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Run when you have to, fight when you must, rest when you can. -Elyas
Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Once they caught up with the traffic of merchants and travelers heading for the gates of Roelford, Justen endeared himself to an old man by offering to carry the man’s wares of pickled carp that dangled from a thick line. They smelled something awful, but they must have tasted good because they paused half a dozen times before they made it to the gates where one of the fellow merchants on the road stopped them to buy the rank fish. It also afforded them a quick pass through the gate. The guards who tried to stop then and question them became rather green around the gills before waving them quickly through.
Once they were inside, they followed the fishmonger to his stall. It only took a minute to help him set up. The old man thanked them and they went on their way.
Doran and Justen spent the rest of the day making lazy circles around Roelford, getting nearer and nearer to the lofty mansion Justen had guessed Watase had taken up residence in and that Doran had confirmed. Justen wanted more time to get a feel for Roelford and the men that guarded it. So the day was like a huge shopping adventure. Justen would stop periodically, usually when a group of White Cloaks were lounging or working an avenue. More than once he started up a mild conversation with the vendor and found some small fripperies or broach that would suit his wife and he found himself making purchases.
He tried not to think that he would probably never get the chance to give them to her.
It was dawning late in the day when Justen stopped once more to peruse a pink piece of silk. He had caught sight of two stray White Cloaks. They must have been Watase’s own personal guard-perfect- because they were busy abusing their power, harassing some of the local residents- a pair of cute women, a mother and daughter by the looks of it. The daughter could not have been more than fifteen and that alone was enough to raise Justen’s ire toward the men, not the use these men could pose for the Asha’man and his companion.
It did not help that as their alarm rose and their cries for help became louder, the other citizen of Roelford turned the other cheek, hurrying on their way as the duo pressed the ladies further and further into the darkened alleyway.
Justen nodded his head in the direction of the alley and he and Doran moved to the alley. Justen pressed his back to the wall just outside the alley and glanced inside. The larget of the two White Cloaks had the mother restrained, though she cried and begged, as the other moved in upon the younger woman, backing her into the corner, his hands upon her.
The Siswai looked at him in confusion, “This is part of your plan?”
He looked at the younger man. There was something bitter and biting on his tongue in the way of the lack of chivalrous purpose, but it was a waste of time- the White Cloak’s hand was raising the hem of the girl’s skirt and pressing suckling kisses to her tender neck. Even if it were not part of the plan, Justen would have happily taken the detour. Maybe it had something to do with the redemption he hoped to acquire from saving poor flower from the adulterous action of the White Cloak before he died, to put a solid tick mark in the Good column on the page of whoever in this world was keeping track.
He said instead, “Just so, Narvolo. Try not to make him bleed.”
Doran gave him an odd look but Justen did not classify further. They were running out of time if they did wanted to save the girl from a regret she would carry the rest of her life.
Justen hit the man holding the older woman at the base of the neck with a tock he bent odwn near the mouth of the alley. The man grunted and sank to the ground. Doran was already on the other man with far less success than Justen. The man had turned his attrention from the young flower, however, in that he was successful. But the Child’s clothes were quickly becoming dirty and that would not do.
At least Doaran was utilizing the tricks justen had taught the man on the road. The Asha’man stepped in. He put his forearm on either side of the man’s head and yanked abruptly. The man was dirty engou, or at least his clohtes were- and Justen caught the man before he sank down to the garbage crusted ground.
“Oh bless the Light. Thank you! Thank yo-”
“Doran- his ankles. Get his pants.”
Mother and daughter moved into each others arms, first in relief and then in alarm as Justen stripped down to his smallclothes and began dressing himself in the larger White Cloaks uniform.
Doran followed suit with little hesitation but with guilty looks at the women they had rescued. The lad smiled, clearly embarassed, and shrugged as if trying to apologize for how Justen exposed the women to the half naked, fish smelling forms of the two men.
