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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Christine

In the beginning...

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Caemlyn... the most beautiful city in Andor, and second across the land to only Tar Valon itself. Michelle had been expecting beauty and splendor, and she was not disappointed in that. The beautiful gates, the tall towers, and the open streets were all a welcome sight after her long travels from Lugard. She thought that she would never arrived. Thankfully, she had only to take the road straight from one capital to the other, but she almost wished that there had been some sort of sights along the way. Two weeks of riding had made her rear sore, and she was excited to finally sleep in a bed of something other than hay. At least the weather had been kind to her, and on the few days it had rained, a farmhouse gave her shelter.

 

Here she was, ready to make her future. Ready to learn her trade, and to become something. She had no idea where to start looking, but she still had plenty of coin left to get her to a steady job. She hurried down off her horse, and began walking through the city. The smells were wonderful, and she remembered her growling stomach. Purchasing a meat pie, she continued exploring. There were large official building, and inns, taverns, shops... everything that they had had in Lugard, of course, but this was far more grand. This was the start of a new life for her, and she was determined to actually make something of herself here.

 

Finding the Inn that had been recommended to her by the last farmer she stayed with, she left her horse with the stable master and went inside. Politely introducting herself and mentioning the farmer and his wife, she was quickly shown up the stairs into a room, the Innkeeper's wife going on and on about what a wonderful couple the farmers had been. Michelle smiled, remembering how her old nursemaid had carried on like this. Deciding to take her first stab at getting a job, Michelle mentioned that she could bake and clean, and was looking for a position somewhere. The woman looked sad, and said that she had 3 girls of her own that kept the kitchen well worked. To Michelle's delight, however, she had a few ideas on places that needed help.

 

Taking the list the woman gave her, Michelle began to work her way through the city. She got lost a few times but, given she had arrived so early in the day, she had plenty of time to get lost and explore. She found the first two Inns, and both offered her to come back the next two days and show them her cooking skills. She felt blessed, knowing that she would be in a safe environment. As soon as she had a real job, she could find a real place to live...

 

Making her way to the third establishment, she heard a ruckus, with yelling and fighting. A rather large man, the innkeeper she guessed, was hauling a boy about her age out of the Inn. He was a little taller than her, and had startleing green eyes. Even in the present situation, he had a cockiness about him that made Michelle smile. She couldn't even help but to silently cheer him on as he fought to get away from the Innkeeper, finally knocking the man down. That was... until she saw the guards running towards them.

 

Rushing to the Innkeeper on the ground, she knelt down to offer him a hand up. The man looked angrily at her until her saw her, his face changing from red to pale. Smiling at him, she leaned down and whispered into his ear, “Clearly sir, you tripped and fell, and this young man was only trying to help you up.” As she whispered this, her fingers slid from her purse, holding two fat coins, and slid into his meaty hand. The Innkeeper looked at her for a second in shock, then composed himself, before waving off the guards.

 

“Nothing is wrong,” the innkeeper yelled. The guards still held the boy in place, and Michelle flashe another smile at the fat man on the ground. Giving him a sly wink, the innkeeper hurried to get himself up before waving off the guards. “A missunderstanding, sirs, although I must thank you for your speediness.” The guards let go of the boy, who stood there in shock, while Michelle quickly slid away from the innkeeper's side for fear he would want her smiles to continue.

 

Walking by the boy, she grabbed his arm, and hurridly pulled up her cloak around her. Ducking down the nearest alley, she glanced back to see if the Innkeeper was following. The man was looking around everywhere, trying to see her through the crowd, but Michelle knew she was safe. Letting her hood fall back, she tightened her purse strings from when she had loosened them. “So, what happened back there? We both know that was no missunderstanding...”

 

 

Michelle Linwood

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Arath watched carefully from the corner of the inn, waiting for the right moment. The innkeeper here was a fat fool, but he did a good bit of business. And he kept all of his earnings in a purse almost as fat as he was right on his belt. Easy pickings, if he did things right.

 

It was mostly a waiting game. This inn attracted a lot of different kinds of people. Merchants guards, city watch, lesser nobles ... some of which were a little too observant for his tastes. On the other hand, they paid well for their drinks, making this place an excellent target. If a little bit hard to manage. If he could pull it off, he would be set for quite a while though. Maybe be able to find a way out of his current predicament.

 

The opportunity arose after a good hour of waiting. The number of patrons had dropped off a little, and the innkeeper was engaged in an animated conversation with a friend of his. Another innkeeper judging by his girth. But he was busy trading rumors, which meant his attention was focused entirely away from his purse. Perfect. Moving as normally as possible, Arath set down the mug he'd been tending for so long and made his way toward the door. The casual observer would notice that the innkeeper just happened to be standing along the best path to the door. Purely coincidental.

