us. The only solace you'll find from that is here, among your brothers. Train hard, but learn limits. There is a time for total destruction of your enemies, but it is not on the practice fields. The healers are overworked as it is without us beating each other to death with swords."

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The second Dedicated, Lir, also spoke more or less how Arath had expected. Lir was well educated, and often seemed to refer to his favorite books regarding the great captains. Every other word out of his mouth seemed to be a quote from Artur Hawkwing or some such historical figure. This time was no exception.

 

One Agelmar and a Hawkwing later, Arath squared off with his next opponent. As Lir came in with some heavy, wild swings, the Storm Leader thought about what had been said. Knowledge, subterfuge, and deception. Arath considered the dedicated's attack method and compared it with his previous fight. It was very different. Lir had fought carefully, with far more emphasis on defense, and calculated strikes when on offense, none of which were evident now. So this some sort of deception, trying to make himself seem more wild and aggressive. Arath noticed that he never pressed forward enough though, always ready to fall right back into habitual defense. Yes ... he was definitely up to something.

 

Deciding to play along, Arath pressed his own attacks, denying Lir the opportunity to make his aggressive feints. His attacks weren't overwhelming by any means, but Lir seemed to be having trouble keeping up. Taking small hits from the dull weapons, rather like he had before. Feeling that he had an idea what was going to happen here, Arath changed tactics, doing something he knew Lir wouldn't predict. Hopping back a step after making a few last quick strikes, Arath threw his left hand blade straight at Lir, aiming for his head. A brief look of shock crossed Lir's face before he instinctively snapped his sword high to deflect the missile. Arath jumped forward even as he let the blade fly, swinging his remaining sword in a heavy handed blow at his opponents sword, and bringing his boot down on Lir's firmly planted foot. The impact on his weapon, along with a small nudge against his knee, caused the dedicated to overbalance and make a spectacular fall backwards into the muddied ground.

 

Avoiding a last desperate kick from the man on the ground, Arath stepped forward and grounded his remaining sword tip on Lir's chest. "I really don't have much to add to what Dedicated Lir has told you. Trickery and deception can indeed be powerful tools to help you overcome your opponent, and we should all know that knowledge is power. That being said, never get so caught up in setting up a trap for your enemy that you get caught in one yourself. I could see that he was trying to set me up for something, so I changed the rules on him myself. I don't recommend throwing away your weapon as a distraction in a real fight, but do take whatever advantage you can to win."

 

Siezing the source again, Arath wove air. A small weave retrieved his fallen blade, and another larger one hauled the fallen Dedicated to his feet. With a nod, he sent the Dedicated back to the rest of the group, then turned to his third and final instructor, waiting to see what the next part of the lesson would be.

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Arath knew he would need to treat this last fight a little differently. With the previous two, there hadn't been any real risk of injury, unless the over zealous Baran had somehow managed to bludgeon him into unconsciousness. With Gavin and his knives though ... Arath needed to be extremely careful, but he needed to end it quickly.

 

When the battle began, Arath wasted no time. After Gavin's initial attack he pressed his own assault. Or tried to anyway. The battle was surprisingly difficult. Gavin was fast and nimble, and he carried a surprising number of knives on him. When he wasn't tumbling out of the way of an attack, he was thowing a knife to buy himself some time. In under a minute, Arath had had to dodge or deflect at least ten of the missiles. He'd landed one good hit that had struck a little harder than intended on the other man's ribs, but the Dedicated was still tumbling about as though nothing had happened.

 

Finally, the rain of blades ceased. It appeared that Gavin had thrown the last of them, though Arath remained wary. Especially after Lir's lesson, he didn't want to get caught unprepared and take a bad hit for it. Eventually an opportunity presented itself and the Storm Leader landed a powerful kick through Gavan's weak defenses. That should have been the end of it. The grimace on the former gleeman's face told Arath that he'd been injured, but the stubborn man rolled out of the kick and back up to his feet. Or his knees at least. He seemed to have twisted an ankle somewhere along the way. The fool seemed determined to fight to the bloody end. Shaking his head slightly, Arath decided to change the rules again. It led into the next part of his lesson anyway.

 

Saidin filled him, and Arath reached out with threads of earth and water. The already muddy ground at Gaven's feet turned to mush, and he sank a foot into the liquified dirt. Before he had a chance to react, Arath replaced the water in the weave with fire, and the mud solidified as though it had been in the sun for weeks. Unprepared for what he surely considered cheating on the Storm Leader's part, he wasn't prepared when Arath charged up to him and knocked his odd weapon away. Trapped in the ground, and completely defenseless, the Dedicated had no choice but to give up. Softening the ground up again, Arath wove healing and placed the weave on the dedicated. He wished he could have been a little less brutal, but the boy's tactics had left him little other choice.

