Past and Present. ---&RPAward

...for in character discussions, contributions and Wheel of Time themed stories.
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Past and Present. ---&RPAward

Post by Aira » Fri Dec 01, 2023 8:19 pm

Korsik edit 18 Dec 2023
Korsik edit 21 Feb 2024(part 4 and 5)

1-8 qps, depending on length and quality

+1 qps each post as part of series

Part 1: 6 qps
Part 2: 7 qps
Part 3: 5 qps
part 4: 6qps
part 5: 7qps

21 qps total


I just realized that I've been posting Aira's rp stuff in her bio and not on here. Having just finished another installment, I figured I'd post here.

Part 1: the Mill.

'Heave! Heave! Heave!' the foreman called out, as the massive waterwheel was lifted from its place by the stream where it had been constructed. Four draught horses dug in their hooves and leaned into their harnesses, a chain leading from the swingle trees behind them and through a pulley that sat on the edge of a thick wooden beam. A team of two dozen men were also pulling on the chain, while others pulled on ropes to move the wheel sideways until the nave and its bearings hovered above the stone wall that lined the dammed-off stream.

'Hold!' the foreman called and the teamsters steadied the horses. Some of the workmen inspected the position of the wheel and one nodded at the foreman. 'Push!' The horses inched backwards. The men on the chains strained to cushion the sudden change in direction. Aira stood at a safe distance, but she could see the massive wooden wheel creep downwards, until it landed onto its supports with a thud. The chains slackened, the men cheered and Aira cheered with them. She may have been raised to Baroness by the King, she still felt like a commoner at heart. And this was an achievement worthy of celebration, in the largely deserted eastern reaches of Cairhien.

She walked up to Larry and clapped his shoulder. Larry nodded. When they had both ridden out to her new estates and had inspected the lands, they had both been shocked by the desolation. During their service to King Galldrian, they had seen most of Cairhien, but their patrols had frequently taken them through the more populated regions. This close to the Spine, villages, farms, vinyards had been abandoned and were largely overgrown. The people who had lived here, prior to the Aiel War, had been too afraid to move back. Most of them now lived in the Foregate, much to some higher borns' chagrin. It had taken quite the sum to bring in the crew to have them build this water-sawmill. Water aplenty, this close to the Spine. And timber as well, although there was ever a need for replanting what was cut down.

Now that the waterwheel had been secured into place, pints where handed out for a job well done. Soon, workers would start erecting the building that would become the sawmill. A wagon with large wooden cogs stood ready on the cobblestone floor that had been laid before. In a matter of weeks, the mill would be operational and they could start rebuilding. First, some of the village homes and farms. Her manor, if you could call it that, could wait. In her years as a soldier, she had become used to roughing it.


A few weeks later, Aira was at the mill again. A structure had been erected over the cobblestone floor, with the side walls covered with planks. A peaked roof would keep the timber dry. All sorts of cogs and gears had been set up, as well as a pulley system to lift and move the wood. Aira was looking around with interest, until a voice called out. 'Lady Aira, to you the honor of pulling this lever and activating this mill,' said the foreman. Aira reached out, put her hand on the cool metal and looked around her, at all the faces of the workers, farmers and villagers surrounding her. 'For Cairhien!' she boomed and she pulled the lever. The brake was released and the gears connected. Thudding, stomping and creaking, the mill came to life. The wheel turned in the stream, driving the shaft and a plethora of gears, culminating in a saw that moved up and down. The men had prepared a stripped treetrunk and the machine was now cutting hungrily through the pinewood, spreading a pleasant smell. The crowd cheered.

Amid the festivities following the opening of the mill, Aira stood in the sawmill, hearing the familiar thudding and clanking and she was instantly brought back to the sawmill where she was born. In western Murandy, a good distance south of the road from Remen, her parents had owned a sawmill. She and her brothers had grown up carefree; there had not been trollocs, or darkfriends, male channelers, nor Aes Sedai. It had been an uneventful childhood. She had memories of the smell of wood, sawdust forming motes in shafts of light and the rhythm of the sounds emanating from the mill. Of swimming in the millpond, clambering across stacked, felled trunks and playing hide and seek in the woodland surrounding the mill.

Her mother would call from the backdoor, wiping her hands on the narrow, brightly colored apron, announcing that dinner was ready. The children would come running, their faces dirty, their hair a mess and spots of sticky resin on their clothes. Her mother would shake her head and tell her that she was as bad as the boys. Aira smiled.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned to find Larry there. They shared a smile, before he said 'They want you at the table, for the speech.' Aira sighed. The downside of being raised into nobility: these people wagged their tongues at any and every occasion. Story of her life.

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Re: Past and Present.

Post by Aira » Fri Dec 01, 2023 8:20 pm

Part 2: Entering the City.

A faint breeze came down the Spine of the World, causing the stalks in the wheat fields to weave and rustle. Aira was glad to see the land being used. Cairhien was struggling to support itself, even all these years after the Aiel War. Farmlands had been abandoned and grain had to be imported from Tear. At least there were some efforts underway to use the land again.

The hours passed quickly as they rode towards Cairhien and the landscape slowly changed. Small villages surrounded by farms with a few crops and some livestock gave way to larger estates. Vinyards became more frequent, as did traffic. Her con of a goat clutching two lightning bolts rose above her back, ensuring that anyone who saw her and Larry riding up gave way to them. Even if this deference made her uncomforable, it definitely made travel faster. She had loved designing her coat of arms. The goat signified practical wisdom and solving conflicts through diplomacy, while the lightning bolts referred to her past as a Child of the Light.

They rode on, letting the horses alternate between a walk and a trot, allowing them to catch their breath in between. Even if her horse would stay stabled in Cairhien for a few days, it was no use overexerting him on the ride in. Not to mention, you never knew what might happen and a fresh horse was better than an exhausted one. They topped a hill and Cairhien came into sight, its topless towers rising in a regular pattern like slender pinnacles, their jagged tops unfinished. One day, their steep, cone shaped roofs would be decorated with plated gold, turning the city into the Hill of the Golden Dawn once again.