Justen finished putting the belt loop through the proper notch and adjusted his sunburst decorated sword at his side before looking at the women. The girl had her arms wrapped around her mother and her head was buried in her bosom. The mother, however, glared at them, in amusement or malice, Justen was not sure. Her daughter had been rather traumatized.
He looked down at the still unconscious men. He could let them live, but for one, they did not deserve it. For another, there was no telling whether or not they would remain unconscious for the duration it took them to find and kill Watase.
With a small sigh Justen sank to his haunches, unsheathing the dagger he had stuffed in his boot earlier. With his free hand he groped for a dirty piece of cloth he had spotted earlier. He folded it clumsily and placed it over the man’s throat. With one swift move he inserted the dagger into the folds, pressing his hand holding the dirty rag down as the man began to thrash. When the man ceased his death throes, he moved to the other man and repeated the action.
The grim deed done, he riffled through his clothes until he found the key before he rose to his feet. He pulled the necklace over his head. Doran looked stricken, and a bit green around the gills but he still nodded, grimly supporting the deed. Justen really did not want to explain his actions to the man, he was feeling a bit sick himself. The men were monsters, rapists, even without the hand of Watase granting them power.
He dusted himself off and turned to the women. “The Children have authority wherever the Light is and where the Light is not, we bring it. Long live the Children of the Light, may their guidance bring us all one step closer to the full glory of the Light.”
The older woman blinked as his words washed over him. She seemed to understand what he was saying and she bowed her head respectfully, “Long live the Children of the Light.”
He nodded thankfully to them and slapped Doran on the shoulder, indicating they should go.
"Ladies," Doran said with an awkward bow to the two women. Clearly his mind was just catching up with the events. The older woman nodded back with an encouraging smile as the two men turned and strode out into the street.
Doran glanced at his uniform as if still dazed with the sudden change. Then he turned towards Justen and grinned. "Lieutenant at that! It turns out joining you has been quite the career move!"
Justen winced a smile and looked out the face of the alley, “Certainly. A promotion and the selling of ones soul and everything you hold true and dear.” He did not mean that as harshly as it sounded in his ears and he commented, “You wear it well. We will blend in like hens in a henhouse. It will increase our chances. Come.”
The sun was heading toward the horizon when the stone wall topped with wicked looking metal dragons teeth that circled their destination. Justen noted the breaks in the wall and the guards that guarded each gate. He noted that the trees that lined the wall had been planted a careful distance away. They were only a few dozen years old and would be no use in helping them scale the wall if it were needed to get out again.
Justen straightened his shoulders as they neared the main gate. Keeping hs gaze ahead, he turned into it with a quick pace. The guards on either side snapped to attention, seeing the rank marks on their uniforms, and saluted. Justen ignored them, as a ranking officer with more important things to do would.
“Luck. Dumb luck,” he heard Doran mutter behind him.
“Not so,” Justen replied in a low tone. They were walking the straight path that led up to the massive mansion. “Lords and ladies use it all the time when they go from one place to another. They avoid eye contact and just keep barreling forward, making the little people scurry out of the way.” They passed another pair of White Cloaks leaving the compound. The other group nodded in differential, Justen stared straight ahead, his attention on the building in front of them.
The door was held open for them and they bustled in. The old man who held the door open for them did so as if it was all he spent his working day doing. He did not even bother to salute them. And why would he? The Children had ransacked his town, usurped his Master, the plush lord who had resided in this building before the Whitecloaks occupation of Roelford. Sure, he still had his life, and the shadow occupation of his job, but the old man did not look particularly taken with the men who came and went from the mansion.
“You are going to need to lead,” Justen tilted his head slightly when they came to an empty stretch of hall.
Doran nodded and strode forth like a trooper, leading the way while he was one step behind Justen. Once they were deep into the heart of the mansion, Justen slowed their steps. There was no reason to appear to be in a hurry this close to the sleeping quarters. They were simply two men guarding their High Commander. Perhaps the men who own their white suits had apartments in this building.
