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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Introduction (Ascension Arc: Part One)


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"May you live in interesting times."

-Curse attributed to Ancient China

 

After careful consideration, Mehrin had decided that boredom was wasted on the boring.  He had been walking for quite some time without the company of anybody but his own mind- not always a pleasant traveling companion- and he had had plenty of time to reflect on it.  A soldier's life was made up of long stretches of boredom interjected with flashing moments of excitement, and Mehrin had come to treasure each long minute of boredom, often spent sitting around a fire with the few friends that he had and sharing a bottle.  Excitement, though, managed to remain in the memories of those at the fire; every moment of excitement brought with it empty spaces around the fire.

 

You think too much, Mehrin thought as he returned his attention to the empty road around him.  In the long time that he had been making his way along the southwestern border of Andor there had been very few people on the road.  A farmer hauling his latest produce was the most exciting thing that he had seen in the past week.  Still, instinct that had been ingrained into Mehrin through years of combat and survival told him that all was not well.

 

He was rather certain that he was being followed.

 

The feeling had begun a few weeks previously, but whoever or whatever was behind him was sharp enough to catch the little surprises that he had been leaving to flush them out, and every attempt at ambush had been met with no success.  However, during that time, the follower had made no attempts to harm Mehrin, which led him to believe that whoever or whatever was following him was not interested in attempting to rob him.  Just as well.  If the follower- if it even existed- felt like leaving him to his own devices then Mehrin was fine with it following along.

 

Whatever was following him made no attempts to harm him, but it did not help him in the three bandit ambushes that had come up along the way.  The first had been two former mercenaries, judging by their tattered uniforms, and they had put up a good fight; it had taken Mehrin almost twenty seconds to cut the two down.  The second was an amateur with a warped crossbow.  Luck had been with Mehrin that day, and the crossbow broke in half.  The brigand had escaped with a broken and bruised face.  The third had been interesting.  Three men had leaped out from behind a rock.  Two charged without hesitation, but the third had turned white and stammered out, "C-c-c-commander Deathwatch!"  The two charging men heard him, and the charge turned into a full rout; Mehrin assumed the man who had spoken was a deserter.

 

Sound in the distance behind him made Mehrin return to the present.  The clop-clop of horses- several horses- had come to his ears, and Mehrin stepped to the side of the road to allow the horsemen clear passage.

 

Riding into vision was a long line of men in blinding white cloaks.  Interesting, Mehrin thought as the group- somewhere around one hundred, if Mehrin's quick count was correct- rode past him.  Many of them eyed Mehrin, and Mehrin eyed right back at them.  He had no quarrel with the Children of the Light; he had fought alongside them at Bandar Eban against the Seanchan, and he had even helped broker something of a peace treaty between them and the Band of the Red Hand shortly before they began construction of the Citadel.  It was ancient history to most, but it provided Mehrin with some comfort; maybe he would not have to sleep so lightly tonight.

 

Maybe the follower would decide to leave him alone, too.

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The sound of hooves – lots of hooves – shattered Eb’s idle thoughts and her concentration on Mehrin’s every move. Children of the Light rode in their direction – a hundred or so by her count – their crisp white cloaks catching the sun’s glare and reflecting it in a blinding line that seemed to scar the road. Eb melted further back into the bushes, knives out, teeth bared in an open snarl.  

 

Whitecloaks! Blasted shiny filth!

 

She spat, and her knuckles tightened on the hilts of her daggers. Battle companions or not during that old fight at Bandar Eban, she would never trust the members of that fanatic flock any further than she could throw the whole bang lot of them. In fact, she’d likely trust them less. The memories of what had happened to her friends in the Rahad had not faded over the past decade or so, and if the rumours that she’d been hearing recently were true, whatever the Children wanted Mehrin Deathwatch for these days wasn’t likely to help her forget.

 

She ground her teeth and waited, wary and impatient. She'd been following her ex-Commander, unbeknownst to him, on Calder's orders for quite some time now and this – this arrival of the Whitecloaks so soon after the rumours - was the first possibility of any real trouble that they’d encountered. Nothing had happened yet, but it set her nerves on edge. Taking out a random mercenary thief or two here or there before they gutted Mehrin in the night, or sabotaging a crossbow whilst the drunken owner slept was one thing (or nothing really, mostly she didn’t even bother - there weren't that many people on the roads stupid enough to try and take on a man of Mehrin’s size and disposition, and if and when they did, Mehrin was most capable of handling them himself), but a hundred Whitecloaks? That could prove a different story.

 

As easily and as subconsciously as she breathed, Eb checked that all of her knives were in place and loosened her short swords in their sheaths. The Whitecloaks kept advancing. Her hand brushed against the mace at her side. Something was going to happen here, she could feel it. Yes, a hundred-or-so Whitecloaks could definitely prove a very different story. She spun her knives, kept Mehrin in her line of sight, and waited...

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Sunlight laced over the summer terrain - the gentle hills, the clear pastures and the hundred travel weary mounted crossbowmen. "Dark one's own grandmother, O'Reilly! Can't you keep your opinions to yourself for once?" A man shouted from somewhere near the back of the organised column. A second man sat beside him, on a different horse. The cloaks and insignia of the two, marked them out as officers. "I would, if you stop getting us lost all the time." The second man replied, giving his superior a sideways scowl.

 

"Well it wasn't my bloody fault!" Ackley retorted immediately, though in truth, it kind of was. They had been travelling for nearly twelve days now, and part of that was because of Ackley's poor map reading skills. Geography was one thing Ackley had mistakingly flunked, back when he was still an apprentice scholar. "Alright, Mr know it all. Tell us where the hell we are then." He threw the rolled up map across the saddle at O'Reilly. The man caught it, then gave him a narrowed look. Ackley rolled his eyes skyward. Of course, it was his job to be navigator; the duties of a Hundredman dictated it. He had also almost forgotten O'Reilly couldn't read.

 

Sighing deeply - and very loudly - Ackley nudged the sides of his brown mare; sunflower, and trotted up beside the advancing column. A few of his men acknowledged him as he passed, though most just had the trance-like, bored expression soldiers wore to make the time pass quicker. Ackley Carnel wasn't like most other Hundredman within the Children of the Light. He liked to make sure he got to know his men, and of course, the other way around too. His men didn't really treat him like any other officer. They knew he didn't care much about status, rank or proper protocal, so they usually didn't bother saluting him. However, they still listened and obeyed his orders, not because of the stripes on his shoulder pads, but for other reasons. They trusted him, and he - them. In Ackley's books, that was all that really mattered.

 

They were on a specially assigned mission. The haste and urgency of which was evident in the order form Ackley had received, upon being woken up at 2am in the morning. His company of crossbows was to make all speed to a village - whose name Ackley keeps forgetting - and to rendezvous with a member of the Eyes and Ears there. What was stranger still however, was the Questioner that had been ordered to accompany them. "Mr Flatface" as O'Reily liked to call him, had tailed their group ever since they left Amador. The man's dissaproval of Ackley's command was evident in the dark looks he keeps giving the unorthodox Hundredman. Ackley didn't really care much about the man. So long as he stayed out of Ackley's way, the two of them would get along just fine.

 

He noticed something else as he passed the middle of the company's centre. A man, travelling on foot, was walking to the side of the road. The figure turned and regarded Ackley's men as the front of his column passed him by. Finally, Ackley thought, reigning his horse in slightly so he could stop beside the man. Someone I can ask directions to. Maybe he knows where the next village is.

