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Part I: Ebou Dari Duels
Fri Apr 21, 2006 9:15pm (XFF:

Thorhild watched with stark attention as each novice made his or her decision. Some appeared to take a ridiculous amount of time in the making of the choice, scrutinizing what would indefinitely come down to sheer luck. Miravalles, at least, appeared occupied. Novice Sabine did indeed seem to have made her way from the lesson, though the Brown rectified that will little difficulty, returning her to the group.

Suddenly, without the faintest hint of a warning, the horses were off. There was no fanfare, no burst of cheers. These were but warm-ups, after all. Many of the novices gave a scream or a jerk as the horses went by, adorned with their hunched rider. It was a two-lap circuit, and so the horses rode at a level, speedy gait. Rosamund the dun did appear to be leading for all of the first lap, and even much of the second, until Faris the palomino seemed to be making a comeback of sorts. The gelding gained the lead, if only for a moment . . . and Rosamund fought back, pressing forth, until the forelocks of both creatures were all but equal, their jockeys slapping the haunches.

With an upthrust of effort, Faris pressed on, gaining the few paces of leverage the propelled him to the lead. And so he won. Many of the novices rose and applauded, as the palomino had earned the majority of the wagers, though there were those who had not had such luck.

“Felicitations to those who chose correctly,” Thorhild intoned, standing to gain attention. “You shall be dubbed ‘Group A.’ Those who lamentably chose Rosamund are in ‘Group B.’ The significance of these groups will later be explained.”

Though they were in the open stadium of the Silver Circuit, they were bereft of notice. It was, after all, early in the morning, and well-nigh of every seat in the bloody arena was empty. “As you’re aware, Ebou Dar is under the occupation of the Seanchan. Fortunately for us, the Silver Circuit is south of the city. We will, however, be venturing into the city. It will be easy, so long as we follow these guidelines.”

“First,” Miravalles explained, smiling, “you will tell no one that we are from the White Tower. Folks in the Silver Circuit will not report an Aes Sedai to the Seanchan, for though they mistrust us, they will not appease those to have their city under guard. If asked, you will say that you are on a walking trip from the Academy of Ebou Dar. We are your instructors, and while we are in the city, I am ‘Mistress Miravalles’ and this is ‘Mistress Thorhild.’ Do not call us Aes Sedai. Most certainly, do not touch the True Source under any conditions. Damane are reserved for combat and other useful purposes, not mundane patrols, though this is a precaution. We will provide Illusion to make this rouse more believable. Understood?”

They touched the True Source in tandem. Channeling, they coloured the novices’ dresses and tunics a deep shade of green with a yellow-gold fringe. They applied Illusion to one another’s faces, too, so that they lost the agelessness. All were inverted and tied off. They placed their Great Serpent rings in their pouches, and folded their shawls up and pocketed them. “Carriages await us outside the Circuit. Let us depart.”

Leaving the Silver Circuit, the class divided into two groups; Thorhild and Group A travelled in one of the rickety carriages while Miravalles and Group B travelled in the other. It was not a long trip, and they were soon clicking and clacking their ways through the Moldine Gate of Ebou Dar. A Seanchan sentinel was stationed outside the gate, peering into the carriages with a solemn-eyed look. They did not rob the citizens of their rights entirely, no, but they were a force unto themselves. Miravalles and Thorhild, though not in the same carriage, knew better than to wear their serenity. Thorhild appeared only tight-lipped. The Seanchan disgusted her for doing this to her people. Aes Sedai or not, Thorhild saw the Altarans as her people.

Stepping out of their carriages, the novices–still clad in their green-and-gold garbs, if only appearing so by Illusion–milled around in the open square. Adorning the centre was a fountain, and vendors and Altarans crowded about, though it was not too difficult to navigate, and certainly not oppressively large, either. It was indeed peculiar for Thorhild to be guiding around students in such garbs, though those were what the students of the Academy of Ebou Dar wore. Of course, these students came of mixed ethnicities–Cairhienins and Andorans and Borderlanders and the like–though folk in passing seeming too busy to notice this. “Now, students, you may notice the daggers hanging down from the necks of some of the women. These are called marriage knives.”

“There are multitudinous meanings for these. If the knife has a white or blue sheath, the woman is a widow–white if she intends to remarry and blue if she does not. The number of red stones represents one’s number of daughters, while the number of white stones refers to the number of sons. If these are settings of these colours as opposed to stones, then this denotes children having died in duels. If the–”

“Wait,” a novice blurted out. “Light! Look at how many have settings!”

“Hush up,” another novice hissed. “It’s not polite!”

“Indeed,” Thorhild agreed, “it is not. Settings refer to children having died in duels. Altarans are a remarkably confrontational people, and duelling is a way of life. It is intrinsic. More citizens die by the hands of other citizens than in any other nation. This includes even those ravaged by civil war.”

Disbelief coursed through the crowd. Little truly was known about Altara to the vast majority of the world; Murandians were the brawlers by reputation, certainly. Altarans, however, held that title. Likely they always would. “Do you not believe us?” Miravalles asked, her voice laced with amusement.

“No, Mistress Miravalles,” the first novice said flatly, “I do not.” An obnoxious little one, yes, but tolerable. He’d learn how wrong he truly was soon enough.

“If you don’t believe us,” Thorhild said, “we will allow you to see for yourself. We are in public, yes? Group A, you will pair off. Be loud, be repugnant–in your pairs, both of you will choreograph a duel. This is not to be a real duel with the intent of harming one another, but rather a farce intended to earn attention. Altarans, as violent as they are, will not turn their heads once at a duel breaking out before them. Try this for a few moments, pretending to wrestle each other down in the middle of public. You will see that nobody cares, so long as you do not disturb them.”

Miravalles smirked. “Group B, instead, you will pass out these.” She held up what looked very much like small leaflets. “These leaflets are cause-oriented, promoting pacifism, peace, and goodwill. Pass them around, perhaps even engage in conversation with the locals. Unless I’m very much mistaken, you will receive a negative response. They'll likely argue against you, though naught more than that, I'm sure. It's obviously foolish to force your own habits down another culture's throat, though we're not trying to change the opinions of these people. This only is an experiment for your edification.” She began doling them out to those of the second group.

Raising her arms, Thorhild intoned to the novices, “Begin!”

OOC: *grins* Depending on your group, you’ll be performing one of two possibilities. Remember that if you’re in Group A, you can have your character pair off with some random NPC. It should go without saying that your little “faux-duel” won’t include the Power at all. ^^;; The result of either will represent the same, though: Altarans are pure-bred duellers. 400 words minimum this time around. Have fun!

(And don't forget that this lesson is still open if you're wanting to join!)

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