 

What happened next was not quite according to the young thief's plan. By some unfortunate twist of luck, just as Arath made his pass at the dangling purse, the innkeepers friend kicked his foot out in wild embelishment of his current rumor. The foot caught Arath behind the knee, causing him to fall hard, with his fingers tangled in the purse strings. The innkeeper squawked in surprise as he felt the tug on his belt, and surprise quickly turned to anger when he saw the dirty young man on the floor, struggling to extricate himself from his purse. "Thief!" he roared, bending down with surprising speed to lift Arath from the ground.

 

"No!" Arath lied, frantically looking for a way out of this. "I just fell! Your friend tripped me and I just fell into you!"

 

"Tell it to the city watch!" the fat man sneered, hauling the youth to the door.

 

That was the last thing Arath ever intended to do, and so he struggled. The innkeeper had a surprisingly strong grip, but as could be expected was not a very agile man. Arath managed to worm around in his grip, finally hitting him behind the knee with a well placed kick. The man squawked again, tumbling down the front step and loosing his grip. Arath twisted free ... only to see a handful of guards rounding the corner, eyes locking onto him. Blood and ashes ...

 

Arath wasn't quite sure what happened next. As the guards roughly siezed him, he noticed a young woman kneeling down next to the innkeeper. Whatever she said seemed to surprise and confuse the old man. The next thing he knew, the innkeeper was waving off the guards, saying it was all a mistake. Within moments of his arrest, he was free once again, and entirely unsure of why that was so. Before he could pull his wits together, the young woman had snagged him by the arm and was dragging him down an alley. Arath briefly considered breaking away from her and running, but considering that she'd just rescued him from certain imprisonment he decided to indulge her.

 

The girl dropped her hood and turned to face him. She was pretty ... but what did she want with him? “So, what happened back there? We both know that was no missunderstanding...”

 

Arath did his best to look innocent. A pretty good job actually ... not that she looked fooled in the slightest. With a shrug, he simply said, "Lets just say ... the fat man is faster than he looks. And has the Dark One's own bloody luck."

 

Glancing uneasily back the way they came, he added, "I don't want to seem ungrateful for your help back there, but I really don't know what I can offer you in return. You don't really seem the sort that would associate with ... folks like me. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not wait around here until he decides that maybe he wasn't so mistaken after all."

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For about five seconds, the boy just stared at her. Michelle was starting to think he was simple, when he suddenly put on an innocent look. She was having none of it... she was so farm girl that believed every tall tale. The boy simply shrugged and said, "Lets just say ... the fat man is faster than he looks. And has the Dark One's own bloody luck." Michelle rolled her eyes. That man, while fat, was not fast. The boy had messed up a job, and they both knew it. If she hadn't of been there though... nothing could have saved him from the City Watch.

 

The boy looked back out towards the direction of the Inn. Michelle looked in the direction as well, not wanting to be noticed by the Innkeeper again. His eyes had looked a little... too greedy. And that was not a price she would pay to save anyone, even herself, from the watch. "I don't want to seem ungrateful for your help back there, but I really don't know what I can offer you in return. You don't really seem the sort that would associate with ... folks like me. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not wait around here until he decides that maybe he wasn't so mistaken after all." Michelle nodded. It was dangerous just to be standing here, but she had hoped for a thank you from the boy at least.

 

The lad went to dash away again, and Michelle pulled up her hood, ready to go in her own direction, back to the Inn she was staying at. Of course, she had no idea in what direction that was, only that it was the Queen's Blessing. She glanced out into the street, and realized she had no idea what way to go. The boy was about to dash, when she grabbed his arm again, pulling him back into the alley way. "Wait." He looked at her for a moment expectedly. "I am lost. I don't know how to get back to my Inn. I am staying at the Queen's Blessing. Do you know where that is?" The boy studied her for a moment, before she added, "My name is Michelle. I am from Lugard, in Murandy. I am trying to find a place to live and a job, baking and cooking..."

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Arath paused again, weighing his options before he responded. He definitely owed her something. This was the least he could do. "I'm Arath. And yes, I know the Queen's Blessing. I don't know about finding a job there, but I can show you the way." She looked pleased, and she released her grip on his arm. With one more glance up the alley, Arath pointed Michelle further down the street they were standing in. "That way."

