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  1. Previous scene: Gone Too Long ~~~ Merdyn stepped through the Gateway that his Warder had created. His feet landed firmly on the packed earth of the Embassy's Traveling Grounds. Nox was right behind Merdyn. The Gateway disappeared without ceremony. He glanced over to Nox and smiled warmly, still feeling relaxed from their night together. The pair had awoken well before the dawn. Merdyn had thrown together a large meal and Nox had made a Gateway to a hot spring located somewhere in the north. They had broken their fast together and bathed each other there before returning to their hut to dress for the meeting with Calder. It had taken a little over an hour and Merdyn had found himself wondering why they had not done something like that sooner. He was positively beaming. Dawn had just started to break over the horizon, casting a hazy glow to the violet sky overhead. The air was crisp and smelled of nature and the green things that surrounded the Citadel complex. Merdyn looked around, impressed with the structure that had been erected for the Asha’men. He had only ever been to the Citadel once and he had still been a Soldier at that point. It felt like that had been a lifetime ago to Merdyn, so much had happened since then. He had never actually even been inside the Embassy, so he was not sure what to expect. Merdyn took Nox’s hand and gripped it firmly. He spoke warmly to his Warder, “Do you know anyone in the Band, love? The last time we were here, I don’t think I spoke to anyone but you or Ful… What sort of people are our comrades?”
  2. For all her claimed ‘worldliness,’ Viviane had never visited the Black Tower. Not until today. The large black stoned wall loomed before her, it’s heavy doors surprisingly open. Men in black coats sat watch, to be sure, but it was still a shock to see. The openness implied freedom and welcome. The White Tower had made peace with this group, but that did not mean there were not hushed whispers in the hallowed halls of the Tower; whispers about the madmen of the Black Tower and their tainted Saidin. Codswallop is what that was. If the Red Ajah could get over their past prejudices, then so should the other Sisters. If only more of them would come and see for themselves that there was nothing to fear. In truth, that was why she had come herself. Viviane Accylon still held some prejudice in her heart, but Light, she was determined to banish those feelings. She supported the Tower’s decision to play nice with these boys, and yes, she also accepted the new role her Ajah would play… She just never thought that Saidin would be cleansed… She never thought that the Last Battle would actually occur in her lifetime, but these were strange times. The Dragon Reborn walked the land and all things would be remade in his passing- once the Dark One was dealt with. Prophecy said as much. The Gateway winked out behind Viviane, not one she had Woven, she was unable to unaided; two Tower Guards remained as an escort. It was bad form, Viviane knew that, but most could understand her unease. As a sign of good faith, the pair would wait here for her, once she decided to make her return trip to the White Tower. Despite what the escort may have said to the observer, Viviane was still the picture of Aes Sedai calm and authority. A light breeze danced through the air, swirling Viviane’s coiled, ginger hair about her shoulders. The full skirts of her deep violet dress rustled against her legs, dagger sleeves waving this way and that. She held her hands clasped at her waist, patiently waiting for her contact to show. Ful Heart. That young man was a junior member of the Black Tower, not yet having earned both of the Asha’man pins. The thought softened Viviane’s nerves a touch. Surely, this Ful was still green behind the ears. Nothing she couldn’t handle with a few well-placed looks or sniffs. The two guards at the Gate seemed to be speaking between themselves, finally having spotted Viviane and her own escort. They did not come to greet her. Where was their propriety? Their decorum? And where in the Light was this Ful Heart?
  3. (OOC: Those who need them can find a full description of the Wolfkin Territory, Stedding and the Tracker Lodge HERE & the Citadel HERE. You can find Rhya's bio, complete with update, HERE , for reference. I've read Nox's and Merdyn's bios obviously. If anyone else wants to hop in, we can take that as it comes.) *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* (IC) The soft whisper of leather against stone echoed softly around the Citadel's lofty corridors as the young woman's footsteps took her ever closer to the Council's meeting chamber. Dust motes spun lazily in the air at her passing, caught in the rays of early morning sunshine, and an array of odours... some pleasant, some less so... assailed her nostrils. Her nose wrinkled briefly in distaste, the combination nudging at her impatience to be outside; free in the clean air of the forests once more. Part of her had looked forward to being in a city again, surrounded by all the sights and sounds she'd grown up with. A little excitement to break up the recent spate of pick ups had sounded appealing but, of course, she hadn't factored in the changes wrought by the last two years, her heightened senses making the past few days more of a tribulation than a joy. She nodded briefly at the two Band guards flanking the door ahead, before walking straight in to the Council Chamber after only a brief rap on the wood. This informality always seemed to surprise the two-legs but the 'kin didn't recognise rank in quite the same way. Her eyes found Karoan seated at the left side of a huge oak table, listening intently to some point their Black Tower contact, Covai, was making and she sliently bemoaned the lack of wolves. If Shadow had been with her, their method of communication would have rendered this conversation unnecessary. She walked swiftly round the table and bent to whisper in Karoan's ear, passing along Winifred's request verbatim. He didn't miss the expectant hopefulness in her gaze and his lips twitched slightly in response. The Watcher Leader knew all too well how keen she was to be gone from here. Turning to the man in black and catching his attention, Karoan, raised his voice, "Forgive me for interrupting, Covai, but Winifred has sent a request from the Stedding. It seems she could use some of your very specialised help. Do you have some men to spare?" He shoved calloused fingers through his dark shaggy hair and looked thoughtfully at the Band's second in command, Amon, sitting to his left. "Any assistance from your engineers wouldn't go amiss either... or anyone capable of a bit of grunt work." The two men quickly assented to Karoan's request, Amon asserting that it would do some of the men good to get out of the Citadel as the talks would not be concluded for some days. "Not to mention it will be an education for most to visit the Stedding. Few at the Black Tower have ever met the 'kin. You folks keep very much to yourself," Covai interjected and looked at the woman. "Ask for Nox at the Embassy. Rhya. He'll help you with the arrangements." Rhya grinned at the Storm Leader. Covai had certainly been to the Stedding; she'd met him twice before. "My thanks. Winifred will be glad to get this work done at last. Any message for Owen before I go, Kar?" The older man shook his head in the negative, stating that he would update the Ranger Leader when he got back home, and Rhya took her leave. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Home. Having collected her small pack and weapons from the rooms she'd been allocated in the Keep, Rhya slung her bow across her back and broke into an easy lope. She passed quickly by the various Barracks and negotiated her way through the growing crowds in the city proper. It was still early but a place this size never truly slept. The logisitics of keeping everything running was rather mind boggling. Finally, with a quick wave of acknowledgement to her fellow Ranger, Rori, who was sitting dicing with a couple of off duty Banders just inside the huge entrance gates, Rhya was out of the Citadel proper. The Black Tower embassy was quite a structure in itself and Rhya's sharp gaze raked its exterior slowly. Impressive, she thought, reminded in some ways of the Watcher's Library. Of course, most of the building around here had been achieved with Ogier help too, so the similarity was hardly surprising. The Ogier didn't do anything by halves. Rousing herself from her contemplation, she strode purposefully up to the first man in black who was in her path. "Storm Leader Covai directed me here... to ask for a man named Nox," she commented briefly, fixing him with a firm golden-eyed stare. No need to inform all and sundry of the details. "Would you inform him, please?"
  4. The house was too empty. Merdyn hadn't been living there long, and all the fancy frilly things he liked had slowly taken over Nox's small one room mud house. It was all he'd ever needed but with Mer here it looked crowded instead of comfortable. But it was still empty without the man himself. He'd been gone to Tar Valon. It wasn't long, Nox had been alone before, but Nox had come to rely on the man and his presence. It was difficult make that change. Difficult to see his way past the sadness that dwelled when he was alone now. Mer had become ingrained in his soul and he missed him. Nox wasn't a pacer, but he felt the itch to move. To run to walk, just to move, but he couldn't make himself get out of bed. Mer's scent was fading from the blankets, and Nox tried so hard to preserve it. The panic was always so overwhelming. Adrim had tried to occupy his mind with tasks. Nox had even created gateways to Tear and back, and had wandered the muddy streets for a short time before he had to return home. Things would be different when Mer returned, he kept telling himself that. But Nox sank deeper into the despair that was all made up in his mind. All the bad things that could have happened to Mer, all the things he could be doing - the fear was the biggest part - losing Mer would be like losing a part of himself. And in that fear Nox saw more fear, how would he survive with Mer gone. He couldn't exist like this. In constant fear, in ever perpetual silence, even Adrim was failing at occupying his mind and had given up. It hadn't been long. Mer would be back soon. It wasn't much longer. Nox curled up in his corner with one of Mer's blankets and his pillow and Nox tried to feel safe and secure, but every time the wind blew across the roof Nox would jump. Every sound made him withdraw even further.
