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Soldier Laila
Two if by Sea
Mon Jun 19, 2006 14:06
68.50.55.32 (XFF: 192.168.1.3)

“Sir, if it’s the same to you, I’d like to undo the weave for wind.”

“What’s that, Soldier?” A narrowed eye, a twist of lips.

“The wind weave, sir—Seanchan damane will detect it when we approach. The natural winds will do perfectly fine, sir. We should reach the shore in two hours or so, and a Power-formed wind will not give us much more speed.” A straight back, but submissive eyes. The proper mixture of deference and frankness.

“…Permission given, Soldier Laila.”

“Thank you, sir.” Moments later, a subtle change in the winds.

“SOLDIERS! ASSEMBLE ON DECK IN FIVE!”

An explosion of action. The ship rumbles with the heavy tread of black boots. In minutes, a deck covered by neat units of stern-faced children, already too old at their young age. Two girls, side by side, surrounded by boys. A coppery hand clenching honey-brown fingers.

“We reach the shore in two hours. Seanchan forces will undoubtedly be expecting us, so prepare to land under fire. There may well be damane, so watch for lightning and fireballs. When I dismiss you, I expect you to put on your armor immediately.” Murmured assent. “Upon landing, we’ll be splitting into three units of five, each under a Dedicated. Murdan, Kaide, Elsalim, Curamin, Talsis, you will be commanded by Dedicated Arman. Ereiden, Sukmarr, Chelmais…”

The slightest whisper. “We’re not in the same unit.”

“So be it.”

“…Everything will be okay, right? We defeated them easily the last time.”

“…Of course.”

“Dedicated Arman, Misha, and Yeramiel and Soldiers Laila and Elsalim, remain behind for instructions. The rest of you—dismissed.” The thunder of leather soles against wood. Five black-coated children standing alone, awaiting their dark-browed superior. “Dedicated, come here for battle plans. Soldiers, await instructions.”

Two girls, eyeing each other nervously. Stifled giggles, wary and uncertain. “So—I s’pose I’ll see you after the battle, huh?”

“We’ll still be landing together.”

“Not bloody likely. They’ll have us land in our units. Separation will be easier that way.”

“The Black Tower can’t always accommodate our wishes, Izmere.”

“Yeah, but…” A world of meaning, floating in silence. The unsaid words, drowning out all other sounds: I’m scared. I don’t want to die. Honey-brown fingers squeezing a copper hand, giving comfort in pressure. “We’ll see each other after the battle.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“Elsalim! Laila! Over here.” Two girls, standing at attention. “I’d hoped for three girls, but we’ll have to make do with you two.” Dark eyes, hard as rock, glittering fiercely. “Listen carefully: You two are not—repeat, not—to use the Power offensively.”

“Sir—!” A bitten-off cry emanates from the honey-brown girl. She withers under the glare of her superior. “Sorry, sir, but—”

“But what, Soldier Laila?” Anger, thick and roiling, bubbling beneath his words. “As you said yourself—the Seanchan damane will be able to detect any weaves of saidar. Your weaves will make your unit a beacon for attack. After all, damane always go for opposing channelers first. Isn’t that right, Soldier Laila?”

“Y-yes, sir.” Humiliation squeezing through barely-open lips.

“No, you two will be watching for attacking weaves from the Seanchan. Of course the boys will be able to see some of the attacks, but you—you’ll see the weaves being created. I want you to destroy those fireballs before they fully form, still the earth before it erupts beneath our feet. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Two voices echoing as one.

“Good girls. Dismissed.”




Waves washing against the ship sides. Leather armor scraping her back. Some distance away, a thick brown line. Land. Land, getting closer and closer with each passing second.

And then, the sound of arrows thunking into the wooden deck.

The ship exploded in a fury of action. Screams of agony echoed across the deck. Soldiers and sailors alike dodged out of the way as another flurry of arrows whipped down from above. A few of the more foolish Soldiers looked around vainly for the source of the arrows—all surrounding ships came from the Tower, and surely Seanchan bowmen couldn’t yet reach them! The wisest, however, looked up into the skies. Golden-brown flying lizards, each with a tiny rider perched atop them. The air began to sizzle with the Power as scattered Soldiers knit together a protective dome.

A girl’s voice, shouting above the chaos—“Look up, you fools! To’raken!”

And on her heels, a man’s voice, thick with rage—“Air shield, you Light-blinded fools! Squad Arman, finish the dome and deflect oncoming volleys! Squads Misha and Yeramial—FIRE!!”

Fireballs blossomed in the sky, immolating several to’raken immediately. The surviving fliers scattered out of the path of the fireballs. Still-burning corpses fell into the sea, sending up columns of steam as they heated the waters. Already the morat’to’raken had reformed their unit, snapping off another round of arrows and they sailed overhead. But this time, the arrows bounced off the dome of Air, to fall useless into the sea.

“FIRE!!”

Screams from above, to’raken lashing about in fear. Barely half the squad still remained. The fliers reassembled again, and hurried away towards the shore.

“AGAIN, YOU FOOLS! DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY!”

Once more, the sky erupted with fire, taking out the slowest of the fliers. The remainder disappeared into the distance. Asha’man Marit cursed the Soldiers fluently before turning abruptly to the captain of the ship. “How long ‘till landing?”

“Thirty minutes, give or take.”

“Right. Elsalim! Attend to the wounded!” Izmere scurried to obey.

Laila leaned over the railing, watching the brown line thicken into land. Someone was channeling a large amount of saidar—more than one person, by her guess. Damane. She turned to warn Asha’man Marit—and sensed the flows thickening the skies above her.

Air. For winds to blow the ship off-course. Laila embraced, drawing deep on the light of saidar. Fire. For lightning to cripple the ship. Laila threw out three thick blades of Spirit. Water. For whirlpools to suck the ship beneath the blue waves. Laila struck, her new-formed weapons slicing through the delicate webs.

The two weaves floating in the sky snapped to pieces and faded quickly, but the whirlpool quickly reformed the snapped threads. She’s talented with Water, whoever she is. I’ll need more than a blade of Spirit. A new flow, Spirit intertwined with Water. Spirit to cut, Water to disrupt. She hacked recklessly at the weave, cutting the net to pieces within minutes.

A rough hand on her shoulder. “Soldier Laila—”

No time for politeness. More weaves forming above her. “Damane, sir,” she explained, a touch breathlessly. Spirit and Spirit, whipping through the air. Weaves snapping and sizzling around her. There had to be more than one damane on shore. A nearby ship, caught in a vortex, crushed in a giant hand of Air—No time. I have to save the living. New, unseen forces splitting the weaves apart—The boys, she realized dimly. They lashed about blindly, occasionally missing the damane’s weaves to destroy one of her blades of Spirit. The shore moving closer and closer. The air crackling with electricity. Another ship, burnt and broken by multiple bolts, floating—no, sinking, its crew helpless to save it. Bloody lightning! A crude, thick blade hastily thrown together—sweeping through the skies, cutting several weaves at once—the water swelling beneath the ship, heavy with saidar—the realization, the horror—How could I have missed that?!—another blade thrown together, knowing that it was too late—

And a wave of Water rippling through the careful net, breaking it up in seconds. A pulsing ball of saidar behind her, snapping away at the weaves. Izmere, the Light shine on her. No time to look behind, but the knowledge that she was there was comfort enough.

Land, looming before her. Arrows, bouncing off the dome of Air. Fireballs sizzling towards them—“Prepare for landing, Soldiers…”

  • Prelude: Old Enmities RevivedSoldier Laila, Tue Jun 13 19:51
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