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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Phelix

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  1. Listening to Saline Sedai's words, Elin nods and tries to catch the nuances. "I should very much like to try linking with a man. I have read the few records we have on the topic, but every record is clear in that the words are but a shadow of the experience." She pauses. Saline had asked her opinion directly, but she had laid out her own... did the senior sister expect to be agreed with, or did she actually want Elin's opinion. After a small breath, Elin continued. "While I agree the bond between an Aes Sedai and an Asha'man might have unintended consequences, the benefits are significant. From what I have been told by sisters with warders, the bond creates a deep knowing of the other person. That connection would allow the sister to assess her partner's mental state. Determine how badly he has been affected by the Taint." She keeps careful watch of the older sister's face now and kept her voice pitched to stay here at this table and not be heard by others nearby. "We would have to trust to each other, the Red sisters, to watch both the Asha'man and our own who have bonded them. Who else to watch for signs of spreading taint than the ajah that has guarded the world from it for three thousand years?" "I would very much appreciate more time to practice with you. You have quite a bit of skill, and there is much I could learn from you."
  2. Following Saline, Elin kept the shock showing from her face. Saline was very relaxed with the servants and all. But if the elder, stronger, sister felt that was the appropriate manner to hold, then Elin would not contradict her. When they finally sat, with lemon water and a light luncheon, Saline spoke. “Before you ask me what you need to know, Elin please tell me this. Sitter Jagen’s trip to the black tower - what do you understand this mission to be about?” Elin took a sip of her water and gathered her thoughts. "The mission to the Black Tower is a nesting doll of purposes. On the surface, it is about building bridges between the two Towers so that we might work together against the Shadow. Beneath that, there is another purpose: to ensure that the men who live there, who have been afflicted by the Taint on saidin, are as safe as can be, and if they are not, that they are dealt with by sisters trained to do so. Below that purpose, there is another purpose, to learn if we can truly work together as Aes Sedai did in the Age of Legends. I am sure that there are further layers of purpose, if one chooses to dig more deeply, but these three are enough reason that I volunteered to join the Sitter's excursion." Taking a break, Elin realized that she had let her tone become almost passionate, so took another sip of water before continuing. "I had intended to ask if you were going to be joining us on the mission... if you supported it." Elin let the sentence drop there, allowing the senior sister to decide if she chose to hear the question.
  3. Elin gladly began the weaving, increasing the complexity of the attacks, adding more figures. She was stretching her skills to create these weaves, but by relying on patterns and natural variations, she was able to give them a strong semblance of real danger. Once she had the weave set with its cascading patterns of action and reaction, she made sure that the new sister, Saline Sedai, had begun her exercise, and then Elin joined in again, tackling the men Saline chose to leave. It took effort not to be distracted by Saline's greater strength and the weaves she used. Where Elin cut and slashed like a knife duelist in Ebou Dar, Saline's weaves were more like a swordsman in battle. It was quite impressive. Especially the other woman's strength with Earth. Elin could never have replicated those weaves. In a lull of the 'battle', Saline spoke, “You seem untroubled, if I may say so. I can only suppose it is because you have done this so many times before?" "No, sister, I am relatively new to the Shawl. So new that I haven't had time for any of these weaves to get rusty from when they were taught to me by sisters of the Ajah. I simply know that I must be prepared if I am to join Jaglen Sedai on her mission to the Black Tower. If I must be prepared, there is no room to doubt or be afraid." Elin spoke with clear tones, keeping her passion in check. Later, when Saline raised a platform of Earth while exploding stones and creating a duststorm, it was all Elin could do not to stare. Any one of those things was beyond her, yet Saline achieved them all with ease. After the hours passed, Elin began to grow weary. The illusions were tied into their pattern, so maintaining them had not drained her, but the constant dance of weave and counter weave had been hard work. Elin watched until Saline was at a natural pause in her own fight, then Elin paused the illusions, holding their weave in place. "Sister, would you object if I ended the practice session now? If you do not object, I have some questions I would ask you as well." Elin waited to hear what the elder Red decided.
  4. Rhys' draw dropped when the Traitor seemed to shimmer away like a mirage over the lake. It didn't look like he had woven saidin at all, or if he had, the weave had been too quick for Rhys to catch. He helped Nox to gather their new prisoners, and tried to catch the other man's eye with a reassuring smile. Quick action like this can unsettle some men, and Nox seemed to be near an edge... his eyes moved quickly. Out in the main cavern, Rhys addressed the Storm Leader. "Shall we take them back to the Tower, or is there somewhere else you'd rather, sir?"
  5. OOC: Perfectly fine! Elin is short and pale, with dark hair. She's young, only in her late 30s, and is mostly strong in Spirit. She's weaker than the average sister, but her skill is decent. Elin paused for a break, keeping her breathing calm and steady, when she noticed the other sister taking a ready stance in the practice room. The woman looked familiar, but Elin couldn't put a name to her. "Hello sister, would you like the room for your own use or shall I adjust the illusion to address the both of us?" She hoped for a shared practice, hoping to see the measure of the other woman. If the White Tower was beginning a public relationship with the Black Tower, it would be important that every sister be prepared for violence. Even with the best of intentions, some of the men had to be mad... and mad men almost always used the Power for violent means.
  6. The room was cavernous, with vaulted ceilings leaving plenty of room for weaves and maneuvering. This room had been used for thousands of years by Greens and Reds developing their battle skills. The walls were strengthened with the One Power much the way the walls of the city had been to prevent the structure of the building being damaged, no matter what weaves the women inside worked. The floor had a thick layer of rock and earth placed over smooth stone to allow practice with the weaves men were most likely to use. Today, Elin had reserved the room for her own practice. She had not done so in years, since she was new to the Ajah, but if she was going to travel with Jagen Sedai, she would have to be prepared for anything... even the men they bonded using the Power against them. Elin shuddered at that thought. She was weak in the Power, even among women, and all of the records and the older sisters who had experience hunting down rogue men said that most men were stronger than the average woman. Whomever she bonded was likely to be much stronger than she was. If there were dangers... if men attacked them wielding saidin, Elin would not be able to match them strength for strength, so she must be smart about things. First, she wove a shield. That weave came to her easily as it was commonly practiced among the Red. She let it dissolve. Embracing the Source, she wove a shield and a flow of spirit, sharpening it and wielding it like a blade. Elin let one blade disappear and wove another as quickly as she could. Weaving the Mask of Mirrors, Elin created a strawman version of an Asha'man, and she began an exercise. Most channelers settle into a rhythm when they fight, weaving as quickly as they can, but usually finalizing each weave on the same beat. Some weave quickly, throwing a completed weave every third heartbeat. Others take longer, weaving every fifth. Slow, clumsy channelers take ten beats or longer. Unskilled channelers have physical gestures that can be tells for their weaving. Some twitch their eyes in the direction they weave. Others wag their fingers. Sisters of the Red were taught to watch for those signs, it's rare that a man or woman can create false tells. Elin set her illusion to moving, mimicking the tells of a real man, and she began to react to the "weaves" "he" was throwing. As she warmed up, she refused to allow her body to sweat, ignoring the heat in the room, the heat of exercise. She altered her weave, causing the illusion to move and walk, and she began to dart and weave, moving against the illusion's motion. Elin had her focus entirely on the illusion and her practice against it, paying no attention to the entrance to this practice room.
