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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Heart of the Heron, Part Two


Visar Falmaien
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Once finishing the details with Kathleen and Gera Sedai, Visar Falmaien was finally free of the mission to Murandy. Well, at least free of being obligated to deal with them. He would no doubt be punished for his temporary desertion, but the fact that he had chosen this as his life meant something to them, surely.

 

And how to speak with Rasheta. . .Visar was not sure. He had changed much on the journey, and had learned to put his feelings of being cramped aside for the greater cause of good. He had learned that he did need to stop being so hateful to himself and his own failings. But how to talk to Rasheta? She knew he was close, and yet he feared speaking to her.

 

It was as if he needed to prove something to her. And in order to do that, he needed to prove something to himself. He wrote a brief letter in his best hand (which probably still looked rather sloppy, but he had improved so much from being practically illiterate and that was something to be proud of) to her, explaining what he needed to do. Then he sent the other letters, and it was time to wait.

 

- - -

 

A few days later, the final member of the Council had arrived. Visar double checked the date and made sure he was ready. He ate, slept, and trained. He trained, slept, and ate. But more importantly, he focused his mind, and he told himself over and over again, each time he thought he had made a mistake, that he was good, that he was improving. That each small mistake was irrelevant to the fact that he was mastering his weapon, even as he was mastering control over all of his emotiosn. That he was ready for this, and that he was worthy for the challenge at hand.

 

The day dawned and Visar was already awake. He had slept a little, but he was nervous. Yet the first time he had gone before a Council of Five, he had been nervous he would not succeed. No, that was not the case today. He would succeed, no matter the cost. Rather, he was nervous about what Rasheta thought. He would be risking his life today. Risking everything.

 

After thinking about it for a long time, Visar decided to rush up to Rasheta's quarters. He opened the door. She was expecting him, and looked like she hadn't slept at all. He rushed over and embraced her. He wanted to say how much of a fool he had been. He wanted to yell that he was sorry a thousand times. But that would not accomplish anything, and there would be time for apologies and penance later.

 

"I can't tell you how glad I am to see you now." he said. The tears came to his eyes unbidden, but he didn't mind. He was not the least bit sorrowful. He was vulnerable and emotional, true. But he could accept who he was, and let his feelings be free. Even though he was bonded to serve her, he could be free too. And happy with his life. "I'm back, and I want to do this right for both of us." He pulled back from their tight embrace and waited.

 

What would she say about him attempting to become a blademaster? If she wanted him not to attempt it, he would obey and step down, and forget about trying to attain the Heron Mark. He cared about her, and he didn't want her to be afraid for his life. She had already lost a warder and he didn't want to do that to her again. And yet he wanted to do this, to prove to himself and to her that he was no coward, and that he was worthy of this life. Worthy of her choice to bond him, blademaster or no.

 

He waited on her response. With her approval, and with her watching and supporting him, he would not fail to win the day.

 

-Visar Falmaien,

returned to his Aes Sedai at last.

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Rasheta had known the moment Visar had returned to the tower, Kathleen had let her know he was back. Kathleen still treated Rasheta as though Kathleen was still an Accepted and Rasheta still the teacher. Rasheta had saved the girls life, but Kathleen was a full sister now she didn't need to bow to Rasheta anymore. Now though she appreciated it, it was good to know about the trip and what her warder had been doing while he was away. She had not been happy to hear he had run away. He had made up for it, and seemed to have learned from his mistake, however that still didn't excuse him. Rasheta was going to have to speak to him about that when she saw him. Although in some ways she was proud of him. He had gone with another sister, and come back to her having learned something. She was not sure if his experiences would make him still wish to leave her however. She expected him to come and see her soon, if for no other reason then to tell her to let him go. She wouldn't survive another warder leaving her, it was bad enough she had a hole where Dante had been. She needed to tell him about that as well, the outpouring of grief he may have felt when he was away had been when she had let Dante go. Visar however, didn't come to tell her to let him go, in fact he didn't come to see her at all. Taia Misna, another Green in the tower a flirt and a women who seemed to live on having a good time, tried to cheer Rasheta up. Rasheta wasn't in the mood for Taia's antics however, and kept to her room. She started having trouble sleeping again and took to wandering the tower halls and going to the library wondering what was wrong with Visar. .

 

A few days more and she received a letter telling her that he was going to be training and going before the council of five to test for the mark of blademaster. Rasheta frowned she knew he had tested for that before he had left with Kathleen, he had not passed then. That was what had driven him to go in the first place. She didn't know exactly how the test worked, but he seemed more confident now then he had before. She could feel his resolve through there bond. He would probably come to her after the test happened and he knew if he had the heron mark or not. She prayed he would pass this time and her sleepless nights continued as she waited to find out what would happen.

