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RPG Wheel of Time - Prelude to Darkness


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The soft breeze that whistled through the trees in the Tower Grounds was perfect for killing the warm heat of the day. Julile strode across the dirt path, away from the practice grounds, not noticing the people who hurried out of his way. It wasn?t that he was self absorbed, or even that he thought of other?s as his inferiors ? he was too mad to notice anything other than his own thoughts. The beautiful day couldn?t be more opposite to his mood.

[I]Light blighted, bastard![/I] he thought to himself. He had been practicing the sword forms under the watchful eye of Lyander, the Gaidin Master at Arms, as he usually had for the past three years since he came to the Tower. Things had started off well enough, but when Master Lyander went to teach another apprentice, Gayrin ? the cocky fool ? decided to cause trouble. Needless to say, the red-haired fool had gotten them both in trouble, and now here he was, stamping off furiously like a spoiled child.

Julile sighed, and tried to vent some anger. He drew his wooden practice sword from his belt and began cycling through some of sword forms. He couldn?t get the fight out of his mind, though. He remembered Gayrin walking over to him, and yet another terrible insult about being an orphan ? by now, he had used them all. The time between the insult and Julile?s fist making contact with his face was a blur, but he did remember rolling about on the ground with Gayrin after he punched him. The next thing he knew was Lyander picking them both up by the scruffs of their necks and sending them away ? if he hadn?t been so busy, they most likely would have been disciplined on the spot.

The realization that he was still fuming over the morning?s events only made Julile even madder. Redoubling his concentration on his sword forms, he didn?t hear the man who approached him from behind.
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[SIZE=1]Adir sighed as he slowly sat down under an old oak in the Tower Grounds. His muscles aching from the intense exertion they had just been put under.

[I]I swear that man is trying to kill me[/I] he thought to himself. His swords master Oradin had ordered him to run through every passageway in the white tower with his wooden practice sword held above his head, merely because he had shown up to training late for the third time. Not only was this task extremely physically draining- the practice swords were heavier than most real swords in order to build muscle-, but also very embarrassing on account of the Tower being filled with Novices.

As Adir looked at his blade which was gleaming in the bright sunlight, he heard some sort of commotion off to his right by one of the practice rings. It seemed that two Apprentices were scrapping over something although there was so much dust he couldn't tell who.

[I]At least I'm not one of those two[/I], he thought,[I] Lyander will have their hides for that.[/I] He looked back to his sword, the shadows from the leaves were dancing across the polished steel. His father had given him this sword when he came of age and told him it was a family heirloom that when drawn, could not be sheathed until it drew blood. Adir was obviously reluctant to unsheathe it, but on these rare occasions he could not resist a quick glimpse of the blade.

As he looked up he saw Lyander pick both the students up in not the most gentle of ways. [I]Light this is going to be good![/I] But to Adir's disappointment Lyander let them off without a word. With all the dust cleared he could see one of the boys clearly now. He looked about the same age as Adir with shoulder length hair. His face looked gentle, but his eyes were quite the opposite. They burned with the fire of one who was possessed.

[I]How have I never seen him before?[/I] Intrigued by this strange character and what could have infuriated him to this extent Adir stood up and hurried to intersect him before he stormed off. To his relief the student stopped and began practicing sword forms at the other end of the grounds. Adir was never very good on his feat and is prone to tire quickly when walking. Since childhood he had been raised riding horses and had learn to fight on horseback. This made the training at the Tower very difficult because the was virtually no training on horseback whatsoever. It seems that anyone outside Saldaea saw combat on horseback as a variation of that on the ground, when in reality it is a different art form altogether.

Finally reaching the student Adir went to tap him on the shoulder to talk to him, but the student must have heard him coming because spun around swinging his sword at Adir's right ear. Luckily Adir raised his sword to parry before the wooden practice blade could do any damage. The other student's eyes widened in surprise.

"Light I'm sorry!" He exclaimed, "I thought you were someone else."

"Like that red-haired student?" asked Adir as he lowered his sword.

"Yes, Gayrin," he said with more than a little disgust.

"Now what had the two of you in that mess?"

"Light knows. I'm Julile by the way." Adir could see his eyes becoming more and more friendly but still cautious.

"Adir."

"I'm sorry you met me under such bad circumstances."

"Well-" Just as Adir began his sentence he saw a young man with a piece of parchment in his hands running towards them with a worried look on his face.[/SIZE]
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[I]Adir?[/I] Julile thought to himself. [I]That?s a Saldaean name, unless I?m mistaken. Odd though? he doesn?t bear any resemblance to his homeland. He seemed friendly enough, but Julile was wary ? it wasn?t that he had trouble trusting people, but his anger (although aimed at Gayrin) remained. In spite of himself, Julile laughed light-heartedly.

?I?m sorry you met me under such bad circumstances!? he said, with a wide smile splitting his face. He wasn?t completely sure how he felt about the man in front of him, but he was nearly sure that the ?Saldaean? wasn?t an enemy. Adir began to answer him, but was cut off when someone called his name.

?Adir!? a young man called as he ran over to the odd pair. He was garbed in the servant?s clothes of the White Tower, and seemed a few years younger then Julile. [I]Odd ? there are few men who come to the White Tower as servants. Usually the women are less fearful of the Aes Sedai[/I] Julile returned from his thoughts abruptly as the reached them. ?Are you ? Adir ? sir?? the man asked in between panting for air.