  7. Everything changed so quickly. One moment they were working calmly together, the next Nox was pulling him into the shadows. Rhys rolled his eyes while this... Karavin... monologued like the cad in one of the penny novels back in Far Madding. He couldn't tell from here, but Rhys was sure that the fool even had a thin mustache that he could twirl. The fools taunting Nox only added to the imagery. When Nox stalked off into the darkness, Rhys did not stand still. He held himself calm and quiet, wrapping the Void around his shoulders and mind like a cloak. The light of saidin pulsed just out of sight, but Rhys forced himself to ignore it. Drawing deeply in this place might cause any of the artifacts to surge to life, or it might create a loop of power, forcing too much saidin through the mind and heart of any of the men in the room, burning their talent out and possibly snuffing their life. With quiet steps, Rhys stalked through the rows of objects. He had no weapons with him, having gone immediately from his experiments to this cavern. He wasn't very comfortable with blades or staves anyway... he'd learned to brawl here at the Tower, and these men were going to learn it. A loud thumping noise indicated a fight off to one side, away from where The Storm Leader stood... Rhys approached from an oblique angle, stepping in behind another Asha'man... this one was a younger fool. Barely in his 20s and believing that his aggression made him stronger. Rhys slammed his fist hard into Delmar's kidney, then wrapped his other arm around the fool's neck, pulling him to the ground. One hand covered Delmar's eyes and most of the rest of his face... most men believed they had to be able to see to channel. Delmar was one of those. The fool was full of the power, but the weaves just would not form correctly for him. Rhys chuckled as he forced a lace handkerchief into Delmar's mouth, and within moments the other man stopped struggling. When Delmar had been still for a full count of 60, Rhys released him from the grapple and quickly bound his wrists and ankles with his own belt. The handkerchief went over his eyes to make a blindfold. When he was done, Rhys looked to see if anyone had noticed what he had done. His eyes searched the dark for Nox first, then for the Storm Leader.
  8. Rhys was slightly startled when Nox volunteered to help. The other young man seemed... on edge... but the tips of Nox's fingers grazed Rhys' wrist, and Rhys was glad for the flickering light that might hide his blush. Since his return to the Farm, after walking home from Arafel, he had not found anyone interesting, or interested, in a more intimate kind of friendship. Perhaps Nox would be interested... or perhaps he was trying to sound out Rhys' weaknesses and habits... who knows what lies in the minds of asha'man. He turned to the Storm Leader. "This statue, Storm Leader, has a weak resonance... but it seems to hold depth." The statue was of black stone and shaped like a lion in mid-roar. [[I'm into whatever. Lead on!]]
  9. Rhys does not waste any time. He rolls his sleeves back, tucking the lace in so it won't get in his way, and he begins lifting objects out of the pile. At first, he does not bother with sorting. He is moving them so as to spread them out so he can actually see what is there. The objects run a gamut, from simple every day shapes and objects like cups and vases, even a knife, to the more complex and complicated things, like statues and one bizarre miniature fishing net, complete with weights. The lines seemed to be made of silver and the weights of something harder than simple glass. A slow grin spread across Rhys' face as he felt the resonance within the objects. Some were strong, while others were barely echoes of the fiery battle of holding saidin. None seemed to really speak to a purpose to him... just power. Quickly, Rhys was absorbed in his own world, not paying attention to the other Asha'man there with him.
  10. Rhys was thrilled at the way things were progressing. Being invited to 'tidy up' the stores of ter'angreal in the Stone of Tear. Light! He quickly gathered his pen, ink and journals, and followed the Storm Leader through the Gateway. There were two Asha'man on duty, guarding the holding, but Rhys only had eyes for what came next. He studied the ward the Storm Leader unwove, and then when the doors opened, his eyes leapt from item to item. Their disarray was distressing, but there was so much potential here. "Do you have a preference on organizational patterns? I would think by size and shape... if only we knew their purposes." Rhys' body was tense, like a racehorse at the gates, ready to burst into action, waiting for the command. He was only just aware that Nox did not share his manic energy, but he could discuss that later with the other Asha'man. Perhaps over dinner. It would be nice to sit and get to know someone, yes... dinner and wine. He kept his eyes on the Storm Leader now, waiting for instruction.
  11. Rhys settles into his solid stance when Nox speaks. It's an interesting name, and the man who bears it seems layered. It startled Rhys to realize how many people were watching them. A number of Dedicated and Soldiers even... some of them he had begun teaching the theories of trade. The rules of trade in a village market are the same as the laws of trade between nations, just scaled for quantity. Some of the young men didn't understand why they needed to learn these things, but there were a few bright minds who soaked in every bit of knowledge Rhys could give them. He wasn't an expert, by any means, but he was the son of a Councilor of Far Madding, the former Husband of another merchant of Far Madding. He knew what he was talking about when it came to trade. He could see the smirks on some of their faces. He would have to re-establish his authority with them. Setting that aside, he focused on Nox and the Storm Leader. "The positive aspects are exactly what I am investigating, Sir, in my time between teaching the Soldiers and Dedicated. I have made interesting progress on rediscovering how to craft ter'angreal. If nothing else, I have developed several useful weaves even though I have not yet figured out how to imbue the weaves into an object."
  12. The other man's tone implied... interesting things, but before Rhys could reply to them, a much more senior Asha'man arrived. He hadn't wanted to gain the attention of a Storm Leader. Resisting the urge to wilt at his words, Rhys squared his shoulders and faced the other man. "I was working on a research project, Storm Leader. The results were less than ideal, but should provide good data." He pulled his hand away from his cheek, hoping that the flow of blood had mostly staunched itself. He kept himself parallel to the first man to join him, hoping that any could keep any fall out from landing on the good Samaritan.
  13. "I'd never had to wash blood from clothing before coming to the Tower." Rhys murmured. Then he came back to himself. He holds his hand against his cheek, noting the difference in feel between his fingers and the other man's. There had not been any folk that he had grown close to in the Tower, and none outside it since his time with the Tinkers. The feeling of warm skin on his own was heady. "I must apologize if my experiment startled you. Things, they did not go as I had planned them to." He blushed and pulled away from the other man. He made sure his notes were secure, then began bustling about the broken trough. "It really wasn't meant to explode." He laughed nervously. "My name is Rhys. I mostly trained under Asha'man Dendric. I didn't see you in my classes. With whom did you train?" he pauses. "Do you want me to take the blood from your coat?"
  14. Rhys was entirely distracted with making sure his clothing dried correctly. Once he had achieved the rank of Asha'man, he'd started wearing lace at his collar and cuffs again. He got several side eyes and many men snorted and laughed, but no one in authority told him he couldn't wear lace. And lace like this would wrinkle until the whole pattern was obscured if it didn't dry properly. It took feeling the hands on his shoulders to realize that someone else had approached. The eyes that met his were surprisingly calm, gentle... things one doesn't find in the Black Tower often. "Yes, I'm ready." Rhys blushed, and his cheek oozed a bit more blood as his face tried to turn red from embarrassment. Feeling around on the inside of his mouth, he wasn't sure if the shard had cut through his cheek entirely, or if it had caught in the muscle. He could feel Nox holding the power, and he had to quiet the part of him that saw that as a challenge. He wanted to seize saidin himself just to show his own strength... but he did not. He was his own Master. He did not need to answer every perceived challenge. Bracing himself, he waited for the other man to pull the shard free.
