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Everything posted by Sam

  1. Two-handed grip on his long sword, Talon drove the blade deep into the chest of his fallen enemy, even gram of weight forcing it deeper. The savage grasped at the blade in a vain attempt to save himself—coward; the abrasive texture of stone reassured the assassin that this one, at least, would pose no more threat. “Apologies for waking you so early, sir” he spat; the tone mocking as the bow that followed. There was no time for respite as another of the savages moved towards him. Long sword against spear was not the most favourable of matchups; the only buffer against a feeling of shame for how unfamiliar spear fighting was to him was the sense that his opponent was equally disadvantaged. At least, this is what he told himself. He countered a spear thrust but his dagger was too short to take advantage of the brief opening before his veiled enemy recovered. Leading with his long and battering the spear haft with countless thrusts and strikes he waited for the spear to be reset in a way that may cede him some advantage. For savages they certainly held themselves well. Hopefully the other rogues, those entertained by the prospect of open combat were faring better than he. His opponent slipped, of all things, on the blood-soaked stones. It was all Talon needed to lunge forward, the cold steel of his dagger biting hard. Grasping the handle of his dagger he gave it a tug to free it. It didn’t budge. An arrow skittered across the cobbles in front of him, followed quickly by a second that struck the skull of his dead opponent, the shaft bobbing back and forth. He liked his dagger but not quite that much so he darted backwards hoping a slight veranda would obscure his eligibility as an arrow post. Before he realised what was happening a tall, willowy shape launched at him, spear aimed for his torso. His sword came up in time to turn the thrust but the impact still sent him slamming into stone wall, knocking the breath from him momentarily. His new opponent, a female by the conformation of her body, struck hard and fast but the close quarters impeded her ability to strike. It was a wrestling match. Cross guard against spear haft but he was the physically stronger, or was meant to be; that didn’t stop woman from trying to dash his brains against the wall. With a shove he managed to dislodge her but she came back fast, he wasn’t convinced her feet had even touched the ground. Turning this new offensive with his blade he released it, the sudden lack of resistance sending the woman lurching forward. He had time to admire the form of her throat as he rammed her forehead into the wall, repeatedly. That was, until the sun seemed to disappear over head. Talon turned quickly to stare into the belly of the biggest man he had ever seen in his life. “Oh ... you’ve got to be joking.” A foot like a sledge hammer connected with his breastbone; his vision exploded with sparks and his back bounced off the stone. He lost his footing. This new threat held no spear, and it was easy to see why not. Talon suspected one would only hinder his destructive abilities. He rolled out and behind the giant, coming to a stand at his back. In the moment it took him to decide how to proceed, two ogier like hands gripped his shoulders and threw him, effortlessly, into a pile of ... something wooden that broke, there was no time to check. Shakily he stood—that had hurt—and attempted to block another foot with his forearms, they stung so bad that he almost believed they were broken. Speed was his ally and he used it to land several hardy blows; they didn’t seem to have a lot of impact. Again and again he found himself on the ground and he was tiring fast. He lay on the ground, waiting for the inevitable deathblow and when it came he surprised the tall man by wrapping his arms around his neck and his legs around his belly. In response the tall man reared like a horse and sent him crashing back into the ground. Talon wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to walk straight again but he couldn’t loosen his chokehold. Several slams, headbutts and curses later the giant was still and lifeless. It took supreme effort to crawl out from beneath him. Talon’s eyes were drawn to the centre of the melee. As such things often occurred time slowed and he watched Aventari fall. He rushed forward, heedless, but there were too many standing between he and his mentor, and he was out of time.
  2. Right. I'm going to assume that I am only allowed to put up things I've finished in which case I'll bring up the three relevent RPs that err, magically vanished when someone played with site strings. Brandeis Vs. Talon I don't remember what this one was called, to be fair. But it had the word hoop-doopy which is great. Let's see it was four posts each of four paragraphs each of straight mounted combat. I chose mounted combat because Talon has a higher score than Brandeis who was played by Lily but he did not know any form of mounted combat, thus he was taken to task by a proficient soldier. Forge Ves. Talon Now, forge again has a lower WS but he is like twelve feet tall and can hit me with trees, therefore I figured it was fair to say that I would be hard pressed to over come him. The first one I won barely, the second was a draw as the thingo whatsit cut them off before we finished. First RP was four posts each of four paragraphs of combat. Second RP was three posts each of four paragraphs of weapons combat. You don't have to take my word for it: check with Lily, Kevin, or even James as I was showing off their--and my!--Rping to him. Hah
  3. Captain Redpath doubted he would have attempted that particular training exercise for any captain, which is precisely why he was a leader and not a follower. Drak could not have hoped to succeed, not in a physical sense. That he had tried and hard at that meant he succeeded even if he failed, at least here. The only annoying thing is that he had been swept so far out when the captain had finally gotten to him but he could hardly blame his student for that. Drak’s comment only made him laugh and vow to get some nice strong rum into his belly, which would warm him up no trouble. That was basically the end of the lesson right then and there; it had certainly been fun to watch Drak half-drown himself at his command; being a Captain was great. (A few days later or something, I don’t know you figure it out) Today’s lesson was an old favourite; Drak would be familiar with it this time around. Given that Drak’s concentration and balance had improved manifold since the last time Captain Redpath asked him to perform this exercise, the captain was not worried too much about his pupil failing. It wasn’t that hard once one got the hang of it, so to speak. Once more the jury-rigged raft was lowered behind The Merry Pauper with Drak upon it. He did not carry the exotic weapon he had chosen for his schooling but a cheaper and plain scimitar. If the worst happened it would not be as difficult to replace and the captain truly despised paper work. Drak would execute the combination of forms he had tailor made for himself and he would do so for roughly forty minutes—give or take—bouncing in the turbulent waters. Mistakes, slips and falls were permissible but not falling from the raft nor losing his weapon.