  5. I was looking at the WoT wiki today, particularly the page on Bonding. Now, I plan on doing my own research to be sure, but the wiki states that the Asha'man version of the Bond differs from the AS version. The initial version just links the two individuals and the AM version is effective over much greater distances than the AS version. Later on in the books, there appears to be a layer of Compulsion added in so the AS remain obedient to the AM they are bonded too. There do not appear to be any other effects with the AM version (aka the benefits provided by the AS version of the Bond) beyond the Spirit link and obedience... although that last bit might be nullified between 2 men? It appears that men who can channel cant not be compelled through the Bond (at least with the AS version.) This is how we're handling it at DM, yes? I would assume so, but I wanted to check with you guys before I move forward with the scene Mat and I are writing. I always assumed that the AM version functioned exactly the same as the AS version of the Bond, so I wasn't sure if anyone else here had the same assumption. Also: are there any rules or other bits of info I should know concerning being bonded/holding a bond at DM?
  6. Disclaimer: The first part (everything that i've posted as of 9/27/19) is purely from an academic standpoint and does not reflect the actual rules and requirements of the Bond in the PSW. Upon eventual completion of this post, I will have a definitive list of the Bonding rules and restrictions when it comes to using Saidin to Bond in the PSW. ~ So, you’re an Asha’man and you’re thinking about Bonding someone, eh? Or perhaps just a curious, male Wilder looking to widen the breadth of their knowledge? Well you’ve come to the right place. Bondings are a complicated business and not as simple as those Aes Sedai make it out to be. This resource is meant for Saidin channeling men, but it may be useful for those of you who wield Saidar. Let’s take a look at what we know…. And yes, there is a Bibliography at the bottom of this post... What is Bonding? According to the WoT fandom Wiki (1)… According to the WoT Companion (2)... In my humble opinion, Bonding can be used as an umbrella term for all of the different types of manufactured psychic and physical connections we have seen that involve the Power in the series. We can assume that each Weave is different depending on the gender of the Channeler and the features of the Bond being woven. Traditionally, however, when you hear the word Bonding, it will more than likely be referring to the Wot Companion’s definition. In the main series, it was Taril Canler, an Andoran Dedicated, that discovered how to Bond his wife with a Spirit link similar to the Aes Sedai/Warder Bond. The initial function of this Bond was to remain connected to one's partner when apart. Indeed, this form of the Bond conveyed at least two of the same properties as the Aes Sedai version of the bond: Sensing each other's locations/general direction, and the emotional and physical state of each other. (3) This Bond was later altered by the Asha'men for use upon the Aes Sedai. A small layer of Compulsion was added into this Bonding Weave so that the Aes Sedai (or any individual) was compelled to comply with the demands of the man that held the Bond. Robert Jordan spoke on length about this at the KoD Signing (4) on 10/24/05... The main series does not address whether or not this version of the Bond (we shall call it the Wife Bond) bestows the same benefits of the Warder Bond. It can be inferred that during the course of the main series, this type of Bond does not provide those benefits due to the reasoning the Asha'men had for Bonding their Wives and Aes Sedai. We never saw an instance of two Asha'men bonding each other, nor an instance of an Asha'man bonding a non-Channeling man. Under those circumstances involving two men, it is feasible that the Bond may be altered to bestow the traditional Warder Bond benefits due to the nature and purpose of the Asha'men. Another curiosity with the Wife Bond is the lack of the Death Rage that Warders feel at the passing of their Aes Sedai. None of the wives of the Asha'men were shown to endure this at the men's death. With the above information, it can be assumed that the Wife Bond is a completely separate weave from the Warder Bond. At the CoT Signing (5) on 01/28/03, a fan asked if it were possible for an Aes Sedai to preform the Wife Bond and Robert Jordan said this on the matter... Taking this into consideration, we can also assume that the Asha'men can preform the Warder Bond if they learned the weaves. In theory, one could even manipulate the weaves for either Bond to change the effects and benefits of the Bond. For instance, one could alter the Wife Bond to include some or all of the Warder Bond benefits. <<<Under Construction as of 9/27/19>>> Works Cited: https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/Bonding Jordan, Robert, et al., editors. The Wheel of Time Companion: The People Places, And History of the Bestselling Series. 1st ed., Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2015, pp. 127 - 128. Jordan, Robert. A Crown of Swords: Book Seven of 'The Wheel of Time'. 1st ed., Kindle ed., Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2010. pp. 569 - 570. https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=233 https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=177
  7. There was not a single black thread in all of Tar Valon. It would not be found on a seamstress' thread rack in a housewife's basket. Aes Sedai did not wear black at all, and that tradition carried into the grand city itself. No one wore a lick of the color, not in lace nor cord nor thread. Yet, Tar Valon had men dressed in black coats not only in the city itself, but the White Tower. Well, their uniform was black, but they certainly weren't wearing it now. But it didn't change the fact that it was their uniform, marking them. Oh, they had not walked through the city, no, but remembering it made her head ache. Jagen wanted to rub it away, but she stayed her hand. She could feel Aslan there. A man, bonded to her. A man who had bonded her. A man, using saidin, had… Jagen looked up at the sky. It was overcast, and for this she was grateful. It matched her soured mood. She had been trying to calm herself since that… incident. She had had one other meeting with that man, one that was shorter than me expected, perhaps. But today, that had to change. If she was to be bonded to him, whether she liked it or not, she had to get to know him. It had taken her a week to finally decide to have a second meeting. She did not wear her shawl today which, though she had been Aes Sedai for a long time, was unusual for the woman when she met with visitors or guests who were not of Tar Valon. She smoothed her dress, one of maroon and cream brocaded clinging silk, walking down a main corridor in the Tower. She had sent a message through a White Tower servant to Aslan, to have him meet her at the Tower's main grand entrance. The Taraboner—in her people's style of dress, with her hair in dozens of braids and a veil over the lower half of her face—inclined her head towards an old couple, perhaps petitioners who were seeking Healing or some other matter. Well, in truth, Jagen was older than them, but she was always grateful not to look the part. She passed through the main hall and made her way to the Red Quarters. From here she chose a sitting room available to the sisters who did not want to meet in their rooms. The room held a dozen comfortable chairs and had two marble fireplaces. A servant was tending a single, lit fire when she entered. Jagen dismissed her with a short word. Now she would wait. The Sitter pursed her lips, her jaw tight; it was not the waiting she minded, but the thought of being in a room with a man who could channel. Oh, she could, if she really wanted to, sever him on her own. But such a thing was against Tower law, and she'd be severely punished. Perhaps even stilled herself, and sent to a farm for the rest of her life. It was not worth it. Not unless she deemed him dangerous. At least here, where novices, Accepted, servants and visitors went about their daily tasks, she would not be alone in meeting him again. In public she felt more at ease and more in control. Soon enough, the Asha'man entered. Jagen turned to face him, standing regally. Jagen needed to appear strong; she was strong, she reminded herself. "Enjoying the city, Aslan?" She asked in a way of greeting. It wasn't a friendly tone, but neutral as she could make it.