 

After what seemed like too many sleepless nights and the waiting to see Visar, she felt him coming closer to her. She simply waited, she had not slept well the night before and she knew she didn't look as beautiful as Taia usually did, but it would have to do. Visar hadn't bonded her for her beauty anyway he wouldn't mind. She didn't wait long Visar rushed into the room and ran to her and hugged her! Shocked Rasheta could only stand there and let him hug her, for a moment till she could hug him back. He spoke to her then

 

"I can't tell you how glad I am to see you now." he said. The tears came to his eyes unbidden, but he didn't mind. He was not the least bit sorrowful. He was vulnerable and emotional, true. But he could accept who he was, and let his feelings be free."I'm back, and I want to do this right for both of us."

 

Rasheta looked up at him and slowly reached up and removed his tears with her hand. "I have missed you too." She said softly. She prayed he had remembered to shut the door to her room, if he hadn't Taia and the rest of the Ajah would probably be lined up in the hall watching the reunion. She looked over his shoulder and saw he had remembered to close it, she was free to give reign to everything in private. She took a deep breath and said "Visar, I have to tell you that Dante is gone. I released him from my service some time ago. While you were." She paused and said "away." Sulking would have only made the reunion between them harder. She hugged him again and said, "I want you to be happy in my service. If this is what will make you happy, you must do it. I will always be proud of you Visar. Even if you do something silly like run away from a sister." She couldn't help but smile then. It did seem silly to talk about it now, he would still need to get penance, if Kathleen hadn't already given him one, but it could wait till later. She stepped away from him and said seriously, and somewhat formally.

 

"What do you want Visar? To stay in my service and to take the heron mark? If you do you will go and defeat everyone in your path in order to receive the mark. I will not be happy if you don't." She paused again to allow that to sink in and then she added. "I shall watch and support your effort in anyway I can but the choice is up to you." He nodded and she continued formally.

 

"Or do you want to stop things here be released from my service and not to seek the mark. The choice is yours, make it."

 

Rasheta Ardashir

Green Ajah Sitter

Waiting for an answer

Edited by Rasheta Ardashir
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"Visar, I have to tell you that Dante is gone. I released him from my service some time ago. While you were. . .away."

Visar frowned, remembering that he had not seen Dante or his older brother Sandre when he had returned. So this confirmed it. They had both left, it seemed, off to fight in their own war back in the Borderlands. It seemed fitting, but it saddened him all the same that they had left. Or perhaps they had gone somewhere else, but where else would they?

 

"I want you to be happy in my service. If this is what will make you happy, you must do it. I will always be proud of you Visar. Even if you do something silly like run away from a sister." How strange, that she seemed to find that amusing? Well, he had stretched the limit then. Maybe he had run away just to see if he could have. But once he had, it had never been the same.

 

"What do you want Visar? To stay in my service and to take the heron mark? If you do you will go and defeat everyone in your path in order to receive the mark. I will not be happy if you don't. I shall watch and support your effort in anyway I can but the choice is up to you."

 

Visar nodded slowly, understanding.

 

"Or do you want to stop things here be released from my service and not to seek the mark. The choice is yours, make it."

 

Visar breathed in and out. He had already made his decision in his mind, but actually making it had never easy for him. After a time, he finally relented and went with both his heart and mind. He said,

 

"I have learned much from you, and from myself over these years. And I have learned much away from you as well. I've done some stupid, foolish things. We've fought and hurt each other. But. . .I know now that I will never be the same without you in my life. We have been through so much, you and I, and though Dante is gone, I am not willing or wanting to leave you again. Not for any reason. I will stay with you, Rasheta Ardashir, and show anyone who stands before us that we are a force for good to be reckoned with."

 

Visar felt himself and Rasheta strengthen slowly through what he said. Feeling a little weak kneed, Visar decided to kneel in front of her.

 

"I am yours to guide and protect you, Rasheta Ardashir, as long as I live as your Gaidin. Will you have me?"

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Visar seemed a little at war with himself when she told him to make his choice. She could tell he wasn't sure what to say or if he should agree to be in her service again. She steeled herself for his rejection of the bond. She had told herself that it was a possibility, but she hadn't actually thought he would ask her. She would probably not survive the loss, but he didn't need to know that. She simply waited he started speaking a little slowly at first but he got all the words out.