 

It didn't take long before they had made their way to the gates of the inner city. From there, it was only a short walk to the inn she was looking for. The Queen's Blessing was one of the better inns of the city. It had a veyr good reputation. There were rarely ever fights there, and it was usually filled with fine, upstanding citizens. Not a place Arath visited often. He had followed it's patrons a time or two, but he had never stepped inside.

 

"Well, milady," Arath said with a sweep of his arm, "here we are. A fine upstanding inn if there ever was one." Looking around, Arath began to wonder what he would do for the night. He'd been counting on making a nice profit from the inn keeper, and was quite at a loss for what to do now. "So ... is there anything else I can do for you? I feel like I should thank you for what you did back there ... but I'm at a loss for what to do exactly."

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The boy studied her for a moment, and Michelle feared he would dash away without helping her. She didn't want to be seen again by the Innkeeper, and this boy did owe her at least something for her help. "I'm Arath. And yes, I know the Queen's Blessing. I don't know about finding a job there, but I can show you the way." She smiled at him, a real smile that she hadn't given the Innkeeper, and nodded, following the way he pointed. "That way." She followed quickly and quietly, keeping her head down as they traveled throughout the city. She had no idea how she had gotten so far away from her Inn, but before no time, they were back at the doors.

 

Michelle's stomach grumbled, and she could smell the wonderful fragrance coming from inside. She knew that the wonderful woman cooking the meal was excited to hear about her job prospects, and Michelle was ready to share them, but she didn't know what to do about Arath. The boy was clearly hungry, especially if he would risk his own neck to eat, but she couldn't exactly just give away all of her coin. "Well, milady, here we are. A fine upstanding inn if there ever was one."

 

Michelle had to giggle to herself. Milady? She was truly a nobody, and given that she was in a new city and had left her family... she was very far from a lady. "Uh, yes, it is. I actually happened to meet a farmer on my way here, who's wife is sisters with this Innkeeper's wife. I was fortunate that they were willing to let me stay at a lower cost that most. The ladies have taken a liking to me, I guess." She tried to downplay the money key, seeing as how she was certain by now in his eyes, she appeared to be rich.

 

"So ... is there anything else I can do for you? I feel like I should thank you for what you did back there ... but I'm at a loss for what to do exactly." He looked so hungry. She was starving and had only eaten just that morning. How long had it been since he had eaten? Or bathed, for that matter. She imagined he would clean up well. She certainly felt wonderful after a long time without a bath... Speaking of which, she wanted to order one as soon as possible.

 

"Are you hungry? Would you like to come in? I mean, you need a bath, but I don't think they would mind too much. It would be my treat, should you choose to accept it..." Michelle walked closer to the door, going to reach for the handle. If he chose to leave, that would be the end of it, and she would wish him well, but should he choose to eat with her... well she had no idea what she was doing at this point.

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Arath was more than a little surprised at her offer. And more than a little suspicious. A year of hard living on Caemlyn's streets had taught him that nobody offered anything without expecting something in return. But he could not for the life of him figure out what this girl was after. Surely not the pleasure of his company? Dirty and miserable as he looked, he doubted his own mother would have wanted to be seen with him. Creator shelter her soul.

 

He wasn't sure why he did it. Perhaps hunger was just gnawing away at his good judgement? Maybe he was tired of being suspicious of everyone? Or maybe he was just a sucker for a pair of pretty eyes? Either way, he found himself nodding, and following the girl into the inn.

 

Inside the inn, Arath felt throughly out of place. This didn't feel like a place he would be welcome. The inn keepers appraising, and slightly disapproving look said that he agreed with Arath's view. Wondering if he'd made a mistake, Arath stuck close to Michelle, as though her immediate presence was all that was saving him from being thrown out. Which it very well may have done.

 

It didn't take long before Michelle had ordered some food and found them a seat at one of the corner tables. Cautiously sitting down across from her, Arath sat in silence, wondering what to do. Finally, he decided to strike up a conversation. Anything was better than that awkward silence. "So ... Lugard huh? What brings you to Caemlyn?"

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Heading into the Inn, Michelle looked back slightly to see that Arath was following her inside. Smiling to herself, although she did not know why, she mentally chose the table in the corner, away from the eyes that were on both of them. She didn't know whether it was because he clearly didn't belong, or because everyone seemed to have all their attention on her today, but she didn't care. She had helped him, he had helped her, and now they were talking. That was no one else's business.

 

The innkeeper's wife gave a glance at Arath, but then began asking questions about the interview. Michelle mentioned the first two inns, and skipped over the third, and the woman seemed happy for her. Ordering up dinner for the both of them, she walked to the table, and Arath sat across from her. Smiling, she finished pulling her cloak off, and pushed her hair back out of her face quickly. She had tied it up with a ribbon earlier, but somehow it had come undone and was a mess around her shoulders.

