I'll Fly Away
Wed Jun 28, 2006 10:24 (XFF:

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 at the far end of the line of sleeping raken, but every so often there was movement along the cliff top. Apparently Toren’s attack two nights earlier had spurred the Seanchan to guard their flying beasts more carefully. It was an obstacle Toren had not planned for, but Asha’man Lars didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

“Once we get to the top, even five or ten guards are no match for a couple of channelers.” He wasn’t being cocky; he was just stating a fact. “Climbing up in the dark is going to be the hard part, but let me show you a weave that will help.” Toren watched the Asha’man weave a delicate mix of Fire and Spirit around his hands until the palms glowed with a soft green light. When Lars held his hand over the rocks, the glow lit up a small area, illuminating any cracks or handholds within easy reach. When he closed his hand to grip a rock, the light was completely hidden. The Asha’man started to climb, while Toren took a few seconds to replicate the weave. It wasn’t a very powerful weave, but it did require some finesse to keep the light from shining too brightly. Toren hoped that his effort would not attract the attention to the sentries, who were about a hundred paces away.

It wasn’t clear whether the Asha’man was weak from his time as a prisoner, or perhaps he was just unlucky to put his weight on a loose rock. Whatever the reason, just as Toren started to climb, the man further up lost his grip and started to fall. Toren thought about trying to reach out and grab him as he passed by, but the Soldier hesitated just a fraction as he imagined both of them tumbling to the bottom of the cliff. By the time Toren had finished thinking, it was too late. The Asha’man was on the ground, groaning softly, and his arm was bent under him, obviously broken. Worse, the two guards were looking up from their conversation and coming to investigate the noise.

Sometimes, I think you just have to act. There’s no right choice; you just have to do something right away. Toren had said those words, just a couple of days previous, and now he acted. He let himself drop from the cliff face, landed with bent knees and was already weaving Illusion by the time he had rolled to a stop. A large boulder hid the two men in black, and a handful of smaller rocks lay scattered about as if they had just fallen from above. Toren waited. He held his breath, he held his sword, and he hoped that his rock fall was good enough to fool a couple of lazy sentries in the middle of the night.

“See, just a rock fall,” said the first sentry, casually.

“I though I heard something else,” said the second, looking around cautiously. “If we let the black coats hurt the raken again, we’re grolm fodder.” He poked at a couple of loose rocks with his spear, missing Toren’s fakes by only a small margin.

"The sentries up top would have given a warning," replied the first. He called out to the men on top of the cliff, "All clear?"

"All clear!" came the answer from above and the two guards slowly walked back to their seats and resumed their conversation.

Toren let out a long sigh and turned his attention to the fallen Asha'man. He didn't have any talent for Healing, but it had been obvious from the first glance that the man's arm was broken. There would be no more climbing the cliff face tonight. Toren set about trying to treat the injuries as best he knew how, but his mind was constantly wandering. He lost count of the number of times the old cliché popped into his mind - I really am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ha ha. Somehow he needed to get beyond bad puns and come up with an escape plan. The sky was starting to lighten in the east by the time Toren had arranged the Asha'man's arm in a sling and stopped the cut on his head from bleeding. He still didn't have a plan, but he was interrupted by footsteps coming up the pathway towards his hiding place. It sounded like someone moving more lightly and gracefully than the two guards.

A young woman appeared, dressed as a raken rider and carrying a message pouch. She gave a small wave to the sentries and started to saddle up the raken nearest Toren and the injured Asha'man. Damn you, Carl! I can think on my feet. This is going to work. This has to work because otherwise I’m a dead man, and so is this Asha’man who I’m supposedly rescuing. The woman had just finished adjusting the raken’s saddle on the near side when Toren stood up from behind his imaginary rock, knife in hand. With a few quick steps, he had the knife at the woman's throat and a hand over her mouth. The beast was blocking the guards' view for the moment, but Toren knew that he had to act quickly.

"Don't panic," he whispered. "Get on the raken like normal, but you're going to fly where I tell you." He motioned for Lars to join them.

"Three people!" replied the woman, also in a whisper. "You'll kill it!" She gestured at the flying beast, which snaked its long neck around to look at Toren more closely.

"It doesn't have to go far," said Toren quickly. "Just a little ways past the camp and then we'll get off."

She started to climb into the front saddle. Toren climbed into the rear saddle, and helped the injured Asha'man climb up in between them. Unfortunately the guards were not so distracted that they didn't notice the raken's two extra passengers. One of them ran down the path towards the camp, raising the alarm, while the other grabbed his spear and tried to look threatening. The woman turned around with a smile flitting over her face. "The way I see it, I just need to delay my take off for a couple of minutes and you two won't be bothering me ever again."

Light! She's called my bluff . . . No . . . Sometimes there's no right choice; you just have to do something right away. Toren wasn't quite sure where the words came from, but suddenly he had an answer. "That would work except for one thing - I'm a bloody crazy man who can channel. I'm a damane with no leash. In the time it takes the guards to arrive, I could set you on fire. I could make your heart jump out of your chest and show it to you. I'm not just going to kill you, I'm going to kill you painfully if this raken doesn't get off the ground right now!" The woman's face went white; she looked as if she might faint and fall out of her saddle. Toren wondered briefly if he had gone a bit over the top, but then she meekly pulled on the reins. The raken raised its head and flapped its wings twice before leaping from its rocky perch.

The animal really did seem to be struggling under the weight of three people. Toren guessed that even one for one he was almost double the weight of the female rider, and he prayed that his flight would not end in a crash landing in the middle of the Seanchan camp he had just escaped. Ever so slowly, little by little, the raken started to gain altitude, winging its way south over the camp like any other departing messenger. A few soldiers looked up from preparing breakfast, and one or two pointed at the escapees, but by this time they were high enough to avoid any threat from the ground. Toren waited until they were about two miles clear of the camp, and then ordered the woman to land in a small clearing, which she did.

Toren first lowered the injured man down to the ground, and then leaned forward to address the female flyer. "You have done all that I asked of you and, despite what I said earlier, I have no particular desire to kill you in cold blood. I'll take this," he reached down and took the message pouch from her belt, "but you are free to continue south, or return to your companions in the north." She looked at Toren with wide eyes, as if she still expected to be set on fire at any moment, but he turned and walked into the forest. He thought he heard the sound of crying before the raken took off once more, but he couldn't be sure.

  • 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 Away — Soldier Toren Swain, Wed Jun 28 10:24
      • 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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