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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Stay away from the pointy end


Arath Faringal
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Not for the first time, Arath questioned the wisdom of going through with this. He had promised that he would teach her how to use a sword, but at the time he hadn't imagined that Michelle would actually hold him to it. Or that she would get along so poorly with Tai'Dashan. Teaching her how to use a weapon was seeming less and less like a good idea. But he'd promised. Light willing he wouldn't regret it.

 

And so he stood at the bottom of the stairs in his home, a pair of practice swords in his hands, waiting for Michelle to come down. They would be going to the clearing in the woods that Tai had created for this. Going to the training grounds to teach a civilian was just asking for trouble. Too many distractions that way.

 

At long last, the latest resident of Faringal manor made her way down the stairs. "Ready to go?" Arath asked with a smile. "It's going to be a long day."

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Taking one last long look in the mirror, Michelle finally decided she looked alright. There was a pile of clothing on the floor, all of which she had tried on, before she had finally settled on the simple loose tan breeches, dark brown boots, and loose blue shirt. The shirt was her favorite color, and she thought it showed off her eyes well. She also had a hair ribbon to match it, and she had her long dark hair pulled back in a braid. Looking down at the pile of clothes on the floor, she sighed. That was the problem with having so many clothes... you had too many options to choose from! She would come back later and fold them, although she wanted to clean up now.... but if she kept Arath waiting much longer, he would change his mind and lock himself back up in his office. As if that would protect him from her...

 

She had been so excited the night before, to actually be getting to learn to use the sword. She had made Arath promise, but she wasn't sure if he would keep it. He had, after all, broken a few promises in the past... She couldn't think about it though, as it brought pain to both of them. That was the past, and this was the present. They couldn't change what had already occurred and could only prepare themselves better for the future. Holding past failures would only hurt their friendship more. Of course, him teaching her to use the sword wouldn't help their friendship either once she then used it against Tai. That bloody idiot...

 

Once again, he had stayed out late, doing the Light knows what. She had heard him bumbling around in the hallway, and he had kept her up far later than she had chosen. She needed her rest if she was to wake up before the sun and learn to use a sword, and Arath wouldn't accept the fact that Tai stayed up as an excuse for her failure. She had a lot to prove, given that he was surrounded by men and used to teaching men. She was going to show her worth, if it was the last thing she did.

 

Bouncing down the stairs, she made certain that her boots were not graceful, so as to hopefully awaken Tai as he had done the previous night to her. Smiling when she saw Arath, she changed her steps to more graceful. "Ready to go?" Michelle nodded, noting the wooden swords in his hands. Good, she hadn't wanted to hurt him. "It's going to be a long day." Flashing him her best smile, she laughed, heading into the kitchen.

 

"Don't worry about me, Arath. I actually have a little surprise!" Going into the cupboard where she had a hidden bundle she had backed the night before, she pulled out a loaf of bread that was still faintly warm and then opened up the ice box, pulling out a chunk of cheese she had purchased from Covai the night before. Then, grabbing two apples from the fruit basket on the counter, she bundled the items up together and placed them in a basket. On top, she added a thin blanket she had found, and gave Arath a smile. "Our lunch!"

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As Michelle packed her picnic basket, of all things, Arath pondered for a moment on exactly how he was going to go about this lesson. Michelle was not a very large person, and for all the power she could pack behind her full arm slaps, she probably wasn't strong enough to heft a longer blade for long. Once she had finished and happily announced her readiness, Arath gave a nod and a smile, then led the way out of the house.

 

It was a fairly bright day, the first in a quite a while actually. And warm enough that some of the snow was melting off. What snow hadn't been burned or blasted away already. The soldiers did a pretty good job of getting rid of the stuff from the streets, but they largely ignored anything off the beaten path. It was now melting and turning the paths into a slushy mud.

 

"We'll have one stop to make first. I have an idea of how I want to do this, but first we need to select a blade that you're comfortable with. So we'll swing by the forge and find something for you. I set aside a handful of swords that I thought might work."