  8. Tar Valon. Merdyn could hardly believe that he was finally here. The sacred city nestled on the banks of the River Erinin, Dragonmount looming dangerously on the horizon. The second largest city in the Westlands; the seat of Aes Sedai power. Men and women came to this Ogier-designed city for petitions, healings, and guidance. As an Asha’man, Merydn felt a tinge of guilt over his awe at the sight of the brilliant white buildings. Being the son of one of the High Seats of Andor, Merdyn should have visited this place long ago; but life had never steered him in this direction. Merdyn Gilyard was a man that had a Talent for Traveling; boring a hole into the Pattern, he had found himself stepping out just a few yards from the Shining Walls that enclosed the city. The walls in question were said to be impregnable; oh, they looked like Cuendillar, but Merdyn knew better… Although one never did know what the future held. Perhaps a Sister here wound find themselves with the Talent to create such a thing and then, perhaps, the city of Tar Valon would be truly protected from any outside forces. Merdyn pocketed the thought for later, it would be a handy suggestion to offer up to the Red Sister he was slated to meet with today. He had all sorts of those ideas stowed away. Asha’men were ‘new’ to the world, true, but youth often sprung innovation. Merdyn had vowed to himself to prove to the Sisters just how useful the Black Tower could be, if only in their ideas for the future. It had taken the better part of an hour or two, but before long, he was stepping into the White Tower itself. The city that surrounded the Aes Sedai stronghold had reminded him of Camelyn. It made him homesick. One of the other brothers back at the Black Tower had estimated that Tar Valon had housed over 500,000 citizens, not including the Sisters; a number that put the population of the Farm to shame. Oh, the Black Tower was thriving, and more came seeking refuge every day. It would take another generation or two, probably several or more, before their numbers reached even half of that, but still, it was something to think on. Nox had not come with Merdyn; his heart ached at being separated from his true love, but as an Asha’man, there would be times where duty would separate them. It was moments like these that Merdyn had wished Nox would consent to the Warder Bond… At least then Merdyn would always know that Nox was safe, alive, and where he may be; they would never truly be separated again. Now was not the time for emotions. Now was the time to act the professional gentleman, putting his best foot forward to represent the Black Tower. With a stiff upper lip, Merdyn entered the Tower and was lead off by a young Accepted wearing the typical stark white dress banded in the colors of the seven Ajahs. The M’Hael had named Merdyn the official liaison between the Black Tower and the Red Ajah. The thought scared Merdyn slightly; the two groups had enjoyed tense relations at best. The Reds were known for Gentling men such as Merdyn, it had been a shock for everyone when the Ajah had bowed to their ideals and started Bonding men of the Black Tower. It was something that spoke of the Ajah’s commitment to the Final Battle. If they were to overcome any of this, they would have to work together. There had been a time that Merdyn would have willingly been Bonded to a Sister, even a Red, but that time had long since passed. He had Nox now, and although it would’ve done wonders for relations between the Towers, Merdyn would no longer allow such a Bonding to happen. Nox held claim over his heart and soul, if there were one person in the Pattern that held the right to Bond Merdyn, it was Nox. Today, Merdyn was to meet with a Jagen Sedai. She was a high ranking member of the Red Ajah. The plan was to enter into talks concerning both group’s mutual interests and how they may come together to work better as partners on this hellish road to Tarmon Gai’don. Merdyn was the face of the Black Tower so far as the Reds were concerned, and he relished in the opportunity. He was a tad nervous, but life as a noble and being groomed to become the next head of the Great House of Gilyard… Well, Merdyn was more than equipped to deal with these talks. The M’Hael had made the right decision in naming Merdyn liaison with the Reds. There was no doubt in his mind that the talks would go well. With any luck, they would wrap this all up over tea and he would be back home in the arms of Nox before nightfall. Merdyn was genuinely good-natured, there was nothing to hide here, and he honestly hoped for the prosperity between the two Towers; surely this Jagen would see all of that. And if all else failed, Merdyn had brought seven fat chests of gold with him, to honor each Ajah.
  9. It had been a few days since Merdyn and Nox had become a ‘thing.’ They didn’t really have a label. That was fine. What label could they have? Exclusive? That went without saying. Nox wasn’t going to be sleeping around on him, and Merdyn’s heart would not let him look elsewhere. Not that he wanted to. He would have liked to considered them betrothed, but that would be too soon, and that also operated on the assumption that Merdyn could find someone to wed them eventually. Did they even need someone to wed them? Merdyn was disinherited and Nox had no legal claims outside of the Black Tower. The only thing a wedding would do was seal them together with words, a more mundane Warder bond. Perhaps the M’Hael would do it for us…… And there I go again… Getting about five years ahead of myself. Thank the Light I don’t drink anymore, otherwise I'd never be able to keep my thoughts to myself… Then again, if I was still a lousy drunkard, I doubt Nox and I would have gotten together… Nothing more than a little bit of watered wine with dinner and that’s it, nothing harder, not for the rest of my days… Small price to pay to be with someone you love so much. He had moved a chest of his clothing into Nox’s house the day after they ‘sealed the deal.’ The man had been all smiles since then. Oh, he had assured Merdyn that he would be a thunderous ball of emotion, but that nimbus cloud had yet to show it’s ugly head. Everything was coming up Merdyn and he couldn’t contain his excitement. Before Merdyn had confessed his feelings for the other man, he had done small things here and there for Nox in an effort to cheer him up. There were times when his lover had shut down, but he was able to pull the man out of it each time. It made him feel good about the future. So, today he decided to surprise Nox by sprucing up their love nest. Merdyn should’ve asked, it wasn’t his space, it was Nox’s. But Nox had also said that Merdyn could share it with him. Opening the door and shuffling in, Merdyn let a bundle fall from his arms. The sack burst open as it hit the ground, silken pillows with a matching duvet, curtains, and a few small pieces of art spilled out of the jute sack and onto the floor. Earlier in the day, Merdyn had covered the wooden floor with his favorite carpet; it was large and heavy, with a red-and-blue Tairen maze running along its edges. Mother had given it to him ages ago. There were other touches of Merdyn throughout the room. A golden candelabra stood in the corner, offering a warm glow to the room. Elsewhere sat various books from around the world, Sea Folk porcelain vases, and even an antique piece of Cuendillar; it was shaped in the form of a panther, the Gilyard house symbol. Merdyn had even hidden a few sacks of gold, silver, and copper beneath one of the floorboards. It never hurt to have a secret stash of coin on hand. Without missing a beat, Merdyn channeled air and brought the items out of the sack. With a deft touch, he scattered them around the room. The bed became more inviting and luxurious with its new additions, the windows looking bigger with their floor-to-ceiling curtains, and the walls more vibrant with the paintings he set upon them. Merdyn dusted his hands, feeling very proud of himself. Nox’s simple cottage was starting to look like a real home. True, Merdyn’s own chambers were now stark and bare; but he didn’t intend to spend much time alone in those rooms anymore. This was his new home. With Nox. Thank the Light Nox had to teach a few new recruits today… I’d never get this all done if he wasn’t preoccupied. Oh, I cannot wait to see his face! The place looks incredible! A palace almost! Nox deserves it. He deserves the entire world! If only I could give it to him… No… This will have to do for now… Light, I love that man. Merdyn picked up the jute sack and spun on his heel. The next step in the plan was to run over to the Soup Kitchen and fix them a lovely lunch. He’d have it all set up here, atop a brand-new tablecloth and even more Sea Folk porcelain. Nox’s heart would melt at the sight of it, Merdyn was sure of it. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to fetch the lunch; the door to the little ‘love-nest’ started to open and he knew it was his lover on the other side of that big door. No one else would bother barging in unannounced, save Adrim… But then, Merdyn didn’t actually know if Adrim would show up unannounced. No. It had to be Nox. Plastering the biggest smile he could muster onto his face, Merdyn stood there with open arms, waiting for Nox to enter the house. Merdyn was planning on giving him the biggest kiss possible… And maybe more… If Nox was touched enough by the redecorating.
