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Everything posted by Sam

  1. A child: how often she had heard that moniker in place of her name; how prudent it had now become. Rory had certainly never admitted to herself that she had been a child. Not when she was the innkeeper’s daughter, certainly not while wearing the Novice whites and not now with the banded hem. Somehow she managed to feel more a child in this moment than she ever had before. More, she was a fool. There was even the potential of considering herself a righteous fool, one who had the excuse of not knowing any better. She certainly did, and yet here she was again the worst kind of imbecile, one with no excuse at all. Her own mind was unable to decide exactly what her reasoning had been for the action. The answer was simple: she had not thought about the consequences, had not thought at all. She really was as selfish as Darienna believed her to be. And there it was the question of her intent with no obvious way for her to answer. She had to answer; she would answer, when only she found the words. Crying looked a much more attractive option and Rory snuffled a little before she could stop herself. Words were in her head but would not come out of her mouth. There would be no crying in front of the woman whose life she had almost ended, there was no right. “I no do be thinking at all, not one little bit beyond my own enjoyment. I do be saying to myself, ‘Rory, let’s go have some fun,’ and so I do be going. But it no do be fun at all, in the end, you fell and I ran, no do be knowing who else to see. I should know better, Darienna do be saying I be knowing better, should be learning better, but I no do be listening. “I do be almost killing you twice, once with my prank and once when I should have healed you myself. I do be having no way to make it up to you, I do be sorry. Real sorry and I no do be able to get your blood out of my head. It do be on my hands as well. I do be guilty and I do be accepting any punishment you demand. “If you do be wanting me to go, I be going and I no do be looking back. If you do be wanting me hanged, I suppose I do be deserving that too. Darienna be saying that I be taking no responsibility—never, that I do be a coward, and she do be right. She always do be saying I be needing to be improving myself. Always. Rory did not realise it, but her accent had noticeably thickened in her distress. “Darienna do be demanding I be seeing her when I do be finished doing whatever you be asking. I do be,” her throat caught and she stumbled over the next words, “separated from Saline until I do be proving to her that I no be a lost cause. I do be sorry.” Rory did not even bother to ask for forgiveness.
  2. Bobby had enjoyed than beyond measure, or at least beyond the traditional method of measure. He was very satisfied. He disliked the void in principle, as he believed it caused as many issues as it solved. To sacrifice all those emotions and cares that made one human was a dangerous thing, to become a cold and calculating machine. Human passion was not a thing to be avoided, but embraced and in many situations the ability to think reactively from human instinct would save lives otherwise lost. It worked for Dread Lords, whose main purpose was to destroy. It worked for soldiers who wanted nothing more than clean butchery, but it did not work for Captain Red Path. The other entertaining part of the exercise had been the nature of it per se. It was novel to strike a man repeatedly with harmless yet stinging bag of rice, and it was also fun to watch selfsame man attempt to cover his ‘vitals’ as well as continue trying to perform the sword form. There was no real chance of Drak succeeding, not without drawing on the void or well-spring, or one of the other meditative states, but he did not know that, and from there he would go and practise, using the void less in order to pass this test. A Captain congratulated him or herself on occasions as these There was one less test that Drak would need to pass in order for Bobby to consider him fit for active duty, and by active duty he meant taking part in a raid upon an enemy vessel. It never did to have many useless and unable bodies concentrated in one spot. Bad things were known to happen to such places: Fire raining from the sky, the ground swallowing people, and other similar nuisances. Motion for one of the crew to join him, Bobby began a quiet and private interchange before pointing to Drak and nodding his head. Two of the training pins were gathered, how the Captain adored them, and one was handed to the crewman, the other to Drak. This would be a fairly simple exercise, and it was rather straightforward: “I will not bother you with rules and regulations. Neither of you is foolish enough to push the boundaries I have set. Overcome him if you can, Drak, or lose if you must. There is no shame in defeat. It is, after all, why you were brought here.”
  3. The claim that Rory almost died of fright the instant Arette Sedai spoke would be fair one. To say that the sudden weight in her stomach soared into her chest would also be fair. In fact, they both happened at once, which occurred a very peculiar sensation for Rory, who was quite convinced she might actually fall in half. Arette Sedai was alive, and though she was shaken she was not a murderess, only nearly so. The confessor’s urge took hold and she almost blurted her complicity out right then and there; prudence stayed her hand and she fetched a glass of water instead. Not trusting in her mouth’s ability to stay loyal. Quite certain she was going to be blown into pieces of Rory pudding, or burned into so many sausages by a salvo of randomly appearing lightning; she was no less inclined towards dispossessing herself of her burden. Well, maybe she didn’t actually think the term “salvo.” “Yes, Arette Sedai ... it do be me who found you. I do be bringing Darienna Sedai to help you.” Rory was almost visibly chewing her bottom lip, having discovered it was much easier to gnaw than the upper, and her hands were quite visibly pressed into her stomach in a vain attempt to catch the butterflies? “I do be the one responsible for your fall, Arette Sedai, and I do be really sorry. It was an accident, I no do be meaning for you to get hurt. I promise, I no do be wanting to hurt anyone I swe—” Rory used her own will power to close her mouth before her tongue made her sound even more the fool. It was done now, she took small solace in the fact that anything that happened now she more than deserved.
  4. Darienna left, and the world was all a silence. Rory sat, alone, tired, humiliated. There was no anger in her. No anger left and the mechanism responsible was “out of order.” Her mind was the blank screen of reformatted computer; fresh; clean; waiting. She felt such shame as she had never known but there, too, was a satisfaction as equal or even greater; tranquility, the aftermath of waking from a nightmare. She had lost control without being quite sure how. What a shameful thing! Darienna Sedai would never forget, nor would Rory. There was a brief pang of anxiety when she considered whether or not the Mistress of Novices would be discrete. It would behoove her to know if every Aes Sedai at walking distance would hear of her slip, hopefully not. It was difficult for Rory to be without her “righteous” fury, for now various unwanted questions were probing: was she really hindering Saline’s progress? Was she truly so irresponsible as all that? And … had she really been dismissing her off-handedly, treating her unfairly? Yes. The answer was yes, that was why she felt so miserable all of a sudden. She cared for Saline, she really did. She didn’t mean to seem so selfish, she wasn’t selfish; she wasn’t. She could show Saline, show Darienna that she valued their advice; maybe not take it all the time; then, who would? Damn. Damn. Damn. Did Saline see her as Darienna described? That consideration left her ill. She would show Saline that she thought about her wellbeing, too! She was responsible for what befell … Arette Sedai, was it? She didn’t know the woman would fall, couldn’t have known. Why would she knowingly try to kill an Aes Sedai she didn’t even know? Well, she wouldn’t. She might have considered the possibility of injury, true … but how many people got injured by simply falling down—seriously injured? At least one I do be knowing about, now. The thought was sour as a lemon. Her intentions did not seem to matter, only her actions. Was that not even a little unfair? She meant well, honest! Nothing ever turned out quite so bad in her mind as in reality. Oh, Rory, you do be making a fine mess of things. Remembering the red halo that had cincturing the Aes Sedai’s prone form, she realised that no, her intent was not so important after all. Rory stood up, for the first time realising how tired she was and teetering. Unfortunately she didn’t fall and hit her head, so she was forced to knock quietly upon Arette Sedai’s door—on the chance she was awake—before entering and taking a seat at her bedside. That was unpleasant. The woman could wake at any moment, and then she would have to explain what she had done. Had her abdomen just turned to ice? Then why did it burn? The Accepted dreaded each breath, each movement; each subtle shift that might forecast death. An absurd notion, Darienna had treated her and she would be fine. Rory knew that, but she didn't feel it. Telling Arette would be scary, and her voice might well fail her, but having her die while Rory watched would be worse still. Her wait was an anxious one. To almost kill someone is a difficult experience to relate. She was glad the woman was alive, thought so, anyway, and she knew any punishment she received was just. It was over. Only punishment remained, yet Rory felt very sorry for herself. It was almost like crying, but in her belly. Her mind continued to wander over various scenarios including Arette Sedai and all those who would mourn her passing. There were a lot of them, and they were all very sad. Years, decades; maybe even over a century Arette Sedai had lived and served all, amassing knowledge, wisdom and experience. All of that had been placed in jeopardy by her one ill thought out little prank. There would be no more. Ever. She would think before she acted. Always. And such horrible visions as her mind replayed for her would never come to pass. She could not live with that guilt. How could she make it right? Was there anything she could do? Maybe. The least she owed to the woman was to help speed her recovery. Was it wrong of her to be thinking of herself, of ways to relieve her own guilt? Should she care more for the wellfare of Arette? She did care, she wanted her to live. She very much wanted her to live and to be angry, anything was better than lying on her cot pale and restless. Why did she have to to be so stupid all of the time? Oh, when would she wake up?