  15. The afternoon had passed slowly, the hours moving like thick honey on a chilly day, while Rhys worked to try to make a ter'angreal that could heat water. He hadn't yet actually made any ter'angreal, but he was confident that he could do so. Some of the others thought this was just how the madness was showing in him, but if that's it, then it's a relatively benign form of madness. Today's experiments involved a large trough of water and a cone of stone with weaves of fire and air spiraling up its length. Rhys wasn't sure how to make the weaves actually be a part of the stone, so he was still spinning the weaves onto the material then tossing it into the water, but that was providing interesting results. The cone shape of the weaves caused a small vortex of hot water to form, but the motion of the water cooled it at the same time. By the time the evening hours had come and the sun set in the west, Rhys had a journal full of notes, a cone of stone, and a trough of warm water... but still no ter'angreal. An idea struck him, and he wove the flows, then used other flows to mold the stone around the existing weave, and then anchored the existing weave to the insides of the stone cone. When he moved the cone, the weaves moved too... that was promising. He dropped the cone into the water, and the vortex began to form, the water began to circulate. Good... good. He reached out with a thread of fire to turn off the original weave, but it sucked in his bit of power. The vortex spun faster, the water grew hotter... it was beginning to steam now. Rhys tried to cut the fire and air weave with more air, with spirit, with earth even, but it just incorporated those threads into its own spinning. The water was bubbling, boiling now, and Rhys could see the cone bouncing on the bottom of the trough. Finally, he reached out with water, hoping to cool it down, but that was a mistake. The thread of cool water energies collided with the roiling weave, and the cone exploded. The water absorbed most of the energy, but the trough cracked as the power pushed out. The stones around the area shook for a second, and water jetted high into the sky before falling, drenching Rhys. He spun around and quickly wove air and a bit of fire to dry his journal and notes, and then began weaving to dry his clothes and hair. He didn't even notice the shard of stone embedded in his cheek.
  16. OOC: Taking off from his trip outside the Tower, Rhys duels an Asha'man. This is the final Historical post. I'll be waiting on official approval before beginning active RP. ~~~~~ “Did you enjoy your tri-” Dendric’s words cut off as Rhys’ fist filled the Asha’man’s mouth. “I challenge you, Asha’man Dendric. Tomorrow, at dawn. Fists and the Power.” The whole night, Rhys debated if he’d made the right decision. He knew he was close, maybe even ready, to earn his new rank… and he knew that part of earning it was this challenge… but a large part of him thought the challenge was a foolish exercise. He barely slept that night, but in the hours before dawn, he stretched and prepared himself. The dawn’s light came streaming down over the mountains in the distance, and there was already a circle of men waiting to see if Rhys failed at this too. Dendric was there, and so was Paulin. The challenge needed to be overseen and recognized by a full asha’man. “This isn’t exactly standard, Rhys. Are you sure you don’t want the battle to be swords and the power?” Paulin asked, looking concerned. Rhys just shook his head, not trusting his voice. He and Dendric squared off, and Paulin pushed the circle back to a respectful space. Dendric wove big fireballs. At Paulin’s command, they both seized the source, and the duel began. Dendric went for his standard, flashy fire based attacks. There were gouts of flame, fireballs, and a whip made of fire, all rushing at Rhys in the first moments of the fight. In response, Rhys simply wasn’t where Dendric expected him to be. He ducked and dodged, wove side to side, and closed the distance between them. He had to rush to get close enough that Dendric couldn’t use as much Fire, unless he wanted to roast them both. Once Rhys was within reach, he wove quick bands of air and tried to grapple Dendric with his arms and his weaves. Dendric skipped backward, trying to avoid the bonds of air and Rhys’ hands and feet, and the asha’man tripped over a stone, but caught his balance. The older man growled, and wove his own flows of air. Instead of bonds or whips, he wove hammers that extended directly from his forearms, adding two feet to his reach. He regained his footing and started marching toward Rhys, swinging the hammers like a wood cutter might swing twin axes. Rhys wove a thin shield of Air and Water with a touch of Earth, making the exterior of the shield slightly sticky, and when Dendric landed a blow, the shield clung to the Air Hammer. Dendric swore in pain when his arm jerked to a stop instead of following through in the rebound motion off of the shield. It looked like his shoulder might have been pulled from its socket. The asha’man released his weaves of air, and began hurling more fire at Rhys. The thin shield fizzled out of existence and Rhys had to duck to avoid taking a blast of fire to the face. There was an acrid scent, and Rhys looked over his shoulder quickly to see that where his hair had been worn in the style of Far Madding men, long enough to touch the base of his spine. Now, the ends were burnt off just below his shoulders. The knot was still secure at the crown of his head, held in place by a metal comb. Rhys growled. He had never cut his hair, except to remove split ends. There was 32 years of growth, gone. Drawing deeply, Rhys began to meet each of Dendric’s weaves straight on. Where Dendric wove a whip of fire, Rhys tangled it with his own whip. Where Dendric sent a wave of flames, Rhys hit back with his own wave. When Dendric made the ground quake, Rhys sent his own quake back. Rhys was beginning to tire out, and he could feel that the Asha’man was not tiring as quickly. He decided to take a risk. He flared a wave of fire, hotter than ever before, causing Dendric to cover his eyes for a moment. In that moment, Dendric surprised Rhys with a second attack hidden within the fire… a shield of Spirit. Rhys was simply too tired to fight it off, and he sweated when the power stopped flowing into him. He looked to see if Paulin would call the duel, but he didn’t… apparently this was a fight until there was a clear winner. Steeling himself, Rhys jumped through the fires that still burned from his own flame wall and then through Dendric’s wall. In a heartbeat, he grappled the asha’man and flipped Dendric face down into the ground. Dendric struggled and growled and tried to weave something to knock Rhys off of him. In that moment, Rhys grabbed Dendric by the hair and shoved the asha’man’s face into the mud. The weaves fell apart, and Dendric began struggling to rise. When the asha’man got his face clear, he began to weave again, so Rhys did the only thing he could, and put his whole weight into putting Dendric’s face back in the mud. They kept struggling, rolling around in the mud and ash, until suddenly the shield on Rhys fell apart. Dendric stopped struggling. Rhys held him there for a moment, waiting to see if this was a feint… it wasn’t. Dendric was unconscious… he was still breathing, but there was mud covering him from the crown of his head to the soles of his boots. It was then that Rhys looked at himself, and realized he was covered in mud too. Now that his shield was gone, he stood up and wove water, air and earth to force the cloth to release the dirt. It took him a moment to get clean, and when he did, he realized that the other men were laughing. At him. “Shoves an asha’man’s face 6 inches into the mud, and he still stops to get clean before being recognized!” hooted a Dedicated in the back. Paulin was smiling, with some obvious amusement and impatience at Rhys’ delay. Blushing, Rhys quickly moved over to Paulin, who lifted Rhys’ hand into the air. “Let it be known throughout the Black Tower that Dedicated Rhys has won his duel of honor against Asha’man Dendric. Let it also be known that he is also a skilled launderer.” After the laughter died down, Paulin had a pair of Soliders help Dendric to his house. They were given instruction to bring his muddy clothing to Rhys for cleaning. The next few weeks were full of testing all of the skills taught in the Black Tower, and after it all, he was woken one morning and brought to the receiving hall in the Black Tower, where the m’Hael personally waited. That morning, Rhys was given his Dragon Pin. In the months since then, Rhys has made a study of objects of the Power, working to learn what they do, where they can be found, and how he can potentially create new ones.