  10. Lillian Tremina wasn’t sexy in the same way other domani women were. It was partly her quietness, itself a scar of warfare. But it was mostly her fine-boned, stunning face, the sharp angles of her cheeks and nose and the deep green of her eyes. Her streaming, glossy hair had seemed to be a key part of her appeal. That was gone now, shorn during her captivity, but she was still beautiful. Her hair was beginning to grow in again, a fine soft felt. The lack of long hair emphasized her sculptural features. In the half-light of her thickly carpeted living quarters, Lillian paused to lace up her muslin dress and pull the leather harness of her short sword into place. She forced her mind to be calm prior to starting. Not that she felt particularly calm. This was happening. She could feel it . . . Her skilled hands worked with economic practice, quickly putting together the components of her skimming platform. It was tricky work. As the images appeared into her doorframe, she got a glimpse of country scenery and idyllic stone paths. Been there once on the mission where the white tower worked together with the asha'amen after their leader’s death, the aes sedai wasn’t quite sure where her destination was, but had a general sense where she’d wound up, somewhere outside of Caemlyn. A quiet spot near-ish the farm was good enough. There. That’ll do. She nodded and stepped off the platform towards the narrow doorway, boldly but not in a hurry. Trusting her instincts, she realized she was correct. Nobody was expecting anybody to exit from in front of this stone building near the quarry. She had got through to the farm with remarkable ease, and without a word, without haste, walked away from the building where soldiers might spot her, and carefully joined an access route busy enough for her to blend in. With her ageless face - though easy to mask with makeup or saidar - she knew she had no choice but to show herself to them - these young men. She had no ambition, she realized. No wish to be better than anyone else, or to rule over anyone, or to have more honor. But she had something urgent to seek, to live for. Her life duty. A battle was coming, the battle she was grimly determined to win. She pushed a ringed hand through her down-like hair. To hear her sisters talk, Lillian listened patiently, sometimes raised an argument to spur on more expressions of truths and logic. But now, head high, as she looked for her answer from channelers of the other half, the other sex if you will, she was silent, the calm of battle already on her. Lillian Tremina Aes Sedai of the White Ajah Ooc: white sister at the farm. Open to any BT’ers for linking practice, or talk with.
  11. That hasn't gone as he'd thought it would. The anxiety built up as he walked to his house. His breathing was rapid and his heart was beating into his chest. Nox wasn't sure this was a great idea. But it was the only one he had. Merdyn would be by. Maybe. He hoped. The paranoia played out in his head, all the bad things that would happen. He could see them playing out in his mind. He hated the paranoia. Hated the anxiety. Hated feeling worthless. Nox opened the door to his house and he waved his hand all the candle lights lit. It wasn't a romantic scene he was setting thought it was an interesting scenario that Nox tried to focus on as he sat down on his bed and tugged off his black boots. He unbutton each button on his black coat slowly and methodically before folding it carefully and setting it on the bench next to his bed. Nox tugged on a black tunic that hung open half way down his chest. Waiting was going to be hell. Nox tried to focus on other things, but he kept coming back to all the things that could happen. The worst fear was Merdyn would come in laugh at him, make him aware that he liked men. And laugh because he did. Every childhood fear, every john who treated him like a waste of space. Every kid who beat him. Nox waited... and his mind fell farther.
  12. Merdyn exhaled deeply. This day had been coming for a very long time now and there just was no way around it. Memories of his first days at the Farm came rushing back in a flood of memories. The happiest ones involving his friend, Ful, and his teacher, Nox. They were the only people that had mattered around here, as far as Merdyn was concerned. That should have made all of this easier, he had sparred with Ful before. There hadn’t really been a winner in that instance, however. More of a draw. Merdyn was hoping for a repeat of that day. Nox wouldn’t be easily tricked, so Merdyn wouldn’t be using any Illusion clones on him… at least he wasn’t planning on it. The sun had hit its midpoint in the sky. There was no more putting it off. If Merdyn waited any longer, he’d have to wait till tomorrow; if that were the case he’d end up putting it off again. No. Now was the time. One of the other Dedicated had pointed Merdyn in this direction. They said they saw Nox heading back to his small house. Merdyn wasn’t sure what the Asha’man would be doing in there; he didn’t want to interrupt him if it was anything serious. But then Merdyn remembered the last time he was here. Nox hadn’t been upset at the intrusion. Merdyn even suspected he had welcomed it. Would Nox be that welcoming today? Or would he send Merdyn away, scorning his request? There really was only one way to find out. Taking another deep breath, Merdyn knocked at Nox’s door and braced himself. Today he was going to challenge Nox to a sparring match for the right to the title of Asha’man.
  13. Ful Haert jogged up the curve of the parched field to join the men at the traveling grounds. There was a general bustle of activity coming from the neighboring hill where gateways were practiced or set up for use: the distant clatter of weapons and armor, conversations, a very occasional “bang!” Ful, the young dedicated assigned to procure supplies out in the city, saluted the senior members as he approached the group of onlookers. He looked down at his fellow dedicated in the field, the asha’aman standing over them at the far edge of the field, watching them diligently. “What’s he doing?” he shot a sour look in the direction of the newly withered field trench, still exhaling smoke into the glassy sky. “Don’t ask,” replied one of the soldiers. Ful glanced politely at the soldier, who made a respectful nod. Then he yawned. “Tired?” Ful asked. “You should take some rest while you can." The other shrugged. “I sleep. But then the dreams come." “Yea,” Ful nodded. The man didn’t seem particularly bothered about his dreams. But dreams were things Ful simply couldn’t deal with, didn’t understand the strangeness. He wasn’t ready for them. “The dreams here will get you. Keep trying. Sleep will come. So . . . what is he doing?” “Not entirely sure. But that trench used to be overgrown. When I asked, he just said, practice - and we left it at that." “I’ve come to buy supplies from Caemlyn. Is there a gateway set up for use?” Ful had no talent for gateways. He couldn’t even learn the weave. As such he needed somebody with the talent to help him get to Caemlyn. The man shrugged again. “You have to to take it up with them.” Ful slid down the dusty bank into the smoked-choked ditch. It was part of an old field system, a natural divider, but the neglect and abuse these students had imposed upon the trench had allowed the land to run wild, and now it withered. He picked his way over to a familiar face among the field of dedicated. “Ready to go, Merdyn?” he asked with a smile. They’ve all got work waiting for them. His supply run was for Merdyn’s precious volunteer soup kitchen, so Ful doubted Merdyn would miss a chance to replenish stock.
  14. It was early in the morning, the sun was barely up when Nox had groaned the first time. Adrim shifted in the chair he'd fallen asleep in. His body ached. He'd had the boys take Nox to his house. Nox would be more comfortable in his own house. He'd freak out less when he finally woke up. But Adrim wasn't about to let the boy be alone after nearly dying. There were already rumors. What was another? "Why didn't you sleep here?" Nox asked waking Adrim from his drowsy slumber. He blinked at the other man who was trying to sit up. "I didn't think it was appropriate." Nox gave Adrim a shy smile. "People already think you and I are sleeping together." Adrim blushed. "I'd rather not fuel any truth to it." Nox shrugged. "Are the soldiers and the boy alright?" Adrim got up and filled the wash basin from the water pitcher and warmed with a thread of fire. He splashed his face while he felt the burn of Nox's eyes on his back. "Perfectly fine. I'm going to wash up and head to the medic tent where they will meet me. I took the boy home. His parents were worried sick about him, apparently it's not the first time he's wandered from home." Nox nodded. "I'm glad he's not homeless." Adrim smiled. Nox always had a soft spot for the kids less fortunate. He was always empty giving up his last bit of coin to feed them when he saw them thieving to make ends meet. Adrim knew it was a hard life for him, and he continued to make it hard now. He sighed and walked over to Nox and pressed him back down into bed as he sat down next to him. "I better not find you out of bed until this evening when I come back." Adrim pressed a kiss to his forehead. "You rest." Nox sighed. "Fine." Relieved the younger man would obey he got up and walked out of the one room abode. Nox lived even more meagerly than most on the Farm. **** The medic tent was still occupied by the sick boy, Adrim relieved the night watch and checked on the patient, his fever seemed to have broken. It was a good sign. He'd pull through and then they'd begin his training immediately. Until then he'd stay here. Adrim waited for his two students to show themselves. The later they were the less they were going to see today. He smiled and wondered if the older one would be late for him. He'd soon find Nox was too easy on him.