  5. There was something in that smug expression that did it. The taunts were painful and angering but not nearly as primal gestures as the smirk. With it, something inside Rory snapped with a hum, and a base response of her own followed. Her eyes did not magically change colour, nor did she see a red haze. Her vision misted, and that mist brought with it a noise that coated and silenced any rational thought. And then she did the worst thing imaginable (at the time), struck out at the Mistress of Novices, or would have if she had gotten that far. The moment she leaped out of her seat, and it was nothing short of a leap, she was pushed back down. She rose a second time and was again forced to take her seat. It occurred again, and again, and again. It released frustration and also built it. The action of movement was in accordance with the surge of adrenaline, but the being shoved backwards every time was not. That she had no power to stop it, and could not remain on her feet added kindling, the almost painful sensation of the shove was the tinder. If she were thinking rationally she probably would have stopped after the first few tries, but she was far from rational. Her efforts became more and more desperate; more and more physical; more and more feral. Several times she had actually growled. All occasions were met with swift resistance executed by a will stronger than hers. Something in her mouth gave and she tasted blood, as well as a solid splinter of tooth, hardly important under the influences at work. Rory was a balloon, Darienna Sedai was a funnel pressing into her mouth; frustration was a cup of water. When Rory rose she swallowed a cup of frustration. When she rose again she swallowed another. No balloon was capable of holding so much water, and nor was Rory. Mouthfuls began to stick in her throat and she coughed them up in the form of violent obscenities. If indeed an obscenity could be called a mouthful of water, then when Darienna Sedai continued to taunt her, she was foaming at the mouth (she wasn’t far from it, actually), vomiting, and spitting. On numerous occasions she had attempted to claw at Darienna’s eyes, hands, arms, dress; anything in easy reach. Her profanities, while putting a war veteran to shame, began to lose their words. Grunts and growls, some short and sharp, others long and drawn out. By now sweat was running freely down her face, down her neck, wetting her body in an attempt to cool her body. She threw her head back, literally, hitting it on the back of the chair, and screamed until the veins at her throat were visible as worms. Abruptly her voice ceased and she was still. A calm descended, the likes of which is difficult to describe. She was tired, yes, and her eyes did not want to stay open. She felt embarrassed and refused to meet the eyes of Darienna Sedai, although she could feel them. Quite plainly, she was at a loss for words, as well as thoughts. She knew not what to do.
  6. A wolf in the shape of a man in the guise of a dog: that is how the assassin saw himself. Yipping and barking and howling, he loped behind the fleeing Aes Sedai, exciting her fear and feeding upon it, clothing himself it; drawing strength and purpose. He was a predator, thus born and thus maintained, and the graceful body of a wolf was synonymous with intelligence and guile. Talon hated wolves. His manners, his appearance; every part of him capable of leaving an impression was carefully maintained to affront and profane. He clothed himself in their skin, wore upon him their weapons, and in their name committed atrocities and deeds untamed. Noble, intelligent, children of the Creator; thinking beasts—lies. They were weak, engaging a symbiotic and parasitic relationship with men and women too soft of mind to survive the wonders of Tel Aran Rhiod without guidance. Like men they killed for sport. Like men they relished the hunt, the victory, the taste of blood upon their lips. Like men they wasted and destroyed. And just like a man, when one of their kind stumble they fall upon them and drive them into the dust. Why then should man idolize these beasts so like himself, why should he extol and enshrine their familial virtue. They were liars, as were their “kin.” Talon had had encounters with them. Each human tooth around his neck belonged to one, and each encounter was remembered and savoured. They cast him down as wrong, as criminal and evil. They who were every part as bestial as he, what was it they possessed that marked them as righteous? Self-deception: their belief that their inner beast was a thing to be dominated by their humanity. They squandered their gifts, as the Aes Sedai squandered theirs. Talon was not so presumptuous as to believe he was above the call of nature. The Assassin was more a wolf by belief and nature than any wolf-brother by gift of enhances senses and communication. The hunt, the kill, the impulsive desire to draw shutters over the lives of others, these things were to be apotheosized, explored and indulged upon. And he would do so, and cast shadows upon their alighted ignorance. It had been enjoyable up till now to idle behind and soak in the wake of dread; it no longer was. Nipping at her heels and opening numerous small wounds upon her flesh, like red waxed seals stamped upon pale sheaves of paper, was an entrée to the main course. In time she would scream, and then she would beg and finally, she would die. Or he could trap her in a mad flight through the world of dreams until her real body perished. There would be refreshing sense of newness in that. Oh, what to do with his new treasure. Talon gave brief thought to writing a message upon her skin in the hopes that it would find Aran, such a high profile death calling his name was bound to strike the flint of notice, but like all flint there would be sparks, and a legion of Aes Sedai invading the world of dreams in an effort to find him would severely hamper the festivities. He would wait for now, continue his relentless and easy pursuit. Who knew, perhaps given time he could force her to choose her own way to die.
  7. So far so good, the Novices and Accepted had filed from the room like silent spectres into the halls. Assuming no one had been caught, as no alarms had been raised, she focused more on her personal mission for this evening; her shared personal mission. Hendra, a new Novice was with her, as was Estel Sedai (a bizarre alliance best left unannounced, lest it crumble like a dream. What the rest were doing, or where they were, your guess is as good as hers. Saline had looked ill and begged leave and despite Rory’s wishes she could hardly say no. It wouldn’t be the same without her, right enough; if she were unwell enough to enjoy the night’s festivities it would be a miserable experience and Rory didn’t want to inflict that upon her, it would be unfair and unpleasant for everyone involved. The three slunk, their current objective well known and not too distant. The only true concern would be the hall monitors. The chance of running into one was not great; if they weren’t careful with their use of the saidar they would radiate enough power for some serious moth on light-bulb metaphorical action. With Saline gone, and Hendra all but untrained, Estel Sedai’s participation was necessary. Rory herself lacked the strength to do solely what she had intended. Nothing major, only melting a few classrooms to their ceilings—not the whole classrooms; the tables and chairs!—which was the only method she foresaw that carried no risk of unintended injury. Granted, it would be a heck of a mess to undo. Being caught was one of life’s little certainties, something to be forestalled; held at bay, for as long as one was able. In the end, she would find herself seated, knelt, or crawling at the feet of Darienna Sedai—whichever the Mistress of Novices preferred on the occasion—so why worry about? It was this thought more than anything else that emboldened her course. It would have been nice if Saline stayed.... Her hand was cold and consciously she did not associate the loss of warmth to the loss of a warm hand. Her fingers massaged her palm to compensate, a gesture unseen by her focused companions, and unimportant to anyone save herself anyway. Or maybe not so unimportant, at least by the looks she was receiving. They had reached their destination. She had not noticed. That was quick. Excellent. She would stop doing that. One day. OOC: I'm kind of assuming by this point that you're all sorted in what you're wanting to do, so go forth and do so! Whether or not you're caught is entirely up to you. Some of us will be; namely, me!
