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Thu Dec 14, 2006 07:09 (XFF:

Spring had come to the Borderlands with a vengeance. The snow had melted in all but the most stubborn of passes through the mountains, and the bright green shoots of new growth showed everywhere. There was still a bite to the morning air as she emerged from her tent fully clothed, but it was not enough of one to cause her to reach for a cloak to keep her warm. As she straightened and stretched out the kinks that had come of sleeping on the ground, she unrolled her sword belt and fastened it around her waist in the familiar position. It had not taken more than a couple of days for her to grow accustomed to wearing it again, though it had been some three years since she’d worn it. There was a definite sense of comfort in the familiar feel of the smooth, hard leather beneath her hands and the weight of cold steel hitting against her with every step.

The sword had been her father’s, before his death. Like her, it was an orphan – a bastard sword with no real qualification for any of the normal categories. It was neither made for one hand nor for two, but sported a hilt long enough for two hands though light enough to be wielded easily by one. There were no markings on its steel, save for the occasional chip from hard use.

The ball of thought that was Solaris told the Sei’Tar that the Sister was awake, and Tsuga could trace the feel of the woman to one of the campfires, and so she sought her out, figuring that a breakfast might be useful to help sustain her through a day of boring negotiations and no doubt infuriating manipulations. A sense of dread had settled into the pit of her stomach at the thought of spending the entire day indoors, and as she drew nearer to the Sister, she began to sense amusement – though whether it was at her own feelings or the goings-on around Solaris she could not be sure.

The sights and sounds of camp life were comforting. It was nice to feel the familiar atmosphere of camaraderie and to smell the cooking of beans and whatever meat had been scrounged up during the previous day. As she came around a grouping of tents, her destination came into view, and she looked around at the faces in search of someone familiar. Unfortunately, the only face she recognized was that of Solaris – the rest around the campfire either wore the fancloth or the ageless features of Aes Sedai. A bit uncertain, Tsuga approached the group and bowed to her Sister, hoping that she would not be reprimanded for not bowing to each of the twenty-odd people individually.

“Have you eaten?” Tsuga shook her head, and the Aes Sedai frowned. “Go find some breakfast, and get our horses ready. The grooms can show you which is mine.” The Sei’Tar nodded and started to move away, but the Sister reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. Tsuga shuddered – it was a light touch, but it still felt like red-hot irons, considering who it was from. She turned, and realized that the Aes Sedai was actually giving her a sympathetic smile. “You won’t have the time to be bored today.” Tsuga grimaced, realizing that Solaris likely hadn’t even needed to assess her thoughts to realize how much she was dreading today. Her face no doubt was open as a book for any who knew how to read it. Unfortunately, what the Sister likely meant as reassurance was more discouraging than anything – Tsuga wasn’t sure what exactly she meant by it, but she was sure that it wasn’t anything good.

“Your job today is to be on guard. These people aren’t our allies yet, so we don’t know what they’re going to do. The Sisters have to talk and negotiate, but you don’t. You won’t even be noticed, so it’s up to you to look at what’s going on, remember it, and be on the lookout for any potential threats or bumps in the road. Essentially, you’re our body guards today, but if you have anything to contribute, you are permitted to do so – as long as it’s done respectfully.”

They were on the road, a fairly large group riding two abreast. Tsuga was matching pace with her bondmate in the middle of the pack and eating the dust of those ahead of them. Solaris was filling her in on what her responsibilities were to be today. The list of duties was somewhat heartening, though it still meant that she’d be sitting in a dark room and listening to dull negotiations.

Not so boring after all, Tsuga thought to herself as she fought the urge to lean forward in her chair eagerly. The barbed comments, veiled threats, and carefully phrased insults made her head spin trying to keep up with and decipher them. The Aes Sedai were conversing with people whose names Tsuga had already forgotten, but the minute shifts in position, the small changes in expression, the tensing of muscles all betrayed emotions and countless fine details of peoples’ reactions. On the ride into town, Solaris had begun instructing Tsuga more in what to be on the look out for, and the Sei’Tar was beginning to understand why.

None of it had really made much sense before – “Watch for people who tell too many details; they’re often lying,” and other such tips had seemed cryptic and mysterious until she had had the chance to actually apply them. The man sitting all the way to the left, the one that was balding and had an expression that made him look constantly as though he smelled something foul, was currently lying through his teeth. He spoke smoothly, but his tone was greasy, his mannerisms sleazy (he rubbed his hands together, licked his lips, and kept darting his eyes to the woman sitting a few chairs down from him, though she seemed to not even realize he existed or was speaking). Tsuga noted this, and turned her attention to the woman. She seemed nondescript enough, wearing nothing terribly fancy and not taking any authoritative stand in this meeting, but the way that she held herself spoke more loudly than her silence.

The woman was used to being in control of those around her, but she obviously didn’t want the Aes Sedai to know that. More fool, her – if this was obvious enough that Tsuga had taken note, no doubt the Sisters had realized it the moment they had walked into the room. But she had been instructed to watch and learn and remember, and so she did so. At least this kept her busy, so that she wasn’t as horribly bored as she had expected to be.

  • Livin' the life.Tsuga Sei'Tar, Fri Dec 8 18:42
    It was a homecoming, in a sense. The gateway dumped their group just outside of a town very near the border between “civilized” lands and the Blight. The sights, the smells, and the feel of the place ... more
    • Just jump right in. — Tsuga Sei'Tar, Thu Dec 14 07:09
      • Dazed, grazed, and confused.Tsuga Sei'Tar, Mon Dec 18 17:58
        She was mentally exhausted. Physical drain was something she was used to – and indeed, it was an integral part of her day-to-day life – but this much strain on her mind was not something that she was ... more
        • Surviving the morning after.Tsuga Sei'Tar, Wed Dec 20 19:44
          Tsuga hissed, half-rising off the bed and propping herself on her elbows as she twisted her head around to glare at the Aes Sedai probing at her back. “Be still.” The Sei’Tar grumbled and lay back... more
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