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What's Tangled in Seaweed?
Mon Oct 9, 2006 15:56
70.106.141.35 (XFF: 192.168.1.3)

Warly–

The Black Tower has a lake. Light, it does.

–Evie


The earth sounded afire. Crepitations befitting any candle, any hearth, rose from the steady blanket of leaves that paved their way through the forest. It was remarkable that she still was within the Black Tower’s walls, for those walls were invisible unto her, and the sights and sounds of training–the cacophony of recruits honing their skills–were gone. Gone. This world in the trees was so foreign, so peaceful, so very much unlike the world to which she’d just been exposed. Evie didn’t know if she liked this new world or not. It was different. The crunching leaves were certainly loud.

“You didn’t fare too poorly at all with the sword, you know.” What was that? It almost seemed as if Abram was yearning to make conversation! Oh, Light, she would have to capitalize on this. She was starved for interaction with a palatable human as it was. “Still, the Tower isn’t for everyone. You’ve yet to be really officially sworn in. Should you leave, we would not chase you. Not really, and not yet.”

Evie laughed, choosing to ignore the latter sentences. “No, I suppose I couldn’t have. Still, I’d much rather use saidar for something. Which do you use more? Saidar or tangible weapons?”

“I would have to say weapons by default, as men cannot use saidar. Our half of the True Source is known as saidin.”

“Oh.” She hadn’t known that. “I won’t have to use too much weaponry if I don’t want to, though? I mean, as long as I’m training, it shouldn’t matter what it is exactly that I’m using to train, right?”

Abram shook his head, using a nearby tree-trunk for leverage as he hoisted himself out of a soggy leaf-filled ditch. “That’s not how it works. You’re only sometimes training on your lonesome, and your skills are constantly being put to the test. If you’re falling behind in your weaponry requirements, the Asha’man will know it, and they’ll push you to your death until you’re up to scratch. We don’t take failure lightly. This is if you’re of the Officer Track, though, like me. Tracks are just different subgroups within the Black Tower determining what sort of role you’ll play. Healers and Ambassadors don’t require as much weaponry experience.”

Smirking, Evie asked, “And what’s the name of the Track for those who don’t care what their Track is?”

“Jacks.”

Evie blinked. She hadn’t expected an actual answer to that.

The forest was soon left behind them as the pair stepped out unto a clearing, the world opening up before them, personifying itself in the form of an iron-blue body of water. It was a lake whose shores Abram and Evie, staring into its placid depths, approached. Its chilly bearing was held if only in autumn’s silence. “What’s the lake for?”

“Wave Dancing exercises, mostly. It’s also sometimes used as a fitness test for recruits, but only sometimes. Swimming is as much about proper technique as it is about physical endurance, and not enough recruits know the technique to justify using it. It wouldn’t do any good to give anyone hypothermia, anyway.” A pause passed in which Abram folded his arms. In spite of this human action, he was an emotionless stone, ready to be skipped idly across the fetch of the lake. “You ought to avoid it. A wrong step, and you could die, Soldier Evie. Not everyone is built for this kind of thing.”

In spite of Abram’s callousness, Evie had to fight to conceal a grin. They couldn’t swim? They couldn’t just swim? Having grown up in Paedrig Rill, Evie couldn’t imagine not being able to swim! The town was located on the embankment of the tiniest whisper of an offshoot of the River Cary. So much of the town’s life and economy were based off that river. It was able earn silvers for the ferrying of wayfarers from one side of the river to the other, and even the catching of freshwater fish was on the rise. Swimming was such a fixed part of town life, too. How many memories did she have of frolicking about with Emberlinn, her older sister, laughing and . . . and a smile curved across Evie’s face. A thinking, knowing smile. She thought and knew what she would do.

She had only just received the coat, and already she was pulling it over her head, much to Abram’s sudden chagrin. Doffing her britches, Evie bared herself to the frigid air of autumn–oh, Light. Light, Light, Light! Still, standing there in her shift, kicking off her shoes and stockings, she knew it was necessary. Abram thought she was weak. She was not. Oh, she was not forged of iron nor sinew nor brittle resin, but Evie knew she was not weak, either. Abram would agree with her.

“You’re bloody mad!” he said, hastening after her. At the same time, he kept his eyes to the ground; it was not proper to gawk. Light, what a peculiar time to choose to be a gentleman, no? “Do you think I can Heal you? I can’t! I can’t Heal a thing! I couldn’t Heal you if you stubbed–get out of there!”

Evie had dipped her fit into the water, flinching inwardly for how cold it was. Oh, she was mad, wasn’t she? “I bet I can touch the bottom,” she said breathlessly. “I bet I can touch the bottom and bring you up something.”

“But the centre of the lake is–”

“Not the bottom of the centre, but the bottom of . . . of a ways out.” Her ankles were submerged, and she felt the sickly, slimy bottom of the lake oozing in between her toes. She was chattering her teeth, but she’d not let him know. She wasn’t . . . wasn’t weak! Oh, Light, but straightforward thought came uneasily to her as her knees were gone from the realm of air. Oh, goodness! It was cold!

“You’ll never make it! Your muscles will seize up! You’ll freeze!”

The hems of her shift puddled on the surface, shifting tentatively on the glassy plane. She poked them under with her fingertips, and white blossoms of frigid chill sprang up, embedding themselves ‘neath her nails. And she went further, and she–Light–was swimming, now, for the water had gone past her shoulders. She kicked her legs doggedly, rigidly, for her muscles were seizing up. Oh, Light, how stubborn was she? She was mad! I’ll be fine. She was an idiot! I’ll make it. She’d bloody drown! I’ll . . . I’ll be okay.