The tilled fields gave way to rickety buildings as Aira entered the Foregate. Before long, they were riding across a broad, unpaved road that lead towards the Dragonwall Gate. Tall buildings lining the streets reflected the general din of the lively Foregate. The people from the Foregate wore bright clothes and had much less inhibitions than the people in the city proper did. Goodwives hung from windows, carrying conversations with eachother and people on the street below. The contents of a chamberpot emptied on the second floor narrowly missed a man on the side of the road.

Aira's thoughts drifted to another time she entered a city. She had been a few weeks shy of turning eighteen when she left her parents' sawmill. Her father had had an accident and she had gone to Lugard to get a job and contribute to the family income. Lugard. It had seemed the grandest city she had ever seen. Of course, it had also been the only city she had ever seen.

It seemed grand, until she learned of the dirty underbelly of the place. Aira smirked. She had finally found work as a tavern maid, starting out shy and easily intimidated, but the men's reactions quickly made her drop her reservations about quipping right back. Eventually, one such a man attracted her eye and that had been the start of a romance.

'Well,' she thought to herself, 'he had turned out to be a pig.' All had seemed well, but in hindsight he had tried groom her for a less than honorable form of employment. Even after all those years, she fumed quietly. When the proposition came, she had been absolutely enraged, to the point of her shouting admonishments, utterly embarassing him and attracting a crowd. A patrol of the Children had arrived, parting the crowd like a knife slicing through silk. Upon discerning what was going on, the officer present decided that her suitor was a threat to the citizens' morals and they tried to arrest him, but the sorry excuse for a man had bolted. When she had made a move to chase the pig of man, the Child officer had stopped her.

They reached the Dragonwall Gate and passed the end of a line of wagons and carriages that were waiting to enter the city. One of the officers at the gate made a note in a ledger when foreigners entered the city and asked them to return in twenty-four hours to let the guard know which inn they were staying at. Aira smiled. Not much had changed since her younger years. A wariness of foreigners was nothing new. Some, like Lieutenant Tavolin spoke with contempt about the Foregaters being corrupted by outland ways. It had not been any different when she first came to Cairhien, many years ago.

Aira and Larry nodded at the gateguards. Given her rank, Aira did not have to, but in her experience even the lower ranks wanted to be seen. Even though Cairhienin would read things into it that she never intended, such small things could matter in the future. The streets of Cairhien proper were much quieter than those of the Foregate. Some thoroughfares were busy, with merchant wagons, carriages and carts, but in here, she could hear the birds chirrup in the trees.

They rode up to the Palace Gates and handed their horses over to a pair of grooms. Aira walked straight towards a narrow archway, which lead to a maze of passages and ultimately, the barracks of the guard. Before long, the familiar sounds and scents of soldiers surrounded her. Laughter, dice, ale, sweat. It had been a long time since she had first spent time among soldiers. The Children had taken her to her camp to lay accusations at the Lugarder pig and she had been given a cot in a tent to sleep at. The day after, the man commanding them had asked her to deliver some letters, saying she could do so more inconspicuously than any of his men could. She spent a few days doing errands when the commanding officer had discovered she had a fine pen hand and him being less than enthused about all the writing, started dictating contents of letters to her.

One day, after the Children had rode north, into the southern reaches of Andor, she was delivering a letter a local minor noble. A patrol of young Andoran soldiers had noticed her and started jeering at her for being Murandian and surely a spy, or out to steal some sheep. She had continued walking and ignored them, but they had followed her. She had no memory of how it started, but she sure knew how it had ended - her lying on the ground, battered, bruised and beaten, more dead than alive.

She felt a hand grabbing her arm and she winced. The smells of sweat and sounds had made her remember. A jovial lord laughed drunkenly, his words slurred and talking about how pretty she looked. She excused herself, muttering 'Men and their drinks! Story of my life.'. At least the young commanding officer of the Children had been kind. Overcome with guilt, since she had been on one of his errands, he had let her stay with the Children until her wounds had healed, continuing her work as a scribe when she could. Eventually, the Children had reached Cairhien for some diplomatic mission or another. Aira had roamed the library. What a magnificent place. Her stay in Cairhien back then had been among the happiest periods in her life and the reason why she had returned, after she left the Children.

She turned into a room in the barracks, which was empty, save for one stout man. She greeted him before asking 'Donal, is your brother still in the blacksmithing business? I'm going to need some plows and harrows and such.'

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Re: Past and Present.

Post by Aira » Fri Dec 01, 2023 8:22 pm

Part 3: Out on the Field.

Aira knew nothing about farming, except the things she had read in books in the Great Library of Cairhien. However, in the fields surrounding the village near her small estate, she could still be of help. She knew horses and if they were plowing, harrowing or rolling, she could at least manage the draft horses. There wasn't much time left before winter would come, and this close to the Spine of the World, winter would be coming soon. They had to get the crops in if they were going to have a harvest next year.

'Come on boy,' the plowman called, clicking his tongue and slapping the reins on the horses' backs, trying to get them to pull free a plow that had dug itself into the stubborn soil. Aira slid down from her perch on the stacked stone wall that surrounded the field and walked to the nearest horse, grabbing it by the bit. 'Come on then!' Aira pulled on the bit. The horses leaned into their collars, putting their weight into it. The plow didn't budge. 'Probably a rock,' the farmer said. She helped back the horses up and they went around the spot, continuing with their plowing further on. As the plow moved on, a few of the men who sat to the side approached the spot with some shovels and they started digging, seeing if they could expose this rock. Aira joined in and soon, she was sweating in her linen shirt.

'Block!' the voice called. 'Deflect! Strike! Mind your footwork! Defensive stance!' the white cloaked swordmaster called, as she and a few other Child of Light recruits worked the forms, lined up in several neat rows in the courtyard of the Fortress of Light. Sweat was beading on their skins in the hot Amadician sun. The memory washed over her as she performed rotework again. After her stay in Cairhien, the young commanding officer she had joined up with in Lugard had been recalled to Amador and she had joined him, since she had nowhere else to go. For a time, she had continued her scribing duties, serving the Council of the Anointed with less sensitive reports and missives. Upon seeing how orderly the Children were, how discipined, how skilled, how safe Amador was, she had enlisted. She wanted to feel safe, never afraid again, even if a patrol of Andorans jeered at her. It had seemed the Children offered that, or a way towards that.