 

"So ... Lugard huh? What brings you to Caemlyn?" Oh my, was he afraid of there being silence in the air? They had barely sat down before he was already bursting with a question. Smiling, Michelle sat back in her chair, accepting the water that was brought to them just moments later. Taking a nice deep drink, she responded.

 

"Yes, I am from Lugard. My father was a silk merchant. I didn't like it there, so I came to Caemlyn to hopefully end up having my own bakery one day." She hadn't really meant to tell anyone her private dream, as silly as it was, but she saw no harm in sharing it with Arath. "Until I can open my own place, I am hoping to secure a job working in some of the Inns. That's why I was out earlier. I was looking to see who needed help."

 

Taking another sip of her water, she saw two plates with soup, a piece of bread, and a piece of cheese on them. Her stomach grumbled again, and she smiled at Arath, taking her plate and sipping at the soup for a moment. Looking up, she saw his eyes staring longingly at the food, so she encouraged him to go ahead. "Please, eat. I know you must be hungry." And he did indeed eat...

 

"So tell me, have you always lived in Caemlyn? Or where are you from before this?"

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Arath dug into the food as though it was his last meal. It might be, for all he knew. For a while anyway. At least until he could find someone more fortunate, but less lucky than he was.

 

A bakery ... that was interesting. Michelle didn't look old enough to be starting her own business just yet, but come to think of it, Arath wasn't quite sure how old someone was supposed to be to do that. Old enough to look responsible in front of the bankers he supposed. He'd heard enough talk on the streets to know that the bankers were the ones who controlled most of the business in Caemlyn.

 

Arath took advantage of a large lump of potato to buy himself time to think about her question. How much was he willing to trust her? Enough to volunteer information? Or just answer her questions as basically as possible? Maybe a little bit of both ...

 

"I'm from a little town just north of Caemlyn. A little speck that nobody's ever heard of. I left about a year ago ... not quite sure what I was thinking, but there was nothing left for me there. Didn't find much more than that here either."

 

"So you came here alone? You just decided to set out on your own?"

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Arath was blowing through the food, and Michelle smiled, sipping at her soup. If nothing else, she had done a good thing today, helping this boy. What little coin she had given up for him was clearly worth a fortune to him. She began to nibble on the bread and cheese, not wanting to rush her meal, in case he was still hungry. She didn't eat all that much before she was full, but she wasn't going to just offer her entire plate to the boy.

 

"I'm from a little town just north of Caemlyn. A little speck that nobody's ever heard of. I left about a year ago ... not quite sure what I was thinking, but there was nothing left for me there. Didn't find much more than that here either." It sounded like how she felt back home. There was really nothing there, and so all she could do was hope to find something else. "So you came here alone? You just decided to set out on your own?"

 

Michelle smiled, finishing the current bite in her mouth, and washing it down with a bit more water. "Uhm, yes, I came here alone. My parent's didn't really notice any more, and there was nothing left for me in Lugard. I had been working, and I saved up enough coin. Everyone travels through Caemlyn it seems, and so I knew my best chance of finding a Master Baker to learn under would be by coming here. I came here with just a few items, my horse, a small bit of coin, and a smile. So far, it has seen me fed the whole way here, acquaintances in Caemlyn that are helping me out, a safe place to sleep each night, and memories to last a lifetime."

 

Smiling again at him, she returned to eating her meal. His plate was about empty, so she picked up the piece of cheese she had barely touched, and offered it to him. Once again taking a sip of water, she smiled, wanting to see if she could get anything else out of the boy. "You came here alone as well? How long have you been here? What do you do... other than talk to large innkeepers?"

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Arath nodded, washing down the last of his soup with a gulp of water. "Like I said, I had nothing left in my home town. My mother died when I was little, and my father, he ... he died right before I came here." He wasn't about to tell the truth about THAT little incident. Admitting to killing your own father, even in self defense, was not a way to win friends. "I don't have any other family, and didn't really feel like staying in Dramon's Glen was an option.

 

"Believe it or not, I used to be an apprentice blacksmith." He looked down at his severely weakened self. Most of the muscle he'd built up in the forge had long since vanished on the streets. "My father ran his own forge, and I learned from him as best I could. There's no shortage of smith's apprentices here though, so I couldn't use those skills for anything. I've been reduced to ... misunderstandings with large inn keepers. Not exactly noble work, but it beats the alternative." Dying on the streets could hardly be considered an alternative, but there were no others. Except maybe dying in the dungeons.