A click of the tongue was all that alerted Justen that they had reached Watase’s room. There was another guard dressed in white coming from the other way and though Justen nodded at the man, or, more for Doran’s sake, he kept going until he was past the man. Half a dozen steps later they came to an alcove and Justen stepped into it. Doran joined him a step later, pressing his back to the cool marble.
Justen peered out. He watched the back of the guard disappear around the corner before he stepped out of the alcove. Walking lightly, he moved back to the room. He turned the doorknob slowly, it barely made a click as the mechanism parted and the door swung inward under Justen’s firm hand. He opened it just enough to gain himself admittance, there was no reason to open it all the way and risk it creaking on its hinges. He held it stable and allowed Doran into the room before he quickly and quietly closed it again.
Excitement thrilled through him. He felt as if he were standing out in an electric storm, exhilarated by the prospect of killing this hateful man who had so fouled up the lives of those Justen loved. Killing him would be righting a wrong that had been with him for a long time.
Just as silently, he moved across the floor, stopping when he was beside the bed. There was a man sleeping in the bed, he could see in the flickering light of the candle that was supposed to keep dark spirits away. Justen already had his dagger in his palm and he leaned forward, ready to strike.
But something was not quite right. The hairs on the back of Justen’s neck began to stand on end even before Doran hissed, “Do not kill him!”
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Killing a man is hardly something you should do while hung-over.
Doran might not be as experienced in the area as his companion evidently was, but still he had brains enough to know that. And so, while Justen spent the day walking the streets of Roelford, no doubt learning and memorizing them all, Doran was content to follow the older man's lead while nursing his stomach and trying to clear his disturbingly foggy head. Light but he had let himself get carried away too far the evening before. It was the tension no doubt, that and the fact that Justen had very generously paid the whole evening, an opportunity seldom missed by a constantly broke young man like Doran.
The Siswai had had the sense to refill his water skin before they left their night lodgings behind and he sipped continuisly from this during the day. When they passed the first market Doran left Justen behind for a moment and went to find someone mint leaves to chew. After this, and adding a modest but good lunch, Doran felt almost like himself again.
By the time most of the afternoon had passed Doran realised that Justen had no plan. At all.
The Asha'man had spent the day getting to know the place and verifying Doran's report - as well as adding information Doran had missed no doubt - and this was all fine and dandy. It would certainly help when they needed to leave the city behind, which sure as an Aes Sedai's pride they would have to do in a hurry. It would however do them little good when they decided to sneak in to the mansion to kill the highest ranking officer in the place. Just as Doran was about to ask Justen how they would manage to do exactly that the man held up a hand, gesturing with his head towards two White Cloaks in the midst of harassing a pair of women.
These two brutes were the typical example of why Doran, like the majority of the people the Whitecloaks allegedly came to deliver from the Shadow, hated Children. Cruel, violent bullies the lot of them. The two soldiers were so full of themselves they didn't even bother to make sure no one followed them in to the alley. Justen was quick to use that mistake and soon Doran was grappling with a full-grown soldier, getting a real taste for what kind of a life he had signed up for.
By the time they had changed clothes and left the two dead soldiers behind Doran didn't care that Justen had no plan.
He felt giddy, their bloody encounter in the alley having left him soaring on adrenalin. Strangely enough his most prominent feeling was eagerness. Eager to get it done, eager to prove himself, eager to finish the deed that had so largely occupied his mind since Justen's revelation of the true purpose of their trip. Whatever doubts had lingered past the tale of Watase's hideous deeds were gone, brushed away by the exhilarating feeling of being on a mission, on a hunt. Of having smelled blood. They had a task to do.
Doran steadied himself as they entered the fortress, though the intoxicated feeling never quite left him. He thanked the Light for his instincts born out of a life where staying inconspicuous was the key to staying alive; without them his nerves would no doubt have gotten the best of him. As it were he managed to lead Justen straight to the Captain Commander's bedroom without the two of them arousing any suspicion.
