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The more women there are about, the softer a wise man steps. -saying in Arad Doman.
The Stranger You Know
OOC: This is a closed thread.
The glimmer of bright morning sun streamed through Melisa Sedai's window as she squinted and yawned, slowly letting her eyes adjust to the light. Stretching her arms above her head, the Green made a pleasurable sound and lazily waited for the night's sleep to wear off a bit before she climbed from the bed and picked up the thin ivory robe she usually wore over her nightgown outside of her bedchamber. While she slid into it, the Aes Sedai gave herself a critical look in the mirror and took a moment to attempt to smooth her long, auburn locks. Looks as if I slept on my head. That wasn't working, so she settled before her vanity to draw a brush through her hair, and caressed the Bond lightly.
Kiris Tored was focused very intently on something. For a moment she regretted having bothered him; the direction in which she sensed his presence told her he was in the Practice Yards, which had become a morning ritual for the Kandori since their return from Illian. While Melisa would have preferred some company when she awoke, she did not begrudge him his wish to improve his skills. She herself had done the same thing after returning from her first brush with Makien McKnight.
I'll see if Di has had breakfast yet. Maybe she'd like to join me, mused the Green on her way through the sitting room, tying the robe closed. As she passed her desk, a small creased bit of paper caught her eye. Melisa came to a halt and turned around to pick it up, her eyes running over the neat, masculine handwriting.
Gone to the Practice Yards for the morning. Hope you slept well. ― Kiris
Though the note had not been necessary for her to be aware of his location, it pleased her that he had taken the time to leave behind a note. But Kiris was always like that. This was nothing new.
Melisa peeked her head outside the heavy wooden door to her apartments, and her gaze fell upon a novice who was moving steadily down the hallway with a tray. The girl’s eyes were nervously darting back and forth from the dishes resting on it to the hallway in front of her. The clinking of the plates and cups told her she should not be loud or coarse--not that Melisa often behaved that way--but if she had, this girl would surely jump out of her skin and lose the tray of breakfast all over the hallway. It was the sure sign of a young woman that was afraid of angering an Aes Sedai. She must be new to Novice white.
"I see that you're already serving someone else, but when you've delivered their tray, I'd like one," Melisa asked, careful not to take the short-haired wisp of a girl by surprise. "Oh, and send Divaine Sedai my way, would you?"
Only waiting for a nod, she swung the door closed and busied herself with selecting a dress to wear for the day. There was an array of colors hidden in her heavy wooden armoire, though Melisa generally preferred darker tones, and lots of greens and blues. The red dress she'd received for Tandar hung far to the left, still smelling faintly of the sea. I really need to see to having it cleaned. Rifling through the clothes, she selected an older dress of a pale olive hue and tossed it on the bed as a knock sounded upon her door.
"You ordered breakfast?" Divaine Sedai, looking polished and well-groomed in golden-yellow, presented herself on the other side of the door holding a tray. "The novice who brought it needed to see to someone else right away."
"I did, I was hoping you hadn't eaten yet," replied the Green, showing her dear friend in.
The pair settled into Melisa's highbacked, cushioned chairs and chatted about all manner of things over sweet rolls and Melisa's favorite, berry tea. Before she knew it, the Green was in the midst of a story about her return from Illian, and how Nightstar, her mare, was more spirited and also more headstrong than its predecessor, Nightfire. The mare had found a patch of grass that must have been terribly succulent when they had paused to rest their mounts, and no amount of tugging on her reins or the lead would move the animal until her hunger had been sated. Melisa could still hear Kiris growling at the stubborn mare in her mind. By the time she had finished her story, all that remained on the plates were crumbs, and the last of the tea was being poured.
"Well, I should really be getting dressed," the Andoran declared, easing her chair back and coming to her feet.
"So soon?" asked Divaine, looking somewhat let down.
"Yes...I plan to go down to the Practice Yards for a while this morning. Kiris left a note that he went down there earlier." From the feel of the Bond, he was still there, and well into his typical morning workout.
"Well then, perhaps I will run into you later," the slender Yellow offered as Melisa saw her out. A wave to another novice saw to the tray as well, before Melisa disappeared into her bedchamber to slip into that dress.
A small crowd, per usual, was gathered around the Practice Yards. Gaidin, manshima and siswai alike were going through the motions of swordfighting and other means of defense. The thumps of practice swords and knives finding their mark echoed through the otherwise peaceful Gardens, along with the light whistle of arrows. A scattering of novices and Accepted giggled and whispered at the men, while a handful of Aes Sedai looked on as well, some from a nearby balcony.
"Melisa," said one, a Gray in a silvery gown, as she gave a polite tilt of her head. Not too polite. The woman was stronger than she in the One Power.
"Trine," answered the Green, giving her a more noticeable sign of respect as she passed, heading directly for Kiris. He was not far from the targets placed in the ground for tossing practice, and she had a mind to throw a few knives while she was here. It was why she had chosen to wear an older dress that would not show the dust in the air as badly as her others.
For a moment, she merely watched, admiring the progress he seemed to have made. As if he sensed her scrutiny, he slipped slightly but caught himself, and lunged forward with a powerful swing of his practice sword towards the side of his opponent, Nicolo Stathis. Melisa knew the man well. The southlander had aided her in her own training, and he had good-naturedly endured a considerable bit of teasing on the occasions when she had triumphed before the spectators. He would be a worthy opponent, and a fair one, for her Gaidin to spar with to sharpen his skills. The two men circled, waiting for one to make the next move, as sweat blanketed a fine sheen over every muscle of their bare chests.
As she waited for the skirmish to cease, and noted, with an amused expression, how many women were taking in the sight, Melisa located one of the pitchers of water that were regularly set out for the men, and took up a glass, filling it nearly full. She doubled back, seeing that the pair had not yet concluded, and picked up a towel from a neatly-folded stack sitting near the water pitcher. Opening herself to saidar briefly, the Green weaved a breath of cool Air into the fabric, knowing it would feel wonderful after a long workout. Just then the pair stepped back, Nicolo clapping a hand on Kiris' shoulder in friendship.
As Kiris tossed the practice sword aside, she approached, handing him the towel. Their fingers brushed lightly; Melisa felt a warm sensation from his touch despite the cold from the cloth.
"That feels....wonderful," said the Kandori, covering his face with it before pressing it against his neck and patting it over his chest. The Green could almost feel the sighs from the onlookers. The tangible envy only made amusement bubble up within her. She handed him the drink, which he gratefully sipped a few moments before speaking.
"I don't know how much better I'm getting," he told her quietly, keeping his voice low so that the conversation stayed mostly between them. "But Nicolo seems to think I've improved...or become less predictable."
"I thought you looked better today than you did two weeks past," she admitted. Behind her, a female voice in the crowd indicated that he looked well everyday, followed by a round of giggles. Melisa smirked slightly after hearing it, but Kiris gave no sign that his ears caught the words. "I was thinking I should come down and practice with the knives a bit. Would you care to join me?"
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is."
Re: The Stranger You Know
The ghostly feeling of a small hand touching a corner of his mind was enough to distract Kiris for a moment. It was also enough for his sparring partner, Nicolo Stathis, to land a stinging blow on his exposed left forearm. With a brief hiss, the Kandori recoiled and shook his arm up and down before lowering the practice sword still gripped tightly in his right hand. Shaking his head briefly to toss the sweat that was getting into his eyes, he fixed the other Gaidin with a stare.
“I thought you said you’d go easy on me today,” he groused. There was a thin red stripe where the wooden lathes had marked him. So far, it was the only one which Kiris counted as an improvement. Nearly a month had past since the festival of Tandar and their disastrous meeting with the infamous assassin, Sam’cuendar. Since then, the Gaidin had been rising early every morning to go to the Practice Yards and train.
While the festival of Tandar was supposed to also mark the beginning of autumn, the weather had been unusually hot. Now, autumn had truly come; the leaves were turning all manners of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. But even with the cooler weather, Kiris still felt the sweat pouring from his body. With a small grimace, he eyed his opponent who didn’t nearly seem as winded as he was.
“Well, you were the one that said you’d treat me to a round at the Lion’s Den if I could score a hit in the first ten exchanges,” Nicolo said with a broad smile even he planted the wooden practice sword in the ground and leaned on it. “You should know better than to dangle a prize like that in front of me…” There was a twinkle in those dark brown eyes even as he spoke.
Kiris opened his mouth to retort but instead gave a broad smile in return. “Coiravia Sedai might be interested in hearing about our little arrangement.” A twinkle was also seen in his dark green eyes even as Nicolo groaned.
“Tch. Don’t be a sore loser.”
A shrug rolled off of Kiris’ shoulders. “Well, I have to protect my earnings from thirsty bastards somehow…” he noted sardonically. Both men paused and chuckled as Kiris wrapped his left hand around the practice sword and brought it up into a neutral guard, with the blade pointing towards his opponent. In response, Nicolo raised his blade until the handle was parallel with his head, the blade pointing straight to the sky.
Then, they came together as a loud clacking noise rang out over the Practice Yards beneath the morning sun.
Unfortunately, Nicolo had to teach a class today so Kiris spent the remainder of the time practicing his form. He was not considered a regular even after a month, so the Kandori had a hard time finding a partner willing to spar with him. Most of the talented fighters already had matches scheduled. And although it was not stated aloud, they were not interested in facing someone of his caliber. Unconsciously he ran his right hand over the scar on his left, feeling the rough ridges of hardened skin. “But they might not feel the same way if I also had a sword also for my left hand,” he mused. But he forced those thoughts from his mind before he could dwell on them for too long.
Finishing for the moment, he raised his right hand and swiped the sweat from his brow before taking a look around. The Practice Yards were now fully packed with several classes being conducted on a variety of weapons by their respective masters. Even more, the usual crowd of Novices and Accepted had gathered to watch. Sometimes, Kiris wondered if they didn’t have anything better to do, but he held his tongue. After all, it wasn’t his place to speak especially since there was also a few Aes Sedai present among the watchers.
Part of the reason for his discomfort is that a good deal of those eyes followed him. This was another reason why he didn’t like the Practice Yards. He tried to ignore it, but it didn’t always work. After all, the women here were not your usual barmaids or even the seamstress by the Darein Bridge that he paid a visit to once in a while. Kiris couldn’t trust his normal methods to work when dealing with them. And the fact that he was Bonded did not seem to dissuade them in the least.
