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Watching and Waiting
Sun Jun 18, 2006 15:31 (XFF:

The cool night air served to clear Toren's head after his short night of restless sleep. That was good because his mind was racing, trying to cover all the scenarios he might encounter. How am I going to get into the camp? How am I going to locate the prisoners? What if I encounter one of the fantastical Seanchan beasts Ė could it tell, by smell, that Iím not really Seanchan? What will I do if I encounter enemy channelers? Each question that he answered seem to bring up three more that he could not, and Toren started to wonder, again, how he was going to succeed where fully trained Asha'man had failed. At the very least, he needed to gather some more information before you could even hope to accomplish anything useful.

He started on the upward path, and walked for the better part of an hour. Once or twice he caught a glimpse of the enemy campfires through the trees and, when he felt he circled far enough to the north, he left the path and cut into the forest. It took about another hour to find the sort of spot he was looking for - a rocky outcrop that looked down over the Seanchan encampment, screened by some bushes and scrubby trees. Toren settled himself between the rocks just as the first signs of dawn were appearing above the eastern ridge line. The army below was just starting to stir. Soldiers were emerging from their tents and building up breakfast cookfires. A new group of perimeter guards were replacing the sentries who had watched through the end of the night. Toren settled down to watch and wait, trying to get the measure of how and when things happened around the camp.

Toren cursed silently when the beast took flight from the cliff face below him. He had chosen a position where he was well hidden from anyone looking up from below, but he had very little cover from someone who could look down from the sky. I should have planned for this! What kind of idiot forgets that the Seanchan have those flying . . . what are they called . . . raken? He stopped berating himself long enough to throw up the illusion of a large rock over his prone form, silently praying that no one would notice one more boulder suddenly appearing out of nowhere. The raken rider didn't seem to spot anything amiss and flew off towards the south.

Over the course of the day, Toren started to observe a pattern in the arrival and departure of the raken. The beasts with two riders seemed to go up every two hours, flying in wide circles, presumably for scouting purposes. When one approached the cliff for landing, the next would leap into the air, so that the army was never without its eyes in the sky. Toren pondered the tactical advantage provided by the raken. On the bare rock, it would be impossible to surprise an army with such aerial reconnaissance. On the forested slopes further down the mountain, the raken would give little advantage and the Seanchan would have to rely on more conventional scouts. Toren wondered how well the creatures could see in the dark - that could seriously hinder his attempt to sneak into the enemy camp, and he was irritated that he didn't know that piece of information.

More unpredictably, raken with single riders arrived from the south or departed towards that same direction. After some thought, and he really didn't have much to do except think as he hid under his illusionary rock, Toren decided that these were probably messengers, bringing news from the southern element of the Seanchan forces. Toren considered the possibility of trying to intercept one of the messengers. If he could get the enemyís plans into the hands of a Major or Colonel, it could be a huge advantage to the forces of the Black Tower. But that's not what I'm here for. Don't get distracted - you need to think of a way to get into the camp! Ultimately, he decided that the prisoners had to take top priority.

Toren turned his attention from the raken to the camp below, trying to figure out where the prisoners might be held. The Asha'man who had given the midnight briefing had said they were being held in separate locations, and all shielded by damane. That was all he had to work with, so Toren tried to pick out the damane among the crowd of soldiers. Perhaps their comings and goings would give some clue to the location of the captives they shielded. The silvery leashes glinted in the sun, making the pairs of women relatively easy to spot, and Toren soon fixed two large tents as housing for the female channelers when they were not attending to some other task around the camp. About mid-afternoon, as the perimeter guard was changing for the second time that day, Toren observed a large crowd emerge from one of the tents. Eight pairs of women dispersed throughout the camp. The tents which they went into were unremarkable in appearance, but the coincidence of number was too great - Toren was confident that he had just observed the locations he was looking for.

Toren tried to burn the eight locations into his memory. He didnít really think he could get all eight prisoners out by himself, but he wanted to go into the enemy camp knowing as much as possible. There were other agents working at the same task, and Toren couldnít be sure that he would be the first to reach any one of those locations he had just observed. I wonít be the first to do anything if I canít figure out a way to get myself inside that camp! He decided to wait and watch until nightfall. Perhaps the camp routine changed during the night, or perhaps the darkness would give him an edge in avoiding the sentries. Still hidden behind the fake rock, Toren allowed himself to sleep a few precious hours so that he would be alert when he most needed to be.

  • Into the Field, Ready or NotSoldier Toren Swain, Fri Jun 16 11:54
    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... more
    • Watching and Waiting — Soldier Toren Swain, Sun Jun 18 15:31
      • The Way InSoldier Toren Swain, Mon Jun 19 14:25
        When Toren awoke, it was dark and he was stiff and sore from sleeping on the rocky ground. But he was alive, and he wasn't shielded by some woman on a leash. All things considered, it could have been ... more
        • A Plan, in TheorySoldier Toren Swain, Thu Jun 22 11:54
          Toren found it surprisingly easy to blend in around the camp. So long as he avoided lingering too long in one place, nobody seemed to notice that he didnít belong and he just kept helping out with... more
          • A Plan, in PracticeSoldier Toren Swain, Thu Jun 22 12:05
            Toren flitted around the camp until nightfall, avoiding contact with the groups of soldiers as they gathered to eat their evening meal. Partly, he didn't want to intrude on a group who might... more
            • I'll Fly AwaySoldier Toren Swain, Wed Jun 28 10:24
              Toren and the Ashaíman, who had introduced himself as Lars, stood at the base of the cliff, looking up. The sentries at the bottom were relatively lax, even now they stood chatting with one another... more
              • Tying Off Loose EndsSoldier Toren Swain, Thu Jun 29 10:20
                Toren had deliberately ordered the Seanchan woman to land some distance away from the rendezvous point. He started to angle through the woods south and west, knowing that he would eventually cut... more
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