  8. She had clothed herself and he felt a pang of disappointment. Interesting: he was not given to rash action, but the combination of his own experience, her “apparent” helplessness, and her flesh gave rise to ideas unnatural. He had to be more careful. Next time he would know better. He was confident after this brief exchange, that she was new to her gift, and he would not allow her to become a threat. Outwardly, Talon accepted the unintended admonition; inwardly he cursed the small but telling slip. She smiled it away, and he, in response, smiled too. Had she been an experienced walker of Tel Aran Rhiod his presence, however benign, would surely have caused a stir—suspicion or discomfort—their kind were rare: those who entered through the dream and not with the power, though he knew that any witch with the prescribed strength and skill could do so. Even as he smiled he thought how wasted such abilities were ... and such flesh. He noted her curiosity in the keepsake around his neck, the collection plate of his various dream world conquests. Each one a life; each one a victory; each one remembered. He indicated that she may observe it closer, the look of innocent inquisition too genuine to resist. He knew then and there that he would not gift her to his lord. She would not receive the pure death reserved for his worship. No, she was his alone, and would drink her fill from the chalice of terror. He did not answer immediately, not in words. Instead he touched a hand to her cheek, his eyes clouding to opaque black, polished as marble and equally reflective. He smiled with too long teeth, with too sharp points: a wolf in the shape of a man. His fingers reached her soft neck, felt the vibrancy of life beneath, the pulse of her heart, the passage of her breath—and squeezed. His strength was such that he lifted her by that soft throat, until barely he toes remained upon the ground, and then, she toppled backwards as he released the pleasing grip. Finally, fearing his message too oblique for her understanding, was compelled to answer with speech; human still, but delivered with an unmistakably feral edge, the warning growl of domesticated dogs, “Monsters ... like me.”
  9. The autumn leaves carried no scent, and yet the smell of wet foliage clung to the cool air. There was no wind and yet the breeze caressed his skin with an embrace of leaves. Like all things they were dying. As his rough fingers rubbed the leaves between them he breathed deep of their decay, their dying breath. The leaves vanished like smoke. Tel Aran Rhiod, the world of dreams, had its advantages, even if they existed solely within the mind. The assassin padded softly, he would make no sound to defile the natural shrine of misery: the perfect scene of life’s end that he laboured so hard to recreate in his victims. His passage stirred not a leaf, displaced not a twig, he would not violate the purity of death. The Great Lord admired such beauty. Talon existed to fulfill his purpose, and sate his desire. The witches held dominion in the city of the woken, but the streets of dreams their vaunted powers were nothing. He was free to roam, to map and become familiar with the layout of the immense city. In secret he had traversed Tar Valon, being so bold as to set foot upon the very lair of the witches themselves. He had nothing to fear from them. Amongst the trees he came upon a clearing, where lay earth, shadowed with the phantoms of flowers, arranged in the pleasing shape of a mass grave—a garden. Nestled amongst the flowers; so white as to appear a corpse herself, kneeled the naked figure of a woman. Her femininity lay bare to full view; the large swell of her hips, full generous thighs; a dark shadow disappearing between her legs. A dagger of excitation buried itself deep into his body, withdrawing to allow long-dormant lust to flow like a wound. He could possess her there in the damp earth, among the flowers that flickered as candles might when breathed upon, possess her utterly. She would be unable to oppose him long … or would she? The first technique a dream walker was taught was to clothe their own bodies. She must have been inchoate; unaware of the precariousness, the vulnerability of her situation; ignorant of her location, or more deviously, a skilled walker awaiting the arrival of a mate. He would go to her wearing the mask of friendship, prey upon her weakness, or destroy her strength. Then he saw her face, ageless, displayed by all Aes Sedai, and a very different part of him burned for satisfaction. Lust turned to algophilia and he hungered for her ruined flesh; longed to mar the freckled whiteness of her skin with the red blossom of her blood, to leave her broken corpse atop her earthen grave. He knew that her power could be turned upon him even here, and even a novice dream walker could challenge him. No. He would not force her to embrace his coupling. He would take her measure, as he would any other mark, and then he would end her life. The Dark Lord would accept nothing less of one of his faithful … and it had been too long since he had hunted last. As he moved towards her his body shimmered, rippled and changed. He wore a brimmed hat of worn leather, a lanyard decorated with the teeth of prey, some lupine; some human. Across his shoulders lay the fur of a wolf, exotic and warm. He smelled of autumn and wood smoke. The predator eyes softened, his smooth, featureless face became more human, long hair strewn haphazardly across along his face and neck. “Madam”, he said, “it is not safe here. There are … monsters in the night.”
  10. The woman dozed beside the hearth. She had the appearance of one young, yet capable. Her light complexion, incarnadined by the warmth; short black hair curled in ringlets around her forehead; one hand draped across her lap, the other resting flat on the table, each covered by a soft-leather glove. Recumbent, on ought to be forgiven for believing her incapable of those sins that stained her hands: stained redder than calefaction. A cool glass of ale and a warm fire, the two necessary ingredients for any celebration and this was, even disguised, one selfsame occasion. Emelia had dressed herself up nicely and relaxed in the warm tavern for most of the afternoon. She was very proud of her simple, but elegant taste, and she had paid well for it ... others, had paid well for it. The wilder had returned from her latest mercenary excursion wealthier than ever before, and most importantly, no lives had been lost. Several had escaped with varying degrees of burns, but none had died. This was not her cause for celebration, for in sooth she cared very little one way or the other. Nor was the excursion her cause for celebration, nor her fashion, nor her coin. No. This was the same spot in which she had last encountered Sera. Celebration may have been too strong a word, for there was no mirth in the remembrance. The dispatching of Sera had been necessary for her own survival; there was no malice in the action. If any emotion could be indicated it would, perhaps, be one of regret. The same part of her that enjoyed the flames had also enjoyed the thrill of being hunted, and that part had not wanted it to end. That final meeting between them had been replayed in her mind many times since, but none were more poignant than this, the one she experience now sitting in the very same spot. If only she had not brought those other two with her, if only she had been more reasonable, none of it would have happened, and Emelia would not have been forced to drive the blade into the warm flesh of Sera's body.... Her smooth face contracted briefly at the brow, the only outward show of nostalgic pangs. Sera had been unique, and the closest thing Emelia had known to a friend. Some may have considered this thought with repulsion and shame, but Emelia thought no more of it than her walking every day in her life, only to turn and find her shadow missing. "Beeiy you a drrink?" The voice was slurred and masculine: the lout from across the way, no doubt. "Go away." Her responding tone was rich and vibrant, plucked cords from a harp, belying her torpid demeanour. "Aww comme on girrlee. Jusht one?" "No, thanks all the same." "Now look her—" whatever comment he had been about to make turned into a squawk of surprise and mild pain. His side of the table had suddenly become inexplicably hot. Emelia's small teeth flashed with mirth in the hearth-light as the man quickly retreated. She did not even bother to open her eyes. The one drawback to her newfound freedom to go anywhere in the world, unseen and unremarked, leaving title and ring and shawl behind so nobody would recognise her … was that sometimes nobody recognised her. Firstly she had been sent to the back of a queue. She, the most powerful woman in the world, had been instructed to queue like a nobody! Possibly she should not have ignored the line in the first place, but she had never had patience for the social courtesies, and it had never occurred to her that a harassed stranger might send her right back again. She had managed not to refuse, though her brows had shot up and she had had to bite her tongue, but the indignity and boredom of waiting in a queue had reduced her to plotting everybody's demise in icy silence. Of course she had left her ring and seven-striped shawl behind, and dressed like a merchant, and resolved not to use the One Power save in the direst of circumstances, but she hadn't quite realised that somebody might actually be fooled. Did nobody even recognise an Aes Sedai in this Light-forsaken town? Secondly, when she had finally reached the front and asked for her