Luckily, Nicolo’s voice distracted him as the Gaidin came trotting up. “Well, I finished beating on some helpless Sis-I mean, my lesson, for the day,” he stated in a jovial tone. Retrieving a practice sword from the rack, he gave it a few experimental swings to test the weight. “Not that I’ll be doing anything different now.” His smile took any sting out of the words.
“Isn’t that my line?” Kiris retorted, laughing slightly even as he drew himself up to full height. This time he lowered the wooden blade until it was almost pointed at the ground, looking deceptively relaxed. A brief sensation from the Bond told him that Melisa was coming towards the Yard.
Nicolo’s only response was to swing the practice sword downward even as Kiris took a quick step back to dodge. The Kandori immediately chose to pressure his opponent with a few light thrusts towards the midriff. Working the wooden practice sword, Nicolo spoiled each thrust by using the tip of his blade to push them out of position. Suddenly, the Gaidin gave a harder shove on one of Kiris’ light thrusts to throw his blade out wide even as he came in hard, slashing at the Kandori’s exposed head.
A week ago, the strike would have caught him on the crown of his head. But this time, Kiris was ready. Expertly, he tilted his body to the right as he felt the breeze from the wooden blade even as he bent his body lower to launch his own slash aimed at Nicolo’s exposed left knee.
With his blade out of position, Nicolo put all his weight on his right foot and leapt as he tucked his left leg. Kiris tried to angle his sword to follow the Gaidin’s dodge, but missed as Nicolo broke away, resetting the distance.
Then, Kiris felt another pair of eyes on his back. But those eyes were eyes that he welcomed since they were from his Aes Sedai. For a moment he paused before he changed stances, reversing his blade so it was perpendicular to his body and the handle pointed at Nicolo. Hiding the length of his blade, he eased forward slowly as Nicolo assumed a neutral guard this time.
Waiting for Nicolo to begin his strike, a diagonal cut to his left shoulder, Kiris then chose to act. Taking a long stride forward and bending his knees, Kiris swung out in a long arc towards the Gaidin’s side. At first glance, it looked as if his blade would end a few inches short while Nicolo’s blow would land fully on his left shoulder, but Kiris released his left hand from the handle.
It was a beautifully executed maneuver. While dodging the strike to his shoulder, the Kandori also lengthened his own by those few critical inches. However, Nicolo still managed to avoid the slash by bending his waist backwards as the tip of the blade passed less than a fingernail’s width from him.
This time, Kiris broke away as they warily circled one another. A few more half-hearted efforts were exchanged, but neither one of them could score a decisive hit. Feeling that he should not ignore Melisa, Kiris held up his left hand to indicate that their spar was over for now.
Turning to gaze at his Aes Sedai, he took the towel that she had for him. It was refreshingly cool to the touch and he sighed in relief even as he mopped his face and bare chest. “That feels…wonderful.”
Glancing back towards Nicolo, the other Gaidin was already placing the practice sword back on the rack. Turning back towards Melisa, the Kandori took the glass of water she offered and sipped at it gratefully. He had been getting rather thirsty towards the end of their last exchange. Briefly, his gaze met Melisa’s before he dropped his eyes away from her face. Right now, she was dressed in an olive dress and while it wasn’t of a cut meant to draw the eyes, Kiris could tell that it did nonetheless. The intense gaze from his dark green eyes was briefly directed at a few Siswai who were too openly ogling Melisa from behind as they quickly found somewhere else to look
Knowing that she would want to hear about his progress, Kiris spoke softly. “I don’t know how much better I’m getting. But Nicolo seems to think I’ve improved…or become less predictable.”
”I thought you looked better today than you did two weeks past.” Those words stung although he knew that she meant it was a compliment. However, there was a small protest from the crowd of Novices and Accepted as a single female voice shouted that he looked well everyday. Giggles ensued as he caught a faint amused smile on Melisa’s face as he pretended not to hear a thing. It was the norm for the Practice Yards; the women would speak and the men would pretend not to hear.
“I was thinking I should come down and practice with the knives a bit. Would you care to join me?” Melisa offered.
“It would be my pleasure,” Kiris replied even as he retrieved his simple brown tunic and slipped it over his head. Then, he formally offered his elbow which Melisa gracefully took as she placed her hand around it. And although he could see the looks of outright envy on a few of the Accepted and even brief flashes on one or two of the faces of the Aes Sedai, he gallantly led her towards the throwing range.
There were not too many people nearby once they arrived. Daggers were generally seen an alternative since most of the people trained in the Tower favored longswords. The throwing range was very simple; there was simply a long rectangular box. A series of targets were set up at varying distances. The target itself was a large circle with four smaller rings inside of it and two racks of daggers of various sizes and weights were neatly lined up at each end.
Gesturing towards the field, Kiris gave a small smile. “Well, what range would you like to work on first, Melisa?”
Re: The Stranger You Know
Melisa’s lips curved upward as she slipped a hand around the formal elbow Kiris had offered. It felt..good...to walk with him like this, she realized as all too soon they had reached the throwing range. The sounds of chatter behind them indicated that they were being followed by part of the crowd who must have overheard the Green's plans. For the Aes Sedai, it had slightly interrupted the pleasantness of being on Kiris' arm.
“Well, what range would you like to work on first, Melisa?" inquired the Kandori as they came to a stop.
"Probably should warm up my arm at 10 paces."
The throwing range was a simple array of targets placed at distances of ten, twenty and thirty paces. Melisa focused her thoughts, the smile gone from her face as she concentrated on the task at hand. Envisioning the dagger flying straight and true, she could not help but recall her throws on the island off the coast of Illian, aiding Makien and Kiris in their fight against the pirates. Surely, part of her single-mindedness had been due to the adrenaline of their battle flowing within her. Now, she had no such push to be as perfect as she could...except for the watching eyes of those gathered near the Aes Sedai and her Warder.
Kiris, knowing which daggers she preferred to use, had already gathered them up and was returning to present them to her. The practice blades felt light and easy in her hands, their weight balanced. With no hilt, they were altogether different than the daggers one would toss in a true fight. But this allowed those in training to concern themselves on getting a good grip on the handle and to focus on the fine points of their toss. Tightening her hand around the one in her right palm, Melisa saw the throw hit the target at ten paces in her mind before it ever left her hand.
The blade sailed straight and true, about as near the center of the mark as she had expected to be on her first throw. The target quivered from the impact as Kiris passed her the second dagger. Not allowing the chatter of nearby novices and Accepteds to distract her, Melisa's second throw came to a halt near the first. Meeting Kiris' eyes as she took the third blade from his hand, there was an approving glow to his gaze that warmed her on the inside.
The Green let fly with her third toss, as it met very near the center of the target. A murmur here and there among the girls began as the Gaidin went to retrieve the three daggers with a nod from his Aes Sedai. Shifting her weight, she repositioned herself for the next target, at twenty paces distant. Nicolo's familiar voice drifted into her ears, but she ignored it for the time being as her attention was only on the circle before her. This time, her precision was still impressive, though it was not as spot-on as it had been at ten paces. The next toss ended up near the first, and the third joined them to make a tight circle around the center mark. The murmurs from the assembled women grew, while the Aes Sedai brushed her hair away from her face, waiting for Kiris to retrieve the three blades from the second circle. It's nice to have someone here to do that for me, she mused gratefully.
Now came the target at thirty paces. This one was considerably more difficult than the first two because at this distance, the blade started to travel in a downward arc. The person tossing the dagger had to compensate for it to remain in the air for a longer amount of time, much more so than at twenty paces. Nicolo had explained this in great detail and Melisa had carefully listened to what the man had to say after she watched him show her the difference in form that was required. The southlander knew what he was talking about.
Melisa shut out the nattering buzz from the people at her back and the distraction of having Kiris eye her stance. The latter was, for obvious reasons, harder to ignore. Once again, she pictured the blade sailing slightly up and back down, and meeting the wooden circle. She released the dagger, and watched it meet a fair distance from center. It was not as close as she'd managed before, but decent. She reached out a palm for the second knife, and the Kandori placed it in her hand. Focusing anew, she let the second go, knowing as it left her hand that the toss was better even before she heard the sound of acknowledgement from the crowd. A touch of pride swirled in the Bond.
"Fine toss," said Nicolo Gaidin, as she took up the third dagger and sent it to join the others. Her second toss had been the best at this distance, but it was obvious to those who had thrown before that she could hold her own in a contest.
As Kiris went out to gather them up and was stalking back towards the spectators, Nicolo called out, "Surely you're not going to let your Aes Sedai work on her knife-tossing all by herself while you stand around and watch?"
Kiris gave his fellow Warder a wry grin. "Is that a challenge?"
"Take it how you like, I could always use more ale," replied Nicolo, giving the Kandori a casual, joking shrug.
Melisa found it amusing to hear of the two of them bandy words back and forth at each other. She stepped to the side to join Nicolo in watching as her Gaidin replaced her before the targets, happy to be among the spectators for now.
Kiris' face was a mask of concentration as he squared up and faced the target at thirty paces. His throws had ended up near Melisa's, but she could tell a slight difference in the manner they stood and the point at which they released at twenty paces. It might have had something to do with her height. However, when Kiris tossed the blades at thirty paces, neither of his first two hit nearly as close to center as those of the Green. Knowing he wanted to improve himself, Nicolo spoke up as the Kandori made ready to toss the third knife.
"I'd call that throw passable if you had downed two shots of oosquai and were doing it blindfolded." The southlander often prefaced his advice with a joke. It was his way of letting one know that he was trying not to be critical, only helpful. Melisa wrinkled her nose slightly at the mention of oosquai. She'd heard it was a foul drink that made people do all sorts of odd things. A man's drink.
"The angle when you let go was a little bit too soon," offered Nicolo.
Kiris shot him a glance of mock irritation. "And if you were the one throwing, I'd make sure to have at least two Aes Sedai on standby. "One to Heal the poor lad you would skewer. And the other to care for your strained groin."
Melisa quirked a brow at the last. It seemed that their banter had become so familiar that they had forgotten about their current company. Kiris, for his part, realized that.