Once they stepped inside Justen took over the lead again and Doran was glad to let him. The Siswai was not sure he would be able to do what Justen had done twize that very same afternoon; knife a man unable to defend himself. Oh, he realized they had little choice of course. He just wasn’t sure he would have been able to do it.
The form of a sleeping man occupied the bed and Doran silently wondered at the size of the man. For some reason he had gotten the impression that Watase would be taller. It made him pause. There was something strange about their target. Something eerily familiar. Even his heavy breathing, accompanied by the hushed, shallow breaths of the two intruders, seemed strangely well-known to him. It made goose-bumps appear on his forearms and he stopped himself from rubbing them, instead he stepped forward to get a better view.
Justen leaned forward, dagger ready in hand and as the Asha'man was about to plummet it in to the heart of his hateful foe Doran realised what was wrong. It came to him, the pieces fitting together like some sort of horribly haunted pussle, mocking him.
"Don't kill him!" He hissed just as Justen backed away, apparently already aware of the mistake he had been so close to make. The man in the bed stirred and rolled over, exposing his rounded, soft face and a mess of greasy black hair. It was a face Doran new well. It was a face he'd try to forget for most of his life.
It was Lybell Narvalo. His father.
”Blood and ashes!” Justen exclaimed. ”That’s not Watase!”
At that moment Lybell opened his eyes, a confused look on his face as his gaze went from Justen to Doran – recognition dawning slowly. For a short moment Doran thought Justen would kill the man any way to stop him from raising the alarm and he wondered very briefly if he should stop him or help him.
Before they came to a decision the door burst open with a loud bang and soldiers filled the room. The noise from their armor and steel-inlaid boots made a racket as they entered, making Doran choke with cold dread. Their white tabards filled Doran’s vision as he clumsily drew the sword that had followed with the dead man’s gear, trying to defend himself. The sword was close to useless in the cramped room, made even more so by the fact that it was a long sword suited for someone a feet taller and twice Doran’s weight.
He managed to strike one soldier, the blood red stain on the man’s abdomen standing out among all the white in the room, before he tossed the sword aside and drew his dagger. The Whitecloaks stepped away from him for a short moment as they helped their wounded comrade from the intruders and Doran managed to catch a quick glance of Justen, furiously fighting at the other side of the room. The Asha’man had maneuvered himself closer to the door while Doran himself had allowed three Whitecloaks to corner him. His respite lasted seconds and then he lost sight of Justen Trizidad, part of him glumly realizing that he had probably seen the man for the last time.
Such depressing thoughts were not likely to help his situation and Doran firmly banished them from his mind, focusing yet again at the advancing soldiers. They were three, true, but he was desperate. He fought furiously, trying his best to bring forth everything he had learnt from Justen, from Bernyam, yes even from his years on the street.
“Don’t kill them! The Lord Captain Commander will want them alive!” came a shout and Doran glanced around quickly only to locate the speaker, his father, standing on the bed with the covers wrapped around himself like a toga. Light, even in a situation like this the man managed to be a pathetic fool. That didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous though, Doran knew that all too well.
A vicious blow made Doran drop his dagger and the clattering of steel upon stone had the sound of a death sentence. Strangely enough no sword struck him down. Could it be that they actually listened to his father? Maybe, he thought bitterly as he tried to defend himself from the assault of their fists and feet, since this seems to be the one time he speaks sense.
The soldiers soon overpowered him, but Doran refused to give up. He had the feeling of standing defenseless against the thugs in the forest fresh in his mind and he would not let himself be taken as easily this time. All thoughts of how Justen faired had left him in the face of his dire situation as Doran fought desperately, pounding, kicking and biting whatever was in his reach. It was far from the organized forms Justen had taught him. It was also hopeless. A blow to his head coupled with someone kicking the back of his knee sent him to the floor with a low moan that spoke clearly of his defeat.
A second kick made impact with his skull and all went blessedly black.
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
It was so tempting to use his powers to get him out of there. So tempting. But that’s just what the instigators wanted- no peace and constant unrest between the Children of the Light and the people of the White Tower.