  4. The chance to assess a working force of Children was the only reason Cuortam had chosen to tag along. The Quarter Master had various responsibilities pertaining to his beloved army but leading heavy cavalry into battle was not one of them. Instead, as an ‘impartial observer’ his bespectacled eyes took in everything and as he ought not to forget, his hand was constantly scribbling on a small pad of paper. Thus far he had witnessed little by way of hard military discipline. A mad dash charge after various suspects was in progress and there did not even appear to a soldier of rank amongst them to lead. This would make its way into his report, oh yes. There was a questioner riding a little distance from him; in theory she would the commanding officer. He scribbled a note to have her take some equitation lessons. A short rocky ride later and the haphazard collective of Children halted their charge at the boundary of what looked to be a ranch. Excellent, maybe they could arrest some cattle for loitering next. There were dozens of mounted children at most, none of whom had any idea of what to do next. Cuortam needed a new piece of paper. If anything the Questioner among them receded into the background. One might assume from this that she did not want to be noticed. Well, that was that then. In one fluid movement he was dismounted and striding in front of the others, for as everyone knew, ten percent of all horse related incidents came from bad mounting and dismounting practice. “Attention!” His voice was drawn out, loud and effortless as any drill sergeant, for twenty percent of all drill instructors damaged their vocals by using improper techniques. “Now which one of you cares to explain to me why exactly we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere?” The Questioner strode forward and explained the situation while he listened. “Excellent. Well done. Now while I arrange these boys and girls into something reminiscent of a military formation you may drop and do as many push-ups as it requires for you to understand the implications of an officer displaying gross lack of discipline. And dear? That means no less than fifty. “Boys and girls, pay attention: I want half of you off your horses right now. Don’t look at me cross-eyed son or I’ll pull you out of the saddle myself. Down. Now. Anyone lucky enough to remain mounted: I would like to introduce you to a little thing called perimeter control. That’s my fancy word for riding around the outside of this here farm and stopping anyone who so much as looks like they want to leave until such time as orders to the contrary are sent, don’t forget to always have at least one other of your number in your sights. Now, ladies!” “Everyone else—no, not you, you keep thinking—split into groups of four and don’t make me choose them for you. Good.” Cuortam then sent a quarter of those groups to the north end; others to the west … until all four directions were covered. He had sent each group with a knotted braid. Using an old-fashioned timing technique they would co-ordinate their efforts soundlessly. A few moments later the Children of the Light began to move in.
  5. She couldn’t help but laugh at the question. Rory, that is, and in the pleasant way only she manages: never scornful and always displaying honest delight. It was hard to lecture or dare I say ‘growl’ in the face of genuine mirth. That’s my opinion, as well as Rory’s (dang rang), hopefully Arette Sedai would agree and not take offence. “I really no do be thinking about that. How I do be knowing what the future holds? No, I do be happy enough to become Aes Sedai at all the way I be going. Still, I do be knowing that the first thing I do going to do is leaving the tower and travelling. I do be travelling for ever and everywhere and seeing lots. Maybe I do be opening my own pub, aye, servant of all?” Rory laughed again. “I do be going to get you some food.” Her fingers were—and this is really the only way to describe them—scalpy. It was almost a disappointment to have stopped; almost, because although washing Arette Sedai’s hair had been relaxing she was to given the task of finding food. Insignificant you say? Not so, it gave her the opportunity to move about the tower and maybe if she was very quick she could tell Saline what was happening. Darienna didn’t even have to know! That had been the idea or, dare I say, illusion. Ten yards down the hall and she began to notice there was an unusual number of novice’s about and each one was taking very uncustomary notice of where exactly she was heading. Blood and Bloody ashes, Saline would have to wait. Rory’s flight to and from the kitchen was a rapid one. Not only did she know they were watching but she could feel them watching. At times she could feel eyes without being able to see anyone—talk about disturbing. She was almost tempted to step towards her and Saline’s room just to see how quickly Darienna came after her but … no. With a sigh she made her way back to Arette Sedai.
  6. It was easy enough to say what Rory ought to do, but no one else actually had to be the one doing it. Rory liked her reasons, they worked for her. Sure, they weren’t the best reasons … not even close, actually, and pretty thin as bad ones but they were hers and so far she had been doing okay by them. Present circumstances excluded. At some point this conversation had turned into a lecture, gentle albeit, but lecture. How could someone she had just almost killed lecture her about anything other than homicidal tendencies and swift vengeance? Arette Sedai was mad—bonkers. Darienna possessed very small healing capabilities if such obvious insanity remained intact. No doubt if Rory tried to escape now she would be melted like wax and turned into a candle, or maybe Arette the Mad would prefer to drown her in the bathtub. Wait: maybe she could drown Arette before Arette drowned her. Probably not, but a nice fantasy all the same. Still, Arette Sedai may have had a point. If Rory had more reasons to stay in the Tower it’d probably be a lot easier to do so and she may not get into quite so much trouble. Hah, yeah, right. She had just thought of a great question to take the focus off of hers and decided to run with it: “Why do you be joining the Tower Arette Sedai? And why you do be staying?”
  7. The captain was most certainly grinning now. Maybe the techniques were slightly off, maybe they were slightly rushed and maybe Drak could have done better but he was impressed nonetheless. The clarity of thought and the purpose behind the routine had been excellent, especially so in that Drak had not attempted to incorporate saidin; rather, he had worked on the principle that he did not have that gift, obviously something Captain Redpath approved of. “Fabulous. Well done. You would not believe how long it takes some people to get it. It is truly a shame that you were given into the life of a Dread Lord and not that of a soldier. Always remember that your ‘gift’ is the smallest part of what you are and, between you and me, should be used as seldom as possible; not as often. “Now, incidentally I have neglected to bring along my sword for this morning’s lesson so I suppose you can just go do something else for the morning; in fact, take the day. I’ll see you back here bright and early; go do whatever it is channellers do for fun.” (The Next day) “You will notice how I am standing next to this rowboat. You will notice, too, how there are oars inside, as well as moderate provisions and it is right now being lowered into the water. You and I will be going ashore for your next lesson, well, I will be. Leave your sword; there is absolutely no chance of my letting you ruin it in the ocean, we’ll make do with a belaying pin. Get in.” The trip to the small ‘island’, more of an over grown sandbar, was a relatively easy one with both men rowing. The island had not been chosen for its lack of distractions, although they did help, it was chosen for the steeply curved ocean floor around it and the small surf that crashed against it. When they reach the island, Bobby allowed them a moments rest, some hard bread, cheese and a little water. He left Drak alone for fifteen minutes, give or take before instructing him to enter the surf until naught but his neck and head were showing. As an afterthought he mentioned not to forget his belaying pin. These were the instructions he gave: “Here you will be on your own; you will train yourself. I will not be able to tell from here whether or not you are doing things correctly but you will. Continue until you can do no more and then return. Under no circumstances are you to let go of the belaying pin and do not worry about the surf: it is strong enough to tow you out but it won’t drag you under. If you find yourself drifting, swim back and start again. Good? Good. Now go.”