?Yes,? Adir replied. There was a directness to him that Julile admired ? he never beat around the bushes, and always seemed right to the point. His icy blues eyes blue eyes however held a glint, that seemed to counteract his seemingly abrupt nature.

?I?m sorry to disturb you, but I was told this message must reach you immediately, regardless of whether or not you were in training.? He handed the letter to Adir, bobbed a quick servant?s bow, and scurried away. Adir opened the letter, and after reading for a moment, frowned.

?Well, it seems as though I must be off? Adir said. He looked slightly nervous, which Julile didn?t understand ? a moment ago, the man had seemed cool ice dealing with the servant, and now his nerves seemed to be in control of him. Before Julile could get a word in edgewise, Adir spoke again. ?It was a pleasure to meet you.? He bowed, and began to walk towards the Tower, already at a quick pace.

?Uh? the pleasure was all mine?? Julile said aloud, despite being out of earshot of the other man. [I]Well, he seemed fine enough[/I] Julile thought to himself. He hefted his practice sword, and had only begun to cycle through the forms when he heard a familiar shout.

?Hey! Orphan!? Julile?s head whipped up to the unfortunate sight of Gayrin. There was an angry look to his face, and his mouth seemed to be set in a permanent growl as he strode across the path towards him. However, it was only then that Julile noticed he wasn?t alone ? Gayrin had three men on either side of him. His eyes went wide. [I]He wouldn?t go [b]this[/b] far? would he?[/I] As if to answer his own question, Gayrin shouted again and his cronies all lifted their practice swords, advancing quickly on him. Julile knew he couldn?t win this fight ? there was only one place to go now. Without thinking, he dropped his practice sword and ran after Adir and the White Tower ? the one place Gayrin and his gang wouldn?t pursue him to cause trouble.
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[SIZE=1][I]Light, what could this be about?[/I] Adir thought as he read the parchment he had just received. Normally he would have worried about how rude he had been to Julile, but there were more important matters at hand. The letter read:

[I]
[CENTER]Adir Hartlan, your presence is required immediately.[/CENTER]

[RIGHT]The Amyrlin Seat[/RIGHT] [/I]

Adir folded up the letter as his mind raced through all the possible reasons he could be called to see the Amrylin Seat herself. Adir had pulled a few pranks in the past but nothing large enough to earn him a punishment from the Amrylin Seat. Perhaps he was not making enough progress and was to be expelled? Whatever the reason, it was surely not a pleasant one. Adir reached into his pocket and pulled out the folded parchment to read it once more. He had to make sure this was some sort of mistake. Perhaps it was someone with a similar name to his own? He was so focused on the letter he knocked into a poor novice and did not even notice or apologize.

"Adir!" a voice was calling to him from down the corridor he had just come from. It was Julile, running very quickly. Despite the current circumstances, seeing Julile made him feel slightly better. He turned and walked to meet Julile, and as he did so he could see the reason for Julile running. There were about three or four men chasing after him, one of which was the other apprentice Julile had fought earlier. Adir could see that Julile did not have any weapon of any kind. The heavy practice sword would have slowed him down, and fighting was not an option at those odds. Adir knew that they would not be able to escape the red-head and his men, and he was about to be expelled anyways.

Planting his feat firmly Adir looked to Julile still running towards him. Somehow he could see in Julile's eyes that he knew what he was about to do. Throwing his practice sword to Julile who caught it with reflexes that Adir had never seen the like of before, fell in line beside Adir.

[I]I have no choice...[/I] he thought as he unsheathed his father's blade.

[I]
OOC: Sorry that took so long dude I've been busy. Thanks for being patient.[/I][/SIZE]
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Julile had been truly surprised ? he thought that Gayrin and his thugs wouldn?t pursue him inside the Tower, but he was apparently wrong. [I]Is there hatred of me so strong?? [/I] The thought couldn?t help but sadden Julile, but he quickly forced the feelings aside. Now was not the time. He couldn?t help but hear their jeers, which suddenly stopped upon entering the Tower. Instead, their smirks and raucous comments were replaced by faces of stone-cold hatred. Julile hurried his step.

After taking a staircase two steps at a time, Julile found himself at a crossroads, and no one around. He spared a moment to look behind, and quickly spotted his pursuers beginning their ascent of their stairs. [I]Light! Will nothing deter them!?[/I] Choosing quickly, he hurried down the hallway on his right. When he turned the next corner, he found exactly what he was looking for.

?Adir!? he called ahead. The man turned around quickly. The look on his face was that of surprise ? Julile noted that he had most likely been deep thought, and caught somewhat off guard by his voice. Julile began running over to him when he heard his pursuers turn the corner and nearly close the distance between them. Julile looked at Adir, and a moment of recognition appeared upon Adir?s face ? he was able to sum up the situation in split second. He pulled his practice sword from his belt and tossed it to Julile, who snatched it out of the air. However, something was wrong ? Adir was unsheathing his sword. [I]No! Blood cannot be spilled inside the Tower, no matter the cost![/I] If he kept moving, then the events that took place in the moments to come would end in bloodshed. Knowing what he had to do, Julile spun on a dime and lunged at his attackers.