 

It wasn't long before they reached the forge which Arath worked on occasion. The dark room was still, nobody coming to work the anvils so early in the day. Weaving a globe of light above his hand, Arath led Michelle across the cluttered room to the full weapons rack. "Here you go. Go ahead and find something that feels comfortable. Make sure it's a comfortable weight too ... you'll be swinging it around for a couple of hours and we don't want you getting tired too quickly."

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As they began to head away from the house, Michelle looked everywhere around except at him. They hadn't spoken much since the "frying pan" incident, and that had been almost a week before. She had spent all her time cooking, or cleaning, or even sewing. By the time he was done with his day, she was in her room, and only came out once the house was empty. Avoiding answering questions was best in her book.

 

She loved the feel of the sun shining on her skin, and was greatful that they finally had a nice day. She was growing tired of the cold. Although she knew that the weather could flip again at any moment, she would take advantage of the warmth that spring had brought. "We'll have one stop to make first. I have an idea of how I want to do this, but first we need to select a blade that you're comfortable with. So we'll swing by the forge and find something for you. I set aside a handful of swords that I thought might work." Michelle nodded, and followed him to the forge. She was excited to get to pick her own weapon, but had no idea what she was doing. Perhaps something light and dainty... no that would only make her a laughing stock. They probably all expected her to just pick something small.

 

"Here you go. Go ahead and find something that feels comfortable. Make sure it's a comfortable weight too ... you'll be swinging it around for a couple of hours and we don't want you getting tired too quickly." Seeing a large sword, she slowly stroker her fingers across the metal. Attempting to grasp it in both hands and lift it, she realized quickly how heavy it was. Letting it drop back down into the pile, she sight. Everything looked as heavy as what she had already tried, if not heavier. A few things looked as though they did no damage at all. Finally she came upon what Arath was staring at. She had seen him carrying two swords that looked similiar to this. It was short, although no where near as short as a long dagger. Both sides were sharp, and as she reached to pick it up, it felt surprisingly light in her hand.

 

Awkwardly attempting to slash at the air for a moment, she felt the handle in her hand. It felt good... almost as though it fit. Lifting it up for him to see, she brought it to him, asking, "What about this?"

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Arath watched with amusement as Michelle browsed the weapons. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised when she started with the large two handed blade. How anyone could wield that was beyond him, and the image of Michelle trying to swing that thing around made him crack a smile. She seemed to realize the same thing after she tried to lift it, and quickly moved on down the line. As she ran her fingers over the metal, Arath repeatedly forced himself to not look at her specifically. Even in her loose fitting clothing it was hard to avoid looking. Whatever she did to make him notice her, he was sure she did it on purpose. She seemed to enjoy making him jumpy. Focusing entirely on the task at hand, Arath walked to the end of the line and examined the blade he believed she would eventually choose. It was similar to the pair that he usually carried. A little thinner, perhaps a little shorter. Something she wouldn't have a problem using.

 

When Michelle finally picked up the blade, Arath knew it would be a good match. She took a few experimental swipes through the air before looking to him for approval. "Looks good to me," he said with a grin. "Though it looks a little lighter than your usual weapon." That frying pan ordeal had certainly been something else. A memorable experience to say the least.

 

Ignoring her scowl, Arath held his light globe high and lit the way back to the door. Moments later they were back in the sunlight, making their way toward the clearing in the woods to the west. They didn't talk much on the trip. Mostly she seemed to be enjoying the sunlight. Michelle had been a little reclusive since her last little bout with Tai'Dashan, spending most of her time in the kitchen or in her room. Arath wasn't quite sure what he'd done wrong, nor was he sure how to fix it. Hopefully this would be a step toward that end.

 

As they reached the clearing, Arath did a little preperation. Siezing Saidin, he wove large cables of fire, melting away the snow and drying out the ground beneath them. Sword work was hard enough to learn without slipping around in the mud. Setting Michelle's basket on a large stone that Tai must have raised from the ground at some point, Arath set aside his practice swords and turned to his student. "Well then, shall we get started?"

