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  1. Soldier Ful joined Nox at his makeshift gateway. He walked down the line of people and clambered deftly up onto stone terrace of the wolf territory where the volunteers were drawn up, adjusting his cap and sword. Wind carried ash washed back across the dozens of men and women of the Band of red hand pattern, with cavalry, infantry and support scouts. Nearby, a tall bander with bells in his hair laughed into the sooty air. The notion of working together seemed to please him and his friends. Ful saw the scout, infantry and private grinning up at him from the lower spaces of the tree line. The wolfkin-in-charge began to explain to her allies what she wanted them to do, how they’d be deployed, what objectives they were to achieve. Her voice was relayed clearly to all the alliance parties. Her briefing turned into a question for Nox. Ful nodded, hearing Nox’s reply. He and Nox’s other black tower student Merdyn were more than ready to see action. They pulled into an eager huddle around Nox. “You alright, Nox?” Ful asked. The asha’aman seemed pale. He knew full well Nox wasn’t, but he suspected it had less to do with the task at hand and more to do with the cut-off-from-saidin stedding ahead of him. Ful could certainly sympathize with that. Like all the male channellers, the power was Ful’s main weapon. The asha’aman had also been nothing but helpful and Ful was most anxious to show his appreciation. “I suppose you’re going to tell me this is a lesson,” he said. “I’ll go first since I'm the youngest. I will, however, feel happier if you and Merdyn will watch over me as a surety against disaster." In truth, Ful had never been in a stedding at all before this day. It was one of the few places still intact after destruction of their overrun world. But it felt like coming home. He moved forward, leading his brethren up to the boundary, daring the open neutrality of the stedding— winning back public trust one small step at a time. He walked around and tested the link to the source, and made sure the stedding had total coverage within it. Nothing. He was cut off, and there was no one of authority to back him up. Ful inclined his capped head reverently and thanked the lady in charge. Ful Haert Soldier
  2. It was a long while before Ful had recovered enough to get back on his feet and help Merdyn move the ladies. ~~ Adrim was exhausted. And Merdyn left for the farm. The platform wavered, then began to glide away, out of sight behind the shell of the broken wagon. As soon as it was gone, Ful sank onto his hands and dry-heaved violently into the burned grass. He closed his eyes, resting them . . . after some time, he heard their voices. Merdyn. And Nox! He had hoped for this . . . Unsteady, he looked up, rose to his feet, succumbed to a spell of giddiness, and slumped against the bent trunk of a tree for support. He shook his head, trying to straighten up. Boots crunched across the road dust towards him. Ful raised his hand in greeting. “Hey Merdyn. Thanks for bringing Nox. And coming back.”
  3. Ful nodded, amused by Tal’sin twirling his moustache. He wondered how long Merdyn could keep the illusion going. They walked west, down through the fractured arches of the city’s old streets past the bookshops and forges. Markets thrived there— the daily cheap food, grain, livestock, instruments— and the licensed merchant houses that raised lavish silk tents and displayed the trinkets of their trade. Ful had always loved the markets for its flavor of the faraway. He’d once bought from a tinker a small metal pendant with an engraving of an ogier on the Stedding just because it had travelled so far. Now the faraway seemed even more remote and unreachable, even though it was his business to one day protect it all if he could. Ful walked on. He knew he had to hurry now. Daylight was fading as they crossed the square with their wagon.
  4. There was a long break, a long pause, in their conversation as the men practiced. Lillian was almost impressed as Merdyn played with the fireballs. The dedicated was not only skilled, but he was strong in the element. Then it was Nox’s turn. He seemed unsure if he was able to draw on saidar. She was silent for a moment, considering. The power they had in common, the one power, was not native to any of them, but perhaps Lillian’s grasp of it was better than the asha’amen at this time due to experience. Culturally, their worlds could not have been more different. Lillian did not expect them to understand, though they were not stupid, it was just different. She struggled to find the words. She closed her eyes and thought hard for a moment, as if she was dredging up from a deep part of her mind, something she had deliberately blocked. At last she sighed. “We… do what we do. We embrace the source, and accept it. This means surrendering, relinquishing ourselves to saidar. All female aes sedai study this philosophy toward saidar and learn its principles, which then direct us as the guiding philosophy of our lives. Its wisdom informs our tactics, its strength reinforces our arms, its clarity focuses our minds.” She shrugged and looked around at them. “You do what you do. But to fight hard against saidar the way you fight saidin won’t get you anywhere. To control it you must let go first. We live, and work foremost by this principle.” Lillian stood back with a half-smile. She hoped it made sense.