 

As the third and final instructor uprooted himself, Arath turned once again to the rest of the class. "Use whatever tools you have at your disposal. We push you hard physically, making you faster and stronger. We push you with weapons, making you capable. Use your physical abilities and your martial abilities however you must to gain the advantage. But never forget that your most potent tool is Saidin. The One Power is what sets us apart from the armies of Kings. Our ability to destroy other's isn't limited to our prowess with a blade or a bow.

 

"I used my best available tool in order to deal with an opponent who made himself hard to catch. I mostly did it to avoid further injury to him, but also to lead into the next part of the lesson. Our ability to channel gives us a completely unfair advantage over others. As I just demonstrated. Therefore, it is always in our best interest to make sure we are able to take that advantage.

 

"Everyone close your eyes, and focus on Saidin." Arath watched as they all did as they were instructed. Several of them frowned as they came across the shields Arath had placed upon them earlier. "Like trying to reach through a glass wall, isn't it? You can see Saidin on the other side, just out of reach, but you can't touch it. Shields are one of the most dangerous weapons that can be used against us, but now I'll teach you how to defeat them."

 

Pacing in front of the group, Arath began to explain the process of breaking through a shield. "For the most part, a shield feels like an unbroken sheet of glass placed between you and the source. As some of you may have discovered in your training, you may be able to force your way through a weak shield. If a much weaker channeler has you shielded, or a weak shield is tied off, you may be able to tear right through the weave and reach the source. For stronger shields though, another approach must be taken." Stopping at the center of the line of students, Arath began the fun part. "Now, feel along the shields. Like I said before, it probably seems like a smooth piece of glass between you and Saidin. However, there is a point on the shield which feels different. It is ... hard. A knob on the edge of the shield which isn't quite like the rest of it. That is the weak point. That is where the knot is tied on the weave. In order to defeat the shield, you must force your way into that knot. Reach through all the crevices and curves of it, until you find yourself to the other side. Then ... it is difficult to describe. You ... flex ... your ability to channel. You should be able to figure it out once you reach that point."

 

"The knots in your shields are fairly simple, so I don't expect this to be too difficult for you. The process is a little painful, but I expect all of you to do it, and do it quickly. The last one to get out of the shield will be running laps of the training ground for an hour after we're done here."

 

OOC: Almost done. Figure out how to bust of the shields, then there's one more activity for you.

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"The knots in your shields are fairly simple, so I don't expect this to be too difficult for you. The process is a little painful, but I expect all of you to do it, and do it quickly. The last one to get out of the shield will be running laps of the training ground for an hour after we're done here."

 

Gavin listened to what the Asha'man had to say, but he remained skeptical. He had been battering at the shield off and on since it was put on him, but he had never noticed anything different. However, knowing how to escape a shield would be a valuable tactic, so he focused all of his efforts on it.

 

As it turned out, "all of his efforts" didn't amount to much. After the morning's exertions, Gavin didn't have much left in him. He had been beaten senseless by a man twice his size. Then he had been beaten by a man twice his skill. And on top of everything, he had been Healed twice. He had broken the same ribs in both fights, and while they were healed, his mind still told him they should hurt. Being Healed was something Gavin had yet to get used to, after spending his whole life healing the normal way.

 

Not one to stand on ceremony, Gavin remained seated where he had been after the sparring match with Arath. He blindly fumbled around the shield, trying to find the hard spot that Arath was talking about. Like the Asha'man had said, it felt like a solid sheet of glass, and Gavin's grip slid off wherever it touched. Once, he thought he had found a spot that felt different, but it slid away just like the rest of it.

 

Finally, he found it. He had been correct earlier, it had felt different. A hard spot in the shield. But it wasn't really hard. It was only slightly different from the rest of the shield. But a difference was a difference, so it must be what Arath was talking about. The first time he found it for sure, Gavin tried forcing his way through, and he just slid away like usual. To his mind, it felt like the shield was mocking his futile efforts at breaking it. Determined, Gavin fished around until he found the spot again.

 

Subsequent attempts proved no more successful than the first, but Gavin did feel like he was making progress. While he had yet to work his way into the knot, he knew he was improving his technique, since it took longer for him to slide off of the knot each time.