contact, the girl at the desk had looked her up and down and suggested that perhaps somebody else would be more appropriate. It took a fair amount of forbearance not to inform the wretch that while she might not look rich, the Tower gave generously, she had a good touch with money and in short she could buy out an old banking house twice over, not that it was any of the girl's business anyway; instead Sirayn leaned on the counter, transfixed her victim with a stare borrowed from a basilisk, and repeated her request. Quietly. And even then she had to wait ten minutes in a side room until her contact consented to see her. The fact that as soon as her contact recognised her the other woman went white, shut the door and begged her forgiveness provided some much-needed compensation. Thirdly a clutch of little children had noticed her hand, or lack of it, whereupon a minor diplomatic incident had only just been averted. Let them stare had sounded like a good policy in Tar Valon, where nobody dared, but it had definite flaws Anyway, she had mostly recovered from the numerous indignities of masquerading as a nobody, at least enough to marvel over the treatment less important people had to put up with all the time. Honestly, why they tolerated it she didn't know; if she had to deal with queues, exasperation and barely concealed disdain on a daily basis she would have left a trail of carnage behind her unmatched by one-handed midgets throughout history. Anonymous she might be but she had left only her title and shawl behind when she stepped out of that gateway. The feel of another woman channelling not ten feet away startled her so much she nearly jumped out of her skin. Icy fear crept into her. Dreadlord: the word beat a rapid pulse in her thoughts … she had never been a match for a Dreadlord, she had met too many and learned to dread them all, and alone but for an angreal in some backwater town … she bit her tongue on a heartfelt curse. She hadn't touched the True Source; maybe the other woman hadn't noticed her. She could run. She could always bloody run. Dreadlords made a coward out of her and she hated it. Cursing her stupid, stupid inability to walk away from a fight -- not to mention how it grew in direct proportion to how much the previous one had scared her -- Sirayn embraced the One Power, pushed open the tavern door and stalked inside. The pother wound, wreathing her senses with a film of narcotic. Her vision tarnished, dropping away; her hearing lost its colour; her hands tingled with a loss of sensation. Responsively, muscles relaxed and Emelia sank back into her chair, eyes closed, mind leaving footsteps in the sands of time. She saw in her mind their last meeting: Sera and her companions sitting opposite, refusing to eat or drink that which Emelia had provided them. The indignation and wounded pride had burned her cheeks, how easily she had flown into a rage! Every movement came back to her, every subtle shift of weight, every breath; the painful chill of the doused hearth and how the half-light had played sinister upon Sera's features. Emelia had been afraid. The aromas of the market place had mixed with the sea of humanity to infuse her with excitation. She remembered reaching out with gloved hand to tease, only to be forced back into hiding; unwilling to lose the game. She had been so angry with Sera's companions, for they had spoiled everything. It was they who had placed black murder within her breast.... ...Her heart. The rise and fall of her chest. Flesh yielding to pressure. The sudden rousing of flames that screamed for attention. The delicate grip upon her knife hand, the only physical contact the two had truly made. The vacating stare as Emelia lowered her to the ground, Sera's vision piercing the veil of mortality. The haze of chemicals was joined by the air distortion of gathering heat and two pinpricks of light—pupils—blazed with an inner fire. Emelia smiled when she felt the embracing of saidar from without the ale house. Sera, just as she had come so long ago. She opened bleary eyes to spot the approaching silhouette, slightly out of focus and overlapping at the edges. Her teeth flashed in welcome and her hands unconsciously smoothed her hair and straightened her clothing. "Sera! Come. Come, do sit down," a vague gesture, "ale, wine, water?" The last word was stressed in what Emelia considered a comedic fashion. Why did Sera never laugh? Oh, she wished she would laugh. The silhouette opposite seemed lost in thought, perhaps she had spoken, perhaps not. Emelia found herself struggling to concentrate. The seller of dreams had told this particular dream would help her relax. She would pay him a visit tomorrow, perhaps, to discuss definitions of "relaxed." She thought perhaps there had been a headshake to the negative, so she did not signal to be attended. "What is the matter Sera, are you troubled? I have missed you!" Emelia spoke with unashamed enthusiasm at the return of one whose thread she had believed severed. The shadow did not respond. Perhaps Sera was still angry about that. Always was the type to hold a grudge. Maybe she would apologise, or explain. No, something was different. Something was wrong. Her picture of the half-concealed-by-darkness silhouette began to sharpen, and what she saw was a face she did not recognize, someone alien and unknown. Those were not the hands she had touch ... there was one hand only, Sera had had two! Who was that, and where was Sera, her Sera? Emelia's disconnected mind began to realise the grave error. The fire in her eyes was fevered, and the air became alive....
  11. He had the idea of it, at least, and that was a start. This particular exercise was repeated four more times, exactly, as one was never enough to grasp the concept of avoidance. There would be times in future where the skill would be useful, as the others Bobby was attempting to teach. The next test was no exception. By now, Drak was familiar enough with the novice sword forms and the various combinations he had been taught, the next step was to work on concentration. This was reasonably mild, with a small margin for stinging, though nothing as painful as the last. Bobby would see how Drak handled himself now. The Captain disliked the void. Useful but relied upon like the power. Whether or not lessons stuck, his aim was to strengthen weaknesses and not strengths. That is why Drak would be forced to concentrate without the void, concentrate in an environment where no surroundings were blocked and no sensations dulled. Drak once more stood amidships with sword in hand, a row of crew men on either side, each with a handful of small leather balls packed with rice. There would be no prizes then, for guessing the idea behind this one. The crew would throw the balls at Dark, and he would concentrate, and continue his routine until Bobby was satisfied. If the trainee slipped, stumbled, erred in his forms in anyway he would simply have to start again—from the beginning, and chances were that Bobby would make him do it for longer, as a sort of “encouragement” against failure, or, more honestly, a punishment for not succeeding. For addicts, and that is truly what a dread lord was, they managed quite well without being able to call upon their addiction. At times it hampered the ability to learn, some had gone through quite aggressive stages of “withdrawal”, and there was no remedy to that other than to release them from their shields, the power was not an addiction permanently severed without serious consequences, normally a loss of will to live. “Begin,” his tone one of crisp military precision.
  12. Hendra Biddle had a liking for night-time excursions. She had quickly discovered it was the quietest time in the tower, and so long as she wasn't seen, was the best time to enjoy the privacy of her own thoughts, without being interrupted by the snores of her room mate. It was also an exceedingly good opportunity for mischief, and upon hearing the whispered plans, she was in. It wasn't often that Accepted and Novices conspired together, but this would be well worth it. Hendra didn't even mind the attitude that came along with snooty novices, the fun would overshadow any irritation she may feel. It was obscenely early, but that didn't bother Hendra as she hastily dressed in the dark. The lump in the other bed was snoring loudly as usual. Not wanting to wake her, Hendra kept her shoes in her hand and slipped out of the room barefoot and onto the cold tiles. Hendra had never met Estel Sedai personally, but she had heard rumours that the Blue had been a notorious prankster in her youth. Some of the stories seemed to outrageous to be true, but the woman still held a certain awe among the initiates that could not be ignored. Bubbling with excitement and curiosity, Hendra quietly slipped into the room, following the hushed whispers she had detected ahead. Out of relative danger now, Hendra grinned unabashedly. All seemed quiet, but Hendra knew she wasn't the only one sneaking out past curfew that night. There were others like her, all making their way to the Blue Chambers. Getting to Estel's chambers undetected would be tricky, having to go past all the other sleeping Aes Sedai, but no doubt they never dreamed of finding novices and Accepted up to mischief in their own quarters. Rory performed her most disarming smile yet and answered the question of the Novice she did not recognize--hardly a surprise: "What do be your name? I do be Rory and I do be ensuring you that no one will squeal. Only those that do be wishing to cause trouble be here." There was no guarantee of that, but it sounded good.
