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Talaban Morenae, Gaidin
Combination salad: Form, technique and movement
Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:20 (XFF:

A steady cloud of dust billowed behind, wafting to the steady drumbeat of hooves as a black stallion thundered down the dirt track. Riding bareback, the shadowy rider bent low, urging speed out of the large horse. The wind pulled at his hadori, sending the wisps of blond hair flicking across his face. Small particles slapped against his face as Talaban rode, guiding Shadow at a breakneck pace along the highways west of Tar Valon. The Gaidin paid little attention to the road. He had ridden it so many times that instinct alone would suffice.

His mind raced through all that he had learnt of the girl. Ekaterine Tenzin. By all accounts, she was a good student, a quick study and able fighter, brought to the Tower by Demetri Sedai herself. Was the girl destined to be one of her Warders? Thought strayed for a moment as the former thief wondered, idly, what it would be like to be bonded to a Sister, to hold her very life in his hands. A part of him longed for it… it was what they all trained for, their main purpose in forging themselves as the foremost weapons in the land.

Yet, by nature, there were always more Gaidin then there were Sisters and those of suspect temperament, like himself, were often those that were left behind to run the training yards and watch the younglings. There were times when he privately admitted to jealousy. Still, Talaban would wait and serve as he had sworn.

It seemed word spread fast around the Tower these days though. It had not been many hours before other instructors had started commenting about his “new” student. He took most of their comments lightly, ignoring the better part of them. Talaban preferred to make his own judgements. Besides, his would probably not be the only one involved.

A gentle push of his knee guided the Shadow off the track and into the woods. The stallion complied, slowing into a settled canter as it picked its way along the forest trail on a route that it had traversed hundreds of time before. The Gaidin settled back into quiet thought, composing himself for the task ahead. It was no easy feat to take apart years of training and replace it with a style that was both unconventional and undocumented. Fighting with two independently functioning weapons was unlike any other discipline. The few who had tried it and given up halfway often found themselves worse off then they had been originally.

The stallion stopped, the sudden lack of motion startling Talaban out of his reverie. Dismounting, the Gaidin paused a moment, taking a deep breath as he stared at the building that sat on its own, in the middle of the forest. Weathered marble stared back at him, its white façade showed signs of age, more cracks than he remembered. The brass doors still shone, however, testament to the care that old Rivvy took of the place. Dried leaves crunched underfoot as Talaban mounted the steps to the doors, the large key in his hands sliding back the locks.

Footsteps echoed in the empty hall as the Gaidin strode across, stirring the thick, undisturbed dust on the floor. Twelve years since anyone had passed across the outer hall. Talaban moved as if entranced, paying little attention to the first hall, his feet moving as if they belonged to an automaton.

A figure loomed, the imposing set of black plate managing to dominate the large hall. Talaban felt a chill grip him, the same cold chill as when he had first faced its original owner. Trepidation. He stopped seven paces from the armour. Trembling a little, the Gaidin drew both his katanas and knelt. Silently, he called out in his heart.

Talaban saw the girl as he approached. She was early. A good sign. She had been asking about him. Another promising sign. It indicated interest at least. Kat bowed low as he approached, greeting him. The Gaidin ran an appraising eye over the Sei’Tar. Her clothing was nothing spectacular, just simple and efficient attire in various shades of greens and browns. At her side swung a pair of what looked to be armoury issue blades, the pair he knew she would have gotten if she had asked for paired swords. Talaban smiled a little. She was admittedly better than some of the clods Jield had paraded before him prior to this.

“Good evening to you, Kat Sei’Tar,” Talaban returned her greeting. “Its nice to hear that you bothered to find out my name. Lets get our horses saddled, and I shall show you to what will be your training ground for the next couple of weeks at the very least.”

As they rode along the trail, Talaban found himself enjoying Kat’s company as he chatted with her. Perhaps it was her military background but the Gaidin realized it had been a long while since he had been this comfortable with a “stranger”. He quizzed the Sei’Tar on her life in the Queen’s guards, comparing it to his own time serving in Shol Arbela. Unable to resist, the Gaidin also asked a little about Demetri Sedai. Talaban spoke of Rahien Myrjala, the ancient Gaidin who had trained him before heading to his death in the Blight, a vain attempt to avenge the death of his Aes Sedai. As they neared the forest, though, his mind returned to the task at hand.

The trees opened up to reveal the silently watching mausoleum. Talaban dismounted, paying little heed to Kat’s bewilderment at finding such a structure in the middle of a forest. It was magnificent, even under the moonlight. The warm glow of candlelight shone from within. Rivvy was as reliable as clockwork. The former thief entered the open brass portal, striding across the marble hallway, creating a second trail in the dust. Behind him, Kat followed wide eyed, marvelling at the splendid architecture, the intricately carved balustrades and the frescoes which adorned the roof. The structure had three halls, the first being designed as a receiving area. Again, Talaban paid no attention to the first hall, passing through without pause. He smiled as he heard Kat rushing to catch up. Once upon a time, he too had stared wide eyed.

