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A Plan, in Practice
Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:05 (XFF:

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 recognize him as an outsider. More than that, he didn't want to put any more faces with the enemy. If they were nameless Seanchan, Toren could convince himself that they were the enemy, that they needed to be killed. He didn't think he could kill the fatherly fletcher, who had tried to give him advice before battle. Toren didn't want to meet anyone else like that, so he kept to himself.

Settling himself into the shadows after most of the Seanchan had retired to their tents, Toren took a quick look over the tent where he believed a prisoner was being held. He was pleasantly surprised to see only one guard on duty. That would make things much simpler, and hopefully there would not be a corresponding piece of bad luck later in the night. Concentrating briefly, he began to weave the strands of Air, reinforced with Spirit, which would form a shield of silence around the tent. It seemed to work as planned, but Toren couldn't hear if there was any reaction from inside the tent. He took one more look around, unsheathed his knife and moved to circle behind the lone guard.

Toren hoped that this would go as smoothly as his attack on the raken guards, but some misstep alerted the sentry at the last moment. He turned, and Toren's blade which would have cut his throat instead slashed across his face. It would be a bloody wound, but certainly not fatal and not nearly enough to stop the guard from raising the alarm. Toren quickly jumped on his opponent, using his advantage in size and weight and trying desperately to get some part of his body over the sentry's mouth. The sentry bit down on Toren's arm. Toren gritted his teeth and kept one arm pressed against the guard's face, all the while stabbing indiscriminately with his knife. It wasn’t a clean kill, but the Seanchan soon stopped thrashing, and Toren dragged the dead man behind the tent. Without the shield, those inside the tent would surely have heard the disturbance, but the sentry had not had a chance to shout for help. Toren had at least a few minutes to work before someone noticed the soldier was no longer standing at his post. Stepping up to front of the tent with sword in hand, Toren could feel a slight resistance in the air as he passed through his own weave. Suddenly he could hear conversation.

A female voice: " . . . an abomination! If I didn't have orders from the Captain-General himself, I'd have Gwynneth kill you where you stand."

A male voice answered, heavy with sarcasm, "Abomination? Isn't that a bit strong? I'm not the one threatening to kill people." That put the prisoner straight in front Toren, and the sul'dam off to his left. If only the damane would say something, he would have a pretty good idea of what he was walking into.

The sul'dam replied with ice in her voice. "If you were not such ignorant savages you would recognize that power such as you wield must be controlled. I have nothing more to say to you."

"And I have nothing more to say to you," answered the Asha'man, and then he paused dramatically. "Except that she's about two steps in front of me on your right."

The sul'dam managed to get out a startled, "What?", as Toren burst into the tent, swinging his sword in a hard arc to his right. He connected heavily with the leashed woman, who was standing just where the Asha'man had described. She went down in a crumpled heap, but Toren was already spinning to face the sul'dam. The second woman started to scream hysterically and tried to dive for the entrance of the tent. The leash on her wrist pulled taut, causing her to stumble, and Toren ran her through before she had a chance to recover. He slowly turned full circle, making sure that there was no further threat. Even the Asha'man, a thin man with near-white blond hair, was barely moving as he fixed Toren with a piercing stare.

"I felt someone channel saidin," explained the prisoner matter-of-factly. "I figured a little chatter would keep these two from realizing how quiet it was, but I was starting to worry that I really would provoke her to violence if I you didn't make your move soon. Now, we should be going."

"I assume, sir," ventured Toren, "that you can not simply gate us out of here." The Asha'man shook his head. "Then we'll need a disguise," answered Toren as he started to weave the Illusion. Looking down at the fallen sul'dam, he copied the lighting bolt patterns of her dress onto the Asha'man's clothes and disguised himself as the damane, remembering at the last minute to add the silver cord running to the collar about his neck.

The Asha'man let out a short laugh. "Not bad for a Soldier . . . and I like your sense of style." Toren led the way out of the tent, trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and the dead bodies which would surely be discovered soon. Already it seemed like the camp was becoming unusually active for the middle of the night and as the pair approached the southern perimeter there was a crowd of Seanchan soldiers blocking the exit. Worse, there were two beasts which looked like frogs only they were as big as small cows. The two monsters appeared to be taking the scent of anyone going in or out of the camp.

"Turn around," hissed the Asha'man. "The grolm will smell you out. That's how they caught me in the first place." Toren turned towards the east side of the camp, trying to make his way quickly towards another exit without appearing hurried or attracting unwanted attention. Another pair of grolm guarded that exit and, as Toren watched, one of the beasts took a fierce bite at one of the Seanchan soldiers. It took three handlers pulling hard on the grolm’s leash before it let go of the screaming victim, and even then the man’s arm looked like it would be permanently crippled if he did not receive Power-aided healing. Toren had to fight hard to keep focused through the fear. His plan, which had been working so smoothly, was falling apart. This was where he had to think of something spontaneous and he was terribly, terribly afraid that Carl was right. Unfortunately, the best Toren could think of was to keep moving and try to find another exit which was not blocked by the monstrous grolm. Miraculously, the next gap in the fortifications was guarded by only two sentries but Toren’s joy was short-lived. This was the same entrance he had used to enter the camp.

“What’s the problem?” asked the Asha’man, almost walking into Toren who had stopped sharply. “Two guards and we’re free. We couldn’t have asked for an easier way out unless the Creator deigned to give us wings.”

“That’s exactly the problem, sir,” replied Toren. “We’d need wings if we’re going to get out that way. There’s nothing there but a cliff face and a couple of sleeping raken.”

“Still, it’s better to get outside the camp perimeter. I’m sure we could figure out some way up the cliff, or around the outside of the camp.”

“I disagree, sir. I think we’d just be trapped in a smaller area.” Toren instantly thought better of trying to get in an argument with the Asha’man. “Perhaps you’re right, sir.”

Distracting the sentries had been part of Toren’s plan all along, and an illusionary skunk quickly grabbed the two soldiers’ attention. It was all Toren could manage not to laugh as they debated the relative merits of killing the animal, trying to scare it away or waiting for it to leave. He wished that he knew how to weave an illusionary stink in order to make the ruse seem more realistic, but even an odor-free skunk provided an easy opportunity for leaving the camp undetected. Now, if they could just get up the cliff face in the dark it would be mission accomplished. Toren allowed himself to feel ever so slightly optimistic.

  • 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 didn’t belong and he just kept helping out with... more
    • A Plan, in Practice — Soldier Toren Swain, Thu Jun 22 12:05
      • I'll Fly AwaySoldier Toren Swain, Wed Jun 28 10:24
        Toren and the Asha’man, 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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