  5. Evening fell. The hike, and their lessons, continued as the light faded. Ashley believed he understood the bulk of Aiden’s lessons as their party descended. Aiden waved two of his students forward on either flank, one taking right and the other taking left. Aiden led the front prong himself. Following their instructor, the young man with the golden goblet and Ashley spread into a defensive position, as the others slipped down the steep slope and joined them. By necessity, they quickly became more concerned with keeping upright and descending than raising their weapons defensively. “It opens up ahead,” Ashley said, breathing hard. Aiden walked to the open space with his trainees accompanying him and covering every quarter. Ashley looked back and saw the young men were keeping the line well another dozen paces behind him. For the first time since he joined the warder trainees, weary beyond measure, Ashley felt tears in his eyes. He didn’t feel scared as his classmates closed in around Aiden and assumed close defensive file, then pointed out they now need shelter. Ashley wiped at his eyes-- he knew a moment of gratefulness, of belonging. He smiled happily as Aiden called upon each of them to make their own shelters. He already had this idea to build a lean-to with his tarp, but it would require wooden stakes. Ashley reached out his hand, slipped it into his leather satchel, and drew out his axe. He looked back up at Loraen’s face, and half smiled. Then he turned and walked away into the wide forest. Away from their camp, and the light falling through the canopy space which their party was under, the forest was dark and green and quiet. He heard a splash and turned around. One of the trainees was walking toward him, shin deep in the green water. He stood up and watched the trainee coming closer.
  6. There was something in Nox’s face that made Lillian pause. She tipped her head up and glanced in contemplation at the Asha’aman. Something was awry. She could tell from the look on his face that he was disconcerted, but Nox managed to follow them outside. She moved away, turned then called back. “This area is good.” She slowly turned in a circle to take in the scene. It was not a pretty place, and didn’t look at all special, but it had a sort of cold beauty, Lillian conceded. She spun on one of the higher places and looked down over the sprawl across the green slopes. The sky was a flat, bright grey-blue along the horizon, particularly in the south toward the farm itself, where dirty crusts of rocks pushed up in the air, the mosaic of stone-tiled rooftops crosscut by the mouldering stone of the maze of alleys, the warrens of the black tower. A secure town with encircling fortifications made from natural quarries of rocky areas around its valley site, designed to ward off storms and attacks. And that was what was coming, drawn inexorably towards them . . . It brought up in her mind central Saldaea - great, solid Saldaea crafted with the principles of defense uppermost in mind - and how hard that had been to hold onto, the months of fighting they’d had in the rocky terrain, just northeast of Maradon and above the Plain of Lances. That kind of full-scaled war, and these people would have to defend this town. Lillian looked around at the staring people who’d come to a sudden halt around them. Some hurried to some distance away, then resumed staring at the trio. Maybe it was the chill wind gusting in, but a few of the bystanders flinched and pulled their clothes close. Thinking over what Merdyn had asked, Lillian pondered over the contrasts and comparisons that could be made between their respective styles. There were certainly similarities, but the intent behind their training as well as the way they thought about using one power was different, creating distinction between the two. Lillian could understand theory and technique well enough, but she needed to devote more time to practice in order to understand it with her body, to be so well practiced it became a part of her. “Yes, it’ll no longer be unseen flows when we link. As for what you should do, there are similarities, but it may be easier to simply explain how I link first,” Lillian smiled as she stared at the dirt path ahead of them. “Please assume the void and put yourself on the brink of seizing the source. Please don’t instinctively battle saidar for control - and as it were - you need to guide saidar gently but fight saidin at the same time. This takes some getting use to.” Soon Merdyn figured it out and she fought saidin for control as it poured into her. Also, an awareness of sorts came upon her, and she could faintly feel the emotions of the man she was linked with. She calmly ignored the