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Homecoming Interuppted
Wed Jun 14, 2006 07:14
205.204.242.22 (XFF: 10.66.16.14)

The night was heavy with fog. It had been a warm day, warm enough to make her sweat inside her head-to-toe black uniform as she had exercised and shaped her body into a weapon for the Tower, but the evening had been cold by contrast. The weather here was different from what she had grown up with in Arad Doman. Not far from the seat of Andor, the Black Tower did not get sea breezes or the amount of rain that she was accustomed to. Fog was not a new development, but this fog, with its thick curling grayness, was like clouds that had settled not far from the earth. With her training, Audrey had been taught to create simple things with the one Power, and had gained a limited understanding of her own abilities. Even now, as she walked the grounds, unable to sleep, she used a globe of light to help her keep to the path, and felt a bit of guilt for relying on the object, instead of using a lantern.

She had learned quickly that the Black Tower did not provide items such as lanterns, when the bending of saidin or saidar could easily do the same trick. Despite her wishes to remain ignorant of the Power, Audrey had been made to do everything from cutting wood, cooking, and washing with the Power. During her Embracing lesson, Dedicated Jaiden had instructed her that the more that she worked with saidar the more efficient and powerful with it she would become. However it was her reluctance to forget her past that had kept her handicapped. Each time she touched the One Power it threatened to consume her before she could release some of her hold and pull just a small amount to her. Even creating the globe which was bobbing peacefully along behind her had proved difficult initially.

The Tower had been her home for nearly two months now, and she had still had not heard from her brother. Since leaving him in Caemyln, she had watched very day for him to appear at the gates of the Tower. The two of them had traveled from Arad Doman to Andor, seeking shelter from the conflicts that wracked their homeland, and trying to find a safe shelter for Ambrose. They had heard that the Black Tower was a place were men who channeled could go without having to fear begin caught in the webs of Aes Sedai. Once they had learned that they were accepting women too, they had vowed to stay together through their training. However conflict had awaited them in Caemlyn, and after a vicious fight, Audrey had fled ahead of him to the Tower, and was now still waiting on him to join her.

She felt guilty that she had not gone looking for her brother. What if he had gotten more hurt than she realized, or if he had gotten killed? Every time that doubt rose in her stomach she pushed it back down. Her twin brother would be fine…He needed only to come to the Tower and join her in training to be an Asha’man. Already he was far behind her, and she did not want to make it to Dedicated before he was even enrolled in the ranks.

She came to a halt, ignoring the way the globe bobbed behind her, creating strange shadows off the Traitor’s Tree. It was an ominous reminder of what would happen to her if she decided to leave the Dragon Reborn’s army now. For a moment she studied the branches of the huge tree, careful to keep her eye from dwelling too long on anything gruesome that may be hidden among the leaves. For her the tree held some sort of morbid curiosity. It was meant to be a threat to deserters and to those who wished to bring forth any sort of downfall or weakness into the ranks of Soldiers, Dedicated, or Asha’men. This late in the evening, there was no one awake to see her circle around the tree, trailing her hand along its circumference. So large that it was, it seemed impossible that it was real, but the few scattered leaves around her feet proved that the Traitor’s Tree was real indeed, and so was the threat that it boded.

It was half way around the tree that Audrey saw someone walking up the path from the Gates. The lights from the village had gone out, and as she had walked from her barracks down to the tree in an effort to pass time without seeing anyone out of their rooms. She wondered who this could be, and why they would arrive to the Tower in the dead of night. She wasn’t going to be the one to wake the M’Hael and tell him that there was a new trainee waiting outside.

She came around the front of the tree and watched the man—he was tall and thick with muscle, so it could only be a man—walk slowly up the road. He had bags thrown across his back and he moved as if it pained him to do so. As she watched him walk, Audrey felt a flicker of hope, though it was quickly followed by a stab of fear and guilt. “Ambrose?” she called, jogging toward him until she was only a few short paces away. The man lifted his head and dropped the bags heavily on the ground, not caring how they landed. “Aurielle?” He answered his voice soft, and scared.