And there was Mir’iam to think about.
It was that thought that kept him from reaching out to his secondary line of defense. He found himself extremely glad in those ferocious minutes as he hacked and parried his way through the room that had suddenly become overly crowded with men in white.
In her peripheral vision he could see Doran. The lad was handing himself pretty well, given the odds. But he was backing himself into the wrong corner! With every jab and cut, Justen was backing his way to the door. The lad was going the wrong way and there was no way to warn him.
Through some miracle he made it to the door. Its inlaid design pressed against his back. “Ha!” with a final thrust, he pushed back his opponent, knocking him back into his comrades. The stumble was enough for Justen to wrench the door open. His momentum carried him halfway across the hallway. Quickly he returned, butting his shoulder against the door as the men on the other side tried to push through.
Finding their way blocked, they began to batter against the door. Justen wrenched the dagger from his belt and jammed it into the door and into the doorjamb. He stumbled back when the heavy door shuddered beneath the force of the bodies battering it from the other side.
He stared at it a long moment- probably a moment foolishly wasted. It appeared as if it would hold for the moment. The Trizidad took off running. He raced down the hall. He had traveled almost the entire hall before he realized he might be going in the wrong direction.
He slid to a stop and looked behind him down the hall he had just come. His mouth went slack. A formation of guards were running down the hallway. Justen’s mind whirled. Oh hell, what’s the worst that can happen? He raised his plundered sword and pointed down the hall to his left, "C'mon! He went this way!" He did not wait for them to catch up but started jogging in that direction, in pursuit.
His heart is thundering in his chest. How was he going to get out of this? It did not take long for the group to catch up with him. Instead of apprehending him, like he was sure they were going to, they spread out behind him, following him. He felt like he wanted to throw up.
“There’s an intruder! He broke in and tried to kill the Lord Captain Commander!” They came to another hall, branching off. “You men! Go that way!” Three of the men branched off.
At each hallway and when it branched off, Justen sent pairs of his new troop down in search of the heathen who dared an attempt on the life of their esteemed leader. At every turn he was certain they were going to figure him out. His side burned where he expected a dagger to pierce at any second.
After what seemed like eternity running in that huge maze some lord had once called home, Justen found himself running with just one man. He slowed his pace half a step and waited until the man was just in front of him before bringing the hilt of his dagger down on the base of the man’s neck. He grunted and tumbled, sliding to a stop on the marble floor.
Justen stared down at him for a second as he considered killing him. He decided against it. He left the body there and continued. Several times he was sure the joke had past and that he had been found out as more guards in white appeared. But each time he simply barks orders and they follow it.
His nose brought him to the kitchen, though his stomach was twisted in a less-than-hungry ball of misery. Finding it empty this time of night, he pulled his disguise over his head and stowed it in one of the many cupboards. Then he slipped out into the cool air of the night.
He pressed himself against the cold stone when footsteps and voices approached, but they quickly departed without finding his location. When they are past he runs as fast as he can to the outer wall. Crouching beside it he listens to see if he had been spotted. They were still scouting the house, lanterns had been lit and all of the eyes of the house shone, piercing the dark. Searching for him.
Another pass of the guards. He waited for them to leave before tossing himself over the fence, he heard them shouting for the search to extend to the yard.
His landing on the other side. This time, not wearing his stolen white uniform, he was not so lucky. They spotted him. Shouts were given and they gave chase.
He tore through back alleys ducking and dodging past stinking offal and piles of refuse. His heart hammered in his chest. Coming upon a niche, he threw himself into it, pressing his back into the dirty corner. He did not even have time to fully comprehend the fact that he had so thoroughly failed in his quest. His breath hitched in his throat at the sound of approaching footsteps and he pressed his back into the nook.
They ran past.
He breathed a sigh of relief.