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Arath scanned his eyes over the blade in her hands quickly before giving her a cheeky grin. It reminded her of Caemlyn so long ago. Back before he was the second in command of a huge group of men. Back when she had money and supported both of them. Back when they were young and foolish... "Looks good to me, though it looks a little lighter than your usual weapon." Arath's words brought her back to reality, and she glared at him for a moment, squinting up her nose. Did he have to be such a... such a man?

 

Heading back out into the fresh air, Michelle ached to let her hair down from her ribbon and feel the breeze in her hair. The sun warmed her skin and she tilted her head back, her skin feeling like it was glowing. Spending all night and day inside of the Inn, and then coming here and staying inside due to the cold... She had forgotten how much she loved being outside. She was ready for summer to come, so that she could perhaps have a garden... if Arath would let her, and hadn't killed her by then.

 

They walked into the woods, and Michelle followed closely behind him. He carried the swords, and she the basket, until they reached a clearing. She watched as the snow melted away, and she closed her eyes, breathing calmly. She was growing used to the idea of him channeling, and to seeing him channel, but it still gave her goose bumps. At least he hadn't tried to channel AGAINST her recently... He took the basket from her hands, and she gave him a small smile, saying thank you. She knew this wasn't a picnic, but that was no reason to come out here and train all day without food. She was no savage that would starve all day simply because men couldn't plan ahead.

 

"Well then, shall we get started?" Michelle nodded, ready to begin. She shifted in her clothes for a moment, wondering if she should take off her loose shirt that she wore. Underneath was a shorter sleeved shirt, and she was of course wearing her bindings, and she knew she might get a little heated. But of course, that was why she wore multiple layers, so she could pull off the longer shirt if need be. This wasn't about looking cute; this was about getting a job done.

 

Walking up to him, she took the sword that he had carried from the forge, and held it in her hand again. It fit perfectly, it seemed, and she felt already as though it was an extension from of her arm. She had overheard a guard say that once... that the weapon should simply be an extension of the arm itself. "So, Attack Leader Arath," she said with a smile and a wink, "where do we begin?"

Edited by Christine
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"We begin with holding your weapon," Arath replied. At Michelle's skeptical look, he grinned. "Really. How you hold your sword, how you place your feet, your balance ... these are the most important parts of all of this. The rest of it, actually waving your sword around, it's all pretty simple. Just a matter of practice. Learning how to react quickly.

 

"But first, stance and grip." Standing next to her, Arath adjusted Michelle's grip on the hilt of her short sword. "It's not hard to figure out with a sword like this. Larger swords are a bit more tricky, especially two handed blades. For the most part, holding it like so will cover just about everything you need to do.

 

"As for your stance, you'll want to fight with your sword arm forward, presenting as small a target as possible for your enemy. Feet apart, like this ... good. Now bend your knees a little. Make sure you're well balanced."

 

Poking her in the shoulders a few times to check her balance, Arath nodded in satisfaction. This was about as good as it would get without actual combat. Reaching out with Saidin, Arath lifted the pair of practice blades toward them. The wooden sword was a little longer than Michelle's new blade, but it was close enough that it wouldn't matter. Driving the tip of the real sword into the ground, Arath quickly demonstrated a few of the basic defensive stances and sword forms. Moves that relied more on speed then strength of arms. Certainly nothing fancy that required a lot of flourishing moves.

 

Once she seemed to master the basics, Arath moved on to the next part. The fun portion of the lesson. "Alright. That's about all I can teach you by just talking at you. The rest, you'll need to learn through experience. Trial and error mostly. Pay close attention to where you place your feet, and when all else fails, step back out of the way.

 

He began easily. Slow slashing attacks, shallow stabs ... nothing she couldn't handle easily. As she began to see patterns and recognize his movements, the Attack Leader gradually sped up the pace until she was having a difficult time keeping up. The bundle of wooden lathes slapped into her arms and ribs more than once, stinging just enough to motivate her to move faster. About twenty minutes in, Arath managed to land a particularly loud slap on her thigh, and couldn't help but laugh at her yelp of surprise. "You're learning quickly. Better than some of the Soldiers actually. Having fun yet?"