overwhelming exhalation and fear coursing through her body. Those were not her feelings. She nodded as the other got comfortable with his control, letting Merdyn draw power from her body. Lillian then extended a slender arm to Nox in a ‘come here' gesture. “Nox, please try to enter into the link. You need to see for yourself, and unless there are two of you I cannot lead any flows to demonstrate.” With Nox added to their circle, Lillian took control of the link as passed to her, ignoring once more the strong, resonated feelings from her link partners. Because of the mens’ strength, the power density had increased to a level she wasn’t expecting. It hadn’t reached the level of when she linked with her sisters in battle against the shadow, but she was also experiencing a greater amount of Saidar being produced by herself. She no longer knew what her expression as, or what her body looked like to others. She focused on the power stirring within. She quickly sorted the messy flows of saidar and gathered the source to her, feeling the power increase in her veins as she channelled. Lillian wove a ball of fire with saidar in front of them. Next, she drew power from the two men and formed a fireball from saidin, of similar size and intensity. “Both of these are equal, made with just one half of the power each. This,” she formed a new fireball from both powers of the source, “uses exactly the same amount of the one power as the other two, look.” Despite using half as much of each power, the new ball of fire burned larger and brighter than either of the other two. Lillian said, “when saidar and saidin are used together, a kind of synergy occurs. Most weaves are formed differently, even for a simple fireball. However, I’m able to weave first with saidar and then reinforce the flows with saidin. Please feel free to try this yourself.” The white sister let the weaves dissipate, and - breathing deeply as she did so - passed the control of their circle back to Merdyn. It was the only way they could learn. The men could hold the new flows, study its feelings, or try to weave saidar. She’d let them draw on her power, her strength as patiently, as long as they were linked. Her body and mind were both strong, calm. Ooc: after Merdyn and Nox both try handling saidar, and you can definitely do any weave you want. At some point, Lillian will ask one of them to try to form the weave for a gateway and explain how they weave saidin. Lillian will feel a little surprised at the different way men wove gateways for Travelling. Then maybe reinforce the Travelling weave by feeding it with saidar? I’ll leave it up to you. But I imagine the gateway made with both halves of the source would be wide enough for an army with your talents and skills. Destination wherever you like. xD
  7. Ful grinned. Seemed “Tal’sin” had these big, heavy brutes in line by trapping them with his weave. “Yeah, let’s just tie them up and let the real queen’s guards find them. City laws, only the real guards are allowed to wear this. That’ll be punishment enough." The people in the streets cleared and gave them a courteous wide berth. Violence and use of the one power made them imposing figures. He looked down at their opponents, the men who wore the ceremonial battle gear of her majesty’s regiment: gleaming brown leather embossed with gold detailing, arms and chests covered with polished, segmented armor plates and on their backs, under the fold of the recognizable scarlet sash, their sword harnesses. Ful stopped as he came onto the nearest, a bear-like man he spoke with earlier, then fixed the thick set, shaven headed man trapped in front of him with an unblinking stare and repeated his previous request. “Donation, please.” After the man handed his purse over, Ful tied up his hands and mouth with rough cordage from his field kit. “Thanks." He gestured to the man’s fellows. “Yours too,” and adroitly collected their purses before securing their hands in similar fashion. “Ok to go back now.” Finishing his tasks at hand, Ful looked to his moustachio’d companion as he waited for his assent. Then Ful nodded and lead the way back. Ful had checked that the man he’d hit with air was knocked out before giving chase, and returned to find the boy rolling the still-unconscious man over on the dirt floor. Ful laughed and tossed the small boy the small sacks of coin they got from the fake guards. He had the poise of a master conman. The boy opened the canvas pouches and sniffed. It was a glorious thing for the boy to see. “This is strictly a one-time thing, Tal’sin … ” Ful said, then turned to salute the boy. “Thank you for watching our cart. I’m sure you’ve already relieved this brute of his useful possessions.”