He gave an abashed smile and a reverent bow to Melisa, while providing one of the spectators with the same. It was then that the Green realized that Trine Sedai had been watching Kiris throw along with a scattering of Novices and Accepteds in their color-banded dresses. The Gray stuck out like a sore thumb in her silvery gown with blue-grey eyes to match.
"I beg your pardon," he told them both earnestly.
Trine gave a very non-plussed smile and followed it with a smooth request. "If you are interested in making amends, you should take me to lunch sometime."
The Gray turned her gaze from the Kandori and fixed it on Melisa as the Green gave the other woman a long look that stopped just short of being challenging. I put up with the time he spends with that seamstress...but him spending time with a Sister is another matter entirely. She kept the words to herself, though.
Kiris simply nodded as the women communicated silently, and replied, "I'll remember that, Aes Sedai." Melisa smiled slightly at the fact that he had not accepted in front of everyone, and turned her attention back to her Gaidin.
"Kiris, I think you should try it again," suggested Melisa. "But let go of the dagger just a tick slower."
Her words brought an intense gaze, one that made the Green want to draw in a long breath and let it out. Unexpectedly, surprise and a faint hint of hurt rose in the Bond. For a moment, she wanted to take the words back. But he gave no other outward sign of what he'd felt and only acknowledged it with a tilt of his head as he prepared to let the last dagger fly. This time, it seemed he had heeded their words as the blade rose and fell more properly to the Green's eyes. But to the others watching, it was clear that they could spot little difference.
The Gray tossed her head, the sun gleaming off her short, dark blonde locks as she gave an amused sound in her throat. "Looks the same to me."
The unpracticed gaggle of young women nodded and discussed the throws amongst themselves, while Melisa simply pressed her lips together. I'd like to see Trine come up here and throw at the first target so we could all have a laugh.
It seemed that the slender Gray had one more burr to plant. "Perhaps the teacher still has a few things to learn...?"
This time, a clear glare passed from the Green to her more powerful counterpart, as Melisa was certain that Kiris could feel the Bond tingling. Stick her on an island with a bunch of pirates and see how she does.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is."
Re: The Stranger You Know
Only a Light-blinded fool wouldn’t realize that there was tension between Melisa and the Aes Sedai from the Gray Ajah. The last glare that Melisa had sent had been particularly communicative, not including the tiny flare of anger from the Bond. At this very moment, they seemed like two alley cats ready to fight over a fishbone. Kiris just silently wished that the bone wasn’t him. Around the Gray, a small space had widened as the Novices and Accepted drew back. They knew better than to get involved between two Aes Sedai. Nicolo too had found something very interesting in the latest target, intensely studying the surface while looking away.
Wanting to sigh, the Kandori didn’t. From experience, he knew that would simply draw both women’s ire to him. Instead, he politely coughed to get their attention. Giving his most winsome smile in the direction of the Gray, he politely bobbed his head. “I’m sorry to say, Aes Sedai, but the advice really did help. My throw felt a little bit steadier the second time around.”
Those words tasted bitter in his mouth even as he said them aloud for the sake of the peace. No Warder liked the thought of their charge being better at them when it came to physical combat. Unbidden, an unpleasant memory came up. “Do you know what the duty of a Gaidin is? It’s to protect.” Feeling himself tense, he forced those thoughts from his mind as best as he could.
Breaking her gaze from Melisa, the Gray turned towards Kiris and gave a slightly surprised look. However, his smile went a long way in preserving her pride. “If you feel that way, then I’m glad they were able to help you. However small that might be.” Artfully, her right hand drifted up to tuck some strands of her dark blonde hair behind her ear. “And you may call me by my name, Trine Lirutamain.” Her blue-grey eyes sparkled with an unspoken promise. “Or Trine would also do.”
Bringing his right fist to the chest in a formal Tower Guard salute, Kiris gave a small bow as he bent at the waist. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Trine Sedai. My name is Kiris Tored.” The feelings coming from the Bond were complicated; at first, the Kandori had sensed a large stab of pleasure when he had defended Melisa’s advice. However, it was being rapidly replaced by a sense of irritation.
Straightening up, he turned slightly to look at Melisa with his dark green eyes. Things might come to blows eventually if they stayed there long enough. “Isn’t it the time that we should return to your chambers?” he asked Melisa. He intentionally kept things vague, hinting that there might be other pressing obligations.
“Yes, I believe it’s past time, Kiris.” Melisa’s tone was frigid as the Kandori worked to hide a wince. Glancing back at Trine Sedai, it was obvious the woman had not missed the meaning behind those words.
Glancing over to Nicolo, Kiris gave an apologetic smile. “Would you terribly mind cleaning up after us?”
“Not if it means you’ll be buying me two rounds later,” Nicolo responded with a large grin even as he waved them off.
With a small sigh, the Kandori acquiesced with a brief nod before he once again held out his elbow for Melisa to take. Feeling her hand slip around the crook of his arm, he began to lead her back to her chambers. From the impressions that he was receiving from the Bond, Kiris didn’t dare say he’d enjoy what was going to be said.
Back in Melisa’s chambers, the Green folded her arms as she stalked back and forth in an angry line. “I can’t believe that woman,” she said with a huff. Her dark brown eyes flashed, promising retribution.
Although the Kandori wouldn’t have told her this, he found her anger rather endearing at times. This was one of those times, mainly because it wasn’t directed at him. “I can. If anything, she’s too believable.” A charming smile was given in her direction even as her walk slowed slightly.
Looking at him now, her lower lip jutted out a bit in a tiny pout. “You’re really not going to treat her to lunch, are you?” Her voice seemed rather plaintive. “I can just imagine how she’d behave after that.” And by her darkening expression, it was evident that she could indeed imagine.
Now, his smile turned into a full-blown grin. “Oh, I might.” Putting his right hand to his chin, he stroked it. “Do you think she’d like to eat a bowl o’brown down by the Northharbor?” The bowl o’brown was rather infamous in Tar Valon; generally, only the poorest of people ate it. The soup itself consisted of barley, carrots, lentils, and whatever type of meat could be found. Rat was not uncommon ingredient when there was nothing else available.
For a moment, Melisa looked outraged. Whether by his suggestion or the thought that he would consider taking Trine Sedai out to lunch, he wasn’t too sure. But then, it faded as she began to chuckle. “Well, if you can get her to agree to that, then I suppose I'll let you take her to lunch.”
Clasping his hands together and putting them to his chest, Kiris breathed dramatically like a love-struck fool. “Can you imagine?” Raising his voice to a high pitch, he gave a very poor impression of Trine Sedai. “"Oh, it's wonderful Kiris! Did you make it yourself? Oh yes, another helping! Please!” If the mockery reached the Gray’s ears, the Kandori would be in a great deal of hot water indeed. But seeing the amusement on Melisa’s face made it worthwhile.
“Listen Kiris,” Melisa’s face sobered as she reached out and placed a hand on his right arm. “I just wanted to apologize if you felt silly out there after I offered you advice.” Her tone was very sincere, which made it worse.
Kiris didn’t want apologies; they made him feel petty. But he hid those feelings behind an absent-minded mask. “Hm? Oh, of course not. Nicolo and you were just helping me out.” He was rather proud of how he sounded. There was no trace of anger or disappointment, just a mildly neutral tone.
However, it apparently didn’t fool Melisa. He was slightly amazed at how easy she could pick out his moods. “You know I can tell when something bothers you.”
Waggling his brows at her, Kiris stated. “And I'm telling you now that it isn't bothering me.” This time, a slight edge entered his voice.
A brief pause occurred before Melisa gave a smile. “Very well, I know a stubborn Gaidin when I see one.”
A small frown appeared on Kiris’ face. “Maybe I should take Trine Sedai out somewhere after all…” he muttered, making sure that it wasn’t intelligible.
However, Melisa still seemed to catch a few snatches. But just as she was opening her mouth, there was a polite, but insistent, knock at the door. A long look was given to Kiris indicating that they would be finishing this conversation later as she went to the door to greet whoever was there.
“Melisa, I was just thinking about you!” Divaine stood in the hallway, giving a warm smile. Even though she had been wearing a golden-yellow dress earlier, the Domani had chosen something a little lighter now. Her current dress’ color was a pale yellow like the color of the rising sun. It was made out of the finest silk and ran all the way to her ankles with a singular slit on the right to expose a hint of her legs. However, it completely opaque, going against the trend that most Domani women tended to set.
Since the dress was sleeveless, Divaine had chosen a darker golden jacket made from wool with short sleeves that left her tanned arms exposed. On her left arm, a bracelet made of an alloy of gold and silver spiraled up the length of her arm. With a subtle turn of her wrist, the firedrops studded on the bracelet glinted beautifully like a myriad of exotic eyes all fixed on Melisa.
Lowering her gaze a little, she almost seemed slightly embarrassed by what she was about to ask. “I know it’s a bit early, but I was wondering if you were interested in having a quick brunch together?”
Re: The Stranger You Know
Melisa's smile was whisked away and replaced with a furrowed brow as she heard Kiris murmur under his breath something about Trine Sedai and lunch, after she'd thought the topic had been closed. Surely he wouldn't. I thought I made it clear how I felt about this. She was just about to ask the Kandori precisely what he had said to himself, when a knock sounded upon the door. It was insistent enough that the Green felt obliged to answer it, but she first gave her Gaidin a long look to let him know that their conversation was not over.
When she swung the door open, the petite Aes Sedai was a bit surprised to see Divaine standing there, looking resplendent in a paler yellow than she'd worn earlier, which accentuated her skin tone. It amused her that her friend could go through four dresses in a day. "Melisa, I was just thinking about you!" she said, her face lighting up when she caught sight of the Green.
"I know it’s a bit early, but I was wondering if you were interested in having a quick brunch together?”
Melisa resisted the urge to dart a look at Kiris as the Yellow waited hopefully for an answer to her suggestion. It was not the right time for her to be running off with Divaine.
"That sounds nice, Di, but I feel as if I just had breakfast." Indeed, it seemed as though they had just eaten. And Melisa's throwing practice really hadn't taken as much out of her as the irritating Gray had. The light went right out of the Domani's face at her words. Melisa hated to cause anyone to look like that.
"Can we do this later, perhaps?" the Green inquired, hoping that would appease her. In the meantime, she could finish her talk with Kiris.
