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Everything posted by Sam

  1. The previous exercise had gone according to plan: few injuries, no fatalities and a surprising number of recruits being successful. This was not to say that John Sweeper was impressed. He impressed about as easily as coastal rock and that took thousands of years of relentless pressure. Arcon found this exercise too easy, or so he stated and Mr. Sweeper was a hellion for increased workloads. If Arcon wanted more, then Mr. Sweeper was more than pleased to give it to him; he was ready. Arcon would be repeating his forms all right, but there would be more pressure. Not simple distraction, but stress . . . and pressure. Mr. Sweeper shouted for a crewman who quickly trotted over. Mr. Sweeper whispered into his ear, so sounded like a volcano erupting and the crewman grinned broadly and ran below decks to the weapons supply room. Not too long after he came back without two other buddies, three short-bows and about three dozen arrows. These arrows were not aerodynamically efficient, they wouldn’t go far and they would lose power quick. They had thick, square ends, with a small piece of leather padding. Other than that they were real arrows. Unlike real arrows they couldn’t puncture skin . . . easily; just like real arrows, they really, really hurt. “Well, Arc-on, ye’re about to get yer chance at some ‘arder training. If you would be so kind as to step into the centre of the deck, there’s a good lad. Now, Arc-on, ye’re going to perform those pretty forms of yers, and ye’re going to do it four times in a row while me friends ‘ere shoot ye with these arrows. Try not to get distracted. And don’t worry, if ye do, well, ye’ll just ‘ave to start over!” The crewmen nocked their arrows, drew their strings and waited.
  2. The marvels of Tar Valon were not limited to its numerous ancient buildings, which were in their own rights spectacular. The marvels of Tar Valon could be found everywhere for the patient observer who looked. Every person possessed a mystery of life whether they knew it or not, some insight, some piece of everyday knowledge that may not be as common or well-known as they think. Insects, spiders, birds, fish, animals, every object, every natural substance—there were simply too many for one brain to comprehend it all, and luckily no one brain had to. Damion gently placed his bundle on the ground and sat beside it, using the tail of his travelling cloak to stop him getting wet. His journey was not a long one, not the on foot part, but his bundle was heavy and the cool winter air was feeling very nice against his face. Never mind that he insisted upon carrying the bundle everywhere of his own freewill—you never knew when you may have an emergency. The sky was grey, looking as dour and serious as the ajah sisters who chose the colour for their own. Damion was not biased towards seasons or weather. The seasons performed a service and were entirely logical in their nature and application. Best of all, seasons could be predicted with a good degree of accuracy and if one didn’t wish to be rained upon one only needed to wear a cloak. He rummaged through his bundle, removing a small flask from it and taking a sip. Water. A little while back there was a stream, not quite completely frozen and its contents tasted like a cold Tar Valon morning: very refreshing; very cold. Damion replaced the flask, stood and strapped the bundle back around his shoulders and middle. The City was not far away. The registered wonders of Tar Valon held little amazement for him for he had seen much, but the people, ah the people! Those he watched with avid interest, the connections, interactions, repercussions. A person could spend all their time watching the mass of humanity without fully comprehending the complexities, and paradoxically, the simplicities. His goal was the Library of the Tar Valon. He reached it after being distracted by an argument between a seller and a buyer, a bird singing upon a wall and a moth that had been trapped in a spider-web. He longed to interfere with the natural process; if he did, the spider itself may well die for the sake of his interference. Better that he left it well alone and let fate decide. There were larger libraries but they were not the same. No two libraries were ever the same. Whenever he was in Tar Valon he liked to stop in to peruse their shelves. On his way between the shelves he accidentally bumped into a rather attractive Accepted, who was staring intently into a book about . . . pies. He felt very sorry for anything she cooked, her expression suggested she meant business. He apologised quietly and moved on. Damion was determined to read every book in this library before he died, so he was not particularly choosey. He saw a spine among many others and took a liking to it. It was a book on zoology, part of a series written by Shaneevae Sedai of the Brown Ajah. He had not encountered any of her work before. Excellent. He moved to one of the many tables, leaned his bundle against it and sat down, and then he began to read.
  3. Time passed, again as it liked to do. For Mr. Sweeper the long days were never long enough and the training sessions were never hard enough, but for his 'students' I don't doubt that the reverse was true. The trainees were shaping up real nice: the constant motion of the ship demanded constant adjustment to footing, which eventually would become second nature. The shroud climb strengthened their bodies, minds and . . . Mr. Sweeper's ego. This lesson performed two functions: it would teach the average student just what balance was all about, and it would help show the student what they needed to work on. Every one of the students, by this point, could perform the basic form Mr. Sweeper had shown them. What he had not told them and what they were about to find out is that the by holding a weapon at chest level your centre of gravity of raised which makes balancing all the more difficult. Various crew members were lashing together light wooden beams, while Mr. Sweeper and his trainees watched on. It was a raft by the end of it; long, wide, square. The front was elevated somewhat while the back was lowered. The crewmen lowered the raft into the water and tied it off to the stern. "What ye see before ye there, ladies, is a raft! I'm su-re, ye'all 'ave been seein' one be-fore! Ye'll all be takin'turns and ye'll all be per-formin' yer form while I watch, and while the ship moves. Ye'll keep going until I've seen enough, or until ye fall off the raft (and there was always the possibility he'd make them get back on). Try not to fall off. The Merry Pauper is a big lass, and it takes 'er a lot of time to turn about. You there, Arcon. Ye can have the 'onour of goin' first!" What Mr. Sweeper did not say is that the ship would be travelling as fast as it possibly could.
  4. Emelia awoke. With bleary eyes she wriggled out from her travel cloak, yawned loudly, and blinked rapidly. The sun was in her eyes and she couldn’t see. She momentarily considered the idea of trying to burn the sun but she was too tired; maybe later. Her clothes were a mess; she discarded them. There was no one left alive to see her unclothed body, and if she encountered anyone, they wouldn’t be alive for long. She would find new clothing. Yes. She clambered out from the cocoon she built herself sometime the previous evening. It looked just like her, only bigger, and a different colour. There were other such statues and a very beautiful throne. After all, she did claim this particular district as her queendom and a queendom needed statues. And parades. She would work on that. She wandered the street, rubble and indefinable pieces of melted substance on both sides. She scolded herself. Next time she was going to drink a little less. Did she really do all this damage by herself? She decided no, it was someone else and when she found them they would pay. There must be a clothing boutique somewhere. Maybe she should go back for her rags . . . no, no a queen could not be seen in rags. The whole city would be hers once she ousted the residents. No one seemed much to care and there was plenty to burn. Last night she had performed an experiment. Turns out anything will burn at the right temperature. Even water . . . sort of. That actually disappeared which was terribly delightful. One day she would tell Sera that. Ah yes, Sera. Imagine how proud Sera would be of her when she was invited to . . . Emelian, her new city. There was going to be banquets and . . . stuff, but there was much work to be done still. All of these buildings had to be remodelled and decorated. Someone had really burnt the heck out of them. Somewhere in the centre there would be a monument. A giant flame ought to do: something she would find meaningful and appreciate. She found a clothing store and congratulated herself. She had known it was there all along. A few moments later she strolled out wearing a flashy green number. It was sparkly and pretty and the way the skirts swished as she moved was pleasant. Oh well, off to find some food, or maybe more of that delicious ale!