 

"Hello Traveller!" Ackley halted his horse a little ways away. He gave the figure a good natured smile, as it always did a man well to be polite, when possible. "We.. err... are kind of lost. Do you mind pointing us in the direction of the nearest village?" He waited for the man's response, sitting placidly on his horse. He knew other members of the order sometimes liked to get their way by intimidating others. Especially if they were on a horse, and thus having the height advantage. That wasn't exactly Ackley's style.

 

He took the opporunity to observe the man closer, and noticed for the first time, that he was wearing a sword. It wasn't uncommon for travellers to be going around armed these days, though it was strange how the man is travelling by himself. The gruff expression and the way the man held himself, might explain why though. He wore plain ordinary clothing - white woolen shirt with brown trousers and a matching cloak, yet the way he stood, subtly outlined - to those who knew where to look - his profficency with the sword he wore. The man stared up at Ackley, the hard lines on his face making the usually steadfast Hundredman feel a bit uneasy as he matched those unyielding eyes.

 

~Ackley Carnel

Hundredman in the Army of the Light

 

(OCC: Doing this on a tablet. The italics don't show up, I think. I use them to outline the thought sections, so just pretend they're there if you can. Also, I should add Ackley doesn't know he's out to hunt Mehrin yet. In fact, I think I'll make it he doesn't recognise that Mehrin is Mehrin, so long as Quibbs doesn't give it away. Gives him a chance to tag along with the Children.)

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Based on Mehrin's experience with the Children of the Light, it was unusual for a man in a white cloak to address a simply-garbed man walking along the road with anything other than an authoritative voice, but this one...  Even if Mehrin had associated with the Whitecloaks before, it had always been in a setting where he was either only a sergeant or, at one time, a captain-general in charge of one of the two infantry divisions.  In the case of the former, he had been treated like a piece of furniture; in the case of the latter, he had been only slightly inferior to the officer with whom he was working.  To be treated nearly as an equal was surprising.

 

Hiding his surprise behind a mask of control that he had mastered years ago, Mehrin responded, "Your guess is as good as mine.  I passed through a village a few days ago in that general direction."  He waved vaguely behind him to his left.  "Other than that, I can't really help you.  Sorry."  

 

With that, Mehrin turned as if to continue walking, then hesitated.  Instead of continuing, he turned back to the man.  "Pardon me for asking-" No need to borrow trouble when it isn't necessary- "but what is a patrol of the Children doing in southwestern Andor?  You seem to be quite some way from home."

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​Ackley felt himself relax a bit when the figure finally spoke. The man had a gruff voice, but the tone was pleasant enough, so Ackley assumed for the moment, that he was friendly. "Well rats in a bag," Ackley mumbled, turning slightly in his saddle to stare off into the distance. "Was kind of hoping you'd know. You have no idea how much my Bannerman will whine at me for, because of this."

 

The figure began speaking again as he was scanning the terrain, and Ackley let out a small huff as he heard the stranger's next question. "Truth be told," he replied earnestly, still distractedly trying to find some visible landmark nearby. "I really don't know myself. Rumours has it, someone really high up has been looking for bloody Mehrin Deathwatch, of all people. Few of the lads say he's a flaming darkfriend, and that we've been sent to take him in. Whatever the case, we're headed for [ ] to meet up with a few people." He paused, comparing a corner of the map to a distant flat hill top lined by pine trees. "Anyway," he continued. "Where you off to? Look like you're headed somewhere." The man didn't immediately respond so Ackley turned, then frowned as he saw the figure's expression. "Err... you, feeling alright?"

 

The man blinked once; the hard lines disappearing in an instant from around his face. "No, I'm fine," he replied in a perfectly even tone. Ackley raised an eyebrow, not entirely convinced. "You sure? You looked a bit sick there for a second." The man nodded in a reassuring way. "Yes, I'm certain I'll be fine." He paused for a second, as if considering something, before saying. "Would it be too much to ask to travelled with your group for a while? I'm actually going to a place quite close to [ ]."

 

Ackley shrugged. There was no reason to deny the man his request - he probably just wanted a warm fire tonight, and a chance to get some undisturbed sleep for once. Besides, he thought to himself. Man might know the lands a bit more than I do, could find some use for him. "You're welcome to travel along with us, though I do hope you know how to ride." The man nodded. An extra sword was always useful, and the man didn't look like he would be much of a liability.

 

"Good, though I don't think we'll be doing any more travelling, at least not for tonight." He turned towards where O'Reilly stood with the rest of the column, a few feet away from Ackley and their newly acquired camp follower. "Bannermans! We're setting up camp around here, find a spot and get the men to put their tents up." he shouted, then turned back towards the figure.

 

"You'll find a man called sam in second platoon. He'll give you the horse, and perhaps show you around the camp if you ask nicely." he said as he climbed down from the top of Sunflower and began rummaging through his saddlebags for his blanket and bedroll. After a few seconds undoing the buckles, he tucked the rolls underneath his left armpit then grabbed the reigns in his other free hand.

 

"I'll be off to supervise and lead and whatnot. Remember to stay out of trouble. Avoid topics like darkfriends, or Aes Sedai." he warned before heading off towards the rest of the camp. "They're pretty touchy subjects for some reason, even with this group."

 

​~Ackley Carnel

Hundredman in the Army of the Light

Edited by Sherper
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Damn, damn, damn, damn!  Even his carefully-schooled expressionless face could not help but betray the sudden dismay that filled Mehrin.  Nodding his head at the Child's admonition against mentioning Darkfriends and Aes Sedai, Mehrin began a slow study of the bustling Children.  He was left mostly ignored while they set up their camp for the night, and Mehrin used that time to sort out exactly what he intended to do.

 

He knew of no reason why the Whitecloaks might be pursuing him, though that did not mean much; the Whitecloaks did what they did because they thought it was right that they do so.  That sense of righteousness in their actions meant that there would likely be no convincing them that there had been some sort of mistake.  With reasoning dismissed as a possible solution to this problem, Mehrin turned his attention to the only other option: escape.

 

There were several factors in his favor, and Mehrin chose to focus on those rather than remembering that odds of one hundred to one were a bit long, even for him.  The first and most important factor was that they did not know that he was Mehrin Deathwatch, a thought that caused him to roll his eyes.  He was sick of being the Deathwatch, but that was the name that would probably live long after he was gone.  A quick shake of his head, and Mehrin focused again on his escape.  The second factor, as Mehrin saw it, was the inexperience of the man leading these Children.  He was young and still becoming used to leading.  If they somehow managed to figure out who Mehrin was, there was a chance that he would make some mistake in capturing him, allowing him to escape.  If they did manage to catch him, though, there was the chance that he would make a mistake in restraining him.  So, capture is not necessarily a death notice, but let's keep that option in reserve.  A quiet stirring in the back of his mind told him that whatever darker nature he had agreed.

 

The next thing that Mehrin needed was information.  He needed to know exact numbers, dispositions, and the general layout of the camp and its patrols.  If he could keep up the charade until the morning, he could make his excuses and go on his way, escaping from the Children and avoiding anything unpleasant.  He had no desire to kill anybody, for once.  Killing Children would only make his life more difficult; there would be no talking the Children out of hunting him down and dragging him back to Amador for execution.  Strangely enough, Mehrin had no desire to be executed.  He had lived a long and violent life, true, but he did not want it to end.  Why not?  Surely you above all people deserve to die?  Mehrin sighed.  He would give up his entire saved salary from the Band to get rid of his subconscious.

