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The Black Coat (Open)

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Blast this bloody coat.


Baren stood before the small mirror stand in the darkness of the cabin he shared with two other Tower newcomers. The youths still slept, but sleep evaded Baren this morning. He had tossed and turned the entire night, and now stared at himself with bloodshot eyes. It reminded him of his drinking days, although back then the smell of alcohol would have radiated from him.


It had only been a few days since Baren had arrived and he was still having trouble coming to terms with the fact he was a man who could channel. A monster. A creature destined for madness due to some arrogant man's foolish attempt to imprison the Dark One long ago. He regarded the coat with disgust. He hated it.


He hated himself.


What would Nari think? She couldn't love you now... you're a monster.


His hands clutched the edge of the wash basin, the surface smooth and cool underneath his rugged palms. In the mirror stood a man who was much more presentable than he had appeared just days before. His hair was now combed, his beard cropped closely to his face once again. The coat fit him well, accentuating the broadness of his shoulders and giving him the appearance of a military man despite his farming background. Idly, he reached up and hooked a thick finger into the stiff collar, giving it a little yank as if to loosen it. It didn't help. He hated the coat because it was a symbol of what he had become, or was to become. A weapon. A tool for the Lord Dragon to use against the Shadow. But more personally, it represented a man who was doomed to the taint of Saidin. Would he and the fellow Tower members  break the world like the Companions had done in ages past? He sighed at the thought and turned away from the mirror. He needed some fresh air.


He ducked out of the small cabin and into the crisp morning air. The sky was beginning to light up with the sun's rising, and within the stillness of the farm he could hear birds chirping in branches above. He walked slowly without a particular destination in mind, too busy with his own thoughts to really pay attention to where he was going. He found a solitary bench that sat below the overhang of a tall tree and lowered himself slowly due to the protest of his aching joints. They always seemed to throb more when it was cold, and with the sudden onset of winter that had come over the world he didn't find much respite. He grit his teeth and settled in, allowing his gray eyes to take in his surroundings before he caught the sound of footsteps crunching along the snow-covered ground. He glanced over his shoulder with interest, wondering who would be up at this hour to find him here.

Edited by Andrej
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Daevis Thelandran enjoyed the quiet times of the early morning. Before the daily training began and the sounds of power wrought explosions filled the air, the Farm had a downright peaceful air to it. Not at all what you would expect for a place filled with hundreds of potential madmen.


Wandering the outskirts of the Farm, the Asha'man took note of those few others who found themselves out and about. A couple of dedicated reaching the end of their night watch, and a handful of Asha'man preparing for the days lessons. The usual people he encountered on his morning walks. This morning, however, he spied someone unfamiliar. A soldier, wandering about rather aimlessly, and all on his own. A strange sight indeed. Most new soldiers tried to get every last minute of sleep they could before their long day of training. What could have roused this one?


Deciding to investigate, the tall Shienaran made his way to the tree that the Soldier had perched himself under. "I've yet to meet the southerner who enjoys this 'cold' weather," he said amicably. "So I wonder, what brings a new soldier out of bed so early to sit in it?"

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Baren did not recognize the man that approached him, but the two pins the Asha'man bore on his collar were more than enough of an introduction. Baren stood up, bracing one hand on his knee for a little assistance as he turned to regard the new man. Southerner, he'd said? Baren frowned slightly. The Asha'man didn't look affected by the chill. Was that, perhaps, that he was able to ignore it like the other Asha'man or that he was accostumed to it? Both, most likely.


Baren saluted respectfully. He had only taken a few lessons thus far during his stay, but he knew that proper deference was expected towards seniority.


The newcomer seemed to understand, or at least was curious, as to why Baren was sitting outside by himself. Could he, perhaps, have developed an ability to read other men? Baren was aware that he knew miserably little of the capabilties that Saidin provided. Even so, despite the turmoil he felt within, Baren bore a quiet mask of calm.


"Good morning, Asha'man." Baren used the man's appropriate title, unsure of what the man's name was. "I was just... getting some air. I'm afraid that sleep has been hard to come by the last few nights."