 

"What about you? What do you do besides baking and clearing up misunderstandings between strangers and innkeepers?"

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"Like I said, I had nothing left in my home town. My mother died when I was little, and my father, he ... he died right before I came here." Michelle could tell there was more of a back story, but she brushed it off. He was probably still hurt over it. If anyone was close to her father, it was her oldest brother. There was nothing quite like the bond between a father and his eldest son. "I don't have any other family, and didn't really feel like staying in Dramon's Glen was an option." Michelle nodded. Lugard didn't feel like home any more, even though she had spent her whole life there. She already felt more at home in Caemlyn, and she hadn't even been there a full day.

 

"Believe it or not, I used to be an apprentice blacksmith." Michelle had to smile for a moment at his joke, when she then realized he was being serious. He really was starving then, to be this slim. She was grateful more and more every second that she had offered him a meal. "My father ran his own forge, and I learned from him as best I could. There's no shortage of smith's apprentices here though, so I couldn't use those skills for anything. I've been reduced to ... misunderstandings with large inn keepers. Not exactly noble work, but it beats the alternative."

"What about you? What do you do besides baking and clearing up misunderstandings between strangers and innkeepers?" Clearing her throat and taking another sip of water, she pushed what was left on her try to Arath. She would rather he eat more. She knew that she would be eating again in the morning. Him... she wasn't so sure about. He would do better to eat more. And given that she would be showing off her skills in kitchens over the next few days, there would be plenty of food for her to be tasting and sampling.

 

"Well, I really am all about baking, and cooking. I do it because I enjoy it, not just because it is a skill. I love mixing flavors..." She caught herself before she went too in depth. Arath looked half starved; it wouldn't be kind for her to talk about all that she could cook and make, just for pleasure. "I also like to sew, and do pretty bead and needlework, although I rarely get the opportunity."

 

Spotting a few holes in his shirt, she reached across the table and pulled at it slightly, seeing even more holes. "I could repair your shirt, if you wanted, although I think you would do better just to have something brand new... Or do you prefer to be in dirty clothes that are falling apart? How long has it been since you bathed?"

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"I could repair your shirt, if you wanted, although I think you would do better just to have something brand new... Or do you prefer to be in dirty clothes that are falling apart? How long has it been since you bathed?"

 

Arath couldn't help but feel a little offended. Had she invited him to sit with her so she could critcize his poor appearance? At the same time, it made him think about how far he had fallen. How long had it been since he'd had a bath? Had he really gone months without a good cleaning? He made sure to scrub himself off every day in whatever semi-clean water he could find, and did the same for his clothes when he could. And these clothes were most certainly not the same ones he'd arrived in Caemlyn with. He had to get by with stealing whatever he could find, or on occasion buying clothing when he'd stumbled upon enough coin. Not a month ago he'd been able to buy new boots. Not that you could tell to look at them ... he'd been very careful to mar and muddy the outside so as to not attract the attention of the other street dwellers. Clothing just wasn't the main priority.

 

"I ... wouldn't want to be a bother. My clothes aren't as bad as they look." He glanced down at himself again, then grimaced. Maybe it was time for him to acquire a new shirt? "It's not like I purposely roll around on the streets and try to look ... like this. It kind of just ... happens ... when you only have one shirt."

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Michelle could tell almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth that she had insulted him. She hadn't meant it, truly, yet he looked down at himself as though he was embarrassed. "I ... wouldn't want to be a bother. My clothes aren't as bad as they look. It's not like I purposely roll around on the streets and try to look ... like this. It kind of just ... happens ... when you only have one shirt." Michelle nodded, and took another sip of her water - which she then choked on. The city watch had just come in through the door, and they seemed to be looking for someone. Perhaps that Innkeeper had wanted more than her smile...

 

"Here, take this," she whispered, tossing her cloak at him. He looked at her oddly for a moment, but as she whispered for him to put it on, he tensed up. "Go behind me and up the stairs, quickly," she whispered. She rose and stood in front of his chair blocking the guard's view somewhat as Arath ran up the stairs. She stayed at the table for a moment or two longer before she quickly followed him up the stairs. She almost ran into him as she reached the top, and he looked as white as a sheet, even with the dirt on his face. "Here, into my room," she whispered, pulling him along behind her and into her room on the end.

 

Shutting the door behind them, she let out a sigh, and took the cloak back from Arath. "I don't know how the guard tracked you to here, but you had best stay here till they leave." Walking to her window, which overlooked the entryway to the Inn, she sat down in the window ledge and looked down. She saw the guards leaving, but she wasn't going to tell him that. Turning back to Arath, she pointed at the large tub in the middle of the room, which the Innkeeper's wife had been so kind as to bring up to her. "Since you are here, you had best jump in that while I fix your shirt."