First they had trained with a poleaxe, later they had proceeded to swords and other weapons. Those with a skill in archery or the use of a crossbow received training in that as well, although she wasn't counted among those. Weapons training for recruits was twice a day - it required time to build the strength and precision to master a weapon, to stop overthinking one's every move, to live in the moment. They learned how to take care of their weapons and armor, to ride and manoeuver their mounts with just their legs. Eventually, they learned to combine all their acquired skills, using weapons on horseback, riding in close formation and even sparring on horseback. Then, they were sent out with a legion, to spread the Light and root out the Dark wherever they found it.

*THUNK* The blade of her shovel hit something hard. The rock. She and the men dug around the offending obstacle and found it was easily the size of a fat pig. They stood back to discuss what to do. For a moment she considered buying fireworks, but that would be expensive, and it might not even yield the result they were after. In the end, the best solution was to expose the bottom of the rock and maneouver it onto a stone boat, then slide it across the field to its new resting place. They switched to pickaxes to chip away at the soil underneath the rock. Pickaxe, poleaxe, both required precision. And one good thing about her lands mostly being untended was that there was little work to do in terms of maintaining the crops and fields, so there were hands to spare.

They worked for hours, picking away at the soil and finally attempting to wedge a pole underneath to wriggle the rock free from its earthen prison. She lost herself in the rhythm of the work, just as she had back when she had trained with the Children. There was something very calming about physical labor like this, but she was grateful it wasn't an every day occurrence for her. She could feel her muscles strain and she would surely be sore tonight and tomorrow.

She led the horse team by the bit as they pulled the stone boat up the earthen ramp they had excavated and out to the side of the field, turning the horses across the road so the sled would be sitting alongside it. They would unload the rock tomorrow. After handing the reins to the young man who would stable them, she let out a long sigh. Her hair was sitting slick and matted on her scalp now and as darkness fell, the wind coming down from the mountains was cold on her sweaty skin as she wished everyone goodnight and walked to the derelict manor. As she entered the kitchen, her maid, who was more maid, serving woman and cook in one, gave her one look as she put down a small plate with some bread and cheese on the table and said 'Good thing I've been heating up water for a hot bath ma'am. You look a sight.' Not long after, she let herself sink into the hot water of the wooden tub, just sat there soaking for the longest time, dozing off. 'You look a sight,' Aira repeated. 'Story of my life.'

*TOODOO!* A horn sounded. They had formed neat rows on their horses, the Children were a cavalry after all. The horses stepped forward upon the urging of their riders. Somewhere, a bit jingled. Knee to knee, they trotted abreast until they crested the low hill, picking up speed and quickening into a gallop as they descended the slope. Another blast of the horn, sounding the charge. The horses leapt forward, their nostrils flared, their necks stretching out and their manes streaming out behind them. Aira could see down the line as it crossed the valley.

A boom sounded as the ground exploded underneath the first few ranks on her right, followed by horrifying screams of dying and injured horses. The clash of the din as they met the Seanchan infantry, with sounds of metal clashing against metal, shouts, groans, the ground turning to mud underneath their feet. Fireballs erupting between them whenever a few Children were together. Vividly, the memory of planting an axe in the neck of a damane came to her. That had turned the tide of the battle, resulting in a sound defeat of the Seanchan, many of whom were taken prisoner.

After the battle, they went across the field, killing any horses that were too injured to make it. She remembered gore and mangled limbs. Soldiers who had soiled themselves as they suffered and died. Some of their faces calm and peaceful, others full of fear. She had sat with dying Children, praying with them as they passed into the arms of the Creator.

As the Legion took stock of how much losses they had suffered and the wounded began their long journey towards healing, Aira administered potions, dressed wounds, stitched up gashes and dabbed fevered foreheads. Not all of the wounded made it, but each and every Child was buried with honors and sent towards the Creator accompanied by prayer. She did not remember when, days blurred together due to fatigue and an endless amount of work, but one evening, they had a small celebration. Considering the Children's ascetic values and generally dour views on anything fun and festive, this was a special occasion. They celebrated their victory over the darkfriend Seanchan and Aira, having slain the accursed witch, had been celebrated. Child Bert, Bruc, Daal, Lochaber, Sturm and Velaz had embraced her and they had sang, drank and celebrated together. Her brothers in the Light. She would've ridden to face the Dark One with those men. Together.

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Re: Past and Present. ---&RPAward

Post by Aira » Sat Feb 03, 2024 3:49 pm

Part 4: A Village Wedding.

Aira pulled the laces of her boots tight and got up from her seat, the white of her shift and stockings contrasting with her Murandian skin. She put on her finest corset and pulled the strings so that it cupped her torso nicely. She was going to be dancing, after all. She stepped into the first skirt and tied it into place with strings. Then came the next, followed by the next. All aimed to protect the expensive fabric of the outer garments from sweat and greasy skin and of course to create nice, swishing skirts. Finally came her dress, in a deep green silk that went well with her waves of brown hair. While she had a maid at the manor, Sera, she did not usually need her to get dressed and she had sent her home to get changed for the feast herself.

'Didn't think of the buttons, did you, you flaming bloody fool!' she muttered at herself. She tried and got a few of the top and bottom ones done, but she was never going to succeed buttoning up the entire bodice of the dress.

'Larry?' she called. After the sound of boots in the corridor, the door swung open, revealing a dashing looking Larry, in the deep blue that went so well with his light hair.

'My lady called?' he said, with an elaborate flourish, worthy of the most famous court bard, causing Aira to erupt into laughter. 'Do up my buttons, will you?' she asked, pulling her hair over her shoulder and turning her back towards him. Not long after, Larry was quietly cursing the plethora of small silk covered buttons which marched up her back.

'At least men's shirts have the buttons in front,' he muttered. 'Now I understand the romance books where the man rips the buttons off the woman's dress.'

'You read romance books?' Aira asked, so stunned she turned.