 

Finally, he managed to work a little ways into the knot. He was pushed out almost immediately, but didn't slide away. Determined by his apparent success, Gavin redoubled his efforts and attacked the knot again. This proved to be the wrong thing to do, as he slid off almost immediately. I've been doing this all wrong, Gavin thought to himself. The brute force comes after I'm through the knot. Forcing my way through won't do it. It requires a bit of finesse.

 

This time, when Gavin found the knot again, instead of trying to force his way through, he gently pushed. He knew it wasn't a real sensation, but his mind told him he was feeling it. It felt like being squeezed through a sieve. He didn't like it. But, it was progress, and he had to keep working or end up running for the rest of the day, so he kept on.

 

Gavin followed down the thread of the knot until the first turn, then he lost it and slid away again. Frustrated, Gavin beat against the shield several times, and eventually calmed down. Squeezing his way back into the knot, he made it past the first turn.

 

It took several more attempts, but Gavin finally managed to get to the end of the knot. It didn't feel any different than before, but Gavin knew he was through to the other side. Saidin still stood just out of reach, but now Gavin felt as if he could reach out and grab it. What was it Arath said to do? Flex? How am I supposed to do that? Gavin wondered to himself.

 

As it turned out, it was not that difficult to figure out. Gavin got at least that part right on the first try. It was like being tied to a chair, then trying to break the ropes with nothing more than brute strength. But instead of a person, he was squeezed into the shape of a noodle, then wound up into the rope itself.

 

Needless to say, it was not a pleasant sensation. But, having come this far, Gavin refused to be defeated. He flexed his Power, and felt the knot give a little. Feeling a surge of hope, he applied more and more pressure, and finally he felt the knot snap.

 

Gavin was wholly unprepared for what happened when the knot broke. The snap of the knot stunned him at the same time as he seized the Source. Saidin almost consumed him on the spot, but Gavin fought, and he fought hard. After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only seconds since the knot broke, Gavin had forced saidin to his will enough that he was able to put that battle at the back of his mind. Not that that battle can ever be forgotten, let he be consumed, but he had practiced enough with the Power now that the fight was automatic. Something he did with little conscious thought anymore. But he was still wary.

 

Gavin sighed with relief at finally holding the Source again. Even though it was only a couple hours since the class began, Gavin felt like it had been days since he touched that filthy sweetness of the Power. He drew up to his limit, basking in the feeling.

 

Taking a look around, Gavin realized that his eyes had been closed almost the whole time. He also realized that he had been working on that knot for an appreciable amount of time. And he was not the first one through. He was still one of the first ones though. Maybe three other people were holding the Power, not including Arath. At least he wasn't last. No running for him today. Well, no extra running anyway. Gavin reached out with Air to pick up all of the knives he had thrown at Arath, and idly wondered if there was anything else to this class today.

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He had been right. Arath had let them talk, let them give own opinions and ideas, and then beaten them. Maybe he hadn't done it to show that he was stronger, though in Baran's mind that possibility wasn't very likely. He did not like losing, did not like failing, and everything that had happened during the sparring match just served to irritate him. Arath had continued toying with him instead of ending it quickly, had stood with his foot planted on Baran's back while he lectured, and had then rubbed Baran's face in his superiority by lifting him with the Power! Baran was almost grinding his teeth together as he stalked back to the rest of the Dedicated. Most of them avoided looking at him, some with looks of studied concentration on their faces. The ones that did look at him were the ones that considered him a rival. Some of those were smirking. Hours of planning, ruined by a loss to the Tsorovan'm'hael. He would have to start from scratch just to get those idiots to leave him alone again. Just another thing to add to his irritation.

 

It was difficult for him then, when Arath gave the Dedicated their next set of instructions. Try to break a Shield. Even listening to what they were supposed to do in order to accomplish this feat, Baran wanted to roll his eyes. Break a Shield? Really? He had done it a few times, broken through purposefully weak Shields woven by Asha'man trying to make a point. But he had been straining at the thing that Arath had woven around them within moments of starting the class, had been straining at it the entire time Arath had been humiliating him in front of the other Dedicated, and he still had been unable to break the thing, no matter how hard he had tried. Of course, the anger had actually made him lose the Void a few times, which only served to irritate him more. He had thought himself past such simple mistakes long ago.

 

It took him longer than normal to assemble the Void, to summon the concentration necessary to feel along the edges of the Shield that Arath had woven around him. His attempt was half-hearted at first. After all, this was probably just another attempt to humiliate not just him, but the entire class now. No doubt to show them that they weren't ready to be Asha'man yet, no doubt. Then he felt the hardness, the knot of Spirit that kept him trapped behind an invisible wall. He blinked his eyes open, only realizing just then that he had closed them.

