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To stand ready, to fight, to fall?
Sun Dec 31, 2006 10:27 (XFF:

Tal felt his face twitch into a smile, an expression long unused. Tianna was trying hard to suppress the triumph she was feeling at bonding him, but it was still leaking out around the edges. He nodded towards the Aethan'Tar just ten metres away who had now started their fire with green wood, smoking out everyone downwind of them. Cries of dismay and anger echoed through the wood as the hapless pair frantically tried to put it their blaze.

“I had better see to the Trainees, Tianna Sedai. I will be within your call should you need me.” He rose and then stalked over to the quarrelling pair as they complained about whose fault it was and broke them apart with a few sharp words. A few minutes later, both Aethan'Tar were hunting for firewood as if their ears depended on it. When they returned, Tal demonstrated how to build a smokeless fire, or at least one that would not smoke much. He also showed them how to dig a deeper firepit, both to hide the glow from the fire and also to reduce the effects of the wind blowing into the fire.

This took nearly an hour and was eating into to his evening routine of sword practice. He got both Aethan'Tar to get out their lathes and instead of doing his own routine, he spent two hours working the Trainees on their forms and balance work. When they had finished and warmed down, Tal returned to the camp. There was no sign of Tianna, but he could sense she was not far from him, even in which direction she was. He started cooking a dinner of rabbit and pheasant, both cooked in the coals of the fire. By the time the potatoes had been boiled and roasted in the fire as well, Tianna returned and without a word, Tal served their food. They talked that night, by the fire. Tal was hesitant at first, more from lack of practice than anything else. Tianna could, would and did talk enough for the pair of them and Tal got a better feel for the young woman holding his bond. They both went to their beds with a more comfortable understanding of each other that night.

Tal rose early as was his custom and had started boiling some water for tea before running through the forms. His sword hissed through the air as he moved from form to form. Perfect balance, perfect practice makes for perfection when fighting He stepped to the side, sword hissing out in a lateral slash River Undercuts the Bank and moved through to other forms, one following another in a constant flow of attack and defence. The kettle whistled for his attention and he turned to see Tianna watching from the fire. Her face was calm and serene, but her eyes glittered as she watched him. He returned to the fire and went to make tea as Tianna cooked them breakfast. It was mildly disturbing how they were anticipating each other already, with one person handing a cloth or seasoning to the other without a word said. Sometimes in the next few days, it seemed as though she was in his thoughts all the time, and yet at others, she was locked away in her own little world.

Tianna travelled on the patrols around the camp with him t every opportunity, even sitting in on the watches he sat. Most of these he spent patrolling around the Trainees who were supposed to be watching. For the most part these were all good, although one Aethan'Tar was asleep on two occasions. Tal noted this and the second time frightened the life out of the student by wrenching him into the bushes as if he had been attacked. With a hand over the students mouth, he hissed in his ear, “Now you are dead, and soon all your fellow students will be. Is this what you wanted? If not, then see to your watch and Light help you if I catch you sleeping again!” After that, word got around and he found no-one asleep at all. All the students were alert and on their toes. Tal was aware that other Gaidin were doing the same thing, but habits were deeply ingrained and so he made his rounds every night. Occasionally nodding to another Gaidin in the darkness.

He had settled into an almost pleasant routine when on the dawn of the fifth morning, he became aware of something – not quite right. Unsettled he sought out another Gaidin who admitted to feeling uneasy – why, neither could answer. As he returned to the campsite at the trot, Tal saw Tianna come out of her tent looking tense. She had picked up on his discomfort, but could not pinpoint what it was. Tal was about to dismiss it, when a Sei'Tar crashed into their site and hissed that the town was being attacked by Trollocs. As he rushed off to tell the others, Tianna moved with calm, yet deceptive speed towards the other Aes Sedai to glean what information she could. Tal was already buckling on his armour and by the time he had finished, Tianna had returned with their horses. Tal handed Tianna up to her horse and then vaulted into his saddle. Both of them were tense now and as they joined the throng of the White Tower, Tal could feel the first stirrings of the rage within him. The ride towards Podian did little to reduce this and by the time they halted about a half mile from the town, the space between his shoulder blades was twitching with suppressed emotion.

Jield Gaidin gave a short speech about it being the first battle for many of them and having to look out for the people of Podian. Another Gaidin attracted Tal's attention and mentioned the need to look out for the Aethan'Tar . With a guarded nod, Tal acknowledged this. He moved towards the pair who were looking more than a little nervous. Tianna was just behind him as they mounted up again and headed towards the edge of the forest. Looking towards the town, they could now see the Trollocs crashing against the gates, trying to top the fifteen foot high walls.