Their jeering had left them defenseless ? their ?weapons? were still tucked in to their belts. With a howl, Julile threw himself among them. The moment before he began to strike, he saw their expressions turn from sneers to wide-eyes surprise ? they didn?t even enough time to yell. Julile?s wooden sword flicked in and out among them, knocking them over with blows to the head and the neck. One blonde-haired man that Julile didn?t recognize managed to pull his practice sword out, but he was too late ? Julile?s sword swung down at his hand, and he dropped it after a loud crack and a yelp of pain. Julile?s sword swung at whoever was closest, usually ending with yells of pain, or bloody noses. Sometimes both were accompanied by the motions of his sword. Within moments, all of them had fallen to the ground, nursing their wounds, except for Gayrin who stood, poised to strike with practice sword in hand.

?I wouldn?t do that if I were you?? Julile tried not too look surprise, but Adir?s voice coming from right beside him was unexpected to say the least. His sword was in hand, and had a very intricate look about it. The blade had been polished quite recently. Adir?s face was cold stone, completely unreadable. Julile tried to match his, but was sure his shaking hands gave him away.

Gayrin frowned, sheathed his practice sword and left, leaving his ?gang? still strewn about on the floor. Julile turned to Adir. ?Thank you? I don?t know what would have happened if it weren?t for you being there. Here, this is yours? ?Julile handed him the practice sword, reluctant to be rid of the wooden shaft now smeared with dark-red blood.
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[SIZE=1]Adir could see that Julile was shaking as he handed him his practice sword.
"Light! What were you thinking?" Julile said, still holding the hilt of the sword as Adir held the wooden blade.
"Blood is never to be drawn in the tower! Ever!" Adir yanked the sword from Julile's grip.
"I was only saving your hide." Adir knew he shouldn't have snapped at Julile the way he did. Julile had no knowledge of the memory that this event had sparked in his mind. Pushing the thought aside Adir sheathed both the swords he was carrying, turned on his heal and quickly walked in the opposite direction of Julile. When he noticed Julile was not following he turned his head and yelled "Coming?" Julile ran to catch up and fell in beside him.
"What do we do know?" He asked
"Nothing much we can do. As soon as they come to they will tell one of the Trainers if Gayrin hasn't already." Adir replied, checking his surrounding's to see if they were alone. He brought up a mental image of the conflict, which he always did, constantly surveying his environment.
[I]No, there was no one else there...[/I]
"What we need is an alibi." Adir was surprised by the calm and steadiness of his voice.
"That would work, Gayrin is known for the lack of truth in his statements." [I]The only problem is where can we get such an alibi?[/I] Then it hit Adir, [I]The letter![/I]
"Come with me!" he said quickly to Julile and sprinted off up the next flight of stairs. Julile caught up to him quickly taking greater strides than he.
"Where are we headed?" He asked as they reached the next floor in the tower.
"To our alibi." Adir replied. [I]Light I hope this works.[/I] The two companions walked a little ways down a corridor to where two double doors and a woman with a large staff stood.
"I'm here to see the Amrylin." As Adir said the words he looked to Julile, but instead of seeing surprise on his face as he had expected, Julile seemed completely calm, showing no outward emotion. "Light we might actually pull this off."
"One moment" The tall woman said and she disappeared through the large oak doors. As soon as the doors closed Adir turned to Julile,
"I just received a letter from the Amrylin requesting my presence. Perhaps by the time she hears of the incident with Gayrin the times would have blurred giving us an alibi. I could say that you had accompanied me here and there was no way you could have done anything to Gayrin's men. I'm surly here for an expulsion, that doesn't mean you deserve one." As he had finished saying that the tall woman stepped back out into the corridor.
"The Amrylin will see you both now."

[I]...Both?[/I]
[/SIZE]
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[I]Light! What the hell is he thinking!?[/I] Julile knew that an alibi was needed, but to go to the Amyrlin Seat? Julile?s head was swimming, and he found that trying to come up with a way out of the current situation only proved to confuse him further. As the tall woman carrying the staff ? Julile assumed she was the Keeper of the Chronicles ? he shot Adir a questioning glance, which he returned with a frown. Pulling a small envelope from his cloak pocket, he cleared his throat and began.

?I just received a letter from the Amyrlin requesting my presence. Perhaps by the time she hears of the incident with Gayrin the times would have blurred giving us an alibi. I could say that you had accompanied me here and there was no way you could have done anything to Gayrin's men. I'm surly here for an expulsion, that doesn't mean you deserve one."

Julile was shocked to say the least. The man seemed to hold many secrets, and Julile began to wonder who he was before he came to the Tower. [I]Surely a man wouldn?t be summoned before the Amyrlin Seat simply to be put out of the White Tower? would he?[/I] He was about to voice his question when the Keeper returned from the room

?The Amyrlin Seat will see you both now? her voice left little room for question. Adir made for the door, and the Aes Sedai moved out of his way to allow entry ? Julile followed behind quickly. The large oak doors opened to a small room, with little furnishings. A large desk was set in front of a window and held many stacks upon stacks of papers. A large, Tairen carpet decorate the floor, and a two small book cases occupied the left wall ? the right side simply held yet another door.