  17. OOC: Continuing the historical posts, here is Rhys' first trip outside the Tower after joining up. ~~~~~~~~~~ During his tenth month as Dedicated, Asha’man Dendric selected him to go on a recruiting mission. During their ride to the Traveling grounds, Dendric told him that the m’Hael and the other Asha’man were beginning to think Rhys was lazy. Few men took more than 9 months as a Soldier or Dedicated. Most men were made asha’man within a year to a year and a half… and here was Rhys, almost over two years in the Tower, taking more than a year as a Soldier, and no sign that he was ready to claim the title asha’man. With that rebuke, Rhys wasn’t much for conversation once they Traveled to the countryside somewhere far away. At their destination, Dendric let Rhys stew and simply rode the direction he wished to go. Within an hour, they arrived at a small fortified town. They were met at the gate by guards. “Outlanders, what business have you in Nagora Keep?” His voice was firm, but his hair tinkled with bells. Arafellan then. “We are here to speak with folk, to share and gather news, that is all. We have coin to pay for our meals and lodgings, and we will be on our way tomorrow.” Dendric was calm and didn’t seem worried at all. Rhys wasn’t sure that this place would have any likely recruits. Apparently that confidence carried them over, and the guards let them enter the walled town. They found a quiet inn and had lunch while a room was cleaned for them. The food was simple fare, a hearty stew, crusty bread, and a good red beer. Dendric began to work the room, chatting with people, flirting a bit where he could, and getting a good feel for the people there. He came back to the table and asked a question. “Rhys, do you know any songs?” He grinned. “I do know a few, yes… but why?” Without an answer, Dendric grabbed Rhys by the collar and hoisted him on top of a table. “Sing, lad!” After a brief stammer, Rhys began to sing a soft, sweet ballad, the kind of song men sang in Far Madding to show their devotion to their wives… and the audience hated it. Gritting his teeth, he finished that song, then launched into a faster song, one meant for dancing. The words and tune were not entirely proper for a man to sing in mixed company, but the crowd loved it. Halfway through the second verse, a drum and fiddle joined in on the tune, helping him keep rhythm and pitch. From that point on, any time his song ended, the crowd would suggest another. If he begged leave to get a drink, two ales were set at his feet. If he claimed hunger, meat and bread were brought. In the end, he claimed a not false need for the privy. When his business was done, he rushed and climbed up the stairs to his shared room with Dendric. The asha’man was already in his bed, sleeping soundly. Rhys hated him for a moment. Not as much as he hated Dendric in the morning when he read the note left for him: Rhys, I’ve decided to test you. Right now, you are 15 miles from the River Erenin. You can follow this river the whole way back to the Farm. A boat will do it in a week or two, but by foot, it will take you a month. Get yourself home and we’ll talk about challenging tasks. Dendric Rhys growled and looked for anything of use. Dendric had left him some silver, but not much. He hadn’t brought his own coin, because he thought he was off on a mission for the Black Tower. Anger grew in him, and he almost shattered the windows, but that wouldn’t actually help anything. Regaining his composure, he left the inn and began walking toward the river. It was easy to find, and he passed a few farmer’s carts heading into town. It took him all day, but he made it to the river. There was a small ferry, but he decided not to cross it. Why bother crossing today? He has weeks to do that. That night, he camped beside the river. He was competent with weaving Fire, as any Dedicated had to be, so staying warm wasn’t a problem, even here in the Borderlands. He used Water and Air to catch some fish, and had himself a pleasant night roughing it. After five days, ‘roughing it’ had become less pleasant. As he trudged down stream, he started to hear singing and music. He came around the bend of the river and saw a small merry band of Tinkers slowly making their own way down river. Just as he saw them, he noticed a pair of huge mastiffs letting him see that they saw him. Their jaws dripped with slobber, but he knew they weren’t violent dogs. He knelt down and began petting them, scratching their collars and bellies, and before he knew it, he was absorbed in playing with the dogs. “Well, you can’t possibly be a threat then, can you?” The voice belonged to the most beautiful man Rhys had ever seen. His hair was raven black, his skin a dusky tan, and his eyes bright green. Unfortunately, his clothing was equally bright, in shades of yellow, orange, purple, and teal. “I mean, ummm… well, they’re nice dogs, you see…” Rhys blushed and trailed off. “I’m Rhys.” “Hello Rhys, and yes, they are nice dogs… but they’re supposed to be guarding our backs while we travel south. There are bandits and sometimes trollocs in these woods.” He gave a stern glare to his dogs. “Now, you shall not have a bone tonight lazy hounds.” The dogs began to whine, and rub against their master’s legs… then they jumped up and put their forepaws on his chest and shoulders, while they slobbered apology kisses all over the man’s face. The man tried to hold his stern look, but broke into laughter during the dog kisses. “Rhys, I am Kristov. I am the Seeker of our band. Will you join us by the fire for luncheon? I don’t suppose you know the Song?” He spoke while shushing the dogs and moving them back towards the wagons. “I know a few songs, which are you wondering about?” Rhys followed, feeling a bit confused. Kristov smiled. “Not a song, The Song… it is what we seek, why we travel, why we never settle.” As they entered camp, another man and woman joined them, with three children, and a second woman came and hugged Kristov. The midday meal was hearty and interesting. They had ice peppers, but mixed them with rice and chicken in the style of Tarabon, and served them with a green sauce that Riona said she learned from a grandmother in Illian. Their wine was local and fresh, so it was tart. Their meal was a boisterous affair. The children each had to be convinced to try the new combination of tastes, and then must be fed seconds or thirds. The hounds wanted their food too, and throughout all of it, someone was almost always making music. Riona had a light, lilting singing voice that twirled around her husband’s baritone. They both played the flute and would take turns accompanying the other. The children all had drums, and played them with a skill well beyond their years. The other couple, Marin and Eirie, played the lute and a tambourine. The music shifted constantly. Some was familiar, songs he’d learned in Far Madding or heard from gleemen visiting the Farm. Others were exotic, from far off places. Marin and Kristov played one tune on the flute and lute that they claimed they learned in a land far across the Wastes. Rhys wasn’t sure he believed them, but the song was oddly tonal and sounded unlike anything he’d heard before. After a good meal, they agreed that since they were traveling the same direction, they should travel together. They walked all afternoon and into the evening. When they camped, their next meal took the same basic pieces from before, but served them entirely differently. Rhys was shocked that the tinkers could transform such simple ingredients into such delicious food. Riona said the trick was spices and herbs… they make all the difference. That night, the children were put to bed in the second wagon, and Riona and Eirie danced the Tiganza for the men. The look on Kristov’s face told Rhys that they were a true love match. Eventually, Marin and Eirie climbed into their wagon and settled down with their children, leaving Kristov and Riona alone with Rhys. Riona served them hot tea with wild honey as they talked around the fire, about places the tinkers had traveled and places Rhys wished he could go. As the fire burned down, eventually Riona pulled Kristov to his feet. Their eyes met. They smiled, and Riona reached to Rhys’ hand as well. “Join us, Rhys?” Blushing, Rhys did climb into their wagon with them, and that night, he learned pleasures that he’d never had before. Over the next weeks, they followed the River, and Rhys fit into their daily routines. He helped fish for food, he helped push stuck wagons, and he kept a watch out for trouble. He never channeled around them, for fear of driving them away. He spent his nights exploring pleasure with Riona and Kristov. When they arrived in Haddon Mirk, Rhys knew he had to tell them. They were days away from the Black Tower, and the people they met were full of rumors. Rhys had taken to not wearing his black coat, keeping it in the wagon to keep it clean and himself cool, but he pulled it out that night. “I have to be honest with you all. I’m not just some man wandering in the woods.” When they laughed, he kept his face stern. “I was left in Arafel by my teacher, and getting home was a test. You’ve all helped me, and I’m grateful for that and for everything else.” He looked at Kristov and Riona, letting his gaze linger on their reflected love. “I am an initiate of the Black Tower. I am a man who can channel.” He hung his head and waited. There was silence, and then Riona started laughing. “I told you, Kristov! We kept hearing about these black coats, and when he wandered in, I knew it… but you said no, he couldn’t be, or else he’d have channeled himself away.” Her eyes twinkled with more laughter. “What is a channeling man doing walking down the Erinen I say? I didn’t think he could be!” Kristov was laughing too. “Oh, don’t worry Rhys. My dear wife’s brother has gone to the Tower. We know that men like you aren’t monsters, just because… and you’ve done what you can to be just a man for us.” The Marin and Eirie smiled too. Apparently, when Riona’s brother showed the signs, they wanted to take Rien to the Black Tower, like they would a girl to the White, but their father refused, so Kristov, Riona, Eirie and Marin broke off into their own Company, and took Rien to the Tower. Now they will grow as they should and do what they must while they follow the Way of the Leaf. The tinker company stayed with him all the way to the gates of the Black Tower. They camped briefly and were allowed to visit Rien, but moved on after less than a week. When Rhys found Dendric, all of the anger he’d felt at being abandoned flared back up. The peace of the Tinkers had soothed it some, but seeing Dendric’s grinning face made it all come back. “Did you enjoy your tri-” Dendric’s words cut off as Rhys’ fist filled the Asha’man’s mouth. “I challenge you, Asha’man Dendric. Tomorrow, at dawn. Fists and the Power.”