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The lesson began smoothly enough. He had her holding the sword a certain way, spreading her feet apart, and she began to clear out the fact it was Arath, and that their friendship was currently teetering on the edge, and began to just concentrate on her balance and the way she gripped her sword, and how tight. She found very quickly that she wasn't as well balanced as she thought, and she ached to take her boots off and stand on the ground barefooted. Her balance would be perfect if she could feel the ground beneath her feet, even if there was still snow on the ground.

 

Then, they began sword forms. Within a few moments of going back and forth, she felt a smack to her arm. She almost screamed out in shock, but sucked it in and kept blowing. Not a minute later, she felt another smack to her ribs. Grimacing, she got faster and faster, not wanting to feel any more hits. They still got through, and Michelle wanted to yell at him to be more gentle, but she wouldn't learn if he went easy on her and she wouldn't prove herself if they were careful.

 

She felt as though she was really getting the hang of it, as they were now going rather fast, even if it was basic, and she hadn't been struck in at least 5 minutes. She felt her balance slide gently and felt a large crack to her leg. Shouting out in pain, she dropped her sword arm, and Arath did the same. At least he wouldn't keep swinging at her while she was in pain! She looked up, hoping for some sympathy, but he was laughing! "You're learning quickly. Better than some of the Soldiers actually. Having fun yet?"

 

Wanting him to feel the same pain she felt, as she had yet to land a blow on him, she straightened up, smiling. "Oh Arath, when I am with you, I always have fun." That shocked him, as he froze in place while she smiled. Taking a step forward to him, she rubbed the spot he had just smacked with his sword. "I wonder, if you like to hit me this hard out here, how hard are you willing to hit me when we are playing... elsewhere." That one really took him for a loop, as he just stared at her at this point.

 

"Arath... you should kiss my bruise and make it feel better." His jaw dropped open slightly, and, taking her chance, Michelle swung her sword as hard as she could to knock him against the stomach. He took a few steps backwards in shock, and she laughed, saying, "Oh yes, quite a lot of fun! What's next?"

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Arath had to admit, he was woefully inexperienced when it came to dealing with women. They made no sense whatsoever, as Michelle quite amply demonstrated.

 

He was caught completely off guard and confused by her little comment, and the more she spoke, the worse it got. When she suggested he kiss her bruise better ... He should have known right there that she was up to something, but the strangeness of the situation had him dazed enough that he couldn't think. What in the Light was she saying? When her intentions became blatantly obvious a few moments later, Arath felt twice the fool.

 

Feeling lucky that he'd managed to avoid the worst of Michelle's cheap shot, he contemplated her question. What's next indeed? Well if she was willing to play dirty, who was he to object?

 

"Well, since you seem so eager to be on the attack, we'll focus on that next." With a small glare that promised eventual retribution, Arath began to show Michelle the basic attack forms he had been using. Basic ways to draw your opponent into the position you wanted, and how to strike quickly at any exposed weaknesses. She caught on pretty quickly. That should have been no surprise, considering how fast she'd taken that approach earlier.

 

"Alright, we'll spar again now. This time, counter my attacks with strikes of your own. Try to keep me on the defensive, but always be ready to fall back and act defensively. You never know when somebody will pull a fast one on you."

 

Considering that fair warning, Arath quickly resumed their duelling. He began with some quick offensive strikes until she got back into the rhythem, then allowed her to begin making practice strikes against him. The sparring match proceeded quickly, progressing into more rapid and difficult moves. Arath was very careful to not let her strike him, although he let her make a few close calls. He could see her concentrating harder and harder, focusing more and more on making a point against him. After a good fifteen minutes of dancing just out of reach, Arath launched his own dirty attack.