An Aes Sedai sat behind the desk, and wore the unmistakable stole of the Keeper of the Chronicles. [I]Of course ? how could I forget about that? The Aes Sedai outside couldn?t have been the Keeper[/I] Julile thought to himself. [I]But if she wasn?t the Keeper, what was she doing there? and why did she carry a staff??[/I] The Keeper looked at them, with perfect Aes Sedai coolness, ushered them into the next room.

As Julile was hurried through into the next room, he couldn?t help but notice the difference. The Amyrlin Seat?s study was beautifully furnished ? tables, armoires and bookshelves littered the walls. On most of the tables which surrounded the room were small, but stout lamps. Domani drapery had been pulled to block off a seemingly large window, and the room?s only source of light were the lamps, all of which were lit. A large, beautifully crafted desk lay in the middle of the room on top of a Domani rug with an intricate flower design. Behind the desk sat Aleis Romlin, the Amyrlin Seat herself.

Aleis glanced up at the two young men who entered her room, but her eyes quickly returned to the papers that littered her desk ? Julile remarked at how much more she seemed to have than the Keeper of the Chronicles. Julile and Adir stood before the desk in the dimly lit room, and awkward silence hung in the air. Julile turned to look up at Adir, but at the moment the Amyrlin Seat began to speak.

?Adir Hartlan?? she spoke slowly. ?I suppose I cannot be angry with you ? my letter did not imply that you should come alone, but I thought someone of your intelligence would have figured that out for himself?? her face remained completely cool, and serene, which matched her voice perfectly.

?Mother?? Adir spoke solemnly, bowing before the Amyrlin Seat. Julile spoke a hasty ?Mother? as well, and gave a quick bow, but he felt as though he didn?t belong. Aleis continued on as though she hadn?t even noticed the formal acknowledgement of her superiority.

?You have been summoned before me today on an urgent matter ? I sent for you because I know I can trust you. You, however ?? she motioned towards Julile, ?have yet to prove yourself to me.? Julile was about to open his mouth, but Adir beat him to it.

?Mother, this is Julile ? he and I have been steadfast friends now for nearly a year. There is no one I trust more than him.? His voice was crisp, and unflinching, and Julile had to concentrate so as not to drop his jaw in pure shock. [I]He just? he just lied to the Amyrlin Seat![/I] Shock didn?t begin to describe it. Aleis looked at Adir, her eyes boring into his very soul before continuing.

?Very well. You are here today simply because I have a task for you.? Her eyes never flinched from Adir, her face never changing in the slightest. ?Last night, a novice fled from the Tower ? I need you to bring her back.? This time, Julile?s mouth did drop open, and a quick glance at Adir proved that he too was surprised. [I]?That?s it??[/I] But Julile knew there was more to this than met the eye. Speaking for the first time since initially addressing Aleis, Julile cleared his throat.

?Mother, I?m sorry, I don?t mean for my question to offend, but why are we being sent? Surely, sending students of the White Tower to search for a run-away must seem counterproductive to you.? As soon as he had finished, he realized that his comment could very well have been taken as an insult, but to his surprise, the Amyrlin favoured him with a soft smile. The smile, as quickly as it had appeared on her face, was replaced with a frown.

?Understand that this knowledge may never be allowed to leave this room?? she waited for Julile and Adir to nod their heads in agreement before continuing. ?The novice in question was most likely kidnapped ? two guards were found murdered at the southern gate ? three more guards were found slain at the Jualdhe Bridge. This is most likely the work of Darkfriends.?

Julile?s head was swimming ? he knew that out of any place in the world, the White Tower was the safest. Darkfriends would never be able to penetrate the White Tower, but according the Amyrlin Seat, the wisest of the all-knowing Aes Sedai, they had. Adir cleared his throat and began to ask a question, but Aleis cut him off.

?No one else knows of this ? the Aes Sedai know only that a novice has fled the Tower. A crime of this magnitude leaves me with only one realization ? I cannot trust anyone. With recent events brought into light, anyone in the Tower could be a Darkfriend, or even worse, of Black Ajah. If you are wondering, Adir, why I trust you in this, than you have no further to look than your own father.?

A look of recognition passed over Adir?s face, and he simply nodded to the Amyrlin. Aleis motioned Adir to her desk, and handed him a large, brown envelope. She explained that inside was all the information on the missing novice.

