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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Sam

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  1. Braxton eyed the horse. The horse eyed Braxton. Braxton moaned. The horse whickered in amusement. Wonderful things, horses. Capable of picking up the sublest forms of body language. This was unfortunate. There was a snowball's chance in the bore that the horse had yet to identify Braxton's nervousness. The added insentive of saddling the magnificent creature would have been a motivating one but for Braxton's logical fear of the damned thing. He could hear her pawing at the earth: loud snorting breaths. He could almost picture the grass churning as hooves pelted the plain with a torturous rhythm. Instinctively he knew she would be waiting for him. Always waiting for him. Braxton frowned at the memory. The horse had made his childhood somewhat unpleasant. That is to say that the young fillie had taken an instant shine to him, or at least her teeth had. It wasn't as though he was afraid of all horses. Only the ones that looked like that. What were the odds? Braxton fully intended to cater to the horse's every need... Providing this did not require him to part with any flesh, blood, or articles of clothing. With a torpid sigh and a jerk at each and every one of the horse's movements, Braxton began the slow and methodical mucking out process.
  2. The young trainee shivered. It was not a chill morning by any standardisation of the word. Neither breeze nor rain stirred. The eye of the storm. The thought an exequial melody. As good a day as any to die. To comprehend this rather mordant train of thought, one must examine many facets of the trainee. Why does he head thither with faltering; lurid steps? The answer is simple. Braxton was on his way to the Mistress of Trainees. The same mistress he had slapped in a vain effort to earn himself the rank of Tower Guard. In the end was revealed to havebeen but an entertaining prank pulled by a notorious Tower Guard. Aran. In an act of vengeful recompense, Braxton had attacked the man and met with a conclusive beating. Aran had then proceeded to refuse to return Braxton's whip, forcing him to report his actions to his own mentor in order to have it returned to him. This he had done, after finding a marginal dose of courage in the bottom of a cup. Thus leading us all to this exact juncture in the pattern. Braxton, on his way to report to the Mistress of Trainees with a note from his mentor, preparing himself for whatever punishment was to be sent his way. After knocking; secretly swearing he heard snatches of a song and then gaining admittance, Braxton shifted uncomfortably. The Mistress of Trainees was not pleased to find him in her presence, not that he could blame her. This latest quarrel was sure to do little to add brevity to her assessment. Her question was the thunderclap of doo: the death knell presiding over his own funerial mass. "Excuse me... err.. sir, I mean ma'a--mistress!" Oh. Real smooth. "Umm... I umm... was sent by my mentor. I have been... instructed to give you this." Offering a weak; pale smile. Braxton handed over the letter from his Mentor.
  3. Braxton gave a thinlipped smile. He could hear the beginnings of excess-libation creeping into the woman's tone. Soon would come the obnoxious phase, then the 'help-I-can't-find-my-nose'phase... the course would go down hill swiftly from that point. If the lass didn't slow down, it wasn't going to be pretty and Braxton didn't really want to be around for any ensuing eruptions of the stomach order. "My name is Braxton, lady and while it has been a pleasure to meet you--even under these peculiar circumstances--I must take my leave." He turned to Aran, "I trust you will keep my weapon in safe-keeping until I am able to return for it. I apologise for my rash actions, you have beaten me fairly. At a disadvantage, to be true." With that he bowed a courteous, if stiff, bow and walked brisquely from the room. He had lessons to contend with and a mentor to front up to.
  4. Braxton found this all very strange. He was grateful for it. Aran could have done much worse than a simple beating. While that chivalrous and fantastical hero within him burned with opprobium the rest sighed with relief. Now he was faced with the obstacle of retrieving his whip... that was unfortunate. Discretion is the better part of valour, so they said and he doubted the advisidness of confronting his mentor with the previous actions. It would end... badly. There was only one thing to do and that was accept the offered cup and drink from it. It was potent enough but nothing compared to the homemade batches his Grandfather created. Admittedly, while he could swallow the stuff he still had alow threshold for the debiliting alcoholic after-shock and the brew his Grandfather concocted was used to remove deep-seeded stains and burn away proudflesh on injured horses. You would perhaps manage half a glass before you went completely blind and your centre of gravity became several feet beneath the earth's crust. "Here's to a magnificent lecture I am soon to recieve. My back burns with anticipation!" He drained the remainder of his cup. The courage would be needed.
  5. "About myself?" Hesitation. "I come from a cattle-farm a few days ride from Tar Valon. To tell the truth I haven't been here all that often, once or twice that I can remember and never by myself. It is much different. To be here alone. It is larger than I recall. More complicated and complex but thus does the world appear without the ornery minioning of my grandfather. "He is the reason I am here. I would have been here sooner but for my mother and her worries. Were it her choice alone I'd never have left the milking sheds. She does what she thinks is best. Often they turn out to be dead wrong from my perspective but she does what she does out of motherly protectiveness. Thankfully that hasn't urged her to abandon her senses completely. "My father was a Tower Guard, you see, as was his father before him. My father died in service, a noble death by all accounts but not the stuff of legend. My mother forbade me to follow in his footsteps. A command that held sway until recently. Finally she relented and here I stand. You might say it's in my blood. "I made this whip with my grandfather, a parting gift you might say. For his sake I'd better not return a failure, he's an old man but I swear he's as spry as a yearling colt in a field full of mares. He has this stick... well that really isn't important but there is little else to tell. I came here to make a future, not to perpetuate the past."