"Maybe lunch, then?" Di looked hopeful again.
"Let's plan on it."
The Yellow's bracelet flashed brilliantly in the light from Melisa's rooms as she turned and headed off down the hallway, seemingly placated.
Melisa watched her for just a moment as she eased the door closed and turned around, resting her back on it. Kiris had an elbow resting on her mantle, eyeing the heartstone disc bearing an image of what looked like a fish combined with a lion, which she'd found in her father's sea chest.
She merely eyed her Gaidin, waiting for him to say something. But he did not. Instead, he started to whistle. The way men did when they were trying to look nonchalant. When they were going to answer whatever your question was with "I'm sorry, what were we talking about?"
The Green spoke up first, trying not to sound perturbed. "What was that you were saying as Di knocked on the door?"
His gaze met hers, but he was still being oblique. "It seems to have slipped my mind."
Melisa stepped forward, folding her arms. Several moments passed, while Kiris looked down and fiddled with the dagger at his waist, still without another word. Maybe he didn't mean what I thought he said.
Finally, the Green heaved a sigh, and settled herself into one of her high-backed chairs. Meanwhile, the Kandori had started twiddling his thumbs, looking decidedly uncomfortable at the lengthy silence.
More time passed before finally, Kiris opened his mouth to speak, but he did not say anything Melisa wanted to hear. He was going to return to the Practice Yards for a while.
Melisa opened and closed her mouth two or three times, trying to decide what to say. I don't want to leave things like this, but what do I say?
Just as he pulled the door open, his green eyes met hers uneasily as he lingered for just a moment. "I'm sorry," he said genuinely, pausing after he'd said it as if wondering how it sounded, and then the door closed.
For a time, Melisa merely stared at the door. Somehow, leaving things with him apologizing like that didn't make her feel any better.
Divaine answered the door so quickly that it almost seemed as if she'd been waiting beside it when Melisa knocked. Her enthusiastic greeting and her ramblings about how beautiful a day it was barely registered. The Green walked down the hallway leading to Divaine's circular sitting room, its off-white wall decorated with a multitude of paintings--and a few empty frames--and looked towards the beckoning balcony before turning from it and settling herself into one of the chairs at Di's table, the Domani doing the same before a gleaming tray of food and drink.
I spent enough time looking out the window earlier, she mused. Melisa had tried to immerse herself in some work by trying to read the previous day's correspondence, but she found herself reading the same letter four times and not remembering a word of it. She'd finally given up and went to the window overlooking the Tower gardens, letting the warm sunshine filter down upon her as she'd thought about how she should have handled herself differently earlier.
Divaine Sedai was not easy to fool, so the Green did not even bother to try masking her troubled state in front of the slender Yellow. It did not take long for the Yellow to stop mid-sentence and really look at her.
"What's bothering you, Melisa?" She came to her feet and glided over, stroking the Green's hair as Melisa put an elbow on the table and frowned.
The comforting hand that glided over her hair paused a moment, and then continued. "What about him? Did you two fight? I've noticed that things have been different ever since you've returned from Illian..."
Illian. The trip had seen Kiris' first healing, and they had worked together in a way that Melisa would always remember. "Yes, I thought we were closer after that. Today, I'm not so sure."
"What happened today?" questioned Di delicately. She knew how to draw a story out of the Green.
"There's a Gray that has her eye on Kiris." Melisa's expression darkened as she recalled how the woman had toyed with her hair and had told her own Gaidin that she could call her "Trine." She'd wanted to snap something in two. Preferably something pretty that Trine really liked.
"Oh? But this isn't the first time someone has had an eye on him..."
Melisa arched a brow at the Yellow, raising her face from the hand it had been resting on. "Oh?"
"Melisa, you do know that at least a quarter to the Tower had plans to Bond him." There was a touch of amusement in Divaine's voice. Melisa was a bit relieved; she had been afraid Di had meant something else.
"That may be true. But I think it's time they called off the hunt, so to speak." At least it's time that Trine got the message.
"I agree. He's your Gaidin. He chose you, right?" Melisa's nod prodded the Yellow to add, "And it's not as if he feels anything for this Gray..."
"I suppose not." He hadn't acted like it. It was just that Kiris had a pleasant manner of dealing with most people that would make it hard for him to decline requests. Like lunch with an Aes Sedai.
"So why are you worried?"
"I...don't know." It was not something she'd really worried about...until now.
"Is he interested in another...?" Di asked, her expression unreadable.
Melisa pressed her lips together a moment. "Well, there's a woman over by the Darein Bridge he goes to see now and then. That doesn't bother me." It doesn't exactly make me happy, either, but I can deal with it.
"It does bother me that I'd feel I was competing with a Sister for his attention." Especially one who seems to take a lot of pleasure in doing so.
The Domani gracefully swept around the table and placed herself in the chair opposite Melisa. "Well, you should tell him. He agreed to serve, did he not?"
"Then, he should serve." Divaine paused a moment in thought before continuing. "I suppose the worst that could happen is that he asks you to the release the Bond."
Melisa nearly shuddered at the very thought. She had been without a bondmate for a good deal of time because she'd wanted to choose the right man for her, this time. And the idea of releasing his Bond only to see him end up with another Aes Sedai, particularly Trine Lirutamain, was more than a bit distasteful at the moment. "I don't know if I could do that again."
"It shouldn't have to come to that."
Melisa nodded agreement, her face solemn.
Sadness tinged the Yellow's delicate features then, and the Green knew who she was thinking of.
"But you should prepared to accept the worst."
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is."
Re: The Stranger You Know
Sweat flew from Kiris’s right arm even as he bought the wooden practice sword around in a tight arc, thudding against the left thigh of his opponent. The Kandori himself was crouched on one knee even as his sparring partner lowered his sword before giving a stiff bow and leaving. Coming back to his feet, Kiris idly swung the blade back and forth as it whistled through the air.
Honestly, his thoughts were not at the Practice Yards. Instead, they were still trapped back at Melisa’s chambers. His brow creased at the remembrance of his earlier carelessness; his irritation had been no excuse to say what he did. It had bothered him that Melisa had not been willing to drop the subject about the knife throwing. Of course his pride had been hurt; there was no need to make him admit it too. But he had gone too far in muttering about taking Trine Sedai out to lunch. The words he had been spoken had been meant to hurt and now, he was out sweating beneath the sun with a cold chill in his gut after offering a lame apology.
While he had been hoping that the mindless exercise would help clear his crowded thoughts, it really hadn’t. In truth, the Kandori realized that a more skilled opponent, like Nicolo, would have already cut him to ribbons. But so far, the last two people who had agreed to a spar had been less than spectacular. They had mainly done it to earn experience against a skilled foe. Kiris didn’t fault them for it; he also was attempting to do the same thing. But it didn’t really help him improve so the Gaidin was ready to call it a day and leave.
After all, he might still be able to find Melisa before she went to lunch. Then, he could take the proper time to express his regret.
But even as he turned to go, a melodious voice called to him. “Leaving so soon? I thought you might want to cross blades with me.”
Turning his head back towards his opponent, Kiris hid a grimace. Alphonse Pendaloan was notorious in the Tower. The son of a Tairen nobleman, he had been sent to the White Tower at a young age to learn swordplay. Upon his arrival, he proceeded to best an aged Gaidin in a publicized duel. And within two years, he had been raised to the status of a Gaidin. He had quickly become a polarizing factor in the Tower since Alphonse was a firm believer in the concept that any commoner wielding a blade could never hope to match a noble.
And Kiris’ last opponent had been one of the sycophants of Alphonse. The man obviously wanted to take a bit of revenge.
Fixing his dark green eyes into the mahogany brown of his opponent, Kiris gave a short nod. “If that’s what you wish.” While Alphonse had few friends outside of the circle he kept, there was no question concerning his skill. He was regarded widely as one of the top five blades in the Tower, demonstrated during the prize playing exhibitions. There were even a few that claimed he was a close second to Jearom Gaidin, the greatest blademaster ever to live.
It was exactly the type of opponent that the Kandori could use experience against.
Giving a brief nod, Alphonse undid the buttons to his elaborately embroidered coat before flinging it to one of his followers. While Kiris believed in keeping a neat appearance, the man before him took it to a whole other level. His perfectly arranged dark brown hair framing his face and wrinkle-free, blindingly white shirt with a pair of black woolen pants said that Alphonse had never sweated once in his life. Giving a smile to the gathering crowd, he held up his left hand in a jaunty wave like a reigning champion greeting all of his fans.
Leveling his practice blade at Alphonse, Kiris stood there with a sweaty bare chest even as he tried to find his focus. “You should lose the shirt. Otherwise, it’ll hinder your movements.” There was a murmur of agreement from the crowds though the Kandori cynically thought that most of the women there just wanted a peek at the Tairen’s finely muscled bare chest.
A lazy smile curled the ends of those perfect lips as Alphonse glanced over with a slightly raised eyebrow. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. A little handicap should make this sporting after all.” Holding out his hand, another one of his followers brought his own personal wooden practice sword as the Tairen daintily took it in his right hand, wrapping his fingers around it.
“Suit yourself,” Kiris thought grimly even as he grasped the handle in both of his hands and assumed a neutral guard. While he didn’t think he would stand a chance, he was planning on landing at least one blow on the preening pretty boy in front of him. The causal, almost absent-minded way he was being treated was bringing back unpleasant memories of crossing blades against Makien McKnight aboard the ship. While Alphonse wasn’t Makien, he would suffice for a substitute.
With a loud cry, the Kandori rushed to meet his opponent.
“Well, I think that was probably the worst drubbing I’ve seen this entire year.”
Kiris glanced up sourly at the voice, glaring at Nicolo. The other Gaidin took a seat on a bench where the Kandori was currently seated. The match had been over as quickly as it had begun. In ten strikes, he had received ten stripes in various locations. Alphonse Pendaloan had proven once again why he was one of the most sought after Gaidin that had still not chosen to Bond.
A loud hiss escaped his mouth as Nicolo suddenly struck him on the back where one of the large red welts was forming. Turning to growl at the Gaidin, he stopped upon seeing the serious expression on his face.
“This isn’t like you, Kiris. While you wouldn’t stand a chance against Pendaloan on his worst day, you were flailing around your blade like you had gone back to being a Siswai all over again. Your strikes were so telegraphed that even the greenest fighter could have countered them.”