But they would be back, he knew. Justen looked up, gauging the distance to the roof. The setting sun peered over its rim, distorting his perception. He blinked rapidly, regaining his sight. A little further down the alley, the distance was less- a shack was nestled between the taller buildings. He gingerly climbed onto the roof of the small shack, sliding his belly over the flat surface before pulling himself to his feet.
He crossed it as quietly as he could. On the other side of the building, opposite of the alley, the space opened up into a quaint back yard. Chickens clucked and scratched outside their pen. There was also a slanted doors off to the side of the back door of the townhouse.
He hung off the ledge, dangling, before he let go. Chickens still squawked at his sudden appearance- they were the smartest of creatures or the most observant. He kept his gaze riveted to the back door of the townhouse as he moved toward the cellar door.
It was not locked.
He cracked the door just enough for him to fit through and slipped in. He descended the slanted stairs into the cool atmosphere. The scent of spices filled the chilled air. This family used theirs for a pantry as well as for storms.
He felt too close to the mansion for his liking, but he did not have a choice. Bumbling around in the dark like this was going to get him caught. He might still get caught if they performed a door-to-door and cellar search.
The space was not terribly large, and it was pitch black once the door shut behind him. He followed his nose to the far corner where his fingers found a large sack of coffee beans. It would provide some cover, should someone peer into his underground hiding place. So long as they did not look too thoroughly he should remain hidden.
The floor was cold, but not unbearably so and he pulled his legs up to his chest as he hunkered down behind the sack. He fell into a fitful sleep.
Some time later he was awakened by the sound of voices. He stiffened and pressed his back against the wall. There were harrying voices and harried voices- the White Cloaks must have waken the owners of the townhouse this cellar belonged to. So they knew they had lost him somewhere in the vicinity.
His hand dug beneath his shirt and found the key. If they captured him, he might not have time to move for it later. His heart hammered in his chest. He pressed its dull end against his palm. He was not sure there would be time for anything later, other than their torturing him before killing him.
The doors to the cellar were wrenched open violently and the darkness of night spilled into the cellar. The faint outlines of things began to flicker into sight, lit by a torch held high. The soldier comes halfway down the stairs.
Justen is sure one more step and the man's light will illuminate him. He holds his breath.
A rat squeaked and the man swore and retreated up the stairs muttering, "Filthy citizens. I would like to burn them all..."
Justen sighed when the door shut. The close encounter had jarred him. He was no longer tired. His escape had been fast, and he was not certain how long it would take for the random soldiers in the hall to realize they had not been following a real captain's orders. Even so, they had obviously been looking at his rank, not his face. He wondered how much they had seen of him.
Enough, he decided, that something needed to be done. He ran his hand over his hair. He liked to keep it just below his shoulders, tied back in a short pony. He unsheathed his dagger. Holding short tufts in his fist, he began the shortening process. When it was roughly uniform, he pushed the shorn pieces into a neat pile before pushing it into a corner near the bag of beans.
He took a fistful of coffee beans, plucking a few in his mouth to wash away the last remnants of sleep. Had they seen the color of his hair? He wondered. Justen weighed the beans in his palm. It was an easy solution to blond hair. Clearing a place on the ground with his hand, he set the rest of the beans down. Using the butt of the dagger, he quickly ground them down. When they were a fine powder, he gathered them up and raked them through his hair. He did two more handfuls, crushing them and then applying them in the dark.
After rubbing the third ground batch into his hair, he gave his head a mighty shake. He had no mirror. and no light to see himself by anyway. He had to assume he had done a fair job. Now it was time to move. He needed to get Doran back.
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
When he finally woke up it was from a dream of his mother. The scents of her candles lingered with him through the fog and pain of gaining consciousness; lavender to relax and calm your senses mixed with the natural beeswax of the candle and a small undercurrent of cinnamon to clear your mind. It was as if the dream image of his mother knew his need, like she had always done when they were still a family. But it was a long time since she had been able ease his discomforts and Doran was brought painfully back to the waking world by a light that blazed his eyes like the scorching sun of the dry season.