  18. On the last day of his second year at the Black Tower, Rhys was working on his own project. He was close to earning his Dragon Pin, but he wasn’t there yet. At this point, though, he had few ‘classes’ and was now mostly learning on his own. Today, he was working on trying to make a ter’angreal. The asha’man laughed at his continued efforts, but he was sure he could do it. The Black Tower has only had one man who could make these wonders, but perhaps Rhys would be the second. He had with him a small sculpture that he had shaped out of stone himself, using Fire and Earth to make sure that its proportions and angles were perfect. It was only about 9 inches tall, and it had the shape of a man sweeping the floor. The shape just seemed right to Rhys. He was walking out, away from the Tower for this experiment, in case things went wrong. He only wanted to put himself in danger. No Soldiers or Dedicated should die for his curiosity. Two hours of walking found him in the middle of nowhere, in a quiet meadow. He sat down on a large stone, and set the statue on its own stone in front of him. Concentrating on the statue was easy. He could see every bend and curve, every straight edge and every point in his mind’s eye. He had carved it and he knew it to its base. His theory was that to create a ter’angreal, you needed to reach through the object like you would an angreal, and create a “space” within the object where the weaves could rest, ready to be triggered. In his theory, if someone picked it up and seized the Source through it, the One Power would flow into the “space” filling the empty weaves with Power, causing them to come into effect, without requiring the holder to weave them at all. Unfortunately, his theory wasn’t working, or if it was, he couldn’t focus correctly to create the space. He tried everything he could think of. Seizing the Source and then reaching for the space. Reaching through the statue, then seizing the source. Creating the weave he wanted and then laying it into the stone before reaching for the space. Literally carving the weave into the interior of the statue. Creating the weave then copying it in Spirit and laying that into the statue. Doing the same, but with Earth instead of Spirit. He tried with all of his strength, at half power, and with just a whisper of power. He tried it standing and sitting. He tried filling himself with rage. He tried being serene. Holding himself perfectly still, the Power blazing inside him, he thought he saw the space forming in the statue, so he laid the weave into it… nothing happened, but it felt different… so he laid another copy over it, then a third and a fourth. The statue seemed to be vibrating, it was working… something was happening! Then there was heat, pressure, and a bright light. Rhys woke hours later, with the soft patter of rain on his eyelids. The rain moistened his lips, and the blood on his face. He had stone fragments embedded in his flesh, and the statue itself was simply gone. His uniform had neat holes where shards of stone had cut through the black fabric. He limped back to the Tower, taking three hours for the hike, and returned after the middle of the night. In his room, he formed a ball of light, and used a small pair of tongs to pull the shards that he could find. Then he spread an ointment over the cuts. Dedicated were not allowed to receive Healing for mistakes with their weaves. They were, however, allowed to buy herbs and medicine from the wise women of the town. The next hours before dawn were spent darning the holes in his uniform. If he showed his face wearing a ragged uniform, he’d be stuck on ditch digging for sure. Halfway through darning, he had already begun to think about what he’d done wrong and how he might do it correctly in the future.
  19. After Rhys had been in the Black Tower for 9 months, he was assigned to take a class on regional politics. The Asha’man teaching the class was a Cairhienin who had been a nobleman, but had lost his claim to all titles and estates when he began to channel. Asha’man Tromaine was thorough in his lessons, and wanted the best from his students. He saw every subtle twist and thrust used in daes’dae’mar. The Game of Houses was an intricate dance, and Rhys loved to learn the steps. When the class began, Tromaine provided packets of information on a Court of nobles, including High and Low nobility, high servants, foreign nobles and ambassadors, and set them all in a hypothetical nation similar in size and wealth to Andor or Cairhienin. The lessons were sparkling hours of thought and puzzles. The thrust and parry of the Game of Houses was much like the negotiations done by the Merchants of Far Madding, like Rhys’ mother and wife. It shocked Rhys that he was actually good at observing these movements. The women of Far Madding insisted that men were not any good at negotiations, because it required a level head and calm heart. Yet, here he was dismantling the layered reports and hints, making educated guesses and succeeding at it all. Eventually, the lesson changed from a hypothetical nation to real examples from the history of the world’s nations. The other students fell away from the class, not seeing why these lessons made sense. They were weapons. There is no need for a sword to understand why it is being swung, only that it swing and strike true. Seven months into his politics lessons, Tromaine stopped coming. Rhys waited for an hour before going to Tromaine’s home, only to find a pair of Soldiers sweeping it out. An asha’man found Rhys, and explained that Tromaine had drawn too deeply while working on an assignment from the m’hael, and he had died from it. Burnt himself out and his heart stopped from the shock. A few days passed, and Rhys dealt with the grief of losing a kind teacher, when a new Asha’man came to find him. As Tromaine’s final student, Rhys was being assigned to teach a class of Soldiers the basics of global politics. Not the Game of Houses, like Tromaine had taught them, but a quick and efficient lesson on the current politics of the world. Rhys loved it still, and enjoyed sharing that knowledge with the younger men. For several months, he shared his joy of knowledge with the young men, helping brighten their lives, sharpen their minds… and he hoped, show them that they could be weapons while still being curious.