  13. Bobby had found it highly entertaining to watch Drak perform the novice forms while balancing himself on the small make-shift raft. The dread lord had done better than expected, coming quite close to succeeding and having himself unshielded. Bobby might well have had him knocked off the raft anyway, just out of spite. The next lesson would be equally simply if diverse. Bobby stood to one side drinking tea, as was customary, while Mr. Sweeper stood at the foremast weighing slim rods of wood in his well practised hands. Drak was waiting at the jigger, and at the Captain’s signal he would attempt to reach Mr. Sweeper without being struck by one of the blunt, but very painful, wooden rods. Mr. Sweeper had argued the point that she should be allowed to use actual spears. Whether or not he truly believed it, or whether he was simply doing it to fulfil one of their many on-board rituals, Bobby had never bothered to find out. He didn’t doubt that John Sweeper, with his unmistakable revelry would not mind a little blood letting, providing it was not his own, and it never was. Drak was given a sword, the same basic shape as the one used in training, but not of the same quality. He might well choose to attempt deflecting the rods with it, a tactic Bobby had anticipated, and he would not allow such a fine piece of equipment to be blunted for the sake of this particular test. If Drak was struck, a very real possibility, he was likely to go down, the chance of Mr. Sweeper pulling his throws was ... well, it wouldn’t happen. No, the trainee would need to use his wit, his weapon and the cover provided by the ship itself to have any real hope of success, as Bobby intended. It was his hope that it would teach the dread lord to ware his surroundings and to be fluid in his movements and changes in direction. Eventually Bobby would have him practise his sword forms while avoiding such projectiles, but not yet. With a smile, and a nod, Mr. Sweeper picked up the first from his very expansive pile of rods, and threw it in Drak’s direction. "
  14. Estel Sedai: in a very unflattering but terribly appropriate way, Rory likened her to a trained circus animal. Namely, (or videlicet) one of the large carnivorous variety that eventually, despite all of their training would take someone’s arm off at that annoying impractical and unforeseen moment where it was likely to do the most damage. Estel Sedai knew she was coming, in a sense, new she’d have “friends” with her, to a degree, but there was no telling just what kind of reaction their might be. The plan, plot, coup de main, nasty little prank, whatever you wanted to call it, did not hinge on Estel Sedai’s participation, which was just as well. On the other hand, she had more power than the combined novice contingent and more skill than all others present combined. Strength and skill did not translate to “pivotal” and “crucial” but it did rather come to mean “bloody handy” where Rory was concerned and given the plans Rory had, err, that is to say: the plans Rory and her friends had, yes, much better—well it would be nice to have a little experience. The plan was simple, they would all meet in Estel’s room, and from there they would break up into groups, or go their separate ways or whatever it is each individual Novice or Accepted felt the need to be doing at the late—or early—hour, providing it caused an absolute menace to the tower as a whole. Rory, whose headline act would be to fuse some classroom contents to the ceiling, would need Saline for that. More and more Novice and Accepted entered the room, including some that Rory was quite certain she had overlooked, and others who had been overlooked in a less than accidental fashion. Well, it was too late to worry about that now. Time to get the show started, and in order for that to happen Estel would need to get out of bed. The sooner the better. “Wakey, wakey, Estel Sedai. It do be time for you to rise and shine.” Shine was an optimistic assessment. The sun was closer to going down than it was to coming up, “we do be needing to hurry. You do be noticing I’ve bought a few of the girls.” Her eyes roved the troop, totalling a touch over a baker’s dozen, then whispered quietly, “And others I no do be inviting at all. This do be your chase to break even with your sisters, yes. Let’s go!” Rory then turned to the other Novices and Accepted present, forgetting for a time that Saline’s hand was still clasped firmly within her own, “Good morning, ladies, I do be hoping you be having enough sleep for the night. It do be time for us to strike back at our ... tyrannical oppressors! Yes, let them do be feeling the wrath of our gathered ... ah ... vengeance!” “So long as nobody do be getting hurt, I no do be caring what you decide to get up to. You can go by yourselves, or in groups, I no do be caring, but if you get caught you do be on your own! Do there be any questions? If not, then let’s get cracking!”
  15. The frown that Saline had always considered “cute” deepened into a scowl. Darienna’s reflection of her own behaviour was far from mollifying, she even went so far as to mimic her voice, and her actions! Rory was not feeling very positive toward Darienna in that moment, if anything she was beginning to get a little heated. Already angry in general, her ill will honed in on the nearest object, Darienna Sedai and her lewd representation of her behaviour. Rory’s grip upon the arm rests of her chair was unnaturally harsh as the lecture continued. She was honestly doing her level best to break something with that grip, and even though she didn’t succeed it helped to redirect her mounting temper. Being provoked was not something Rory had ever encountered, and she did not like it one bit. Rory’s impulsive reaction to having another person try to order her about was less than anger and more instinct. When she had struck Saline she was not so much angry as determined, the act of violence had happened naturally and without a large deal of thought. The scenarios playing through her mind at present required were much more thought intensive, and anger inspired. No longer was she trying to flee the tower, this fact was easily discernable through her actions, and the fact that she had taken the test to become Accepted, rather than simply leave when the opportunity presented itself. Now she was simply guilty, and redirecting it at an enemy far easier to strike at, in this case, Darienna. Her face was becoming flushed from the increase in her heart-rate as adrenaline began to flood her system. She was reaching the end of her patience, and attempting to physically assault the Aes Sedai was becoming a more realistic outlet. Being mocked and mimicked was so infuriating! Before Rory had the chance to make good on her violent fancies, however, Darienna unleashed a barrage of sarcastic questions. Rory was unsure as to whether or not they were rhetorical in nature, they may well have been, but something was going to give, and this time it was her tongue before her fists. “I do no be leaving Saline responsible for any of my actions! I do be taking credit for my own pranks. She no do be involved! I no do be reflecting on Saline, I do no be Saline, I do be Rory and everyone do be knowing that Saline has nothing to do with my actions, they do be my own. Everyone do be knowing that, and if they ask I do be telling them. “Saline no do be my mentor any more, I do be Accepted, the same as she, and I do be answerable only to full Sisters. I no do be ruining prospects for anyone, and you do be lying for saying so. What do be it reflecting on Saline if I do be making mistakes, everyone do be making mistakes! Even you do be making them when you were young, I do be betting! I do be responsible for myself, not her!”