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"That's a shame," said Daevis, rubbing his chin. "As I recall, sleep was a rare and precious thing as a Soldier." He leaned against the tree, looking out at the slowly brightening sky over the tree line. "I've trained a lot of Soldiers during my time here. Usually we manage to work them so hard that they don't have the time or energy to think about anything at all. Sometimes though, a Soldier just can't help but dwell on things no matter how hard we distract him."


He paused, giving the other man an appraising look. He looked to be about the same age as Daevis himself, and had a sort of hard look about him. Not a warrior like Daevis had been, but someone who was no stranger to hard work and hardship. He also looked like he was only here because he had nowhere else to be.


"There are only a few things that can occupy a man so," he continued, adjusting his position against the tree. "If I had to guess, you're thinking something along the lines of 'Light blind me for a bloody fool! What have I gotten myself into?' Does that sound about right?"

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Baren couldn't argue the man's first point. The two boys he occupied a cabin with were often too tired to do anything of much use once their days had ended. They were fast asleep before the sun was down, some nights.


He watched as the Asha'man turned his gaze, as if in some state of reflection, towards the treeline were the sun was beginning to slowly rise up to start the day. Baren was curious about the man, he seemed rather insightful despite having the build and hard look of a fighting man. Baren often found himself surprised by the men he had met here. There was just a different dynamic to a man who had accepted his fate to Saidin. Or at least, knew of it. Baren became somewhat suspicious when the man mentioned how thoughts could trouble a man in this place. How much did he actually know?


Baren schooled his features once more as the Asha'man looked back at him, seeming to size up Baren thoughtfully. How much of Baren's inner turmoil could he really see? Was he able to look directly into Baren's mind and hear his very thoughts? Don't be a fool...


"Does that sound about right?"


Despite himself, Baren cracked small smile. It was only the barest twitch of his lip, but it was enough of a sign that the other man had been correct. Baren met his eyes again and gave a small nod of his head before he let himself bark an abrupt laugh. He realized that this man couldn't read his thoughts, no. He simply understood what Baren was going through because he, himself, had gone through it or seen it affect the other men who came before. "That wasn't exactly how the words ran in my mind, but yes... the point remains."

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Daevis nodded his understanding.  "There is no easy way to cope with your situation.  Almost every man who comes to this place has the same dilemna, but each also has his own solution. In the end, you have to accept the lot you've been given; accept what you are."  He paused, frowning down at the Soldier in thought.  "That's a lot easier for some than for others.  I flaming leapt at the chance to come here, though in my case I had nothing left to lose."  His voice took on a harder note as memories welled up inside him.  "Soulblighter took everything from me, and this was my chance to punch him in the bloody face.  A chance to make a difference in the Last Battle.  One soldier can't hope to do much when facing a fist of trollocs.  The best he can do is take a few of them with him before dying on a trolloc spear.  One Asha'man though ... he can make a difference.  Save those who couldn't be saved otherwise ..."


He fell silent again, letting his anger subside.  The memory of the day he'd lost his family always hurt, especially when he thought of how differently that day would have gone if he'd known how to channel. 


"Accepting what I am was easy for me.  I wanted this.  But what about you?  Why exactly are you here?"

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Baren watched quietly as the Asha'man explained the reason he had come here. He could sense the anger in the man, but knew underneath that anger there was something else. Pain. Loss. Anger normally stemmed from these emotions, especially when that pain of loss was enough for a man to choose to come here. He nodded his head before glancing down at his rough hands. His palms were upturned, callused from years of toiling.


He sighed to himself as he contemplated the question he had been asked. "Why exactly are you here?


After a few moments, he looked up again, meeting the Asha'man's gaze once more. "I came for a second chance. Why here? I don't really know... I heard rumors of this place and knew that if I came I would only damn myself even more. I threw my life away after..." he paused a moment, taking another breath. He had never really spoken with anyone about the loss of his wife during childbirth. "After Nari died. She was my wife. I wasted away. Drinking... letting my livelihood disappear. I traveled here across a land gripped by winter in hopes of redeeming myself in some fashion. And now that I made it and discovered what I was meant to be... I can't help but be afraid."