 

As the camp came together, Mehrin found himself admiring the efficiency of the Children of the Light.  There was little wasted time or effort, and the layout of the camp was precise and well thought out.  The rows of tents were evenly spaced and left enough room for three people to walk abreast without tripping over anchor lines.  Already the patrols were out.  Mehrin took only a moment to study their movements; he had to set up his own place in the camp and find some way to keep a low enough profile to see him through to tomorrow.

 

To maximize his chances, Mehrin set up in the no man's land just outside the patrol area.  If only being alone was as simple as that.  He had been singled out by the man in charge, and Mehrin now had no choice but to be social with him and his seconds-in-command.  The man who Mehrin approached looked at him with the type of look that fed into the image that everybody saw when they talked about the Whitecloaks.  Careful.  It might be one of these who catches on to who you are.  "If it isn't inconvenient, I would like to find your commander."

 

"You mean Hundredman Ackley Carnel?"

 

Mehrin nodded, remembering the name as it was said.  That was something else he had to keep in mind; he had yet to introduce himself formally to Hundredman Carnel.  Fortunately, he had a collection of false names he could use.  Hmmm...  Maybe I should be Tavrin Callas for a while.  He liked Tavrin Callas.

 

OOC: Will add more when I have more time.  Posting this now because I don't want to lose yet another post.

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What in Light's name is that blasted fool doing? Eb nearly fell from her perch in a nearby tree when Mehrin requested to travel with the Children, mere moments after the Hundredman had made it clear the Whitecloaks were specifically hunting him down. She wondered if the man had suddenly developed a death wish - and sulkily, why she had ever bothered risking her own life to keep him alive. When she'd recovered from that shock, she very nearly launched a knife to kill him herself. Wooden-headed lummox!

 

Given her instinct, and the frightening thought of the recent rumours and public speculations she'd been hearing, it had taken her less than two minutes to reach her vantage point in the tree from where she had been hiding. In that time, she had run a significant number of likely scenarios through her head - and she hadn't liked the idea of a single one of them. The only thing Mehrin had going for him right now was that he was yet to be recognised. In Eb's opinion, the distinctive, oversized flamberge and the whips should have been more than enough to give it away, but since they hadn't, she was suddenly incredibly thankful that for once the man was not wearing his usual leather greatcoat and hat. 

 

Although she was relieved they hadn't recognised him, it bothered her that she still didn't know why the Whitecloaks were after the ex-commander of the Band. True, Mehrin 'Deathwatch' had a colourful history, but it was hardly logical that he was a traitor to the Light. Not that she trusted or ever expected anyone in that flaming flock of preening falcons to ever follow logic. Especially when it came to a matter of orders preaching possibilities of darkfriends. She spat, blood boiling at the memories that had never left her alone - and the unthinkable actions of the Whitecloaks which had effectively done just that back in Ebou Dar - and refused to believe that a similar situation was going to happen again. It may have been several years since Eb and Mehrin had spoken face-to-face, and a couple more than that since he'd been sober enough to remember their various interactions, but it mattered not - they shared a lot of history, Mehrin Mahrvon and her: countless training sessions, years and years worth of drinks, battles where they'd been lucky to have each other's backs. It was no big secret that Eb didn't trust or care for many people in the world, and it was doubtful that she'd ever call him this directly to his - or anybody else's - face, but the truth was, Mehrin was the only person left alive that Eb trusted and respected enough to count a friend. The others had all been murdered by the Children of the Light back in Ebou Dar. She was not about to stand by and let them get the last one too.

 

She scowled, knives flicking angrily in her hands as Mehrin followed the Hundredman and began setting up camp. Obviously, he'd decided to get acquainted, and follow the philosophy of better-the-devils-you-know. She couldn't help thinking that, at least in this case, he was a fool. For a split second, she agonised over her decision. The patrols would be about soon, and she knew she needed to move. The question was to where. What she wanted to do was run. Well, precisely, she wanted to kill a hundred Whitecloaks or so and then run.Truth was, if the person she'd been ordered to follow had been anyone else but Mehrin, if the threat to him now had come from anyone other than the Children, she would have simply walked away. Without a second thought. She wasn't in this world to stick her neck out for others and end with her head suddenly removed from her shoulders. But stubbornly, she was not about to let Mehrin suffer at the hands of the Children. She couldn't do it. Hating herself for the stupidity of the decision, Eb made up her mind once and for all to follow this ridiculous situation to the end- whatever that end may turn out to be. Sighing and cursing under her breath, she found a way to follow them in.

 

- - -

 

Night fell. The sounds and smells of cookfires and camp food wafted over Eb as she crept from her hidey-hole and began to familiarise herself with the layout of the Children's camp, in the dark. From what she had seen so far, and as much as she hated to admit it, the Children appeared to be model soldiers. Avoiding patrols, patches of light, populated areas of the camp - and above all the desire to slit the throats of every flaming Whitecloak she passed in the shadows, Eb slipped effortlessly back into her Rahad-reared ways, scouring the camp for ration packs, details and a few other likely-to-be-necessary items, just in case. When her belly was full and she was confident that she had memorised all the key points of access and egress and various tiny holes in security, she sought out Mehrin's whereabouts. He wasn't difficult to find, sitting at the main campfire, trying his best to be social without giving much away. In an instant, she recognised the persona he was using - Tavrin Callas. Despite herself and the danger of the entire situation, Eb grinned - she liked Tavrin Callas. Warily, senses tingling, knives slowly twirling at the ready, she crouched unseen in the shadows, waiting for what was to come.

 

 

OOC: sorry if there are errors/things that don't make sense - tired and falling asleep as I type!

Edited by _Eb_
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"The sword?" Mehrin asked, letting a moment go by before answering.  Tavrin Callas was always a little bit slow to pick things up; he made up for it by being brazenly brave.  "Oh, the sword!"  A few men around the fire shook their heads, probably wondering how he had avoided being killed for so long.  Mehrin smiled a little bit; it was working.  "Family heirloom.  My father's grandfather was Shienaran.  He fought on the Blightborder his entire life.  One of the few who managed to die in a bed at home of old age, too.  Over the years it sat in a storage room, cared for, but never used."  Mehrin gave a shrug as he added, "I just felt that such a thing should be making a difference in this world instead of waiting for rust to claim it."

 

As the men around the fire let the lie turn over in their minds, Mehrin felt his body tense.  He knew the feeling: something was not right.  Of course something's not right, you fool!  You're sitting around a campfire with a group of men who want nothing more than to capture you, drag you to Amador in chains, put you to the question, and then execute you in front of a screaming crowd!  How can this not be problematic?

 

Shut up.

 

Mehrin stretched, a motion that served two purposes.  First and foremost, it allowed him some leave to cast his eye around the fire and to the tents surrounding it.  On a more practical level, though, he needed to stretch.  Neither purpose was a failure.  To his right, Mehrin caught a flash of movement as somebody ducked behind a tent.  His follower, he assumed.  But following him into a Whitecloak camp?  The person was either out of their mind or suicidal.  Doesn't somebody suicidal have to be somewhat out of their mind?  The thought, like so many he experienced, had sprung from the dark side of Mehrin's mind.  Always the cynic.  Anyway, did I not tell you to shut up?

 

Nodding to Hundredman Carnel, Mehrin said, "Your turn to answer questions, sir.  What drew you to the Children of the Light?  There are so many, pardon me for saying, unpleasant rumors about the order."