  16. Rory’s expression twisted in a way unidentifiable with any commonly defined emotion, and all vitality whooshed out of her small body. She was glad for the chair else she would have fallen, further debasing herself in the eyes of Darienna Sedai. She had finally done it, crossed the hazy line of Darienna’s patience into an alien gray area she would rather not have experienced: the Mistress of Novices in Anger. The Accepted had always been better at expressing herself physically, words often proving inefficient and difficult. Right now she felt utterly miserable, and a small part of expected her body to reflect this. She felt as though her belly were filled with fire, and as the punishment unfolded her chin wobbled. If only Arette Sedai hadn’t fallen. Oh, Rory, you do be for it now! Always before Saline had remained her safety-net, her life line, nothing was quite so bad while she could bury her small body in the arms of her roommate, as she wished she could now. But no, that one constant in her life was being stripped from her, taken away in a punitive act of vengeance. Rory garbled, actually garbled, in an attempt to mitigate her sentence, to think of some way of explaining her actions and her whelming regret at what she had done. It would have been a lie, but who cared so long as it got her out of the worst of it? It had been an accident. Accidental, she had meant no malice and no harm. Arette Sedai was healed now, wasn’t she? Everything was fine. Why was she being punished so harshly then? It was about control, always about control. Just as Nynaeve Sedai had attempted to subdue her through humiliation, Darienna wanted to exert her power through discipline. She had not let Nynaeve Sedai break her spirit, and she wouldn’t let Darienna! She had almost believed that the Mistress of Novices had been acting for her benefit, had almost allowed herself to be convinced that she had no ulterior motive. Looking back through her years as an Accepted, and those years as a Novice reminded her not to be enamoured so easily. Yes, Darienna Sedai had always treated her fairly, but what if, just what if it was all a lie; a ploy and a deception. She wouldn’t be fooled so easy by manipulative women wishes to dominate her! As “righteous” anger began to take purchase, the flame in her belly spread to her heart. The blood returned to her face with a rushing sound like a swarm of bees and her self-pity and sorrow were buried in a tide of unashamed rebellion. Her voice was slick with sarcasm, thick with the boiling-point cussedness. Her chin set in that particular way.... “I do be getting it now. You do be just like the others, trying to force me into submission. It do be accidental, I do no be meaning for anyone to be hurt. You do be just like Nynaeve Sedai, just like the rest. All you do be wanting is for me to be doing what you tell me to do, for no other reason than you told me to do it. Well, your punishment do be unfair! “I do be having Lillian Sedai, and I do be having Saline. One do be gone most of the time anyway, and you do be taking from me the only person I do knowing, do be caring about. I do be sorry that life as the Mistress of Novices do be lonely; I sympathise, but you do no be needing to take that out on me! I do be sorry that I be having Saline for a friend, but that no do be giving you right to take that away from me!” OOC: Feel free to stomp her into little bits, she needs it!
  17. Rory bounded out of the hallway, her tell-tale cheeky grin plastered from ear to ear. Laughter was held in readiness, to be used when she saw the look on the poor Brown Sister’s face. Mmm. There was nothing sweeter than Aes Sedai’s tears in the morning, excepting of course, when she was the cause. A delicacy to savour! The grin melted from her face in a moment of horrified confusion: The Aes Sedai was not moving, and an unmistakable splash of blood fanned from beneath her head. Rory became afraid, her belly turned to ice and she felt for a moment she would pass out. Her heart beat too loudly, and the colour drained from her face as it was the Brown Sister’s. No, no, no, no, no. Calm down, Rory, you do no be freaking out now. She was pacing back and forth, her wringing her hands, chewing her bottom lip, eyes darting in every direction. If she had not panicked she may have been able to aid the fallen Aes Sedai herself, but she had, couldn’t and after her eyes rolled towards the hallway like a frightened calf she broke into a mad-dash run, caring very little for modesty. She dismissed her first thought, Lillian, who was not often in the tower itself, and Rory could waste precious time in the searching. Saline she dismissed, too, but with a little more regret. Lillian’s disapproval she could handle, but Saline’s? She could go to the infirmary but it was so far away and there was no guarantee anyone would be in reception to help her. No. She knew where she would go, and it was a testament to her fear that she chose to do so. The Mistress of Novices was stern, firm, and uncompromising, but Rory had never known her not to be in her office, bogged down by paper work, she would be there. She had to be. She would know what to do, she always knew what to do, and right now that is precisely what was required. She stopped in front of the Mistress’ door, too afraid to knock. Rory did not know how to say it, how to explain what she had done, or how to ask for help. Crying was very appealing, or running and burying herself in bed to hide but those things were cowardly and she couldn’t bring herself to flee, but nor could she immediately bring herself to knock on the door. Closing her eyes, feeling the eager tears, she offered a silent prayer to the Creator and knocked on the door.
  18. With a slink she slunk and sneak she snuck though the brown quarters and she was in luck, for the halls were silent as the grave. Or that blasted library! Rory had no way of knowing, having never set foot in this area of the tower before, that the Brown Ajah enjoyed its silence and seclusion in the library and in its private wing. A blessing in disguise, for, had she known prior it would have been long, long ago that she decided to grace its halls with her lively presence. Rory had found a rather unflattering portrait of a certain trolloc while browsing through the library and determined it useful for future purposes. Now was the future, and this hall right here was her purpose. The day of one very (un)fortunate Brown Sister was going to be brightened severely today, whether she liked it or not. Creating the illusion was the easy part. Selecting it to appear in just the right manner at just the right time, which would be when someone other than herself walked into this juncture of the hallway, was the challenging part. Rory felt her skills adequate to the task and so she began, stopping every few moments to listen for detection. It never came. When she was finished the Accepted rubbed her hands with glee and considered where best to hide. With gentle pressure she tested the doors and found them snugly locked, probably warded too, now that she thought about it. It was very silent in this part of the tower. The only idea she could think of was circling the area and making busy. That way she could avoid most annoying questions like, “what are you doing here?” “Who let you in?” “What are you doing with that tinder box and candles?” Yes. That would do nicely.
  19. Rory had genuinely wanted to find out more about this so-called “talent” she possessed. Residue resurrection was it? Poppycock! Anyway, that had been the intention, almost. From about the moment when Saline laughed along with her at “their” book, Common Causes of Headaches, she was paying more attention to her roommate than to the books she was supposed to be reading. Beneath the juniper tree it became worse, she started to lose her focus on the text—I have to wonder where she put it—Saline’s word were far more interesting. It was not what Saline read, no, but how she read it; the tone, the infection; the way her throat moved as she spoke and the brush of her breath against Rory’s cheek. These things caused her to falter in her own reading, and she bumbled over the words like a novice, flushing with embarrassment the whole time.... She woke suddenly, disorientated, a warm mouth upon hers. Her senses bathed in familiarity and she was not alarmed, instead she found comfort—too much comfort. The lips receded and she forced her own not to chase them, a bizarre disappointment overtaking her. What do be happening to me? Saline dragged her to their room, too busy guiding to notice the slight resistance and agonized expression on her roommates face. Back in their room, Rory accepted the offer for a story, even though her thoughts were elsewhere. “The jig would be up,” if she declined and she could not bear her roommates scrutiny. She buried herself inside the sheets, and against Saline’s body. She felt sudden anxiety and began to tremble. She would remain silent, hope her unusual behaviour was taken as a symptom of the cold.
  20. Rory just couldn’t wait to have the discussion with Darienna, it was sure to be filled with girlish squeals of laughter and palm fronds of friendship. Rory do be doing this, Rory do be doing that. Darienna had been the Dark One himself in a previous life. No, no do be stepping out of the tower to find evil, sisters, it do be right there! Mistress of Novices, bah! Estel Sedai had finally forgiven Rory for her … little accident involving the stairs, they had even worked together on her latest and best prank. Sisters suspected, of course, but none of them could prove anything and it wasn’t worth the hassle of extracting the information from Rory against her will. She had been punished, she and Saline—regrettable, that—and it was all over and done with now. Finding Estel’s private study in the Blue Ajah quarters was easy enough and Rory hoped she wasn’t in bed with a man again, that would be terribly awkward. She knocked lightly and called through the door rather than tempting fate by opening it. “Estel Sedai, Estel Sedai, Darienna … Sedai,” Rory added the last honourific, hedging against the Mistress finding out otherwise, “do be wanting you. I do be sent to fetch and escort you back to her. Yes. It do be me, Rory, again. Hey, no do be laughing!”
  21. This morning Captain Redpath decided to do things a little differently. Not too differently, as many had been trained in this manner, but very few were offered an insentive to do so. Drak was attentive in his studies, and an industrious student, what's more he had not attempted--as of yet--to stab Bobby and take his captaincy, which in his eyes added a few feet to the height of his estimation. It was amazing how many of his recruits attempted to dispose of him, but then that's what you expected when dealing with the forces of "evil". Several of his crew were right now working on putting a raft, the raft, together for the next lesson. Normally it was house piecemeal within the cargo hold, each log small enough to be moved between the hatches. A raft was not required often, but his crew could lash it together in minimal time, a well rehearsed play in case of emergency. This was not an emergency, as such. The raft was lowered into the icy water, and Drak was placed upon it with naught but his clothing and a sword, and then the raft was slowly wound out until it was a good twenty feet behind the stern. The risk to Drak was small, he was to tie himself to the raft so that even if he slipped into the waves he would be able to climb back, so long as he was quick enough. The goal was simple: Drak would perform the forms as shown ten times without stumbling off, it was fine if he lost his footing or slipped, providing he remained above water. At least, he would attempt to do this. If he succeeded his shield would be lowered and he would walk free aboard the vessel for the rest of his stay. If he failed he would get wet and very cold. The sails of The Merry Pauperspread into life at the beckoning of a harsh command, sailors ran two and fro across the decks, and the channelling contingent set about managing the sails for optimum speed. Drak had not been told about that part, but hey, what was life without surprises.