  5. When Gared and Luis caught up with Fenton, he was crouched low to the ground, one small hand resting on a knee, the other pressed into the damp earth. They approached cautiously, not recovered from the rampage they just saw. They did not know what he was doing, which was trying to spot tracks in the darkness. There was not much traffic, or at least there had been known since he started looking. He was confident that the uncountable hoof tracks leading away into the night would be where she was taken. It did not matter that he was not positive, for there was no other choice. The people with whom they worked were not given to ransom notes or demands. Luis put his foot down too heavily, Gared glanced at him reproachfully; Fenton did not react, even though you can be sure he heard. Between the two of them, Gared was secretly the smartest. Yes, it took him longer to work things out, but when he did he usually made the right decision. For instance, he stopped and let Luis walk towards the crouched figure alone, which under the circumstances was the appropriate thing to do. Gared knew it and you know it; sadly no one bothered to inform Luis. He managed to draw breath in preparation of a soft call—I’ll give him that—before Fenton rounded, again displaying an agility and speed that he should not have possessed, not to mention a distinct look of purpose. Without quite knowing how, Luis found himself lying in the dirt, on his back, Fenton squatting on his chest and pressing the blade of a dagger lengthways against his adam’s apple. This in itself was not an uncommon situation for Luis to be in. No, he took issue with the fact that Fenton looked eager to do it, like it wouldn’t even be business, or he wouldn’t get paid but didn’t mind overly much, and that was not a thought Luis was comfortable with. “We have to help her.” His voice had lost a lot of its innocence, and it was terrifically liquid, like it belonged to someone who really knew how to use it. Luis nodded vigourously. “I wouldn’t nod too hard, if I were you. You may slip and your head might fall off.” “Right.” Luis stopped moving. “I don’t suppose you’re going to let me up?” “Not just yet.” “Then why should I help you?” “Because, and this is just my first reason, I have witnessed enough of your drunken confessions of love to—and let us finally get this sorted—my Rayenne, that you shouldn’t mind proving it.” “Ah. And your second reason . . .?” “That one is easy. I don’t like you, and I’m the one with the knife.” “That’s a very good reason. Don’t suppose there is a third?” “Oh yes, the third reason is my favourite. It’s a killer.” “I don’t think I need to know reason three.” “Smart lad.” The knife retreated and Fenton stepped off his chest. Luis rolled to his feet and rubbed his throat. He looked like he had spent years training the family dog only to have it bite him. He said, “I think I liked you more when you were stupid,” but made sure it was quietly. The trip was made in silence . . . more or less. Fenton took the lead, riding his horse with a degree of skill that depressed Luis, who rode apace to Gared, flashing hasty, angry hand signals. Bad that Fenton reveal himself as more intelligent than Luis realised; worse that he was present almost every time Rayenne had politely turned down an advances. Bastard! Who’d have thought? Rayenne could have said something! He didn’t really need his hands to ride. I thought it was obvious. Gared shot back. You knew? Luis snapped. I . . . suspected. (Don’t ask me how one signals hesitation with their fingers.) Why didn’t you tell me? Gared looked bemused for a moment. I didn’t want to ruin it for you. Oh, gee, thanks! ( Again: do not ask me how to represent sarcasm with your fingers. I can only think of one symbol you can make with one particular finger and you’ll get that symbol yourself if you ask me that question. ) Don’t mention it. Gerard’s fingers positively smiled. I won’t. Luis’ did not. Good. Stop talking to me! I’m not even talking. Luis spent the rest of the ride, several hours long, staring fixedly at Fenton’s back. If he were a female, he would have been accused of sulking, but we all know males don’t sulk, right? This was turning out to be a rather unpleasant day for him. He was not surprise friendly at the best of times and this certainly wasn’t then. Stupid midget. What did she see when she looked at him, anyway, other than straight over the top of his head? How did they even . . .? That wasn’t even hygienic to think about. They rode through several small settlements, pausing often so that Fenton was able to continue scanning for free tracks. Had they been smart, the abductors would have stolen her at noon, or at least in daylight, when more commoners were about to obscure the tracks. Fenton was thankful that they weren’t. The only reasoning he was able to come up with was that one of their former business associates decided it was time to raise themselves in stature, or perhaps there was a personal grudge involved somehow. Whoever it was would pay dearly. Eventually Fenton pulled them to a stop before a moderately well fortified . . . building. It was not a mansion, but larger than a normal home. They left the horses and crept closer. The sound of patrol was easy to hear in the night silence. The metallic chinking of armour and groaning of leather harness sounded behind a tall wooden perimeter fence. Who could possibly live there? Fenton sighed, “I don’t suppose either of you are . . .” he looked from Gared’s impressively sized body to Luis’ petulant, sulky face, “. . . I’ll just go and see who is home, then? Right-o. If you hear any shouting, don’t be afraid to come to my rescue. It would be a shame if I were to tell them about the two before they poke holes in me.” With that he clambered up the fence and vanished over the top. "Bastard" Luis swore. About half an hour later there was a shout and an exhausted Fenton toppled back over the fence to land in a sitting position. He mopped at his face with a kerchief, “Phew . . . well . . . you’re about to get . . . a chance to earn . . . your pay.” Prophetic words thus spoken an alarm bell started ringing within the complex like building, and Fenton shrugged helplessly. “How many are there?” Asked Luis. “One or two; a couple of strapping lads like you should have no problem. Say, I don’t suppose the big fellow there has a weapon?” In response Gerard shambled over to a nearby tree and set about tearing the branch off it. “Oh . . . good to see that’s settled then.” Fenton’s voice was faint. “I’d better leave you to it. I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.” “Wha—!” Luis began, but Fenton had already slipped back over the fence. A gate opened and a dozen armed men stepped out, with burning torches. Gerard sighed and went to pull another branch off the tree. After many years hiding in plain sight it was strange to be stealthy again. He decided he was really no good at it. In normal society a small vacant-eyed man carrying a bag of sweets would go largely noticed, but in the middle of an armed camp, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of an alarm, it was bound to raise some eyebrows. That and he didn’t have his basket. He really was coming to like that basket. It held a lot. He guessed that was why females like them. He really did wish he had it now. Onwards to find Rayenne and the answer to what this was all about. They had not reconnoitred the circumference of the fence which would have been handy. Rayenne would be housed either in the centre, where her captors would benefit from the most protection, or against a corner impenetrable or inaccessible from one or more angles by some means. He supposed he was going to have to find out which. Or at least, that was the plan. Military specialists often say that the first strategy never survives contact with the enemy, this is true of most things—like people, they seldom survive contact with the enemy, or more accurately, the enemy’s weapons. “Halt!” Two voices shouted in unison. Fenton kept creeping. “You there, halt!” “I’m sorry, were you talking to me?” Fenton’s voice took on that deceptively innocent tone. “What’re you doing over there in the shadows?” “Well, I would have thought that was obvious, sir, I am creeping.” “Creeping?” “Yes. All stealth like, if you take my meaning.” “Our master told us to be on the look-out for a short fellow with a smart mouth. I’m guessing that’s you. We have bows, don’t move.” “Why, no sir. That isn’t me. That is my brother, Harold. Harold the wise as he’s called. I’m always saying to Harold, I say, ‘Harold, your mouth is going to get you in trouble one of these days’ and you know what he says to me—?” He felt a spear prodding his spine, “No, I don’t suppose you are really that interested. I don’t suppose I can talk my way out of this?” “Not a chance.” They were dead before they knew what happened. Fenton dropped two hand-held crossbows and continued walking. “Halt!” “What?” “I said halt” “Yes, I know that. I was more, you know, questioning the meaning of the universe. Contemplating why we’re all here, that sort of thing.” “Really?” “No, actually. I know why I’m here. Why are you here?” “To detain you. The boss wants you alive.” Snnickt. Fenton kept moving. “Halt!” Snnickt “!