 

Siezing Saidin, Arath wove earth and water in a complex weave that would undo all his work with fire earlier. Settling the weave into the earth, Arath gave it one final tug, and the thing collapsed in on itself, instantly turning the top two inches of dirt all around him into a thick, sticky mud. More than enough to cause trouble if you weren't expecting it. Which Michelle surely wasn't.

 

As he completed his weave, Arath leapt forward and made a quick slash with his practice blade. Michelle jumped backward, bringing her sword up in time, but by the time her feet touched the ground, it had liquified beneath her. Arath smiled slightly as gravity took over the work for him. Ahhh ... revenge.

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They began again with the sparring, and this time, she was attacking. He wasn't going any easier, and she didn't expect him to, but he was moving so fast, it felt more like her body knew what to do than she did. They sped up, they slowed down, back and forth. She tried to get another blow on him, but was unsuccessful. At least he hadn't landed another blow on her. If nothing else, that was a small improvement, and her body was already thanking her for it. She was begin to feel overheated, and could tell they had already been out there for almost an hour and a half. She needed a sip of water and to take this overvshirt off, but she wouldn't relent until she got Arath again.

 

Out of no where, Arath jumped forward at her, and she stepped backward to block, knowing that this would be coming eventually. Her boot hit the ground... and then sunk into mud. Taking another step back to try to balance herself, she began to slide down into the mud. Screaming as she fell, Arath stood over her. Sitting in the mud for a moment, she looked up at him in shock. "Hey! Using the power isn't fair!"

 

Well, if he was playing like this, she could play back just as hard. Jumping back up to her feet, she gave him a big hug, getting him covered in mud. He ignored it, for the moment, and she then proceeded to take her shirt off. Underneath was a much tighter shirt, short sleeved. She then proceeded to take her boots and socks off, and rolled up her pants. Arath just stood there staring at her, before she then jumped back into the mud. Arath was watching her, and she picked back up her sword.

 

Bending over to pick up a handfull of mud, and threw it at Arath. Laughing, she raised her sword again, ready for what came next. "Would you like to play in the mud some more, or is there anything else you want to teach me this morning?"

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Arath had expected the accusations of cheating when he'd used the Power. After all ... that was a completely unfair advantage. He had not expected Michelle to start removing her clothing. Thank the Light she was wearing another shirt underneath the now muddy one, even if it was a bit tight.

 

"Would you like to play in the mud some more, or is there anything else you want to teach me this morning?"

 

Looking down at his now muddy coat, Arath frowned. Then with a sigh, he quickly removed it. If she was going to keep this up, and he was sure she would, he'd rather not have to clean even more mud out of his good clothes. If felt good to go without it sometimes anyway.

 

As Michelle dropped into her ready stance again, Arath grinned and dropped down to one knee, placing a hand on the ground. Channeling into the ground, Arath drew up another sword. A weapon composed of earth and water. An oddly spongy blade that dealt less damage than the practice lathes. "How about I show you what this should really look like then?" After demonstrating that his new weapon would not be any more dangerous than the wooden blade he had already been using, Arath began to circle around Michelle. He started slowly again, letting her grow used to fighting two blades instead of just one. It was a confusing adjustment to make, but she eventually began falling into a pattern, just like she had before. And then he began to speed things up. Before long, he was moving far too quickly for her to keep up. His blades were moving in dizzying circles, poking holes in her frantic defenses. Despite it all, he never landed a blow. He carefully measured each strike to fall short of actually striking.

 

All things considered, Michelle did an admirable job. She kept her footing in the slippery mud, and still managed to launch the occasional counter strike against him. She was plainly growing frustrated though. Understandable, but it might well lead to her doing something rash ...

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Michelle pouted slightly as Arath took off his coat, knowing he would take off no more. Light, that boy would die without having even touched a woman if he hadn't found a friend in her. Why was he acting so proper out here, even in the woods? He shouldn't have been wearing his coat to begin with, and he still looked so... wrapped up with it off. Ah well, the mere fact he took his coat off said something. And then he bent over and pulled up another sword.