  20. OOC: Continuing the historical posts showing Rhys' growth over the months. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Battle Training was not Rhys’ favorite thing, but he was getting better at it. Today, he and his squad were running through the woods to the East of the Tower, and Rhys was struggling to keep pace with the rest of the men. They were younger and had been farmers or soldiers before hand, and now were much fitter than Rhys… he wasn’t pudgy like he had been when he first arrived, but he was nowhere near the condition one needs to be to be called an “active” man. Hidden through the woods were other Dedicated whose sole task was to make sure that none of Rhys’ squad made it to the other side of the woods. They were free to use any weave they could form that would not kill their target. The hidden defenders rarely made mistakes, but sometimes they wove too strongly, or the madness took one, and that ended in a death or two, before an Asha’man could control the situation. From his place at the back of the path, Rhys had a good perspective to watch the weaves being formed by the defenders, attacking his companions, and he was able to lash out with Spirit to slice the weaves, or to block them with sudden walls of stone pulled from the Earth. He might not be the fastest at running, but Rhys was quick and deft with his weaving. He wasn’t the strongest among the Dedicated, but the Asha’man said strength would come with time. Some people did not reach their full potential until they had been channeling for years. He felt, more than saw, the man coming up behind him, and Rhys spun Fire and Air, bending light around his body. Running made it ripple a bit, but it still made him next to invisible in the woods. The other man’s weave came together, and Rhys jumped forward to avoid the wall of fire. He did not stop to see if the man followed. Ahead, he saw a pair of brothers that he loathed. Nineteen years old and full of themselves for having been Raised to Dedicated within two months of their arrival. They were growing quickly, learning fast, and were proud of it. Each of them had woven a pair of shields, splitting their flows to attack multiple opponents, and they each had blocked two squad members from the Source. A third flow, this time of Air, bound their targets in place. Rhys slowed his jog to a quiet walk, avoiding dry branches and leaves, and smiled as he felt the man behind him weaving more saidin, and creating more walls of fire back where Rhys had been before. He apparently though Rhys had gone to ground there and was trying to flush him out. The benefit to Rhys though, was all that saidin made his tiny weave of folded light difficult to notice. Coming up on the brothers, Rhys threw a rock across the field, making a bush rustle on the opposite side. Both of the defenders turned to look, and that was when Rhys struck. He wasn’t powerful enough to shield them while they already held the Power, but he could outsmart them. Two quick weaves made tiny localized earthquakes directly under the brothers, and the waves from the quakes created yet more rippling destruction when they met. Rhys tied them off loosely, wanting them to disperse on their own soon. He ran as he wove, moving to a different place around the meadow. With every pace he ran, he created a new weave to do something distracting coming from the opposite side of the meadow. Thunder claps, waves of air, lines of broken earth, and more. And the brothers kept attacking the woods where the weaves were coming from. Their distractions took focus away from the shields they were holding, and it was enough. Rhys’ squad mates broke free of their shields and joined in the fight against the brothers. Five on two wasn’t always an easy fight. The brothers gave a good fight, but in the end, Rhys’ squad was able to get them bound and shielded, just in time to dodge out of the path of a wall of fire. The Dedicated behind them must really want them to lose. Erman was rubbish weaving most things, but fire based weaves came to him like breathing. He was often tasked with joining in on these battle runs to provide a realistic threat. Sometimes he enjoyed it too much. The squad ran, but a ball of fire knocked Toran to his knees, and an illusion of fire herded Jakko off away from the group, and into a pit. Finally, Rhys, Mikael and Westly were left. Rhys began to hope that they might win this one. And the earth dropped out from beneath their feet, turning from solid ground to thin mud, and then back again, trapping all three of the squad mates. Asha’man Dendric came over to them and tagged all three. “You’ve lost this challenge. Take 20 laps of the Tower, then go on to your next lessons. Groaning, Rhys fought his way free of the earth, and got to his feet, then began running for the perimeter of the Tower’s grounds. He had to finish the 20 laps before his next lesson, so he ran as hard as he could, as fast as he could, and he was still late. He arrived at his objects of the power class fifteen minutes late, sweaty and dirty from his previous work. Asha’man Paulin was not amused and made Rhys explain his failure to the class of six other Dedicated. Once that was done, he joined the class, and tried to catch up. Today, they were learning the use of angreal. These were nowhere near as common for men as they were for women, and even for them they were not common items. But there were enough that a man needed to know what he was looking at when he found one. The class was rather intriguing. The small statue was of a man, kneeling with his sword point in the ground. It allowed a man to draw a good pool of saidin, maybe 20% more than he could normally… and that extra amount was huge. The fight for life, the sweet rot of the taint… everything was bigger, harsher, brighter. Asha’man Paulin had them test their strength, pushing their limits, using the extra strength the angreal provided to go beyond what they could normally do. It was exhilarating. While stretching his ‘muscles’ using the angreal, Rhys could feel a similarity between himself and the object. It was odd. But he wanted to learn more.
  21. OOC: Over the next few days, I'll be posting my asha'man's progression from newbie to full rank. This thread will be Rhys learning new skills as a Soldier. ~~~~~~~~~ The Black Tower bought most of its food from merchants and farmers, but they supplemented it by hunting in the woods nearby. Or further out for those that can Travel. Rhys had found the packs of dogs that wander the Black Tower and had begun working with some of them, turning them from a pack of wild things into his personal pack of hunting hounds. There was a young girl who helped him manage them. When he was training, she saw to their feeding. When he came to hunt with them, she ran along, learning the skills for herself. Her name was Naeron, and her father had been a Dedicated before his accident. He had drawn too much of the Power and blown a crater in the yard big enough to build the foundation for a large house. Her mother just simply walked away in the night the next week, leaving her daughter to the kindness of the Black Tower. Naeron and Rhys walked their pack of hounds out of the Tower grounds and into the woods. The dogs were nothing near the purebred hounds he’d owned in Far Madding. None of them even looked like they were the same breed as the one next to it, but they were all well behaved, quick to learn, high energy, and tenacious. That was all one needed in a good hound. Once they were in the woods, he let Naeron sprint ahead, burning off some of the energy she built up while she was cooped within the walls of the Tower. She said that some of the women were trying to teach her to spin and darn and do other “womanly” tasks, but she would rather be an official huntress for the Tower. “I can’t guarantee it, Naeron, but I will put in a word for your skills at the quartermaster’s office. They decide who can be a hunter.” He had said the first time she mentioned it, and he said it again every time she complained… but no amount of good words from a Soldier would change their opinions about girls doing men’s work. Today, they were hunting deer. When Naeron whistled the command, the hounds gathered around her, and she took them on a coursing run around the area of woods that they had scouted the other day. The obvious signs of bucks in the area had told them no one else had hunted their spot since the last time that Rhys and Naeron had been here, several months prior. The vegetation had grown lush, and that always attracted healthy deer. Rhys could hear the dogs suddenly begin to bay, signalling that they had encountered their quarry. Holding his breath, Rhys quietly wove Air into a loop and readied himself to fling it. The loop would land around the deer’s neck, killing the beast. He hated to do it this way, but it was cleaner and quicker than arrows or letting the hounds bring it to the ground. This way, there was no blood, and other deer in the area wouldn’t be as scared. Hours passed, and he and Naeron collected three large carcasses. One was decently aged, having 12 points on his rack, while the other two were younger bucks. No matter their age, this was a good day’s work. As he knelt beside the first deer he tucked his long hair into a neat bun, fixing it in place with a wooden comb, and beside the second deer, Naeron began to talk. “I think I’m going to leave, Rhys.” She didn’t look up from butchering the deer. “I can earn my way with the skills you’ve helped me sharpen, and I can get away from this place.” “Is it that bad for you here?” Rhys did not look up either, allowing their work to help keep the tension low. “I can’t grow to be anything more than just another girl here, Rhys. This is a place for men.” She sighed. “I’ll miss you.” he whispered. “I know, but you’re going to be an Asha’man. You’ve got potential to grow here, to become more than anyone else… all I can be is a second class huntswoman or someone’s wife.” There was so much bitterness in her voice, Rhys wanted to hug her, but they were both covered in gore from