'Bloody ashes, stand still woman, I almost had that pesky little bastard through the loop,' he said, while fumbling with a button. 'Yes, I have read romance books. Light knows you and Bruc kept me waiting often enough while we were supposed to be on patrol.'

Aira felt her cheeks flush, convinced she turned as red as a radish. Larry forcibly turned her to face away from him and continued 'In all seriousness, they're a good source for jokes with the other soldiers.' She felt a slap on her behind as he proudly announced 'Done!', followed by a pensive 'I suppose you're going to need my help to get out of that tonight too.'

Aira turned and kissed him on the cheek and then winked and said 'Larry Barthold, there's nothing I look forward to more.' Then she looked down to his belt, grunted and undid it before cinching it a bit more tightly. 'There,' she said, patting Larry's chest, before moving out of the room. Before long she was muttering as she held up her skirts, guessing where the steps on the stairs were, proclaiming how much she disliked bulky skirts.

The barn was filled to the brim with people from the estate, the village nearby as well as surrounding farms. The wind howled every time the door was opened. Everyone was in their feastday best and they had all gathered in a circle around two young people and the wisdom, who was performing the wedding ceremony. She joined the hands of the young couple and wrapped a string of ivy around their hands, to signify an eternal bond. After the young couple kissed, festivities broke loose, with a flute and harp being played and someone setting to carving up the roasted pig Aira had donated for the occasion.

Aira waited for the couple's relatives and friends to congratulate them, then approached the two, who were positively beaming with joy. She clasped both their hands and wished them health and prosperity, then pressed a small purse with a few gold coins into the bride's palm. She was a sensible girl, she'd make sure it would be spent wisely.

For a while, Aira sat down and enjoyed some pork and wine, a crisp Cairhienin white, of course. She noted with satisfaction that her men were quite popular with the girls and unwed women. She only had six whose loyalty she didn't doubt. Some older, some younger, most battle scarred and all of them with a good head on their shoulders. Most stayed around the estate, keeping it safe from brigands and other vermin. A tap on her shoulder revealed Larry, who asked her to dance. As they moved into the cleared center of the barn, she put her arm on his shoulder and after a moment of gauging the beat, he set them off to dance on 'Fluff the Feathers'.

Not much later, Aira stood near an open side door of the barn, waving cool air at her face that had become flushed from dancing. She glimpsed a young couple near another building, kissing passionately. She turned away to face the festivities inside, remembering Larry's comment. Being pulled into an empty corridor for stolen kisses. Visiting a deserted house on patrol to meet in secret. She remembered the butterflies, feeling she could go without sleep for nights on end and being fresh enough to ride into battle despite the lack of sleep. She had never fully prescribed to the Way of the Light, violating a lot of the tenets of the Children. She had drank, she had cursed, she had danced, she had loved. It had been the beginning of the end, story of her life.

Larry stomped to his bedroom in a wine-fueled daze and removed his boots, followed by his shirt. 'So easy, buttons on the front,' he muttered, before pouring water from a pitcher into the washstand. He remembered when he had first met Aira. It had been well over a decade ago, when he still went by Larald and only capable of nurturing a small amount of fuzz on his upper lip. He had only just joined the Children, as all men in his family did, and had been assigned to the Legion of Child Ellis'era as they rode to Murandy and beyond. Aira had had a few years on him and had been a messenger for the Under-Lieutenant when one day she was brought in beaten and bloodied after an encounter with Andorans. Since he was still too unskilled to be serving as a soldier, he had been assigned to tending her wounds, under the tutelage of a Child who had some knowledge of dressing wounds and stitching them up. That had been the first time he had seen a woman without clothes and that was the day that he knew.

When Aira had returned to Amador with the Legion and started her training in the Fortress of Light, so had he. Child Ellis'era had ordered him to keep an eye on her. Even when Aira had quickly advanced in the ranks, faster than he had despite his eagerness to advance, he stuck close to her. Some foul tongues had whispered that her advancements were because she had slept her way up. Some Children truly felt women were the source of all evil and those types would do as those types would do. He shook his head. In reality, she was far more adept in tactics and politics than he ever would be. She would stick to a field commander, charging into the fray and never leave their side. Both were valued by the Children and other fighters alike. Yet, she had been ready to give that all up to become a wife and a mother.

He dipped his hands in the washstand and bent down to wash his face, then right as he decided to get into bed, his stomach loudly protested. He decided he would go downstairs to get a morsel to eat. He took some cheese and a heel of yesterday's bread from the kitchen and sat down before digging in. Here he was, sitting in a manor in Cairhien. On the estate, he was treated as if he was the lord of the manor. He shook his head. If it hadn't been for Aira and her deep seated desire for safety and revenge, he would probably have been dead. Unfortunately, he could sympathize with both the need for safety as well as the revenge. He could still remember passing the gallows, where his lover had been hung, for 'crimes against the Light'. 'The wine must be getting to me,' he thought, as he wiped away a few tears with the back of his arm.

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Re: Past and Present. ---&RPAward

Post by Aira » Sat Feb 03, 2024 3:50 pm

Part 5: The Breaking Storm.

Trigger warning: infertility and extremist views regarding sexuality.

She mounted Dapple and tucked the carefully wrapped package under her shirt, before clicking her tongue. The horse's hooves clopped on the hard-packed road that lead away from the manor, where several men were repairing a section of the roof, fixing the beams and installing new slate tiles. Soon, they would be able to use more than just a small handful of rooms.

She rode along plowed fields and passed a brook that was rushing from the snow melting off the Spine of the World before joining the river Gaelin, far in the distance. Lambs were bleating in the pastures, covered by fresh, green grass and the first wildflowers. Fresh green leaves rustled in the trees overhead. Before long, she turned up a rutted road that lead to a small house, where the couple lived that had been married last fall. An old man came out and took the reins as she dismounted, then lead Dapple away to a trough.

Aira stepped into the house, where a woman curtseyed to her and gestured to a door on the far wall while saying proudly, 'Edaine is in the bedroom, ma'am. She and the boy are doing well.' Aira thanked the woman and, taking the package, stepped past the wooden door into the bedroom. The girl was sitting up in bed, a babe suckling from her breast. Edaine tried to sit straighter in order to duck her head more deeply, but Aira raised her hands in protest.

