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Homeward bound?
Sun Dec 10, 2006 00:16 (XFF:

Crael glanced at the notice board as he walked past on his way to the training grounds for yet another couple of hours of getting beaten into the ground with his mentor’s practice blade. His sword skills still weren’t improving very rapidly. To begin with nothing had caught his eye until he saw a large note stuck to the top corner.

Excursion to the Borderlands
Open to all trainees but there are limited places so sign your names below if your’re interested.

Crael was faced with a dilemma, depending on where in the Borderlands they were going he might face some awkward questions, along the lines of why did you run away, where have you been, when are you coming back and more difficult to answer questions along those lines. In all the prospect was not one for him to take on lightly.

Crael tapped his foot absently as he wondered about what he should do, he looked through a nearby window and up at the Tower itself looming above him. The shining white of the massive structure had always been able to inspire him and allow him to think about things more clearly. Why did I come here in the first place? That seemed to him to be the main question behind his decision, was it a permanent move or just a place that he could get away from his past mistakes, or was it not only a place for him a home but an ideal? A representation of what he wanted to with his life. I came here so I could fight, so I could harm the shadow in any way that I could, to make it pay for taking those I loved from me and to prevent the same thing from happening to others like me.

He smiled, his course of action now clear, the Tower wasn’t just a place for him to live it was a place for him to launch his own campaign against the shadow and where better to begin that quest than on a trip to the Borderlands. If he met those he had already left then they would have to accept that he was still fighting the shadow as he had been born to do, he had simply chosen a different way of doing it.

Crael hunted around for something to write with, finally spotting a piece of charcoal tucked into the frame of the board, he pulled it out and quickly signed his name under the message. Homeward bound Crael, back into the Blight again, strange, I almost miss it! He shivered even though it was warm, especially for him after the cold of Sheinar, it was true though he did miss the Blight. The thrill, the excitement and the chase. Having been a scout for a lancer unit he knew the Blight pretty well but he still enjoyed the challenges that it presented him as it proved that he never knew everything about it.

Finished he smiled to himself with his eyes closed as he remembered the view from the top of Fal Dara keep. A face flashed across his vison, a blond haired shienaran about his own age. Crael’s smile changed to a grimace, another reason for him to go back, a chance at redemption, a grave to visit.

With a deep sight Crael walked away from the boards back towards the training grounds aware of the passing of time and that his mentor would be even more displeased with him if he was late for his beating.

Crael awoke with a start, dreams which were far too vivid and more memories quickly fading, he hadn’t had nightmares like this since his first week or so in the Tower when he’d ended up on suicide watch in the infirmary. He shivered, Well I know what they were about but at least they don’t haunt me when I’m awake like they used too. He rolled out of bed, the light from his small slit window was negligible, the sun wasn’t even up yet as Crael had woken even earlier than he normally did as this was the day he was going home.

On the chair by his washstand was his gleaming mail shirt and, a sight for sore eyes his knife bandoleer which he had claimed back for the duration of the trip to the Borderlands from its hiding place, he wasn’t one to break rules usually, quite the opposite but on this occasion he thought it was understandable that if he needed to use a real weapon he’d prefer it to be his own. On top of the mail were his steel back riding cloves with his boots underneath the chair and other clothes draped over the back of it. His quarter staff stood in the corner of his room, another weapon that he hadn’t been allowed to use for a while, it may not be bladed but the metal bands at each end meant for breaking skulls and bones were not the sort of thing that you used in a sparring match with your fellow trainees, or so he had been told. A bow and full quiver stood next to his war staff, not quite as long as the Two Rivers long bows that most of the trainees preferred but then they had probably never tried firing from horseback.

As a Shienaran Crael may have been out of the ordinary in his dislike of the broad sword and axes and the like but one thing he still had in common with his fellow Shienaran lancers was his preference for mounted combat. He even had a lance in the stall with his warhorse Brutus and he fully intended to take it with him. Not only that but he had just received a delivery from a smith in Tar Valon of a highly expensive daylight robbery, more like it suit of horse barding to replace the set that he had left behind when he had eloped from Fal Dara.

