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It's the Life
Mon Oct 9, 2006 11:36 (XFF:


I watch. I watch, and I look, and I act almost as a figurative fly on some figurative wall, and I have to wonder. How is it possible? How under the bloody Light is any of this possible? How are these men and women not dead yet? How have they not yet trained themselves to the grave? I am devoid of words.


Maintaining a rapid pace, Evie followed the Dedicated’s long, lengthy strides, winding up and down the numerous (and numberless!) dirt paths the Black Tower so readily homed. These paths were tied in intricate, snaking circles around the Tower’s many yards, and it was around these yards that Evie played the observer to the activity housed within.

A screaming fireball tore tangibly through the air, contacting with a unsuspecting stalagmite-shaped rock, detonating it in a black-reddish medley of sparks and stone and smoke. She saw no source of origin short of a dozen-odd men in the same black coats. In her orange skirts, she seemed so foreign, so . . . so normal. Or abnormal. She could hardly decide which, but the sights were absolutely fascinating. On the same yard, milled and grooved with rocks and boulders and the whole shebang as it was, others yet created monstrously vicious apparitions. Globs of a fluorescent red substance hovered idly in the air, churning and smoking and cooling rhythmically, before rapidly spinning about in a hurricane, never once losing even the tiniest droplet of itself. It was molten stone. It was bloody molten stone!

“And I’ll be able to do that?” she inquired breathlessly as the lava faded, realizing she was trailing behind Abram yet again. She was hardly short in the least, but she did not have the long, rangy frame of the Dedicated, and her paces suddenly left something to be desired. The man’s dark-eyed gaze ignored the sights to their left, uncaring whether or not one of those pronged lightning bolts tarried over to him, frying and murdering him so randomly.

“Not likely,” he intoned stoically. “Women don’t generally have their power strengths aligned to favour Fire and Earth. There are exceptions, but I can count the Tower’s number of female Earthfire Spinners on one hand. You’re more likely inclined to Cloud Dancing or Wave Dancing, I’d wager.”

She blinked, shrugging, and hastened on. Oh, Light, she was never one to pander to authority, and she knew Abram was authority. His body language spoke as much, uncaring whether she was here or there or plastered to the ground on which he so steadily walked. Still, in this situation, Abram knew the One Power. Abram was a bastion of knowledge, and she wanted to know everything about saidar that she possibly could. And then some. And then some more even yet!

Walking abreast with Abram on the path, pumping her calves rapidly, she said, “Will you be able to teach me about the Power, then? As in, instruct me, maybe?”

“You heard the Asha’man. An instructor will be assigned to you tomorrow.”

“Yes, but there seems to be no real reason why you can’t teach me. I’m only imploring so–”

“You’re a woman. That’s reason enough.”

Evie blinked, halting herself. Abram appeared to notice this, at least, and turned, weighing his brown-eyed gaze upon her curiously. “You won’t teach me because I’m a woman?” Oh, yes, she’d show him exactly what this woman could do! She’d show him exactly how much a woman’s knee could inflict pain on certain parts a woman didn’t have!

“No, I can’t teach you because you’re a woman,” he muttered dryly, even impatiently. “Men can’t teach women to channel as certainly as squirrels can’t teach rocks to eat, or as trees can’t teach ants to stand stock still for the entirety of their existence.”

“That makes no sense, though. Rocks can’t eat by their nature, but I can channel, and you can channel, so–”

“It wasn’t a very good analogy,” he said through gritted teeth, wearing his impatience outwardly as certainly as he wore his solitary pin. Evie suddenly laughed. “Just be satisfied in knowing that you need a woman to guide you, just as I need a man to guide me. That’s just how it works. Now, come on–the uniforming offices are on the other side of the Traveling Yards. You’ll be eaten alive if you don’t change out of those skirts.”

The uniforming experience was . . . something, certainly. The man who tailored her clothes didn’t look to be an Asha’man at all, as he was clad in tweed apparel, and he certainly didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. His measuring tapes and sticks and everything flew around rapidly, but the process wore on, and he appeared to be attempting to figure some little thing out.