—” Snnckt “Halt!” Fenton sighed. “You’re lucky I’m out of crossbows.” Before I go about explaining to you the battle between Gared, Luis, and the other fellows—whose names we don’t know, but aren’t actually important as it is readily apparent they are going to die—I would like to get one thing clear. Luis, as always, has his long sword. Gared is armed with two branches. Gared, as a rule carries no weapons and sort of picks them up as he goes along. Anything that’ll fit into his hands; Gared has very big hands. These guards were smart. Rather than spread out so that their individual torches would create easily exploitable blind spots, they spread out, each man illuminated by at least one torch held by another of his companions (we are assuming they are all males, it’s easier on Luis that way). They had done this before. On the other hand, what they couldn’t know that the tree they just passed was in fact Gared holding two very large branches. This, in my opinion, was their undoing. Crack. Need I say more? Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. The two branches descended with the shrill whistle of a German missile at the same time as Luis darted in from one side in a perfectly timed tandem offence leaving some of the dozen (three, actually) very dead, others trying to figure out how the man in front of them had managed to throw branches, and the rest trying to deduce how the man behind them suddenly became the man in front of them. Oh, it also created two very broken branches. Gared, being environmentally friendly and not given to wasting, picked up on of the torch bearers and started using him as a battering ram. This was very confusing for his friends. You should have seen the looks on their faces. Luis continued to dart in and out of range in his patently liquid fashion and fairly quickly the dozen men were all broken or unconscious and a lot of cases both. So it turns out they weren’t that skilled after all. Gared dropped his latest weapons (a helmet that fit nicely onto the end of his fist, as well as a long piece of chin mail, which when swung with forth caused surprising levels of ouch. The two men made their way through the complex, knocking senseless anyone silly enough to try and stop them. Gared and Luis threw the doors open in typically dramatic fashion and stormed into the audience chamber, Luis marvelling at how well the doors opened despite the squealing of the hinges and Gared recognizing the squeals as belonging to the people on the other side and enjoying it all the more for it. “Let my people go!” A rather smug looking man with mouldy blonde hair who sat behind a desk said, “Ummm?” Luis noticed for the first time that the audience chamber was also filled with soldiers. And this time more than a dozen. “Never mind, Carry on as though I am not here.” “Very well. As I was saying, Rayenne—sister—even if you don’t want to admit it, that this man with whom you profess love is the very reason I forced you into prostitution in the first place. Hell of a business man, but not too bright when it comes right down to it.” The blonde man was speaking to Rayenne, who had paled considerably. Fenton looked horrified and as though he wished to speak but couldn’t find the words. “Yes. That is right, sister. He happened to swindle me out of a great deal of money and I was forced to take drastic measures to save myself from debt collectors. Nothing personal, just good business. Turns out that his master and my master serve a common purpose but don’t see eye to eye and boy was my face red when I realised who exactly had been stealing his profits. I guess you could say this is revenge, of sorts.” Luis turned to Gared, “Who does he serve, anyway?” Gared shrugged, but one of the blonde man’s guards, who was wearing an insignia which denoted command, offered helpfully, “Why, one of the forsaken of course.” “I’m sorry, what?” Luis was shocked. Gared shrugged and said, “The forsaken.” “Oh yes . . . wait. You can talk! I didn’t know you could talk!” “Well, you never asked.” The guard chimed in helpfully again, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, you know.” “Shut up, would you!” “Well . . . fine . . . I mean. I was only trying to be helpful.” The guard sounded hurt. “Let me get this straight,” began Luis, pointing at Gared with an accusatory finger. “You can talk!” His finger moved to Fenton, “He’s not stupid, and he’s a dark friend, and he’s Rayenne’s . . . whatever—and she was a prostitute?” “Seems like it.” Gared replied. The guard wanted to reply, you could see it, but his posture suggested he wasn’t about to unless he got a heart-felt apology. “Well, you know what?” Luis spat, “I’m gay. Yeah, just realised it right now. Gay. I’ve always loved you, Gared. Oh, yes, I also like to dress up like a woman while no-one is looking and you don’t even want to know what I do with your clothes while you’re not in them.” Gared made a face. The blonde man at the head of the table, not sure what to make of any of this, shouted so loudly that everyone’s attention was drawn back to him which was his attention in the first place. This was all going terribly wrong, and not nearly as well as he imagined it. Well, he wasn’t going to be upstaged by a fellow whose closest living relative was probably a weasel. “You know,” his tone was snide,” I hoped for me. You know, the big revelation, a lot of anger, some tears. Was that really too much expect? Well, never mind that now. I’m just going to have to shot the pair of you.” Crossbows being all the rage, he picked one up from upon the desk, aimed it at Rayenne then pulled the trigger. Only to catch Fenton full in the chest. He staggered a step before collapsing to the ground, Rayenne dropped down beside him. The blonde man shrugged, “Would someone give me a damn crossbow?” Snnickt All eyes turned to one very embarrassed soldier whose crossbow had accidentally fired. “Sorry, sir!” The eyes turned back to the unfolding scene to find the blonde had somehow tried to swallow an arrow. It had not worked. Rayenne clasped Fenton’s hands. The strength of his grip was fading. His mouth was refusing to work and she dreaded to hear his words even as she dreaded him to remain silent. It was all too much to take in. She loved him still, didn’t she? Certainly he had not meant to . . . her mind was in turmoil. “Ray . . . Rayenne” his voice was soft. “P-l-l-lease forgive me. I did not know. Y-y-y-ou brought a light into my life I . . . I . . . thought extinguished. Go . . . be happy f-f-f-ind someone who m . . . a . . . kes you happy.” Fenton’s eyes glazed over and his breathing became very quiet. Every breath in the room was held, well, except Fenton’s, he didn’t have all that much left and wasn’t wasting it on silence. With his last strength Fenton managed to sit up, point an accusatory finger at Luis and said firmly “. . . Except him!” He slumped back. Dead. Luis muttered under his breath, “Bastard.” Gared turned to the guard, now in charge, “Are you going to kill us now?” The guard blinked. “No, no, you’re free to go,” he glanced at the deceased blonde man, “I never liked him myself, always had a bit of a temper. “ Gared and Luis led Rayenne from the room.
  6. Rory laughed when she saw the size of the cake book. Biggest she could find? Some poor brown sister was likely howling in her office fearing it stolen. It was ginormous. Whoever said that the brown ajah was not for physical pursuit was wrong. Not only was the book heavy enough to count as some form of advanced aerobics, but it looked absolutely lethal. She began flicking through the pages, not really sure what she was looking for. She had no idea about cakes, never made one, never tried, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and now she was motivated to win . . . that is, to succeed. All of these cakes looked nice, every one, some a little more difficult than others and some she couldn’t even pronounce—amazing. She slipped her apron out of habit. “My mother and I always do be wearing aprons, or at least I do be. ‘Wash your hands Rory, tie back your hair Rory, you do be putting on your apron Rory or you do be getting out of my kitchen!’ I don’t think I ever be seeing her wearing an apron though, come to think of it. I may have to mention this next time I do be seeing her.” Rory thumbed back through the book, “Aha! Carrot cake: that do be the one. I think I be having it before. Can’t taste the carrots no matter how many you be putting in. Magic, that is. Nothing says I do be caring about your well-being like carrot cake. The recipe also do be calling for sherry in the icing, and I do be knowing how much Lillian loves her wine!” “Which way are the carrots?”