Crael quickly pulled on his clothes and the mail shirt which felt surprisingly light to him, he had been afraid that not wearing it for so long would mean that he would have to get used to wearing the heavy metal link coat all over again. He dressed and washed hastily before gathering his things, he’d packed his saddlebags the night before and got everything else ready too and he was still in hurry as thanks to the barding and lance he had a significantly larger amount of work to do before he was ready to go than the other trainees.

He strolled briskly out of his door after a cursory glance round the room to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything; he knew full well that a mistake at even this early stage in preparation could result in death in the Blight, it was not a forgiving place. Finally assured that he had everything that he would need the young Shienaran firmly closed his door behind him and strode off towards the stables.

As he walked through the training grounds he encountered mixed emotions from the other trainees, emotions that were very telling. Those looking quietly smug or excited as they piled their things in the shade under a tree ready to go and those with dark or sullen looks trying to ignore their happy comrades around them. Those with the former expressions were obviously the ones who had managed to get their names on the list and had been told they could go on the excursion and the latter were certainly those who had been denied permission or simply hadn’t noticed the letter on the board. Crael however was neither of these, his emotions on this trip were still mixed.

Although he had made his decision to go and although he would stick to it there were still some possibilities that could present problems to him. For starters he was technically still a member of the lancers and he wasn’t sure how the commander of his unit had reacted when he’d fled Fal Dara more than half a year ago, as well as this the Blight was a very personal place for him, after the death of his friend Kaspar and himself receiving an injury that would have killed him if it weren’t for the help of an Aes Sedai he wanted time in that leafy corruption to set things right for himself and he was almost certain that there was no way, ex-lancer scout or not that a Gaidin was going to let him wander round the Blight by himself.

Crael finally reached the stables after having to quickly have increasingly loud conversations with other trainees that he knew over his back as he moved relentlessly towards his destination. Some of them wished him luck and others complained that he was so lucky to get a place to go. They should feel happy, the time I’m away may give them time to earn some of the money back that I won from them! He strolled down the aisles of neat and tidy stalls until he reached the one with his warhorse Brutus in.

Opening the door he found a groom frantically backing into a corner of the stall away from the menacing approaching horse. Smiling to himself lightly at the situation, the like of which he had been told of repeatedly, apparently the grooms drew lots and the looser would have to much out Brutus’s stall. The warhorse had been trained by Crael not as a riding horse for some southern lady to ride around on her estate, it had been trained to ride into battle on, trained to use its hooves, teeth and bulk to kill. As such Brutus could not be described as a placid animal only ever showing signs of affection to its owner and even then it often showed that affection with a not so soft bite.

Crael whistled and the large black stallion turned to look at him moving away from the frightened groom to stand next to his master ready to take him where he wants to go. The Shienaran chuckled and patted the horses flanks as he looked to the groom to see that he wasn’t hurt. The boy quickly moved out of the corner into the door as he gestured to the pile of barding neatly stacked against one wall, “I brought that in here for you, was going to put it on as well but your horse was having none of it.”

Crael nodded understandingly, “don’t worry about it, I’ll put it on him, he won’t bite me…much!” He patted the horse again as it snorted in pleasure. “Did you draw the short straw then?”

The groom smiled and nodded, “third time this week, I’m beginning to think that the others are cheating.” He smiled, “thanks for putting that on, to be honest I’m not really sure how to do it properly, not many of people who have horses here have barding.”

Crael walked over and patted the boy understandably on the shoulder, “it is a typically Shienaran thing.” He thought for a second, “tell you what, when I get back, come and find me and I’ll teach you how to put it on.” Seeing his slightly wary look Crael laughed, “don’t worry I’ll be here to make sure he doesn’t back you into the corner again.”

The young lad nodded, “thank you, I think I’ll take you up on the offer.” Crael smiled as the lad left to go and tend to some of the other more friendly animals as he turned to the warhorse. He walked slowly over to the pile of wrapped up barding pulling the coverings away. Looking at what he found underneath he smiled happily. Maybe that smith wasn’t asking too much after all.

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    • Homeward bound? — Crael Kantar Aethan'Tar, Sun Dec 10 00:16
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