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Ackley laughed along with the rest as their guest at the fire told a joke. The meeting of Tavrin Callas had turned out to be a pleasant surprise; the man was good natured, and bought about a fresh set of mind to an otherwise bored crowd. The young Hundredman leaned back against the fallen log that a few of the men had bought down to use as a temporary bench, and yawned, opening his mouth wide and cupping one hand against it. The warmth of the fire and his fill at the stew pot was making him feel particularly sleepy.

 

He returned his attention back on the middle aged man sitting across the fire from him, as Tavrin Callas told the others of how he'd come by his sword. Ackley's brows furrowed slightly as he squinted, examining the figure's expression in greater detail. For the second time that day, Ackley felt a distinct sense of unease looking at the man. There were things he wasn't telling them about his personality. How had he come by that... 'hardness' to his eyes? Those are not the looks of a bumbling traveler who claims he doesn't know how to swing a sword. Ackley had seen enough battles and enough good men die, to know he was probably dealing with a veteran. Someone who is traveling alone; by himself, definitely hides more than he would lets show. Ackley didn't blame the man for doing what he was doing. In fact, had the positions been reversed, he would have probably done the same.

 

Tavrin looked up, and noticed Ackley looking at him. He nodded to the young Hundredman and asked: "your turn to answer, sir. What drew you to the Children of the Light?" There are so many, pardon me for saying, unpleasant rumours about the order."  

 

Ackley smiled; the man also had a talent for snooping out other people's business it seems. "Why I joined the order?" he barked, falling for some reason into an exaggerated Illianer accent. "Why, that do be because I want to be huntin' them Witches. Stinkin' women and their light accursed Magi."

 

He noticed out of the corner of his eye, O'Reilly give him a disapproving frown and a small disapproving shake of his head. A few of the men chuckled from around the fire. By now, everyone should know what Ackley thought about the Children's policy on Aes Sedai; most of them hadn't joined the order for that purpose either. Ackley had known nearly all of them from the very beginning, back when they were still farm levies from that border villages in Amador.

 

Ackley had been a scholar once; or at least, got as far as having read a few book before running away to join an army. Yet even someone with a rudamentary knowledge of history would know, that the Aes Sedais weren't darkfriends. They had helped the world from before and after the collapse, and were definitely in the category of the Light. Only the completely ignorant would believe in what the Order teaches them. Ignorant, or...

 

He turned slightly and allowed his eyes to adjust to the dark as he carefully looked over at a nearby campfire. A single man sat there, poking the embers of his small fire with a rod of stick. Mr Flatface sat by himelf at the fire, content to share his own company with himself as the rest of them talked. Apart from the ignorant, there were the truly fanatic; and those were the ones that will never be convinced. The man didn't seem to be paying much attention to their conversation, but Ackley lowered his voice anyway.

 

"As for the unpleasant rumours..." he said, eyeing the man sideways and giving him a dark look. "Well, rumours aren't always formed from imaginative fabrication." He paused a second, looking back again at the direction of the Questioner. "There are always bad eggs in a nest, and if I were you, I'd rather not stick around to find out which ones which."

 

He made himself relax a bit; leaning back and taking up a slouched pose to make his body look less rigid. He gave the man a small smile, and then yawned once more.   

 

~Ackley Carnel
Hundredman in the Army of the Light

Edited by Sherper
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"Believe me, Hundredman Carnel, I have no desire to overstay my welcome," Mehrin said honestly, taking a second to look at the man that had been singled out by the younger man's glance.  A dour man who kept to himself, Mehrin could only assume that he was a Questioner.  He bore an empty look, as if something inside him had died long ago.  Mehrin knew the look well; he occasionally saw it in himself when he looked in the mirror.  He mentally thanked the Hundredman for the information, intentional or not.

 

After a short silence, Mehrin continued, speaking carefully.  "The only experience I have had with the Children before was with a man who claimed to have deserted.  Called himself Rowul Stromblade."  A conversation stopped to Mehrin's left.  What did I just do?  Stupid, stupid!  He could feel the silent gaze fall upon him.  I have to keep going.  If I stop, I'm doomed.  Quietly in his mind he also heard, If you keep going, you're doomed.  Clearing his throat in an attempt to smother his rising concern, Mehrin continued.  "He insisted on wearing his white cloak, stained with sweat and dirt as it was.  He had resorted to banditry.  From what I could tell, he really was not very good at it.  Ended up having to kill him when he tried to kill me."  Great speech, idiot!  You've probably just damned yourself.

 

OOC: Yes, short post.  It was all that I could do without taking too much control of everyone in the RP.  Mehrin's likely to stutter and stammer out answers if he's pressed now.

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Ackley’s frown deepened as the man hurriedly pressed ahead, moving the conversation on from the deserter whitecloak. Rowul Stromblade… that man sounds vaguely familiar, Ackley thought as he turned one quizzical eye towards his first Bannerman. The implication behind the sentence hadn’t caught his attention, but the apparent discomfort and willingness of the stranger to cover it up, had.
By the expression on O’Reilly’s face; an intense scrutiny, and a hint of alarm, his friend knew much more about what the man had let slip than he did. Nothing really clicked in his head, though he was growing increasingly certain that the name was important somehow. Rowul… wasn’t he in Second Company? It had been a while now, since his promotion from Squadman to a Hundredman, plus he had never really got a chance to mingle with the men from the other companies. But Ackley thought he remembered enough to put a face to the name.

 

“So, you know Rowul…” he said carefully. “How exactly did you two come to meet?” The man was lying of course, when he gave the answer, but Ackley already knew that.  Although he didn’t known Rowul personally, enough of a reputation had spread for him to understand, that Rowul would never turn to banditry. The man might have been a deserter, true, but that was done for a whole different set of reasons. “I see…” he said, darting glances towards O’Reilly and the other men around the camp. A few of them seem to have sensed a growing tension, and had fallen silent from their own private conversations. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go discuss something with my Bannerman.” He stood from his place at the log, and beckoned O’Reilly aside to speak.

 

“Well?” he asked the Bannerman, as soon as they were out of earshot. They were not exactly being subtle about what, or more precisely, who they were talking about. The man had that large sword of his in a sack a few paces away from the burning logs, so Ackley felt comfortable enough to leave him alone for a few minutes. Just enough time to figure out what the hell was going on.

 

 “The man is lying.” O’Reilly replied instinctively.   
 “I know that genius.” Ackley snapped, then shot a quick look back at the still seated figure. “But what or why does he have to lie to us about?”
“Well, we still don’t know who he really is… For all the Light knows, we could have Mehrin bloody, Deathwatch sitting there sharing stew with us.” Ackley paused, tapping his chin with his middle index finger as he considered. He had to think of all the implications; false moves could cause them to be in a very awkward situation. “Where did you say Rowul ran off to?” Ackley finally asked. “After he had that argument with the Questioners?” A horse whined softly somewhere in the background.

 

O’Reilly chewed his lips for a moment, obviously having difficulty in remembering exact details. “Went to that mercenary group, I think… called the Band of the something or rather.”
“Band of the Red Hand?”
“Yeah that’s the one.”
“Ok…” Ackley continued tapping, resuming his chain of thoughts. “This guy had dealings, or at least should know the Band of the Red Hand, yes?” O’Reilly nodded. “We’ll go see how much he knows about this group, and if he’s willing to tell us the truth.”