  6. Now being kicked in either of the shins is a painful prospect from the onset. Second only to being kicked in either of another set of twins. Add on top of that the spiralling collision between shin and stockwhip handle and you have what I like to call a brief contemplative pause giving all due consideration to the level of pain being experienced by Braxton at this moment in time. Females often brag a higher threshold for pay. This is not a strict truth, were Braxton a lesser man he would have cried right there. Various options entered his head at ground zero--the point of impact. First: he could beat the female over the head with a log while she wasn't looking. While it would be entertaining and gratifying in the short term he doubted the out and out repercussions of act would be so pleasure inducing. The other options were not nearly as worthy of note. They expressed the other spectrums on the rainbow of collective possibility. For instance; screaming like a girl, clutching shin and jumping up and down on one foot or biting his lip and turning an incredulous stare on the fiesty wee wench. Let's go with option C. Braxton was at a loss for words. He had, lost a duel with an enemy, then helped that enemy depose another assailant who then in turn kicked Braxton in the shin. What is the normal procedure for a situation like this? He could always invite them back to his dormitory for some scones and tea. Capital! "So... I err... I'm going to be needing my whip back."Awkward Smile.
  7. The Mudfoot was--at that very moment--staring at the conflagaration with an unhinged jaw, as it were. After much huffing; puffing, grunting and groaning he had finally managed to stand after the horrific and rather odd beating he had just recieved. His body ached and he was pretty sure there was going to be a large bruise where the handle of his own whip had struck him. That was ironic. Ironic and embarrassing. Braxton had lost... not formerly as such but he would have. He should have. The laws of honourable combat stated with emphasis that a vanquished warrior must meet his fate with aplomb--and only if he could manage it--some honey tea and marmalade sandwhiches. There was no honour to be had in a loss but a loss was clear-cut preferrable to the shame of another coming to his aid and distorting the predestined outcome of the battle. Why, he had a good mind to... nothing. Actually. All of his weapons seemed to have vanished. He was also very sore and was quite adament in his belief that there was a boot print squarely on his... assuming that the culprit was a boot and not one of the many other limbs or whatever else had been within easy reach to beat him with. It was an interesting conundrum and had he the time, Braxton might have spent many entertaining hours pondering the many answers to the riddle. He felt though, that some form of reaction was called for. Prudent, even. He also considered some form of response rather expected and necessary under the circumstances. Very well! Respond I shall! Honour and chivalry governing his actions, Braxton performed the only act allowable without disgracing himself further. Grasping one of the woman's ankles in each hand he began prying the death grip lose. Now Braxton had been required to perform many such operations as a farmer. Flipping steers, aiding in the difficult birthings that often occurred--that sort of caper. Despite this he find himself hard pressed to dislodge the stubborn woman from her perch. "Light and table cloths!" He swore. Or at least Braxon considerd it cursing... to most other people it was to cursing what attacking a grizzly bear with a yoyo was to big game hunting. Still he found himself feeling guilty over his indescretion and muttered a quick apology. There was, after all, a lady present... and what was going on with all the cream! Braxton and Aran between them managed to pry the fiery woman loose. Braxton holding her ankles, Aran her wrists. In a fair imitation of an alligator's death roll she was doing her best to twist free. Having seen what she had done to the man who had humiliated him in "battle", Braxton had no true inclination to render her freedom. Meeting Aran's gaze, Braxton grinned in spite of his own ethos. The two of them began a crab-like walk, the lass stretched out between them. Resigning himself to his own complicity in the act, while secretely enjoying it nonetheless, the trainee and the Tower Guard dumped their fuming passenger into a pond.
  8. Yes! Braxton lurched forward, short sword flying out of it's sheath wildly. The sword whistled shrilly, humming through the air with an insensate melody... only to miss. Braxton reversed the stroke, aiming true once again. Miss. Braxton cocked his head slightly to one side, then grasped his shortsword in the other hand, whipping out with the blade once more. Miss. Aran did not seem alarmed in the least and that was perhaps the most infuriating aspect of this entire ordeal. He moved in a queer waving motion. Reminiscient of the ocean the young trainee had read about. It almost churned his stomach just watching. "You're drunk, aren't you?" He cried in exhasperation, "take this seriously, would you!" Enunciating his words with a punctuating sword stroke that once again missed. This wasn't going nearly as well as Braxton had hoped. It was, in fact, going much, much worse. The young trainee was quickly sweating. He had thrown every sword combination in his reportaire at the drunkard and his blade had whistled to a miss each and every time. It was as if the pickled fighter was aware of moves before he was! Switching the short sword to his right hand, Braxton unsheathed his dagger with his left. Hoping that two weapons would meet with better success--. --Two weapons did not. The Tower Guard had yet to even defend himself, let alone offend. "Stand still, will you!" He was, of course, totally caught off guard when the Tower Guard did stop. Dead in his tracks. Braxton squawked like a flustered parrot and fell backwards. Using his short sword as leverage he pulled himself to his feet. Holding up his finger in the universal, "one moment" sign, he bent double, sucking in huge amounts of air. He couldn't remember the last time he was so tired. His arms had grown in both proportions and weight, it seemed and he could barely lift them. His feet protested in rather gruff tones and began refusing to support his steps. Out of tricks and out of energy, Braxton tried to think of something that would, while not turn the hopeless cause--yes. He realised by this point that there was no way in The Blight that he was going to be "victorious"--into victory, might at least redeem some small portion of his self-esteem. The swift, fierce glint in his eyes stated blatantly that he had thought of something. With a not so practiced ease he threw his dagger at the tower guard, well off the mark and his hand disappeared behind his back, re-emerging with a dark, spiralling mass that slithered toward the Tower Guard like a rapidly uncoiling viper. The end of the thong; the fall and the cracker locked tight around Aran's feet. There was a brief lull as Braxton pulled hard on the whip and Aran's legs were ripped out from under him. Braxton blinked a few times, mouth agape. He had not expected that to work.