At first he could see nothing but the light; it burnt his eyes even through the swelling of the beating. Eventually his sense grew accustomed to it and he could make out the hazy form of a man in white looking down on him, a lantern in his hand. Doran took advantage of the light to notice the outlines of the cell while lying still, willing his brain to function again. He realized the room was dry and warm and covered with relatively clean straw. For a cell it was all right, a part of course from the fact that it was probably his last accommodation before dying and that he was tied up and beaten into what felt like a single bruise to cover him from head to toes. Well, at least he was warm. And dry. His mind was obviously still not working properly for he was past caring about anything but these small comforts.
His visitor still watched him in silence and it was beginning to annoy Doran. Would they just kill him already and be done with it? Or better yet, let him get back to his dreams? He twisted in a futile attempt to sit up; the bonds and the pain shooting through his head stopped him effectively. The world spun and his torso burnt with a pain that told him the kick that took him out hadn’t been the last one administered. He groaned.
“Awake?” the man asked, raising the lantern to get a look at him. Doran tried to turn away but the pain of moving outstripped the pain from the light and he lay still.
“You are a captive of the Children of the Light, charged with the attempted murder of the blessed Lord Captain Commander, a deed that in itself proves you a Darkfriend of the worst kind. You will hang at dawn but before that we will find out who you are and who your master is. We will know who it is that is foolish enough to send a scrawny boy to attack the Light. It will be painful for you. Better you tell me what I want to know now. Do you understand?” The light blinded him and hindered Doran from seeing his questioner clearly. The man spoke evenly, his voice calm and bereft of emotions. It made him scarier even than his threats of torture.
Doran held his tongue. He must not give away his affiliation with the White Tower lest it would come back to cause Mir’iam Sedai pain. He did not know where they held Justen but he was sure the man would hold and by the Light so would he. What of the Questioners? a small voice spoke in the back of his mind, what of the pain? What of the fear? What of death? You’re nothing like Justen; there’s nothing strong or heroic about you. You won't last a minute once the Questioners lay their hands on you. Did you really think this life was for you? He tried to stop the doubts from taking hold of him but the stark reality of his bonds, his pain and the prospect of an impending death made it hard. So much for your silly dreams of becoming anything else than a worthless, unwanted boy…
A kick to his abdomen brought him out of his musings and if not for the pain that made his stomach want to heave he would have been thankful.
“Who are you?”
Silence and another kick.
“Who sent you?”
“Who was the man with you?”
His questioner didn’t even wait for the absence of his answer this time but kicked him as soon as the words were out of his mouth. It was a ferocious kick grown out of frustration, and Doran, being the cause as well as the receiver of this frustration, thought it might have cracked another of his ribs. He was too bruised to even scream. A low groan escaped his lips.
The pain meant nothing though. The cracked rib meant nothing. Who was the man with you? Did that mean they hadn’t captured Justen? It might, the Asha’man had been close to the door when Doran last saw him and Justen was… well, Justen. After watching the man pull a crossbow bolt from his chest Doran was prepared to believe he might pull anything off. And he desperately needed to believe. A new sense of determination spread through him. He would hold fast.
His questioner watched him carefully. As if seeing the hope blaze in Doran he squatted and leant close. “We will kill you and we will kill your friend and then we will root out your family and kill them for Darkfriends to the third generation. Do not carry the notion that your friend got away. No Darkfriend can stand against the forces of the Light.”
He rose. “You are a fool.”
One last kick, aimed towards the head, sent Doran back into the realm of dreams.
Doran woke again to darkness. He had no means to judge how much time had passed and for a short dreadful moment he thought dawn had come and his time was up. It left him panting with fear that only subsided once he’d managed to calm himself enough to listen to the silence. No one came for him.
Unconsciousness threatened to take over again but Doran fought it. He had no notion of letting them find him asleep when they came to drag him to the Questioners. Left alone in the dark he could not help but go over the events of the last hours in his mind. It kept him from facing the horrible images - supplied by his unhelpful imagination - of what the Questioners would do to him.
