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Talaban Morenae, Gaidin
Deja Vu
Thu Dec 28, 2006 00:16 (XFF:

Talaban hissed slightly at the sting of the antiseptic solution. Rael murmured something meaningless as he ran the swab across the scalp of his fellow Gaidin. He alone among the entire corps knew of the previous night’s incident. Rael had had little to say about the incident. He did recall vaguely seeing someone fight alongside Talaban but that had been about it. Battle really did not allow one to scrutinize much more than the immediate details.

Thanking the aging Malkieri, Talaban left the tent they shared. Though he was nominally part of Jasmine Sedai’s “retinue” on this trip, most knew that he had been included because his shield brother was her bond-mate and not because of any other considerations. It was a mutually satisfactory arrangement that left him with great freedom to organise his time.

It would be two more days before their scheduled return to the Tower. Other than the occasional scouting and picket detail, he had little else assigned to him. He drifted across the camp, conducting impromptu lessons for various weapons, axe, sword, knife and even the morningstar. Most of the trainees seemed to be progressing far more rapidly out here then they would have inside the Tower grounds. A concept that would have taken hours to beat into their heads was absorbed at a startling rate at this camp in the wilderness. It was a vindication of his theory that the White Tower, though conducive in some ways, was developing into too much of a comfort zone.

Talaban sat on a tree stump, watching two Sei’Tar practice their movements with a quarterstaff. Of the two, the younger one, Eldwyn, was the one with more potential. The plump Mayener possessed loose wrists and surprising agility for someone of his size. Coupled with an instinctive touch with a heavy oaken staff, these qualities made a dangerous combination.

His opponent was an older male named Jared. Enrolled in the Tower far longer than Eldwyn had been, Jared was a solid fighter. There was nothing particularly spectacular or threatening about his weapon-work save a dedicated observation of his defensive perimeter. A true practitioner of the Path of Water, Jared’s only flaw was his seeming stagnation in recent months. Still, he possessed more than enough experience to make Eldwyn work.

The rhythmic striking of wood on wood as they went through the motions was oddly disturbing. Unbidden, his mind went back to fight outside Podian. His mind replayed every stroke over and over again, analyzing the stranger’s movements. The more he thought, the more he wondered. Each attack he had displayed seemed innocuous, a powerful but simple stroke. Yet, on closer study, each stance seemed to have additional hidden techniques attached to it, where a slight change in the stroke could result in many more equally devastating options. It was not often that moves contained such beauty and efficiency. He replayed the sequences again mentally.

“Talaban Gaidin,” called the distant voice. He ignored it. “Talaban Gaidin,” the voice came again, this time more insistent. Forcing himself back to reality, the former thief focused on the two faces before him. The background light indicated it was nearly dusk. Had he really been thinking for that long? “Excuse us Gaidin, but we’re on the cleaning detail for dinner and we really have to report,” Jared said.

Talaban nodded, dismissing them with a motion of his hand. He felt a little guilty at having not paid more attention when they had been sparring but the question of the stranger weighed heavily on his sub-conscious. Still half lost in thought, he wandered to the edge of the camp, to one of the clear fields, one that he had been using for his own practices.

A figure was waiting there for him. He did not need to look twice to know it was Rael, the massive old Malkieri Warder. Long, silver streaked hair billowed about the older man’s face, framing the hard, square jaw. He was topless, hard, chiselled muscles showing as he stretched. Each limb was smooth and well-defined, with no sign of any wasting caused by age. “Took you long enough,” he muttered as Talaban removed his own shirt and began stretching beside him.

Both figures moved in tandem, one massive and solidly built, the other wiry to the point of being scrawny. Yet, the callisthenics positions flowed with such equal precision that they seemed to be clockwork figures. Without warning, their movements changed. With the end of the callisthenics, they drifted into shadow boxing. No unnecessary word was exchanged. They were so used to practicing together that little had to be conveyed verbally.

Talaban breathed hard, the exertion burning in his lungs. Sweat ran down his chest as he boxed. Hands and feet lanced out, never contacting flesh as both Gaidin maintained the discipline in the exercise. Stance met stance as they evaluated the movements in their minds, countering the imaginary attack with a relevant response. Despite the lack of actual contact, it was harder work than many would imagine.

Eternity laced, the massive blade of black steel flowing about Rael as its master danced within its deadly trajectory. The two-handed sword was heavier than most, yet, Rael wielded it with one hand, keeping perfect control of the mighty weapon as they sparred. Talaban dodged and stepped, his speed keeping him one step ahead of the stronger man. Both katanas lanced in various directions, each carrying the shadow of a shadow of a threat. One was fast, the other was strong. Each found the other a tough and taxing opponent, a true stretch, even during spars.

Her hand pushed aside the leaves as she watched the two men sparring. What it was that intruiged her enough to come back here again, she did not know. Yet, here she was watching them fight. The larger man was a Warder. She could sense the bonding weave on him. He fought excellently, every movement a study in precision even a clockmaker would admire. She was, however, more interested in his opponent; the same man she had fought beside earlier, he now sparred with his full ability.