  9. "I say, Man! Important business, this! What's wrong with you, you, you scallywag!" Braxton frowned. This is not how it worked in the stories there was no crowd, no atmosphere and no willing participant! This had definitely not been the expected response and he was pretty darn miffed. No. Not really. Pacing backward and forth for a time he observed his surroundings and considered the next logical approach. He would throw rocks, but none were available. The most he could summon would be grass and he doubted he could sustain momentum enough to have them reach the sleeping Tower Guard. "Sir? Sir! Excuse me sir. Wake up! You, you unprincipled child! Wake up, I say!" At his wit's end, Braxton jumped up and down crying oaths and imprecations like, "sour sow", and "inadequate milker." For the briefest of brief moments Braxton considered giving up his quest for vindication but it was conincidentally at that moment when he spotted the salvager of the situation. A long branch, fallen not too far from the tree. Grinning, the young trainee scooped it up and started prodding Aran. Prod. Prod. Prod.
  10. Braxton hummed a war song as he strolled. Short sword and dagger sheathed; whip hidden firmly beneath his tunic. He felt good. Better than good. He felt great. His thick clumsy farmer’s body had slimmed; was becoming harder. It was one thing to cart water and mend fences, it was another to run until even the smallest of stomach contents could not avoid being expelled. Life as a Trainee was hard. No harder than his former life, just different and it would take some time before he was properly accustomed to those differences. Quitting had yet to enter his head, there was always his grandfather and ever-threatening stave protectively corralling such thoughts. Progress had been slow and his mentor had a fiery temper but Braxton took it all in stride. This was the life he had longed for, for so many years. He was not going to begin complaining now. The sound of triumphant celebration played in the recesses of his mind. Today, however, he was setting out to regain lost honour and defeat his nemesis, Aran, in mortal combat. Well, that was the plan. Braxton knew were Aran was currently to be located and was making steady progress toward that position. All the while he wrestled with a moral dilemma. Did he slap Aran with the glove before declaring a duel? Or did he just throw the glove?—Decisions, decisions. He had heard some rather alarming things about the man’s prowess with the drink; very little as to his abilities in battle and was loathe giving him even the slightest advantage. Still. Reckoning was at hand! Especially now, as he had already reached the tree and his target whom lazed beneath it with no clue that his doom was almost upon him. Braxton scratched his chin contemplating which deliciously poetic line he would use to call his soon-to-be-opponent out. Frowning at the lack of response, he balled the glove up inside his fist and sent it hurtling toward Aran’s face. “You Sir! I challenge you to a duel!â€
  11. Several things struck Braxton at once. The first was the physical nature of his mentor, the second was that he recognized most of these weapons from his many stories and could attribute most to one hero or another. Glendermid, for instance, wielded the spear of Ephraim in a titanic clash against a great and powerful Dread Lord. Ephraim, of course, was a broken Dread Lord who sought redemption and the light. The final act of his life proved to be the echantment of the spear, into which he imparted all of his being, including his dying breath as he was struck down by assassins. The infamous pirate captain Gordon Bleu wielded dual scimitars in his many voyages plundering coastal villages and sinking enemy vessels. He met a gruesome and fitting end at the point of a Sea Folk first mate's sword. On and on it went until Braxton came upon a weapon, one weapon he could not assign to any of his childhood heroes. A humble, simple, shortsword. This is the one! He told himself firmly, with this I shall leave my legacy. He also selected a small rudimentary dagger. As for his third choice, or to be precise, his second. Braxton reached behind him into a cleverly concealed sheath and drew forth the whip he had lovingly crafted with his grandfather. A grandfather who, despite his rough nature, Braxton missed terribly. "I choose these three." He stated, sounding more certain than he felt. He was finding it increasingly difficult to find his voice around his mentor, who by all accounts was very pretty. His childhood stories were filled with them. The type of woman a mother tells her son to stay away from. Braxton's grandfather had been much more frank in his warnings. He had told his grandson that it was great while the flame lasted, but when one wanted out, it was difficult to extract oneself from the situation. There were always the small parts of the anatomy that had been severed and were carried around by said strumpet in a purse. Getting those back was almost impossible. Braxton winced, his eyes straying to the figure of his mentor, just to see if he could find one.