'Sit back and feed the little one,' she said with a smile.

After the customary praises of how strong and beautiful a little boy he was, Aira presented the package, which was wrapped in a piece of colorful cloth. Aira knew that common folk would re-use such a piece of cloth for their feastday clothes and in a way this was the present for the mother. Within the package was a blanket of Two Rivers wool large enough to last the child for quite a few years, and his siblings after him. Aira grinned, it was a good gift.

'Do you wish to hold him, my lady?' Edaine asked, already shuffling towards the edge of the bed. Aira protested for a moment, but the girl insisted. Soon, the little boy was cooing and making noises in her arms.

'Hello, little one,' Aira whispered. He grabbed her finger, his whole hand encompassing it. The tiny fingers, with even tinier, but very sharp, nails. A chubby little arm. Aira started singing softly, the first thing that sprang to mind, 'My love is gone, carried away; by the wind that shakes the willow; and all the land is beaten hard; by the wind that shakes the willow'.

As Aira rode back, she paused at the sight of children from the village playing, chasing eachother in the late afternoon sun. She felt a stab in her chest, as if a fade's cold dead hands had reached around her heart and crushed it. She had wanted nothing more than that. Not just because the tenets of the Children said that the highest honor that could befall a woman was to bear a child to be raised in the Light, she had always wanted to become a mother. She turned Dapple and spurred him on, racing up a road on the side of a hill, her eyes burning with tears. At the top, she slid off the saddle and left the horse untethered, sitting down and letting her tears flow freely.

She remembered the visit to the Wisdom, Laef, when she, despite the best of efforts, had not been able to conceive. She supposed normally the Children would marry first and blame the woman if no children were born, so she had wanted to prove she was worthy of marriage, that she was worthy of the Light, before being wed. The Wisdom had listened to her hesitant explanation of why she thought there was a problem, asked her scandalously detailed questions and comforted her, prescribing a foul concoction she had called a tea. It had had no effect. She had visited the Wisdom again, who had examined her more thoroughly and concluded she would never be able to carry a child to term. She was damaged goods, literally.

She had told Bruc, of course and he had reassured her that it was not a problem. Yet he had drifted away. He went on missions alone more and more frequently, before leaving Amador altogether. Everyone left her, it was the story of her life. Perhaps she deserved it.

Night fell and Larry sat by the fire, his feet resting on the thick carpet laid out before the hearth as he was reading a book. Clouds had rolled in from the Spine of the World, causing it to grow dark quickly and early. Sera, the housekeeper, came in, asking him if he wanted anything to eat. This was strange, usually she would just announce dinner was on the table. Unless...

'Sera, have you seen Lady Aira?'

'Not since this afternoon after tea, sir, when she left to visit Mistress Edaine and the babe.'

He knew then. 'Sera, run and rally my men, all of them. There's a reason she didn't come home and we have to find her before this storm breaks.' Sera curtsied and hurried out the door. Larry ran up the stairs, three steps at a time, and put on an oiled leather hat and a thick woolen cloak. He pulled on his riding boots and ran down towards the stables to saddle his horse, a muscular black steed. One by one, the other men came in and he briefed them as he readied his horse. He left out why the visit to the babe was so significant, instead focussing on how unusual it was that Aira hadn't come home yet, without a word. The others didn't question him, and soon, they lead their horses outside and mounted. After lighting strong, mirrored lanterns and torches, they galopped down the road towards the farm as the first drops began to fall.

The wind howled and the rain came pouring down, waking her up. Remembering where she was and why, the feelings of loss and grief overwhelmed her again, causing her to double over in a pain that was almost physical. Never would she birth a child of her own, never feed any babe, the tiny fingers grasping hers would never be those of her own child, she would never see the smiles or hear the laughter, never hear 'mama', never see those first steps, never... Her tears mingled with the rain until she was soaked all the way to her skin. She had not been wearing a cloak. Perhaps she should just die here. She would die here, unless she found shelter. Nights were still cold this time of year. High on the hill, she was exposed to the cold wind and the rain. Where was Dapple? She couldn't see anything in the darkness. 'Dapple?' she yelled against the storm. Minutes seemed to pass until a soft nicker and a faint gray blotch announced Dapple. He was so well-trained, he hadn't wandered off far, despite her leaving him untethered. She stuck a foot in a stirrup and mounted, but it was too dark, she barely dared to move out of fear of uneven terrain. If she lost Dapple, she would be lost too. She dismounted and removed his saddle, huddling underneath the leather and the small saddle blanket as best she could, while sitting at his forefeet trying to find some shelter under his neck as Dapple turned his behind in the wind.

The wind blew rain in Larry's face, stinging in his eyes. They had ridden to the farm and been told Aira had left it several hours ago, last seen headed towards the village, but she had not arrived there. They were knocking on doors, asking people if anyone knew anything. Where was that bloody woman? He would kill her if she was dead!

After what seemed to be hours, some children mentioned seeing her riding up a road towards the hills and after collecting the others, the six of them rode forward. Larry wanted to ride at a gallop, but it was very dark and the road was rutted, its surface uneven. He didn't want one of the horses to flounder. They called as they rode on, but their voices were lost as the wind buffeted them as they rode higher. Larry wasn't much of a tracker, not like Aira was, but he held up his lantern and peered at the ground anyway. There were hoofmarks, but they were getting washed out by rivulets of rain quickly. The road ended in a grassy meadow, the grass so windblown that tracks would be invisible to find. They rode on in the darkness, seven men huddled in their cloaks, calling out occasionally.

Only the fact that Larry had spent nearly half his life on a horse made him sense the movement of the slight toss of his horse's head. He had to move his lantern to see the black ears pricked forward. He stopped and heard a soft neigh coming from somewhere beyond the ever moving curtain of rain and darkness. Staying his hand, they kept the slow pace until he saw them, a pale gray blotch of a horse and a figure huddled underneath it.


She answered faintly, her lips had lost their color and she was shivering. He wrapped his cloak around her had one of the men lift her to the front of his saddle before he mounted himself. Going down the mountain was slow, but he rode as fast as they could when they found the road. Occasionally, she would droop her head and he would have to shake her and yell at her to stay awake.