Pausing, Nicolo turned his head up towards the sky. “So what’s wrong? Does it have to do with this morning?”
A large sigh coming to his lips, Kiris bent forward as he ran his hands through his sweaty, curled brown locks of hair. “I had an argument with Melisa,” he admitted after a moment, his voice glum.
“Well, it is hardly surprising. Every Aes Sedai and her Gaidin has a time where they rub each other the wrong way. It happens to everyone,” Nicolo commented sagely. “I mean, you should see me and Corvinia sometime when we’re having one of our spats.”
“I think I would rather pass,” Kiris stated dryly. “So what would you do?”
A shrug was directed towards the Kandori. “Well, women are women. Normally, I just buy a gift as an apology. Corvinia is rather fond of flowers, especially white, purple, or yellow snapdragons.”
“Won’t that send the wrong impression?”
This time, a shrewd look came to Nicolo’s eyes. “Well, I’m not sure. I suppose it depends on what type of message you’re trying to send.”
Surprised, the Kandori gave Nicolo a startled look. Most Aes Sedai preferred to keep a strictly professional relationship with their Gaidin. Things became complicated once they were feelings involved. And while it was not unheard of for a Green and her Warder to become romantically involved, the Kandori still haven’t given himself and Melisa much thought. Or rather, he had forced himself to not consider it. In spite of himself, he began idly fingering the silver earring hanging from his right ear.
Laughing, Kiris gave an amused look. “Sorry, Nicolo. But I don’t think that Melisa and I have what you think we do.”
Once again, another casual shrug was given by Nicolo. “I never said you did. Still, a gift would go a long way in restoring things. Trust me on this one.”
Coming to his feet, the Kandori fetched his simple brown tunic as he slipped it over his head. “Well, thanks for the advice. But I’m sure that things will work themselves out one way or the other. Melisa isn’t the type to hold a grudge,” he stated, thinking about the trip to Illian. Originally, it had been so that she could face and kill Sam’cuendar for the crime of murdering her husband. But she had ended up forgiving him instead by the end of their journey.
“It’s your call,” Nicolo stated, coming to his feet as well. “Just don’t forget that you owe me two rounds at the Lion’s Den.” After waggling his finger in front of the Kandori’s face, the Gaidin left the area.
Leaving Kiris alone with his thoughts.
“Melisa?” The Kandori stated politely to the entrance of her room. “Are you there?” There was no response; most likely, she had already gone to spend lunch with her friend, Divaine. Trying the door, he found it unlocked as he entered into the room. More than likely, she had left it unlocked just for him.
Coming into the room, Kiris furtively peeked around. Nicolo’s words were still firmly embedded in his mind. But what kind of gift should he get her? She already had a new horse, Nightstar. He wasn’t sure about her favorite food. He knew that she liked flowers. But he didn’t know which ones exactly. With a brief start, he realized that there was still much he did not know about the Green. To him, it was amazing that they had spent so much time together and yet she was still a stranger to him. And to be truthfully, he was probably the one at fault.
Pausing to think, he folded his arms one over the other. Well, there was the dress that he had gotten her for Tandar. The red one. A small grin came to his face; she had looked quite delectable in it, which spoke about his good tastes. Thinking about it, Melisa had also seemed to have liked it well enough. Idly, he wondered if she had managed to find enough time to get it cleaned. The last time it had been pretty thoroughly soaked with sea water and sand.
Walking over to the beautifully carved armoire, the Kandori put up a hand. “Excuse me,” he politely spoke to the air before he opened it. Sure enough, the red dress was hanging there among many others. Fishing it out, he examined it and noted that it still smelled faintly of the sea. While it had dried out reasonably, the dress certainly could use the hand of a skilled dressmaker to restore it.
With an idle look, he realized that the color blue was by far the most dominant one found among all the dresses. Mentally filing that fact away, he folded the red dress over his arm before closing the armoire. His stomach also grumbled lightly, reminding him that it was lunchtime.
He knew what he would do. First, he would get some lunch. Then, he’d pay a visit to Katinen, the seamstress at the Darein Bridge. If anyone would be able to restore the dress to its original look, it would be her. Afterwards, he would go around Tar Valon and pick up something else. Maybe a few flowers.”
Feeling pleased with himself, Kiris set out from Melisa’s room quickly. “You are brilliant,” he congratulated himself.
He couldn’t wait to see the expression on Melisa’s face.
Re: The Stranger You Know
Strolling back to her rooms in the Tower, Melisa felt a little better after having shared her problems with Di as she so often did. While it would be difficult to discuss with Kiris how she felt about the idea of Trine becoming a...friend...of his, she knew it was far worse not to talk about it. An Aes Sedai and her Warder would not always see eye to eye on everything. But if they didn't get along, working together would be difficult. Until now, Melisa had not been truly bothered by anything Kiris had done. And he had said he was sorry, before he'd closed the door.
She was nearly at her destination when she realized suddenly that it didn't feel as though Kiris was in her apartments. In fact, it distinctly seemed that he was somewhere directly to the west of the Tower, in the city. In the direction of the Darein Bridge. While Kiris had often been on duty there during his tenure as a Lieutenant of the Guards, there was only one reason Melisa could think of that would draw him there now. Her gaze grew sorrowful as she realized that her Gaidin had left without telling her where he was going like he normally did. The Green came to a halting stop, and turned on her heel before even going inside, deciding to head instead for the Gardens.
Stepping outside into the Tower Gardens was more than just a breath of fresh air for Melisa's lungs. For the Green, it had always been a place of beauty, solace and thought. When she had first come to the city of Tar Valon as a novice, she had never expected to see a location so vibrant and green in the midst of the towering stone. It had been a delight then, and few Aes Sedai cherished it like she did. In fact, few could care for its bounty of colorful plants the way she could. The ter'angreal that had been passed from the Sea Folk to Melisa's father had added Earth to her strength with Water, Air and Spirit that revived and preserved each delicate blossom that she touched.
While some of her fellow Sisters would have found such a task both tedious and useless, the Andoran breezed from flower to flower much as a butterfly would have. Roses regained their vivid red as the stone around Melisa's neck changed from a smoky mix of blue and gray to a dark, rich green. Lilies that were starting to fade and wither were renewed. Vines of blue cup-like morning glory blooms reached forward as she brushed them with her fingertips. Trees looked a little greener as she passed and touched the bark with a stronger weave of nourishment, while birds in the branches overhead announced her presence. As for the pesky weeds that tended to spring up in the midst of the clumps of flowers, the Green left those for the men and women who tended the grounds. She was only here to encourage growth.
Right now, there were no busy workers around. In fact, most of the Tower had something to do around this time--a late lunch or other business that either kept them indoors or in town. The solitude and the familiar task helped her blot out her concerns about where her Gaidin had gone...and what he was doing. It was working far better than the correspondence she'd tried to distract herself with earlier.
Melisa lingered a little at a cluster of yellow trueheart, bending her knees slightly to lean down and breathe in the scent. While the lilies were her favorite, there were many flowers she liked a great deal, to look at or to smell. These were appealing to both the eye and the nose. With her eyes closed, she was taking in the sweet fragrance peacefully when a nearby voice startled her. She stood up quickly as her eyes flew open.
"Wasn't he there?"
It was Di, looking curious as to why she was hanging around the Gardens at this time of day. Once again, she was showing off her beautiful collection of clothing. The dress she wore now was a high-necked, brilliant sunny yellow dress that revealed her legs somewhat and was decorated with embroidered swans that looked as if they were gliding across the thin, gauzy fabric. A delicate wrap rested on her relaxed arms, and a pure red ruby hung daintily in the middle of her forehead. Divaine always looked well put-together, but this time she had outdone herself.
"No. He's...across town." In a rush, the barrier she'd been able to put up against her troubles started to dissolve. The question had brought back her uneasiness about where Kiris was. And he was still there.
"Oh!" Divaine paused as Melisa finished with the truehearts. "Well, I'm sure that he had a few personal things to take care of." The optimism that rang in her voice only served to punctuate the fact that Kiris was personally drawn to that seamstress to the west.
The idea drew out a loud, deep sigh.
After a moment of quiet, as if she'd been seeking a distraction, Di burst out, "I know! Why don't we do something together? There are a few dresses that I've been wanting to try..." She sounded excited at the prospect. "And I've recently seen a shade of green that would suit you so well," added the Domani.
"I'd love to do that, but I'm afraid my mood would just sour yours, Di."
"Nonsense, Melisa." She placed a friendly hand on Melisa's left shoulder. "I insist," she pressed.
"I want to do it, Di. Another time, maybe, though." A touch of disappointment was beginning to appear on Divaine's face until she added, "Though you certainly look your best in that outfit as it is."
The Yellow positively beamed at the compliment. "Well, don't forget about our tea time later today. I've picked up something that you'll just love." With a smile and a twinkle in her eye, Divaine turned and headed back into the confines of the Tower.
Back inside her rooms, Melisa poured herself a small glass of water and raised it to her lips, her gaze landing on her ornately carved violin case. I haven't played in a few days, maybe I should pull it out and run through a few songs. She placed the glass on the table, and picked up the case, placing it there to withdraw her instrument.
Stepping to the heavy, well-polished wooden chair that sat next to her mantle, Melisa plucked at the strings and drew the bow across each one to test its sound. After tweaking those strings that needed adjustment, she closed her eyes and chose an relatively simple tune to begin with, Berin's Retreat. The song began well, but when she reached a busy middle section, her fingers got all tangled up somehow and the violin gave a horrid squeak. It happened once more before she managed to get all the way through the tune. Thinking something more merry might be better, Melisa started in on A Pocket Full of Gold. But again, the song that she should have been able to manage easily was interrupted by a mistake. Melisa gritted her teeth angrily as a screech came out right beside her ear instead of the note she wanted.
The First Rose of Summer. I can do that one in my sleep. Plucking out the first few notes, she settled into the rhythm of drawing the bow over the strings, feeling the instrument quiver beneath her chin. Her fingers danced nimbly across the strings...and then she got confused about which part of the song she was playing. The song disintegrated into a mess as the Green growled at herself.
"Bloody stupid fingers!" exclaimed the Green, just as the door opened, and Kiris' familiar face appeared.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is."