  8. All the “big, handsome, hulking men” turned and stared at Merdyn. There was something about his tone that made them look again at him. The men were wearing full kit, including the crimson cloak and conical helms of the queens guard. But it seemed they weren’t the real thing. Ful was about to respond to being called Merdyn’s "butt-boy" when the blonde dedicated set off the fire display. Well, fifteen fireballs did the trick. He weighed the pros and cons of joining in, or wheeling the cart through their opened passage. The men seemed to ignore him. They were intent on Merdyn. “Nice work,” Ful smiled, “they look like complete gimps in these uniforms anyway." Ful moved forward at a jog and said to the boy, “hey, hey you there! Are you ok?” The skinny lad cried out and shrank away from him. Ful grinned as he assessed the boy was fine except for bruises from the kicks and a bloody nose that’ll soon heal. Trying to ‘heal’ the kid would be more traumatic on his body than letting him recover on his own. “As I was saying,” said Ful, waggling a cheeky finger at Merdyn, “we need to be careful with funds." He turned to “Guard" near him, gesturing at the fireballs “please donate coins for the illuminations." One of the “Guards” suddenly pulled out a sword and rushed at them. The others followed suit. There was no time to shout out. Ful had been trained relentlessly at the farm. Daily training, paid for by the black tower, gave the young man a reaction time significantly shorter than that of normal humans. With a graceful sweep that combined instinct and immaculate training, he drew on saidin and returned the attack with one of his own, placing his body between the assailants and the small boy. He didn’t worry about his companion as Ful dropped the swordsman charging at him with invisible flow of air to the head. The others fled, leaving the small boy, Merdyn, Ful, and their cart. “I’ll say,” chuckled Ful, leaning close to the child and unbuttoning the collar of his black uniform “this keeps getting better and better. Can you watch this cart for us, boy? You’ll be rewarded.” The boy agreed, and the chase was on. “After them!” Ful shouted headily. He was quick on his feet, his body and nerves singing with the rush of saidin as the interlopers pounded away down the empty street, around a side street and into a busier thoroughfare.
  9. Lillian caught the excited look, and grinned. There was no use to explain in words the remarkable difference in one power unless the other was willing to try it first hand. She remarked, sipping tea from the little, heavy-bottomed porcelain cup. “Yes, you can actually see saidar, study and feel my flows of saidar once we link. It’s as different as night and day with saidin. How saidar and saidin are handled. There aren’t many weaves that form the same way, so being linked or in a circle is a precious time to learn how to do things the other way, as well as give you invaluable skills when encountering unseen weaves. I was here, taking Storm Leader Arath Faringal’s lessons in saidin as part of a linked circle. It really is a beneficial exercise.” Her personal history with male channellers drove her to take the storm leader’s lessons. Lillian and her fellow tower initiate Elyna's abduction by a dreadlord named Talin Losey had culminated in their rescue and subsequent release by a rival dreadlord whom they never learnt the name of, only noted for his distinctive black robe with golden symbols worked in. After Lillian's return, she had seriously begun to question the tower's traditions. Her thesis on the tower grew from a way to determine her Ajah to a critique upon the tower from its practices and culture and things that needed to change. She peered at both men and tapped the side of the table, “As far as we know, there are some rules of linking. When only women link, circles are limited to thirteen. Adding a single man extends the circle up to twenty six women. In that type of large circle, one of the women must take control. But if there are two men, either male can take control of the flow. Also, men cannot link without women, so you and Nox won’t be able to link without one woman." “If you’re ready, let’s move outside. I’ll initiate the link, but then you have to take the lead and embrace saidar for yourself. Come on.” Lillian Tremina ooc: right, feel free to move us outside and Lillian will instruct for you to put yourself on the cusp of seizing saidin. Also, Lillian isn't strong in saidar but she's quite skilled. The reason we are outside is she's going to have you practice traveling since that's Nox's specialty and Merdyn's strong enough for it as well, but build a much bigger gate; also the way to weave travel gates is different for men and women. To travel the male channellers fold two parts of the pattern and bore through it. Please show her how you do this way/your version and then with the strength of two (or three), we can create a much bigger gate by reinforcing your gate with saidar flows. :)