 

"I have learned much from you, and from myself over these years. And I have learned much away from you as well. I've done some stupid, foolish things. We've fought and hurt each other. But. . .I know now that I will never be the same without you in my life. We have been through so much, you and I, and though Dante is gone, I am not willing or wanting to leave you again. Not for any reason. I will stay with you, Rasheta Ardashir, and show anyone who stands before us that we are a force for good to be reckoned with."

 

Rasheta blinked in surprise, he had taken her by surprise for the second time in less then five minutes. She was very out of pratice with interacting with warders if she was going to be struck speechless all the time. She studied Visar for a moment and really took in his appearance, he was different now that he was back from his mission. He looked, harder almost, currently he just looked like a cross between an eager boy and a child who wasn't sure what the response from a parent was going to be. However, beneath that he carried himself differently he looked more like a warder. She hadn't noticed any kind of hardness in him when she had bonded him. He had carried himself well, but now it was more pronounced as though he was as deadly as the rest of the warders in the tower and he knew it. His confidence had been restored, at least it had where the sword was concerned. He'd learned things indeed. she thought. He dropped to his knees in front of her then and said.

 

"I am yours to guide and protect you, Rasheta Ardashir, as long as I live as your Gaidin. Will you have me?"

 

She stayed where she was for a moment just staring down at him. Let him squirm for a moment, wondering what I will do. She thought. It would serve him right for the shocks she'd gotten in the last five minutes, and his letting her worry about what he would do for the last several days. Making her choice she closed the distance between them and looked down at him for a moment, she leaned down and took his face in her hands just as she had when she had bonded him. She couldn't use the bond weaves again, but she could accept him back as her warder in the same way. She paused just over his lips and said softly, "I will, have you as my warder." She kissed him as she had when she had bonded him. After a few moments she stepped back and said. "You are now mine again." She smiled "Don't let Taia get ahold of you she'll never let you go." She'd have to give him more warnings about the red headed sister but for now they had other things to talk about.

 

"I do not know what is expected of me when you take your test." She would need some help. "Tell me what you would like from me and then go on and take your test."

Rasheta Ardashir

Green Ajah Sitter

Reconnected with her bonded, but unsure about the upcoming test.

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Visar felt a wave of relief pass through him as their bond was reafirmed. It was almost as if he could feel her more clearly now. Perhaps all this time they had been trying to muddle their earlier unhappiness. But there was hope in both of them, and such wonderful strength in their hearts!

 

"Don't let Taia get ahold of you she'll never let you go." Visar cocked his head to one side. Who was Taia again? He was out of touch with the Green Ajah these days, and could barely keep track of two Aes Sedai in the Ajah. He knew Rasheta and Kathleen, of course, but he had been gone a long time.

 

"What's so bad about her?" he asked uncertainly. Picking up the idea that it was a joke, he added, "Does she have warts or something all over her ageless face?" he jibbed back. They shared a laugh. It had been so long since they had laughed together. Visar told himself that if he survived this day, he would work on his sense of humor.

 

Until then, they had the test to worry about. Rasheta seemed unsure how to help.

 

"Well I'm not too well versed on their etiquette, but as far as I know, any Power interference until after the test is over is strictly forbidden. It just wouldn't be fair to the other blademasters. So, don't blast the guy with fire if I get cut up," he said with half a wink. "I would like you to be there with me though, at least watching. Would you do that for me?"

 

That agreed, Visar and Rasheta left her rooms, and went down to where the Test was to take place. Visar, not knowing what would happen with the test, kissed Rasheta for what might be the last time. They then parted, Rasheta to watch close by, Visar to do the test.

 

Five blademasters stood waiting. Visar hoped he had not kept them waiting for too long. Well, perhaps it would be worth their time to have an unorthodox Ceremony. Rather than use the usual customary words and phrases which stretched on unbearably, Visar decided to cut to the chase. He addressed them boldly and did not wait for their challenge. Rather, like in a real fight, he took it to them,

"My name is Visar Falmaien, and I say I am worthy to bear the Heron Mark." He drew his sword in their presence, the hilt unmarked, the steel sharp, and the bearer untested. An open challenge to any who would say otherwise. If they wanted a test of his skills, he would give it to them. If one of them challenged his worthiness, he would fight them. If they all challenged him, Visar would fight them all or die trying.

 

"What say you?" he asked the blademasters, waiting for their response to his challenge.

