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With Yew and Balsa
Fri Jan 5, 2007 11:29pm

Lysander, if anyone, knew the practical grace of coercion. Battles were won on steel and flint and swords and saidin, but wars, on the other hand, required a much less tactile approach for victory to be secured. As such, Lysander, if fated to be successful in breaking this bond with Myrth, would need to reply on a much more impressive stratagem than simply killing this woman, something that had proven impossible on both a practical and diplomatic level.

I cannot harm her. If I was responsible for the murder of an Aes Sedai, even indirectly, and word of this spread, the Towers would be at war.

Nonetheless, as he was confident in what he said–as he was sure that the words he spoke were the right words–Lysander could not help but wonder over the woman’s mood. He had had her cornered, truthfully; he had put himself in the position of control, warning her of the illicit nature of her activities. She shouldn’t have been able to rebound, but she did. She did. There was no sense to this. The Shadow preserve him, but Myrth couldn’t be a Darkfriend. It wouldn’t follow logically, though every aspect of this appeared to snatch up logic by the scruff of its neck and toss it clearly from a window.

The bond, carrying the woman’s amusement, reflected the buoyant air to her words. “I really was not planning to request these two things from you, but if you claim that is how the future will unfurl, I won’t disagree. Instead, I would like to ask the first favour of you. I wouldn’t mind learning archery, actually. Just a quick lesson. Not too strenuous. There are longbows and arrows found in the barracks. Oh, and Lysander?” Her tiny, pale face was fractured by a smile. “It would be greatly appreciated.”

He would concede; he would concede, rather than find himself forced by the Aes Sedai witch into concession. Touching the True Source, Lysander felt both the silent emptiness of the Void and the savage deluge of saidin. From the depths of the Power, he produced threads of Spirit grouped with those of other elements to give the impending weave complexity, channeling the form of Illusion over himself. Myrth watched on in amusement as he was reduced to a hard-faced, square-jawed man, his skin having adopted a flushed hue, and his body having expanded into a well-muscled specimen. He was clad in a scarlet tunic, and a black, colour-shifting cloak–a fit replication of a Gaidin’s fancloth. In fact, his entire self had become a replication of a Gaidin. Ensuring that the weave was both tied off and inverted, Lysander peered at Myrth, abandoning his hold on the Power.

“From now on,” he said, “you will refer to me as a Gaidin, and nothing more.”

Away from her he turned, and Lysander began to walk the path toward the Gaidin’s barracks. In spite of his continual annoyance, Lysander did not trudge: instead, he fought to imitate the loping grace of a Gaidin, and their catlike walk. Having taken lessons among the Gaidin as a Soldier and Dedicated, Lysander knew where the barracks could be found, and he kept himself plain and unassuming as his feet padded across the snow-strewn ground.

There could be no consideration, really. Even though all eyes were diverted, all souls presently sequestered by the fanfare of the incumbent festivities, Lysander could not afford to have his cover blown, so to speak, by appearing as a Gaidin who did not know where the armoury was located. Confidence consumed his every action.

Upon finding the armoury, Lysander entered, amused by how easy all this was. Briefly, he browsed the racks, scanning the assortment of martial goods. Not nearly as plentiful as the Black Tower’s, though, he thought with loyalty. From the shelves, Lysander plucked two strong, able-sized bows of different sizes. His Officer alias, after all, had provided him with the know-how of any competent archer. He had fond memories of the fray at Widder Stand, where he had entered the onslaught armed with naught more than his bow and some arrows–and the Power, and his own mind. The bows were of yew, firm yet flexible, and he selected quivers filled to brimming with arrows carved of balsa. Most balked at that selection of wood for its lightness–for even the slightest wind could make a balsa arrow errant–though, as he and Myrth would just be practicing, Lysander saw nothing more efficient. As an afterthought, he selected a target of coloured rings, formed of a sheepskin stretched tautly over its frame. He was a spectacle, likely, lumbering over the grounds with this unwieldy burden in his arms, but he made no effort to have his annoyance over the encumbrance show.

Returning to Myrth, he found the women sitting there comfortably on a bench, her skirts bereft of the snow that had been dusted off to the sides. She smiled on his return, giggling ever the slightest, and he was entirely sure he found his plight–what with his uncomfortable load–humourous.

“Oh, let me help you,” she said, and the skin on his arms pebbled and prickled, and she pulled from his grasp with saidar one of the leather quivers and the shorter of the two longbows. He set up the target not far off, preparing his own quiver and arrows. There was indignity about the notion of teaching a lesson against one’s will, and about having to maintain pleasantries during the tenure of that lesson, but he figured that, if things were to go well, he would have to ignore that, even tucking his dignity away to a solitary, segregated place until later. Besides, for now, he was a figure of authority. Though the Aes Sedai and her cheekiness might contest that, in his own mind, Lysander would not be shaken.

“Now, what is your dominant eye?” Lysander asked, fingering the shaft and fletching of one of the arrows.

Myrth blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“I asked for your dominant–”

“No, I heard that,” she said, peering at him flatly. “I’ve never heard of eye dominance, though. I assume its like left-handedness and right-handednesss?”

Lysander smiled quietly to himself. “Similar in concept, though the dominant eye is not always analogous to the dominant hand. In most cases, though, it is, and we will assume your right eye is the dominant, as is your right hand.”

“Oh? How did you know I was right-handed?”

“Your letter pertaining to the al’Emonia woman? You penned it in heavy ink, and the smears angle to the right indicated a right hand.” She stared openly at him. “It’s my job to pay attention to these things. Now, what you are to do is hold your bow in the hand opposite your dominant one–your left–and clutch the string in your right. These are respectively known as your bow hand and string hand. Your left side should face the target, and your right eye should lead your sight.” On command, Myrth assumed the position, standing properly, albeit awkwardly, with the weapon. “I assume you play a stringed instrument?”

Without taking her eye from the distant target, the woman laughed softly. “Another observation, I suppose?”

“Calloused fingers. Cittern, maybe? Mandolin?”

“Harp.” She paused. “My pinky finger isn’t calloused. You don’t play a harp with your pinky finger.”

And now I know, he thought dully.

“Now, place your feet approximately a shoulder-width apart. For safety’s sake” (not that he would be opposed to the woman taking her eye out) “always nock your bow with the arrow pointing to the ground. Use just your three middle fingers on your string hand to hold the string and arrow. I suppose your harpist’s training makes not using your smallest finger easy. Raise your bow with your string hand brought to your face. Now, back straight, unleash the bow. Shoot, aiming for the target.”

She did. With barely a sound, the arrow landed softly in the snow, not three paces ahead of her. Women, was all he thought.

  • An Archery Kind of GirlMyrth Sedai, Wed Jan 3 8:34pm
    She truly hadn’t been lying when Myrth had told Lysander how good a dancer he was. Oh, he was a detestable man, certainly, and there was no part of him she could really bring herself to like.... more
    • With Yew and Balsa — M'Hael Lysander, Fri Jan 5 11:29pm
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