Talaban stopped short as they entered the second. This one had the opulence of a lord's main hall. Old tapestries hung from roof to floor all along the walls and twin curved stairways led to an upper level. Talaban stopped in front of Rahien’s dark plate and the marble coffin behind it, waiting for Kat to catch up. He remembered that he had once thought the Erevan’s coffin to be a well carved dais. Already he could feel the familiar, eerie air of watchfulness.

“Myrjala Gaidin was the one who taught me to fight, Kat. I swore to him, just as he swore to Truesilver Gaidin, that one day, I would train a successor. If the Creator wills it, you will be the one, and Erevan will see it through in his halls. Make no mistake, I teach with live blades. If you fight with one ounce less skill than you are able to muster, you will die here, in the tomb of Erevan Truesilver.”

The last hall was vast and empty, yet majestic in its lofty silence. There was no adornment, no furniture, not even pillars within, only a solitary wooden weapons rack along one wall. Walking up to it, the Gaidin picked out a slim bamboo pole.

Talaban turned to face Kat, looking straight into the Sei’Tar’s eyes as he told her, “You will come each morning, four hours before dawn unless told otherwise. Now draw,” he told Kat as he motioned her into the middle of the hall. ““What I will teach you, Kat, is rather different from what the Arafellin practice when they wield two swords. Their weapons function as one organism. Yours, the Creator willing, will functions as two.”

Once Kat nodded, Talaban continued, “The first thing to correct, child, is your stance. You are no longer fighting with a single weapon, but two long blades. Open your feet or your footwork will let you down. No more nonsense about defending with minimal movement. ” He tapped at the Sei’Tar’s right foot impatiently, until she shifted it to where he wanted. It was the first of many corrections as Talaban refined her basic steps and stances. The first week would be one of an almighty lecture.

“Grip the hilt lightly with your thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger neither tight nor slack, and with the last two fingers tight. It is bad to leave slack in your hands. That is good. Now, when you take up a blade, you must do it with the intent of cutting the enemy. As you cut an enemy you must not change your grip, and your hands must not flinch. When you dash the enemy's sword aside, or ward it off, or force it down, you may only shift your thumb and forefinger a little. Above all, you must grip the blade with the intent of cutting the enemy,” Talaban lectured as he watched Kat go through the forms, guiding her with the bamboo and demonstrating what she did not understand.

“With the tips of your toes somewhat floating, tread firmly with your heels, stay still on the balls of your feet. Whether you move fast or slow, with large or small steps, your feet should always move naturally as in normal walking. Avoid jumping steps and stomping, you are wielding neither a greatsword nor a rapier. Always move your feet in complementary steps, left-right and right-left when cutting, withdrawing, or warding off a cut. You should never move on one foot alone. Perfect,” Talaban utilized the staff, parrying Kat’s forms as she practiced the unfamiliar movements, correcting her each time she lapsed back into old habits. “You fight with passion, feelings. There must be no design, no conception, only instinct. Trust your sub-conscious. Reaction is faster than thought.”

Back and forth they went like this for well nigh the whole day, slow but continuous sparring, Kat refining her movements and the subtleties of her technique, familiarising herself with the changes while Talaban lectured and filled the Sei'Tar's head to bursting with various movements and philosophies while demonstrating them. There were more than a hundred philosophies and concepts that Rahien had taught Talaban in this hall and each once had shaped the Gaidin’s eventual technique, in one way or another.

Finally, Talaban stopped studied the staggering Sei’Tar. He knew it was nearly dusk outside. “Enough, any more and you will collapse here on the floor of this mausoleum. You may leave for tonight. I shall expect you on the morrow.” Talaban walked Kat into the second hall where he sat before the coffin and meditated. He heard the curse of the exhausted Sei’Tar as she struggled with her horse and the rustle as the animal moved off.

The Gaidin waited awhile before unfolding from the lotus position. Stepping outside, he mounted Shadow and followed behind Kat. For the first night at least, he would see her back safely. Once her horse knew the route it would be unnecessary but it was better to be safe for the first night. Talaban followed silently behind, watching the figure slumped over the horse. He felt a little guilty at pushing the girl so hard. Perhaps he ought not to use the way Rahien had trained him as a gauge?

OOC: Strangely rambly… I haven’t posted something this long in… I dunno when… indulge me. I’ll try to keep the next post shorter :P

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