skinning the beast. Rhys cut the deer’s stomach open, and released the offal onto the ground for the hounds. When he had the skin off of the deer, he used Air to hold it off the ground, and a thin weave of fire to sear off the sinew and fat from the inside. It would still need curing in town, but now, they could roll it without it making a mess. “Where will you go?” He moved to the next deer. “I think Arafel. It’s far from here, and in the Borderlands they don’t care what clothes you wear or if you’ve got hair for brains or are a woman, and they’ll likely be fine with me hunting, trapping and working for myself.” She finished her first deer, and joined Rhys on the third. Their eyes never met, but they worked in unison. “When are you leaving?” he whispered. “At dawn. There is a boat docked at the River that’s heading North, past Tar Valon, all the way to Shienar.” a wistful hope entered her voice. “Don’t leave before I see you, yes?” He raised his eyes to catch hers and did not lower them unitl she agreed. They piled the meat into baskets and rolled the skins, then lifted the whole kit onto their backs, carrying it back into the small town that was the Black Tower. The provisions were delivered to the quartermaster, who noted that they had brought in more than the amount required of them, as was usual, and he paid them for the extra. Rhys refused his portion, letting Naeron keep it all for her journey. Once they had left the area of town that stank of leather and meat and offal, Rhys seized the Source and wove air, water and earth, then gently laid the weave on Naeron and a second copy on himself. The blood, sweat, dirt and other mess and stains all suddenly poofed off of their clothing and skin, and he collected the wet grime into a ball, which he then burnt with a weave of fire. Naeron smiled at his display. Until recently, weaves with water in them had been a huge challenge for Rhys. This weave would have been beyond him a month ago. They went their separate ways, him to more lessons with the Power, her to pack up and resolve her last ties to this place. In the pre-dawn light, Rhys knocked on her door and found her waiting with a satchel on her back. “Let me walk you to the River.” She didn’t object. The walk to the River wasn’t that long, but it was separate enough that people on the boats could not make out details of the Tower. At the water’s edge was a set of relatively new docks, built to service the Black Tower. Moored there was a large trading ship with a shallow draught. It wasn’t ungainly, but it was nothing like the pleasure yachts Rhys had known on the lake of Far Madding. “Well, here’s where we part Rhys.” Naeron’s words were calm, but he thought he could see fear and tension and excitement in her eyes. “Yes, yes it is.” He sighed. “Take this and be safe.” He handed her a book. The title was something ridiculous, The Mourning Rose and her Steadfast Tower. It was pure pulp romance, written by a friend of his in Far Madding, where one way a man could earn his own money was publishing poetry and romance stories for the ladies. Naeron looked at it and raised an eyebrow. “My favorite story begins on page 97.” She flipped through the first pages until she got to the right spot, and the last page flipped over to reveal a hidden compartment. Inside the compartment were a small bag of coins, a small knife, and an elegant hair comb made of sung wood and jade. When she opened the bag of coins, she almost dropped the book. “You can’t give me this much money!” Rhys laughed. “I can and I am giving it to you. The Black Tower meets my needs now, so I don’t need that coin. Take it and I hope it helps you establish yourself in Arafel.” With tears in her eyes, Naeron turned and boarded the trading ship. Rhys watched until she went below decks, then he made the long walk back to the Black Tower, knowing he had one less friend in this place. The next week, an Asha’man met him at dawn and gave him his Sword Pin. He was made Dedicated, and his life changed again.
  22. OOC: Over the next few days, I'll be posting my asha'man's progression from newbie to full rank. This thread will be Rhys learning new skills as a Soldier. ~~~~~~~~~ New Skills - Learning to fight “You will learn to use this weapon, Soldier.” The asha’man leading the lesson was stern. Rhys had refused to learn the blade when other soldiers offered to teach. He had refused it when Dedicated tried to teach him. Now, he had the attention of an asha’man. “Sir, I don’t see any reason to learn how to swing a blade.” Rhys kept his face calm, neutral. He would be peaceful. He breathed deeply, letting the evening’s cool air fill his lungs. “What about this reason?” The asha’man swung the practice blade hard, bringing it into Rhys’ side, slamming it against his ribs and knocking the wind out of Rhys. He climbed back to his feet. “No, that reason is insufficient as well.” “Raise your blade.” The asha’man growled, and Rhys ignored him, leaving the practice blade hanging loosely from his grip. Rhys did not raise the blade, and this time, the asha’man’s blow hit him above his temple, ringing his head like a bell and making him crumple to the ground. Blinking, Rhys rubbed his temple, then climbed to his feet. “Raise your blade.” Another blow. “Raise your blade, Soldier.” Two blows to knock him to the ground. After several more blows to the head, Rhys woke up as his body shivered and jerked from being Healed. “Go straight to your bunk, Soldier. You will not eat dinner until I agree that you are competent to defend yourself.” Back in his bunk, Rhys began doubting himself. Hours later, he was shaken awake by a rough hand. Huan, from Tear, was standing above Rhys’ bunk with a finger pressed against his lips. Huan wove the power, air and fire mostly, and light bent around the two men. Huan lead them out of the barracks and into the woods. There, Huan presented a foreign offer… teach him to defend himself without using a blade, to fight with his hands, fists and feet. Huan had learned on the streets of Tear, where peasants were not allowed to own blades. He’d apparently been a thug, a tough who worked for a local crime boss. He had worked hard to become as deadly as he could without need for a blade. Here in the Black Tower, he had learned the sword, but felt it was unnecessary most of the time. “Asha’man Dendric said you must be able to defend yourself. He did not say you must use the blade. Learn this skill, and you will be able to meet that requirement, yes?” It made sense to Rhys, and he felt that fighting using his body was more ethical… training his body kept him healthy and fit and might keep him alive. The sword can only be used to kill… so this was OK. That night, Huan taught him the basics of dodging attacks. That the idea was mostly to watch what his opponent was doing, and to avoid where their weapon was going to be. He wasn’t the most athletic, but he soon came to realize that the dodging, the movements of the body in a brawl, were similar to how one moved while dancing. He’d always enjoyed dancing with the ladies. For the next three weeks, Rhys did not eat any dinner, and every afternoon Dendric tried to force him to use the blade to defend himself… and it failed. Rhys took his bruises and broken bones, and he worked every evening to clean his uniform with the Power. He would not be filthy, even if he was forced to eat dirt every time he entered the training grounds. Finally, on the third week, after 30 days of no dinner and eating dirt, he was ready to demonstrate the skills Huan taught him. He stood in front of the asha’man and when Dendric lifted his blade, the asha’man said: “Raise your blade.” When Rhys didn’t, the asha’man swung his practice blade, aiming for Rhys’ head… and he hit nothing. The asha’man swung again, and again. Rhys dodged the second and third blows as well. He wasn’t as smooth as Huan was, but he was able to predict the Asha’man’s blows. Dendric had an obvious mix of emotion on his face… anger that he wasn’t making his point with painful blows; surprise that Rhys was able to dodge so well; and a grudging respect. The asha’man began to press the attack, moving faster and slashing harder. With a grim focus, Rhys increased his speed too, working to keep up with the Asha’man’s blows. Some he dodged, others he deflected with the flat of his hand. When it became obvious that the Asha’man wasn’t going to increase the pace again, Rhys did something he’d never done before… he pressed his attack. His hand swept past the Asha’man’s blade, and he punched the other man hard in the short ribs. He was rewarded with a hard grunt. While the Asha’man was distracted, Rhys hooked his foot behind the other man’s knee, and pulled. While Dendric tried to address that attack, Rhys brought his fist down hard on the other man’s temple, knocking him to the ground where Dendric laid in a daze. It was obvious that Rhys had caught the other man by surprise. The Asha’man simply hadn’t expected Rhys to be competent with his bare hands like that. The next time, he would be prepared, and Rhys would never catch him by surprise again. In fact, the Asha’man insisted on a second round, and this time he was prepared for Rhys to use his body as a weapon, and his practice blade found Rhys’ side after a few exchanges. It hadn’t been ridiculously easy though, and Dendric gave Rhys a nod of respect for finding his own path. From that point on, Rhys did not have to learn to use a blade, but he did have to spar with men who were using blades. He took many blows and learned many new movements. Where the swordmen had forms and techniques, he learned to move his body to answer their movements. Some of their movements carried over to his… the walking styles especially. He was learning to respect his body, to trust it. His mother had never taught him that. His reputation began to change. Some of the Soldiers and Dedicated thought him a fool for rejecting the blade. Others thought him too proud. Their thoughts did not bother him. He was learning to master himself, and that was the first step towards mastering the world around him.