?Bring her back alive?? Aleis told them both, a softness had entered her voice, which still held it?s commanding tone. ?You may leave now.? Adir bowed before the Amyrlin, and Julile once again hurriedly copied him. Julile walked out of the room more quickly than he had ever walked in his entire life.
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  • 2 weeks later...
[SIZE="1"]Adir lit one of the lanterns hanging from the rafters in the stables, burning the tip of his thumb and finger on the match as it was nearly midnight and pitch black in the stables. Matches were a rare commodity, even in the tower, Julile had noticed the match as he walked to his horse and inquired about it.
" Where did you get that?"
"Oh this? A merchant by the docks, some crazy old coot was practically giving them away." Adir hoped Julile hadn't seen through the lie, he didn't want to deal with this now. He had always been told he was a good lier, not a quality he was particularly proud of but useful in certain situations none the less. The two young men went to work saddling and readying their horses for the journey ahead of them.
"But why did she choose us?" Julile asked as Adir put his intricately worked saddle on Selis, his white stallion. Adir knew Julile had meant the question to be rhetorical but felt the need to answer it anyways.
"Because of my father," Adir handed Julile a feedbag for his black stallion as he replied. "He's...an important man where I come from." Adir turned back to his leather worked saddle as not to make eye contact with Julile. The dim lights of the Tower Stables really did not do the florid design justice.
"Important? How so?" Julile inquired, turning to face Adir's back.
"It's of no real significance to the task at hand. Did you hear anything of Gayrin since our last encounter?" Adir asked, quick to change the current subject.
"Funny you should ask. After you and I left the Amrylin and headed to our chambers I ran into Gayrin who had brought Master Lyander with him. He accused me of attacking himself and his comrades with "some strange black haired kid". Naturally I told Master Lyander that it was impossible for either you or I to commit this offense because you and I had been with the Amrylin seat herself. Lyander then gave me a warning that I would be severely punished if I used the Amrylin as an excuse. He brought both Gayrin and I to the Keeper and she acknowledged that I had been there. I said that Gayrin must have been jealous of our meeting with the Amrylin Seat and fabricated this story in order to feel superior. You should have seen the look on his face then! I thought he would bash my head in right then and there."
They both laughed at this, remembering and imagining Gayrin's face.
"So now Gayrin is on late night janitorial duty for the whole of the west Tower. Ah, sweet vindication." Julile leaned back against one of the stone stable walls and stretched his arms above his head.
"I can't believe that Lyander believed the story so easily." Adir said, stifling a yawn.
"Oh I'm sure he didn't. You could see in his eyes he didn't, but he had no way to prove we had done anything wrong. Light I'm tired."
"Aye, so am I, but the Amrylin wants us to leave immediately." It had not taken long for the two to pack all their things necessary for the trip, but for some reason the Amrylin had wanted them to leave covertly under the cover of darkness. When she had said no one was to know of this she had meant it. Not even their swords master had heard of their mission.
"Why do you think the Amrylin is keeping this whole thing under wraps?" Julile asked.
"I assume to stop panic. The Aes Sedai have a bad enough reputation as it is. They don't need rumors of novices disappearing from the tower spreading."
"I suppose." Replied Julile, seemingly content with that answer.

Adir placed the last saddle bag across his horse and mounted up.
"So where do we ride?" Julile asked. Adir pulled the parchment from his belt and opened it.
"The supposed direction of flight was west, so we might as well head that way in hopes of picking up a trail of something, whether that be the novice or worse." Julile mounted and crossed the stable, bringing his horse in beside Adir's. The two looked at each other and rode out into the darkness.

[I]OOC: Again, sorry that took so long. I'll try to make the posts more frequent and shorter.[/I][/SIZE]
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  • 2 weeks later...
Julile booted his horse, and was off into the darkness. A grey Stallion, the horse had been his family since he was a young boy. Julile smiled to himself at the rush of memories ? he had been so young when he saw grey horse for the first time, that he had pointed at it and shouted ?Grey?. Grey had been his name ever since.

The Tower grounds were shrouded in mist ? an ominous beginning to a journey if Julile had ever heard of one. When he and Adir made it to the main gate, they were stopped by a pair of guards. They wore typical Tar Valon amour, and both held spears. One was tall, and had a black eye. The other was shorter and stockier. ?Where do you think you?re going?? the short one asked, already visibly itching for a fight. Julile knew there they couldn?t tell the men of their mission, but he hadn?t thought ahead as to making a cover story. Adir dismounted from his horse and strode towards the guards.

?We?re on our way into town, to see my sister. She?s staying at an inn, and I desperately need to see her.? Adir?s voice held as little compassion as his stone-like face portrayed. His eyes held a dangerous glint. When the guard looked questioningly towards his sword, Adir simply added ?I am Gaidin ? as is he? he finished, pointing towards Julile.

?Then what?s with the full saddle bags, eh?? the taller man moved forward, eyeing their full saddlebags suspiciously. [I]For the love the ?[/I] Julile?s thoughts were quickly interrupted by Adir, who unsheathed his sword in a heartbeat and struck at both guards. The two men crumpled before they could raise the alarm. Julile?s heartbeat quickly returned to normal, and the surprised look faded from his face ? Adir had simply struck them both across the head with the hilt of his sword, which was far from an easy task. He moved forward quickly, unbolting the gate, and then ran back to his horse.

?When these two are found, they?ll spread the word of two ?Gaidin? who tried to escape? At the very least, we?ll have given the Amyrlin Seat scapegoats.? Adir looked solemn, but his statement confused Julile.

?What do you mean by that??

?The murders from last night will soon become common knowledge ? we?ll be blamed.? And with that, he booted his horse outside of the Tower grounds. Julile sat on his horse in complete shock, his jaw opened wide. [I]How in the Light can that man remain so calm?[/I] Fearing they would be seen, he booted Grey after him.

The two rode quickly though the streets, not quite fast enough to be considered racing through, but much more quickly then cantering. Julile had no intention of being caught by any guards on night watch duty, so he made sure not to lose the pace. The lights in many inn common rooms remained lit, and while they rode through the city, he could hear laughter eerily rolling out of the buildings they passed ? whether they were laughing at their entertainment, or the two, cloaked men riding through the city, Julile could not tell.