He remembered the day she had confided in him, when she had told him that she couldn't have children. It had been in a dying orchard close to the Blight, as they were spending the night before attacking a fist of trollocs along with other forces of the Light. The Blight always brought out things in people. He frowned, remembering her cupping her hands around an apple and then pulling them apart, causing the apple to fall. He felt that was significant, as if it was supposed to mean something, but what did he know, and he hadn't asked.

Back at the manor, he carried her to her bedroom, where Sera was stoking the fire. Together, they undressed her practically limp body and used towels to dry her. Sera ran downstairs to fill two bedpans with hot coals, which she put under the blankets. Larry stripped down and dried himself, remembering a story about the best way to warm someone up was skin on skin contact, and slipped into the bed, pulling her close. Sera piled duvets and blankets on top of them, then ran down to have someone fetch a Wisdom from the neighboring village.

Aira nodded off and he slapped her face, until her eyes popped open. Not a spark of her temper, she was far gone. She had to live! They had come so far! They had become even closer after Bruc's disappearance, her mourning the loss of her future husband, him mourning his lover. A vision of bulging eyes in a pretty face as hanging from the gallows in the Fortress of Light flashed in his memory.
He commanded Aira to tell him about the time he had told her his secret in order to keep her awake and talking. It had been some time before he had dared confide in her, after they had begun to fight the Shadow in the Blight, alongside Aes Sedai and warders. His secret burden had been far more dangerous than hers if it ever reached the wrong ears. He loved men as much as she did and that was considered a crime against the Light in Amador. As a Child, it would mean certain torture at the hands of the Questioners, to be made an example of, and death would be a welcome end, postponed for as long as the human body could hold out.
As the years had progressed, his parents had pressured him to find a wife and have children for the glory of the Light, the very notion of which had repulsed him. Not just for his own sake, but also for the woman, who would be stuck in a loveless lie of a marriage. And she would be getting blamed for the lack of children, when the real problem would lie elsewhere. This unfortunately also ruled Aira out as an option. He was glad they had left that life behind, but it would all have been in vain if she died this night.

'I... kn-knew b-before you told me,' Aira said, her teeth chattering. 'You alw-ways had an eye f-for the w-warders.'

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Re: Past and Present. ---&RPAward

Post by Aira » Sun Mar 24, 2024 6:35 pm

Part 6: Threads in the Pattern.

'Lady Aira, it was a pleasure.'

The lord's lips brushed the back of her hand before he stepped into the black lacquered carriage, causing it to dip and sway on its leather springs. The door closed and the carriage drove off in a clattering of hooves. Aira wiped her hand on the side of her divided skirts, muttering 'Slimy bastard.' She turned on her heels and entered the door of the Andoran manor she was staying in, entered a small servant door and then hurried down the stairs to the barracks. Weaving her way through the tangle of corridors and rooms, she knocked on a door and called ahead. After a quiet 'enter', she went in, seeing several men, all soldiers of Cairhien, standing at attention. She nodded at them and asked 'Have you seen Larry?'

'He went to fetch his cleaned uniform, Lady Aira.'

Aira muttered loudly, then thanked the soldier and added 'if he returns soon, tell him to meet me in the practice yard,' before stomping off. Shortly, she found herself in a flat area at the edge of the manor's garden, covered by hard packed dirt. Several straw figures that vaguely resembled scarecrows stood in the yard, serving as practice targets. She tied her hair back, then took one of the lathe practice swords, took a deep breath, closed her eyes and started working the forms. Cutting the Clouds turned into Woodsman Tops the Sapling, which flowed into the Lion Springs. Not the most subtle of forms, but they would do. After a few minutes, she turned and swung her blade, only for it to be met by another lathe sword in a loud *CLACK!*. Larry stood there, grinning, his eyebrow raised in amusement.

'You didn't even hear me approach, did you?'

She glared at him as he withdrew his blade and bowed formally. She mirrored his bow, then they both took their stances. She thrusted, he deflected and immediately struck with the Falcon Stoops, she flowed from the Rose Unfolds to meet it. They circled eachother as they tried to find an opening and gain the upper hand. Aira had always been quick on her feet, stepping aside as she deflected blows, whereas Larry was more bulky, depending more on this strength, and normally, on his armor. Today, he surprised her by blocking her attack, stepping forward to get her off balance and elbowing her hard, knocking the wind right out of her. As she stood bent forward, hands on her knees, wheezing, he pointed his lathe sword towards her and said dryly 'I can tell you're angry today, you always drop your defense when you are.'

Peering up at Larry, as he stood there grinning, Aira was more than half tempted to lunge at him. She was angry, his jab hadn't made it better and the worst was that he was right about her defense, it had been mentioned to her as far back as in the Children. She wasn't going to win this. Uttering a string of curses that would make a sailor blush, she rubbed the spot where he had struck her, then lifted the top of her linen shirt to peer down at the corset she was wearing. Thankfully, the boning and padding had absorbed some of the blow and come out undamaged.

'Blood and ashes, Larry, I have to dance at the ball tomorrow.'

'Correction, we have to dance at the ball tomorrow. I'll let you step on my toes if the pain becomes too much. What has you so riled up, anyway?'

Aira stood straight again, grimaced as she touched her side and let the point of her blade drop to the ground.

'Lord Gaebril came to relay the Queen's judgement. They said no.' Aira flung the blade away angrily, causing it to land on the dirt with a loud *CLACK!*. 'They won't give me their names. They either don't believe I was attacked, or the Andoran royals care more about protecting their precious soldier scum. If I were still a Child, I would bloody well call them Darkfriends! Maybe they are darkfriends!'

Larry stood unmoving and seemed to consider for a moment as she glared at him, almost daring him to say anything while at the same time wishing he would. When he finally spoke, he said 'I have an idea. Be ready to travel at dawn.' He looked her up and down and said 'Wear something inconspicuous.' He walked past her, squeezed her shoulder, then disappeared out of sight. Aira angrily picked up the lathe practice sword from where she had thrown it and began working the forms again.