  15. At his day’s end, Ful sniffed out the tavern where Merdyn would be found. This was it. He stopped and looked at the tavern. Built into the basement level of a shabby building, there was a steep set of steps running down from street level to the scratched, nondescript door. The tavern looked closed but he could clearly hear the noises from within. Though it was still early, the place was already dismal and littered with loud men and broken furniture. Some black tower men drank their nights away, boasting and carousing. Workers were sweeping up debris of smashed glasses - already filled two sacks. The owner was furiously scrubbing his walls with a brush dipped in soap, trying to get rid of the obscenities plastered on the crumbling structure. Ful caught sight of a particularly striking dedicated within the graffitied walls. It was Merdyn. Ful smiled. He moved over to his friend. He had always liked Merdyn’s smile. “Choice place for teaching me manners,” he whispered mockingly in Merdyn’s ear as he eagerly clasped the other’s hand to shake it. Greetings aside, Ful and Merdyn took seats on a high bench beside the bar. “What will you have?” asked the bar owner. He had carefully set down his bristle-brush and faced them. The recent stitching around his blood-shot eyes made his glare even angrier than usual. “Please give us a moment." Ful advised him. He turned to Merdyn, still smiling outwardly at the dingy scene before him. “Well, what do you like to drink?"
  16. Ful’s shiny pin was displayed between the third button of his field jacket and the stud of the right hand breast pocket. He was short but lean, with long dark hair that he kept pinned back into a bun, and a slender, sharp nosed face framing knowing dark eyes and a refreshing smile. His promotion to dedicated, and the responsibilities that came with it, was never going to be an easy ride. Ful took his lessons seriously, and had been promoted on Nox’s advice. The two sides of himself - saidin and the void - had taken a long time to gel, but now they seemed to be pulling together as one fluid unit and for that Ful was grateful. He appreciated that his skills improved in both aspects, which mixed well and complemented his fighting; though he had the endless work of healing to do, he had put in for training soldiers. He could facilitate well, and was somewhat of a people person, so found himself quickly approved to teach others. Ful would do his best to bring some of the soldiers up to scratch, and if one of those students were successful, Ful was going to be nothing but proud. He breathed deeply and waited for his first student, whose name he was not told, just that the soldier was pretty advanced and needed more front-line combat experience. They were to fight hand-to-hand, with channelling of course. An asha’aman used every tool he had, his gift, his body . . .
  17. Having breakfasted on mashed eggs with tough, toasted pieces of baked bread, Ful smiled appreciatively at his start of day. This morning, he knew he was being tested. This was responsibility and he better not mess it up. It was his moment to prove to his newly assigned mentor Nox that he had the makings of greatness. Ful was an intense, quiet young man; his dearest ambition was to become an asha’aman since months ago when he first enrolled. Attack leader, a veritable giant in stature and rank Baijan’m'hael Isha Talcontar had personally selected Ful to join his household as his student, and in the first few months had become almost a father to Ful. A stern, crazy father, perhaps. Quick, long strides took Ful from Isha’s house, past the wooden-gated courtyard where the wind moaned and into pathway toward the Farm. Isha’s house stood a mile to the Farm, directly between battlefield and ‘town’. Newly rebuilt after its destruction in the battle with Aginor, the fortified structure had been fully occupied when Ful first came. With Isha came Dedicated Linten, ruthless and calm blonde, the two women who lived with them -Eqwina and Faile, bonded aes sedai. It had been a big house back then, made even bigger now that it stood empty except Ful’s room. Ful pursed his lips. He felt pain for thinking about people he couldn’t meet anymore . . . it was almost unbearable. Time to put the past behind him. The dark capes of the night sentries, the distinctive dark uniforms of their order, were lank and stiff with dried mud. The men turned bleary, puffy eyed gaze at Ful dressed in his white singlet and black leggings, faces slack into recognition and waved him through, wearily waiting on their replacements at the picket. Somebody sighed perceptibly when Ful crooked a wry grin at the tired guards, patting his daggers as he passed. Not for the first time, Ful felt like sighing himself. He should re-focus on advancing his training. Since Isha had gone, Ful had been paired with a new teacher he was to meet at the hilltop. Which meant all his previous work with Isha was wasted in terms of his career here. There was no set duration to the training of an asha’aman. After education in Saidin and basic weapons training, a soldier received the rest of his training in the field, and promotion to dedicated, then full silver pin and black coat level was a judgment matter for the commanding officer, who served as mentor to several soldiers. Of the asha’aman’s various duties, the main job was to disperse discipline and inspiration, adding to their ranks with those who deserved it. Ful reached the hilltop and caught sight of Nox. Tall, pale, lean and powerful, the asha’aman had intimidated others. Unless madness or death claimed him first, Ful felt Nox would one day become an attack leader in his own right. Until then, he tutored new soldiers with endless enthusiasm. From what Ful heard about Nox, whose reputation had preceded him - Nox could be trusted to be fair. After all, Nox's students were known to have rose to full rank quickly. “Sir?” Ful’s voice was a sudden intruder into the gentle calm. He continued, his heart in his throat. “My name is Ful Haert. Reporting for training." Ful Haert Soldier
  18. Brows knit in concernation as the form writhed beneath the thin white sheets. A simple walk a long a forest trail. Bird's in song and flight filtered shadows across the surface of the forest floor in a strange dance with the darken shapes of leaves and branches caressed by the wind. By all accounts it was a picture of serenity and tranquility. A scene from his childhood perhaps, how long ago that felt now. Linten moved along the edge of the trail, multiple black forms behind him. Patrols were one of the few time he got to see the relaxed countryside around the Black Tower of death and poison that he now called home. Since his return from the Blight Isha had kept him on somewhat of a short leash. He was never allowed to travel far from the grounds without accompaniment and was constantly training. Truth be told the later was more his own doing then that of Isha his mentor. But the man had a hand in it to a degree for sure. Even before he had stumbled across the three men in the Inn. Before he had even decided to make the journey back from that nightmare. Linten had resolved himself to the hardship of training to reach the Dragon pin. Only once he had it firmly in place would there be little in the way of men to answer to. There was still a level of rank and such. But with the pin came a greater degree of freedom and self direction. Tension pressed down between his shoulders and his attention swept fully to his surroundings. Something seemed out of place. He had been here before; had walked this patrol many times. But this time it seemed different, like there was something amiss yet he could not place a finger on it. The hairs on the back of his neck raised as he felt an overwhelming urge to panic. The place smelled of death and destruction now. The scent in glaring contrast to the tranquility his eyes drank in. A brief yell brought his head around as chaos erupted around him. not again ... please not more of them again. Lurching up right, deep darkness filled his vision; breath coming in labored gasps. He could feel her presence, the mild terror and fury at odds with one another filtered from the knot in the back of his head. He could draw a straight line between himself and the location of Faile. It had been a dream. A dream they most likely had feed off one another's emotions. He lay back down damp with a sheen of sweat into the knotted bed sheets. The side of his fist smacking the wall lightly as he worked to regain control of both his breathing and his emotions. Since he had foolishly followed the rest and bonded the Red he was having a great deal of hardship separating his own emotions from that of the witch several feet away. The games in the woods earlier in the day was suppose to have helped him gain that control. Help remind him his emotions and thoughts were his and Faile was nothing more then a slave at his bidding. His time with Lavinya had helped cement the feeling and draw strength in it's knowledge. Strength quickly turned to dust in his hand as he struggled most of that evening with the infuriating Red in his head. Tomorrow he would take Faile for a little walk perhaps and beat some submission into her hide; perhaps a few mars to that smooth skin would bring her to heel a little better. Normally he would have stabbed the ball in his mind with more malice and hatred. But this time he left it, worked to ignore it's existence. She was sleeping and he did not need the struggle to continue by walking her. He had other quarry this night and lying here staring up in the dark at a ceiling he knew was there but could not see was doing him no good. Practicing some breathing techniques Isha had shown him back before the trip to the north. Linten slowly began to calm himself down once more and let sleep begin to embrace him once again. It's touch was simple and fleeting at first as he began to toss trying to find comfort. Thoughts tried to find his mind and carry him from his purpose but he managed to slip free from them one by one until his breathing became