  12. Braxton's eyes darted from left to right while his fingers twitched in obvious nervousness. He could already feel his grandfather's cane upon his back and the sheer realism in the thought caused his back muscles to spasm; the rest of him to cringe. This was not how he had pictured his first day. The fantastical construct of his glorious homecoming dimished as his feet shifted underneath him. So Aran was his name. The only lies Braxton had ever heard in his sheltered life came from the many tales he learned as a child. Already in his mind's eye Aran was rendered into a dark and shadowy figure, flames leaping from his mouth and mocking, clawed hands snatching at everything virtuous in life. Braxton almost chuckled aloud when his nightmare Aran collapsed into laughter, rolling about on the ground and inadvertantly lighting grass on fire. The questions posed were rather difficult. There were answers. For certain. Only Braxton seemed to always have been too busy to ponder these questions or seek out their answers. He said as much, too, after a long awkward silence while he attempted to find his voice for the embarrassment. "My name is Braxton. It is possible that there is more to it but I've never bothered to find out. Far too busy working. I am eighteen summers... I think, I also live a few days ride in that direction. On a farm. Where I err... farm... or at least did. It has taken me a long time to get here; I wasn't looking forward to leaving so soon. "Tell you about myself? There in't really much to tell. I fix fences, dig ditches and cart water; have done since as long as far back as I can remember and don't recall doing anything else. I suppose I do like to read."
  13. Do I? Delusions of greatness flushed his face a bright red as he pondered. Exultation flashed through his irises as he conjured wild fantasies the future that was certain to unfurl. His mother would be proud. More importantly his Grandfather would be proud. They would hold banquets in his honour. Children would throw rose petals as he past. Girls of a marrigeable age would swoon as his hands brushed across their outstretched fingers. Likely they would give him his own kindom... Those thoughts firmly entrenched in the vanguard of his mind, Braxton the farmer went forth to do battle. He rolled: he ducked; he crawled. All in an obscene effort to incorporate some measure of stealth and reach the target unannounced. It all seemed ridiculously easy. A Tower Guard after just one day! Seeing that the mark was occupied with watching the kind older gentlemen suspiciously, Braxton closed the last dozen or so yards with a mad dash. All so easy. All so easy! His hand connected with a loud crack--much like a whip. Come to think of it--he heard a sharp intake of breath and his face lit up with triumph. One exhilerating sprint to a post later, Braxton leaned against said post to catch his breath, offering the kind older gentleman a thumb's up gesture. There was a strange noise and Braxton got the began to feel as though the world had--like a wildfire--become as silent as an underground masoleum, on the side of a very secluded mountain, deep within a very barren landscape. His last coherent thought for many, many moments was a question over whether or not it was going to rain...
  14. His teeth flashed white in the gloaming. His menacing steed pawed at the earth. Restless. Dangerous. Dust sprayed like sea foam into the air. Nostrils flared. Muscles rippled. Eyes shone bright with a fierce inner fire. He was Braxton, mightiest of the mightier. He rode upon his magnificent beast--Holier Than Thou--and his voice rang out clear into the breeze: rather discordant and without harmony. "My true love was a--" "--Eeehoooore." "Port of call--" "Hooooore." "All hands on--" "--Ehoooooorehehooore." "Oh stop it, would you?" Braxton sighed; closed his eyes, made a wish, opened his eyes, sighed. Repeated steps one through four several times. There was a groan, scattered curses; a loud braying noise. Braxton's mouth formed a tight... unbending line. He leaned over in the saddle: a fluid manoeuvre with violence aforethought. "I hate you," he declared evenly, "when we reach Tar Valon I'm going to eat you. No. No. Wait. I'm going to have a party; invite all of my friends. We are *all* going to eat you." The donkey protested with a loud bray. Braxton smiled and patted a flank reassuringly. "Come now, little sister, you know I jest. It's just that I wanted to make an entrance," a loud braying noise was his only reply," yes! You are indeed magnificent my dear and I am certain to be a princely sight upon *your back*." His mouth broke into a wry smile. "But come. Let us continue our grand adventure. To Tar Valon!" *** Braxton's mother, in an effort to divert any urge to follow in his father's footsteps, had exposed her son to the "arts." This was of course no obstacle for a shrewd grandfather, who occasionally allowed a simple military discourse, or novella find its way into Braxton's room. Like most boys he began to crave the one thing he couldn't have and it only sharpened the edge of his desire. It also imbued him with a rather unusual speech pattern and vocabulary. In short: he spoke funny. The next morning saw the two travellers plodding down the dirt road leading to Tar Valon. The tower rose in the distance, a beacon of hope, prosperity and future dreams. Braxton was too busy enjoying the lazy breeze whipping about his face. Too busy in his carefree suspension as he was, the tower was not the only object of significance that he missed. The impact met with a gasping retort as Braxton was sent tumbling out of the saddle and tried to cajole oxygen back into his lungs. He landed heavily. Bearing the weight of whatever it was he had collided with. The donkey trotted a dozen or so yards away, eyeing the scene with distaste. Braxton flailed out with his elbows, knees, forehead and fists. Attempting to connect with whatever he could to unseat this unwelcome burden. There was a dull thud, a grunt, and the weight relented to a degree, which allowed Braxton to roll free find his