It was pleasant to ride at the head of the double column, the birds were chittering in the trees and it was relatively quiet. There were the usual sounds of jangling bits, creaking leather saddles, hooves on the soil and the occasional snort from a horse. Riding at the head of the column, with a bannerman behind her, she was not breathing in the dust of those riding in front of her, as she had all those years. Benefits of being in command. Behind her, the men and women in their white cloaks were not so lucky. They crested a hill and the camp came into view, all white tents pitched in neat rows with sunburst pennants flying overhead. The column behind her snaked its way down the hill and into the camp.

After some refreshments and all the normal business and pleasantries with the commander of this Legion, Aira and Larry walked the camp to see what they came for. Surrounded by a ring of Children came the sounds of combat. The ring parted as Aira strode through, allowing her to reach the inner edge. Inside, a tall and slender young man was fighting another, flowing gracefully from one form into the other. Aira folded her arms and watched, weighing him on invisible scales.

'He doesn't have the build of a soldier, but he is good,' Larry said and Aira nodded in response. She would not want to fight Galadedrid Damodred, but that was not what she was here for. When she had heard that the son of Taringail Damodred, raised by Queen Morgase of Andor, had joined the Children, it had immediately sparked a plan in her head, for the glory and betterment of the Children, and the world. What glory could she bring to the Children if she could unite the Children and Andor through marriage? The King of Andor and her the Lord Captain Commander and the Queen. She had gathered her men and ridden to meet the Legion that was riding south from Tar Valon. First she had to know what sort of man he was. Ambitious? Loyal? Buyable? Seducable? With the meeting of the two legions, she could inconspicuously place some of her men near Galad and find out what she needed to know.

The rain beat down on them as they mounted their horses outside an inn in Four Kings. Aira arranged her thick woolen cloak around her knees and behind the saddle, drawing up the hood. Larry tossed a coin to the stablehand and used the reins to turn his horse towards the west. The horses' hooves splattered in puddles as they rode along the muddy street, finally leaving the village behind them. They were alone on the road, riding slowly to let the horses' muscles warm up. Aira sat quietly in the saddle, slowly trying to wake up. She had slept poorly in an unfamiliar bed in a town full of bad memories and was riding quietly along as Larry set the pace. She was beginning to feel better as they left the town behind, urging her horse to catch up to Larry's.

'The Andorans. They would listen to Galad. Maybe we need to revisit the old plan. Include the Cairhienin throne this time.'

Larry grunted and asked 'What makes you think you can get to Galad now? He was never... receptive to your advances.'

Aira shrugged in her cloak, irritated that Larry brought that up. The men she was interested in were never interested in her. Story of her life. Instead, she replied 'What if he has no choice but to ascend those thrones? He's a Damodred, his mother was the Daughter-Heir of Andor. He's a Child with great charisma and skill.'

Larry muttered 'He's also a stickler for principle. He would never want a man to ascend the th....' He turned to her with eyes that were large from shock. 'No, Aira! They only take people with bloodlines going back to this Ishara woman.'

'A lot can happen if you are backed by the armies of both the Children and Cairhien...'

Larry shook his head incredulously, yelling 'You are insane, Aira! If you thought Cairhienin politics was a wasp's nest, this will be worse. Much worse. Assuming Galad doesn't have you tried for murder in the first place.'

Aira had to admit that was a serious risk, given how obstinate Galad could be.

'I know, I have to try, Larry. I can't let this go. Those filthy Andorans have to pay, one way or another.'

'At least try my way first. We may be able to learn their names and once we do...' The threat hung in the air. Cairhien had enough connections to assassins to solve whatever problem, if the problem had a name.

Aira grunted and nodded. It would be silly to turn around now. Larry picked up the pace and rode ahead of her, as if to prevent her from changing her mind.

Aira rode at the back of the column which was headed by a banner depicting the black, swooping hawk of Shienar as it crept towards the Blight. Her white cloak bearing a sunburst at the chest streamed out behind her in the crisp Shienaran air. They were not trying to stay undetected, not with a force like this, however, there were more suitable people to ride at the front. Child Gralin had requested assistance in Fal Dara and she and Larry had answered the call, while the other Children seemingly were content to stay in the Fortress of Light. She muttered. They passed the Blightborder around noon, angling towards the north-west and riding up through a forest of grotesquely malformed trees. The stench of rot and decay seemed to permeate everything. As the sun dropped towards the horizon, the column stopped in an orchard that was slowly being overrun by the Blight, but a few trees still stood proudly. Aira and Larry stared at it wonderingly, and a woman with an ageless face, clearly a witch, approached them.

'The Blight is slow to take hold here, thanks to the One Power. Be at peace tonight, the Gaidin will keep watch for any attacks under the cover of night,' she said with a smile.

The woman turned and walked away, leaving the Gaidin standing across from them, lingering momentarily. He stared at them openly for a moment, his face expressionless, then stalked off, moving gracefully and full of confidence. Aira worked her shoulders. She knew the Sedai were supposed to be Oathbound, or maybe not depending on who you asked, but that man looked far more dangerous than the rest of them combined.

She and Larry laid out their bedrolls towards the edge of the camp and she sat down on her saddle as it rested on the ground, checking her weapons. There was bound to be fighting tomorrow. She ran an oilstone along the blade when she spotted the Gaidin again. He was sitting some distance away, clearly keeping an eye on her and Larry while pretending not to. So, he didn't trust them, did he? Light knew what he would do to protect those witches, even if she had no intention to harm them. Not wanting to give the man the pleasure of knowing she was keeping an eye on him too, she continued maintaining her blade, using her peripheral vision to keep track of him, which was made considerably more difficult because he seemed to fade in and out of the world around him. Some trick of the Power, she was sure.

The next morning, the column set off with someone scouting ahead for tracks. Soon, the movement of a fist of trollocs was reported, lead by someone who rode a mount. A myrddraal then, or worse. They gave chase at a fast trot until the fist came into view. Aira whispered a quick prayer to the Creator and drew her blade, booting her horse forward as they picked up speed and charged, clashing into a fist of shadowspawn lead by Razhak. The air crackled with energy from the fireballs the Aes Sedai flung into the grotesquely malformed creatures, causing the air to smell of singed fur. Sometimes, Aira could feel the heat of the flames on her face. Soon, the trollocs scattered and their force gave chase into a derelict town.