-Visar Falmaien,

Any takers? :D

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Kalan looked around to the other blademasters standing around him. Scarred men and women with hard eyes, they all were veterans of years of service in the Guard or as Warders to Aes Sedai. They had faced men, trollocs, even the One Power with nothing more than steel and their skill, and had so far survived. But now they faced an enemy they were not used to dealing with; annoyance. The blademasters had gathered in the Ogier grove, in a secluded clearing that afforded them a modicum of privacy, to potentially present the mark of the Heron to Visar Falmaien. Usually in these ceremonial situations, the person who was to be raised arrived first, with those interested in watching being the stragglers, but today it was the opposite. Kalan started grumbling, his anger rising. Bloody inconsiderate to keep us waiting. As if I didn't have more important things to do as the Master of Arms of the flaming Tower! Even some of the other masters, known for their stoicism, were starting to show their impatience. But just as Kalan was opening his mouth to deliver a string of curses concerning Visar, youth, and life in general, the man appeared on the path with an Aes Sedai in tow.

 

The crowd shuffled. It was common for Aes Sedai to attend these ceremonies for their Warders, but deference still had to be paid to the women who ruled the island city. Slight bows came from all around the clearing, with murmured "Aes Sedai" said in her direction. The five blademasters also bowed, hands on swords or hearts, depending on the nationality of those involved. Kalan only had the smallest nod of the head. Many called him rude or inconsiderate, but he frankly had more important things to deal with than silly ceremonies thought up centuries ago. The Aes Sedai went to sit with other people in the crowd and Visar stepped up in front of the five. Yoren, as the oldest blademaster present, opened his mouth to begin the traditional speech to begin the ceremony. But Visar interrupted. "My name is Visar Falmaien and I am worthy to bear the Heron Mark. What say you?" While talking, the man had drawn his sword, which to Kalan looked like an invitation to violence. This interruption went against all protocol and caused Kalan to burst out in laughter. "Bold and to the point. I like that. If we're going to toss tradition to the wind I'll be more than happy to help. You think you are ready to stamp a bloody Heron to your blade, I don't think you are worthy to kiss our muddy boots. I don't care what these others think, but I'll accept your invitation to dance."

 

Kalan drew his blade. The sunlight flashed off the power wrought blade, with its black Heron standing out near the hilt. He had come by the blade years ago, when he had been made Master of Arms of the Yard. It had always galled him that there wasn't a better story as to how it came into his possession, but there was nothing he could do. He licked his lips at the promise of the fight at hand and assumed the Void. Most people were surprised that Kalan, who normally resembled a tempest like those found off the coast of the Sea of Storms, would become so calm and still during a fight. He had shaky control over the Void, as the inferno that was his temper always threatened to break free, but he had managed to avoid that for the most part. Barely waiting to set his feet, Kalan launched himself at Visar.

 

There were shocked gasps from around the grove at this violation of the rules of dueling, but Kalan did not care. He always preached that whatever you could do to gain an upper hand in a fight should be done, that rules and honor were worthless when you fought a darkfriend or shadowspawn. His blade was pointed straight for Visar's heart, there would be no holding back here, but at the last second Visar got his blade up and moved. Kalan thought he might have scored a scratch, but that was it. Light he's fast. This should be interesting. The two fighters bounced away from each other, blades held at the ready, circling each other now that the fight had begun. A cold smile crept onto Kalan's face. And the two men launched at one another, the clash of steel ringing in the ancient woods.

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Visar turned to listen to the Master of Arms, the blademaster Kalan. He didn't really like Kalan much, he was bull-headed and brutal with his words. But no one could deny that he was incredibly powerful and skilled. Visar did not know how he would fare against the man; in every physical trait Kalan had the advantage, and he possessed the years of experience too.

 

"Bold and to the point. I like that. If we're going to toss tradition to the wind I'll be more than happy to help. You think you are ready to stamp a bloody Heron to your blade, I don't think you are worthy to kiss our muddy boots. I don't care what these others think, but I'll accept your invitation to dance."

 

Without much further warning, the Master of Arms Kalan rushed at Visar, and it was only his training instinct that saved him from the first blow, a thrust. He brought his blade up in a quick, small deflection and moved quickly, yet even so Kalan's blade scraped at his upper arm and drew blood.

 

It stung, but Visar's attention was not with his pain but on the fight at hand. They were using sharp steel, and he could not afford to make a foolish mistake or be distracted for a moment. Visar had the briefest of moments while Kalan prepared himself, and he sunk himself deep into the Spring, letting his emotions and fears flow through him. He was one with them, and their energies were his to harness.

 

Visar launched himself at Kalan, meeting his assault head on. They both sought to cut each other from shoulder to hip, but their blades clashed together with a spark. Visar remained on Kalan's Power wrought sword, desperately feeling his opponent's intentions.

 

He's strong! Too strong!

 

Visar felt the pressure snap directly towards his head. He twisted to the left, trying to flow himself and his thin shield around the blow, but Kalan still managed to score a slice on the top of his head, overreaching his guard.