Their eventual exit from the city was much easier than that of the White Tower. The guards at the Western gate asked a few simple questions ? they?re names, they?re destinations ? and then let them pass. Julile felt a rush of relief as Tar Valon became a thing of the past, and the road ahead became his future. Once outside of the city, the two men didn?t care who saw them, and booted their horses to full speed. It felt good to be out riding again ? despite feeling fairly out of practice, Julile had forgotten how much he loved to ride. One look at Adir silenced his thoughts completely ? the man rode his horse with the utmost skill of a man who spent his life in the saddle. Julile focused on the road ahead.

The two men continued to travel west along the main road throughout the night, and didn?t stop until the next night. Throughout the day, they met a few men, all of which were heading towards Tar Valon. Most were farmers, going to sell their crops. One man looked like a young noble who was most likely on his way to the White Tower to see if the Aes Sedai would help with some title-grab or land dispute ? [I]Foolish nobles? [/I] Julile had thought to himself with a frown. When night began to fall, the horses, thoroughly exhausted, finally gave out. Unable to move another step, Adir and Julile dismounted. ?Guess we?ll be stopping here for the night?? Julile asked.

?Mhm? Adir nodded. ?I?ll take care of the horses if you get a fire started.?

?Sure? Julile replied. He was too hungry and tired to care much. Gathering sticks and dry leaves and grass, he unpacked his flint and tinder and struck them together, bathing the foliage in a rain of sparks. Within minutes he had a roaring fire, and was already beginning to unpack their dinner of bread and cheese. It had been a long ride, but the meal, despite however measly it may have seemed, made it almost seem worth it.
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[SIZE="1"]Adir woke to the soft sounds of the birds the following morning. He had slept surprisingly well considering his bed was no more than a soft patch of grass. Sitting up and leaning on his forearm, Adir looked over to where Julile had been sleeping but was surprised to find he was not there. He quickly ruled out any negative possibilities for his absence, knowing that had any trouble come to Julile he would have woken Adir purposefully, or otherwise. Assuming Julile was hunting and seeing no reason to panic Adir put his hands behind his head, brushing his long dark hair and laying back to look at the morning clouds through the leafage of the tall trees.

[I]Why in the name of the Light did I do that?[/I] he thought to himself as he replayed the scenario between himself and the Tower Guards again in his mind.
[I]More importantly, how did I do it?[/I] He could see it clearly, he had only just begun speaking with the guards and already he had formulated what actions he was to take. Time had seemed to slow to a crawl when he unsheathed his sword. He knew that he was not about to kill the guards but to even strike them would earn him a severe punishment. If he were to strike them on their bronze helmets the blows would be rendered ineffective, but if he were to strike too low he would break their spines, killing them instantly. Striking them as high as he could without hitting their helmets, Adir brought both the guards to the ground on one swift movement.

"I thought you'd be up by now from the way you were tossing in your sleep." Julile stepped into the little clearing they had designated as their camp site, startling Adir back to reality. Adir cursed himself for letting his mind wander. He shouldn't have let Julile sneak up on him like that, especially when he wasn't trying to. "How long have you been up?" Adir asked, sitting up and strapping on his sword belt.

He never slept with his sword on as he had always found it difficult to find a comfortable position, and besides, he'd never be able to unsheathe it as quickly as he would need to in a dire situation. Although he kept the sword by his side, his father's dagger was always at hand, hidden up the right sleeve of his cloak. He had created a device made of leather to strap the dagger to his wrist, and the right amount of pressure would push the dagger slightly out of his cloak, hilt first. This had come in handy more than once in his lifetime but was useless on those hot days when he was forced to wear clothing without sleeves.

Standing now, Adir noticed that Julile had not brought anything back from his "journey".
"Where were you? I see you've brought nothing back with you." Julile straightened and stopped tending to the fire which had all but died. Taking a bite out of the apple he had brought back with him he replied,
"Well I had been woken by your rambling throughout the night so I decided to explore our surroundings." Julile walked over to where Adir was sitting and dropped the apple he had been eating. [I]That was not like Julile...[/I] Though he had not known Julile long, he did know that he had just as quick of reflexes as he and would never drop something so clumsily. Julile knelt down to pick up the apple that had rolled near to Adir and quickly whispering under his breath just loud enough for him to hear,
"We're being watched. There are at least four." Instantly all Adir's instincts and senses were elevated. "They don't know we know. Act casual." Julile stood up and laughed "This is the only one I could find that had no worm in it and now its covered in Light knows what." Adir put on his best fake smile and laughed with Julile, making a remark of how he would eat anything regardless of what was on or in it. Standing up and trying to look as calm as possible Adir readied Selis, trying desperately to find where the watchers were hidden. He wanted to inquire more but knew that Julile would tell him when he felt it safe.

"Well lets be off." He said, and they both mounted their horses. Adir was thankful they had not camped too far from the road. It would give them enough distance to see their enemy coming - if they were enemies- but they would unfortunately still be within bow shot of the trees. The two young warders reached the road, free of the ears of the forest. Adir hoped Julile would elaborate on what had happened.