The myrddraal was tracked to a basement where a darkfriend witch with her warder were hiding. The Lancer Koagan coordinated the attack. But before they were about to break down the door, other trollocs came around the corner and charged at them. She saw Larry take a hit and shouted at him to go. The spawn from the basement emerged and they were hard pressed by superior numbers. One by one, they were forced to peel away and retreat, until Aira was side to side with the warder, their horses milling around eachother, the whites of their eyes showing and their nostrils flaring red. As she stood in her stirrups and stabbed a trolloc with the tip of her blade and she saw her warhorse take out a trolloc closing in behind it with a kick to the face. The beast crumpled to the ground.

'Go. We lost this,' the warder called and Aira hesitated, narrowing her eyes at the man. Taking orders from a lapdog?! 'Go!' the warder commanded. And Aira assessed their situation and went, turning her horse and barrelling down the cobblestone street past two lithely built trollocs who weren't much of an obstacle. As she dashed along the street towards the south and the safety of other troops, she briefly glanced over her shoulder. In the distance, the warder was still fighting and she wondered why he hadn't just rode off and abandoned her, but instead had covered her retreat.

Larry sat at the bar of the Pig's Blanket, a mug of ale in front of him, the bottom coming into view. Aira sat next to him, dressed in a simple, but well-made green dress with skirts divided for riding. She appeared outwardly calm, but he knew better. He reached over and patted her arm. The man was late. Very late. Larry gestured towards the girl at the bar to serve him another ale, and she grabbed his mug, returning it with a frothy head. Larry took a sip, licking the froth from his upper lip and turned half-way towards the door to keep an eye on who was coming in, when movement at one of the booths caught his eye. A man dressed in black and velvet rose to his feet and silently moved over towards them.

'My lady? I am Roberto al'Farath, a Master Thiefbane. Your man here requested my services. May I escort you to a more private place, so that we may speak?'

Larry clenched his jaw. The man had been there all along. Fool he was for not thinking of that. Aira stood, nodded at Larry and followed this Roberto to one of the booths. They had agreed that Larry would keep an eye out for anyone approaching them. Conspiring to have Andoran identities ferreted out with the ultimate goal of having those people killed could land them in hot water.

'That woman you're with...,' the girl behind the bar started. Larry turned his attention to her. She had short hair and wore pants, despite not being a soldier or horse handler. 'She is embarking on a dangerous road.' Upon Larry's quizzical look, she continued, shrugging with her palms up. 'I see things. Visions if you will, glimpses of the future. When I look at her, I see two men. One accompanied by the Crown of Andor and a dagger dripping with blood, and the other man with a white tower and a newborn babe. She will have to choose between those two men and her choice will affect many.'

Larry sat stunned and looked at Aira, but he saw none of the things the girl had mentioned. No men, no Crown of Andor, nor a dagger dripping with blood, let alone a white tower and a newborn babe. Larry frowned and stared at Aira, some of the pieces of the riddle falling into place, clearly referring to Galad Damodred. The dagger dripping with blood gave him pause, as it reminded him of his warning to Aira. But who was the other man? And a newborn babe? How?!

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Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:57 pm

Re: Past and Present. ---&RPAward

Post by Aira » Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 pm

Just a fun unimportant nothing log, for reasons. Really, a bonus of being a master is that you always have RP with you if you're bored. :)

* R HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > The Warders' Practice Yard
An iron lantern hangs from the wall above the gate.
A weapon rack stands on the ground here, ready to store weapons.
Some elaborate figurines spew fresh water into a broad basin here.
A gray palfrey prances skittishly nearby, being ridden by you.
Melosa Beshar, Journey Accepted is standing here.
A black stallion prances about.
A gray haired weaponsmaster stands nearby.
A warder's student stands here catching his breath.
A warder's student stands here catching his breath.
A grim storyteller reads from a journal.
A warder's student stands here catching his breath.
A warder's student stands here catching his breath.
Coulin the Master of Arms is here teaching his students.
A Rising Sun soldier has arrived from the south.

A Rising Sun soldier bows before Melosa.

Melosa smiles happily.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'Accepted. Thank you for fetching Lady Aira for me the other day. I am useless with tracking.'

Melosa says 'The Light shine on you Lady Ciarron'

Aira mutters to herself about a Rising Sun soldier.

Melosa says 'And you, Larry.'

Aira says 'If you would only apply yourself. I've explained it so many times!'

Melosa says 'I see you found your way home'

A Rising Sun soldier bows before Melosa.

A Rising Sun soldier snaps back at Aira 'If only you would not drop your defense when you're angry. They've been telling YOU that for well over a

Aira looks at a Rising Sun soldier and rolls her eyes.

A Rising Sun soldier nods to himself, he must need reassurance.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'You don't think the Gray Ajah mediates between friends, do you, Accepted?'

Aira says 'Larald Barthold, for the love of the Light, leave the flaming Aes Sedai out of this!'

A Rising Sun soldier grins evilly.

A Rising Sun soldier points a thumb at Aira and says 'So easy to push her buttons.'

Melosa chuckles politely.

Melosa says 'I belibe the Gray Ajah is more focused on grander things'

Melosa beams a smile at a Rising Sun soldier.

A Rising Sun soldier frowns.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'Perhaps you are right. Although, perhaps...''

A Rising Sun soldier says 'This woman IS grander things...''

Aira folds her arms angrily.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'You have given me an idea though, thank you, Accepted.'

Aira sighs.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'Enough ogling the warders, let's be on our way, Aira.'

Aira says 'ME ogling the warders?! You wanted to go here!'

A Rising Sun soldier says 'Well... I did, for reasons.'

Aira glares icily at a Rising Sun soldier.

Aira says 'Are those reasons the warder apprentices?'

A Rising Sun soldier feigns being offended.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'Not at all!'

A Rising Sun soldier shifts slightly.

A Rising Sun soldier says 'I was looking for a specific one...'

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