 

She should have expected it. He used two swords normally, but seeing him make one out of the mud was not something she was ready for. "How about I show you what this should really look like then?" Michelle gulped hard, scared her body would soon be covered in even more bruises, but she nodded, and prepared herself. He started off slow, thank the Light, but very quickly sped up. He was far faster than her, and his hits were all so accurate. She could barely move her arm fast enough to keep up, and her legs were starting to hurt from keeping balance in the mud and trying to keep him in front of her.

 

Growing annoyed, she knew she could not win, nor even tie. There was no way she could land a blow on him, and this had been going on long enough. Now he was just showing off. Twisting her body, she swung her sword around to block his hit and dropped to her knees at the same time, sliding in the mud into his body. He yelled out with a start, and landed into the mud on top of her. Laughing, she pushed him off and he laid there in the mud while she climbed on to him, straddling his lap. Holding the sword across his chest, she gave him a smile. "I think I won! Don't you like to get a little dirty sometimes?"

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Maybe he deserved it for that last bit of over the top swordplay, but Arath was not prepared for being tackled into the mud. Splashing down onto his hands and knees, he yelled in surprise, dropping both of his blades in an effort to not hurt Michelle, who had happened to fall beneath him. A moment later, when she'd knocked him onto his back and perched herself on top of him with his own sword to his chest, he had to admit that she'd won. He laughed along with her, up until he realized the compromising situation he found himself in. Here he was, in the mud, with a half dressed woman sitting on top of him. His myrth died down quickly after that, and he just felt awkward. For what must have been the hundredth time since Arath had known her, questions about the Lugarder sense of propriety flashed through his mind. Sometimes he thought they had no shame at all.

 

Struggling to sit up, a feat that was made much harder by the total lack of cooperation from Michelle, Arath managed to prop himself up and search around for an excuse to get away. His eyes settled on the basket of food. Perfect. "So, you ready for lunch then? Or do you like eating mud as much as you like playing in it?"

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Arath lay there for a moment, not responding. In those next 10 seconds, Michelle realized what she was doing. Here she was, stradleing a grown man, down in the mud, and she was in breeches and a tight shirt. She could see the color enter his cheeks, and she prayed that the mud hid hers. He tried to sit up, and she set her sword aside, and wrapped her arms around his neck. He was propped up on his arms, and she just sat there, her arms around him, staring into his eyes. Light, they weren't children anymore. What was she doing?! She always tried to seem so sure of herself, yet here she was, on top of him, and he was looking everywhere except at her.

 

"So, you ready for lunch then? Or do you like eating mud as much as you like playing in it?" Laughing, she looked away from him and tried to stand up, sliding in the mud again. She just landed heavily back into his lap. By the Light, this was just getting worse and worse. She struggled and finally rose, stepping away from him quickly. Going to the basket, she looked down to realize she was covered with mud. "Umm, Arath? The mud and the dirt? Could you?" He nodded and she watched the dirt disappear from her hands, and even felt the mud dissolve from her feet and clothes. She wasn't completely clean, but it was good enough to eat lunch. "So cool..." she whispered, until she saw the big ball of mud over her head. Glaring at him for a moment, she pulled the blanket out of the basket, and gave him another glance.

 

Within a few seconds, the ground away from their sparring area was free of snow and the ground was dry. Spreading out the blanket, she sat down and opened the basket further. Pulling out the fruit, cheese, and bread, she smiled and offered him some. He cleaned himself the same way, and sat down on the blanket beside her. Letting her head rest on his shoulder, she felt him stiffen, and she mentally sighed. When would he stop being so tense around her?

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Arath was a little surprised when Michelle asked for his help to clean off the mud. She was fairly understanding of most uses of the Power, but she usually was a little less than willing to have it directed at her in any way, shape, or form. Not that there were really many other options right now, unless she wanted to scrub clean in the snow. Wielding fine threads of Saidin, he deftly removed the mud from her skin and clothing. As it fell away, he caught it all up in flows of air and whisked it all into the air above her head. The mud ball hung ominously until she happened to glance up and notice the thing. She glared at him, but other than that she seemed to ignore it. Another surprise.