that deep regular flow of sleep. The muscles of his body twitched several times as sleep tried to embrace every fiber of his being. Darkness bloomed with a million stars surrounding him. But this was no ordinary night's sky. The Stars no familiar blanket of pinpricks high over head in the charcoal expanse above him He floated here amongst the lights, surrounded above and below; walking among them like the creator himself. Here he was neither asleep nor awake. From wandering eyes he would look like he slept and dreamed in his bed. But in this place he had begun to learn that here was no rest for the body or the mind. His fingers reached out to brush the surface of a light near him and retreated before the surface made contact. Covai had warned him of the consequences of falling into another's dream. The man had said he was not trained enough to face the strength of a dreamer in there own dream and it would take time and practice to be able to draw them out of there own dream and into his. Further frustration. Linten was like a dry and thirsty sponge when it came to the world of dreams and it's many skills and talents. He soaked up all that Covai would share with him but the man seemed to take agonizing pride in making him proceed slowly. He had no time for slowness and caution. This to him was like the Dragon's need for the men and there training of Saidin. There was little time for hand holding, he needed to gain his skills and strength quickly. He floated through the field of lights, each indicating a dream, as they winked in and out of existence. At one time he had to envision himself actually walking on a black carpet to be able to move amongst the dreams. Now he was no longer sure if he floated past them or they past him. It mattered not really. The whole purpose was to find the light that was linked to the person you needed. In a sea of thousands it was near impossible unless you had visited them before or they had strong feelings toward you. The first allowed for recognition on it's presence and a sense or almost familiarity of feeling. But the second was what he sought this night. The second seemed to cause the light to pulse and grow in your vision. It drew you to it, or it to you. Again he was not sure but the end result was all that mattered to him at this moment. He had need of a certain dreamer, one that had promised to hold him in her dreams. Frustration began to mount as time seemed to stretch on, his searching yielding no fruit. But time like so many things in Tel'aran'rhiod never passed the same. It was only at the point of almost giving up; anger surging in him as Linten envisioned some of the ways Lavinya would pay in the morning that he noticed a twinkle of light that seemed to remain a constant distance from him in his wanderings. Curious, he focused on the star and the small expanse of blackness between them shrank to near non existence. The suddenness of it reverberated the need that he felt to find her and he hoped the need she had to be rid of him. If this was indeed the dreams of Lavinya then his night was to become fruitful, if it was not then she would pay tomorrow. His hand skimmed just above the surface of the light as he took a moment to prepare his mind. There had been a lot happen in that short exchange in the woods; a lot that could have happened. A small heated smile touched his lips as he remembered her naked form. Slowly he lent forward and viewed into the light. Jumbled images, dreams that held no beginning and always changed before their end played out before him. Lavinya was a constant throughout, an indication that he indeed had found the correct dream light. Observation began to record several key bits of information that he felt would be of use in the future. Not all was directly tactical in his pursuit of the Amyrlin, some was marked for further use against the redhead in his play sessions. One common face that seemed to re-appear in the various fragments was a man, light hair in a Tower Guard's Red Cloak. There seemed to be some connection to him, though she never let the dreams finish there stance on his future. Each time they seemed to draw them near it would flash to chaos or pain of one kind or another. Perhaps the man had been her warder? Scenes of their forest time both correct in action and incorrect made up many of the chaotic fragments that filtered throughout the dreams. He was going to need a lot of rest after this to calm his mind or he would have a splitting head ache. All he could think in the background was how ironic it was that they thought the men mad. It was then that the images seemed to stabilize and a possible full sequence began to play out. It was of the forest visit again, only this time she held her demeanor in perfect form. He chuckled how her shattered mind stretched to grasp a false reality; a method to cover the cowardice that had taken her in the real world. A chuckle brought short by the change in the play. He watched as his form was beaten down and then lashed to the tree, the tree branch becoming a glowing rod of heated steel that sizzled against his back with each strike. Agitation renewed itself and took control of his thoughts. If she was so bold as to completely take dominance in the dream then she would surely be foolish enough to try it in the waking world. It was time to bring a little nightmare to her grand courage. But as he tried to think on the right way to create the terror he sought to fill her with he unconsciously lost his positioning; leaning into the light he was suddenly pulled into it's world. OOC: He is still somewhat loose with his control so feel free to occassionaly take control from him. After all its your drea, that he has invaded. Smile Linten al'Dracain BT Dedicated Keeper of a Dark Purpose Bonded to Faile Sedai
  19. Patrols were definitely one of the worst of the chores assigned. In Serge's opinion, anyway. They required so much...effort. Especially with the bizarre weather recently. It was much too hot to be tromping about. Even with that supposed 'trick' to forget about the heat, he could feel a trickle of sweat roll down his ribs. Wearing wool in this heat. It was worse than summer in the Perfumed Quarter! Well, maybe not worse. Andor didn't have that rather...distinctive...smell of the docks. But back home no one was as foolish as to wear wool during the dead of summer. Black wool. He was brought out of his silent misery by one of the others who had quit moving and put a hand out. Serge looked up and saw what had made the others stop. A gateway was spinning open, but Serge didn't feel saidin being channeled. He scratched at his forearm. This wool itched too. Or maybe it was the bugs. He stared as the gateway opened, and nearly a dozen women on horseback came out. A dozen women. Through a gateway. Aes Sedai. They must be Aes Sedai. Or agents of the Shadow? He had never seen an Aes Sedai before, so he had no idea what they were supposed to look like. But they had appeared from nowhere. Wasn't that proof enough? He grasped saidin immediately, hearing a buzz of conversation from the others, and it seemed that someone was shouting orders, but he couldn't make them out over the general din. He felt others grabbing hold of the True Source as well, and then there was something trying to come between him and the source, sharp, cutting. He lashed out instictively and it shattered. He heard cries from the others and a fireball streaked outward, impossible to tell from whom, and exploded in the middle of the Aes Sedai group. A small knot of men with swords detached themselves from the women and ran at the men from the Black Tower. And then, it was chaos. -Serge Karminov Dedicated of the Black Tower
  20. Dashiva woke a few hours before dawn, as was his custom. He'd shaken the last of his sickness away, and was quickly returning to the routine he'd set for the years he'd been at the Black Tower. Slipping out of his bed quietly, he brushed a few hairs off Racelle's face, and then opened the large black dresser, pulling out one of his old, worn uniforms. Dressing quickly and silently, he pulled on a pair of similarly worn boots and ghosted through his two story home to the front door and slipped out. Resetting the wards, he released the miniscule amount of saidin needed go, and jogged over to the Inn. It was a cool, crisp morning with just a hint of the frost of coming winter, and he inhaled deeply. The smell of the dew on the ground was pleasant and he enjoyed being awake so early. Carefully undoing the wards around the Inn, he slipped inside and set food into the stoves and on the tops to start cooking. Setting the cooking weaves he tied them off, and slid back out, resetting the wards to keep any adventerous soldiers from stealing alcohol. Setting a light jog, he finished two koras-laps around the outer perimeter of the Farm. (Note for any who don't know, one koras-lap is actually 3 laps around the outside of the Farm's grounds, well past the outer buildings) and slowed as he got to the physical training field. Dropping onto his stomach, he immediately started doing 150 push-ups, followed by 150 sit-ups. He missed the days when he'd had nothing better to do but train to kill with saidin and do physical training to keep in shape, but he had other responsibilities now for Dalinar, and wasn't going to shirk his duties. Rising off the ground, he jogged back home and changed, leaving his home once more dressed in his black uniform, looking crisp and lean. the hilt to his two handed sword poked over his left shoulder, and his short sword hung from his left hip. He had a few throwing knives tucked in his sleeves, and would find time later in the day to practice with his weapons. Glancing up at the sky, the sun just starting to come over the horizon, he gave a small smile as he looked upon the colour filled sky before he slid back into the Void. Walking back to the Inn, he untied the cooking weaves to get breakfast ready for everyone, the Inn now being the popular place to eat and no one eating the gruel that had once been the main thing to eat when he'd joined.