Re: The Stranger You Know
“I’d ask if that was for me, but I know you better than that. After all, it’s a bit too small and you know that red just doesn’t suit me.”
The words came out from the broad lips of Katinen, one of Tar Valon’s more popular dressmakers. Born in the city of Tar Valon, she was a comely, buxom woman with elaborately curled brown ringlets of hair that ran past her shoulders down to the middle of her back. A pair of warm, chocolate brown eyes stared fondly at the Kandori who was awkwardly holding the red dress in both of his hands. Right now, the plump woman was pinning a few needles on a wooden mannequin decorated in a brilliant dress of azure blue with a pale golden trim at the hem and around the shoulders. With the elaborate scrollwork across the waist, it was obvious that the dress was being custom-made for a rather wealthy individual.
A simple smile came to Kiris’ lips even as he laid the red dress across the aged, wooden counter. “Kati, it’s good to see you again.” The Kandori meant his words. When he had been serving as a Tower Guardsman, he had been quite smitten with her and had been a frequent visitor. Even now, he felt the spark of attraction flicker in his chest as he let his dark green eyes wander up and down. Dressed in a gray dress with a white “V” running from her neck to the navel with a silken ribbon, dark blue, crossing back and forth as the string to close the “V” neck, she exuded an inviting lushness that had made her popular with her male customers.
Kiris had been no exception. Briefly, his memory drifted back to a time when they had even made love in this very room. How arousing Katinen had looked with her hands plastered against the counter. How she had breathlessly called out his name. During that time, he had even entertained thoughts of asking to marry her.
Things had changed, of course. They tended too. Once he had been Bonded, there had been less time to visit her since he had to leave the city from time to time. And those burning, passionate feelings had cooled into more of a warm, camaraderie that he now had with her. Still, his eyes still lingered on her full bosom as she leaned forward to stick another pin in the mannequin.
“Stop that, Tory. You’re making me blush,” Katinen said playfully, without a hint of red touching her pale cheeks. Her pale complexion only served to highlight the makeup she used underneath her eyes, making them hypnotic pools. Finishing up with the mannequin, she turned fully to face him.
“So, I’ll go ahead and assume that you want me to do something with this dress. From the looks of it, the thing could use a good scrubbing.” Holding out both of her hands, she took the dress from Kiris’ hands. There was a momentary pause as their fingers made contact with each other before withdrawing. Her hands were heavily callused from the work she did, perhaps the only testament that there was something more to her than a convenient lady of the night.
Kiris watched her, feeling his heart ache slightly. “Do you think you could have it done in the next couple of hours?” He knew that it was asking a lot; he had taken a bit of time to examine the dress during lunch. There were a few dark splotches in particular from the sea water that would be difficult to get out. And making sure that the frills once again fanned out would also be an arduous task.
“You’re asking a rather large chore, Tory,” Katinen said tartly as she examined the dress, running her fingers through the fabric. “This new lady friend of yours must be something rather special. I don’t think you ever got me anything this nice…” Seeing his slightly disappointed look, she gave a put-on, exaggerated sigh as she removed her hand from the dress and put it across her brow. “Oh, stop that. You cheater. You know that I can’t stand it when you do that look.”
With a slight huff, she removed the hand from her brow before wagging a finger in front of his nose. “You should thank the Creator that you chose to send this dress over to me. I’m only the best dressmaker in both Tar Valon and probably in the entire region of Andor as well. It’ll be done in two hours.”
“Thanks, Kati. I owe you one.” Kiris stated gratefully.
“Well, make sure to take me to dinner sometime. Like at the Amyrlin’s Feast. Or buy me some jewelry. I’m fond of opals. White ones, if possible.” All the words were said with a haughty tone, which drew a deep, full laugh from the Kandori.
“Woman, I was only a Tower Guardsman until not long ago! I don’t have that kind of salary!” His own response was just as light as hers as Katinen gave an elaborate eye roll as she spun on her heel.
“It’s no wonder you stopped visiting. I was probably too expensive to maintain.” Turning her head halfway to let a single eye to linger on him, there almost seemed to be a touch of wistfulness in her gaze. “Now, shoo! Let me get to work! And don’t you dare come back until two hours have past!” Waving her right hand at him, she ushered him out of her shop.
Watching the door close, the Kandori stood at the entrance for several moments. His face then took on a melancholic expression as he turned from it with a sigh. Perhaps visiting hadn’t been the wisest decision, after all. Because Kiris knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he still felt something for Katinen. Even if they had both known that their relationship wouldn’t last.
Slouching slightly, he began to walk down the street. He still had to visit the florist and then go about seeing the local jeweler.
The florist had been simple enough. Not having any idea of what to buy, he had asked the shop owner for some suggestions. In the end, he had paid three silver pennies for a large bouquet of flowers. The bulk of them were snapdragons in hues of red, orange, white, and purple. In the center, a smaller ring of blue lilies sat gently with a brilliant red starflower in their midst.
Now, Kiris was busy examining various pieces of jewelry. The shopkeeper had been persistent in directing them towards their more expensive pieces, but the Kandori knew with a single look that he could never hope to afford them. In the end, he chose a simple necklace made from silver. Seven blue agates were set in the necklace frame with the largest one being in the center. Looking at the blue stone with the swirls of white, he was reminded of the sea. Hopefully, Melisa would enjoy his gift.
After paying for the necklace and having it wrapped in a thin, cedar box, the Kandori made his way back towards Katinen. The whole process had taken closer to three hours, so he was certain she would be done with the dress. After all, she was always someone who kept her promises.
Stopping at the door of her shop, he eyed the sign that read ‘Closed’ in fancy black lettering. Shrugging, he raised his right hand and gave a firm knock. When there was no response, he performed it once again with a little more force. Suddenly, the door jerked opened as a large Andorean answered the door, bare-chested and growling. “Can’t you flaming read you…?!?”
The man’s anger died down as he eyed firstly Kiris’ outfit, taking in the markings of a Gaidin. His gaze then continued to the large bouquet of flowers that the Kandori held in one hand as the Andorean blanched. “Light! I didn’t mean any disrespect, Warder. I just thought that you were…” His voice trailed off at the end, not knowing what else to add. It was obvious that he expected Kiris to free up the longsword at his waist at any moment.
Smoothly, Katinen’s voice cut in. “Don’t worry. He’s just here to pick up a dress.” She was dressed with hardly a hair out of place opposed to the half-clothed Andorean standing besides her. Delicately, she handed him the wrapped package as she offered a smile tinged with a hint of sorrow.
“Pay me later.” With only those words for a goodbye, the door was closed once again with a firm thud this time.
Clutching the carefully wrapped dress in his left hand and the large bouquet of flowers in his right, Kiris couldn’t help a little bit betrayed. While he knew that he was hardly the only person that came to see Katinen, it had been the first time he had actually encountered one of them.
The sense of melancholy returned stronger than before as the Kandori turned from the door and began to head back to the Tower.
“At least Melisa will be happy to see me…” he thought glumly.
“…or not,” was his only thought as he stared at the Green. He knew surprise was written all over his face along with a small hint of fear. After all, an angry female was bad; an angry female who could channel was downright terrifying. The words, ‘Bloody stupid fingers!’ still rang in the air as the Gaidin knew that it wasn’t the fingers that she was feeling frustrated with.
When he had heard the notes from the First Rose of Summer, Kiris had been rather hopeful. In their time together, it was the song that he heard Melisa play the most often when she was relaxing. However, the discordant cacophony that had sounded out along with her curses spoke of ill tidings as the Kandori had managed to wrestle open the door with his hands full.
“I’m back,” he managed lamely. Then, he braced himself for the incoming storm.
However, it never came. “I shouldn’t use such language,” Melisa said, seemingly a little embarrassed, two tiny spots of red adorning her cheeks, at the coarse language that had come out of her mouth only moments earlier.
“What do you have there?” she added after a moment.
With a well-practiced flourish, the Kandori presented the bouquet to her as he gave a small bow. “For you. For what I said earlier.” He made sure that his tone sounded very apologetic, which he was.
Hearing the pleased noise that she made, a silent sigh of relief was given. “Good. It looks like I’m safe,” Kiris thought even as Melisa put away her violin carefully and then accepted the bouquet from his outstretched hand. Mentally, he thanked Nicolo for his wise advice; he would buy the man three rounds later at the Lion’s Den.
“Oh, Kiris, that's so nice of you.” Melisa seemed rather pleased at his selection. “Wait right there; I’m going to put them in the vase with the white calla lilies.” Humming slightly, the Green went over towards the vase as she gently began to pluck the flowers out from the bouquet before sliding them in. The next few minutes were spent arranging them as she liked as he slowly hid the wrapped package out of sight. Apparently, she hadn’t noticed it, having been distracted by the flowers. He would later sneak it back into the armoire when she wasn’t looking.
Silently like a panther walking on padded paws, he stalked up behind her. A rather boyish grin came to his face. “Now, close your eyes,” he stated even as he reached in his back pocket for the small cedar box.
“There's more?” Melisa inquired even as she closed her eyes.
Choosing to let his actions speak rather than his words, Kiris delicately removed the silver necklace before draping it around her neck.
“You shouldn’t have,” she said as the cool metal touched her neck. He knew what she really meant; the feelings of happiness glowing from the Bond spoke her true thoughts.
Fastening the tiny clasp at the back of her neck, he now grasped her hands in his own as he spun her around slowly. Then, he began to lead her back to her bedroom. There was a mirror perched on the small table, which was perfect for him to show off his gift. Melisa often combed her hair there.
Amusement danced both in the Bond and on her face as she allowed him to lead her, trusting him simply. Slowly they came to a stop as Kiris positioned her in front of the mirror and gave an even wider grin. "Now, you can open them," he intoned.
The gasp that escaped the Green’s lips told him that he had chosen correctly. “It’s beautiful,” she said, touching a touch breathless even as her finger traced one of the bluish-white stones. “And I love blue,” she added.
“I thought you’d like it,” Kiris said, his grin turning smug with satisfaction. After all, he had a good eye for things like this.
Suddenly, the Green turned and gave him a full embrace. The necklace glinted in the light even as the Kandori held back a surprised gasp. While he had long known that she was a woman, it was only now that he realized how much of a woman. Slowly, his hands came up as he put them on her shoulders.