 

A few moments later, Arath melted away the snow and baked the moisture from enough of the ground for Michelle to spread the blanket. Cleaning himself off, he joined her on the ground, more than ready for a nice peaceful lunch. It caught him off guard (though he was no longer sure why), when she leaned into him, her head on his shoulder. Despite himself, he tensed up, unsure of what to do. It wasn't so much that he didn't like it, because he most certainly did, but he had absolutely no idea what she was up to. That was typically the case with Michelle, ever since the day they had met. He couldn't tell if she was doing it because she had certain intention, or if it was simply a comfortable way to sit. Or she might just be teasing him ... something she had always been incredibly adept at.

 

Doing his best to ignore the situation, Arath tried to shift his focus elsewhere. Seeing as how this was supposed to be lunch time, that seemed as good a place to start as any. Taking a piece of the bread she offered, he tried to strike up some conversation. "So what do you think? Can you handle being the worlds first warrior baker?"

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Offering Arath a piece of bread, she broke off a small chunk of cheese and nibbled on it. While Michelle did feel absolutely famished, she also didn't feel she could eat much. Her body was too tense, and the soreness was starting to set in. She would be taking a very long hot bath that evening. She couldn't even imagine the state that her hair was in, given that she still felt it was caked with mud. By the Light, did he have to get even her hair muddy?

 

Taking a bite of the bread herself, she straightened up, as he asked, "So what do you think? Can you handle being the worlds first warrior baker?" Laughing to herself, she hadn't him a piece of cheese to go with the bread. The world's first warrior baker? She didn't know about that one. The first baker that could wield a sword without killing themselves, sure, but a warrior? She had felt somewhat confident before that learning to use the sword would be easy, but her body was screamed otherwise.

 

Swallowing the bread in her mouth, she rolled her eyes. "I think that after I get the basics down, I will be sticking to the kitchen, and leave the sword wielding and protecting to you!" She laughed again, imagining herself carrying around pies and breads while wearing a sword. Like Arath would let that happen... Like Tai would be even somewhat normal while she had a weapon... Like Arath wouldn't protect her anyways...

 

"If Tai ever did get dangerous... Hey, he isn't dangerous now, just a little retarded... Would you protect me? I know he is your student and all that, but I wouldn't have to attempt to save myself with a sword, would I?"

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Arath turned his head and looked down at Michelle for a moment. "Of course I would. I don't think it will come to that any time soon, but I wouldn't let him harm you." He didn't want to state the obvious, that her sword would be next to worthless if THAT situation ever arose. She was probably already very much aware of that. "I don't think you have to worry so long as you don't goad him too much. I really don't know why you two ... why you can't work things out." He'd been about to say 'why you two don't get along' but that was a bald faced lie. Starting your relationship off with death threats and a bucket of freezing water didn't make for a very friendly environment. With a sigh, Arath wrapped his arm behind Michelle and squeezed her shoulder. "But yes. So long as you live in my house, I will never let anything hurt you."

 

After a few moments, he realized what he was doing and almost jumped away. But she didn't seem to mind at all ... he left his arm where it was. "Besides," he continued with a laugh, "I think Tai is just as afraid of you and your frying pan as you are of him."

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Arath looked at her for a moment, and Michelle was nervous that perhaps she had gone too far in suggesting the possibility that he could go insane. Any time that they discussed men going crazy, they never discussed the possibility of Arath actually going mad. She couldn't imagine that one... "Of course I would. I don't think it will come to that any time soon, but I wouldn't let him harm you." She gave him a half smile. She didn't really think a sword would have done any damage to a crazed channeler anyways.

 

"I don't think you have to worry so long as you don't goad him too much. I really don't know why you two ... why you can't work things out." Michelle had to laugh. She enjoyed teasing Tai far too much to actually become friends with him. The man was an idiot, and there was nothing that could change her mind about that fact! "But yes. So long as you live in my house, I will never let anything hurt you."