  8. Talon marvelled at how easily determination could stopper the bottle of fear; how easily the heat of indignation could set fires; how the human mind could, at its own leisure, suppress its instincts and dam its weaknesses. The assassin knew that there was fear and then there was ‘fear’, and that even the strongest dam could burst and send the world to a watery grave. The Aes Sedai squared her shoulders and faced him, coals of defiance burning inside her eyes. In the end it would offer little variation in the outcome of the situation. Afraid or not she would die; afraid or not he would feed upon her. Flesh only, if she behaved herself. Something in her look told him surrender was not on the cards. He did prefer to hunt. The assassin wasted no time in leaping forward to strike her in the side of the face with an open palm, his claws carving tokens into the softness of her cheek. A rapid succession of open-handed blows brought her to her knees, nose bleeding. Talon would not change the seen, would not bind her or trap her in any way. If she ran he would find her, he did have her scent. At first she would beg him to spare her life, he was certain of that, but when he was finished with her she would beg him to let her die. Power was intoxicating; over this particular Aes Sedai he had a chalice of very potent wine
  9. Brandeis offered a prayer to the Creator as the tide of Dark Friends swept its way towards them. Unlike Con, he found plate mail too restrictive and wore chain instead. He too wore the vestments of his time with the Children, though they were stripped of his tell-tale insignia and commendations. He hefted his hammer, stretched his shield arm and braced from impact. Or at least that was his plan up until the last moment when he stepped forward to flatten his first opponent with his shield. His hammer found the man’s skull as the impact from the shield knocked him from his feet. That was easy. Maybe he was in for nice enjoyable time of it; then again, maybe not. A sword blade slid along the rim of the shield, forcing him to duck behind while pushing forward with his shield. He then swung the hammer in a horizontal arc, aiming for face height. His aim was fairly precise judging by the spray of blood that splattered over the shield edge. That had probably been a nose, no, had definitely been a nose. There was no sense in being cute about it; the crush from the pressing line of darkfriends meant that any opposition found it difficult to avoid the lethal blows from the flat head of his weapon and he could swing with varying degrees of carelessness and still break something vital. It did not take long for his grasp to falter upon the bloodied handle of his weapon, and right when he needed it most. It flew off somewhere over head and he had no time to search as the smart fellow opposing him decided now was the right time to attempt to kill him in earnest. A volley of heavy strikes landed against his shield so hard that he was knocked to his knees. His shield arm was numb from the impact and the strikes kept coming—he knew he had a dagger somewhere. Aha, there it was. How he was going to use it was a mystery but he was sure he would think of something. Yes, that would do nicely. Rolling—or collapsing sideways to avoid the last strike he jammed the point of his dagger as hard as he could into his enemy’s foot; he could feel it scrape the stone beneath it. Utilising the tactic he had discovered in the fight outside Nelamar Manor, he pulled himself to his feet and the edge of his shield crashed into the throat of the other fellow, who fell like a tree. It was going to be a long day. Emelia, on the other hand, was having a ball. She had no idea why but people where running to and fro, leaving all sorts of things behind. She had managed, effortlessly, to raid an ale house and steal more ale than she could possibly drink, not that technicalities would dampen her spirits, as well as set the establishment on fire and then sit out front to watch it burn; she loved this town! When the flames really began to burn she would enter the house; her cheeks began to redden at the thought. Until then she'd stay outside and share a cold one ... with herself. Emelia had been all over the Westlands; why had it taken her so long to become aware of this paradise? She realised it didn’t matter; she wasn’t going to leave—ever. A group of men, eight of them, approached. They were each carrying a pail that looked suspiciously like it was filled with water. They wouldn’t do that, not today, not to her; not in this town. She had convinced herself that the lawlessness here was normal, but decided to query one of the men just in case. She selected the last of them to arrive. “Excuse me, err, sir. What are you doing?” “Are you mad? We’re going to put the fire out!” “... This fire? This one right here?” She pointed. “Yes, now let me past!” The sudden gust of hot air at their backs turned the others about the other, quite obviously alarmed. Though there was a puzzled frown on every face, only one of them spoke. “Excuse me, ma’am but was there a man standing there just before?” “A man?” “Yes.” “About this high; this wide; kind of handsome with a moustache?” “Yes!” “No. Sorry. Haven’t seen him. You uhh. You aren’t going to try and put that fire out, are you?” “Of course we are.” “Yes. That’s what I’d thought you’d say.” That one hadn’t even managed to turn around before a column of fire removed almost all traces of his existence. The others, seeing this, were very quick to drop their pails and run. Not that this would help: Emelia had found a game she enjoyed more than watching the alehouse burn and she wasn’t prepared for it to end just yet. Hoisting her ale, she followed. The ale had been stronger than expected and ten minutes after giving chase, Emelia was swaying as she walked as well as having a lot of trouble remembering who she was following, why she was following them and where exactly her ale had gone. Having decided that a little occurrence like intoxication wasn’t to spoil her fun she set about blasting everything that moved and a lot of things she thought were moving when they weren’t. Stopping often to admire her handy work, clap her hands, giggle and hum, the wilder swished her skirts and pirouetted for the viewing pleasure of the flames. She loved this town!
  10. The underbelly of a bloodsnake could hardly have been redder than the splashed cobbles upon which he walked. Scorch marks decorated the outer walls of buildings. Arrows—broken and intact, swords and spears lay scattered amongst the dead and dying. What alarmed him was the number of Aiel corpses and the number of Aiel among those who would not live behind the day, twitching and squirming beneath the feet of the combatants. Muad had no intention of willingly committing himself to the front lines of this affair. The Car’a’carn might well be destined to lead the Aiel to glory; thus far all Muad had observed was how easily they could lose to determined commoners and Wetlander rabble: and they were determined. The Aiel were the superior warriors, siswai in hand, shoufa bound—clearly, but no one had told the enemy this and they fought with a passion Muad had never encountered in tree killers. The vanguard was for the brave, the young and the stupid. Let them test their spears against Wetlander steel; he was content to remain safely out of the thickest pockets of combat. Twelve was the number of lives he had taken by defending himself when necessary and targeting only those who were already distracted by combat. As a member of Cor Darei, fighting in the face of the sun was not his preferred method. Perhaps he would return with a band of his brothers under the cover of the stars. Thus far he had fought with caution foremost and he would continue doing so, aiding his brothers in their times of need, or wherever an extra spear would lessen the danger of defeat.
  11. Why Estel Sedai was spending all of her time talking with Hendra Biddle was beyond Rory, especially when one realised Hendra was not responding to many of the questions. In fact, she had gone very, very silent; perhaps she was tired, or perhaps she needed a kick in the shins. Well, a kick to the shins was out of the question, no tell-tale yelp would be derived from any of Rory’s actions. Having Estel Sedai with her was a blessing in disguise—wasn’t even disguised really. Her presence enabled Rory to spend her time setting up buckets of tar, feathers, flour and that type of thing. Estel Sedai was much stronger than Rory and didn’t really even need help from Hendra to accomplish some spot welding. Just as well, as Hendra was being typically useless. This was great, come morning the tower would be a riot and no one would be able to pin it on Rory as, in truth, her role had been a very small one; never mind that she had been the brilliant, nay genius mastermind behind it all. The only thing that could have made the night better was the inclusion of Saline but she had looked sick and Rory didn’t want to make it worse. Ah well, she would tell Saline all about it in the morning. As fun as all of this was, Rory had always admired how devilishly strong the Library doors looked. Wouldn’t they be fantastic reversed or taken down or something equally delicious? Why yes, yes they would. The demons on their pedals began to spin the cogs of her imagination and she fair leaped over to Estel to share he wonderful idea. Hopefully the others were having as much fun as she! OOC: Estel, decide Rory is out of her mind and take off. That way she is solo when caught by Lillian. I'll start winding it down to a close as soon as I've spoken with the chicken thieves.
