Tempering hot emotions
Tue Sep 26, 2006 08:36 (XFF:

There was nothing that Kat could see or feel the woman doing, but then again, her entire focus was also on the twining vines that threatened to wrap her and the Accepted up in their grip. Her blades flashed across the green threads that wound this way and that, and then her blades were blazing with fire. The help that the Accepted provided her was nearly their undoing—when the steel was swathed in red-orange flames, Kat started and stared at the effects, the mirrored look of the flickering fire over her steel. In that moment, her break in concentration nearly sent them back to Jield Gaidin and Demetri Sedai defeated as the vines took advantage of her lapse. Instinct brought the swords up just barely in time and then they browned and withered beneath her cuts and slashes.

How long she fought, Kat didn't know, the Sei'Tar only knew that something had been done successfully because the attacks ceased and the vines retreated as a loud snick! sounded and the Accepted looked as pleased as any smooth faced channeler could.

It took both of their efforts to bring the doors in, and once through and beyond, the foiliage and a swath of fog quickly obscured their sight of the first checkpoint. The Accepted took three very long strides forward, leading the way before Kat hurried her own steps and placed a hand on the woman's shoulder, stopping her. Silver hair swirled as Celeste turned and looked at her with mildly curious eyes.

"I lead, Accepted." Kat said simply. The pseudo bond between them didn't allow for their feelings to flow back and forth, but Kat imagined she saw rather than felt a twinge of irritation cross the woman's features before it was obscured. Kat drew in a deep breath. "That's part of what this exercise is, Accepted Celeste, each of us learning what roles we take when together. You fight against things that I can't, and I clear the way for you when there's a suspicion of danger."

"It's not like you're too far away, Sei'Tar." The Accepted protested mildly. "If danger comes up, you'll be right there."

"Right, having to push my way past you, Accepted. What if I have a split second to react? I lose that if you're in front of me." Kat argued, possibly more irritated than she should have, but Light the woman was stubborn. "You protect against channeling effects, I protect against physical. This entire thing is one large trap waiting to be sprung, and until there is another checkpoint, I go first." Celeste opened her mouth to speak but Kat held up her hand. "No, no arguments. This is what it's like to have a Warder—someone who knows when there's danger and is prepared to deal with it."

The Accepted's mouth shut again and Kat turned her attention to something less irritating. "Also, next time you want to help, take the time to tell me before you do it. The fire thing on my swords worked spectacularly," Kat replied with genuine honesty, "But when it first happened it was startling enough that we nearly failed. Just a couple quick words next time." She said with a final smile that wasn't returned. Light, why did she even try? She wanted to like the Accepted, even if the woman's arrogance struck a discordant nerve with her.

"That—make sense." The Accepted conceded with a nod.

"Thank you, now we'd better go." Kat said, moving forward with a quick glance back to see if Celeste would throw a tantrum and refuse to move, but either she wasn't that childish or she was biding her time to teach Kat a lesson.

In any event, there was little time for them to talk as they trotted through the woods, breathing easily and regularly. For all the arrogance of the woman, Kat conceded easily that she was at least in good physical condition. And although she had no desire to punctuate her point or be proven right, circumstances provided Kat with exactly that. They were moving along at an easy yet cautious clip when Kat's foot triggered something—it wasn't silent either. She felt the slight depression in the hard packed dirt an instant before a large log came swinging with bone-crushing speed across the path right where Kat stood. She would have been hit if she didn't drop to the ground immediately, her ribs protesting the abuse and then rolling back. Celeste was already moving backward carefully, her eyes scanning the ground; Kat glanced over and saw the mechanism that had triggered when her foot stepped on it, it spanned a large block of the path so that no matter how fast they were traveling and where they stepped, it would be triggered. It'd been concealed beneath a thin layer of dirt, thin enough that Kat said, "Stop where you are, Celeste."

The Accepted was silent and stilled immediately while Kat's breath brushed along the dirt behind the woman. Nothing but dirt was roused, however, no plates were cleverly hidden and Kat rolled to her feet, feeling the air of the log as it continued to swing, momentum unabated. It moved at a fast enough pace that getting past would be a miraculous event, even for two women in good condition. Turning to look at the thing, she gave a small twisting frown at it. "What do we do?" The Accepted asked. "I think I could get by that, but…"

Her words trailed off and Kat nodded her head. "I feel the same way. I could try to time it to jump on top of the log and then cut the rope when it hits one apex of the swing, but it's chancy and it leaves you unprotected."

"I can take care of myself for a couple of minutes, Kat Sei'Tar." Celeste's tone was dry and full of confidence.

"I have little doubt that you could, but I think the test here is for me." Kat muttered the last words, earning a curious look from her partner. Again there was that ghost of a feeling that she could feel what Celeste was feeling—more a strong intuition that certain knowledge. Celeste was feeling confident and a little shaken by the trap. She was also curious as to what Kat was thinking. Kat shook off the thoughts, feeling they were nothing but her imagination and not the result of their "bond".

"There's no way for me to do this," she finally concluded. "Not without leaving you behind and unprotected. I see the anchor for the log hidden in the bushes over there by the wall, and if I could just cut it—" Both of them looked at one another as the inspiration struck. "You can cut it from here, can't you? By channeling."

"Easily." The woman replied, this time with less arrogance and more well-placed confidence.

"Right. Let's try to time this so that when it starts the upward swing it'll continue into the wall." Kat said, the Accepted nodding her understanding. Within a few moments, the log hit its next swing through and then there was a loud snapping sound followed by a thundering crash as the log sailed through the air and hit the wall within moments. There was nothing left but the silence again and then both women looked at each other and continued on their way, this time eyes moving up and down to look for traps.

The fog began to thin slightly as they rounded a curve and once more a towering gate was before them. "Now it's your turn to lead, Accepted." Kat said. She felt the intuitive sense that she didn't need to remind Celeste to warn her before giving her any help with the One Power, another imagined facet of the bond she shared with the girl. What bothered her was that she was sure it wasn't part of her imagination, that in some way she could feel what the other woman was feeling. Was that part of the bond? Was that how it worked?

Loosening the blades from their sheaths, Kat waited for the first attack to happen while Celeste worked to get them through the next gate, wondering where it would happen and how.

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