  7. This kitchen was nothing like the one at home. This kitchen was monstruous; and made her feel homesick . . . a lifetime ago she had worked in a kitchen, the oppressive heat lightened by her mother’s laughter as she danced among the stoves and pots like a queen. Their inn may have been humble, but there was no mistaking its mistress, who despite her common dress could have held court, or so Rory had always believed. Her father knew to stay away, his place was not in the kitchen and his wife made no secret of it. Genial and friendly he was, but for all his dexterity, an utter failure in the kitchen. It never ceased to amaze Rory just how much damage he was capable of doing in his rush to help, or simply to cook a meal to spite his wife while she wasn’t looking. Luckily, she got the best of both parents. Not that cooking would be the same without her mother. Having not done so for leisure since before coming to the tower it would be strange to do so again. Lillian was worth it, she was sure. Rory knew her way around a kitchen, but her talents extended so far as soup and stew. Anything more complicated than that and she didn’t know what would happen. This cake was going to be. . . . Darienna was old and old people knew how to cook, bake, fry and grill. This was common knowledge, according to any young person. Between them they would defeat any cake recipe, complicated or other.
  8. "The void, is it? Pity. Still, if you must fight me with that glazed look in your eyes, have at it!" Bobby led with a probing feint, a quick thrust to the midsection. The voided Drak moved his blade to intercept. Good. Retracting his blade and stepping back at the same time, the Captain stopped short of engaging, thrusting again, this time to the right. When Drak's blade swung diagonally to the right, Bobby reversed his grip, stepped forward and pulled his blade in a horizontal swipe to the left. No particular reason other than just because. The problem with the katana was that it possessed no crossguard. If it had, Drak could have raised his elbow and trapped the horizontally aimed Sabre with it; as it was all that happened was his raised the sabre so that it went over Drak's knuckles, and twisted his wrist so the flat of the blade thumped lightly into Drak's arm. Not to mention maintaining an angle thati f Drak decided to counter by slashing forward his blade would stop upon his sabre's circular guard. Drak's tenseness could be seen through the shelter of the void. As the duel wore on he would feel more at ease and fight with the best of his ability. "That is one to me. You're nervous. Loosen up. Lose that Shai'tan-forsaken void of yours and strike. You know how. I remember teaching you! If you promise not to try and kill me, I promise I won't try and kill you. Fair enough? Excellent. Now, again" The captain took a more defensive posture and waited. OOC: Sorry it's so small, I didn't want to take too much advantage of your absence, figured I could get away with that as you were nervous and reckon it's your turn.
  9. Having prodded the new recruit, Arcon, with his toe and finding no response, John Sweeper—Mr. Sweeper, decided a trip to August (the ship’s churgeon and doctor, if you will) was in order. There was no permanent damage, just a severe concussion. Channellers aboard The Merry Pauper, those dread lords who were allowed, were given orders to stop those recruits dying because of their falls; they were not instructed to stop the fall entirely. If a recruit fell and got a nasty bump he would learn far more than the recruit suspended in mid-air each time trouble rolled around. Arcon was indeed, done for that day. The next day, however, was a new subject. Arcon again found himself scaling the shroud’s ratlines, though his belaying pin was neither greased, nor exceptionally heavy. The Sweeper had gotten his revenge. Each day this practice was repeated until such time as the basic fitness level of all trainees reached the required minimum. There would be no fat-bodies aboard this vessel! (Unspecified length of time passes) “ Good mornin’, ladies! Now if ye be lookin’ be-fore ye, ye’ll not help but notice the pile of wooden staves that just so ‘appin to look like swords. Well, these are yer new girlfriends. Ye will sleep with them, wake with them, you’ll even take to the jakes with ‘em! Am I understood? Don’t all move at once, ladies. Darkness forbid ye actually pick them up. Move it!” Mr. Sweeper stepped aside and allowed each one to pick up a training stave. These staves were sword shapes but their blades were flat and slightly thicker than the rest of the blade. They could cut, but not very well. The average user was in more danger of breaking their bones than cutting their flesh. Once each recruit held a stave in his or her hand, Mr. Sweeper spoke again, “Now. I’m glad I don’t be ‘ affin to tell ye all which side ye’re holdin’ and which side’ll be cutting!’ I am going to show you a basic form and ye’ll all be repeating it to my satisfaction. And then, ye’ll be repeatin’ it some more!’ Unfolding the fan—felling the unwary Lion on the hill—harnessing aggression Arc of the moon—to topple the grand Courtier tips his fan—with the divide to conquer The Falcon Swoops–thrice, to find prey Hummingbird Kisses the Honey Rose—blinding the light Folding the fan—when all else is done His strikes were typically aggressive, designed to batter and smash through an opponent with superior physical force and speed. “Now. One at a time. Repeat it!” OOC: Rightio, you're up sunshine. You're going to need this http://wolfkin.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/sword-forms/ Go there read what those forms I used are, and explain each one in your own words while you do them. It'd be no fun for me if I did it for you.