He tore his eyes away, moving them off to the side so he could gaze at the distant treeline. He shook his head slightly, feeling his hands that sat atop his thighs slowly curl into fists. He clenched them, feeling their strength. Perhaps this meeting was a sign. This man knew nothing of Baren outside that he was a new member of the Tower, and yet could relate to him deeply. He had felt loss like that Baren had experienced. Yet, he didn't pity himself. He didn't let his years go by in depression. He took a stand and decided to fight. Avenge his loved ones. Baren reflected on this quietly for a few minutes, closing his eyes and letting out a deep breath.


He needed to let go. The Pattern had placed him here, giving him the second chance that he had sought for. It was time to accept it. Setting his jaw in determination, Baren looked at the other man. "Show me. Show me how to be a weapon. Help me to fulfill my purpose."


It wasn't the most proper way of speaking to a fully ranked Asha'man, but Baren had never been a military man and worked beneath a rank structure; nor was he one of the younger men, hardly more than boys, who had come here eagerly. He had quietly answered the call inside him and with new resolution he was ready to undertake this task in earnest.


I love you Nari.

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The simple response seemed to stun the Soldier.  Before he could muster a response, likely an angry one, Daevis continued.  "I will show you how to be a weapon, rest assured of that.  You will learn how to deal death with Saidin every day.  Your ears will ring and your body will tremble from the force of the explosions you will unleash.  You will learn to tame fires so hot they will melt the rocks your enemies stand on.  But that is not your purpose.


"Killing and destruction ... they are tools you will use, not what you will be.  Death and madness ... those are the price we pay, not what defines us.  Becoming a weapon ... that is our method, not our purpose.


"We are Asha'man.  In the old tongue it means Guardian.  Not just a common merchants guard or keep defender, but a guardian of great importance.  A defender of an ideal.  A man who stands for something and will defend it with his life.  Remember who you are, and what you stand for.  That is where you'll find your purpose."


Daevis let the Soldier think about that for a minute.  Defining yourself was a tricky business, and it would take some time to figure out.  Hopefully he would spend the next several weeks learning just what his purpose was.  Only then would he be able to find some measure of peace.


The sky was brightening further by the minute, and the daily bustle around the Farm was beginning.  Already Daevis could feel channeling from all directions as the men prepared for the new day.  "So what say you?  Are you ready to truly begin?"

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OCC: Sorry for the delay. My ship is in port, so I have been enjoying my time on land :happy:


Asha'man. Guardian.


Baren weighed the words in his mind, gazing thoughtfully at the Asha'man across from him. The man was indeed insightful, and seemed to know the perfect words to reach Baren. Perhaps they just held a mutual understanding of one another, despite their differences. The fact that they were both men who could touch Saidin was only a small matter in the bigger scope. Baren respected this man deeply for the profound message that he had just delivered.


What is my purpose, then? Not to destroy... but to protect. To protect by destroying? Baren's thoughts continued to twist around each other, but he understood what the Asha'man was attempting to get across. Guardian. Protector. Sure, he would eventually be damned by the taint of Saidin but until then he could protect through the awesome destruction that being able to channel granted him. He would protect and serve those very same people who feared him for the monster that men like him were doomed to become. It was all very ironic in the end. Baren smiled to himself in his somber reflection. His sense of humor was decidely dark since his arrival at the Tower.


Baren, too, was beginning the feel the power of other men channeling around him. He was beginning to grow more accostumed to the sensation. It was like a pulse... yet, not exactly. He wouldn't have been able to put it into words, but with his newfound proximity to the power he was realizing that his ability to feel it was growing more keen every day. There was no avoiding it, even if he avoided practicing on his own after the day's lectures. It was time he that let go and accepted. No, not just accept... but acknowledge. Acknowledge his purpose to serve the people against the Shadow. His eyes gleamed with determination when they met the Asha'man's once more.


He responded with a simple nod. He was ready.

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