 

He was about to turn and walk back to the camp, when a thought interrupted his movements. “Oh and O’Reilly, kindly go wake up Squadman Ashley. Tell him to bring a few of his men to the camp, with their crossbows. Half a dozen should do; I don’t think the man will be that much of a problem.” The man had a dozen soldiers looking at him within arm’s reach, and he was without a weapon, for the moment. Ackley walked back into the glowing aura of the fire, and then retook his seat at the end of the log.

 

“Sorry about that,” he said lightly, “Just remembered O’Reilly was suppose to be checking the perimeter sentries. He’ll be back in an hour or two.” He grabbed his own pack, and began rummaging around it for its contents. He found a tiny red apple, that still looked reasonably good to eat, and polished it a few times on his tunic before taking a bite from it. “Anyway, you were telling us about Rowul.” He continued, careful to make his voice smoothen out the evident tension that had begun building around the campfires. “I thought he ended up joining that mercenary group. What were they called again?” Two horses whined softly in the background…

 

~Ackley Carnel
Hundredman in the Army of the Light.

Edited by Sherper
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As Hundredman Carnel and his associate left the fire, Mehrin cast his eye over towards his gear.  Only a few paces away as it was, it might as well be one hundred miles.  Gathering it and leaving would only signal that he truly had something to hide, and that would bring down the wrath of one hundred men and a Questioner.  Worse, some of those men would have crossbows or other ranged weapons.  He would not be able to fight his way through that.  I guess that's it, then.  Better think fast.  His attention turned back to the two men's conversation on the other side of the fire.  You're not unarmed, merely outnumbered, but you've beaten bad odds before.  Take them by surprise before-  Before the quiet voice in the back of Mehrin's mind finished its thought, Hundredman Carnel returned without his friend.  Never mind.  You're dead.  It's been a pleasure.

 

"Sorry about that," the man said as he came back to the fire.  "Just remembered O'Reilly was supposed to be checking the perimeter sentries.  He'll be back in an hour or two."  The other man began rummaging around in his things, drawing out an apple.  An excuse!  Without waiting for the man to speak again, Mehrin stood and brought his gear and his sword back to the fire.  Years of traveling had taught him to keep his food at the top of his pack.  He withdrew a hard biscuit and a wedge of cheese.  The cheese was the important part; it gave him an excuse to have a knife out.  As he sliced into the cheese, Hundredman Carnel began to speak again.  "Anyway, you were telling us about Rowul.  I thought he ended up joining that mercenary group.  What were they called again?"

 

Mehrin shrugged.  "Lots of mercenary groups out there.  Somebody is trying to revive the Blue Jackets, but I don't think that will work out.  No connection to the history of that group.  The Thousand Eyes seems possible, but I don't think they would take in a former Child of the Light.  Could be that group that started right after Tarwin's Gap.  Band of... something.  I can't remember offhand."  Even as he finished speaking, Mehrin knew that he had fouled up badly.  Tavrin Callas did not know about the Blue Jackets, who had been completely obliterated at Tarwin's Gap except for one medic.  He might have known about the Thousand Eyes, but he would not have known about their open animosity towards the Children of the Light.

 

"Anyway, about Rowul.  I was in a village in central Andor when they caught him and a few of his band.  I saw his execution.  He was a coward in the end, screaming for forgiveness."  Mehrin paused, his eyes fixed on the fire as he remembered the scene.  The villagers had been at the mercy of Rowul and his little pack of brigands for over two years.  "From the trial and witness testimonies, I would say that he deserved what he got in the end."  He looked up and across the fire at Hundredman Carnel.  "Everybody makes mistakes, Hundredman.  Even the Children can.  Rowul made his last mistake in that village."

 

Conversation around the fire had gone silent, and Mehrin glanced around.  Every man's eyes were fixed on him.  Mehrin knew that he had gone too far.  He had to find a way to get away from the group before they turned against him.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a hand- a woman's hand, strangely enough- take hold of his bag and sword and slowly draw it away into the tents.  Say nothing.  Act like nothing has happened.  

 

 

OOC: Sorry for the long wait.  Work kind of kicked me in the hindquarters.  Obviously, the hand taking Mehrin's stuff is Eb.  From here, I'd say that taking Mehrin into custody is not too much of a stretch, though conversation could continue, Eb could signal Mehrin from across the fire, and Mehrin could beg off, citing an aching bladder or something.  Play it how you will; either option works just fine.

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"The only experience I have had with the Children before was with a man who claimed to have deserted.  Called himself Rowul Stromblade."  

 

Eb gaped as the conversation to Mehrin's left stopped abruptly. For a moment her chest felt strangely, simultaneously still and heavy; for all the world as if her heart had suddenly stopped and dropped straight down to the bottom of her boots. She blinked, as if seeing sharper might clear her ears of words she wished she hadn't heard. Her mouth went dry. Blood and bloody ashes! What in the Light is he thinking- mud-headed fool! Of all the stupidest things to mention! 

 

Hundredman Carnel gave 'Tavrin Callas' a frowning, quizzical look and then excused himself from the company to talk quietly with another man. Inevitable! In that instant, despite the fact that Tavrin Callas' face gave little away to those who had only just met him, the flash of startled panic in Mehrin's eyes was plain for Eb to see. Mortified by Mehrin's mistake and the likely consequences, she knew the look was probably a close mirror of her own. Her heart jumped back into her chest and began drumming away with a vengeance at twice its normal speed. She gripped a knife in each hand, knuckles turning white on the hilts. Too many! Too close!

 

There was a mention of the Band of the Red Hand and cross-bows, and Hundredman Carnel returned to the fire. He's done it now! Eb surveyed the situation frantically, noting the sheer number of Children in the immediate vicinity and attempting, unsuccessfully, to calculate at least one possible route of escape for herself and Mehrin that would not lead to ambush.

 

Mehrin brought out his cheese and knife and Eb rolled her eyes.  A cheese-knife? - A cheese-knife! Oh that'll make everything better! Her fingers twitched and, knives still tightly clutched in each hand, she pulled angrily on the short lengths of her hair.You light-cursed idiot! She scowled, unable to contain herself. She'd seen Mehrin be creative in scraps and brawls before, and there was no doubt he could handle himself in a fight, even severely outnumbered, but this, this was different. She didn't know what the Children wanted Mehrin Deathwatch for, exactly, but given the situation she doubted if even his skill with the sword could save him now. In fact, as he sat there slicing cheese and spinning his tale, Eb doubted that anything could get him out of the mess he'd just created. She hoped she was wrong, even as she doubted.

 

And then 'Tavrin' mentioned the Blue Jackets and the Thousand Eyes and Eb almost stalked right out of her hiding place to stab Mehrin herself and end the whole ordeal right there.

 

"Everybody makes mistakes, Hundredman," Mehrin was saying, "Even the Children can. Rowul made his last mistake in that village."

 

Eb took advantage of the distraction Mehrin was providing by all but digging his own grave with his words and, hoping she wasn't making her last mistake with her movements, crawled onto her belly to snatch his bag and sword slowly away from the fire just as the reinforcements arrived. She was sure the man had noticed, but she didn't care - nobody else had seen, and her ex-Commander could notice whatever the light he flaming-well liked, so long as he kept his blasted mouth shut long enough for her to find a way to save both their skins. As attention around the fire shifted for an instant from Mehrin to the newcomers, Eb scowled directly at the man, motioning a finger across her throat as she secured the flamberge sword and scuttled back into the shadows. That should give him the message - Shut up! Stop! or die ... Light this thing is heavy! Eb secured the sword before assessing - and cursing - the positions of each of the new arrivals.