legs. His heart raced, his pulse felt keenly throughout his body. Gulping in air, he looked at his adversary a look of incredulity upon playing across his face. The man looked to be middle aged: wizened, stooped and filthy. His teeth were sputum yellow. Matted black hair infested with dirt and grime. His cheeks were sunken and hollow. His eyes strained. He wore torn slacks and a tunic, their original colour undiscernable. To have accosted Braxton dressed only in simple peasants clothing marked him as desperate indeed. The man stepped forward and Braxton reacted on pure instinct. His hand moved of its own accord toward his lower back and before he could stop himself his hand whipped forward, the fall of his whip following close behind. There was a muted crack and the man clutched his hand in pain. His look of shock mirrored Braxton's own and there was a brief moment of irreality, both men staring at each other dumbfounded. Braxton found his voice first. "Come no closer, sir! Or you shall receive another!" To accentuate his point, his whip flowed in constant motion, an almost hypnotic serpentine motion. He was again caught by surprise as his opponent rushed at him, barreling into his chest before he was unable to make good on his threat. While years farming had given him the skill necessary to hit a target fair, these were far from favourable circumstances and his attempt coiled the rope around his legs, tripping him over. Once again the pair tumbled in the dirt, this time Braxton able to grasp the bandit's hands and hold him at bay. Not a serviceable weapon between them. It was down to sheer determination and muscle. Braxton appeared the larger, more powerful combatant but the desiccated form belied definite strength. Finding himself unable to grasp any advantages at this point, he was content to hold the man off with his upper body and twist madly with his hips and legs, hoping to shift the balance and gain momentum. Braxton's forearms and palms were slick with sweat by the time he managed to roll his opponent over and gain the advantage, a grunt testifying to the effort. Pinning the man's wrists to the ground he breathed a sigh of relief, only to find himself instantly back on the defensive: his back and shoulders once more touching dry earth. "You've done this before, haven't you?" Braxton asked; a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "It's customary to at least buy me a drink first." His comment was met only with a growl, a scowl and (for lack of anything else that rhymes with scowl), a more determined enemy. Braxton, even for the gravity of this current predicament, could not suppress a laugh at his own humour. Fifteen minutes later the two were still locked in their embrace. By now both were exhausted, having rolled over a dozen or so times and grim determination was all that kept them fighting. Every part of Braxton's body was either benumbed by fatigue or inflamed by welts, cuffs and bruises. The reality of wrestling with someone in the dirt was not nearly as entertaining as it was portrayed in the books. "Look," he spoke between deep, laboured breaths, "This is getting us no where. I'll make you a deal. Walk with me until Tar Valon, allow me to retrieve my meager belongings and you may have my donkey to keep or sell, whichever you prefer?" The other man loosened his grip and Braxton sighed with relief. He rolled out from under the other man who was now resting on his knees. He crawled to his feet and started toward a tree. "Now, let us toast to our newfound friendship!" Grinning cheerfully he reached into a pocket in his tunic, and took a long sip from a flask. The bandit, of course, replied with a toast of his own. The braying of a donkey and the sound of hooves hitting dirt as he made off with Braxton's donkey! "Well... that was unexpected," he muttered to himself. Shrugging his shoulders and with no recourse, he began to walk steadily toward the distant Tar Valon. *** Tar Valon was fully in the grip of darkness by the time a weary, parched and famished Braxton found his way into a tavern, his path illumed by many blazing torches that limed the streets. While the walk was unpleasant, the city had not assaulted his delicate country senses during the night as it would have during the day. As it was, he still found himself feeling very alone and incredibly small. Having enough coin for several days lodging, food and other sundries he was more than happy to order himself a large meal, an even larger mug of ale and a comfortable bed. Braxton did not wake until just after midday, bleary eyed and sore in places he didn't even know he had. Climbing gingerly from his bed and down the stairs, he forewent breakfast or lunch and instead made his way toward the inner walls where his future awaited. Doing his best not ignore his surroundings until his mind could properly digest the information he found himself, at last, in the training grounds of the Tower Guard.
  15. Brandeis assaulted the offending doors with a scowl. He send them crashing into the walls; snapping shut behind him with a loud click. A small hiss of irritation escaped his lips as he glared around the mess hall. The clang of cutlery caused his face to twitch perceptibly; rubbed against his raw and frayed nerves. Vanishing was the gentle relaxed state of inebriation. The hollow vacuum being filled all too soon by a migraine of epic proportions. Brandeis had naturally--the night before--been engaged in a demanding philosophical discussion with none other than Con Starvos. Each of his points had been accentuated with a pint... or two. The conversation was so deep and complex that it had finished several hours previous. Water! His immense thirst dictated his next move. Eyes like gravel slid over the mess hall. A rapid walk saw him standing before an occupied table. This hardly mattered to Brandeis who was busy eyeing a mug dolefully. Casting about a tremendous withering stare to forestall objections, Brandeis snatched up the mug; downed its contents, placed the empty vessel down and threw a conspiritorial grin before marching off.