Audrey ran toward her brother, her need to see him overcoming her fear for how he would feel at seeing her after she had abandoning him. When she was but an arm’s length away, she stopped, gravel rolling under her boots for a moment before coming to a stop. For several long moments they simply starred at one another, before Audrey could take it no more and jumped into her brother’s arms. He grunted at the impact as she threw her arms around his neck, and he was forced to put his arms around her back to hold her up. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in his ear, giving a rarely heartfelt apology. She wanted to tell him that if something had happened to him, she would have never forgiven herself, and would have found a way to punish herself for what she had done to hurt him. They stayed like that for a long time, neither one speaking, but Audrey pulled away when she felt her nose begin to tingle and tears form at the edge of her eyelids.

Slowly she slipped to the ground, but Ambrose continued to hold her waist, keeping her close to him. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, though he shook his head, not wanting to hear it. “I’m here now.” He finally added. “Nothing will keep us apart,” She nodded. “I don’t plan…” Her thoughts were interrupted as bell rang from somewhere on the grounds. Audrey looked toward the sound and could barely see what looked like people filling out of the barracks. Not now. “What is that?” Ambrose asked, picking his things off the ground and taking her hand with his, leaning them both toward the noise.

They had made it to the Traveling Yards when another sound cut the air. “Assassins! Are you ready? Follow me.” Audrey frowned as the group of men and women came toward them. The Asha’man who led them was a woman who had tested her and assigned her into apprenticeship in the craft of Assassin. Ambrose looked positively confused, but continued to hold her hand. “There are two camps–a southern camp invading the city and a northern camp near the Murandian border to parry any aid from Murandy or Andor. We’re going to the northern camp. I am told there are ten Captains. What we must do is infiltrate the camp. You will each disguise yourself as a Seanchan soldier . . . I have brought supplies for disguising ourselves if you already are not proficient in Illusion. We will enter the camp, probe around to determine who the Captains are, and you will assassinate one. Understood?”

“Oh Light,” Audrey breathed. This was not a drill or a practice exercise. They were really sending them into Murandy to fight Seanchan. As the woman looked at her troops, she saw Audrey standing on the sidelines and gestured for the Soldier to join the rest of the Assassins on the Traveling platform. “Ambrose, I have to go.” She said quickly and released his hand, scampering toward the rest of her kin.

“Where are you going? Aurielle?” He looked at the Gateway that had created a long silver slash in the air, bending reality as it rotated and opened into an area far away from the Tower’s grounds. Audrey looked at her brother’s face, again feeling guilt whelming up inside her. “I’m sorry; I have to go with them.” One of the Asha’man holding the Gateway gave her a frown, making her speak lower, but run back to the edge of the platform. “They’re taking us to Murandy…to fight Seanchan. I’ll be back as soon as possible, alright?” She used her brother’s arms to lift herself up on tip-toe and kissed him on the cheek. “Just stay here…Tell them you’re a new trainee and they won’t send you too. I’ll be back.”

The Asha’man was talking again, interrupting their hurried goodbyes. “It is a small hike north through the mountains to find the Seanchan camp, nestled in a pass. It is an individual’s mission, meaning that you only are to report to me if you need. Understood? We pass through. The hand of the Creator shelter you.”

Men and woman on both side of her began to move through the Gateway. Ambrose stood frozen on the spot, watching them disappear into the rocky area that was on the other side. Finally he understood, and he shook his head in resolve. “Be careful, Aurielle.” Audrey nodded and hurried to the mouth of the Gateway, she would be the last one through. “I love you,” her brother shouted after her once she was through the gate. She turned to answer him, but the silver line span shut and disappeared, sealing her on the other side of the world.

I love you too. She thought before slipping down the path that the others had taken, and clearing her head from all other thoughts beyond the task at hand.

Audrey Meriwether
Soldier

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