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Arath wasn't quite sure how it happened, but between the shock of seeing the guardsmen enter the common room and the blur of activity that was Michelle, he found himself upstairs, locked inside this strange girl's room. And he had no idea how to fix his situation.

 

"I don't know how the guard tracked you to here, but you had best stay here till they leave." Well ... that was a hard point to argue against. Though again, he found himself unsure why she would care. Then she pointed to a big copper tub that happened to be sitting in the middle of the room. "Since you are here, you had best jump in that while I fix your shirt." That point was a little easier to protest.

 

"Are you ... you can't be serious," Arath exclaimed. Many of his ideas of what was proper and acceptable behavior had changed a lot in the last few months, but this was definitely not one of them. Even among street dwellers and cutpurses, some things were just not done. What in the Pit of Doom was this girl up to? "I'm grateful to you for saving me and all, but this is just ..." he trailed off, not even sure what to call this situation. "I'm not going to play this game."

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Arath looked to be scared to death at the idea of getting in the tub. "Are you ... you can't be serious." Michelle turned to him and raised her eyebrows. "I'm grateful to you for saving me and all, but this is just ..." Her arms crossed across her chest. "I'm not going to play this game." And then, she started tapping her foot... One... Two... Three... He stared at her, looking scared out of his wits, and she tapped her foot, slowly but surely, the look unwavering.

 

"If you do not get inside of that bath, I will scream for the city watch." And so began the staring game.

 

He glared back at her, saying, "You wouldn't."

 

Michelle gave a small laugh, and moved her hands to her hips. "I would in a heartbeat, and tell them you were trying to take advantage of me. I will count to three, and so help me, by the Creator, if your boots and shirt are not off and you are not in this bath, I will scream louder than the hiss of hot metal hitting ice cold water."

 

He glared back at her. "One..." He wavered slightly. "Two..." He took a glance at the bath, and she began talking to the window and went to open it. "Thr-" she heard the splash, and turned around to see him sitting in the bath, his boots kicked off in haste and his shirt still on him. Smiling, she closed the window and grabbed the bar of soap that came with the towel on her bed. Handing it to him, she said, "USE IT!" He took the bar, and she stuck her hand out for his clothes. He stared at her like she was stupid, and she raised an eyebrow again. "Even if you must still wear your pants, at least give me your shirt. You can't go running around Caemlyn with it tore to shreds."

 

He shrugged the shirt off and tried to hide beneath the water, and Michelle couldn't help but to giggle. Pulling out her sewing, she took apart an old skirt that she, and began snipping patches to use on the shirt. They were a similiar shade of brown, and with the addition of dust, no one would ever notice. It was the best she could do on short notice. Sitting back in the window ledge across the room, she watched him sitting in the bathwater. "I strongly suggest you use all of that soap, and take your pants off too and wash them. You had best hurry, before the sun goes down and you are stuck with wet clothes."

Edited by Christine

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This was definitely the strangest day of Arath's life. Bar none. Caught by a fat inn keeper on an easy steal, practically abducted off the street by a strange baker girl from Lugard, hustled up the stairs into her bedroom, and then forced into taking a bath on threat of being carted off by the city watch ... Arath was waiting for a Fade to jump out of the tub and start singing to him.

 

And so he sat in the most uncomfortable bath of his life, struggling to get his soaking shirt and breaches off, while she giggled furiously. He had his shirt half way off before he realized what he was doing. She would see his scar! Trying to submerge himself further under water while struggling with the shirt resulted in him half drowning himself, but he managed. Trying his best to keep it hidden using the side of the tub and his free arm, Arath passed his sopping wet shirt over. Next came his breeches. Oddly, he didn't feel so strange about those. Then again, his pants weren't covering up evil marks carved onto his body. He considered it for a moment, then removed his small clothes too in an attempt to make his oh so generous host feel uncomfortable. He also didn't relish the thought of walking around with wet underclothes. Settling down into the tub, Arath fumbled around for the bar of soup, then started scrubbing.

 

A long while later, Arath had to admit to himself that it felt good to feel clean again. It almost felt like he was scrubbing away all the bad things that had happened to him in the last several months. A fresh start. Even if it was an illusion, it was a nice feeling.

 

Once he was clean, he turned to his captor. "I don't suppose you'll actually step out of the room while I get dressed?"