  16. Several things happend as Fenton Romasanta stepped down from the carriage. The first was that Luis took a hasty step backward. The second was that he unconsciously began to stroke the left side of his skull. At the same time, Gared was keenly aware of the teeth marks in his right ankle. By its own invitation the ankle--after coercing the heel with the promise of two pints and a massage--managed to slink away behind the rest of Gared's body. It would have been unfair to accuse Luis of disliking Fenton. The person guilty of that particular crime would be the sort to define the Chosen as "strong", or a sword as, "pointy." Luis was far from scrupulous but--call him old fashioned--there were some things he just wouldn't abide. Being clunked in the head by a bloody big rock, at the hands of an appointed charge was one of those things. Gared--much to his chagrin--had likewise been assaulted but as his head had not almost been caved in by the fell combination of a thirty year-old rug rat and a stone, he considered himself fortunate. So Luis had made a mistake. Well, he'd know for next time. He who dares wins, as "they" say. Well, as far as Luis was concerned, whoever coined the phrase did not have women in mind. He decided--in fact--that whoever coined that particular phrase deserved a swift black eye. Any lass with a soft spot for midgets was officially off limits. Rayenne had appeared fatigued and like the chivalrous (not to mention slightly opportunistic), man that he was, Luis had offered to occupy the restless Fenton so that she might rest. Thinking more of the rewards he would no doubt recieve than the task before him, Luis even went so far as to place an affectionate hand on her shoulder. Catching Fenton's eye, he stopped. Dead. Actually, it would be more appropriate to say that he snatched his hand back as though he had just spotted the rattle snake in the long grass, poised to take off his hand... which, coincidentally, is what Fenton resembled quite strongly at that very moment. Rayenne was more than happy to take her leave and so promptly left the three to their own devices. It was the prickling sensation on the nape of his neck that first alerted Luis to his indiscretion. Turning on his heel with a liquid manoeuvre he was confronted by a pair of luminous, guileless eyes. While the round, fleshy being was still devoid of all emotion save a simple cheer, Luis could not shrug off a feeling of unease. He Glanced at Gared, who glanced back, the same puzzled expression reflected on the face of the larger man. It was then that he noticed the rock. If it were possible for a piece of earth to appear disgruntled, it was the piece that Fenton was stroking in an absent, sinister way. The rock was a perfect sphere. From somewhere came the notion that this specific rock had taken a strong dislike to Luis, and would like nothing better than to round the edges of his body with a multitude of well placed blows. It was such an uncanny, yet prevalent notion that Luis couldn't but feel a little disconcerted. Dislike didn't fully describe the expression the rock wore. It seemd to Luis as if the rock was well aware of the fact that he--Luis--knew he was disliked and found the entire concept entertaining in a soft, fleshy sort of way. So confident in its own abilities did the rock seem that one might brand it "smug." Of course it would be absurd to ascribe human characteristics to a rock... right? Fenton cocked his head to the side. Cradling the rock toward his ear. Luis, knowing he would regret his next action even before he made it, clared his throat loudly. "Yes?" Fenton replied, voice lilting and musical. Eyebrows slightly arched "Is umm... that a rock?" Hesitance "No." "Right... good... umm... what is it?" "A coconut." "A coconut?" "Yes." "As in, from a tree?" "Yes." "But it's grey." "Shhh." "What?" "He'll hear you." "I see--" "--Is very sensitive about his colour." "Right." Slightly desperate inflection. Luis shot Gared a look, then continued. "Fenton? Let's go for a walk." "Walk?" "Yes." "Why?" "I don't intend to stand here all day." "Can't." "What?" "What?" "No. What?" "What, what?" "What?" "Yes." [Groan] "Just come with me. Now." "No." "Damn it, Fent--" "I am not Fenton." "What?" "Wh--" "Stop!" "Go!" Beaming pride. "No!" Frustration "Yes!" Enthusiasm. Girlish laughter. Luis began to rub his temples in a circular motion. Gared shrugged helplessly. Luis thought for a few moments. Then spoke again: biting off each word. "If. Sir. You are not my dear friend Fenton. Who might I have the pleasure of addressing?" Fenton dres himself up. Striked a magnificant pose, his eyes gleaming feverishly. "I!" The single word filled Luis with dread. Fenton's voice was no longer lilting and musical it was as deep and dark as Luis' mood. "Am the Dragon Reborn!" With those parting words; Fenton, who was the Dragon reborn, sprinted hell for leather toward the market place. Luis paled noticeably then gave chase. Gared snorted and began to follow at a liesurely stroll. There were women about, and there was no need to ruin his "cool" on account of a delusional half-pint and Luis, who Gared always believed would bed anything that moved... and then some things that didn't. *** It had taken Luis the better part of two hours to track down the wayward "channeler." Finally he found him crouching in an alley, crooning softly. At this point it would be good to note that Luis could quite happily have torn off Fenton's legs and beaten him to death with his own feet, were he capable of such a feat. (Aha, aren't I clever?) Hearing Luis approach, Fenton's head snapped up angrily. Practically leaping into the air he shot to his feet; pun to face his adversary. Brandishing the rock, which was now suspiciously coated in a myriad of colours and what Luis thought to be the parody of a face, he roared: "Ahsk, esh varumel!" Expectant silence. "What the bloody hell?" "Nrsh et val suren!" Exultant triumph. "Look you little... I've about had it up to he--" "Karat hashan, vaseen ramal te vorz!" Nothing happened. Again. Fenton had used up all but the most powerful enchantment. Thus far his attempts to harness the power of the Grat Coconut had eluded him. But he was grimly determined to defeat his foe and save Faer--that is to say, Randland, from his evil clutches. Gritting his teeth he shouted in defiance. "Coconut say sleep!" Luis caught a sudden flurry of motion. There was a bright light and pain exploded inside his head. The last thing he saw before slipping into unconsciousness was the wickedly grinning face of painted rock. Fenton tittered somewhere just outside the periphery of his swiftly dimming vision...