"Well I woke and decided to go to the stream we saw on our way to the camp site. But came across tracks made by boots quite recently. I believe they've been following since we left the tower. I'm not sure what or who they are but I'll bet my sword they aren't friendly." Adir kept his eyes forward, searching his peripheral while Julile explained.
"At least we can rule out the possibility of Trollocs or some other beast. I'm assuming they were the standard sized boots for a male?" Adir asked, finally looking to Julile on his right.
"Yes. We can be certain we are dealing with humans. I'm not positive of their numbers but I guess around four from the number and placement of the foot prints. So what do you say we do?"
"I believe we have the element of surprise on our side, contrary to their beliefs. We should continue this act of ignorance and lure them in. We will take turns keeping watch at night, but not to let them know we are watching."
"And how are we to do that?" Julile asked,
"I have this herb I received as a gift from a novice I had given some... assistance to. It will keep a man up through all hours of the night." Julile smiled as Adir said this, allowing himself to grin back.
"And you're sure this will work?"
"Tried and tested. Take my word for it. It works." They both laughed at this and continued down the road at a steady pace, ready for whatever they might encounter that night.[/SIZE]
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[I]Light?I swear, if we get through this, I?ll become a better person, or something[/I]. Julile kept Grey moving straight, never once looking behind him at the eyes he felt boring into the back of his head. His horse bow was close at hand, and he knew that he could draw and fire back, but he knew that even if he got lucky and hit his mark, any of the others would finish him just as quickly ? there was nothing to do now, but go along with it.

The road had long since become nothing more than a dirt path. The trees on either side of the path were far from sparse, but Julile could tell that they were about to enter a forest. Oddly enough, the path continued through the dense trees. [I]Strange? if someone took the time to create this path, then it must lead to a wagon road of some sort. Julile spared a sidelong glance at Adir, and noticed the man fumbling with something up his right shirtsleeve. ?What?s that you?re toying with?? Julile asked, motioning with his eyes towards Adir?s shirtsleeve.

?It?s nothing much? Adir replied, his concentration on the road ahead unbroken. ?I have a dagger hidden there in case we?re attacked. It may come in useful soon.? For the first time since Julile had met the man, he looked worried. Letting out an audible sigh, he spoke once again. ?Are you sure there are only four of them?? he asked gravely. Julile nodded.

?Yes, unless more joined them. There four distinct sets of footprints. So long as no one else bolstered their ranks, we have only four to worry about.? Julile mustered a small smile. ?That?s only two each ? we should be just fine at those odds?. Adir laughed, and instantly made Julile feel better.

The forest was as dense as Julile had thought, and he was already beginning to formulate a plan. The two men road in silence for hours, but when darkness began to fall, Julile spoke. ?This looks like as good a place as any to make camp,? he said, indicating with his eyes for Adir to trust him. Adir gave a slight nod, and dismounted. ?If you tend to the horses and see to the fire, I?ll see if I can find us a proper meal for tonight.? Without waiting for his answer, he checked to make sure his sword belt was tightly strapped, grabbed his horse bow and quiver, and strode off into the night.

The forest had grown dark quickly, but Julile knew that sticking to the shadows was just as important now as it would have been in full daylight. He notched an arrow to his bowstring, and continued to stride forward, careful not step on any twigs. He heard a small branch snap fifty paces behind, followed by a curse from a voice too deep to be Adir?s. [I]Now or never?[/I] Julile pulled back on the bowstring, and fired into the darkness ahead of him. Letting a small victory sound emit from his mouth, he ran forward to collect his ?kill?. Veering off of his path suddenly, he found a tree to hide behind. Notching a second arrow to his string he waited, but within moments, he heard what he had been waiting for.

Footsteps.

Coming closer

Then voices.

?I?m telling you he went this way?? the man who had cursed before stepped out into plain sight. A second man stepped out with him, looking more than slightly angry.

?I?m telling you, you bloody lump, he didn?t shoot at anything ? I?ve got eyes like a hawk?.

?Then where?d he--?? the man?s last words were cut off but a gargled noise as Julile?s arrow pierced his throat. Without thinking, he notched another arrow, and drew just as the second man was beginning to turn. Before he even had a chance to yell, Julile?s arrow took him through the eye.

His heart beating like a drum, Julile waited for sign of the third and fourth assassins? but they never came. [I]Where in the Light?[/I] Julile suddenly realized exactly where the other two men were. Dropping his bow, he drew his sword and began running back towards the light from Adir?s fire, letting off a yell as loud as he could.

?ADIR, ARM YOURSELF ? ASSASSINS!?
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  • 2 weeks later...
[SIZE="1"]"If you tend to the horses and see to the fire, I?ll see if I can find us a proper meal for tonight.?

Before Adir could even formulate a response, Julile was engulfed by the darkness of the forest. [I]Bloody fool! [/I] Adir thought as he pretended to unsaddle the horses. [I]Why in the name of the light would he have us split up? Perhaps to get two of them to follow him? No, four of them could just as easily go after one and kill the other later.[/I] Adir tried not to let his emotions show on his face although he could feel himself getting redder by the second. Unstrapping the water flask from his intricately worked saddle, he poured the contents into a small brass kettle which he put on the fire. Adir walked back to his horse and grabbed a thick leather glove from his saddlebag and fastened it tightly on his left hand. Adir walked over to the fire and stared into the flames, feeling the heat on his face and legs. The water was almost at a boil.