 

Michelle almost froze as she felt his arm go around her. Unable to breathe or think, she attempted to relax as he squeezed her shoulder and held her against him. This was the closest they had ever been, it seemed, that hadn't been a tease she had done against him. It was weird, for her to not be in control of the touching. "Besides, I think Tai is just as afraid of you and your frying pan as you are of him."

 

Laughing with Arath, she let her head drop to his shoulder again. His arm remained around her, and for a split second, she considered pulling away. Why wasn't he tense like normal? Had he intended to hold her against him? He was looking down at her, and for half a second, she considered giving him a peck on the cheek. Her cheeks burned at the thought, but she tried to reason with herself, saying it was only a peck.

 

As soon as he glanced away from her, she gave him a peck, then pulled away before he could respond. Jumping up from where she had been sitting, she moaned suddenly, her muscles aching. Trying to get the conversation away from the small kiss she had just given him before it began, she said, "Can we go home and take a bath now?" She thought about what she had just said, and her cheeks burned even worse. "I mean, can we just go back so I can soak in a hot bath and wash all of this mud out of my hair?"

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Surprised by the kiss, and even more so by her quick retreat, Arath quietly decided that he would never understand women. Especially this one. Oddly enough, Arath didn't feel the slightest bit awkward about what she said next, even though it set Michelle to blushing furiously. Maybe because of that fact. With a grin, he rose to his feet and voiced his agreement with the idea. Of seperate baths.

 

It didn't take long for them to stow the mostly uneaten food back in the basket and to gather up the blanket and discarded clothing. With a final glance around the clearing to make sure they had everything, Arath opened a gateway directly to his Travelling room. Allowing Michelle to jump through first, Arath followed through with the blanket and clothing, careful to keep the bundle away from the edges of the portal. Taking the basket from her, Arath made a quick detour to drop it off in the kitchen, dumping the blanket and dirty clothing into a pile at the bottom of the stairs before making his way down the hall to the bath room. By the time he arrived, Michelle was already filling the giant tub with the mechanism leading to the cistern.

 

Arath couldn't help but chuckle to himself as he saw her sitting on the edge of the tub, covered in mud. He imagined that he didn't look any better, but it was still a funny site. She was dirtier than he'd been when they'd met in Caemlyn years before.

 

She glared at him, demanding to know what he found so amusing. He just shook his head and laughed. "This just looks awfully familiar. Is this the part where I count to three, and you scramble into the tub? Your shirt looks as though it needs cleaning."

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Thankfully, Arath said nothing of the peck. Within a few moments, everything was packed back away into the basket, and Arath had retrieved their clothes. She watched as he opened a gateway, and stepped inside. She grabbed onto him as they then appeared in his traveling room, and she let go, leaving him with the basket as she ran to the bath. Her whole body ached, and the sooner she sank into the water, the better.

 

She began filling up the tub, twisting the nozzles, and smiled with delight as it filled up. Once Arath warmed it for her, she would sink in. She was already barefoot from kicking her boots off earlier, and as she sat down on the edge of the tub, her hair stood on end as the cold water reached her feet. She heard laughing behind her, and she turned to see Arath, just as dirty as she was, staring from the doorway. "Oh, by the Light, what is so amusing to you?"

 

He laughed again as she glared, and said, "This just looks awfully familiar. Is this the part where I count to three, and you scramble into the tub? Your shirt looks as though it needs cleaning." She tried to keep a straight face, but immediately burst out laughing. How could she have forgotten when she threw him into the bath, so long ago. The water reached further up her legs, and she jerked them out, and gave Arath a pout.

 

"Warm it up for me?" Within moments, she could feel the warmth from the water meet the air, and she turned back to stick her feet in. Hissing for a moment at the sudden change in temperature, she relaxed quickly. Arath was still standing in the doorway, and so she rose up, turning to him and smiling from the edge of the tub. He seemed to be looking at her for some reason, and she smiled, and began to pull her shirt off. By the time it was over her head, he was attempting to flee the room, and she threw the shirt at him, hitting him in the head. "Thank you!"

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