  10. A good hand-span taller than Ful, Merdyn firmly held his waist in his gloved hands. Ful was swaying back and forth in the fancy two-step pattern to the music, his fingers on Merdyn’s chest, his eyes wide as he briefly muttered “ah, there’s no need to teach me dancing”, and Merdyn’s face next to him. As he was dipped to the ground, Ful sucked in a breath through his teeth and tried to control his breathing. He could feel the rigid muscles of Merdyn’s arms behind his back. The other men in the tavern, who had been watching from seated stools, exchanged a few words and went to request something else to listen to. Half-broken furniture was piled up along one wall of the battered tavern to make room for the next dance. “What do I do?” Ful whispered anxiously to Merdyn as he leaned besides him, pulling on his own arctic white gloves and black dress uniform. His first lesson in dancing felt quite fleeting. Merdyn reminded him it was all about the rhythm. Ful nodded and swallowed as he strode purposefully up to Merdyn. Holding onto Merdyn’s trim waist, he set first one foot and then the other when the music began. What had Merdyn called it, back at the last song? The waltz? He was picking it up. To his complete surprise, he was getting it. And so were some of the men, as they paired off suddenly, grinning at them as they waltzed by. Ful glanced around. Merdyn moved prominently, patiently in the group of men who had gathered to watch and now partnered up to dance. Ah, these men must be naturals . . . He stumbled over his toes and nearly dragged Merdyn down with him. Ful quickly dusted himself off and took a jokey bow to the scattered applause and jeers of the men watching. “Yeah, I can do better. Let’s go for a third try.” By the time the musicians were done playing, it was almost morning, and most of the others were already gone. The harp woman stood talking with the bartender, and the other two in the band sat on packs with their backs to the wall, smoking, drinking and chatting. Ful and Merdyn lounged over near the bar in a huddle, conversing privately. “Well that was interesting.” Ful said and smiled gently “thank you for a wonderful time."
  11. A nice looking man with chestnut hair and a scar down one cheek looked out at her from beyond the gateway. His black uniform weeded around his tall, thin body as he stepped toward them. He seemed faintly amused, as if someone Tris couldn’t see had told him something funny just before he’d walked to this side. She waited. She could hear the clatter of armor and voices in the distance. Near her, the man in black asked a beautiful woman, the person in charge for instructions. Out of the blue, a thought struck as she watched the silver gateway wink out of existence. Surely this was what other, normal people were thinking too. Tris fixed the man with her amused look this time. “Thanks for your hard work. Compared with you guys,” this she said while gesturing at the black tower crew, “aren’t we just window dressing?” Tris looked up at Nox and smiled her sweetest smile in expectation. Tris Landorin Troublemaker
  12. Lillian shrugged a no-matter, and decided against asking, right this moment at least, why it was that the Andoran noble said neither towers had any interest in meddling. She didn’t want to offend a dedicated she’d lunched with just moments before. And the truth was, she hadn’t known the aes sedai advisor at court long, though she was a semi-regular face that frequented the tower now and then, and she didn’t know the queen of Andor well. Lillian had a feeling the fact that the queen tolerated the presence of the farm on her territories meant something. Merdyn was affable, a good conversationalist, and expressed an attitude toward duty that Lillian found appealing. He’d openly shared his background and attachments, and considered seriously the conflicts of interests in his service to M’Hael, the queen, and the world at large. Over lunch in Merdyn’s company, she could see clearly the way he thought about these topics. Over the same period of time, Lillian could see also that Nox had not volunteered anything of the sort, which meant that he was either a remarkably private person, or he was concealing something. No matter, she turned her mind to other things. For one, the trollocs attack that injured Nox this far from the borders was disturbing. And, had Merdyn mention the two trollocs being separated from a horde? Impossible for a fist of trollocs to move this far without earlier detection, unless by way gates, which meant the forceful presence of a fade. Lillian paused, then agreed. “True, the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. We but try to comprehend. These days, strange events crop up in the Pattern more and more.” She looked up from her cup and held the other man’s gaze. “How would you like to practice Linking, Merdyn?” Perhaps, the experience would change Merdyn’s mind about linking and bonding. In any case, she was curious how saidin felt after being cleansed. Lillian Tremina