The sound of soft footsteps came from ahead. Adir raised his eyes but made sure to keep his head steady. Unfortunately he was fire blind and could see nothing. Then there were footsteps behind him. It took all the courage - or stupidity- Adir could muster not to turn around instantly. [I]There are at least two...[/I] Adir gave himself time to secretly search his surroundings. If another opponent came into to the equation Adir's advantage would be seriously weakened.

Ever since Adir had picked up his sword and began training, he had always found the best way to enter combat was with a formulated plan of his opponents actions. If one knows the enemies actions before the enemy does there is less emphasis placed on brute strength and numbers. The only problem was if Adir was to miscalculate some part of the equation; like another enemy for instance.

Although Adir was facing the now high flames of the fire he had created, he kept his eyes shut, as to prevent fire blindness. Now confident in his counting it was time to put the plan into action. Adir stood up and walked over to his white stallion Selis. He then proceeded to unbuckle his sword belt and put strap it around the horn of his saddle. [I]This is quite the risk Adir[/I], he thought to himself, [I]you'd better hope this works.[/I] After tightening the belt to its limit Adir headed back to the fire and sat down with his back to where he guessed the second man was. He could hear the water boiling in the bass kettle. Adir tightened the glove on his left hand and waited.
Footsteps. Adir was surprised to find himself smiling, as expected,the man saw him remove his sword and saw the opportunity to strike, thinking he could sneak up behind him. Any man would do the same, Adir's sword was ten feet away from him, to the common eye, he had no chance.

The man came closer and closer, Adir could hear the slow breathing the man was so desperately trying to hide. [I]About six feet...[/I] The man was preparing to lunge, now was the time. Adir grabbed the handle of the kettle with his right hand, quickly spinning on his knee to the right. Supporting the bottom of the kettle with his left hand, Adir made a throwing motion with the kettle, pulling it back before it could reach its apex, unleashing a burst of boiling water on his attackers face. The man leaped back, dropping his weapon and clutching his face with his hands. Adir had no time to see the mans face. Before the attacker's weapon had hit the ground Adir's dagger was through his throat. Adir twisted his dagger and removed it from the mans throat, spinning and letting the man fall to his knees, his hands still covering his scalded face. Adir searched for the other man he had expected to see but he was not there. He heard distant shouting and heard a reply from the nearby trees. The other man who had been hunting him ran down the path Julile had taken earlier, either help his comrades, or more likely, run away. Undoing the leather glove that had protected his hands from the same fate as the man's face, he dropped the kettle and stood.

Adir ran to Selis and mounted the beast in one swift movement. [I]This is going better than could have been expected.[/I] He turned the beast around and set him into a gallop in pursuit of the man who no doubt thought he could find safety in numbers. Adir followed a winding path, ducking quickly, just barely missing low hanging branches. He could see the man ahead. He had stopped moving and had drawn a bow, which was aimed directly at Julile who seemed unaware of man. Before he had a chance to release his bowstring, Adir had unsheathed his sword and cleaved the back of the man's head down the center. Adir rode past him, letting his sword slide from the crevice it had made with ease. The shape of the blade was perfect for combat on horseback, being able to cleave, stab, run through and remove from flesh. Julile turned to his direction and yelled ?ADIR, ARM YOURSELF ? ASSASSINS!? "A little late for that my friend." Adir said smiling, leading his stallion over to where Julile stood. He could see the relief in Julile's eyes. Scanning the area Adir saw that Julile had made short work of the two men that had followed him. His skill as a marksman was evident, cleanly killing both men quickly and efficiently with fatal shots to the neck.

[CENTER]~[/CENTER]

"I think you're wrong my friend." Julile looked up from the rabbit leg he was eating, with a very puzzled look at Adir.
"Wrong about what?" He asked. Adir took a swig of mead and looked through the fire at Julile.
"They weren't assassins. Hired men yes, but not contract killers."
"And how do you know this?" Julile asked, setting ripping a piece of the meat with his teeth.
"We don't have the luxury of assassins hunting us." They both laughed at this, instantly feeling better of what they had just done.
"Plus no real assassin would make the mistakes that these men made. I'm sure they were just a bunch of drunkards from a nearby village. But then again can we even be sure they were sent specifically to kill us. They could have been bandits or part of a local gang."
"I doubt it," Julile said as he laid back against his rucksack, "They wouldn't have followed us for as long as they did just to steal the few valuables we have on us. Besides, there were many more opportune times to steal from us nearer to the road. Why else would they wait till we were farther from the road? They didn't want anyone to hear our screams." Although he could not see it, Adir knew Julile was smiling at that last bit of irony.
"So I guess the only questions left are who's trying to kill us and why." Julile said in a voice riddled with tiredness.
"Well I'd wager its something to do with the Amrylin and our mission." Adir said, taking another swig of mead and mentally preparing himself to keep the first watch. "This obviously means someone's watching us and expects us to be dead. Although I doubt we can convince them we're dead, we may be able to disguise ourselves. There are some plants back home that if you mix them with boiling water they create a sort of dye. Perhaps we could find some here." Julile murmured something that sounded like an agreement. Adir looked out into the darkness, and longed for his chance at sleep.

[I]Of one thing I'm certain,[/I] he thought to himself, [I]this runs much deeper than a runaway novice.

[/I][/SIZE]
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