  10. Dull, silver light illuminated the ancient wood, contorted and swollen with age. Talon stood amidst the rotten crates, the endless dripping of water echoing; rebounding. The air was heavy with decay, but even decades of disuse could disguise the stench of fear. She had chosen to run, like all the others, believing themselves capable of fooling the hunter, and now they were dead. Soon Tessa would follow. Aventari had fallen. The guild had failed him, the cowardly remnants of his legacy; his own brother! None had sought the vengeance rightfully owed. The hierarchy of the rogues was in turmoil, many trying their luck in a bid to flee the city. Talon had stopped them all. With Aventari dead it was the end of an age, and Talon felt a summons for bloodshed. Talon did not feel grief, nor did the fingers of sorrow mark his flesh. All that existed within his heart were the cold whispers of murder. He breathed deeply of the rot; the ambience of so much death—soothing. Tessa had squirreled herself inside a crate, and Talon even knew precisely which one. There was no sense of urgency; the dart that had pierced her skin was naturally more than it first appeared. His "guest" would not arrive in time to save her, of that the assassin was certain, and to that end had he laid his plans and set his snares. Talon lifted her pale body from the crate and laid her reverently upon a bier of damp wood. His hand strayed across the softness of her face, her luxurious black hair. He could feel the welling of desire and snatched his hand away as though burned. Perhaps it was her fragility that so enticed him ... or perhaps some part of him responded to the fast-approaching death he saw deep in her eyes. Aran would arrive soon, and he would witness her end. That beautiful moment when the thread of her life was cut free from the wheel, and then he would join her. Talon would be the cleansing fire, the last vestige of Aventari's wrath. Through him would be claimed the fractures and guilty splinters of the Guild. Through him there would be payment in full. The streets of Cairhien, once soaked by the blood of Cairhienin and Aiel alike, were the paths that Aran walked as he sought a single warehouse amongst many in the Dock's District. Only a cloak to conceal his blades and his leather armour, to shelter him from the rain that hammered upon him from the heavens above, during the night they served to keep him hidden from prying eyes as he sought his prey with a singlemindedness that bordered on madness. Talon. Since the Day of Black Veils as it had been named, since the day Aran had confronted the Aiel Clan Chief before the throne of the Sun Palace, Talon had become the shadowfiend Aran had always suspected him to be. With his brother's death, the only leash that had kept the darkfriend in line and loyal was gone. Not even a week had passed and Aran's brothers and sisters fell to the traitor's blades and traps without fail. He knew all of them, yet they did not know him, he had never been their concern and now that lack of foresight was proving their undoing. It was ironic that Aventari's teachings that had once helped to bind them were now to undo them in the form of his darkfriend pet. There it was, not truly distinguishable from any other warehouse in the district, yet Aran knew that it was the one. Freeing his long knives from their belt sheathes, Aran didn't bother with the subtle here. Talon had wanted him to find him, it was the only way that Aran had been able to find him so easily, Talon would want to say something first. He needed to prove something, it was the reason he was doing all this, prove that he had been Aventari's best student, his favourite. Kicking in the door, Aran strode in to step dead in his tracks. Tessa! Talon remained motionless in the half light—watching—as Jester entered the warehouse. It would take his guest a few moments to adjust to the dim light, and the pale form of Tessa would occupy his attention. The assassin hoped Aran perceptive enough to notice the shallow rise and fall of her breast; the brief stirrings of life still within her. She was beyond feeling, he had made certain of it, and her end would be painless ... Aran's would not. Talon savoured the pain in Aran's expression, revelled in it as the brother of Aventari walked closer, cautiously as though he were afraid of shattering Tessa's porcelain skin. Talon had always considered her beautiful, but she had never appeared more beautiful to him than the moment she did her unwitting part to tie up the loose ends. His hand reached out to trace a line across her cheek, and he heard Aran draw a surprised breath. Talon smiled to the darkness. The silence as broken by the sparking of tinder; Talon's face appeared a ghoulish visage illumed by flickering orange light. So illuminated too, was the funeral bier he had constructed, Tessa's soft body surrounded by kindling and lamp oil. For a fleeting moment the assassin longed to see her once more wreathed in shadow, but he cast his whim aside and stabbed the tinder into the kindling. Tinder and kindling birthed fire, and from fire spread a multitude of flames, each struggling to find sustenance. With the same speed displayed by the swarming flames, Jester began closing the distance between himself and the other assassin. Talon had expected the move, but not the speed at which it took place, stepping back plunged his arm into the kindling, burning his hand as he threw into Jester's face. There were no words, no gestures; no contemplations. As Jester's hands whipped upward to protect his face, Talon drove forward with a powerful leg strike to the stomach. His trailing leg followed with a knee, connecting solidly against ribs. A powerful fist to the face—but Jester was ready. He blocked the strike with his forearms, then caught Talon along the side of his face as the assassin tried to avoid the counter. Jester drove forward with an attack of his own, leading jabs to set up a devastating combination, Talon had witnessed such tactics by Aventari. Rather than attempt to block or defend he allowed the jabs to strike, they were painful, but little more than inconvenient. Jester repositioned his feet, placing his weight forward for a serious offensive. Talon waited. Jester struck with speed, but Talon's defence was even quicker. A blur of motion ended with Jester's arms locked in place and Talon spun him about to drive his face into the burning embers. The heat was intense as he pressed his attack, but the brother of Aventari had thrown his hands down into the fire and his forearms strained as he tried to free himself. Imagining the pain his opponent would be feeling, Talon was content to hold him in place. From somewhere within him Jester drew the strength to rebuff Talon's assault. With a roar bordering on the primitive he shoved backwards knocking Talon down and freeing himself from his grasp. Talon acknowledged respect for the man's courage, but his arms were now useless, and they both knew it. Jester was the quicker of the two and the first on the offensive once more. He wrapped his arms around Talon's head and clasped his hands together at the base of his neck. With an effort Talon could feel through the tension in his opponent's arms, Jester drove his knee viciously into his stomach, causing him to be momentarily winded. Sensing the momentary shift in control, Jester repeated the procedure, alternating knees and striking at any body part he could reach. Talon remained calm, despite the bruising blows. Losing his objectivity would be lethal, but pain was fleeting. The sudden shift in weight was his only warning as Jester exploded into a leaping knee, designed to break whatever it hit. Talon thought quickly and grabbed at his opponent's wrists, twisting the burn mangled arms outward. The knee clubbed him in the chest, rather than its initial target—his face—and on top of that, the pain dropped Jester to his knees. Talon responded in like kind, his knee clashing with a cheekbone. Jester was momentarily stunned, and defenceless. Talon grabbed Jester with both hands, and in a rare display of raw power, lifted the lighter man into the air, only to send him crashing through a nearby crate. He could see that Jester had landed badly, slightly twisted and all slumped. It was possible various splinters had made their way into his burned arms ... which would prematurely end his fun. No. Jester moved, and it made Talon smile. A quick fist to the spine dropped the brother of Aventari back to the ground. Talon kicked him in the ribs purely out of spite, before dragging him to his feet, only to knock him back down with a brutal succession of elbow strikes to the face and neck—Jester, barely conscious, was finished: Talon was not. He crouched beside the fallen animal, a predator savouring the kill. "Jester, Jester. Wake up." His voice was not so much one of coldness or anger, but controlled emptiness. Flat; unreadable. Jester's eyes focused on his for a moment and Talon smiled warmly. Reaching into his clothing he produced a small hipflask, "A toast, Jester, to the reunion of your family." With those words, he doused the flask of surprisingly strong alcohol over Jester's body, paying special attention his already burned arms. The pain must have bee excruciating, for the brother of Aventari's eyes rolled back in his head, and he lost consciousness, which saved him from experiencing what happened next. Talon could not afford to let him escape, he was the penultimate and only one remained now—Rakel, who had proven adept at avoiding his snares—and so he found himself a heavy piece of what looked like iron amongst the ruins of the warehouse and set about striking Jester's legs repeatedly until he heard very satisfying pops. Tessa's death had been painless, but Talon only hoped Jester would regain consciousness long enough to experience the agony of his. Aran/Jester & Talon
  11. No tea so far today, not one cup. He was too excited. Drak’s training was complete, or at least the specific instruction that Bobby was able to give him. Now all Drak required was time to hone his skills and gain experience. Training about The Pauper was not a fair simulation of the real thing and Bobby was intentionally keeping his recruits away from danger until they were ready. Drak was. Not only was Drak excited for his student, who had done everything asked of him and more, but that he himself could now get his hands dirty. He intended to spar Drak himself. There were things you could learn about your opponent in combat that you never would by sitting on the side-line and watching. Bobby was sick of watching. The hour was late in the afternoon, the hottest time of day where the crew would be most pleased to take some down time to hide in whatever shade they could find. The perfect opportunity for Bobby and Drak to have the type of training session Bobby could really sink his teeth into. Months passed since their last raid but the crew were loyal enough, being given provisions and coin from other means than simple piracy. They were not yet restless as Bobby but then he was probably the worst pirate of them all, with the possible exception of John. Ah, once Drak felt the exhilaration of the high wind and the hoisted colours, when the blood of any sailor sang . . . maybe he would live out his long life as a pirate. Now, where would Drak be, taking into account that he had not mingled much with the rest of the crew? Sleeping, no doubt. Dread lords were solitary creatures, they did not congregate so much as join together for a specific purpose and then disperse. Still, they could pretend to be human at least. Drak was awake when he entered the crew quarters, whether he had been awake before he came near, or if his presence alerted him, he did not know. Paranoia and suspicion were not always bad characteristics to have on a raker that was filled with Darkfriends and dread lords, and Mr. Sweeper. The three mixed painfully from time to time. “Are you ready for your final exam, Drak?” His answer was a nod. “Excellent. Shall we? Bring that delightful katana, would you? You are going to want it.” As the two of them made their way to the deck, Bobby found his anticipation rising. There were few things he enjoyed in life more than the sea and swords and he sorely lacked people with whom he might hones his skill. True, all of his crew were proficient, but they did not receive nearly the same dedicated training the temporary recruits did and certainly not as much as Drak. Bobby removed his navy frockcoat and placed it to one side. Beneath it he wore his simple doublet and white blouse. Drak was looking at him curiously, not quite certain where this lesson may be heading. Wondering, maybe, why for his final lesson they were to do something they had never done before. Bobby opened a long, thin casket and withdrew a plain, unadorned sabre before raising the hilt to his forehead in a timeless salute. “Shall we?”
