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Into the Field, Ready or Not
Fri Jun 16, 2006 11:54 (XFF:

It was a cool summer evening. It had been hot during the day, particularly if you happened to be wearing black and practicing sword forms under the afternoon sun, but the temperature had dropped after the sun went down. Toren’s lessons were finished for the day and he was talking with Carl, another Soldier who bunked at the opposite end of the same barracks. Carl was doing most of the talking; Toren was mostly listening. It just seemed as though more interesting things happened to the Envoy, and Toren wondered how his friend managed to fit in such mundane matters like lessons, meals and sleeping. Still, Toren mused, Carl would make a good Ambassador some day if he didn’t provoke some woman to poison him first. Not surprisingly, Carl’s current story revolved around his adventures with the ladies of the Black Tower. In this particular instance, he had been trying to seduce one of the bakers and had managed to persuade her to meet him by the lake at midnight.

“So there we were,” explained Carl. “It’s quiet, we’re looking up at the stars. So I slooowly start to put my arm around her back and start with her buttons. All of sudden she’s getting in my face, ‘what kind of a hussy do you think I am? Do you think I’m going to just jump out of my dress the moment you bat your eyes at me?’ I’m thinking maybe I should apologize, or maybe I should just give her a big kiss so she stops talking, but I just stood there in shock and she stomps off into the night. What do you think I should have done, Toren?”

Toren was not quiet sure why Carl was asking him for advice. In any sort of sensible world, the questions should be flowing the other way. Carl seemed to snare a new girl about once a week, and Toren rarely found time to mingle with the opposite sex unless you counted the female Soldiers who attended his lessons, or the female Dedicated who sometimes taught them. Still, his friend had asked him a question. Toren thought for a couple of seconds before replying, “Sometimes, I think you just have to act. There’s no right choice; you just have to do something right away.”

Carl laughed loudly. "That's priceless, coming from you! I bet you had to think for five minutes this morning before you decided to wear black. You don't do anything without thinking it over for a good long time and - just a friendly word of advice - you're not going to get pinned until you learn to think on your feet."

The criticism stung but, if Toren was honest with himself, he had to admit there was some truth to what his friend had said. Since his arrival at the Black Tower, Toren had been impressed with the gravity of his situation. Learning how to wield the One Power was not something that you did hastily. Committing your life to fighting for the Dragon Reborn was not something to be rushed into without serious thought. In fact, this was one of the reasons why Toren still trained as a Jack rather than devoting himself fully to one track of study. Carl's words made him stop and think. Do my instructors see me as too hesitant? Am I going to stop and think too long when I get thrown into a real combat situation? And is that going to get me killed? Is that going to get other people killed? Toren didn't like where this line of thought was leading him, but it was certainly something that he needed to consider before he earned his promotion to Asha'man, and was assigned to combat duty where his action, or inaction, might result in death.

Carl seemed to sense that he had killed the conversation, and excused himself. Toren remained seated outside the barracks a little while longer, but eventually he too entered the barracks and lay down on his bunk. He slept fitfully, and he kept having a recurring dream where Dedicated Locke Lemain was beating him about the head with a wooden practice sword. Toren just stood there trying to decide how to counter the attacks - maybe Falling Leaf, maybe Creeper Embraces the Oak. Locke kept smacking him in the head before he could make the right decision. When a someone shouted from the door of the barracks in the middle of the night, Toren was quickly awake but his head hurt and he felt like he had barely slept for any time at all.

The Black Tower was in turmoil. Black clad figures rushed in every direction, gathering weapons and supplies. There was shouting.

“Officers, this way!”

“Ambassadors, to the north classrooms. Corner of Vine and Water Street.”

“Spies to the west classrooms, first one on the south side.”

The chaos started to resolve itself into streams of humanity, flowing towards their assigned destinations. Toren started moving towards the west classrooms. Although his status as a Jack gave him a choice of where to report, he couldn’t throw in his lot with the Officers, not after his conversation with Carl. It was fairly clear that they were about to be thrown into a combat situation and Toren was pretty sure his friend was right. He would freeze up under pressure and if he did that on the main battle line then maybe hundreds of people would die. If he froze up during a mission of espionage, then he might lose his own life, but he wouldn’t be putting anyone else in danger. Arriving at the appropriate classroom, he didn’t have time to venture any further down this depressing train of thought.

A female Asha’man stood at the front of the room and prepared to address the assembled crowd. “We have received word that the Seanchan's Ever-Victorious Army is once again on the move.” So, it’s true. We are being thrown into combat, half-trained. “Additionally, eight Asha'man have been captured by the Seanchan. These eight, all Spies, were part of the initial mission to relay word of this camp back to the Tower; currently, they are being held in eight separate parts of the main camp, and are all shielded by damane.” And we, who have much less training and power than these eight Asha’man, are supposed get them out again? The Asha’man proceeded to explain the details of the mission, and finally dismissed the assembled Soldiers and Dedicated to the traveling yards.

The black crowd filed out in an orderly manner. After the initial rush to awaken everyone in the middle of the night, Black Tower discipline seemed to have things running smoothly once again. On the far side of the traveling yard, Toren spotted his friend Carl filing through a gateway with the other Ambassadors-in-training. He leaned forward to say something to the Atha’an Miere woman who preceded him, and then they both disappeared from view. The Spies marched through their own gateway, leaving the Tower grounds behind and appearing in a small mountain clearing.

The Dedicated who had led them through turned to address the crowd. “This clearing is about three to five miles from the enemy encampment. If you follow this path, you can circle up towards the mountain’s peak, above the Seanchan. If you follow that path, you can approach their camp from below. Cutting straight through the forest that way is probably the most direct route, but not the fastest. If you rescue one of the prisoners, or if you are injured to the point where you can no longer complete the mission, try to return to this clearing and someone will be here to gate you back to the Tower. Go, and may the Light shine on you all!”

OOC: I'm hoping to use this as MRP, hence the conversation before the actual mission began.

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