  17. "Negative. I am a meat popsicle", and I didn't vote. :)
  18. In the beginning, there was the seed. Or was it tree? No. No. I'm sure it was seed. Ah, well. In the beginning there was one of those two things. That is the important thing. Of course, various wars had sparked by peaceful contemplation of that very question. The end result usually amounting to whoever could bludgeon the other person quick enough being proclaimed wise and righteous. The bludgeoned, was invariably considered wrong. Wrong and dead. But mostly wrong. This practice was later developed into a sport (aptly named, "oof-ack-my-leg-my-leg!"), opening the way for many mind intensive games such as "Pin-the-Maul-On-the-Pinky", and, "Hey-Let's-Toss-That-Guy-Into-the-Fire-Pit." The seed was bored. While floating on the endless ebb and flow of the nothing was thrilling, it lact a certain unquantifiable something. The seed knew, in his piths of piths, that he was a deity truly deserving adoration and worship. Why, even his giant elliptical form bespoke majesty. Witnesses often accounted that what it inspired was hunger. But witnesses are notoriously reliable and there was nothing left of the defendents other smoking gravel and birthday cards containing clever puns and wit referring to nutrient deficient soil and how may motes it took to change a lightbulb. (Incidentally one such card also contained not only the sum, but the various mathematical formulae harnessed to reach it... well, okay... so maybe not everyone can see the hilarity in hours of calculus.) From the nothingness, the seed pulled forth the constellations. He would, after all, need appropriate lighting to showcase his good side. Next, he reached out and plucked the bones of the earth from the empty void. In a clear breach of higher power omiscience clause, The Seed constructed his vast and splendid world with such skill and care that he found himself quite thoroughly trapped inside. Now, if any of you have ever tried to push your way out of the bowls of a planet earth (hah. Hah. Really funny), you will know they are quite heavy and unless you really wish to be free--I mean *really*--it just isn't worth the buggery. Instead; the seed, in his divine wisdom, joined with his new creation. Spreading to the farthest reaches. (You don't think it is a conincidence that coconuts are prone to falling onto heads, do you? Well. I'll tell you right now. It bloody well isn't.) Thus freed, The Great, now Coconut, breathed life into mankind and the animals of the earth. Women, The Great Coconut maintained, were his greatest joke ever, yet he stubbornly refused to share the punchline. For the next few millenia, The Great Coconut had kept himself busy with the merry occupation of launching from the palms of his many limbs. In the form of a very large, solid piece of fruit; bouncing off the skulls of his worshippers like a very aerodynamically challenged block of cement. Those who survived theh rigorous initiation--seldom occuring--became the Rodgin: the leaders of his parishes, the tenders of his gardens and the protectors of his people. Their guiding precept, "Gurff-garble-warble-blurp" translated roughly into, "be the coconut." Certain "biological" needs began to press The Great Coconut and he once more dipped into the well of eternal nothingness and drew forth a mate. Giving her of his divine power, the puissance to construct her own temples; find her own followers. How did she repay him? Countless centuries of, "not tonight dear, I have a headache." Many of his subjects secretly questioned the inspiration behind the Great Coconut's mate--her physical appearance. But lets face it, there is no species within the bonds of reality that leaves more to laugh at while naked than humans. Not even a duck. What? Well it *is* true. The next aeon was rife with turmoil and hardship. The desciples and worshippers of the two deities were not sure what boded worse for them: the violent, tempestuous marital spats or the violent and earth rending make up... well... the making up... part. Finally the end came. An argument so fierce that The Great Coconut trapped his beloved in the shape of a rock--called the moon. Now he circles in a vain but tireless effort to regain the can of peaches she keeps obstinately hiding behind her back! In time, with the two deities embroiled in their own, righteous conflict, they were forgotten by their creations and in time. Replaced.
  19. Rayenne sighed. Worn, slender fingers curled about grey-streaked hair. Placing a stack of reports to one side, she lay back against the seat of the carriage, eyes bleary--fatigued. The discordant motion of the carriage had left the back of her neck aching; temples flaring. The journey was otherwise pleasant and Rayenne smiled a warm, if wearied smile. Luis rode with an easy charm. One hand brushing the rein, the other manoeuvring a flask of whisky to his lips. His body rolled with the motions of his stead--a lazy meander. His longsword, often tapping against his hip, was tied with the rest of his belongings into a bundle behind his saddle. He would not need it for now. It was going to be a good day. Gared, his monolithic and silent companion kept an easy pace alongside him. They had been unable to find a mount large enough to carry his girth, instead he quietly drew a mule behind him. They were set to meet Rayenne, to whom they were currently employed. Acting as escorts and occasionally consults. It was going to be a good day. It was a matter of inheritance. Spoiled, favoured Rayenne. Daughter to a strong and influential merchant. Half-sister to a jealous and spiteful brother. Coddled in luxury, extravegance and decadent wealth. How wonderful to be dotted on by a loving father. Never mind your brother, he would say. He will learn to accept it in time. The relationship between brother and sister had always been strained. Despite this, Rayenne had always--while not agreeing on a great many things--trusted him. It wasn't as though he was to be disinherited. How could he begrudge his little sister for a judgement passed by father? Big brother was always so greedy! She had woken in a cold, dark, place. Bare save for a low cot. Her mind swam, too naive to understand the clever use of narcotics. She felt no fear, no terror, only puzzlement. She was not in her home. She was not in her bed. She was in