  13. Ful hesitated for a second before he allowed himself to be led away from their group. Merdyn had come into this with his attitude set to ‘confident’ and it was the first time Ful had seen him falter. When Ful stared at Merdyn — he was a handsome man who deserved to be looked at — he saw how off the other was behaving . . . He decided to respond with an agreeable smile and curteous nod. The smile and nod combo was inspired by two things. For one, Merdyn helped him tremendously and Ful felt like giving back since the other confided in him. For another, the man, this Andoran noble, had an air about him, something that said he was more than just dangerous. He was still and contained, and his gestures were small and restrained, but Ful felt that was because an effort of pure willpower was going on beneath the schooled facade. Merdyn's face, half-lit by the morning light, was calm, unreadable. As if the other man was used to keeping his feelings and flesh in check. So Ful did his best smile and nod, and clapped a hand on the other man’s broader shoulders. He assessed the three others around them a little further. There was something off about them too. It made him pretty uneasy to watch, so he glanced back at Merdyn, wondering if perhaps the others in their party were nervous. “Oh absolutely,” he said in a light, accented voice. “I’m looking forward to seeing their abilities as our work gets underway. Many hands make light work." Ful Haert
  14. Tristram Landorin, rebellious tomboy, had lied about being of age and attached herself like a barnacle to the Band during their rescue mission in Tarabon, and she had never let go. Nor had the Band of the red hand ever had the heart to scrape her off their hull. Owing to this persistence, habit, and foremost — convenience, she became a private at the Citadel. Tris was inconsistent, ill-tempered and unpredictable. Also, her youth, attitude and inexperience made the girl generally troublesome to deal with. On paper, in reports from her teachers, it was often hard to justify her continued association with the unit. Tris rocked her head from side to side and waved her dust-smeared hands in some half-hearted business as she saluted her elders. If nothing else, Tris had been with the Band, stubborn, all the way since Tarabon. She’d seen, if not jumped in, many fights, brawl and games of chance; she’d survived the tour to Tarabon and back. Every step of the way, her lot had been tied to the Band in a way that was not easy to undo. And Tris went along whenever she got the chance to get out of the Citadel. That morning, the girl followed the senior officers - the scouts and the sergeants - wiped her grubby palm across her equally grubby cheek uncertainly, and found a position near the back, and listened. After the meeting broke up, their line advanced steadfastly through the asha’aman’s gateway. Tris paused. She furrowed her brow, breathing deeply to keep her hands from trembling. Oh, certainly. No problem. She hadn’t gone through a gateway before. But she didn’t have to show her fear. Bite me, Tris challenged the gateway in front of her as she anticipated her turn. When the tall, thin private in front of her, halting and clumsy, had gone through the gateway, she frowned more deeply and tapped her grubby fingers against her chin. . . . Tris hurried and made an over-hasty run at the treeline on the opposite side, reckoning if she didn’t hurry that silver gateway would cut her in half. Yes! Having charged through alive, Tris turned around and stuck her tongue out at the gateway. She’d beaten it; she knew she would. Tris Landorin
  15. OOC: Heh, couldn't resist the Dark Tower reference in the title 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower come'. Open to any Band people, particularly if s/he wants to train Tris. The new girl smiled, checked her reflection in the looking glass, straightened her tunic, and headed for her lesson. Just remember Tristram, for the moment, you’re a boy, she reminded her flat-chested mirrored self as she stopped and looked back at the empty room. “Off I go then.” The mirror Tris seemed a good looking boy, with the dark hair and pale skin of her parents. She’d only been with the Band for a few nights, was on probation still, and she hadn’t yet revealed her real self to anybody except the medic who brought her in, and ‘grandpa’ Burgandy, and that was by accident. Well, Tris mused, both of them obviously got bigger problems than Tris on their heavy shoulders. She felt sorry for the medic Jehryn — he seemed in a particularly foul mood and she took care to keep her distance from the bandaged-up man. She left her room, and walked to the far end of the street past a sour looking officer, and then on a windy corner, checked the directions that’d been written on a scrap of paper. Right at this corner, past the rowdy tavern, and up the steps into the main area of the Citadel. She was amused to see training sessions were already in progress all around her, complete with attentive students of every age and description. Training was all very new to her. She had to try her best not to screw it up. There were many nice-looking men and women who seemed honest and good hearted, but Tris couldn’t trust them right now. But she wouldn’t run away again, not until she found her mother. At times, Tris despaired of ever finding the bloody woman outside of dreams . . . There was no point in thinking like that. She’d come too far to turn back. Tris Landorin
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