 

They then sought lower targets. Kalan moved to cut at his belly next, but Visar prepared a counter.

 

Visar ducked, coiling his blade in a scooped Kingfisher Takes the Silverback, blocking the cut, and then angling a thrust at Kalan's abdomen. Kalan moved aside just in time, clearing the space with another cut. Visar backed up.

 

It would be difficult and risky to bind with Kalan again. He was strong and his reach and height were difficult to deal with safely. Try something else.

 

Visar snapped forward in a feint, trying to draw Kalan out of his position of strength. However, Kalan took the bait too well, threatening Visar's ability to do anything with a high thrust right at his face! Visar desperately pedaled back, deflecting the thrust, and barely missed being decapitated as he leaped back from an Arc of the Moon.

 

He tried the tactic again a few times. Sniping forward at Kalan's openings, then dancing out of the way as Kalan chased him half across the clearing. All the while trying to tire the man out. Trying to enrage him enough to commit to a strong strike that Visar could deal with. But Kalan was starting to figure it out after the fourth time. Visar did not back up fast enough, and Kalan scored a nasty cut on Visar's leading thigh.

 

Feeling some of his thigh muscles part from the slash, Visar stumbled slightly, his mobility affected. He did not give up the fight, however, and launched himself as best as he could at Kalan again. His first cut was made too short, and as he leaned his body back Kalan's sword slashed into his nose.

 

Squinting from the annoying spray of blood, Visar ignored the cut and launched forward, stabbing into Kalan's shoulder before he could recover. But even this was not enough to stop the blademaster, and Visar had to lurch off balance to avoid getting his hip cleaved into.

 

They went to a distance again. Visar was covered in wounds, barely standing and he had only landed one relatively decisive blow on Kalan. If they kept at this, it would only be a matter of time before Kalan wore him out or he bled to death. But surely he had at least winded Kalan, making him chase him around before his leg was hit. And perhaps he had made the Master of Arms angry enough to chance a gamble. For most of the fight, he had made Kalan think he was a distance fighter, too afraid to close in with his bigger and stronger opponent.

 

It was worth everything to go for it all the way, even if it didn't work. Rasheta and everyone else was watching. They had faith in him. And he was not going to let them down by backing down now.

 

-Visar,

prepared to die fighting.

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"Well I'm not too well versed on their etiquette, but as far as I know, any Power interference until after the test is over is strictly forbidden. It just wouldn't be fair to the other blademasters. So, don't blast the guy with fire if I get cut up," he said with half a wink. "I would like you to be there with me though, at least watching. Would you do that for me?"

 

Rasheta nodded her head, she could do that for him. Although the temptation to use the one power would be strong if he was hurt. She could heal him after the fight however, and she wouldn't want him to be disqualified for her interference. She waved him in front of her and they left her rooms. She had to admit she was more and more impressed by the change in Visar since he had gotten back from his time with Kathleen. He teased her now, and took charge of situations. Before he would have let her dictate to him, more or less, what he should or should not do. It was interesting she wondered how much his sword skill had improved, clearly a lot if he was trying to take the test a second time, but it would still be interesting. When they got to the field she was bowed to by almost everyone. "Aes Sedai" was murmured around the field, she nodded back to several and smiled at the council of five. The man in the middle of the circle gave her the tiniest nod. she inclined her head just as slightly. Two could play at that game, she was about to wish Visar good luck and then go stand off to the side when Visar kissed her. She was so shocked she simply stood there. He turned to go and she said "Good luck." and then went to her place.

 

The fight was interesting, both were good fighters. Rasheta winced visibly when Visar was hit the first time. It didn't seem to slow him though and the battle continued. He was good, and he had improved a great deal since the last time she'd seen him fight. This would be very interesting, very interesting indeed. The second time he was cut across the nose, Rasheta could feel that he was in pain but ignoring it. She was impressed but she winced for him again. She would need to heal him later, if one of the Yellows who had wandered over didn't get to it first. Although she doubted they would since he belonged to her. She'd just have to wait to see how it ended. "Don't lose Visar." She thought. "I"ll never forgive you if you do."

 

Rasheta Ardashir

Green Ajah Sitter

Watching the fight.

Edited by Rasheta Ardashir
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  • 2 weeks later...

Kalan's arm wasn't working all that well. Visar had scored a deep hit in his shoulder, and while he could grit his teeth and continue fighting, it was if he was swinging his blade one handed. And the pain... It was commonly believed that when you were wrapped in the Void you could not feel your pain. This was was not necessarily true, at least for Kalan. His shoulder screamed in pain, but the Void let him ignore it, push it from the forefront of his mind. He could still feel the throbbing red agony, but could beat it down until the fight was finished. It was not an ideal situation, but this was war.