 

He turned his gaze inwards again, trying to probe the knot, poking at it with his consciousness, thinking of it as he would a flow of the Power, even if it wasn't actually that. Like a real knot, there were multiple small cracks to slip into, but not all of them led anywhere. In fact, most of them didn't. He almost through up his hands in frustration more than once, even lost the Void a few more times when his irritation blossomed into full-blown anger before he could force it back down. It came back though, the way it always did eventually. He worried at the knot like a dog with a bone, even tried to rip it apart, but nothing seemed to work!

 

Baran finally managed to find the right crack, to worm his way down into it by compressing his awareness, which he still imagined as a flow of the Power, into it. As he felt more of himself going into the crack, he almost had to wonder if he would be able to slip through entirely. Impossible, as it turned out. Still, he had managed to worm himself into the right crack. He knew it! Now he just had to...what? Flex? What was that supposed to mean? He tried to take the Power into himself, which didn't work. Even now he could feel the strain of touching it and yet getting nothing. When he stopped straining though, the knot felt...looser. He strained again, feeling the knot starting to weaken further. Confident that he was on the right track now, he continued to work at the knot, elation starting to replace anger.

 

Then, with a final mental shrug, Baran felt the Power rush into him. He filled himself with as much as he could take, savoring the near-pain the way a man dying of thirst savored sticking his head into a bucket of water long enough to make him gasp for air. He looked around, seeing a few other faces mirroring his grin. One of them was that one fellow, Gavin. The only one among them who had actually seemed to throw Faringil off enough to force him to channel. He would have to look into whatever that man was doing. He might be dangerous.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It took a bit longer than he would have expected, probably close to an hour, but eventually all of Arath's students had overcome their shields. As each one filled with Saidin, Arath gave an approving nod, noting those who had completed their task the fastest. They would be paired up according to that speed for their next task.

 

When the final, disgruntled looking Dedicated managed to slip through the knots of the shield and sieze Saidin, Arath barked the command, "Release!" Each of the Dedicated dropped his link with the Power. Some a little faster than others, but all obeyed the command. Siezing Saidin himself, Arath started down the line again, reshielding each of the students. Some of them looked outraged, others confused. More than a few wouldn't like this next part.

 

"These knots on these shields are less complicated than the last ones, so you should all be able to break through them more quickly. Being able to channel will be in your best interest for this next part. Most of the time, if you find yourself shielded, you will not be able to sit down and concentrate entirely on breaking the shield. You will have other distractions. Probably fighting for your life. So you are going to provide each other with distractions." Walking down the line, the Storm Leader paired up the dedicated according to their speed in breaking the shields. Once all were paired up, Arath continued his instruction. "This is your chance to apply everything you have learned today. You will spar with your partner. You will apply what your peers and I have said to your duels. And you will be trying your bloody best to break through that shield. Once a shield is gone, I don't expect the duel to last much longer. And do try not to injure your partner or yourself too badly." The last was delivered with a pointed look at Baran and Gavin, who had managed to be paired up together. Light willing they would at least heed that part.

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Baran looked up at the man he had been paired with, already frantically at work on the new Shield Arath had just placed on him. He had taken to working on it as soon as the Tsorovan'm'hael had told them that they would be sparring while Shielded. Baran wasn't sure if he was supposed to have started working at the thing so early, but he wanted to be ready, especially when he saw who he had been paired with. Baran hadn't realized how much taller than him the Andoran was, hadn't realized that the other man looked like he had more than a few pounds advantage over him. He was probably more agile than Baran as well, what with all the tumbling he seemed to do. And those knives, those bloody knives! No, definitely not someone he wanted to fight while he was still Shielded from the Power.

 

He hefted his blade, still softened by that weave of air, and stood, wondering how much longer the other man had on his shield. Undoubtedly Gavin was taking advantage of Baran's inaction to do the same thing he was trying to do. Baran's mind raced as he tried to figure out a strategy while worrying at the knots the way he had the last time, trying to find a crack to slip through and out to the Power. Light, he would need his added muscle if Gavin attacked before he was free, the other man's height and weight would be more than enough to beat him if he hadn't worked in the mines for most of his life. Bloody Andorans raised giants in their homes, it seemed.