As she turned her head upward to look at him with her dark brown eyes, he began to feel his heart beat faster. Perhaps it was the feelings mixing in the Bond, but he felt almost euphoric. Giddiness rose in his being. A part of him was shouting that this was not the reason he had gotten those gifts, but it was distant and far away compared to the blossoming heat beneath his waist. “Melisa…” he murmured with a heated, hungry promise of unleashed passion. He saw her lower lip quiver gently as he slowly began to tilt his head.
The abrupt ringing of the Tower bells brought them both back to their senses, breaking the spell. For a long moment, they stood there in shock as the bells continued to toll loudly, exclaiming the hour throughout the entire city. Feeling self-conscious now, the Kandori let his hands fall from her shoulders to his side as he averted his gaze. Given the heat he felt on his face, he was certain his cheeks were flushed.
And Melisa seemed to remember something as well. “Oh no! I’m late!” she exclaimed in slight dismay. Due to what had nearly just happened, it might have seemed like she was trying to get away. But Kiris knew what she meant. Normally, she would have a daily tea time with her friend, Di, in the afternoon. And given the hour that the bells were proclaiming, late was a large understatement.
Giving an easy laugh at the panicked expression her face, Kiris waved her off. “Go and have your tea. I’ll probably go and pay a visit to the Tower Guards. I’m sure that they could use the company.”
Once the Green had hurried out the door, the Kandori went back outside of the bedroom. Heading over to the small dining table, he sank into one of the chairs in an exhausted fashion. “Light…” he muttered, sounding almost disgusted with himself. Unconsciously, he began to idly play with the silver earring in his right ear. But when he realized it, he jerked his hand away as the melancholic expression appeared again.
Some things in life were just not meant to be. This was one of them.
Re: The Stranger You Know
It's a necklace, Melisa thought as her lips quivered with amusement, waiting for him to tell her she could open her eyes and gaze at the unexpected gift. From the way they were walking, she was heading towards her bedroom and was being presented before the mirror on her vanity. Her other senses were heightened now that her eyes were closed. She could catch the faintest scent of her flowers on the air and truly feel the warmth of Kiris' hands on hers, as well as feel the cool metal against her skin. As she felt him let go, his hands moved to her shoulders to turn her gently.
"Now, you can open them," the Kandori declared, anticipation ringing through the Bond on both sides.
Melisa gave out a gasp as her eyes fluttered open to have her first look at the gift. It was silver with a scattering of stones that reminded the Green of the swirl of the waves on the island they'd found themselves on only a month past. And that in itself made the gift touch her that much more.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed, tracing her fingertips over the stones. “And I love blue,” she added.
“I thought you’d like it.” Behind her, in the mirror, Kiris wore an expression that fairly beamed with approval. As her gaze met his in the looking-glass, she felt compelled to give him more than just a simple thank-you. He had gone over and beyond.
Turning quickly, she swept her arms around him in a tight hug. It felt...better than she'd expected. There was a warmth in the Bond that grew when she did it, and she breathed in his natural scent mingled with that of the flowers that had brushed against his clothes. Melisa found herself not wanting to release him. You're holding on a bit too long, now. Let go, said a tiny voice inside her head that she reluctantly gave in to as Kiris moved his hands to her shoulders.
Their eyes met, and Melisa felt her heart start to pound when the sensations she was now feeling started to return to her in the Bond. She found herself wanting him to brush her hair back away from her face and to brush her cheek with his hand...to pull her closer...her thoughts kept racing onward even as Kiris softly uttered her name. His lips moved towards hers as if he knew what she was thinking....they were so close now that the Bond sang with excitement....
And then the chimes of the Tower bells decided it was not the time. Cutting through the romantic moment with each peal, they not only interrupted what was going to be Melisa's first kiss shared with her Bonded, but made her suddenly very aware that that they were in her room and that her bed was right behind them. It only made the color in her cheeks deepen when she realized how far beyond actual events that her mind had gone. Kiris, too seemed uneasy, as he was finding the floor very interesting at the moment.
As the tones finished, a realization came swiftly to the Green. It was well past tea time. “Oh no! I’m late!” she exclaimed, a hand reaching up to her mouth. Di was going to be disappointed. She'd taken care of arranging food and drink, and surely it would all be cold by now. And Melisa knew it was no fun being kept waiting. Kiris knew enough about her schedule not to take it personally as she rushed off towards the Yellow Halls.
Giving an insistent knock at Divaine Sedai's door, Melisa hummed a tune quietly to herself and swayed lightly on her feet. Despite the fact that her interlude had been interrupted, for the time being it had whisked away all concern about Trine Sedai and her useless flirtations.
The Domani did not open the door fully. "Oh, I thought that maybe you weren't coming." Judging from her tone, she was surprised that the Green had made it after all.
"I'm so sorry, Di. We...I lost track of the time," Melisa replied genuinely, knowing that little slip that would probably bring forth some questions.
A tiny smile graced the other woman's features. "Your apology is accepted." She swung the door wide open to allow the Andoran to enter. As she stepped inside, the Green found out that Divaine had noticed her slip. "By 'we' I assume you that you mean Kiris and you?"
Melisa flopped into a chair in happily distracted fashion. "Yes." Her nod was somewhat dreamy.
"You're beaming at the moment," Divaine told her as she studied the Green's face. Her gaze drifted to the necklace.
"Is that new?" she queried, her fingers brushing the middle stone.
"It was a gift. From Kiris. Do you like it?" Melisa's smile was wide in anticipation of the Yellow's reply.
"It's beautiful. Still," she added as if an afterthought, "I think sapphire might have made a better choice..."
Melisa gave a slight shake of her head in muted disagreement. "Perhaps, but what it's made of really isn't important to me."
"True. It is the thought that counts." Turning the subject to what they'd discussed earlier, she questioned gently, "So, I suppose that he's made his amends?"
"Yes. And I don't think he really cares anything for that Gray, anyway." There was a secretive happiness bubbling up inside the Green right now. But Divaine hadn't asked for the entire story of what happened, so for now, she was going to simply keep it between herself and her Gaidin.
"Of course not. After all, how could Trine hope to compare with you?" The color came faintly back to Melisa's cheeks as she recalled gazing into those intense green eyes. I'm not sure anyone could compare with Kiris.
Then she snapped back to the present and Divaine's flattery. Waving a hand, she threw a look towards the ceiling. "Oh Di, you're too kind..." And then it occurred to her. She'd never actually mentioned the name of the Sister who'd rubbed her the wrong way. "Wait. I don't think I mentioned Trine."
Divaine blinked, as if she didn't realize she'd uttered the name either. "Oh? You're right, I don't think you did..." Haltingly, she explained, "Since you appeared so upset, I asked around a little."
"Oh. Well, I'm not as concerned about that now as I was earlier."
The Yellow gave an eager smile and turned the conversation to what she'd been hinting at earlier that day in the Gardens. "Now, for my surprise." She opened a small box to reveal a delicate brown dessert that smelled positively heavenly. And it wasn't even cut yet.
"What is that?"
"Well, this is something imported from Seanchan. I'm not too sure of the name, but it tastes quite wonderful." She wasted no time in cutting the petite Aes Sedai a slice to try. And it smelled even better cut.
Melisa found her mouth watering as she picked up a fork and used it to separate a piece to try. Raising it to her mouth, she pressed her lips together over the fork and drew it back out with sounds of delight. The longer she chewed, the better it tasted, as if it was melting on her tongue. "That might be one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted."
"I know. When I first tried it, I thought of you..." Her friend seemed delighted that the dessert met with Melisa's approval.
"Are you free tomorrow, Melisa?"
"I think so," the Green nodded.
"I'm sure that you're interested in shopping for a new dress now..." Her tone was playful. After all, Divaine herself probably would go out in search of a dress to match a necklace she'd been given.
Thinking of that, Melisa had to laugh. "I'm sure we could find a nice shade of blue to match. Maybe slashed with white."
"I know just the place."
With a resigned sigh, Melisa tossed the letter aside that she'd been trying to read earlier in the day. Now, she was in a fine mood, but her concentration was no better. Every time she started reading, either her eye would dart to the flowers on the mantle, or she'd shift in her seat and feel the necklace brush her skin, reminding her of why she was now so content. That alone was enough of a distraction in itself, to say nothing of the images that kept popping into her head seemingly unbidden, of the kiss that should have happened….and other things that were going to surely make her cheeks redden the next time Kiris walked through the door.
Finally, she stood and stretched her arms above her head, alleviating some of the stiffness of being in one chair or another for most of the afternoon. Wandering to the mantle, she removed the vase made of Sea Folk porcelain from its resting place and took few moments to enjoy the flowers. There was something soothing in having new blossoms to adorn the vase that had long held the white calla lilies that Corbin Alvanthus Gaidin had given her in her grief. And the combination of scents was intoxicating. Melisa thought she was going to have to add snapdragons to the lengthy list of flowers she liked.
Feeling as if she wanted to have another look at the necklace as well, the Green stepped into her room, admiring it in the mirror for a few moments. Hmmm, it was a very good choice. It should go with a number of my dresses. She stepped to her armoire and pulled out a number of her blue gowns, lying an armful on her bed so she could hold them up before her and see which looked to match the best. This one looks almost perfect. No, this one's too green. And this one is close enough, she said to herself as she held each dress up in front of her.
Gathering the dresses to return them to the armoire, Melisa noticed that there was something missing from the piece of furniture that held her gowns. Nothing seemed to be out of place at first glance so she gave it another careful look. And then the Green realized that it was not something to be seen that was missing. It was the smell of the sea that had lingered heavily inside the armoire from her red dress. Grasping a bit of the blood-red fabric, she held it to her nose and inhaled...it was fresh and clean. But I never took it. How....
A light swept across the Aes Sedai's features as she slowly put two and two together and realized what had really taken place. Yes, Kiris had gone to the seamstress. But he had taken the flowing, revealing red gown with him and had it freshened for her to wear again. The Green was almost moved to tears at the idea that he had been out running all over town to do all these things for her while she’d moped about the Tower, thinking the worst. I feel like a silly jealous woman, now. I must try to give Kiris the benefit of the doubt from now on if he doesn't tell me where he is going. Disagreement or no. Brushing her hand over the filmy layers, she pondered wearing it down to the Practice Yards one morning for Kiris and her smile crept back.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is."