 

Kalan and Visar walked around in circles again, blades held high. Visar was by far the worse for wear, with many red spots staining his clothes, but Kalan was feeling exhausted. Visar had been staying away from him, launching at him from a distance to strike and retreat. In Kalan's mind, it was a coward's way to fight, but it caused him to chase and react in a way that he simply was not used to, using up his reserves. Anger had been building up throughout the contest, but with the shoulder strike had reached a critical level. I am going to grab that worm and crush him! Running around like a craven. This is no way for a blademaster to act! And Kalan lunged forward.

 

Their blades clashed, Kalan throwing all his strength into every strike. Given his greater height, he attacked from above Visar, trying to wear him out more. But even as he backpedaled, Visar managed to repel every strike. Time after time, his blade appeared at the last second to deflect Kalan's. A last second parry slid along Kalan's blade and leapt at his face causing Kalan to jump back and abandon his assault.

 

That was unexpected. Every time he thought he had figured out Visar and gained the upper hand, Visar threw a wrinkle at him. Wiping sweat from his face, Kalan knew he needed to end the fight soon. His breathing was heavy and his concentration was waning. Switching his sword to his bad hand, Kalan roared at Visar. It was not a smart move, but it was unexpected and caught the younger man off guard. Visar half swung at Kalan but there was no strength to the hit. Kalan was able to block it, barely, and use his strong right arm to grab hold of Visar, and pulled him in close. "Enough dancing around," he growled, and smashed his forehead into the man's face, knocking him back into the crowd. Kalan followed, a little dazed himself. The guests had jumped away from the falling fighter, including the Aes Sedai. Let's see the man dance around with people in the way! Laughing, Kalan started the fight anew.

Edited by devon
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Visar, now tired from his dancing and hurting from his wounds, was being repeatedly pushed on the defensive. Kalan bore down on him, and honestly, visar didn't know how he actually defended some of the attacks that he did. He wasn't really thinking at all, he was merely reacting. Once he was close to managing a good hit on Kalan, but the blademaster backed away.

 

I'm not sure how much more of this I can take! Visar thought, panic threatening to shatter his sense of the Oneness. It was in that moment that Kalan switched his sword. Visar had merely a moment's hesitation as to why he would do that, but launched an attack anyway just a fraction of a second too slowly. Kalan blocked it and then closed in. The moment of panic swelled as the bigger man got right up and knocked Visar back into the small crowd of people. His balance lost, Visar clumsily backpedaled and practically sat down. He miraculously still held his sword and was dimly aware of this.

 

Every bit of common sense would tell Visar that he should give up. That he had been beaten and thrown down, and if it weren't for the crowd, he would die. But at that moment the Oneness took over, his emotions of fear and fury and pride surging through him for one last effort of strength.

 

Ignoring the rumble of the crowd, or the feelings of fear and pain coming from his body and through the bond from Rasheta, Visar got up. He ran sideways, keeping Kalan from charging directly at him through the crowd. In the moment's confusion, Visar rushed back into the ring, darting in between two startled spectators. He didn't even recognize who they were, he was only intent on defeating his foe.

 

Visar did not yell or do a brave flourish, he merely charged straight at Kalan, silent as death in the night. He didn't know what blow he struck with, but their blades bound harshly with a spark. Briefly they tried Bundling Straw at the same time, the blades twisting around each other. If they continued one of them would either disarm, or if Kalan withdrew, stab the other in the chest. At the last moment Visar stopped the motion of his turning, letting the blades lock together, the points trapped on their hilts.

 

He didn't need his sword to be a weapon. He was a weapon! Visar threw his arm around both blades, ignoring any possibility that it might be more cut up. He trapped them as he rushed in. He collided with Kalan with his shoulder like a battering ram, his momentum making the bigger man stumble just a little off balance, but it wasn't enough to throw him. They grappled furiously, Visar first pushing high to fake Kalan, and then ducking deep and low to avoid a choke, and undercut him at the legs. Somewhere in the scuffle they both abandoned their swords and although Visar took him off his feet, his leg gave way, and they both went to the ground in a tangled heap.