  12. The scene was relaxing to Rory for it reminded her of home. Her mother was in the bath and they laughed and talked while Rory washed her hair. But it wasn’t her mother—it was Arette Sedai. That did not make as much difference as one might think; it was the very atmosphere that calmed her nerves. One could consider it surreal, massaging the scalp of a woman who hours ago had been laying in her own blood, and the one performing the massage had been responsible. And the victim was asking the strangest questions! What did she care if Rory disliked the Brown Ajah or why she wanted to be an Aes Sedai at all; in her position, Rory could hardly refuse to answer, nor did she particularly feel like it. “Honestly? I do be reaching a point where I no do be thinking I make it. Surrendering to the source do be sounding easy but for me it do be the hardest thing in the world. I still do be having trouble in that area. It do be fine if I do be kicked from the tower for bad behaviour, but I no do be a failure. Never that. I do be wanting to succeed, to be proving them wrong more than I do be wanting to go home. I do be good like that. “I do be realising that I be away from home for many years and if I do be returning to my parents now, after all that time a failure, they do be more disappointed than I be able to tell. It no do be what I am doing that do be important but that I do be succeeding and returning home with triumph and a smile. I do be welcomed with open arms, and mayhap my mother do be washing my hair as I be yours now. “I know the tower no do be letting me go, not with all my bits attached. And in truth I no do be wanting leave. There do be too many good things for me here, too many good people. I just no do be wanting to be here all the time. I do be wanting to be outside, away from here. I do be wanting to see my parents. They do be old now and what if they do be dying before I be getting to see them? What of my friends who do be aging and marrying and living their lives; where be they now? I no do be meant to have these thoughts but I do be having a life before the aes sedai.”
  13. The racket spalled cutlery onto the floor. Brandeis leapt from his bed and under his room’s doorway noticing only after—with a mild case of embarrassment—that there was no earthquake. What in the light? Bang—an ink rolled along the floor. Bang—quills, brushes, and food. Brandeis groaned loudly when he finally got it. As expected a whicker responded from the other side of the wall. It sounded amused. “I’m going back to bed.” BANG “I mean it.” BANG “Good night.” Brandeis crawled back into bed. BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG— “Alright, Alright! Enough. I’m up, I’m up.” He muttered under his breath, “bloody horse.” BANG He stepped outside and faced his horse. “What, what could you possibly want? I was sleeping.” His horse whickered—mockingly, Brandeis was sure—and tossed its head in a direction Brandeis' eyes followed. “Ah. I see. A good old-fashioned run down. You can forget about that. We’re too old, especially you.” His horse gave him that look. “No, I absolutely refuse. Do you remember what happened last time? I basically had to carry you out, and you’re the bloody horse. If anything that look got worse. “Blood and bloody ashes, I won’t have it!” Brandeis muttered as he went inside, already returning with his saddle and tack when the next series of bangs struck. It did not take long to latch the saddle and bridle and before he knew it Brandeis was mounted. Normally his horse would put up a hell of a fight, just because it could; obedience was not a good sign. “Just so you know, we’re not getting into any fights. I’m serious.” He could not see His horse’s face but knew he was getting that look again. “I’ll just go get my shield and hammer, shall I?” Ten minutes later the pair was ready. “Well, we’re pretty far behind now, time to show some of those young fellows how it’s done.” Sure that no one was watching, Brandeis let out a yip and his horse responded by shifting into a gallop.
  14. Drak's swordplay was going along nicely. Captain Redpath spent a further ten mornings grilling him with sword drills until he was reassured that his student was prepared for the next lesson. The advanced forms were different from those practised by novices in that every one was composed of numerous strikes, thrusts and movements. In the end a soldier would think in a series of strikes not merely single motions and this would render him or her a smarter, faster, more formidable tool. And soon Drak, too, would be a tool to be aimed, directed and spent against the enemies of his dark masters. This day's lesson would be simple; for a time Drak would be left to his own devices without the direct guidance of the captain, "Now, Drak, it is time for your next lesson. For the next two weeks you will study and practise solo. You will construct your own routine. Use any of the forms you have learned and perform it in any way you wish. Bear in mind that this routine will be used by you for many other exercises, so it is imperative that you are familiar and comfortable with it. "Incorporate those strikes and parries you learned in the beginning as well as those more recent combinations. If your mind is cluttered by simple movements you will never be truly proficient and if you disregard them totally you will put out the eyes of your awareness; neither of these is ideal. Strive for balance in all things. "Seek nor aid nor counsel save mine and then only under the direst of circumstances. The purpose of the exercise is independence but do not hesitate if you are having real difficulties. You are here, after all, to learn."
  15. Lillian nearly snapped at the sass that Rory threw at her, but she had told Darienna that she was going to control herself, even if she was finding herself unsettled and off balance. Light, not even the apology and the explanation did anything to alleviate the feeling that she felt like smacking Rory for what she'd done. To know that all her time spent on Rory, trying to teach her to behave herself through example and always looking out for her, even when she herself had been an Accepted. All the right words were being said, but they did little to alleviate the anger. Rory had so many chances, so many opportunities to change, she couldn't understand why Rory hadn't taken them. Why she had done something so incredibly stupid. To say that she was disappointed in Rory was an understatement, it wasn't just disappointment she felt. She was angry that Rory seemed to have ignored everything she'd tried to teach her, angry that she'd nearly killed one of her friends with thoughtless stupidity, angry that Rory had forced Darienna to take such measures, angry that it was the first thing she learned when she came home after months away. "Why Rory? Why? After everything I've tried to do to help you, do you go and do this? You didn't just hurt someone badly, you almost spilled my friend's brains out all over the floor of the Brown Ajah quarters! What did she do to deserve that? Go on, you tell me what she did to deserve it? Or was this truly just a little bit of fun? Some stupidly reckless and thoughtless idea of yours that nearly got Arette killed? Or damaged. Don't you know how careful you have to be? If she wasn't killed, she might have been impaired. By impaired I mean anything from losing her ability to think to her ability to move, it doesn't take much. Well? What do you have to say?" Rory closed her eyes and took a breath. Having never known Lillian to act so emotionally, the Accepted saw it as an appropriate measure of her anger. The questions were rhetorical, Lillian was angry, justifiably; attempting to answer the questions had to be better than sitting in awkward silence. “She no be deserving it. No body be deserving that, except maybe myself on occasion. I no do be intending to betray your teaching. It no do be like that. No one do meant to get hurt, I be telling you that already. It was stupid, I do be admitting that freely and you do be having a right to be angry but I no do be knowing what else you want to be hearing.” She couldn't understand how Rory could just be sitting there, just sitting there as if nothing had happened. She had nearly killed Arette! Outwardly she was able to keep the rough sheen of an Aes Sedai, but inwardly she was seething as much as she was horrified by what had occured. Everything about it struck at the core of her, and the feeling wouldn't dislodge itself. "I want to hear why you did it in the first place. Just a bit of fun? Why do you keep doing things like this? Why do you keep getting in trouble and now land yourself in this situation? After you get so many chances, one after the other after the other. Why don't you ever listen!" Rory would never win a competition in patience. Looking forward—in the sarcastic sense—to this conversation for weeks had enabled her to tolerate the genuine ill-feelings she had made Lillian experience, but in no way had her self-restraint improved enough to handle the duration and tenacity of the accusations; however well founded. “You do be right, I no do be aes sedai material, and in case you do be forgetting I never wanted to be here in the first place. Maybe if you be spotting that years ago I no do be in this position right now. I do be sorry that I am such a vast disappointment, and that