She found herself mesmerized. The blades flowed through the forms without the usual rigidity in modern swordsmen, each movement leading to the next as if it had been scripted. He danced around the larger Warder. When most men fought, it was a dance of sword and feet. This Gaidin danced with every fibre of his being. Watching him was like watching the play of clouds across the sky, the swirling of water around rocks, the endless dance of night and day. Every single movement was exquisite balance.

Talaban fought with all his skill, his blades ringing off the black steel, the shining report forming a unique symphony with the vying fighters. Rael gripped Eclipse with both hands now, his mighty thews straining with the effort of keeping up with the faster katanas. Despite the strain, his strokes remained unhurried and precise, always ready to deal a decisive blow the moment an opening presented itself.

Three strikes in bounced rapid succession off the surface of the black blade as Talaban deflected Rael’s sweeping sidestroke. Unable to match the stronger Gaidin blow for blow, he evaded what he could, deflecting the rest. They were building quite the audience now, mostly other Gaidin who lingered at the periphery of his vision. There but quiet and unobtrusive, they were here merely to watch the session. The younger Gaidin felt the slight difference in Rael’s strokes now. They had exchanged over three hundred blows and the older man had to be tiring.

Spotting an opening in the Warder’s defence, Talaban committed, thrusting in and spinning around, a katana redirecting Rael’s hurried counter. As he spun into Rael’s guard, something caught his eye. Smoky blue eyes staring at him from within the trees. The same pair of smoky blue orbs. Their stares met. He hesitated momentarily.

Rael panicked. Few things had frightened him in recent years but the sudden lack of resistance against his blade almost caused his aging heart to fail. He strained, the muscles on his neck bulging as he struggled to retract the force of his blow. He failed. Eclipse spun in a complete rotation, as perfect as any he had ever practiced, exiting at precisely the angle to decapitate. Grunting, he did the only thing he could think of. Rael turned the blade.

Talaban felt the impact, seeing the heavens flash momentarily as the flat of the heavy sword smacked hard against his neck. Instinct took over as his body threw itself into a roll, riding the momentum of the stroke. He felt consciousness slipping again.

She almost screamed when the black blade struck the Gaidin straight on. Her heart pumped as she squinted, trying to discern if all was well. The older Warder spun around, his drenched dreadlocks clinging to his cheeks as orbs of spun silver searched the trees. Not waiting for him to find her, she turned and ran.

He drew a deep breath. And another. Emotions warred within him. He had seen the leaves move. Rael was very sure there was something there that had distracted Tal, caused him to hesitate. The man was no novice, they always practiced with edge, not flat. Nothing simple would have distracted him that way. The Malkieri contemplated chasing. He knew his shield brother was fine. Jasmine had run forward the moment the blow landed. Rael could feel her through the bond. Tal was fine. He took another breath, then turned around. Whoever or whatever it was would live another day. Hoisting the cold Gaidin over his shoulder, Rael strode for the tent.

Talaban sat atop his stallion, watching coldly as the trainees packed up the camp. They would be leaving soon. Aethan’Tar and Sei’Tar bustled, taking down tents and tying up supplies to the wagon train. Soon, they would be back to the comforts of civilisation. Most, if not all had learnt something from this trip. At the very least, even the greenest of the trainees had seen their first battle and likely spilt their first blood. It was a grim thought but in such times, it was necessary to kill to survive.

He felt the slight stiffness in his neck as he looked around. It had been extremely fortunate that Rael was both alert and skilled enough to soften the blow. He did not blame the older man. It had been his own fault that he had been distracted. Even now, days after he had last seen the pair of eyes, they continued to haunt him, appearing in his mind where he slept, not doing anything malicious but just staring.

In the distance, Jield’s horn sounded. The signal to move. Apparently all was ready for their return to the Tower. Talaban got in position with the rest of the Gaidin, Rael at his side as always. Subconsciously, he caressed the hilts of his weapons, turning round once again to scrutinize the forest. He did not know if he actually wished to see the sapphire orbs again but they never appeared.

The lines snaked forward, wagons and pack horses moving steadily through a dozen shimmering Gateways. Once the supply train was through, the Aethan’Tar followed, then the Sei’Tar. Finally, the remnants of the Gaidin passed through. Talaban and Rael were last in line, stepping through before Jasmine followed, snapping the silver archway shut.

OOC: may not make much sense now but bear with me. this string runs right into another :p

  • Blue on blueTalaban Morenae, Gaidin, Thu Dec 28 00:14
    Into the forest both figures went, each dancing nimbly across the soft ground, the stranger picking a rapid path deep into the woods with Talaban hot in pursuit. On and on they went, until, finally,... more
    • Deja Vu — Talaban Morenae, Gaidin, Thu Dec 28 00:16
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