 

The newly-wakened Squadman and his half-a-dozen men surrounded Mehrin neatly, crossbows cocked and at the ready. All eyes were on the big man with the cheese and the knife. The rest of the Children previously gathered casually at the fire stood suddenly to attention. There was no way out. The expression on the face of the man with the cheese and the knife suggested that, already, despite the revelation of his old 'friend' and new-found ally, he knew this.

 

Eb scowled deeper and prepared herself to fight. 

 

 

 

 

 

OOC: No probs, I've kinda been in the same sort of boat! So sorry back! Sherp, I vote go ahead and have Ackley attempt to take Mehrin into custody for further questionning?  If 'Tavrin' doesn't cause too much trouble then the guard left surrounding him should be small enough that Eb will figure out a way to break him out from there...  :wink: 

Edited by _Eb_
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“Everyone makes mistakes, Hundredman. Even the Children can.” Ackley stared blankly into the eyes of the man who called himself Tavrin Callas – a name he was seriously beginning to doubt was the man’s own. The charade being put on display was impressive; but as with all disguises, there will always be cracks when examined by the suspicious eye. Tavrin Callas was not the man who he claimed to be.
  “I’m sure everyone does, Tavrin.” He said slowly, and rose to his feet as he noticed the detachment of crossbows marching towards the perimeter of the fire. “The question is… Where do you fit in this whole equation?”

 

Squadman Ashley saluted as his troops took up position around the slightly built figure, who was still sitting idly on the ground.
  “Tavrin Callas, I am placing you under arrest for suspicion of espionage and lying to a member of the Children of the Light. You have actively sought shelter within our camp, going under a false alias, and breaking the Trust be-given a traveller seeking assistance. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”   Most normal people – Darkfriends, spies, or not, would’ve denied outright the accusations lain upon them. Yet Tavrin Callas – or whatever the hell his name was – just sat there, index finger rubbing gently against the wooden handle of the cheese knife he still grasped in one hand.
  “Very well,” he continued. “Squadman Ashley, please escort this man away and put him under guard.” The underofficer saluted once again, and, with the small gestures produced from one hand, ordered his men to take Tavrin prisoner.

 

A pair of boots crunched softly on the earthy ground as they approached Ackley from behind. He turned and saw the hook nosed face of the Questioner step into the dim illuminations of the fire. Ackley fought the feeling of dis-contempt rising from the pits of his stomach as the lone member of the Hand of the Light studied both him and the prisoner.
  “No.” Ackley said curtly as he watched the Questioner given the slowly disappearing shape of Tavrin an almost hungry look. It had been his firmly established belief that all Questioners – no-matter the age, nationality, or sex – were completely and utterly mental.
  “You’re not going to Question him, just because he’s kept his identity hidden. I did what must be done to make sure he doesn’t cause any further trouble.” The Questioner gave him an imperious look – one the creator gifted man to produce when observing things of inferior quality.

 

“It is within my duty to produce the truth out of the dishonest. Do you challenge my authority, Hundredman?” The Questioner added emphasis to Ackley title; reminding of the unique position they were both in, and the power he commanded. Ackley grounded his teeth and found his left hand clutch unconsciously towards the hilt of his sword. He immediately let go of his grip, but not before the lone Questioner could notice and smile. The chains of authority within an arrangement such as this expedition were nothing out of the extra-ordinary. Whilst Ackley had the overall command of the company, the Hand of the Light had certain… privileges, which could allow them to go beyond the conventional structures of power.
  “He’s not a darkfriend, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
  “How can you be certain?”

 

Ackley chewed his lips for a second, fully aware of the awkwardness within the silence as it stretched out into the night. In truth, he wasn’t certain whether Tavrin Callas was a Darkfriend or not. How can anyone be? Stories exist within the pages of history of long serving Kings and Queens, whose benevolent rule and wise council earned them the respect of both their subjects and the court. And it was only after their deaths were records found indicating their affiliation to the Dark Lord.

 

  “At least give me the chance to talk to him first.” He said finally. “You can have him if he still refuses to cooperate.”
The Questioner peered across the flattened earth towards him, tapping his middle index finger on his bony cheeks as if considering the offer. To Ackley’s surprise after a minute, the man simply nodded.   
  “You have an hour to try. After the hour however, I want no further interference from either you or any of your… men.” The disgust was evident in the voice, but Ackley didn’t care anymore.
  “I still think you’re making a mistake. Creatures of the shadow need to be dealt with swiftly and decisively – for the Light protects all not of the Shadow.” Ackley didn’t bother to point out the logical fallacy behind the man’s statement, as he had already spun about and was dashing off towards the prisoner escort.

 

~Ackley Carnel
Hundredman in the Army of the Light

Edited by Sherper
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  • 2 weeks later...

As three Children approached Mehrin and began the process of taking him into custody, Mehrin began to run mental scenarios, searching for a way out. As one man began to bind his hands- new rope, unfortunately- Mehrin reached the conclusion that his only way out of the situation was in custody; every other option ended with him filled with crossbow bolts, a fate that did not appeal to him. Still, it would probably be beneficial to keep up appearances, so he said, "Very well, then. I hope we can sort this out."

 

Walking through the rows of tents, Mehrin felt a glimmer of hope. They were moving towards the perimeter, not towards the middle of the camp. Most of these men were fresh blood to the Children; if the situation was reversed, Mehrin would have moved the prisoner to the middle of the camp under constant guard in the open. He had the feeling that Hundredman Carnel would have done the same as him, but he had not been specific. It was likely that Mehrin was going to end up in the tent of one of these soldiers.

 

Entering a tent near the edge of the camp, Mehrin was shoved down to his knees. You don't realize what I could do to you, he thought angrily. Instead of lashing out, though, he submitted to the rough treatment. His ankles were bound together, then they were bound to his wrists, leaving Mehrin kneeling with his arms bound behind his back. Without a word, two of the Children left, leaving a third- probably one of the owners of the tent- to keep watch over Mehrin.

 

Mehrin did not want to kill anybody in his attempt to escape. That would only draw the wrath of the Children, and he would never escape them. If he left them alive and unconscious, they would likely take time to tend the injured and send only a token force of soldiers in pursuit. This planning is all well and good, the quiet voice in Mehrin's head chuckled, but it does bring up the question of how we're actually going to get that far. He sighed, then carefully began to check his bindings.

 

The man who had tied Mehrin up had been thorough, and he obviously knew enough tricks to keep a man tied up. He had used new rope, which did not have any of the flaws or weaknesses of older rope, meaning that there would be no breaking it. The knots around his wrists were also tied so that any effort to pull against his ankles would tighten the rope painfully. The logic behind the choices of imprisoning Mehrin was seriously flawed, but Mehrin could not question their knot-tying abilities. Why didn't they use chain? I like chain; it's easier to break than rope. All chain needed was one link weaker than the rest. Of course, even if it was chain, there's still the guard to take care of. Even if I was free, he would sound the alarm. Damn.

 

It looks like I'm here for the duration.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Child on duty saluted as Ackley entered the tent chosen to house the prisoner. The Hundredman acknowledged the soldier’s gesture but hastily turned his attention towards the main subject of his visit.
   “If you’ll excuse us a moment, Mathews,” said he to the sentry, “I’d like a word with this gentleman alone for a few minutes.”
The trooper saluted once more, and Ackley watched as the clink of the Child’s armour faded off into the distance. He won’t be far, Ackley thought as the tent flaps settled themselves from their recent movement. The three sentries will be keeping a close eye on the entrance to the tent no matter what Ackley tells them.
   “Mr… Callas,” he turned and regarded the figure that had his limbs secured to the tent’s central pole. “I believe we need to discuss something.”