  22. Rory was by no means a clean freak. She liked dirt, she liked mud; she even liked the two together. There was nothing wrong with being covered head to foot in muck, goop, or slime, so long as it wasn’t dairy run off, sewer run off, the aftermath of a very large horse’s sneeze, or sewer run off. Why did she mention sewer twice; why, it was doubly important. There were just some things that transcended the crossed the border between good clean, dirty fun, and, “Get it off, get it off!” And while sweat had its unique attractive quality on another, for instance: Saline’s damp forehead after weapons training, but there was a limit to what was tolerable when it came to her own person, and the warm, sticky cling of her accepted dress was in direct breach of the contract. Yuck! Saline could have been a messenger from the Creator him or herself for the smile Rory turned upon here when she spoke the magic words, “let’s get you cleaned up.” She resisted the urge to grab Saline’s hand (as sweaty as her own was) as the other led her wherever it is they were going. Having not been privy to weapons training, or rather unwilling to commit despite Saline’s coaxing, she had never seen the steam room, and was more comfortable bathing alone—in water. The steam was nicer than expected and with Saline guarding the door she only had to worry about Saline herself deciding to peek in, and given how often Rory had threatened Saline with such treatment it was definitely something to be wary of. It wasn’t that Rory was shy about her body, being naked could be a lot of fun, so long as no one else saw it. It had been humiliating during her accepted testing to disrobe in front of all. Those. Faces. If she had had a choice, it would have been Saline there, not them. Not that she wanted Saline to see her naked! It was just that she was more comfortable with her roommate than some unknown Aes Sedai. Scratch good, the steam felt great. Rory was quite content to bathe (figuratively) in the steam tickling her body while at the same time moistening it enough so she might scrub it clean. So great that she only remembered to leave when Saline threatened the privacy of her new sanctuary and sent her scurrying for clothes too big. They were obviously Saline’s. It felt strange to be in the clothes of another, yet not uncomfortable. She imagined how the clothing would sit on Saline’s shapelier frame, larger at the hips and—after noticing the slack around her sternum—clearly the bust as well. The clothing carried the distinct smell of her roommate, lots of soap and the irrepressible scent of Saline’s clean skin. Rory gathered the vesture closer to her body, and not for the misfit. Then she trotted with her roommate to source (har, har) as many books on the subject of residue resurrection as she could.
  23. If Lillian thought she was queer, well, Rory thought Lillian had gone completely mental. You know, three crumbs shy of a biscuit, two wings short of a bucket, fifty cents short of a dollar; three whores short of a brothel, a bearded lady short of a carnival—even though Rory was certain she’d seen at least one or two bearded Aes Sedai. What she could do with it? Was Lillian out of her mind? The spiders’ webs were wisps of colour, leftovers on the plate from a weave sandwich, or so she supposed, what could possibly be done with—oh. Hang on a minute. What was that? Rory had reached out with a thick cord of air, and the tendrils had moved! Which meant ... well, what did that mean, exactly? Rory frowned for a moment. If she squinted just enough the spiders’ webs looked similar to an illusion weave, come to think of it. The wisps didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the stubborn louts that they were, were resisting being moved around themselves. So she could not rearrange them, but then what on earth had possessed her to think she could? Stop being a ninny, Rory Baker, and start using that head that the Creator do be giving you! Rory had once owned a leather thong. Once owned? Still owned,ninny! Her mother had made it for her. It was simple and unadorned but it was a gift and she had always worn it. Sadly her lifestyle did not agree with anything decorative around her neck, and often her rough-and-tumble interactions caused it to break. Each time her mother had simply added, as if by magic, another piece of leather to strengthen it. Now one could be forgiven for thinking that the leather thong was actually a beaded necklace belonging to a tinker. Somehow her mother had been able to add new leather to the old leather to remake it ... could she--it was worth a try! Impossibly, she began to link new threads with the old. For some reason she could not explained they stayed bound. She could not shake the instinctive urge to shape an illusion weave. She had no idea what she was creating, but it after fiddling around for a while it began to feel right. Being one to always trust her gut, which was how Saline had gotten a black eye, Rory gave herself over to the urge. It took forever, or what seemed like forever. Her magical inner sense didn’t bother to direct her weave and so she was all alone there, but it either looked right or wrong when she finished, the lines either connected in a way that made “sense”, or they did not. Slowly, very, very slowly, the weave began to take shape. How long had passed? Who knew, if time were counted in ninnies, then had been several hundred ninnies since, not the most accurate of measurements. She was covered in sweat, and her breathing was heavy, but she did not know any of that, not yet. If she did, she would run screaming for the shower and look herself in there for hours. So it is probably better for the story if she doesn’t find out until later. There, before her, stood the Mistress of Novices, which was to say, a sight most alarming to behold. If there were a woman more sinister and evil than the Mistress of Novices, Rory would not wish to meet her. It gave her a heck of a shock, especially as it was not a perfect reflection, but a hazy, slightly deformed and elongated Mistress of Novices. So there was something scarier than the existing Mistress of Novices after all. Her imprecise weave fizzled out into nothing, and only the residue remained. “Well … that … wa ... why … am … I ... panting?” Rory felt very weird about the whole thing. Then she became aware of her damp clothes.
  24. A week passed. It was cold, bitterly cold; almost cold enough to freeze. Icicles formed on the rigging, the railings, bow and stern. It was a unique sight that very few of his crew members ever saw. Bobby did not often travel this far from the warm waters, but this time he had decided to for no other reason than to enjoy the early-morning chill. His men could hardly be expected to jump into the ice cluttered ocean; that would display bad form. He would have the channellers on board put to good use warming water, clearing ice from their path, the men would get clean, but it would be a far more strenuous exercise than normal. And why did he insist on cleanliness? Well why not. He was a pirate captain, this was true, but he was also a military man by nature if not career. The decks of his ship would always remain clean, he would always be dressed in spotless attire, and his crew members would always wash themselves whether they felt like it or not. He drank tea, as always. The warm cup heating his body through even as it warmed his fingers. This morning another cup of tea sat on the tiller, secure enough in their easy drift. Drak was progressing well, and the cold was likely to hit him hard, whether her admitted it or not, if he was unused to the temperatures. Bobby himself would have found it uncomfortable if not for his tea. Oh, how he loved tea! If he expected Drak to function at all he would at least give him a moment to warm himself before beginning the exercises. He was not about to let any man with frozen-numb fingers handle a very sharp weapon. That was the sort of idea his first mate would go for. The student appeared, and Bobby pointed him towards the tea, a warning glance suggesting better of any thought to speak. If Drak was to be privileged enough to witness the early morning hoar, he would do so in silence. For however many years Bobby had enjoyed early morning tea drinking in silence, and he would continue to do so, or Drak would find himself swimming. The Captain sat his empty cup down upon the plank and handed Drak the ornamental sheath, as he had done so every day since beginning. He showed promise. Perhaps he would never be a blade master, but he would certainly come to match Bobby himself, which was just as well, really. The skill of a professional soldier should be more than enough for anyone, and Bobby possessed that, if nothing else. “You have done well so far. I will show you your next lesson, then you will perform the previous to warm yourself up, I believe you familiar enough with it now that I need not correct any of your movements.” The last was not so much a reassurance as a warning. The Captain motioned for Drak to stand back. The sword sheathe he tucked into his belt on the left side, the hilt in a firm grip with the right. He spaced his legs evenly. “Pay attention,” he mouthed before whipping the sword from its sheath: Unfolding the Fan. Arc of the moon became The courtier tips his fan, which flowed precisely into Humming Bird kisses the honey rose, to Parting the silk; The kingfisher takes the silverback. The Grapevine twines, the tip of his sword rotating in a dizzying circle, smooth and controlled. Next, The falcon stoops; Folding the fan; Unfolding the fan. The sword was sheathed and unsheathed with a hiss like steam. Immediately he assumed Heron wading in the rushes. He held the position as he spoke again, explaining each form and its purpose. “Most would consider it more prudent to perform Heron wading through the rushes before sheathing the sword. I believe it takes more skill to flow into the position while unsheathing your weapon. Always remember this position is for practise only. It will teach you muscle control and aid in balancing. There are times when it can be used in battle, but I would not get my hopes up.” He sheathed the weapon, “Now, your turn. Take your time, and I will talk you through it.” OOC: Mahaha!