 

Baran gripped the hilt of his sword tightly and brought it up to his shoulder, ready to defend himself in case Gavin struck first, and ready to copy Lir's early demonstration if the other man got his Shield off first, if only to distract the larger man long enough to allow him to get a few dirty hits in.

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  • 3 weeks later...

(OOC: Apologies for taking so long to post. I'm not dead, I promise.)

 

Gavin began working the shield practically the instant it went up. Arath had said that these knots were less complicated, and Gavin immediately saw that for truth. That doesn't make it any easier to break though.

 

Gavin eyed his opponent. He was already at a disadvantage against Baran. The smaller man boasted much more skill with the sword than Gavin did with his new weapon. The two men eyed each other expectantly, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Gavin's thoughts hung on Arath's words, "You will use everything you've learned today." He ran through each lesson in his mind, quickly distilling the wisdom of his fellows. Know your opponent. Adapt to the fluid situation of the battle. Use every tool at your disposal. Don't hold back.

 

Well, Gavin thought to himself, No reason to stand on ceremony. He brought his weapon to the ready, and began advancing on Baran's position. The other man already had his sword up in a defensive posture, one Gavin recognized as being able to deflect nearly any attack Gavin could launch. Rather than charge recklessly towards certain defeat at the hands of Baran's superior skill, Gavin slowly approached and studied his opponent.

 

Desperately working his way though the shield, Gavin thought on the impending battle. Know your opponent. Baran was a better swordsman, but Gavin was more agile. He had faith that he could dodge most of Baran's attacks, but Baran's superior skill would provide ample defense against mundane attack. Adapt to the fluid situation of the battle. Gavin knew that throwing knives would be of limited use in this fight. The element of surprise was gone, so they were a backup weapon or a distraction at best. And once the Power came into play, they would be basically useless. Use every tool at your disposal. Gavin's greatest tool would be the Power. Beyond that, he had his halfspear, and the environment. Don't hold back.

 

Gavin was close enough to Baran now, just out of reach of Baran's sword. He felt the last turn of the knot in the shield give way, but Gavin did not immediately seize the Source. Not knowing how close Baran was to breaking the shield, Gavin did not want to press his major advantage too early. By holding a firm grasp on the knot, ready to break it, Gavin would be able to seize the Source at a time of his choosing, or in reaction to Baran. It was a gamble, but surprise was too big an ally to waste.

 

Using the superior reach of the halfspear, Gavin launched an overhead attack at Baran. It was a feint, but Gavin put significant strength into it, forcing Baran to respond. The moment Baran moved his sword to parry, Gavin was already in motion with a low sweeping kick to take the other man's feet out.

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Baran brought his sword up, angling it down and to the side in the hope that the other man's strange weapon would slide off it, throwing him off balance. He began to dance to the side, the sword whipping around his head as he struck at the other man in a counterattack. The incoming sweep forced his dance to turn into a hop, and the strike to turn into an quick but awkward-looking repositioning of the weapon, bringing back into a defensive position as he landed. He stepped forward, bringing his knee up in the hopes of knocking the other man down or at least forcing him to defend himself.

 

As he did so, Baran felt the last knot of the Shield holding him give. He tore it away with a short laugh and finally broke down the Shield, Seizing Saidin and weaving a Shield of his own to throw against Gavin. Hopefully the other man wasn't finished breaking his yet. Hopefully he would be able to keep Gavin from Seizing Saidin altogether. It would make the fight much, much easier for him to win if the other man was unable to Channel the entire time. He struck, wondering if the Void made his smile as cold as it made his voice.

 

"Give up, Gavin. You have no chance to win this fight." The Void robbed his voice of emotion, not something he minded at the moment. The lie was so ridiculous that if he had said it without the Void, he probably would have at least chuckled. He couldn't keep the smile from reaching his lips, though. Hopefully his amusement looked threatening, or at least contemptuous.

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Sometimes I out think myself. Gavin thought as he hastily crushed the knot on his shield. His head swam for a moment as he seized saidin faster than he ever had before. I should have just Shielded him and been done with it. But no! I had to be clever.

 

The brief flash of Baran's eyes was the only warning Gavin had of the other man breaking his shield. Gavin had barely had time to seize the Power himself before Baran attempted to weave a Shield. Gavin only had a brief second, but was able to clumsily block the Shield. Baran's movements with his sword had blocked Gavin's attack, and he had jumped over the leg sweep intended to knock Baran's legs out from under him. Both men were within reach of each other, but both on the defensive. Gavin eyed Baran warily. Now that they both had control of the Power, the fight would become much more interesting. And be over much more quickly.