 

Visar had the upper hand for a brief moment, but then Kalan struck him in the leg where he had been wounded most seriously, and the pain was too much for him to maintain the top position. Kalan pushed him off and got on top, moving in to choke him out. As he felt the air and consciousness slipping from him, Visar was in a state of calm, as if he had all the time in the world. He felt a free hand, reached for the small knife concealed under his shirt, and drew it, stabbing Kalan once in the belly. The blademaster grunted in surprise and pain, but a stomach would was not always a fight ender, just very painful. His opponent then drew his own blade after slamming his fist into Visar's already ruined nose. The back of his head slammed into the ground, a shiver of pain shooting down his neck in whiplash. Visar's arm was pinned; he lay on his back, practically helpless. The blade went down to his throat. Visar weakly swatted at it as though it were a fly, his arm saving his throat, though it cut deep into him as it tried to angle over his arm and poke him in the face. Kalan's superior strength pushed down for the kill . . .

 

"Stop!" shouted one of the Council members. The dagger point was a mere inch away from Visar's eye. Kalan glared at him in agonized fury, but the moment's hesitation saved Visar. It took three of the Council to drag Kalan off of Visar, and they immediately inspected his wound. He heard something and "Aes Sedai", but Visar didn't really understand what was said.

 

He lay stunned on the ground, not really remembering what had just taken place. How long had they fought? It seemed like ages. What moves did he use? He didn't really know. He looked at his leg with a strange fascination. He felt the blood trickling into his mouth from his nose but could not taste it. All the other scores of minor cuts he had suffered. Curiously, he felt completely detached from them, as if he was going further and further away.

 

He felt a warmth coming to him, and he relaxed, allowing himself a small smile. This would be a wonderful way to go, he thought briefly, wondering why he had ever been afraid of death in the first place. He drifted off into blackness as if into a deep sleep.

 

- - -

 

A torrent of cold ice rushed through him.

 

-Visar Falmaien,

barely survived.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Arms grabbed Kalan from behind and threw him to the ground. He felt his shoulder scream in agony, but it was lost in the chaos as the Void came crashing down. All of a sudden the wounds and thoughts he had been suppressing during the fight came throttling into his head, almost causing him to pass out. He tried to get up, to make sense of what was going on, but two of the other blasemasters held him down. "Gerroff me!" Kalan roared, struggling to get up. Fists pummeled him, not looking to injure, but to force his muscles to quit. And they did. The repeated blows turned his muscles to lead, forcing the fight to finish.

 

Kalan's breath came out in loud, angry bursts. A healer was sewing up his wounds with a needle and thread, applying herbs when needed. They were still in the grove, a little ways away from the crowd. The fight had been over for close to a half hour now, but their was still a crowd where the duel had taken place. The other blademasters were talking amongst themselves, while Visar lay weakly propped up on the ground. Kalan had heard the man had needed Aes Sedai healing. Bloody weakling. Needs a sister after only one fight. Pathetic. A particularly painful jab of the needle in his stomach interrupted his thoughts. The blade had missed all his organs, thank the Light, but it was unpleasant. He hated being sewn up like a busted shirt, but he hated bleeding more so he let the surgeon do her work. She was good, but was no Aes Sedai. He had been offered healing but pride made him refuse.

 

The surgeon finished and Kalan had donned a clean shirt. He walked over to the other blademasters. "So what are we discussing now?" he asked. "Well, besides your sheer insanity in that fight and the very unorthodox ceremony we have witnessed today, we have decided to award the Heron to Visar." Anger flashed across Kalan's face. "Why? What blademaster has he bested? What group of masters have decided? He doesn't have my vote." "Kalan, he almost killed you!" "Then why am I standing now talking to you and he laying in a heap on the ground. The lad has skills but he bloody well doesn't deserve the Heron!" Another one of the blademasters put his hand on Kalan's shoulder. It was Jarron, one of Kalan's oldest friends. "Look Kalan, the man was able to stand toe to toe with you, which is something some of us here in this group cannot do, myself included. He is a blademaster, whether you like it or not. Now we are going to confer upon him the title and present him with the Heron mark. You can stay here and be present, or you can le-" Kalan's curses interrupted Jarron's words. Grabbing his sword, Kalan stormed out of the grove, holding a hand over his stomach.

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Rasheta winced every time Visar was hit. She was sure he would be able to achieve the goal this time, although maybe it would be a close thing. The other watchers were as interested as Rasheta was. It wasn't every day that this kind of thing happened. When Kalan was stabbed and then Visar stumbled Rasheta looked at the gathered blademasters, they nodded and she moved first to Kalan who ignored her offer of healing. She shrugged and went to Visar she healed him then, and then moved away so he could receive the judgement that the assembled masters would give.