  12. Mr. Sweeper was very pleased when he saw Arcon reach the deck. Arcon: his special new friend; protégé, if you prefer. Oh, yes, Mr. Sweeper had plans for that one. What his plans were precisely, he wouldn’t say. The main reason for this was that he intended to mostly make it up as he went along. Sure, he would do the same jobs as the others, and receive the same training, but John Sweeper had been a first mate for a very long time, and he knew beyond all doubt that he could make Arcon’s life . . . unpleasant. Today’s lesson was one every member of the crew knew. The standard level of fitness for any sailor was his ability to run up the shrouds, cross over the top-gallant yard and get down the other side. The shrouds on a raker were impressive but it was no trouble for an experienced seaman. These recruits, he reminded himself, were most definitely not that. To make it more entertaining, as well as to strengthen their arms and grip, they would carry a weighted belaying pin. Mr. Sweeper, naturally, already held the belaying pin that Arcon would be made to use. There was the slight possibility that it was heavy than anyone else’s and may or may not also have been greased. He could not kill Arcon for assaulting him—an officer!—nor could he pummel him anywhere close to it; however, making Arcon wish he were dead was not out of bounds. “Morning, ladies! Tis a fine day fur trainin! I have befur me a pile of be-lay-in’ pins, as ye can all plainly see. Now ye’re all fat, and if ye’re not fat ye’re weak. It is my job to change this, my job to save ye from the weakness of yer own condition and see if I can’t be doing somethin’ to improve your stupid-ity. Now, pick one up, each. Oh-ho, no, not ye Arcon, I’ve got yers right here. Allow me.” “Now, yer jobs are to git yerselves up them there shrouds over the other side and back here without dropping your pin. If ye drop yer pin, ye’ll be startin’ again. Fair ‘nough? I thought so! Yer pin cannot leave yer hands, though ye can swab if ye’re so weak that ye need to. Don’t just stand there, dis-missed!” This would be great to watch OOC: up to you whether or not you succeed. You can make it easily, with difficulty, pass out trying, whatever you like. Let’s see some creativ-ity!
  13. Rat heard the call. He knew that the others heard it, too, but he was faster. Like a spider, the stumps of his arms and legs, and his body bending on strange angles, he descended from the crow’s nest with speed and purpose. Saidin was not unleashed yet, but it was close; always was on The Merry Pauper. If Rat’s mouth worked, if it was not forever silenced by flame and power he would curse Sweeper’s brash and dauntless approach. Dread lords were not given to co-operation, he was an example of this, and no shadow’s peace was enforced upon this ship, not as far as the dread lords were concerned. It was respect and respect only that kept them loyal. His crippled feet touched the wooden decking with barely a sound, senses stretched outwards to find the source of power. The weave was completed, almost beyond the borders of his myopia. Melted eyelids did that to a person. He struck out to intercept, his body twisting and turning as he used his own body to weave it. Rat was once powerful, but the incident required him to find new ways to perform those things that should have been as simple as breathing. No longer would his eyes enable him to weave perfectly; no, all that the boosted senses of holding the source achieved was to allow him to see the weaves at a moderate distance. In order to safely channel those destructive forces of Saidin he used his own limbs (what was left of them) as foci. Around his arms and around his body he wove, his body constantly twisting and moving. The Merry Pauper was small enough that every inch was known to him, and so here his gift remained strong. But so long as he wished to continue grasping to the dregs of his former personality he was bound to the vessel, for beyond the bulwarks lay a world he could not see. A long time had passed before he had learnt to accept this. The club of air was severed cleanly, Rat focused his attention on the aggressor, using the elementals to pull him or her, he could not be sure, into the air, over the side and plummeting into cold ocean, unaware that Mr. Sweeper had made such a threat earlier minutes before. To say that Mr. Sweeper was unhappy was the understatement of the century, Akin to believing that the taint on the source ‘wasn’t that bad’. Dread lords went missing all the time, it was what they did. This would be no more suspicious, although the bolt holes may give it away. That and the crude signature Mr. Sweeper was going to leave on his body, “kick me” perhaps, or, “If you think I look bad now, you should have seen me while I was living”. There were only two problems with this: Mr. Sweeper could not write, and he didn’t know anyone who would do it for him. No time like the present to take up new hobbies! When he saw the fop climbing back up the rope ladder he was about to take to him with a belaying pin, but the captain’s caveat stopped him. Instead, when the boy asked him, with not even a little bit of respect, if he could use the power to dry himself, Mr. Sweeper dropped him with a blow to the mouth that would have felled an ox, or at least really upset it. Congratulating himself on his own restraint, Mr. Sweeper gave the order for the shielding to begin, and for anyone who could feel such things, The Merry Pauper trembled with the strain. His voice bellowed above the sounds of the ocean, “Cast off, boys, tis time to go ‘ome!”
  14. Mr. Sweeper greeted the recruits. A Mr. Sweeper greeting works something like the following . . . First, every new recruit is lined up on the deck. This is standard. Then, they are divested of their weapons and personal items, especially their shoes. Leather shoes cost a fortune in oil to keep on salt water. Captain Redpath wears boots. Why the double-standard? This question has been asked already and should not be repeated. The other person to ask was never found. Slight addendum: parts of him were. Phase two incorporates shoving, spitting, glaring and ‘glaring’. You may ask why the second glare is placed neatly inside inverted commas. I shall answer. The second glaring refers more to the headache a recruit may wake up with in the medical bay below the deck than to anything done to the eyes . . . unless you count his fist. I think what I am trying to say is that if his glaring is reflected by a recruit’s glaring then their glaring causes worse glaring by virtue of a wallop. Confused yet? I know I am. Mr. Sweeper remembered the lecture he was given by the captain on his previous unethical behaviour; that is, knocking the then recruit Drak into unconsciousness. This time he was mindful of his own actions and did nothing untoward. The captain would become less vigilant as time passed but for now best behaviour all around. Mr. Sweeper was, as is only natural, from the standard mold of first mates. He was tall. Very tall: shorter than a trolloc and higher than comfort; thicker than a mast; windblown as the sails and as gnarled and wooden as the effigy on a prow. His was a sacred duty, one which he cherished with sadism and cruelty. He loved his job and surprisingly, he was very good at it. “Welcome aboard the Merry Pauper! I am yer hum-ble first mate Mr. Sweeper. Ye may be refer-in’ to me as ‘Mr. Sweeper, Sir’, or ye’ll be seeing how long ye can be holding yer breath beneath The Great Lord’s ocean. Am I un-der-stood? Good. Now for the rules: ye’ll be obeying me and ye’ll be obeying the captain. Ye’ll be staying away from my crew until such time as ye’re invited to help guide the ship. Until then, allow me to acquaint ye all with two friends of mine: bucket, and mop. Are there any questions?”