 

"Give up, Gavin. You have no chance to win this fight," Baran stated, smiling at Gavin. The smile was real, but Gavin saw uncertainty in Baran's eyes. Gavin wasted no time, and lashed out with the Power.

 

Earth was his strongest element, by a significant margin, so Gavin attempted to press whatever advantage he could get. He deftly directed a weave towards Baran. Baran directed his own weave to block. He not quick enough to stop Gavin's weave entirely, but he was quick enough to divert it. The weave plunged into the ground between the two men, and the ground erupted in a cloud of mud.

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  • 1 month later...

As mud spattered against his pants and jacket, Baran concentrated, weaving flows of fire, sending four finger-thick bars of flame out in front of him as though splayed from a giant skeleton's hand. He wove air into the mix, moving the bars to the side until they disappeared, creating new ones as they did so, giving the impression that he was at the center of a mostly obscured wheel of flame, and the bars were the spokes. The move would give Gavin something to think about while Baran readied another shield of pure spirit to hammer against his connection to the True Source. Of course, such extravagant use of the One Power would drain anyone, and Baran was no different. His display lasted less than a minute, but he hoped the minute would be enough to put the other man off his guard.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Gavin jumped backwards as Baran wove his spinning wheel of fire. He watched the "wheel" go through two revolutions, and figured out the pattern. From there it would be a simple matter to dance into the mix and beat Baran senseless while the other man was concentrating so hard on his weaves.

 

Unfortunately, Gavin never got all the way there. He jumped over the first spoke, and too late realized his error. He clumsily fended off the Shield that Baran hammered him with. The moment of distraction in fighting the Shield broke his rhythm, and pain lanced through his leg as one of the spokes grazed him. Gavin considered himself fortunate that it was only a graze, given how badly it hurt. If the spoke had caught him directly, it like would have severed his leg. Then the rest of him when he fell.

 

Deep in the Void, Gavin registered the feeling of warmth rapidly spreading upwards from his leg, and belatedly realized that his clothes were on fire. Summoning more Earth, Gavin reached as deep into the Source as he'd ever been able, and brought up a solid rock wall around him, covering himself completely. The rock had its intended effects; it snuffed out his burning clothes, and it shielded him from another pass of the fire wheel. Unfortunately, it opened him up to another Shield entirely.

 

Gavin could feel the Shield approaching his link to the Source, and knew two things at once. First, he was powerless to stop it. Second, he would likely die either from suffocating in his armor of stone, or burned alive on the spokes of the fire wheel when the rock crumbled. Summoning his very last reserves of the Power, he caused the earth under him to heave, throwing himself clear of the fire wheel.

 

No sooner had he left the wheel's burning radius did he feel the Shield slam into place. Cut off from the Power, Gavin's Void collapsed, and he experienced a brief moment of panic as the stone he was encased in hurtled through the air. He only had enough time to register the panic before he impacted the ground. The rock surrounding him shattered from the force, and so did many of his bones.

 

Gavin did not cry out, which he considered a personal victory. However, both legs were broken, along with several ribs, and at least one bone in his spine. He had just enough clarity to register that he was still alive, and thus able to be Healed, before his body betrayed him. Rapidly going into shock, Gavin lost consciousness.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Baran blinked in shock, unsure of what had just happened. Still holding the Power, he advanced on his fallen opponent, his sword held low in case Gavin was merely pretending to sleep to lure him into a trap. As he got closer, though, he saw the extent of the other man's injuries. Thrusting his sword into it's scabbard, he knelt next to Gavin, his woolen pants drawing wetness from the ground into them. He put an ear to the other man's chest, careful not to put too much pressure on it, to listen for his heart. Still beating, which meant Gavin still lived. Good. He was no doubt going to be in enough trouble for putting Gavin in this condition without the added charge of killing him. Sitting up, Baran shook his head. Even when he didn't mean to, he injured his fellows. He could practically hear the rumors spreading from the practice yards.

 

With a grimace, he stood, channeling to amplify his voice. "Tsorovan'm'hael!" His shout echoed over the sound of the other combatants, hopefully reaching their instructor and imparting a need for speed.

 

This done, Baran settled back down next to his former opponent. His expression darkened as he looked over Gavin's body again. He had little talent for Healing, so there was little else he could do but wait. He would have moved the man, but he didn't know if there were any internal injuries he couldn't see. He had seen men that looked perfectly fine to the eye die because there had been something wrong inside them that broke when they were moved.

 

So Baran sat, and waited, for Arath.

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