  23. Lesson 5 - Hard Labor The sun was high in the sky, and Rhys stood in the middle of the road, repeatedly seizing the Source, lifting stones from a pile, shaping them with Earth and Fire, then placing them into their precise location in the wall. Then he wove Fire and Earth in a different manner to join his stone to those on its sides. Up with the stone, shear away the excess, bond it to its neighbors. The other Soldiers said this was much like training for any other job… repetitive exercise to teach your mind and muscles how to do a thing without thinking about it. Rhys had learned few physical tasks like this… he’d learned to ride a horse before, and taught hounds to hunt… but those things had been enjoyable. They had made him laugh… but shaping stone does not bring laughter or joy to Rhys. Holding a stone in midair, he looked all around and saw no one watching, so he altered the shaping weave, and used it to begin carving the stone. The Power made shaping the stone so easy. The stone almost melted, flowing into the form he imagined in his mind. When he was done, the stone’s face bore a carving of the profile of Far Madding as seen from the East. The next few stones he places were carved to look like buildings and places that he’d either been or wished to visit. The Stone of Tear, Caemlyn’s Inner City, Kinslayer’s Dagger, and Fal’Dara. There was no rhyme or reason to the order he placed them, just his fancy. After a few hours of carving and placing stones, the Dedicated returned and looked over his work, testing the strength of the wall and sighing. “Well, you did it right. The stones are sealed and jointed using the Power and won’t be budged without someone else blasting them apart using the Power. But these can’t be allowed to stay. You were told to build a plain wall, a simple wall. No one ordered you to make it pretty.” He sighed. “Now, you get to fix it and make it right.” The Dedicated began weaving and Rhys felt his glowing satisfaction fall out the bottom of his stomach, as the other man began centering his weaves on each carving. One by one, they exploded. Seizing the Power, Rhys began unsealing the broken blocks and adding them to the rubble piles. When all of the broken stones were removed, he began lifting new ones into place. This time, he carved them, but on the side he would seal to another stone. He left many hidden messages and beautiful carvings hidden away, where no one would ever seen them. It still made him feel better.
  24. Lesson 4 - Shields, again Rhys stood across a small field from another Soldier, they met eyes and they both grabbed for the Source and began weaving as if their lives depended on it. One day, this might not be a test… and Rhys’ life might depend on these skills. He felt the younger man seize the Source and Rhys scrambled to grab it before he could be cut off… but he failed. Rheingert had him shielded. The Dedicated gave the signal, and the other Soldier released Rhys. Another try, and another failure. A third effort, and this time he was able to seize the Power, but the other Soldier was able to distract him, and cut him off again. On his fourth try, Rhys was able to shield the Arafellan youth. He grinned and waited for the Dedicate’s command to release… when it came, he let Rheingert go. The Dedicated directed the Arafellan to sit, and another youth took his place. Shen had been watching the duels until now. Rhys moved to take a seat, but stopped at the whip crack command from the Dedicated. Rhys was to continue on. Shen knew how Rhys had managed to succeed against Rheingert, so that trick wouldn’t work against him… so Rhys used a different trick. He built up one weave of Spirit, made it thick and dangerous looking and feinted with it, moving it to cut off Shen’s access to the Power, but Shen blocked it with his own thick weave of spirit. He didn’t even notice the thinner, more tightly woven shield sliding in from behind. Rhys smiled to himself at his success and moved to sit down, and again the Dedicated ordered him to hold his place. And it went on like that for hours. Rhys standing at the front fighting to shield the other soldiers before they shielded him. He failed sometimes, but still was not allowed to sit and let others take their turn. It wasn’t until the sun was setting and Rhys could barely grasp the Source that the Dedicated let him sit. “Today, you have been pushed to your limits Rhys.” The Dedicated smiled grimly. “Learn this feeling, know it deep in your bones. There will come a time when you must fight until you’ve reached this point, and then keep fighting. Learn it well.”
  25. Lesson 3 - Water He’d grown up and lived his life on an island in the center of a lake. In his city, it rained often. There were rivers that fed into the lake. He liked to swim in these things… why was weaving water so difficult? He sat there staring at the bowl. It was a muggy day, and he was sweating… he wished they would let him keep a proper handkerchief, something with lace and made from silk of course… but no. Soldiers did not get lace. He wiped his brow with his sleeve, grimacing about the necessity. His bowl was still empty. He was filled with the Power, and knew that if he wanted to, he could cause the bowl to explode in fire and shards. He could dissolve the clay of the bowl, turning it into sand and dust. He could create a tremor to knock it to the ground. He could do so many things… but not one of them would fill that bowl with water. The weave was a simple one… but most men had some difficulty with water. He knew he wasn’t the only one struggling with this issue… but when the other Soldiers were a decade younger than he was, it felt like every failure was worse. Humming a quiet tune, he completed the spherical weave and let it collapse into itself, hoping that this was the time it created the perfect knot and drew water from the air to fill his bowl… but it wasn’t. The weave fell apart, threads sliding like eels then dissipating into nothingness. He tried for days. Weeks. At one point, he gave up for two weeks, and only began working at it again when Dedicated Tollian said the only water he could drink is water he collected from the Air himself. He was also forbidden wine or ale. After two days of eating his meals dry, Rhys was angry. He grabbed the threads of water and forced them into place, not caring about the beauty or symmetry. This time, he didn’t allow the weave to collapse, he took hold the threads and pulled them taught into the knot he wanted… and it worked. The weave formed. Rhys felt a tear trickle down his cheek as he watched his bowl slowly fill with water. When he picked it up to drink it, the water was cool and crisp. He did it.
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