  15. Could, but since anything from here has to be Goverment approved I figured I may as well just show what I've been up to and let someone else handle that part. http://forums.dragonmount.com/index.php/topic,21971.12.html having said that my post on here should count as roughly another half point? It's eight paragraphs of fighting, I believe sixteen is the thing, but who knows, not me. Am I meant to add it here? Guess I must. http://forums.dragonmount.com/index.php/topic,24282.0.html
  16. “Today I be learning that there do be a six percent fall in precipitation this summer, and while this is slightly above average for precipitation decreases it is in no way alarming no cause for concern. I no do be knowing what precipitation is, actually. Not important though, I be thinking. The text be saying as much. I also be learning that I be able to write out about five hundred words before my hand do be cramping. You see? I do be marking per word as I go.” Picking up a loose piece of paper, Rory waved it under Darienna’s nose absently. There was very little on it except for very small strokes to tally the words she was managing to write between pauses. Not a task normally associated with achievement, to be sure, but writing is devilishly hard work and she was just pleased that she was finally able to do it with a measure of competency. Studying was not difficult as all that when you get the hang of it and Rory was fast finding out that if you find little ways to make it entertaining it can be entertaining. When the alternative is bottom-of-the-pond-stone boredom, anything was worth a go. At present she was penning the final turrets onto a diagram, or rather the castle she’d drawn on it. The diagram was acting as moat just now; Rory judged it far more useful in its present employ. The castle did relate to her lessons. More or less. Darienna and she had gotten along far better after her little episode. When not pressuring a pupil to tears the Mistress of Novices could be quite a nice lady. For an Aes Sedai. Not being the object of that unbeatable stare definitely improved things. It is hard to hold stimulating conversation when you’re busy squirming in your chair. Rory had gotten a lot of practise at that. The decision to ask the question did not come with an unexpected flash-in-the-pan thought process, rather a quiet hum as the gears and levers in her head whirred in their new direction. Her head rotated like the mast on a square rig, turning to look at the only person in the world in whom she could confide, purely out of necessity. It was not a question she wished to ask directly, if she was missing some over-looked and simple fact . . . minimizing embarrassment would be easier this way. “Do you be thinking Lillian will forgive me any time soon?”
  17. Compelled to go ... the strike did no ‘damage’ in the sense that one would normally apply the word; however, there was a heavily connected pause. Bold words with no follow through. Confused, he looked to the woman who would be saviour and the woman who would have been a meal. They, in turn, looked at him. When he realised that no great calamity was about to befall him, that no powerful opponent arrived to cut him down, he laughed. This was a laugh like no other. It had focus. There was no humour, only mockery, contempt and a measure of chagrin that the recipient of his attention was still breathing. The pair appeared under the impression that saidar had dominion in this realm, his realm: foolish; easily remedied. And this one dared to order him like a child at his mother’s knee. Her nerve was delightful. Talon reached out a hand to the shield so lovingly made, so inefficient and ineffectual in the world of dreams. Why would they bother? One only needed to see the truth of the matter to dispel such petty weaving: there was no shield. He did not doubt that the walker would try and hold him at bay if he attempted to dismiss this crude product of a crude power. It was an insult to draw upon saidar in the realm of the mind. It would not go unpunished. “Compelled, am I? By what authority do you command me?” He laughed again, “I loved the entrance. No fanfare, no ‘illuminations’? I am almost disappointed. I do not suppose you will come out from behind that feeble little shield. It would be a shame to dirty your dress.” Talon kept one hand against the ward as he walked around it, inspecting. “I dare say we have reached some form of stalemate. Both of your lives are most assuredly forfeit. I know you now and can find you whenever I choose. That is, if you survive the present. I cannot very well let you live. I am sure you understand.”
  18. The difference between a sulk and a mope is that a sulk listlessly nurses some petty resentment, a mope does not. A mope does not even bother to justify its actions only perform them in that terribly proficient manner. Rory was caught up in a mope. It may have been a sulk several days ago, but that was then, this was now and things had changed. She had been drinking a lot of water, it was difficult to maintain a steady cry if your body runs out of moisture. Food was not so important. What happened, where had she gone wrong, did she do something to offend Lillian, should she have? Saline was gone, Lillian was gone. The only familiarity around which her life revolved was Darienna Sedai. If a competition were held to ascertain what thoughts were the most comfortable, The Mistress of Novices being the only constant in your life would win against all others … … by twisting their ankles until they squealed. Saline: thinking of her caused Rory pain. There was a hole inside her, one that swallowed everything and left nothing, and never would until they were reunited. It had been so hard to sleep, at first, without the soothing sound of Saline’s sleepy breath, the smell of her perfume. Like a baby with nothing of home, she spent her nights restless and anxious. There was nothing of Saline in this place. Her thoughts—in that quiet time when she was not the foundation upon which a tower of work was built or too exhausted to remain awake—were plagued by wicked dreams of their reunion. Nothing would be the same. Saline would forget her, move on without her and when she was released from confinement she would not even be recognized. And what of Lillian, wise and encouraging Lillian; Rory had driven her away. There was a limit after all. Lillian had been the first person, in whom Rory had confided her trust. It was she who had so patiently spent months showing her the path to saidar. Lillian had not spent so much time with her once she had become a full Aes Sedai and yet the knowledge that this new gap between them was one of will and not responsibility stung. There was nothing from her ‘old life’ left to cling to … … Except her worst enemy, Darienna Sedai. Amazing how a small thing like circumstance could change a person’s perspective. Darienna had always been that one Aes Sedai she most dreaded; the one there to always spoil her fun or to lecture and punish. Rory hardly spent more time with her now than she had before and she was stationed in an isolated area of Darienna’s choosing. There was no one else. Darienna taught all of her lessons and strictly controlled any visitors she had, which meant she had none, and her trips around the tower, which meant she went nowhere. Absurd, yet Rory was learning, learning more than she had anywhere else and by way of coping mechanism. When she was angry she buried herself in her studies angrily, when she was sad she would leak tears all over the pages, and when tired she would fall asleep in her ink pot. Better that than return to her cold and alien bed. There were no prizes, then for guessing where exactly she was right now, bent over an almanac; dutifully copying out pages onto blank parchment. There were several blotches beside her small, precise writing (Rory had been getting a lot of practise) where her hand had cramped so badly she was forced to place the quill down. No point in stopping completely, though, she didn’t have anything else to do.
  19. Surprised: they were always surprised; it came with the territory. There was definite merit in keeping Accepted off guard. Why else would she repeatedly sneak up behind them? Ah, well, one of life’s great mysteries, she guessed. Very few stood in the presence of the Mistress of Novices, Darienna Sedai, without some form of disadvantage; not only was each Novice and Accepted weighed, measured and placed in a jar on her shelf, but she was very good about keeping her collection tidy. Darienna felt severe déjà vu, almost as if ten minutes before she had conducted this very same student to her testing. Obviously she hadn’t, or she wouldn’t need to do it a second time. After many years it was tempting to decide that the faces changed while the girls remained the same but this was untrue, life as Mistress of Novices was not so gloriously easy. “Come with me, please.” As usual she led and the Accepted followed and again the world was all a-silence. Silence was, by its nature, a more economical: waste not a word, want not a word. Just as well that the chamber of testing was so far down and that she was up so high. It wasn’t as though she had enough work to do besides this and would hate for her fitness to suffer. They reached the chamber, which for some reason I really want to addendum with ‘of secrets’, and Darienna was only puffing slightly. One was never too old for sarcasm. OOC: I feel like I've been here before.
