Soldier Laila
Lone Soldier
Sat Jul 1, 2006 16:28 (XFF:

The Power pulsing through them, men and women alike. They are one--knowing each other, knowing every thought, every breath. For now, no words are necessary. A slash of silver light, cutting the air in two. Where once was nothing now is an opening. Another place, another rocky ridge, resembling the same one they stand on--yet undoubtedly different. Iron-toed boots slapping the ground, grinding a new path to the Gate--row after row of blue-clothed soldiers, the Dragon shining brightly across their chests. Five thousand total: calvary, archers, footsoldiers, polesmen. And then, at the very end, a separate unit of black--the living weapons, the true soldiers of this battle.

The coattails of the final walking weapon flap through the hole in the air, and then the slash of light closes. Silence covers the clifftops once more, except for the cry of the sea birds. Only the bootmarks show the passing of the army. And the few bodies remaining aboveground, mouldering in the salty air.

Laila crouches on her outcropping, molded by saidin a bare few moments before. A bare hump of rock, giving a good view of the valley below, yet simple to climb down in moments. Up here, the air comes thin, and many breezes swirl around her, dancing in the curl of her hair. So long, she notes. It falls past her shoulders now. Too long. She had been meaning to cut it, but in the excitement of the past few days she has forgotten. Another wind rustles her hair; Laila shivers, wishing herself back with Izmere. Back with the other Asha'man. Back with the army. Not here, not alone. Soldiers find courage in the strength of their companions. Fretting a strand of hair, Laila sinks herself into the comforting null of the Void. Necessity demands that she stand apart from the army. All the Asha'man must, but the few women in particular. The damane have learned to fight male channelers, but they will almost certainly attack the most vulnerable targets first--the lady Asha'man visible to their eyes.

For damane await them in the valley below--twenty in all, along with a force twice the size of their own.
The valley seems covered with tents, bright flags waving merrily in the early rays of the morning sun. Already the camp begins to writhe with activity as the soldiers wake up. She can see them from here, going through mundane routine: dressing, eating, packing camp--Light above, she lived this life for a year. Soldiers will crack dirty jokes over breakfast, growl about the new commander, flirt with their female companions, salute for passing officers. Many will clutch themselves and shiver at the particularly harsh wind that suddenly whips through the camp, but think little of it.

Laila shivers herself at the sharp bluster and nods to herself. Now.

And the camp explodes.

No other way can describe it. The earth wrenches open, spewing fire; the sky casts down huge blasts of lightning. A nightmare has come to the Seanchan. Nature itself seems to have turned against this invading army. Nature, and something more, something worse--something that shreds men in an instant, scattering their guts across their comrades. Something that forms claws that jut up from the earth, impaling the unwary. Something, surely, their damane can combat.

First one light appears; then another, then five more. Sul'dam spend much of their time with their charges, so many will have been near the damane tent when the chaos began. More: damane sleep at least four, even five or six to a tent, so they will all be close together at the start. The longer one waits, the farther they move from each other.

So Laila embraces as soon as the battlefield lights up with saidar. Little clumps of the Power, scattered throughout the battlefield. Five just beneath her, ripe for destruction. She spins the weave quickly, almost recklessly. A net of Earth and Fire, a modified Earthfire weave twined intricately around the flows. Already she could feel the magma gurgling up through the earth, bubbling its way to the surface, as she twirlss the net into a cone, plunging it down into the center of the earth. Her sight heightened by saidar, she watches as the earth twists unnaturally--first slowly, then going faster and faster, sucking down the damane followed quickly by their mistresses into a fiery whirlpool along with surrounding soldiers. Burning gobs of magma fly from the mouth of the vortex, exploding overhead, to shower the ground with drops of fire. First one, then another tent burst into flames, crackling as they darken the sky with heavy plumes of smoke. The once-orderly rows of tents turn into a labyrinth of fire.

Five damane dead, yet more remain--already she sees the weaves crackling her way. Lightning and fire. Only nine balls of saidar remain on the battlefield--the others dead or disabled. Nine more damane, and Light only knew how many aiming for her. And she is still weak from the previous day's efforts, even weaker now after that complicated weave. Wearily Laila forms blades of Spirit, cutting and blocking the battle weaves. The valley ripples with the Power; another light goes out. Twelve down, eight to go--she can feel saidar flashing a distance away, the other lady Asha'man moving to attack. And the invisible presence of saidin, filling the valley below with destruction. She knows that many of the Asha'man are as tired as she is. If they can keep fighting, so can I. A whip of Spirit cracking across the sky destroys the last attacking weave. Laila goes on offensive. The Army depends on us to distract and destroy the channelers. The more I kill, the more survive on our side. The more soldiers go home to their wives and children. The mantra runs through her brain, over and over as she casts down lightning to destroy the balls of saidar dimly visible through the thickening smoke screen. Earth to swallow the Seanchan, Fire to burn them to ash. The more I kill, the more survive. Three balls of light, still glimmering like distant stars. The more I kill, the more survive. Like any good soldier, she trained herself long ago to forget about the weeping families of the enemy. Two balls of light. One ball of light. Nothing.

Again, a sharp wind snaps across the battlefield, shredding the heavy weight of smoke. Laila coughs--coughs and coughs--smoke filling her lungs with the everpresent stench of burnt flesh, sickly sweet and disgusting. The air is thick with human fat. She coughs harder, harder--swallows the bile in her throat and clambers shakily down from her post. Already, the air clatters with arrows. The mountain rumbles as the calvary charges down into the battlefield. A mopping up exercise, no more than that. She doubts the remaining soldiers will put up much of a fight. The Power slips from her body, taking the last of her energy with it. Her walking stick from the day before awaits her at the foot of the outcropping--she had brought it with her, remembering her previous weakness. A long walk back to camp awaits her now.

  • Comfort the Living, Bury the DeadSoldier Laila, Mon Jun 26 19:50
    They found the first of the dead about halfway up the path: Muiem Sagand and Artoyn Taisande, eyes wide with death, bodies peppered with arrows. Izmere half-knelt, hands outstretched, but Laila... more
    • Lone Soldier — Soldier Laila, Sat Jul 1 16:28
      • Interview with a SeanchanSoldier Laila, Thu Jul 6 16:50
        At the moment, the only thing that Laila wanted to was sleep. Just sleep--to curl up in her semi-comfortable bedroll and sleep through lunch, dinner, and guard duty. Quite a few other Asha'man were... more
        • Interview with a Seanchan, Part TwoSoldier Laila, Sat Jul 8 20:16
          The Asha'man that had captured him had bound him with the Power after he wriggled free of the rope to make a mad--and futile--dash for the clifftop. Now Yuril sat alone in the dark tent, sweating... more
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