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Taking his pants and small clothes in hand as well, she had to stiffle a giggle as he hid underneath the water. While he was dirty, the tub was still visible... somewhat... Going back to sit at the window, she began working on the shirt. It was a short processed, and in no time, she was complete. Now she just needed to wash his clothing, and he would be fine. Throwing his dirty clothes at him, she glanced at the bar of soap. "Wash them while you are in there at least!" He did as he was told, and she wrung all the water out of his clothes and left them that creamed into her room to dry.

 

"I don't suppose you'll actually step out of the room while I get dressed?" Michelle laughed. His clothing was still wet... what did he want from her, to instantly take all the water out of it, like an Aes Sedai? He would have to either sit in that bathtub, or else wear the towel.

 

"Arath, I don't know if you realize this, but your clothes are still wet. Unless you want to put on wet clothes, you get to either stay in that bath water or wear a towel. Which would you prefer?"

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Arath considered his options. Stay in the filthy, and rapidly cooling bath water, or sit huddled in a towel until his clothes dried. Which might be a couple of hours, given that they weren't hanging in a particularly warm place. Neither option sounded very appealing, but at least the towel would be warmer. And cleaner. Leveling a glare at Michelle, he replied, "Fine. I'll take the towel." He waited for a moment, but the strange girl didn't make any effort to move, much less leave the room. "Soooo ... will you at least turn around or something?"

 

She laughed again, burn her, but finally rolled her eyes and turned around. In a flash, Arath leapt from the tub and snatched the towel from the back of a chair. Thank the Light, the towel was very large, and he was able to decently cover himself with it wrapped around his shoulders. Provided he didn't move around too much. Checking over his shoulder to make sure she wasn't peeking, Arath quickly toweled off most of the water, then plopped himself down onto the floor against a wall, in an effort to cover himself up better.

 

"You know," he said thoughtfully as she turned around again. "I've met some strange people before. But you ..."

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Michelle recieved a glare in response, and she had to stiffle a laugh when he decided on the towel. Watching him for a moment, she waited to see if he would reach for it himself. He watched her, before asking her to turn away. Laughing again, she rolled her eyes and turned away from him, listening to the splatter of water as he probably grabbed the towel. Giving him a few moments, she glanced back to see him toweling himself off. She noticed a scar across his chest, and quickly turned back away from him. She heard a thud as she guessed he sat down, and turned back to stare at him.

 

What a fool, he had covered himself with the towel as though it was a blanket. If he had asked, she would have even offered him a blanket, but she wasn't going to offer up anything! "You know, I've met some strange people before. But you ..." His words trailed off, and Michelle laughed again as she returned to her window seat. Grabbing her sewing bag, she plopped down into the seat and pulled out a hair ribbon she had been working on. It was a plain white ribbon, to match her apron, and she was doing simple embroidery across it to add small flowers on the ends. Even if she wasn't wealthy, she could certainly make her clothing look somewhat prettier.

 

Arath was now sitting completely across the room from her, and she looked up from where she was about to continue her stitching. "Aye, I know I am strange. I have kindness in my heart instead of hatred, and I actually believe that there is good in everyone. Completely crazy, I know." She looked back down at her work and did a few stitches, before looking back at him huddled in the corner. He looked almost like a drowned rat, and for a second, she almost pitied him.

 

"For example, I saw some good in you. When I came upon you, you looked more like a thief that had been caught in his game... a rat in a trap. And yet, I still saved you. And then, come to find out, you are simply a soul that came to Caemlyn looking for something, as I have. The Wheel turned for you, and the pattern has not been favorable, and yet you are still kind, you haven't asked for any coin from me, nor have you tried to take advantage of me. I found the good in you. So, perhaps I am strange, but I did find what I believe in."

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Arath wasn't quite sure what to say to all of that. Or if he quite believed it. Nobody did things like this just out of the goodness of their heart. Then again, he'd never quite heard of anything like this ever happening before. Blackmailing a stranger into taking a bath and fixing his clothes? Maybe she was just crazy ...

 

Silence stretched across the room for a long time while Arath thought. It had been a long time since anyone had shown him any kindness at all. Far longer than his stay in Caemlyn even. He wasn't quite sure how to handle it. Part of him still wondered what she expected from him in return. For all he knew, she was an Aes Sedai witch, come to steal his soul and feed it to the Shadowspawn in the blight. He kind of doubted that, but you never could tell.

 

What was more surprising, and suspicious, was her being a Murandian. Never having met one before, Arath could only go by the rumors he'd heard from people around the capital. Even among thieves and lowlifes, Murandians had a bad reputation as being dishonest. Lugarders especially so. But she didn't seem so bad, even if her accent was a little funny. Quite pretty really. Arath caught himself just staring at her ... not only trying to figure her out.