  25. Brandeis smiled as he answered the first question: “We are Questioners, and the asking of questions is a larger aspect of what we do than many would believe. That is how you know your “subject”, you must ask questions, gage responses and the modes of delivery. From there a picture of your “subject” will be formed and with patient practice you will learn to understand what drives them. We Questioners are taught to do this better than most, but it is not foolproof. “We’ve all gotten them, the silently glaring captive, stonewalling and refusing to budge on even the smallest of questions. This is a problem, and indicative of sensitive information being hidden. It is the quickest route to being questioned in the more popular sense of the word. “There are also those who excel at the art of deceit and manipulation, it is a learned skill. It is hard to tell truth from untruth and you yourselves would be advised to grant the benefit of the doubt and release the subject; unless, you have strong suspicions of their guilt. “Many choose to believe that we snatch helpless and innocent victims from their families and friends in order to subject them to brutal torture. This could not be further from the truth. A man, or woman, will undergo the question only when there is sufficient evidence to warrant it. We won’t, for instance, torture Ms. Avery at the local bakery just for her secret bread recipe. I must admit that at times I am sorely tempted!” Brandeis listened to the second and third questions, pursing his lips in thought and nodding his head, when the child was finished he once again smiled before replying: “I fear I have misled you with my poor word choice and I apologise. Those things I mentioned earlier are a form of psychological persuasion, but when the term is used by a questioner, he or she is referring to something far more severe, acts left unspoken to anyone outside the order. “What you must understand is the nature of torture. It leaves scars on anyone who encounters it, questioner or questioned. We do our best to avoid it where at all possible, for its effects are hard to over come. We work for the light, we do not destroy the lives of our fellow man for our own entertainment, and if you push a person too hard they will break and confess to anything, to do that would make us no better than the evil we strive to fight against. “As for your second question, it is an interesting one. Becoming a questioner is not easy, in order to do so you must overcome the harsh training, as well as certain truths that emerge. While we are not put to the question proper, we are given a sampling to better aid us in understanding our work. It is by no means a just comparison, but it gives us a taste. “We study our subjects in great detail, we have done for years. Trial and error is the foundation upon which our art was built. We know all there is to know of it that a person might learn without being subjected to it personally. No. I have not been put to the question, but that does not make me any less capable.” Brandeis did not add silently that the connexion between the questioner and his subject worked both ways, and that it had been known for a questioner to become as attached to the subject as they to him or her. He did not add that the entire structure of the questioners was a form of long lasting psychological torture, whereby the questioner’s perceptions of the world were crudely reformed. No. These things he did not say. The fourth question, however, served to irritate him. Not the question in itself, as it “appeared” to be benign, but that the child who asked it had clearly been disinterested throughout the entire discussion and had paid little attention to Brandeis at all. Well, Brandeis would have liked to have been elsewhere, too, but he had a duty to perform. The child on the other hand, could leave any time, and in a spasm of childish impulse he almost told him so. Brandeis was happy with the lack of the formality in the surrounding, it did not matter to him if these children referred to him by his first name, or ever if they forgot the deference to one of his rank and station—he forgot that half the time anyway—but blatant disrespect for him and his class … that was a different matter entirely. Rather than mete out some malevolent and soothing physical punishment he opted to answer his question in a derisive manner instead. “Ah. Nice to see that my humble class has finally been graced with your presence; I would hate to think I was boring you in any way. Perhaps you’d like to take the class while I sit and daydream? Would you like my tabard to make it official? No? Well. Good. “The answer to your question is simple. You hand them to a questioner with more experience, you kill them, or you let them go. There are not many reasons that questioning will fail to yield results, when taking into account the preparation and investigation that has taken place before hand. They are as follows. “The questioner is inept to handle the situation. “The questioned is innocent. “The questioned is one of those rare exceptions to the rule that we all dread. “An inept questioner problem is easily solved: give the subject to one with more experience. It is a very long chain, I assure you, and it has been said that the Lord High Questioner has never failed to reveal the truth of the matter. Having watched him at work I believe there to be truth to the rumour. “Where a subject is innocent you may only let them go. Our goal, as I stated, is not to destroy lives or ruin families. We seek truth through the means necessary to achieve it. These are hard times, where hard things are asked of the faithful, and not everyone is suited for the shepherd’s crook and starburst. In the end, an innocent man is an innocent man. “The third reason is the most difficult to deal with. There are techniques which aid in the resistance of torture, but they are temporary at best. The nature of the question is insidious and long lasting, an in the hands of a skilled questioner not even those techniques will save a man. “However, some people are known to possess minds resilient beyond all known reason. These cases are very rare and we have had few examples to study. In time I believe we will unlock the key, but until then all that happens is that they waste a lot of our time and often die before revealing anything useful. This is less than ideal. They will either die, or they must be declared guiltless. We could kill them, yes, but that is a job for the military, and not for the questioners. Killing me who could be innocent is also a risky proposition.” "Now we will speak a little more on purely indirect psychological questioning. It is not likely to be of much use to any of you not considering to petition our order for admittance, but it may aid you in any difficult interrogations you are forced to initiate while in the field. "The benefits of indirect methods is that they are potent enough to shatter the human mind, disrupt mental processes and achieve your goals without leaving a physical scar or blemish on the body. The drawback is that they require more guile and patience than a more hands on approach. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as taking care to be methodical and deliberate is never a bad thing in this line of work. "Indirect methods lean towards attempting to disrupt cognitive processes, using fear, shock, and unfulfilled expectation to slowly break down or fragment a subject's willpower and mind. It is not pretty, and its effects often prove irreversible, thus caution becomes imperative. "I could list off numerous examples of these things but would prefer not to. If even you encounter the need to devise a strategy you need to be able to think, and if you cannot think then this entire lesson is wasted upon you. Let's be fair. Some of you will take in what I am saying, and others will not. Questioning requires a specific type of person that maybe you simply don't wish to be. "Sleep depravation is an easy method. Starvation, dehydration, suffocation. Very simple but very effective. From birth we have built up memories of control and our own importance. Deny these roles, strip a subject of his or her control over life, deny the importance; make them an object. Remove them from what they have always been taught are the values of life and who they are. Challenge them to perceive the world in a manner in which you dictate. You will be the only constant, the only dependable notion in their new universe. "At times false praise is also very effective. Rather than throw them down, raise them up. Pamper, spoil. Make them special. The possibilities are endless and you can only truly learn what is effective through trial and error, which can sometimes get a little messy, of course, that is why I am giving you this lesson. A few simple guidelines to help you on your way. "Now. I would like you each to come up with a method of indirect pressure, and explain your reasoning behind it. Take your time."
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