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Setting the Stage


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Madoc had spent hours this day at a run across the sands and rocks of the Threefold Land, travelling from one hold to another in an effort to improve his stamina and speed, he knew that even once he reached his final destination that his day’s work would not yet be done as he still had to work with bow, knife and spear & buckler to his teachers satisfaction before he would be able to rest this evening. Even as his destination came into view and his mind turned to the things he was sure would be worked on with spear and buckler today he kept his eyes, ears and conscious alert and sharp as even the smallest slip in concentration on his surroundings could be fatal here. He made the effort to steer clear of the scrub and small fissures of rock where the Two-Step liked to make its lair, waiting for an unsuspecting or inattentive creature to come within striking distance. It was just another part of living life in the Threefold Land, learning where to put your feet, learning what to holes to draw water from and which not to, learning which creatures were safe to eat and which were not. The Aiel drew their strength from their home, for the Threefold Land would not allow the soft to survive and the Aiel were anything but soft.


As Madoc came into the Hold he paused, making sure that his shoufa was down and he was easily seen. He made noise that would have gotten earned him extra chores if made anywhere else, but was expected when entering a Hold, another of those idiosyncrasies that made life as an Aiel difficult to understand to those who were not Aiel. When he came upon the actual entrance he slowed to greet the guards there, knowing he had been seen many times over before arriving, but having to maintain the formalities of entering the Hold and be welcomed. Once the formalities were observed it was a short trot to the space where he would be practicing all he had learned over the last few weeks, the spear, buckler, bow and knife. It was times like this, where he brought all his skills to bear in a single day, a testing of types that he felt more keenly the loss of his Father, who had taught him the basics of everything but could no longer help advance Madoc’s skill in anything since his death.


Madoc was covered in sweat, they had begun with the bow, because shooting required calm breathing and steady hands, just the opposite of what his body was giving him after running for so many hours today. He heart was still thudding in his chest and his hands were jittery from the increased blood flow and adrenaline pounding through him. Still he cleared his mind and took aim, he continually hit the target but it was not his best shooting. Madoc had never been more than an acceptable archer though and he was not displeased with his efforts, at least not until he glanced over at the Eagle Brother keeping watch on him. He knew that Kern expected more from him; all his instructors seemed to push him further and further every day, to make him expand his limits every day. He knew this was good, but just occasionally he wished for a day where he could do as he wished… but that was not to be today. With a shake of his head Madoc returned to his practice, firing arrow after arrow into the wicker target at the end of the range, honing his aim and speed of his release until they were acceptable to Kern. Unfortunately there was to be no respite, as his Father’s old friend Luan was there waiting to give Madoc training with the Knife, both throwing it and working it in close quarters.  While this would have been far easier to do when he was still pumped up from his run, now he was having to re-build his heart rate and adrenaline to keep pace with the older Knife Hand, and while Madoc’s size and reach helped him in this type of combat, he was still obviously the student at Luan’s hands for there were several times he found the smaller man well inside his guard and the man’s knife pressed against belly or throat. Madoc was covered in sweat, dirty from the wrestling in the dirt that was involved with knife fighting and truly ready to just sit in the sweat tent and scrap he days collected grime from his skin. Unfortunately, that was not to be just yet as another man was waiting for him when he concluded his work with Luan. This man was his mother’s brother, and had a similar height to Madoc’s if not the same breadth of shoulder.  Still the man made a spar move like an asp, and had made the lessons Madoc had learned from his father child’s play. Now was the time for spear and buckler work, and Jian would ensure that Madoc’s spear would be just as deadly and that he could avenge the loss of his father to the Shadowspawn. Jian was a Thunder Walker, and had made it perfectly clear to his nephew that he would be welcome in their ranks when the time came for Madoc to choose a Society. As soon as Luan stepped from the sparring ring Jian took his place, tossing a spear and buckler to Madoc and making ready for their spar. The following dance was a blur of spears lashing out and bucklers intercepting the metal hewing points or blocked hafts from any number of angles and dodges which left but a hairsbreadth of room the difference between a score and a miss. The dance was interrupted several times, most of which were from Madoc having been slapped with the flat of Jian’s blade and having to restart again. When they finished Madoc knew the hour had drawn late because there were people watching the spar, people other than the other warriors of the Hold. As he wiped the sweat from his brow and took a drink from the waterskin Jian handed him he saw several Wise Ones and the leaders of no less than three Societies. That the spar had drawn attention gave Madoc a little hope that soon enough he would join a Society and be not just another child in the Hold, but a contributing member. Soon enough he would be with the other Thunder Walkers, hunting in the blight and avenging his father.

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