 

When she glanced his way, he quickly averted his gaze. Pulling the towel tighter around himself, he settled back into the wall. "Thank you," he finally said softly. "For ... everything."

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Taking a few more stitches and finishing another flower, Michelle looked up her stitch work and caught him staring at her. Giving him a brief smile, he looked away, and she looked back at her work. How long had he been staring at her? "Thank you." It sounded like a bare whisper, but she heard it. She looked up at him, surprised. "For ... everything." Nodding to herself, she set her work aside, and rose from where she was sitting.

 

Not speaking to him, she walked over to the fireplace, which until that time, had remained cold. She could see wood inside of it, as well as the materials to begin a fire. Given that he was unable to really do anything, she started the fire herself, which was easy enough. Within a few moments, the fire had caught, and she went to the bed to pull a blanket off that was folded at the end. Going back to Arath, she offered him the blanket. He looked at her in surprise for a moment, and she set it beside him. Picking up his clothing that was attempting to dry, she hung it over the fireplace.

 

Laying down on her side on the bed, she stared into the fire. She almost went into a daze before she finally spoke. "You need friends, Arath. Everyone does. I won't tell you how to run your life, but being alone and running the streets won't get you anywhere except for a Caemlyn prison cell. And I think that neither of us want that."

 

Rolling onto her back, she stared up at the ceiling for a moment. Rolling back onto her side, she looked at him for a moment, catching his eyes with hers. "Do you think you would be willing to show me the city? I have to try and find a job over the next few days, but, I still want to see the city some."

Edited by Christine

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Friends? The thought almost seemed completely foreign to him. He couldn't remember really having any friends. Even as a child in Dramon's Glen, he'd been the boy with no mother and a drunkard father. The other children had just made fun of him, when they hadn't ignored him entirely. Rumors about the scar he carried certainly hadn't helped matters. Things hadn't changed much since he'd been in Caemlyn. Thieves and cutpurses didn't have friends. They had loose contacts who helped each other out from time to time. Actually trusting someone as asking for a knife in your back.

 

And yet, the idea didn't seem so ludicrous coming from Michelle. She sounded sincere anyway. She really didn't want to see him in a prison cell. That was kind of ... surprising.

 

As he thought that over, Michelle finally named her price for her assistance. Arath considered her request for a moment. As far as demands of payment went, that certainly wasn't too bad. He shrugged. "I don't really know where you might find a job. I've not exactly had a lot of luck in that area. But I could show you around a little if you want. At the very least I can let you know which areas you should probably avoid."

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Arath was quiet for a few moments before he finally responded. "I don't really know where you might find a job. I've not exactly had a lot of luck in that area. But I could show you around a little if you want. At the very least I can let you know which areas you should probably avoid."

 

Michelle laughed at the idea of him trying to find her a job. "Don't worry about finding a job. I already have that one under control. I just have to prove myself now. Would it be so bad to show me the city? Or perhaps you would like to leave the city for an afternoon? I do have a horse. Or..." She hadn't entertained the thought, yet, that he just wanted nothing to do with her. Perhaps she should be, as he seemed to still be completely uncomfortable around her. Granted, he was naked, but he still shouldn't be so antsy. It wasn't like she was demanding it of him.

 

"Or, if you don't want to, we can part ways after your clothes are dry, and you never have to see me again." She hoped that he wouldn't agree to that. She was curious about this strange boy.

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"Nah ... I'm not much for horses. I've never really left the city much, but I'm fine with that. I just don't think I'd be much of a tour guide. I'll show you what I can though." Arath shrugged under the blanket again. "What kind of things would you want to see? There's a little bit of everything in this city."

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"Nah ... I'm not much for horses. I've never really left the city much, but I'm fine with that. I just don't think I'd be much of a tour guide. I'll show you what I can though." Michelle thought about the possibility of them maybe leaving the city together then. It wasn't healthy to stay in a city for so long without getting a breath of fresh air every once in a while. "What kind of things would you want to see? There's a little bit of everything in this city."

 

Michelle thought about it for a moment, but knew that she just wanted to see a bit of everything. "Well, I guess we can go wherever you would like to go. I have never really seen a city before, even though I lived in Lugard. There were far too many thieves for me to go too far away from home." She thought about her words and had to stiffle a small laugh at how things had turned out.

 

Jumping up from the bed, she felt his clothes to see they were almost dry. "Your clothing is almost dry. If you are in a rush to get out of here, you can leave..."

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