  21. Kedyn shifted nervously in Arrow's saddle as the column of soldiers spread along the main road of the Citadel waited for the Ashaman at their front to make these gateways. It wasn't as if he didn't believe these things could happen but....Kedyn had a tendency to be suspicious from his time as a Scout and he had only heard storied of these gateways and yet to see one. This would be the first tour of the Black Tower that the Band had created the deal between the two entities. Moving by gateway would be faster as well as create less suspicion, but Kedyn also had ideas that it would be a way for the Black Tower to show what they could do. These gateways had been a large reason behind sealing the deal between the two. The column consisted of members of each of corps, members selected by expirience and suggestion from their commanders. Spread out by corps with the Commanders at the head of the column, and the Captain Generals at the head of each of their divisions in the column. Kedyn led out a small whistle as the silver line formed in the air and spread creating a window into the mysterious Black Tower. A breeze came flowing through the hole sending a shiver down Keydn's spine that was not only from the cool spring wind. Booting Arrow foreward Kedyn rode with the rest of the scouts at the head of the column, taking in the surroundings as they went through out of both reflex and his inbred suspicion. The channelers stationed in the Band were sane enough, but they were surrounded now and Kedyn did not trust places where he had never been. Of course you're only a Sergeant, not much you can do about it. Kedyn looked over his shoulder with a grimace as the window in the air closed and then back to the turning heads of those clothed in black. The Band of the Red Hand had arrived to the Black Tower. Now the only thing that remained to be seen was the welcome they recieved. Kedyn Scout Sergeant Band Division Leader
  22. Thanking the guard for allowing him through, Marden Veniso touched his heels to the stallion between his legs, spurring it on through the western gateway of Tear. He looked travel worn, the broad rimmed hat and cloak he wore marked by travel. He had travelled from Far Madding to Illian before arriving in Tear, hoping the Aes Sedai would think he would flee north to Kandor which he knew so well. He was sure he'd been seen, yet no one had made a move on him yet, save for a trio of brigands who had thought to lighten his purse but had ended up fattening it instead. The winter hadn't helped him in the slightest either, the game had been poor as Marden travelled through the wilds, the heavy snows almost burying him on several occasions. Even now, the sky was a bleak grey above, light snowflakes falling on the cobblestones to be trodden underfoot by his steed. Leaning forward in his horse, as if he were about to fall out of the saddle, Marden made his way slowly through the town, looking for an inn. Eventually, one came into sight, though Marden couldn't make out the name of the place from the defaced sign that swung over its door. Riding around the side to the stables, Marden slipped out of the saddle gently onto the straw strewn stones, his boots striking the ground solidly. He'd managed to put on a bit of weight since he'd won free of Far Madding, though his ribs still showed. Seeing the stable boy, Marden called the lad over and handed him the reins. As the boy led the stallion away, Marden reached for his money pouch and looked inside, he didn't have much left. Taking out one of the few silvers he had, he walked over to the boy and placed the silver in his palm, asking him to take especially good care of the horse. Slinging the saddlebags over his shoulder, Marden strode into the common room, his face lacking anything resembling emotion. Walking to the bar, Marden looked at the obese innkeeper that was talking to one of his patrons. Waiting for a moment, Marden dropped his saddlebags with an audible thud on the bar. He didn't dignify the innkeeper's scowl with a reaction as the man waddled over to him. "How much for a room? Couldn't be more than a copper a night in this place." Marden made use of the Andoran accent, last thing he needed was word getting around of a Kandoran in Tear that wasn't a merchant. "Bloody lout. It'll be an Andoran crown from you, and if you cause any trouble the bouncers will throw you out regardless." The innkeeper didn't seem too impressed with him, but Marden hadn't come to the inn just to sample the man's personality. "Them?" Marden looked to the pair of thugs at the door, cudgels in hand and short swords at their sides. "They couldn't handle a rat without its teeth let alone me. If this is all the security you have I'm only paying two silvers and be glad for that generosity." "Look, I don't know how things are done in Andor these days, but this is how things are in Tear. Five silvers, or get out and don't waste my time." Marden reached for his pouch and tossed it to the innkeeper, it was all he had left. "And my meals had better be for free, or I'll be wanting those silvers back." Ignoring the innkeeper's response, Marden took the key to his room from the innkeeper and grabbed the man's fingers, pulling him close as he spoke. "And if I find anything missing when I come back, I will know who to look for, do we understand each other?" Getting a quick response from the innkeeper, Marden let go of the man and turned about as he picked up his saddlebags, ignoring the pair of bouncers who watched him carefully. Making his way up the stairs to where the rooms were, Marden tried a few doors till he found the room that was his. Stepping inside, Marden threw his saddlebags to the floor at the foot of the bed. He knew he’d been ripped off, but this sort of inn was one where people went when they didn’t want to be found so the innkeeper could get away with his extortion. Shutting the door, he pulled his boots off and laid down on the bed. Hard as a rock, but that wasn’t a problem for him as he relaxed for the first time since he’d left Illian. He’d stayed in Illian for a week, which had been far too long in Marden’s estimation but he’d had no choice. The sores were only becoming worse outside and he’d needed treatment. Spending a week in the care of a wisdom hadn’t been pleasant, he had been reminded all too much of Nela Sedai, except that the wisdom hadn’t been nearly so condescending. That and she’d actually done a good job, the sores that hadn’t been gone were well on their way by the time he’d left. And the wisdom, Sarie, had been generous, giving him some poultices for free to use while on the road. She’d bought his story of becoming lost in the wilds and nearly dying out in the snows, his starved form giving his story some weight. While it didn’t quite explain the sores, Marden hadn’t needed to, he’d just feigned ignorance instead. As much as Marden wanted to nap, he knew he didn’t have the luxury available for now. He was out of money and he needed to make some one way or another, and considering his current means, Marden had little doubt it would be less than legal. Pulling his boots on once more, he stretched before standing and making his way to the door. Making his way out onto the streets, Marden made his way towards the Merchant’s Quarter, his cloak trailing him in his wake. It took some time and directions from a few people, but soon the merchant stalls came into view. Finding himself a vantage point near a fruit shop, Marden settled where he was and watched the flow of the markets. It took a couple of hours, probably because Marden missed it at first, but he soon saw a pattern. A group of men would pass through the street every half hour. Not grouped together, but it was the same faces, same clothes, all of them with weapons of various sorts from short swords to cudgels. The way the merchants looked at them as they passed, Marden knew exactly what was going on. Someone had set up a nice protection racket, and Marden had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do. The sky was beginning to darken when Marden saw what he was looking for. As the group wandered through the streets, a short fellow in a red tunic went from stall to stall, collecting the daily payment, a percentage of the day’s profit. Marden didn’t move where he was from the wall as he watched from under the brim of his hat, as if dozing. The group took their time, but they soon worked their way through the street, leaving a disgusted group of merchants in their wake. Marden knew there was nothing they could do, and the thugs were probably paying off the local city watch to leave them alone. Pushing off the wall, Marden walked down the street with his cloak wrapped around him. He followed them for a good twenty minutes before they were done, which made Marden whether he was asking for more trouble than this was worth. There were only eight of them, which meant for this large a street there had to be more, yet Marden knew he had few choices. He could always just kill one of the merchants, but there was no point. They wouldn’t have nearly as much money as the group he followed, and the group would try to kill him for killing one of their clients so either way he’d have to fight them. Watching as they slipped into an alleyway, Marden quickly made after them. They had noticed him shadowing them, so they were there with weapons drawn when he stepped into the street. Marden simply parted his cloak and pulled a small crossbow he’d stolen from a bowyer in Caemlyn from his belt and pointed it at the one in the red tunic. “Today’s earnings, now.†“There are eight of us and one of you, even if you kill one of us, that leaves seven of us.†â€I don’t have time for this.