 

- Ackley Carnel
Hundredman in the Army of the Light

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank the Light! Eb let out a low breath as the men surrounding Mehrin managed to secure him without loosing any bolts from their crossbows. Maybe, despite his apparent insanity, the man did still have a wish to live. Eb wasn't sure if that fact made the situation that much better, or that much worse. She also wasn't sure it mattered; either way, she'd have to act - and soon. So far there were only a handful of factors in their favour: the Children had used rope, not chains to bind their prisoner, and secondly; they were moving him away from the center of the camp.

 

Eb grit her teeth and moved, low to the ground and slipping from shadow to shadow, black blades ready in her hands. With a scowl, she tried to ignore the added weight of the flamberge and the extra pack. The sword was almost as big a she was, and the pack was made for Mehrin to carry - neither of them made her task of moving undetected any easier. She followed the sounds of guard-moving-prisoner, keeping 'Tavrin' in her sights as much as she could between row after row of tents. Eventually, near the edge of the perimeter, the sounds of the party stopped. Neither Mehrin nor the guards appeared in the space between the next row of tents and Eb cursed under her breath, not knowing exactly which tent they'd entered. She stopped at the end of the row, straining her ears to hear. There was the sound of a shuffle several tents down, a snore further up to her right, a lantern flickered here and there, but otherwise, this end of the camp was quiet. In fact, apart from the horses, tethered and hobbled some distance away, this area seemed deserted and calm. For now. Eb had never put much thought into where in their camps the Children would do their questioning, but she supposed now that the edge of the camp made sense. In a way. She swallowed, finding her mouth quite suddenly dry.

 

Flaming filthy Whitecloaks! her grips tightened on her knives.

 

A horse whinnied softly and Eb tried not to jump at the sound, though it drew her attention further towards the perimeter. Light-damned fool animals! She'd never trusted the big beasts, even after all her years training almost side-by-side with the cavalry. It wasn't that she didn't understand their merits in battle, she knew that they were fast and could be trained to be ferocious, but she did not trust them. The desire to rely, at least in part, on a weapon that stunk like sweat and piss, required food, water and emotional commitment and could still decide to act on its own was not something she could ever understand. But there was no doubting they were fast. 

 

Fast.

 

With a silent groan, Eb realised that the beasts, stationed as they were near the very edge of camp and by chance reasonably close to Mehrin's prison quarters, provided the best possible chance of escape. As much as she didn't trust the animals, there was no question that Mehrin and herself would need speed to outrun any pursuing Whitecloaks, if they actually made alive it far enough to be pursued. Eb may have been at least moderately confident that she could retreat from the camp undetected - slipping through shadows and hiding unseen were second nature to her after her childhood and all the time she'd spent following her ex-Commander- but she was also just as confident that sneaky and 'slipping' were not something that Mehrin's sheer size and stature allowed him to do effectively for any great length of time. At least she vaguely remembered him being able to ride a horse. Rolling her eyes she ducked towards the stink and sound of horses, formulating the beginnings of a plan along the way.

 

 

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  

 

The man still lay slumped against the tree, his eyes closed, his chin on his chest and his white cloak smeared with mud at the knees and along one side. Next to his lax, outstretched hand was a bottle of almost-empty brew. Brew which had previously been conveniently located amongst the items in Mehrin's pack. The man looked for all the world like a sentry who'd drunk himself into a stupor on the job. Cooly, Eb noted that there was not a mark nor a drop of blood on him that would indicate otherwise. She nodded in satisfaction and worked hard to resist the urge to spit toward the man. Undoubtedly it would have been simpler and kinder to kill him outright, but as far as she was concerned, this Child would probably deserve everything he got from his own kind in punishment for his 'crime'. She sneered and finished the job by finding a safe place some distance away to stash the Commander's pack. Speed was what she needed now, she knew it, and the pack would only slow her down.

 

Job complete, she ignored the ache in the back of her shoulder - blasted ruddy flaming horses - and made her way back towards the camp. 

 

Eb arrived at the end of the row of tents just in time to see Hundredman Ackley slip into Mehrin's holding whilst the third and final guard made his way into the distance. What in the Light is the fool man doing, stepping alone into a tent with Mehrin? Even bound, Eb knew Mehrin was a formidable force. She grinned, knives twirling slowly in her hands. She wasn't entirely sure what was about to happen, but if she knew anything at all, she knew this was her chance. Crouching lower she moved closer to the tent and the beginnings of muffled conversation to see what was going on...

Edited by Cass
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  • 4 weeks later...

"I believe that you are right," Mehrin responded to the officer. "Just tell me what you want, and we'll see about getting this all sorted out, shall we?"

 

"Do you really believe it will be that easy? I have a Questioner with me who is quite interested in anything you have to say, whether you say it to me or to him." The Child put on an expression of concern. "I do not want to let him do with you what he wills; you know the reputation that the Questioners have, don't you?"

 

Mehrin nodded. "Very well, let's start with names, then. My name is Tavrin Callas, as I said. I work as a bounty hunter and a mercenary, and I would dare to say that your men did well in apprehending me. Given a chance, I am sure that I could have fought my way free from your camp with only minor injuries."

 

The Child laughed. "You certainly have a high opinion of yourself."

 

"Only because I know what I can do. I also know that I have no desire to hurt either you or any of your men... including the Questioner." Mehrin shrugged despite the painful pull of the ropes at his wrists. "I have nothing against you; I've actually fought alongside the Children before. I was with the Band of the Red Hand at Bandar Eban. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Children against the invaders from across the Aryth Ocean. I saw the battle in the sky. And I survived." The canvas of the tent rustled in the breeze as Mehrin let the words hang in the air, his gaze fixed on the Child.

 

The Child held his gaze, showing little discomfort. "More than survived, if your attitude is anything to go by." Turning his back on Mehrin, Hundredman Ackley continued, "It's interesting that you mention the Band. The man we seek, Mehrin Deathwatch, was once commander of that bunch of mercenaries. You look remarkably similar to the description we were given of him down to the scar across your left eye." Spinning on his heel, Ackley's eyes burrowed into the bound man. "An interesting coincidence, I would say."

 

A flutter of canvas out of Mehrin's focus did not distract him from saying, "Fair call, I guess. I'm sure you've heard stories of Mehrin Deathwatch. They're outrageous and beyond belief." Mehrin smiled, his eyes still fixed on Hundredman Ackley. "In fact, if you left him unbound, he would be beyond anything that you could control. By the way, please don't kill him. I don't want the Children to have a good excuse to track me down."

 

Confusion crossed Ackley's face for a moment before realization dawned too late. He was halfway turned when the blow struck the back of his head, dropping him to the grass.

 

"Bloody Mehrin Deathwatch and his bloody drama," a harsh voice cursed.

 

"Good to see you, too, Eb. And it's Mahrvon now, not Deathwatch." Though that will probably be the name that follows you to your grave.

 

Shut up.

 

Still growling obscenities at him, Eb cut the ropes binding Mehrin, who stood and started rubbing blood back into his hands. "If you're done telling your life story to the flaming Whitecloaks, let's get out of here. You're carrying your own damn sword, though; bloody thing's heavier than your old one."