by best no do be best enough. Darienna do be a shade away from forcing me to leave the tower as it be, maybe you do be able to persuade her to do it. “This no do be easy from me, I do be having two people in the whole of this tower I do be knowing and I be separated from all of them. I do be up at dawn, asleep at sunset doing nothing but being lectured in between or left to study alone. I do be speaking to Arette and she no do be wanting me hanged or flogged. If you be thinking you can punish me better you do be welcome to throw in your piece, I no be getting out of here any time soon anyway!” "Oh you are such a victim aren't you?!" Now that truly made Lillian furious, after spending so long trying to show her she was capable, she was just shirking all of the work she'd done off and now she was inviting her to try and have her thrown out. She had been so patient, she knew she had, she had tried so hard and she had helped again and again, helped her to channel, helped her to fit in as she could, helped to take care of her whenever she was in the Tower, and now all of it just wasted? "You have a head on your shoulders and you can do so many good things but instead you just piss it all away! Again and again, you could be doing so many great things but you do stupid things and you get other people hurt instead when you should know better! And what now? Poor you? You only have two people? You have the best education and security that anyone can get in the entire Westlands and you're doing badly?! You're only doing badly because you've dug this hole for yourself, and its not because it couldn't be helped, its because you chose to do this!" “I no do be denying that! I do be messing up, I know it, I be admitting it. I hurt people, I disappoint people and I be angering them, too. I am aware of this, Darienna Sedai and everyone else have made that very clear. I no do be shirking my responsibility, that’s why I do be here, trying to learn, trying to show them that I do be worth the time and effort invested in me. I know you no do be believing that now, and I be needing to prove it to you, too. “Fortune prick me, I do be trying, Lillian, what else you be wanting me to say?” "I want you to try and give me something resembling reason Rory! You're in your thirties and you've acting like someone less than half your age and now you're only finally doing something when you nearly killed someone! What about before?! Why didn't you do the right thing before?! What in the Pit of Doom is wrong with you that you decided to nearly get Arette killed!" She wouldn't answer, why wouldn't she answer? After everything she had poured into the girl, Lillian at least wanted an answer to that. Why she had just refused for so long, because clearly she musn't have understood because she thought that she had been making progress with her.” “Reason? You do be wanting to talk about reason. Where do be the reason in abducting unwilling children into the tower? Where do be the reason in teaching them to submit to saidar when you do be just as easily severing her of her connection before it develops. Where do the reason in trying to brainwash and getting pissy when it no do be working.” “Where do be the reason here at all? Nobody do be telling me of the dangers of saidar, no body do be telling me the dangers of the tests. Where do be the reason in throwing untrained girls into those blooming arches without even a heads up to the fact that there do be a very real possibility that one be dying in them. Where do be reason, then, Lillian, and where be you?” Her fists clenching at the mention of abducting children, as if she were some thief or kidnapper, Lillian felt like she wanted to hit Rory. Even more so when she mentioned simply stilling them out of hand, it was complete and utter stupidity. The very thought of losing that aspect of her made her feel sick to the core, as it did every other channeler. Yet here was Rory blithely railing against simple common good sense. Lillian came within an inch of satisfying her urge when the Arches were mentioned. Her fists unclenching as her face went white, Lillian couldn't even muster a response now. She'd opened herself up too much as she'd argued with Rory and to have that button pushed, even unwittingly, it was upsetting and with her rage making way for guilt, the fact that she had almost hit Rory also struck her. Staring at Rory for a moment, Lillian turned around and left as quickly as she came, the door slamming behind her as she made her way to her quarters. She needed to pull herself together, away from Rory, and was as well as done with her now. Rory had thought for a moment that Lillian would strike her and witnessing this had made her very anxious. Lillian was not disappointed, she was furious. Rory had not prepared for the level of what would be called in another as antagonism. She flinched as the door was slammed and Lillian left, too stunned to consider anything else. She had let her temper control her—again—and the expression on Lillian’s face led her to believe there was a very real possibility that the next time Rory spoke to her that she would be adding the honourific. Rory grabbed the text book from her desk and hurled it at the door with a small yell of frustration. That was not how it should have been. She had expected, hoped, that Lillian would be the most forgiving, not the least. A selfish expectation on her part that was in no way honoured by reality, oh she’d really botched it this time. What did Lillian want to her from her. She had said all that was necessary and more, answered all of questions—remained civil, but none of it had been the right answer, none of it had been enough. How could she give Lillian the answers she sought when the truth was not enough, how? Out of the cooking pot and into the fire: one stupid mistake had lost her Saline, and a second Lillian. The day could not get any worse if she tried to escape Darienna’s cordoned off empire. Rory cursed, very loudly and then did the only thing any self-respecting female would do under the circumstances, threw herself down upon her bed and bawled her bloody eyes out. Lillian & Rory in case you didn't notice, muppets!
  16. Boredom: Rory knew all about boredom. Boredom was being under house arrest so long that she gladly buried herself in the work placed before her, regardless of how tedious it would appear at other times. The first day—the first few weeks—she had been too fearful, too timid not to commit to her studies; her will had begun to reassert itself and in the space of a further month a small seed of resentment began to grow: attempts to resist had been made. They had failed. There was nothing in her small room to engage, occupy, entertain, excite, delight; stimulate in any way; nothing; except the small desk and its volume upon volume of malevolently luminescent text. She was quick to learn that if did well at her work in solitude, Darienna would reward her with human contact, a lesson from her own hands; if Rory did not, she was not and all she achieved was a dreadful isolation. 'Bored stiff' was a common expression; 'bored productive' was not. Rory would do the work. Rory was happy not to say it aloud: Darienna had won, and they both knew it. This particular morning, midday, afternoon, or evening—it was difficult to tell them apart—she was bent over her small desk, quill in hand and smudges of ink all over her face. The topic was 'The Political Influence of the Tower on Foreign Nations and its Effects.' A laborious subject that Darienna believed would help instruct Rory on the responsibilities of Aes Sedai. Whichever sister had written the thesis had been meticulous in her approach and Rory found herself scribbling note after note, after note, after note…. SLAM "I do be studying, I do be!" Rory sat rigid in her seat attempting to rub her eyes without being noticed. It wasn't Darienna; it was Lillian, who looked mad—definitely mad, the question confirmed it. Rory was learning to hate that question, the one that had been posed to her by everyone; being forced to give the same humiliating answer each time it was asked was painful. Lillian was disappointed in her as she had expected and rightly so. Rory had had much time to reflect on the decisions she had been making and knew better than to think Lillian pleased with her. This particular confrontation had been inevitable; Rory had attempted to prepare mentality, but having Lillian angry in reality was not the same as in her head and she knew disquiet. "Hello Rory, how do you be Rory, good to see you, Rory." Looking into Lillian's eye she decided that that had not been the best way to start the conversation. Well done, Rory. She shrugged her shoulders and sighed a long sigh, "I do be sorry, I do be spending a lot of time studying now and it do be making me grumpy and tired." "You do be disappointed in me, I know, I do be letting you down most of all and I do be letting down a lot of people. I do be sorry and I be knowing that sorry no do be enough. That do be in part why I be working so hard to be proving to you all that I do be changed; that I do be learning from my mistakes." "The answer is: I no do be considering at all. I be thinking I be having a little fun and nobody do be getting hurt. I be wrong. I be hurting someone badly and I no be ever making it up to her but I be trying to earn her forgiveness."