†Squeezing the trigger, Marden frowned as the bolt buried itself in the man’s forehead, he’d been aiming for the chest. Tossing the crossbow to one side, he drew a short sword he’d picked up in his travels with his right as his left hand sprouted a dagger as if by magic in a murderer’s grip. These thugs didn’t have the training or battle experience that Marden had, and ever since he’d left Far Madding and the absence of saidin had returned, he’d lost any fear of harm to himself that he’d once held. Parrying as he stepped forward into the first thug, Marden’s dagger buried itself in the side of the man’s neck before ripping free, sending a shower of hot blood through the air onto the snow underfoot as the man grasped at his neck, his life seeping away. Lizard in the Thornbush claimed the next two that came forward, leaving one to drown in his own blood and the other clutching his mangled manhood. The next two came more cautiously, working together as the other two attempted to move around the side. Rushing in, Marden parried to the left as he spun and ducked under the Arc of the Moon, Low Wind Rising cleaving through the man’s side in response as he spun about. As the newest corpse fell into one of the other thugs, Marden stepped forward as he knelt underneath the Courtier Taps his Fan, burying his dagger in the man’s bowels. Standing and ripping the dagger up in one smooth motion, Marden jumped back from the corpse, pulling his dagger clear as he leapt clear from the Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose. Fear was clear on the faces of the last two, and they were wary as they stepped forward. Letting them attack, the Falling Leaf swept aside their attacks, allowing Marden to step in and swipe with his dagger, finding the throat of the man on the left. Taking a few steps to avoid the blood shower and the attack launched by the sole survivour, Marden stepped in again, exchanging a few blows to back the man into the wall. Catching the desperate blow, the Courtier Taps his Fan was undone as the Grapevine Twines, a thrust with the dagger ending it as it found the man’s heart, splitting it in twain. Stepping back as the man fell, Marden kicked the corpse over and placing a boot on the man’s stomach, ripped the dagger free. It had been a short and bloody fight, and it more than anything, it annoyed Marden, his time could have been spent better. Wiping his blades on the corpse, Marden dropped them as he wiped his hands in the snow. It was then that a stinging sensation ran through his dagger hand, some of the blood was his. One of the bastards had managed to slice the back of his hand open, he’d have to clean it out properly later. Taking his cloak off next, Marden was surprised at how little blood had landed on it. Rubbing it through the snow, Marden flicked it a few times in the air then turned it inside out before putting it back on. Sheathing his weapons, Marden didn’t take long to loot the corpses. They’d all had a few coins on them, and the protection money had a number of fat gold crowns in it, not a bad haul overall. Collecting his crossbow, Marden placed it inside his cloak before stepping out into the street. No sign of the City Watch, though no doubt they’d appear before long. Making his way back to the inn proved difficult, especially since he didn’t know the name of the place and couldn’t ask for directions, but he eventually found the place. Buying a small bottle of spirits at the bar, Marden kept his left hand out of sight as he made his way up to his room with the small bottle in hand. Throwing his cloak onto the bed along with his sword belt and the crossbow, Marden realised that the innkeeper had finally had a water barrel and bowl brought up to his room. Dipping the bowl in the barrel, Marden sat down on the floor, placing the bowl on his left as he let his hand soak. Uncorking the bottle with his teeth, he spat the cork onto the floor and poured some of the spirits into the crimson water in the bowl. Wincing, he proceeded to put the bottle down and sort through his saddle bags with his free hand until he came across the poultices that Sarie had given him. It took a moment to pick the right one, but soon enough he was rubbing the poultice into the wound. Looking through the saddlebags for a spare tunic, Marden pulled it out and taking his knife, cut a long section out of it. Throwing the contents of the bowl into a corner of the room, he took the bottle and poured most of it into the bowl. Placing the strip of cloth in the bowl with it to soak, he took a swig of the bottle before pouring the last drops into the wound over the poultice. Putting the bottle beside him, Marden pulled the strip out and wound it carefully around his hand between his thumb and forefinger. He’d still be able to hold a dagger in it but he wouldn’t be nearly as nimble with it for awhile. Throwing the bowl’s contents into the corner again, he left the bowl sitting near the barrel as he stood up. He hadn’t eaten all day save for an apple he stole while he was in the markets and the smells coming from downstairs were getting to him. Putting his swordbelt back on, Marden reloaded the crossbow before clipping it to his belt, then shrugged his cloak back on. Stepping outside, Marden placed the bottle behind the door before shutting it. If anyone went into his room, they’d knock the bottle over, and the innkeeper would regret letting thieves into his room. Making his way downstairs, Marden went to the bar to the innkeeper. The innkeeper was his usual sour self but the innkeeper disappeared into the kitchen sure enough to fetch him his meal. Heading to a table where he could place his back against the wall, Marden looked through the patrons. All of them looked at least slightly dodgy, and all of them were armed in some form or another. Marden had been right in the choice he’d made, no one was going to look for him here, it would be too much trouble. Marden didn’t bother to thank the innkeeper as the man dropped the plate before him. Attacking the meal before him, Marden polished it off within minutes and soon had the innkeeper fetching him a second serving, and some Tairen Ale while he was at it. The second serving he took his time with as he allowed himself to relax slightly, but not too much as he watched everyone inside as people left and others entered. Marden’s eyes narrowed as a man entered the inn, something at the back of his mind trying to free itself yet stuck there. The man was lean, a calmness seemed to exude from him that wasn't unfamiliar, yet for the life of him he couldn't place it. Taller than himself, the man had a cleanshaven face and mousey brown hair would have reached his shoulders if not for the leather thong that held it in place. As the man talked with the bartender, Marden found himself confused and nervous. He knew this man from somewhere, yet after a year in Far Madding, a lot of his memory was blurred or lost, who was this man? Had he fought in Dramon Calgar’s army? Was he an agent of Tar Valon? Maybe a Warder or Tower Guard, he certainly had the height to have dangerous reach should he be a fighter. Something persisted in the back of his mind yet he shunted it aside, he wasn’t about to take chances. Keeping his head down, Marden returned to his meal, not wanting to give himself away. Watching the man from underneath the brim of his hat, it wasn’t long before Marden became aware that he was under scrutiny. He was sure the man was watching him, he must have noticed Marden’s glances, that or he’d been sent to watch him, or to kill. While he kept a blank façade, inside Marden was fighting the urge to run. The more minutes that passed, the greater the urge. He had to restrain himself from reaching for the crossbow, it would give him away to everyone inside, and more than that, there was a twinge of doubt in him. It was something at the back of his mind, and it only agitated him further, there was something he wasn’t remembering, or seeing. Standing from his meal, Marden made his way to the front doors with a quick stride, barging into someone stepping inside and putting them on their arse as he began walking as quickly as possible down the street. He could feel eyes on his back but he didn’t stop, the possibilities running through his mind as he walked under the crescent moon. It was then that it struck him, one of the alleys he’d passed through to get to the inn. Taking a left, Marden proceeded to walk for a good ten minutes, catching glimpses of the man shadowing him out of the corner of his eyes as he turned down different streets and alleys. It was with relief that Marden found the alley he’d remembered from his earlier wandering. Turning into the alley, Marden caught a glimpse of his shadow, the man was keeping a good distance, trying to hide himself. Seeing the door ajar as he remembered it, Marden shoved the door open, making sure to let the door smack against the wall as he turned and hid himself in the shadows opposite the door. The light as poor as it was, one couldn’t see into them and with the noise he’d made, he doubted the stalker would notice. Sure enough, the footsteps quickened as Marden took his crossbow out from beneath his cloak. The stranger walked towards the door as Marden took aim, right in the back, the finger wrapped itself around the trigger as the man stepped inside the doorw- Marden froze as a loud screech emerged from the doorway and the man stumbled back, a cat upon his chest, trying to rake at the man’s face as it hissed. It jogged something else in the back of his memory, something about cats and himself, something that had happened in the past. Something was familiar about this, and Marden found himself filled with doubt. Shoving it aside, Marden made a compromise as he put the crossbow down. Drawing his dagger with his right hand, Marden snuck up behind the man as the stalker finally got a hold of it and threw it away from himself. As the cat ran away, Marden slipped his left hand underneath the man’s chin and pulled it back while his dagger placed itself along the throat. Snarling, Marden’s tone was desperate yet filled with anger as he hissed, his false accent discarded as his Kandori lilt became clear. “Who are you? Why are you following me? Who do you serve? By the Creator answer me true or I’ll slit your throat here and leave you for the scavengers to pick at.†Marden Veniso Loyal to the Dragon, Dramon Calgar
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