 

Kalan stumbled through the crowd and was clearly very angry about whatever the masters had decided. Rasheta watched him, he did not look well. She was sure one of the Yellows could see to him, she moved quickly over to one of them and nodded after him. "Sister it seems he's too proud to receive healing here. He does not look well thought maybe you can follow him and offer it later or tie him up and give him healing that way." The Yellow gave her an odd look. "It was only a suggestion, I know how much it pains you to see anyone in pain." That at much was true and the Yellow moved off. Rasheta nodded the man would get help if it was needed. She turned back to the proceedings at hand and went back to stand beside her warder. He was a blademaster now the other masters had proclaimed him so. She couldn't really smile she kept her mask firmly in place she did nod to the assembled masters and then waited tell Visar could hear her. "You did well my warder, i'm proud of you." She did smile for him then, but only a small one. She would show her full appriciation later. She knew he could already feel through the bond how she felt though so later probably wouldn't be needed. Still she added, "When you are done celebrating with the rest of the warders I'll see you later." She nodded to everyone again and then left them to there celebrations.

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Visar Falmaien slowly drifted back into consciousness. People were shouting, and Kalan stormed off, he could see, though he was unsure of what. He was sore, and his limbs felt like dead weight, but his wounds had been healed and he felt like he would be on the mend. The other blademasters in the Council gathered over to him.

 

Visar winced at the weakness in his body, wishing he could at least stand to face them. He struggled to, but could not rise.

 

"I am sorry. The Healing and the fight took my strength. I am not worthy, I know."

 

"You came here for us to judge that, Visar," one of them snapped. Visar felt his face heat up in embarrassment, shamed momentarily into silence.

 

"You gave Kalan quite a bruising there, though you almost killed yourself doing so," another said with a smile. "I haven't seen entertainment like that in quite a while. Nor have I seen Kalan as angry. Be careful and stay away from him for now. He is one to bear a grudge."

 

"I will remember that," promised Visar, with no intention to fight with Kalan any time soon. At least not with sharp steel.

 

"He did not give you his vote of confidence," began the first blademaster. "But considering he can be a sore winner, give it time and perhaps he will come around to respecting your skills. Especially once you revover and improve."

 

"Yes," Began the second. "Your technique could certainly use improving, but you have shown us your fiery spirit of determination, and you held your own against a very skilled and powerful fighter. Without an Aes Sedai or skilled surgeon, both of you would likely have died from your wounds. Thankfully, the Tower has you alive, to serve your Aes Sedai and keep training your young recruits. You have my blessing, blademaster."

 

"And mine," pitched in the third.

 

"I believe you are worthy of the heron mark. But that is no excuse to be idle in your training," said the last one.

 

"Aye. The four of us agree, you are a blademaster. Can you stand?"

 

Visar winced, furious at the weakness in his body. He forced himself to rise, though it took an agonizingly long time.

 

"I can stand," he said, though his legs were shaking. And he was hungry! He thought he could eat an entire sheep. "I don't know what to say, Masters. I feel like I don't deserve this."

 

"Your humility might serve you in other steads, but we do not need to hear it now. Rise, Master Falmaien, and receive the right to bear the Heron Mark."

 

Visar bowed his head. "With honor I receive this title. And with honor I shall keep it." he swore to them.

 

"Then go, Master Visar Falmaien. You may have your sword engraved with the heron mark. Give these instructions to a swordsmith and then burn them once he has finished; the secret of the mark must be kept from those who would conterfeit it."

 

Visar swore to that.

 

"Thank you, Masters. I will serve well," he promised, his heart suddenly filled with joy, even though his body felt like collapsing. The blademasters left him in peace, and Rasheta Sedai came over for a moment.

 

"You did well my warder, i'm proud of you." she said with a small smile. Visar beamed at her, flashing all of his teeth, unable to restrain any feeling from her now. She seemed to hint at things to come, and Visar blushed, but did not stop smiling.

 

"When you are done celebrating with the rest of the warders I'll see you later." She seemed to relent to the small group of fans, some of them his old buddies in the Guard, or peers in the Warders. And some of them were even his newer trainees come to see the fight.

 

Visar looked back at a retreating Aes Sedai and smiled softly. Sooner, than later, he thought. As soon as I can bribe these people to leave me alone with you! He sent good thoughts through the bond.

 

"Come on everyone! Drinks and food on me!" he yelled, and he and the others limped his way to the nearest tavern. Where he would eat and drink the entire establishment's stock if they gave him half a chance.

 

He felt exhilarated at new possibilities. Life was out there to be won, and he had won something for himself that could never be taken away. A new pride in himself and in his humanity. And that, more than anything else, was the heart of the heron to him.

 

-Visar Falmaien, blademaster

 

party time! Who's got some oosquai?

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