  17. "What?!" Sinking into the chair behind her, Lillian had a hand over her mouth more in shock of what she had been told than shock at having let her exclamation slip through her lips. She always came to Darienna when she returned from her travels so she could find out what had been happening in the Tower, in particular what had been happening with those that she kept an eye on. She was, of course, aware that it was always possible that things could happen while she was gone from the Tower, but she had not expected to come back and find out that Rory had nearly killed Arette of all people! With a prank no less? What sort of prank? What was she thinking?! It was a good thing Darienna chose to speak because Lillian was too shocked to form words. "It was stupidity on her part, she didn't think through what she was doing. She decided she'd give Arette a fright, conjured up quite a convincing image of a Trolloc before her. You know that Arette isn't exactly the most alert person, its not as if she's the target of pranks often. She apparently jumped back and slipped, that was when she smacked the back of her head on the floor and it wasn't a good fall at all. If Rory had delayed in getting me, she would have likely had permanent damage. If she hadn't told me at all, Arette would have most likely remained undiscovered and bled out. As it was, she recovered well enough if a touch warier." She almost died... All because of a stupid prank! Lillian had to admit, many of the pranks were amusing, but to think that Rory had taken no precautions whatsoever seemed so reckless. It was reckless. It had almost killed Arette. Raising the hand from her mouth to her eyes, Lillian dragged the hand down as if it would wipe away the worst of the feeling that pervaded her, light, she felt sick at the thought that Arette might have died, and so carelessly. "What happened to Rory? Where is she?" "She isn't at the farm." Darienna drew deep on the pipe before she continued. "I've isolated her, completely. The only people she talks to are me or anyone that takes a class specifically for her. Her quarters have been moved into the Tower itself, she lives in the room right next to mine. She eats with me or alone, and I've cut her off completely not only from her peers, but from Saline. She needs the time to grow, and Saline needs time away from her as well. Rory has become too dependent on Saline, and you, bailing her out of trouble and keeping her in line. She needs to be able to discipline herself or she will never be fit to be an Aes Sedai, and she'll be a danger to those around her until she learns responsibility." "Responsibility?" So irresponsible, the very thought of Rory having gone so far and that she had kept pushing. Why had Rory not done the right thing while she was gone? Why hadn't she changed? Was it her fault? Had she sheltered her too much? Had she been too soft with Rory and nurtured this weakness in her that had almost killed Arette? Why hadn't Rory listened to her? That very thought angered her, she had done the right thing by Rory hadn't she? She had shown Rory what was right and what was wrong, she'd given the girl someone to turn to and confide in, someone that she could trust whenever she had trouble keeping her temper or simply when she was unsettled by deeper hurts and problems that she never quite seemed to shake. Or had she just seen what she'd wanted to see? "No." Looking up at Darienna questioningly, the Mistress of Novices was emphatic as she spoke again. "No. This was not your fault and don't even think to try and put it on yourself. You were there for her, she just wasn't ready to listen, didn't have enough reason to do it. She's always thought herself better than just about everyone in the Tower, and its only now that she's done something truly stupid that she can be fixed because now she realises she does need fixing. And no, no you are not seeing her." "Pit of Doom I'm not." Getting to her feet, Lillian ignored the palms that Darienna was showing her to calm herself. "Where is she?" "Li, you aren't goi-" "Don't you Li me! I am going to see her and talk with her." "Not like that you are not, not unless you can control yourself." Narrowing her eyes at Darienna, Lillian nearly said something but she simply got a hold of herself instead, with difficulty. Taking a deep breath, then a second one, Lillian forced herself to relax as paradoxical as it sounds. "I can control myself, I just wish to talk to her and makes sure she knows how disappointed I am with her." "Is that a good idea?" "You're the one that wants to isolate her. She can't think I'm coming to her rescue, and I'm not going to, not after this. I just don't understand why she did this to begin with, she was getting better when I left, I could have sworn she was." "Around you, yes. Thats partially my fault though, I've kept some of her more outrageous stunts quiet rather than taking some of the action I could have. I won't say go easy on her, but, don't go too far. She's in the room across from this one, her permanent isolation study save when I need to instruct her in something or the breaks I give her which she spends in here with me." "Thank you." Walking to the door calmly, inside Lillian was more than angry, there was more to it than simply rage that Rory could have done what she had. She didn't care to think upon such things though, instead she let herself out of the office and strode across to the room where Rory was and let herself in, slamming the door behind her even as Rory looked up. If Rory was in any doubt as to what was on Lillian's mind, the expression on her face and the words that came like a frosty blizzard were enough to communicate exactly what she was thinking and feeling at this particular moment and juncture. "I'm not back in the Tower even half an hour and I find out that you nearly killed Arette? Are you taken by the Dragon? What on earth possessed you to do something like that?"
  18. Drak had been making good progress. His balance had been bettered by months of rolling ocean; his body had become harder and stronger and the sword at his hip was now less of an ornament and more of a weapon. All was as it should have been and now was the time, Captain Redpath decided, to begin the advanced weapons forms. Again Bobby stood at the prow watching the keel cut through the cold fog of morning and break the surf. Again Drak approached, and again he was handed the single-edged curved sword of his choosing. The scene had repeated itself hundreds of times with no variation and today would be no exception. It was a well known fact that no one aboard The Merry Pauper arose before Bobby and none retired after. In truth he slept very little, content with small ‘cat naps’ whenever there was time and was therefore awake almost constantly and consistently. He was a military man and loved his schedules. Everything needed to be done as efficiently and productively as possible and that was final—training was no different. It was not conducted in the early morning for Drak’s health and well-being, nor was it conducted in the early morning to hide from others the additional tutelage that Drak received; it was conducted in the early morning because no one was around to get in the way and they, too, were out of the way of others. All sorts of mistakes happened when one began firing their blades about willy-nilly on a ship filled with magnetic bodies. “You have done well so far but these forms we shall begin today are more difficult. Take your time and be vigilant. I do not want you to … lose your head.” The Captain assumed the ‘stance’ apple blossoms in the wind. Not really a technique, nor a stance, but a way of movement and holding the blade: low, loose and slow. The latter was what he was interested in for Drak; the reduced speed would teach him the finer points of the forms without risk of damage and it would work wonders on his muscles. From there he moved with excruciatingly slow precision into cat on hot sand then striking the spark. Twisting in wind came next, followed by the wood grouse dances, water flows downhill and finished with thistledown floats on the whirlwind. Bobby placed his sword upon the wooden planks and replaced his tea into his hands. “Those were a few of the forms I wish you to learn; let me see how you do. Whenever you’re ready, begin....”