 

Mehrin nodded. "Done. By the way, when we're out of here, I have some questions regarding your presence here."

 

"Good for you. Now let's go."

 

The pair made their way around the tents to the edge of the camp. The white-cloaked man at the base of the tree gave Mehrin a start before he realized that he was out cold. Eb moved past Mehrin, reaching into the brush to pull out his bag and sword. Hastily, Mehrin opened the bag and took out his hat and greatcoat, then his whip. Finally, he hung his flamberge across his back and said, "We're wasting time. Grab a couple horses and let's get the hell out of here!"

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"It's you who's been bloody wasting time, Mahrvon," Eb scowled at her re-dressed ex-Commander and headed back towards the horses.

 

She pressed her lips into a thin line, ignoring the sudden rapid hammering of her heart, the tight knot in her stomach and the pain at the back of her horse-bitten shoulder, as if the cause of all three was simply one and the same. "Blasted, ruddy ... horses!" She spat and forced herself to focus on the task at hand.

 

The horse nearest her skipped sideways, whinnying as she approached. She glared at it, and stalked forward to the two that were still tethered where she'd left them. It wasn't until they too whinnied, flicking their heads, ears forward, necks out towards the camp that Eb realised what they were excited about. She could hear it too, now; a not-so-distant clamour of shouting and tramping of feet. Her heart pumped harder, this time in a more familiar rhythm. Escape!

 

"Here!" Not wanting to waste time untying knots in the dark, Eb sliced hurriedly at the rope restraining the largest of the horses and shoved the end of it towards Mehrin. "All yours."

 

Guardedly, she edged around the large beast towards the one she'd picked as her own. Not as large as Mehrin's, for obvious reasons, but still plenty big enough given her own lack of height. The sour expression on her face intensified. At least this one didn't bite! She cut the rope and grabbed hold of a fistful of mane with the other hand. Light preserve me! she thought, standing front-on to the horse's side and attempting to haul her body weight up on top whilst the beast moved. She managed to get as far as half-way, her torso lying precariously across the horse's back, her legs still perpendicular to the ground, before the animal sensed her ineptitude and struck. Tensing suddenly, the horse turned, nipped her sharply on her flailing backside and bolted forward, dumping Eb unceremoniously into the dirt.

 

"Aaargh!" her howl of frustration was short and low. The noise of pursuing Children grew louder, torchlight was visible at the top of the hill. No time!

 

She turned to chase her horse, cursing the Shadow's luck, Mehrin, herself and the horses all in one breath. 

 

No time!

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Settling himself on the horse that Eb had provided- cursing aside- Mehrin adjusted the flamberge on his back, ensuring that the massive blade would not cause the horse injury.  He did not really care about the horse, but a wounded horse would be much more difficult to handle than an uninjured one.  Next to him, Eb floundered in the saddle.  No, 'floundered' was not the right word.  She had failed entirely in achieving an upright position, and instead laid draped across the saddle while the horse whinnied and pranced beneath her, throwing her to the ground.

 

"Dammit, Eb!"  Heeling the horse towards the woman- not an easy task considering the general disposition that horses held towards him- Mehrin seized Eb by the back of her shirt and breeches and tossed her across his lap on the pommel of the saddle.  "We don't have time for pleasantries."  In the dark parts of Mehrin's mind, a quiet chuckle echoed.  Shut up.  Shaking his head to stifle the quiet laughing in his mind, Mehrin booted the horse into a gallop towards the forest.  The other horses, now free of their bindings, fled in all directions, some into the camp and some towards the cover of the trees.  Chaos was beginning to engulf the now-alerted Whitecloak camp.  "By the way," Mehrin said to the squirming mass on the saddle, "thanks for getting me out of there."

 

They made the cover of the trees without much issue, but Mehrin kept a straight course, ignoring the evermore copious swearing by Eb, smothered slightly by the saddle and his leg, as he worked his way from the camp.  There was no sound of pursuit, but that would not last.  He had to reach the river.  He knew the layout of the area, and it would only be by the river that Mehrin and Eb would be able to shake the pursuit of the Whitecloaks.  He could follow the course of the river for a time on foot while the horse continued on without drawing the Whitecloaks into tracking him.  There would be a boat somewhere, and he could pay his way to whichever city they had chosen.

 

For now, Mehrin was free.

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“So, how bad is it?” Ackley winced as he placed a finger on the spot where his mysterious assailant had struck him.
“Bad, might be a slight understatement.” His first Bannerman wore an uncharacteristically dark expression as he took out a crumpled piece of paper; “two fatalities, four with injuries that need medical attention, and don’t get me started on how many horses we lost.” Relatively light casualties compared to what could have happened.
Ackley closed his eyes, partly to control the insistent pounding that sounded at the back of his head, and partly to force himself to think.
“How many horses do we have left?”
     Mehrin bloody flaming Deathwatch. He still couldn’t quite believe himself for what had happened. They had come this close to clapping the darkfriend in chains; no, they had clapped him in chains, and still he had gotten away.
“Second squad’s picket was not cut and we were since able to gather up a handful of others.” The man paused, breaking off from his delivery of the report. “You… sure you’re alright, sir?” Ackley opened his eyes. The pounding in his head continued but he forced himself to look up at O’Reilly worried expression.  “I’ll be fine, just… continue.”
The Bannerman still wore a look of concern but reluctantly did as he was told.
     “We’re not certain how the fire started, but it somehow spread throughout most of the camp…” The voice trailed off into the background, continuing the summary of last night’s destruction as Ackley closed his eyes once more.
Mehrin bloody Deathwatch. He needed to think this through carefully; the man had fooled him once but that was because he didn’t know what he was dealing with. Mehrin bloody flaming Deathwatch – one of the most notorious persons living, the man was practically a walking legend. Ackley shook his head as he mentally sighed.  A darkfriend was still just a darkfriend; he had a job to do.
      “It’ll take at least another day or so, with outriders, to round bac– ”
“That won’t be necessary,” he interrupted the Bannerman and opened his eyes. The pounding in his head had subsided, thank the light, but it did not change the icy chill that ran down the length of his spine.  
“Gather up second squad and any who still have their mount. And someone go fetch me my horse!” A groom – one of the Children’s lower ranked troopers, hurried away to retrieve Ackley’s mount. Sunflower appeared a second later, the brown mare looking almost eager as it trotted up to nuzzle its master. Ackley patted the mare and with one well practised motion, climbed a top Sunflower’s saddle, spinning the reigns so he was facing O’reily once more.
“I’m taking personal charge of our mounted contingent. We’ll ride and catch up with the two darkfriends whilst you follow behind with the remaining foot.” The order having been given, the men of Ackley’s company began disassembling the camp of its tents and fortification.
      Within the space of a quarter of an hour, the hundred odd Children of the Light were ready to begin the forced march ahead. Ackley nudged Sunflower towards a group gathered near the front of the company column – the remaining horsemen and the men we will be leading. He frowned as he drew closer and spotted a familiar figure sitting among the gathered horses. The Questioner smiled as he saw Ackley approach. The look on the man’s face could only be described as smugly condescending, and it said clearly “I told you so.”
     Ackley tried hard to ignore it, instead turning to his command. With one swift snap of his reign, Sunflower trotted forward, the rest of the Children following close behind. The hunt was on.

 

~Ackley Carnel
Hundredman in the Army of the Light

Edited by Sherper
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