Re: The Stranger You Know
Brooding around in Melisa’s chambers would get nothing accomplished, Kiris decided as he rose from the seat. It had already been almost half an hour since the Green had left in a hurry to have tea with Divaine. In the meantime, the Kandori had simply lounged in the chair, remembering past events. A different life in Kandor before he had even came to the White Tower and joined up with the Guard. A life that he had been exiled from nearly a decade ago.
“Has it really been that long?” Kiris found himself asking silently. It seemed hard to believe. Unconsciously, he found himself staring at the broad scar with its rough ridges across his left hand. Flexing it, he decided to stop remembering the past. “This is why I don’t like spending time alone,” he reminded himself. There was too much time to think and dwell on things you couldn’t hope to change.
Firmly deciding to visit some of the Tower Guards, the Kandori first removed the wrapped package from its hiding place. A small smile graced his lips; Melisa Sedai had not even noticed it since she had been so taken with the flowers and the necklace. As he unwrapped the package, he held out the red dress that he had picked for his Aes Sedai on the day of Tandar. Katinen truly had done a marvelous job on the garment; it looked as new as the day he had bought it. Perhaps the cut was a little bit too much, but Kiris certainly enjoyed seeing Melisa wear it. He only wished that every other single male did not feel the same way; his jaw tightened remembering a few of the sailors down in the Perfumed Quarters. If they had not been trying to keep a low profile, he would have glad shown some of them the training he received from the Tower.
“Jealous much?” A small voice whispered in the back of his mind even as he shook those thoughts away. Here he was, getting caught up again in the past. “There is no reason to be jealous,” he reasoned. After all, it was not like Melisa belonged to him; men were free to look if they wanted. If anything, he belonged to her, though not in a romantic sense, due to the nature of the Bond.
“Not romantic?” The small voice persisted. “Could have fooled me given how you were putting your hands on her shoulders like that…” This time, Kiris firmly ignored his own recriminations. Opening the armoire, he carefully hung the red dress, idly fingering one of the elaborate ruffles, before he closed it once again.
Then, he turned and left Melisa’s room as he headed towards the Alindaer Bridge. There was bound to be some men serving that he knew.
“How is everyone?” Kiris called out as he threw up his right hand in greeting to the squad of men, watching the bridge. Right now, there were five men on duty. The Kandori recognized all of them; after all, he had only been Bonded for four months. He had given up his post as a Lieutenant of the Guards after it had happened. Admittedly, not everyone did when they Bonded but the circumstances varied from Aes Sedai to Aes Sedai. In Melisa’s case, she traveled quite frequently so he could not be counted on to be there enough for it to warrant the position.
Staring at the men dressed in their uniforms with the white flame of Tar Valon proudly emblazoned on it, he also felt a swell of pride. While the men were not the best the Tower had to offer in terms of swordsmanship or any martial skill for that matter, they could all hold their own. As he drew nearer, one guard in the group in particular broke away from the rest.
“Oh? And what brings the big Gaidin down here?” Fraedlin said with a wide smile as Kiris shot back a wry grin. Of all the men there, he was most familiar with the blonde, dark-eyed Andorean who also ranked as a Lieutenant. “I thought you had gotten too important to be seen cavorting with the likes of us. Especially trying to take care of your Aes Sedai and all.” Around him, the other guards chuckled as they also gave out their greetings to the Kandori.
“I’m hurt,” Kiris stated, putting on an injured look. “I suppose if you guys don’t want this, I can go somewhere else.” A clay pitcher was flashed beneath his cloak as a wet, sloshing noise was heard. “I’m sure that the guys down at the Luaghe Bridge would appreciate this spiced ale I picked up…”
In a blink of the eye, all five members of the Tower Guard were around him. “Now, now…” Fraedlin chuckled. “I’m afraid that we’ll have to confiscate that. We can’t allow a respectable man such as yourself be seen with this.” He held out his hand as Kiris passed the jug to him. Pulling loose the wooden cork, the Andorean took a deep drink as he tipped his head back.
“Ah! Light! That’s good!” A satisfied gasp came from his lips as he drew his right sleeve across his mouth as he passed the jug to the next man. Quickly, the contents of the jug were divvied up as each man took a swallow before handing it back to Kiris who finished off the dregs.
Fraedlin gave him a quizzical look even as the other men went back to their posts. “So what brings you out here?” Normally, Gaidin only came out to see the Tower Guards if there was business to be had.
A casual shrug was given. “Is there a law that says I can’t visit every now and then?” Kiris asked. “I just wanted to stop by since I haven’t gotten a chance to in a while. Is Thayen doing well?” His question was in regards to the newest member who had been added shortly after Kiris had Bonded.
“Got lonely, did you? Or did you get into a fight with your Aes Sedai?” Fraedlin shot back even as he ducked his head at the following swipe given by the Kandori. “Thayen is doing well. We’ve got him making rounds down by Eldone Market. It’s a good training ground for the green ones since most of the action occurs there.”
Sardonically, Kiris laughed. “And once they’ve seen some action, it’s time to ship them off to one of the bridges to be bored to death?”
“Right. It’s not like much happens here…” Fraedlin broke off suddenly and straightened from his slouch. “Aes Sedai incoming…” he hissed as the other men also took the time to ready themselves.
Feeling amused, Kiris watched them. It wasn’t too long ago that he too had participated like this. Keeping his relaxed stance, he turned his head to see who was coming towards the bridge. Then, he hid a groan.
“Trine Sedai…” he thought somewhat glumly. Part of him wondered if the woman had followed him even as he joined the rest of the Tower Guard as they formally saluted the Gray, who was riding a mare with brown and white speckles. Upon seeing the Kandori, she gave a cool smile.
“Kiris. It’s good to see you again.” Her voice was calm, but those blue-gray eyes lingered for a moment.
“Trine Sedai. Are you going out for business?” Carefully, he kept his tone formal. After all, he didn’t want to give the wrong impression.
A small smile was given. “I can’t go into the details, but I will be traveling to Caemlyn for a few days.”
“Will you require an escort?” Seeing a cunning gleam come to her eyes, he carefully added, “I’m sure that I could stop by the White Tower and speak with the Vron’d’Sedai or if you need to move quickly then I’m sure that you could take a few of the Tower Guards here.”
“Speak for yourself. I don’t like horses.” Fraedlin hissed at Kiris in a low tone that only he could hear. Impressively, he was able to do so without needing to move his lips.
Gracefully, she shook her head, tousling the dark blonde locks. “It’s fine. I wouldn’t want to take these men from their duty.”
“Thank the Creator,” Fraedlin muttered.
Kiris ignored him. Turning more fully to face her, he tilted his head. “I see. Then, I wish you well on your journey.”
“Thank you.” Pausing for a moment, the Gray added, “I particularly favor red snapper from the Great Fish Market.” With a firm boot, the mare trotted through as the guards saluted again until Trine was out of sight.
One by one, all the eyes turned to Kiris. “I like red snapper,” Fraedlin said, attempting to mimic Trine Sedai and failing miserably both in remembering her exact words and matching her voice.
The Kandori rolled his eyes. “It isn’t what it looks like…” he began but was cut off by the other men as they all laughed.
“Right. Of course not. Because we all know that Aes Sedai tell Gaidin what food they enjoy. Just in case they wanted to know.” The Andorean took the lead in expressing his disbelief as the rest of the guards hooted their agreement.
“See if I ever bring any of you jackdaws spiced ale again.” Kiris groused.
Suddenly, a speculative gleam came to Fraedlin’s eye. “I wonder how your Aes Sedai might feel about this little development.” A small grin appeared on his face seeing the Kandori visibly pause. “Well, I’m sure that she’s a wise, understanding woman who wouldn’t hold a grudge…”
A loud, pained sigh came from Kiris. “How much?” he said wearily.
“I figure a round for me and the boys later when we got off our duty wouldn’t be too amiss.” Fraedlin stated like the Kandori had made the right choice.
Kiris grimaced. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to pay for his own meals if things kept up like they did. “Remind me to ask this lot to come with me to the Practice Yards the next time I need to thump something…” he blackly thought.
Several hours later, Kiris and the five men were all headed toward the Lion’s Den. The sky was beginning to darken as they hurried through the streets. There was the smell of rain in the air and none of them fancied being caught without a cloak to cover themselves from the storm.
Kiris particularly did not care for getting wet. Remembering how he had been soaked to the bone from his impromptu dip in the sea drew a shudder from him. As clouds gathered overhead, he picked up his pace. Even though he was wearing his cloak made from fancloth, it wouldn’t keep him completely dry from a heavy squall. More and more, he was looking forward to sitting in front of a fire and sipping a mug of dark, frothy ale. Even if he was the one who’d be picking up the tab.
Suddenly, he was distracted as Fraedlin threw his arm around him. Drawing the Kandori close, he said in a conspiratorial half-whisper, “Mother’s milk in a cup! Would you look at her?” The Kandori followed his gaze back to a woman dressed in a blue dress that reminded him of the ocean. Even at the distance, her figure was rather enticing as almost every man who passed by gave a brief glance. A tiny frown came to Kiris’ face; to him, she looked very familiar even at a distance…
“Now, that is what I call a woman.” The Andorean gave a sigh of longing. Quickly, he began to attempt to straighten his hopelessly tangled hair. Tugging on the collar of his uniform, he asked, “Do you think I’ve got a chance?”
Looking a bit closer, Kiris had to hold back a grin. Now he knew why she had looked so familiar. “Not a chance.”
A mildly outraged look came to Fraedlin’s face. “What? And why in the Light not?”
“Because that’s my Aes Sedai.” A long pause stretched out from those words as the Andorean stared at him.
“Are they still taking applications?” he asked after a moment as Kiris gave a loud laugh even as he separated from the group. Briefly, he brushed the Bond as she looked up and gave a bright smile in his direction.
“Sorry but I think I should go see what she wants,” the Kandori said in an easy tone. “I’ll get you guys another time.”
“Hey! You just can’t slip out like that!” Fraedlin stated in an outraged tone even as Kiris broke away completely and headed over to where Melisa was standing.
The grave is no bar to my call. -inscription on the Horn of Valere
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