  19. Once Brandeis had recovered enough from the laughing fit to speak, he responded, humour heavily lacing his words, “That was perhaps the most original tactic I have ever heard. I think, actually, I shall recommend it to a few of my fellow questioners and see exactly how effective it is. It will never be the most potent of techniques, but it is certainly innovative. The surprise alone could induce discussion from a prisoner, I think.” The second question, now, “Poisoning food is often a very successful approach, while not falling easily into either pressure category it is no less potent and can be used to circumvent any further methods of interrogation. The drawback is frequently you will encounter a person with either natural or built-up resistance to the toxin. As an interesting side note apothecaries and assassins have usually maintained at least a moderate resistance to their own equipment to stop it being used against them.” To the third, “Depriving a person, separating them from human contact, is a very useful technique, but you would be surprised how long some are able to hold out. Why not deprive them of food and water, as well as sleep, and ablutions? The combination of complete deprivation at your whim has a far greater rate of success. “You will notice though, that each of your indirect methods require patience and time, two things not necessarily viable in a battle field environment or anywhere else that a soldier is most likely to be in attendance. This of course, brings us to direct pressure, or the physical aspect. Indirect pressures are, physically speaking, more desirable to the humanitarians within us, but we do not have that luxury. “From birth we are taught that we are special, that we are important and unique. We are taught that no matter what else may go wrong our bodies are our own sanctities and they there we are safe. Direct pressure seeks to undermine this belief. To strip away the layers of social indoctrination until all that survives is your will. “Your ‘patient’ will become an object, no longer a subject; they retain no will nor rights nor thoughts nor feelings. They exist purely to receive whatever punishments you decide to inflict. It is this that will break your patient more so than the pain. The relationship between torturer and tortured is as intimate as that between lovers, without the barrier of privacy or dignity. It is not uncommon for rape to be utilised as the most debasing and humiliating of afflictions. “When you strike at the body, stripping away those layers of built up thought and conditioning you are landing a blow on the mind. It is an emotional regression, slowly your patient will backslide through the very progresses made throughout life. It will begin with the higher thinking functions, the inability to think clearly and decisively without aid. Pain is not the objective but the subversion of the “self.” Once this is achieved you will find the information you seek and more. It is in this way, too, that a person may be ‘brainwashed’ and subverted from enemy factions. “The threat of pain is useful against the natural human fear of conflict, and suffering. Pain itself is useful in such instances were the patient has a low threshold and cannot tolerate the agony. This is more the area you will be forced to rely on and to that end you would need to focus your attention on those parts of the anatomy commanding more response. This depends largely on the individual, but something to keep in mind is that those places most prone to injury are those which hurt the most, fingers and toes, for instance.” “Given the nature and content of the physical aspect I will not ask for hypothetical methods, I will ask only that you consider my words, and if you have any questions before we adjourn, speak them now.”
  20. “Aran. Prank … Aran?” Braxton’s mouth sagged as he attempted to reconcile the two words into one cohesive statement. It did not work. One did not simply ‘prank’ Aran. One may as well slap a bull between the eyes or put a blood viper down one’s trousers. There were certain possibilities that the trainee’s mind were incapable of acknowledging; this was one of them; his mind almost buckled with the strain. “No Aran, no-no-no, Aran. Beat him in his sleep with a stick, poison his food, burn down his quarters, but never—never—let him catch you. While he is asleep, yes, asleep, he cannot hurt you then.” Braxton gave a humourless laugh, his face fell and his eyes darted in every direction at once (or tried to) and his voice took on a fearful and conspiratol tone, “He never sleeps!” Inexplicably his body began to ache and his stomach gurgled—it remembered Aran. His numerous dealings with the older man had never ended well, or remotely close to well. well. His ankle throbbed. He checked just to make sure his whip was in place, what if Aran heard, what if Aran knew he had been here? Braxton’s mind retreated into the far recess of his skull and began rocking back and forth. Braxton ran out of the common room faster than he had entered, emitting a keening wail. In his haste he forgot his air guitar, but that mattered less than not being anywhere within Tar Valon when Aran was beset. His keening wail continued as he ran up and down outside the common room entrance several times before disappearing back to wherever it was he came from.
  21. Rory couldn’t bring herself to resent the probing questions. What did they matter, anyway? In one moment of stupidity she had let down and disappointed the two people she cared about most of all. Lillian was not here, but she would return, and when she did she would find out what Rory had done and Rory was certain she, too, would disapprove. If only she could somehow pen an apology letter to Saline she hadn’t meant to hurt her. She could probably write one for Arette Sedai while she was at it. Saline had been Accepted for a long time, she and Rory often joked that they would be raised at the same time but could the real reason for Saline’s lack of progression be Rory herself? Darienna had not said it, but the hint was there that she was damaging Saline’s career through her own lack of discipline and forethought. Maybe she would ask Darienna some day, or maybe not, as she did not think she wanted to hear the answer. If she was lucky she could drown herself in the bathtub before Arette got in. “I no do be getting along with other Accepted. They do be busy being proper and prim and far above me. I do be wanting nothing more than the sun on my face a nice ale and a good dance. I no do be for politics or scheming. Those things do be boring me, so I do be staying away from anyone like that, and there do be a lot of them here. I know it do be shallow, but they do be looking at me like I do be uncivilized, so it do be fair in my book. “No, I no do be mentoring, myself. Do you be imagining me responsible for a life other than mine? I no do be doing well enough with this one to justify another, and I no do be the teacher type. There do be far more able Accepted and I be leaving the instructing up to them. “I suppose I do be considering the Ajahs, but only a little. I no do be thinking I be reaching the shawl any time soon, present predicament excluded. Now I no do be thinking I be reaching it at all. I do be liking the browns, I be liking stories, and I be liking that you do be recording things so they no do be lost. It do be very useful. But I no do be thinking the browns are for me, I no do be having the patience. I no do be having the skill with a quill. I do be sure I be fitting in somewhere, I only need be finding it.”