“Odd,” the crotchety old fellow remarked, “I’m not used to seeing women with such broad shoulders. Your hips are narrow–hold yourself lucky if you don’t ever foster a child–but your shoulders belong on a man.”

Once she escaped the encounter without drowning the fellow in his own toxic shoe polish, Evie stepped out into the autumnal sunlight clad in a black coat. She smiled proudly; it suited her, she knew, even though she’d never worn anything but dresses all her life. She was a Soldier! Of course it suited her! Abram was peering at her absently, looking as unexcited as he possibly could.

“So, where are you from?” she asked casually, plucking at her sleeve with a finite grace.

“Ghealdan, and we’ll be going to the North Yards now. I want to test your adeptness with a sword.” She shouldn’t really have expected any other answer.

She hadn’t exactly been leaping with glee for the opportunity to practice with weapons. The Power excited her, and against them . . . tangible weaponry seemed so mundane. Light, but what was its purpose? What good was swinging about some clumsy broadsword or tossing ickle knives back and forth when you could bathe someone in a pool of molten stone? She was hardly a general, lacking any experience with battles and the like, but it just didn’t add up. When the One Power’s scope was limitless, giving the wondrous a sheen of mere mediocrity, what good was a piece of scrap metal?

Abram produced a wooden lathe from a conveniently located stand, proffering a steel sword for himself. As the inferior, she expected to be given the lathe, but Evie was surprised when the Dedicated tossed the actual sword at her feet. It glinted weightily in the sunlight, shining appealingly. Picking it up, Evie was quick to observe how much heavier it was than it actually looked; its hilt was deceptively cold, and her hand decided that it could use a woollen mitten. It was about that time of year, after all, but no one else was wearing such garments. She couldn’t just ask.

“The sword is for you so you don’t think I won only because I had the advantageous weapon. Now, hold it as you think proper.”

Hesitating, Evie shook her head rapidly. No, hesitance wouldn’t do well. And she gripped it tightly, diligently, with her left hand above her right, and the both of them pressed tightly together. “Like this, then?”

“Not exactly. Your hands are ordered accordingly, with your strong hand beneath your weak one, but you–”

“But my left hand is my strong hand.”

Abram blinked. “Then switch. And space your hands out a bit, and ease up with your thumb and first finger. Strength is good, but you need the flexibility of control. And now we spar.”

Evie’s eyed widened. A spar? Already? And while the man hastened at her, his hand movements were deliberately slow. He mimicked bringing the blade down, and she held hers horizontally, not really knowing what kind of reaction was expected. Abram allowed the move to be blocked. The man then sped up designedly, hastening with his movements, and Evie was left to careen about to avoid the lathe, leaving her sword ignored at her side. This rushing about was almost infantile, and Abram seemed to find a sort of mirth in her unconditioned responses, but he didn’t hit her. She knew it was because he chose not to. In the end, after a good ten minutes of rushing and swooping and diving and swinging blindly every couple of minutes with the sword when she remembered its presence, Evie was gasping, leaning over the ground with the weapon to support her.

“It’s not a bloody cane!” And Abram yanked the thing from her hand, leaving Evie to stumble, just barely barring herself from landing on the stiff grass.

“How–” She was panting too thoroughly to speak, so Evie gave herself some time to ease up, waiting for her heavy breaths to subside. When she was indeed in a fit state so speak, she tried again. “How do they do this? How . . . Light, but we couldn’t . . . we couldn’t have been doing that for a quarter of an hour, even! And how long have these other men and women been training? They don’t look tired in the least!” She gestured loosely to the sparring partners of every side of her. “How under the bloody Light is it possible to keep up such a pace all day long without just rolling over and dying?”

If Abram found her incompetence amusing, her ignorance made him spit up vile laughter. Oh, so now he suddenly had a sense of humour! “It may be weeks before you get used to it, but enjoy your lack of training for the day, as you’ll be expecting to compete neck-and-neck with us come the new morning’s sun. With the Soldiers, at least–not the Dedicated. Now, come on. Straighten up. We’re going into the forest.” His grin was cynical, and her disbelief was flattening.

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    • It's the Life — Soldier Evie Holinshed, Mon Oct 9 11:36
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