her nightclothes. There was a slight pressure on her wrists, bindings. There was a flicker--sudden light. Harsh murmurs. Laughter. Through fogged eyes she saw the exchange of money, a toothy grin. She was not alone. Hands. Touching her! The light disappeared, the door closed. A dull thud. The sound of tearing cloth. Fear. Terror... She had fought. Violent retaliation. She had begged, pleaded. Fervent reassurances. She had cried. Mocking laughter. He had left and still she had cried. huddling beneath the bloodied sheets. Not understanding, not comprehending. Waiting for daddy to rescue her. He always had. He always would... She had woken empty, stunned. In a state of shock she had been led down a flight of stairs, to a long bench, around which was seated many other girls. Some gazed with mirth. Others pity. Food had been placed in front of her, like an automaton she had eaten. Eyes unseeing. Mind numb. Thoughts broken. As she was broken. Oh, she had learned the rules soon enough. They always did, those entering the "profession" by choice. Those conscripts starting their careers through less voluntary means. Eventually the struggles ceased. The tears dried up. All that remained was hollow resignation and hope. A faint and distant hope. Daddy... The years passed. Rayenne aged. Hope dwindled. Acceptance came, and with it a sense of helplessness and shame. There were no doubts that she was treated well. They all were. What were things like pride and joy in exchange for lifeless steel? Her body. Her temple. Abused, desocrated, forgotten... until her father came. She had been eating with the others in her customary position. He had entered, led by her brother. Her darling, loving, brother! Her heart soared, she felt new life surge through her veins. He had come, he had come! She would be free. She could go home! She stood, ran to embrace him. Her father. Her rescuer. The world exploded in a myriad of stars. She hit the ground. Felt the warm blood trickling down her cheek. Ah, but how that wound had paled in comparison! Her father. Her father had turned. Turned from his favoured, beloved daughter. His shoulders slumped, eyes filled with sorrow. Her brother shot a triumphant glance. A door had slammed. They had gone. Her hope, her future, blown out like a gust of wind. The window to her freedom closed and barred forever... Tears ran down her face. She felt a warm, comforting hand against her cheek. "It's okay", she whispered, "I'm okay." Luis and Gared waited patiently for the carriage, passing a flask of whiskey freely between them. Theirs was an easy comraderie. Both had once been freelancing merceneries. It was said that they had met on the field of battle and the ensuing clash had been so violent, so devastating, such a stalemate that they had proclaimed themselves brothers of spirit and had worked together ever since. The truth of the rumour was unknown, they themselves neither comfirmed nor denied. Luis had once followed in the proud military footsteps of his paterfamilias. Enlisting under the same nations banner, applying for the exact same regiment. So proud was the military tradition that it could be traced back at least half a dozen generations and Luis, like the males in his line before him, saw no greater honour than to leave his mark upon that auspicious record. Unfortunately, his father had been less than honourable. A scandal had come to light, involving several affairs and various bastard children. This, in itself was not the cause of the stir. More the fact that some of those children were younger than Luis, while he himself had been born in wedlock. A wedlock, that insofar as all were concerned, was not broken at the time of the indescretions. Unable to bear the disgrace of his family name, Luis had deserted. Selling his services for coin, rather than a high sense of purpose. Gared, on the other hand had earned his bread through the employment of his sheer brute strength. His early history unknown and with Gared unable to speak (Luis and Gared communicated through a series of highly complicated gestures. Including nods, frowns and head shaking), all that is known for certain is that he once travelled with a roving carnival. It is widely suspected that he became a mercenary for no other reason than indomitable boredom. The carriage rolled into sight, stopping at the appointed location. Luis stepped forward, opening the door and offering a hand to the woman inside. Slender, calloused fingers gripped his as she stepped out of the carriage. Her hair, once a luxuious brown had become listless, greyed. Once vibrant eyes had lost their luster and were instead a flat, nondescript brown. Her face marked with premature age, harsh lines indicative of a hard, well weathered, life. Yet she walked with a feminine grace and occasionally conveyed the fact that she had once been beautiful. Behind her came a small cherubic figure. Dressed in simple black cloth his bright and merry eyes shone a stark contrast to the woman's. In his plump little hands he carried a basket, containing several sandwhiches--most likely marmalade--and an apple. He gazed unblinking, seeing things best unrelated and thinking things that most would find highly distressing. Such as: if The Great Coconut delivered the world into the hands of his arch-nemesis the Moon Duck. Would he be swallowed before or after dinner and if he enjoyed it, could he do it again? All he said, however, was, "blurp." Rayenne stepped down from the carriage, her sharp eyes devouring the two men before her. One was average height, well muscled with a slim build. He was a longsword at his hip and walked with a feline swagger. His hair was black, cropped short. His skin was lightly tanned and his light brown eyes were alight with a casual--if lethal--intelligence. The second figure, was a giant of a man. Standing an easy six and a half feet his girth was well that of three smaller men. Beneath his plain tunic and breeches powerful, corded muscles slithered like a very large dog chasing a very large cat over a very large wardrobe. A wardrobe that was very unwardrobe like in appearance. So unwardrobe like in appearance that one could be forgiven for saying it did not--in fact--resemble a wadrobe at all. But we know better. Don't we? Rayenne smiled; "Shall we, gentlemen?"
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