  22. He heard it first, a strange, unnatural sound. Then it brushed across that aptly named sixth sense, ‘The Braxtonness.’ It was a well known fact that anything about Braxton had the name of Braxton somewhere in the title. His feet were ‘Dual Braxtons’, his fingers were, ‘Groovy Braxtons’. There were others, such as ‘Little Braxton’, but we won’t be going there until you’re all over the age of eighteen, unless you have really nice hands. Do you have really nice hands? The weight of the unnaturalness jabbed him from every angle, like how a person would feel after rolling in some hay with the sheep, naked and ... anyway, it was just wrong. And what was this wrongness, this pervading –nay, disturbing sensation? It was joy and happiness without “The Braxton”, and that simply was not possible. No, he would simply have to share the love whether they wanted it or not. It was time for the check of the man. Mullet—check; side burns—check, pocket-comb—check; manly scent of yak—double check. There was nothing more manly than the manly scent of yak, at least that is what the vendor had said and he had an honest face. He was the one, after all, who had sold Braxton some of the finest imported spirits, and though if it did look suspiciously like what was being used to remove stains from metal and clean paintbrushes, he believed the vendor when he said it wasn’t. He had taken a draw, he remembered that part, but somehow lost the next few days and woke up in a slum wearing a toga. Good times. Air guitar—chazizeck! The Braxton strut, containing enough oil to grease twelve engines, went into code red, “alpha-cool”. There would be no stopping him. Nothing could withstand the Braxtonator, not even Super-Man. The common room doors bowed inwards from his innate manliness, bowed inwards and down and opened purely of their own accord, his hands had been there only as a caloyer's benediction. His eyebrow cocked like a loaded rifle, and he spat on his hands and unslung his air-guitar ‘Braxton Lite.’ He spread his legs wide, threw back his head and yelled while strumming furiously, “Attention!” Only it wasn’t your average run of the mill attention, it was attention with attitude, and a few dozen more letters,‘Aaaaaattttteeeeeeeeeeeentttiiiiiiiiooooon' like that. Then, once he had commanded enough attention, “What up, my peeps!” Yes, so slick it was a wonder he could walk at all. Braxton Commanding attention since 1876.
  23. The barbarian smiled. None of his kind would utter a challenge unless they intended for it to be put to the test; he had learned that those who were … not born into the mountain tribes often intoned such challenges for the very opposite reason. A strange custom and one that Ahtuk had never been at ease with. One day he may find himself in the field of battle against the sul’dam, but he was no longer so young and bold enough to fancy his chance against a damane. Again she referred to Jia as “Chali”, was she attempting to infuriate him, or was this Ikena so sure in her sense of proprietary right that she was willing to make an enemy of him. Her position was indubitably clear, she would not release Jia. Ikena, too, was aware of his stance. He would find a way to free Jia, with or without the sul’dam’s blessing, and to the forfeit of her life if that is what it took. He wondered if Jia would rather live on to serve the Empire unwillingly, or if her loyalty knew the limit of her own freedom. Could he kill her to so free her, or would her spirit seek to torment him from beyond. His people were superstitious, and the wrong action could plague his line for centuries. He could hear the memory of Jia cautioning him against his cultural rashness even now. “That is why I made the visit while you were not here. I see where you come from. You do not wish to lose a favourite pet. In my tribe we have many such pets. You in turn see mine. I have lost a friend and leader who you now hold chained like an animal. You will not release her; I will not see her leashed forever. The fates will decide. In time.” Ahtuk left; turned his back on his commander and her insufferable tormentor, despite every instinct in his body crying out for some form of recompense. Choking her had been satisfying, it was a pity he had released her. One day Jia would be free again. He would not betray her teaching to free her. He would be patient
  24. Ahtuk, son of chieftains, whose very blood rang with the clash of steel, reduced to little more than a sneak thief. The island was at peace. He—and those under his command—were under orders to do little more than patrol. It was menial labour fit for dogs and cattle. Those he commanded were warriors, and only one order would satisfy them: the call to war. Conflict was the only theatre where one might honour the might of their ancestors, to have their fill of the enemy. Ahtuk’s ennui was dwarfed now, for he had found her. “Jia ...,” once his captain, the woman had disappeared. Ahtuk had a mate, her heart was carved into that most sacred of places—his face, but he had loved Jia. Not in the way of lovers, but as a man might love an ideal. To him she had been the heart of the empire, cunning, confident; brilliant. Not once had he contemplated shaming his ancestors and turning a blind eye to her ‘vanishing.’ He would honour her; her memory, if that is all that was left. When Ahtuk moved it was not with the casual grace of a blade-master. He moved in the way of what he was, a beast. Unchecked ferocity lurked in the depths of his carriage, in his voice; in his eyes. He made no attempt to disguise and where he walked, violence followed close behind him. Jia had once taught him loyalty to the empire and he had learned the lesson well, but to leave her in her state ... it was not a command he could follow. Yes, they had made her damane, broken her in body, mind and spirit until there was little left of her past glory. Ahtuk had to see, demanded to see, if there was anything left of the woman he had known buried underneath what she now was. He feared there would not be and he needed to know. What would come after, that he could not say. Damane: pitiful remnants of foreclosed humanity, a taming logical and repulsive to a man whose people had waged war for countless lifetimes. No spirit should be caged, especially not one devoted to the empire. War, conquest, the shedding of blood, all these things were raw expressions of the self, and to tamper with that freedom was sickening. The cabin of the sul’dam, Ikena Adelar by name, had been under surveillance for some time. Not by himself, clearly, a man of his ... appearance found it difficult to become inconspicuous, but he had found work for those loyal to him. The sul’dam was vacant, and no damane had left with her. He needed a few minutes, enough to ascertain the thoroughness of the damage. He stepped into the cabin carefully, damane could not act independently of their handlers, but this did not mean no surprises had been left for anyone foolish enough to steal their way inside. There were none. A quick inspection of the cabin, one room left to check, he steeled himself against whatever he might encounter there and entered. It had the effect of looking back on a past memory with new information and finding small but important distinctions between those two separate views. She was Jia, but she was not. Small pieces of her reflected what she had been, others muddied the pool until a creature alien and unknown emerged. “Jia, Jia, do you hear me?” Softness in a voice used to terrorising enemies was almost more frightening than it; he did so anyway, there was no need to frighten her, if indeed she was capable of fright. “Jia, it is me, Ahtuk.” He could not touch her, would not, the leash would cause her pain and anything else may trigger an embedded response. “Your name is Jia—Jia. Do you remember?”
  25. Rory unhappily attacked the buttons. She did not want to talk about Saline, especially not when she was almost certain Arette Sedai had put suspicious emphasis on the word. If the Aes Sedai was seeking to torment her by making things difficult for Saline, well, she’d go and see Darienna, wouldn’t she? Other than that her stomach was too sick and her head too miserable for her to object strongly. It did not really matter at this point. “Saline do be my mentor, once, now that I do be Accepted things be changing somewhat. Now we do be friends, even roommates, she do be looking out for me all the time and do be teaching me things. The first time I do be meeting her, I be punching her in the eye, and then she do be chasing me throughout the tower. She caught me in the Library, you may have been there? “She do be important to me, she and Lillian Sedai also, but you no be asking about her. There no do be much more to say, we do be spending time together, a lot of time, at least before.” Rory pointedly ignored the current turn of events, she knew she’d cry about it later; at present she had a job to do. The talking did seem to make her feel better. “It be taking a long time for Saline and me to become friends, but it do be happening and now we be inseparable. She be teaching me many weaves, and even recipes—she be liking to cook, you know; makes a great apple pie—I’m not sure how I be surviving in the Tower without her. It no do be as pleasant, that’s for sure, what with Lillian out and about all the time.” The buttons were finished. Having said those words aloud, Rory wondered what exactly she had done for Saline in return, what had she taught her roommate, or even given her. Other than trouble, strife, and lots of early morning kisses—those were fun—she had not been a productive member of the friendship. The full scope of her deficiency was almost hitting home. She was a failure across the board, not just in this one section.
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