  20. There is much talk of the ‘Aes Sedai stare’; strong enough and fierce enough to bore holes into the hearts and minds of even the hardiest of recipients. Darienna Sedai did not have such a stare. Instead, when one was looked upon by the Mistress of Novices they found themselves weighed, measured and then placed in a jar on her shelf. She gave the impression that she knew where you were heading even if you did not. Power-drill stares were for amateurs; she could do it with her eyes closed. Her mission today was to escort Zeveria, a young Accepted, to her testing; the single most important day in the life of any Accepted save Rory, whose perfect day—at least according to Darienna—would be one not spent in Darienna’s office. No Novices scurried from her path this day. No, they had fled the halls in anticipation and her purposeful stride did not compromise. Conveniently Zeveria’s back was turned as she approached, purely incidental; no purposeful intent on Darienna’s part to say, spook her ... maybe just a little. It worked and Zeveria, like the rest, quailed and fidgeted before her. They were always doing that, as though perpetually guilty; true enough that they often were. “Come with me, please.” Her voice was stern with a measure of softness. She raised her hand to forestall comment, turned on her heel and walked. Naturally, Zeveria fell into step behind her. There was no speaking, was easier that way. The pair descended into underbelly of The Tower, to a place no Accepted knew of before her time: the chamber of testing. OOC: Hah, don't even ask why, just accept.
  21. The Mistress of Novices placed her quill down neatly upon her desk and smiled obligingly when the Aes Sedai entered her study. One of the many things one adapted to as Mistress of Novices was constant interruptions, or priority changes. Darienna had learned to be patient and flexible; she could outlast a stone. Ah, so it was a new recruit then. “Would you mind,” Darienna said, “bringing her in for me? Thank you.” As the Aes Sedai left to bring her the young charge, Darienna inspected her study; busied herself with a last moment clean up. There was no need at all to make a less than sterling impression; she was the Mistress of Novices. The ‘supplicant’ was ushered into her study and Darienna gave her most reassuring look. Delicate business, this, some girls were not brought to her by their own choice and tended to require a more delicate hand than others. “Greetings, my name is Darienna Sedai; what is yours? Have you travelled far to get here?” Darienna nodded enthusiastically as the young girl answered. Inspecting and prodding at her to make sure she was not obviously ill or damaged. A farmer would do similar when looking to buy a cow; she seemed healthy enough.
  22. Darienna Sedai awaited the arrival of her newest novice. Estel Sedai, who had chosen to take the girl under wing, was there too. Hopefully the combined presence of two Aes Sedai would not be too much for the girl. Her journey had been a long one and doubtless she was very tired. Overwhelming her at this stage would be foolish. The Mistress of Novices smiled encouragingly as the young girl entered her study, the emotional undercurrents flowing beneath were openly worn; it was a hard thing to leave everything you have ever known to learn in a world of strangers, Darienna understood this. That was why there was a Mistress of Novices. “Welcome, my name is Darienna Sedai and this,” pointing to Estel Sedai—who is all that is weak for leaving me stranded for over a month without posting, “is Estel Sedai; she will be taking care of you. She will be your mentor if you prefer such a term. What is your name, and what do you think of Tar Valon so far?”
  23. The witch’s power spoke and its tone was not one of humour; Talon pin-wheeled through under the influence of the same mood. He had never before hunted a walker alive with the power and he had forgotten this one was a witch. The game was no longer fun and needed to end, the final score heavily in his favour. He vanished. The air around the woman began to shimmer, a curtain in the breeze. Reality itself could almost have been said to be turning and in truth it was. The air thickened, moistened becoming more and more difficult to breath; the ground softened as melted wax. Playing fair was for those who found no fault in loss; Talon was not one of them. He laughed dramatically; harsher, louder and more maniac than his natural acknowledgement of mirth, designed to inspire fear than any sense of camaraderie. Tel’aran’rhiod became the ocean: dense, cold and breathless. Fitting that a witch should reach terminus in a watery grave. Of Talon there was no sign and only laughter remained.
  24. (If you have not realised that these posts are not exactly following any set pattern of time, you should now as once again we’re several whatevers later. You decide!) Drak’s training was almost complete. Only two challenges remained. Mr. Sweeper had argued thoroughly in favour of being given leave to “be schoolin yer snot nosed little brat” himself; Bobby got the impression that this would be an error on his part and opted to have Drak in one piece for his final challenges; he had come so far, why delay the inevitable with days of traction and bed rest? That was certainly still a possibility. This latest lesson was an attempt to bring all of his schooling together in a simulated environment. No one would die, the wooden practise-swords were cruelly blunt and very painful; they might break bones or cause contusions but certainly there would be no severing of limbs. It would be fun to watch Drak perform. Two shipmates were ready. Individually they were not as skilled as Drak but teamed, as they would be now, they would pose a serious threat. They had had only three days notice, enough to become familiar with fighting alongside one another but not so much time as to truly become ‘one.’ The clash of personalities would be Drak’s ally as in most true battles. “Gentlemen” he spoke quietly, addressing all three men while Mr. Sweeper snorted in the background, “the rules are simple: obey my commands at all times, stop when I order; recommence the same. Go.”
  25. Talon smiled thinly. He had almost been caught in a trap of his own making. His surprise had caused him to momentarily forget where he was. He rubbed his chin, feeling the thin wisp of wetness and pain. It was not a mortal blow, for certain, nor glancing nor painful. Slipshod and amateur at best, the apprentice craftsman ‘s first step toward proficiency; she would not be given further opportunity. He had shed his disguise and stood once man as a man, less fearsome but more awful still. The same cloud of malice capped his broad shoulders and the song of evil played in his heart. He had intended to play with her, a dog worrying its toy until the toy fell into too small pieces. For striking him in return, for catching him off guard: she would be charged interest on his folly. Her weapon vanished. With a thought he knocked her back half a dozen ells, tossed like flotsam upon the tide. She attempted to stand; very brave; very stupid. He sent her tumbling again. There was defiance in her and this he would see broken before granting her release from her suffering. And she had not even begun to suffer. Reality, if such a state could be said to exist within Tel’aran’rhiod, fluttered, and once more she lay before him. He crouched, his rough hand against her soft cheek. Such beautiful skin, oh, how he would break it! His hand was led and her groan of pain from his blow against her jaw made him giddy. Pity she would not live long enough to see it swell. He reached for her hand. She resisted; he broke her arm and revelled in her misery. He reached for her hand again and broken as her arm was there was no strength to resist. The hands were very sensitive to pain, he knew this from experience. It was fascinating how rough her hand was compared to the smoothness of her cheek: a witch who knew the meaning of true labour. He smiled into and brought his other hand down, dagger and all, through her palm and into the soft soil beneath. That would hurt. Once more his hand encircled her fragile throat and squeezed. He did not approve of the look in her eyes ... he would remove them later. “Scream for me ... and I will let you live.” His voice was neutral as the rain; he knew she could not.
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