“You’re going to die, Evie!” Panic touched her, a raging, raucous beast–she would die! Flailing her limbs, Evie knew–

But it hit her. A wild daring. A ceaseless, endless wellspring of . . . of sweetness. She felt it. It was familiar and foreign. She felt strength. Well, not strength, necessarily, but she felt warmth licking the ends of her fingers, heating the very tips of her toes. It permeated her, and she drank it in, whatever this heat was. It was inexplicable, but it gave Evie the gumption to paddle forth, swimming a ways out. When she decided that she was out far enough, she threw herself beneath the surface, enveloping herself in iron and ice.

For the coldness, that inexplicable warmth spread up into her, keeping her buoyant and powerful. Evie kicked her legs in mimicry of some frog-like monstrosity, her shift tangling itself in her limbs. It was oddly spectral down here, barely lit by the gleaming vestiges of a distant sun, touching the darkness in a soft, whispering glow. It was the thing of dreams and memories. It didn’t seem right to be here. Pressing down deeper, Evie kept her eyes peeled for the lake’s slick and mud-covered floor. A dark, fleeting something flickered in her peripheral vision; a bottom feeder coming to greet her, mayhap?

It was swarthy, and Evie knew she was approaching the bottom. She held her arms out lengthily, waiting for the gratifying touch of slimy, algae-covered growth and mud. There was something else. Amidst the water, the darkness, the seaweed, she . . . she saw something. Her lungs were growing tense in her desire for air, but she saw something. It was a large mass of . . . of something, and her arm passed fluidly over it. It was too dark under here to distinguish it. Grabbing it, whatever it was, Evie pulled, kicking her limbs for the surface. She heaved and grunted wordlessly. Was it fabric? The inexplicable warmth transcended to strength, and she heaved it up.

Evie broke through the surface, kicking and paddling and heaving this . . . this thing, which was now much lighter than it should be. She approached the shore, feeling the numbing exhaustion breaking through. Abram stood there, dark eyes unnervingly wide as he watched her. Whatever she was yanking, she abandoned it as she reached the shore, collapsing on the bank.

At once, she felt dryness take her. Heat and warmth hit her, and she watched. The moisture on her skin, in her shift, tangled within her hair–it lifted from her, suspended in a crystalline sphere, round and unnatural. It levitated before Abram, whose hands were out, almost shaping it. After a moment of peering into it, Abram gave a throwing motion, and the ball of water flew soundlessly through the air. It crashed into the lake. It was a thing of his saidin.

“How did you do that?” he asked. “It’s autumn. It’s freezing. You shouldn’t be able to do that.”

Evie smirked, pulling herself onto shaky ankles. “I’m a wilder, Abram. I knew it. All I had to do was need something enough and it came. I needed to be warm, and it came. I need to lug this thing with me, and it came. I used saidar! I don’t know how, but I used it!” Pride radiated through her, but Abram’s expression could hardly vary more different from what she felt. His lips were thin, and his gaze was terror. No. It was muted, but she knew that if he had the wealth of facial expressions attributed to the average person, it would be terror. “What?”

The question’s answer came speedily. Peering at the flotsam she’d exhumed from the lake’s floor, cold terror suffused her veins, sliding icily into the pith of her being. It was a body. Abram nudged it with his foot, kicking it over so the face saw daylight. It was a body! Its cheeks pale, its eyes closed, its dark hair tossed messily, wetly . . . cadaverously. . . .

“Bloody Light.” Evie clapped her hands over her mouth, staring. “That’s a Soldier,” she said through the thickness in her throat. Its garments were of the same black thread that she’d discarded on the grass mere moments prior. No. Not “its.” “His.” It was a man. A bloody dead man! “Abram, what the . . . there’s a body! How did a bloody body get to the bottom of the–” The man clapped a hand over her mouth, staring at her with a flat expression.

“Keep yourself silent.” He turned to the body; sans warning in the least, the thing rose from the shore, dripping hauntingly. It hovered through the air, its garments fanning tentatively in the breeze, before descending slowly into the lake with barely a splash. It was gone as quickly as it had come. “Say nothing of what you saw.”

Say nothing? “You’re a madman! That body–that person was clearly murdered!” Did he have no sense of justice? Did he not understand? “I can’t understand why you’d want to just sweep that under the water! Murder, Abram! Murder!”

“And if we go to the M’Hael, who do you expect he’ll suspect?” he spat threateningly. “I beg of you to drop it. It’s how the Black Tower is.”

“‘How the Black Tower is?’ It’s murder, it’s–”

“Listen to me, Evie. Just listen to me and think. There are more than a thousand of us here. Men, women; old, young; Tairens, Illianers; nobles, peasants–from every demographic, nationality, and social class. We’re all bloody talented at killing. We’re all bloody skilled with weapons, gifted with the Power. We can make things happen that other folk can’t. And we’re hungry for power.” His eyes took on a dark, unexpected sheen. “More than a thousand of us. If you think that it won’t happen–that people won’t unexpectedly go missing, that deeds by darkness won’t be carried out . . . if you think you can shelter yourself from everything and pretend reality is fiction, you’re madder than the Dragon Reborn. It’s how the Black Tower is.”

He departed, eschewing the open clearing from the sanctity of a dying wood. She stood there, clothed in silence, left to feel nothing but the returning numbness of autumn’s air and the breeze dancing with the hem of her bone-dry shift. The truth of the situation was weighing in on her, piercing her skin with a hundred burdening weights, tugging at her arms, her legs, threatening to drag her under.



OOC: If you’re more than passingly interested in knowing the identity of the body, click here. :O One post left.

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