With a gesture from Jield Gaidin, the ranks of the White Tower held, then advanced as he swept his hand down. Tal felt the horse shudder under him as the canter picked up. Broadsword in hand, he manoeuvred to be in front of Tianna and just beside the two Aethan'Tar he was watching. The canter sped up and the Trollocs noticed them. Turning to face the onrushing warriors and Aes Sedai left them vulnerable to the defenders of Podian. Tal felt the horse shift under him and held firm with his knees as the warhorse charged. Other Gaidin had also timed it to perfection and a flying wedge hammered into the Trolloc lines. Tal became aware of the throbbing need within him to let go, but kept his focus, kept the line, held himself in check to guard the Trainees and Aes Sedai he was watching. His broadsword got stuck in a Trolloc shield. He switched without a pause, sweeping an axe out of his belt and hammering it into the beaked face below him. He guided the horse with his knees to flank a Trolloc reaching for a Aethan'Tar and hammered a blow into the neck of the monstrosity. Twisting in the saddle, he felt a something burn past him and saw a Trolloc collapse with a burning hole in it's chest. Satisfaction warred with fear through the bond and Tal knew that Tianna was just behind him. A Trollocs grabbed the bridle of the Aethan'Tar beside him and pulled the horse down. Several Trollocs fell on the screaming young man as the horse collapsed. Tal snarled and spurred his horse forwards, but somehow the animal caught a hoof somewhere and suddenly Tal was desperately rolling out of the way of flailing horse and Trolloc blades. The horse was getting up, the Aethan'Tar still screaming, his axe was gone and his grip on the rage was diminishing. Tal ripped his longsword from the scabbard on his back. A less effective weapon from horseback, on foot and in his hands it was more then sufficient for the task ahead. Wind and the Rain took the two in front of him and an axe clipped his shoulder. Soft Rain at Sunset opened a Trollocs face. Something tore his left shoulder guard off. Stones Falling From a Cliff stopped a sword and deflected an axe and now Tal stood over the fallen Aethan'Tar. A flash of anger and fear across the bond distracted him and no speed in the world could stop the sword aimed at his face. Ducking, twisting and the start of Low Wind Rising defected enough of the blow so that instead of being fatal, it was merely hard enough to hammer him into the ground and break his concentration.

The calm vanished like a candle in a hurricane. Rage flared within him and blanketed out everything except the Trolloc in front of him. It moved so slowly that it seemed to be suspended in treacle. Noise receded into the distance and Tal rose from the ground and Parting the Silk took the Trolloc in front of him. Time slowed and Tal strode forth. Cuts and slashes that would normally slow him were ignored and - goaded by the Rage - he fought with the desperation of a man who knows that to falter would be to die. Tianna rode behind his eyes as he fought in a line alongside the Aethan'Tar still standing. Tianna backed them up with fireballs and lightning as they held the line. A flanking attack by three Gaidin and Aes Sedai broke the Trollocs and they ran, but Tal did not see this. He slowed and the world sped up around him again. Tianna's voice came from far away as he slid to his knees. Hands clasped his head and suddenly he was doused in icy water, starting back to his feet in shock.

Tal looked around the battlefield. Many Trollocs had fallen and only a few still forms of Trainees and Gaidin marred the ground. Tal looked around for the fallen Trainee he'd tried to rescue and to his relief, the youth was standing, if in a bit of a wobbly fashion, only a dozen meters away. Tianna looked at him and brushed hair out of her face. “Is it always this exciting?” she asked, a touch of irony in her voice. The gates of Podian had opened and people were beginning to pour out.

“No,” said Tal. “Usually there's long periods of boredom followed by short periods of excitement. Then the boredom again if you're lucky.” He grinned at her and the Aethan'Tar. “Looks like you all survived. Shall we go and celebrate a bit now? I don't know about you, but I REALLY need a drink...”

  • To bond a warrior...Tianna Ithami, Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah (MuC), Sun Dec 31 08:46
    As Tal walked away from her, Tianna started trembling. She sat down on the log that Tal had been resting on when she'd found him and clenched her hands together to stop them shaking. Asides from... more
    • To stand ready, to fight, to fall? — Talocan Mesandril, Gaidin, Sun Dec 31 10:27
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