He had been sure they’d managed to get in to Watase’s room unnoticed – how was it that soldiers had stormed in only moments later? And what had his father done in the bed that should rightly have been occupied by the Lord Captain Commander? It was strange enough to find his father in a Whitecloak stronghold. The last Doran had seen of the man had made him sure his father would be killed for Dragonsworn or end up a bandit. Still, it suited once he thought about it. Lybell had joined the Dragonsworn with a burning single-mindedness worthy of any Child of the Light, attracted by the sense of purpose and fueled on by the feverish words of aggressive men. It was no wonder he had been attracted to the Whitecloaks cause.
He left the thoughts of his father behind, as he had left the man so many years ago in Jehannah, and returned once more to the question of how the Whitecloaks had found them. The room had been Watase’s, he was sure of that and the accusation; attempted murder of the Lord Captain Commander, verified it. Doran turned it over and over in his mind. It was a distraction from the pain and the discomfort and as such he was grateful for it. In the end he only found one reasonable explanation. They had been anticipated. Lybell had been a distraction. Bait. His father, ever the manipulable fool.
As if summoned by his thoughts the door was opened to admit Lybell, carrying a candle and – Doran froze - manacles. The guard outside smirked mercilessly as he let the Ghealdan through the door, pure hatred shining from his eyes. They really took the business of disposing darkfriends serious. As the door closed behind the zealous guard Doran was left alone with his father in the flickering candle light. Their reunion had turned out to be just as violent as their parting. Doran held no illusions; his father would be glad to clap him in irons and hand him over to the Questioners. It made Doran wish it was the kick-happy Whitecloak from his last visit returning to lead him away.
Lybell looked uncharacteristically worn, an unreadable look in his eyes. He squatted. Doran tried to move back as his father reached for him but his battered body refused to obey. Instead of the blow he had anticipated he found the strong hand of Lybell gently pushing his unruly hair out of his bruised face. What was the man doing?
“How far in to the Dark you have fallen son. I should not have let you leave all those years ago. I should have kept you close.”
Let him leave? Doran was pure confusion. The last he remember of his father was the yelling that accompanied a severe beating, a tirade that made it perfectly clear that Lybell never wanted to see his rubbish son again. He stayed silent. It had worked so far.
“I have been lost too, straying from the Light until the Children found me. They saved me. Blessed me. You can be too son, just tell them what they want to know and repent your sins. You’ll die with a clean soul and join the Creator to be born again. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself.”
“Blessed, father?” Doran managed to say, his voice close to useless after the harsh treatment he’d been through. “You call leaving your family behind to burn, leaving them for what - to become a Whitecloak? You call that blessed? They're using you fool, can't you see…"
“Don’t speak of what you do not know Doran!” Lybell yelled and Doran could see the all too familiar signs of anger rising in the man. Signs he thought he had forgotten long since. Still, he was set for execution; trying to convince Lybell of the truth could not land him in any trouble worse than his present situation.
“Why were you in Watase’s bed? Why didn’t the guards arrive until after we’d been in the room long enough to kill you ten times over? They clearly knew we were coming, why did they let us enter when you were defenseless? Why…”
“No Lybell, not enough! You must listen. I wish you dead as much as anyone else, Light more so I’d say, but you shouldn’t let them use you for a fool!” His outburst sent him in to a coughing fit and when he could finally breathe again his father was exchanging the bonds on his wrists for those of iron, chaining Doran’s hands in front of his body.
“I don’t want to die father.” He was ashamed but could not stop the quiver in his voice. “I don’t want to die. Watase deserves to die.” With the thought came a new sense of surety, strength. ”We tried to do right tonight. I swear it by all that is sacred in the Light. I swear it on my mother’s life.”
“You don’t know the Light Doran.” Lybell said with a heavy voice, but Doran could hear the man’s doubts clearly.
“I know enough to know no man who sends his son to be executed can walk in the Light, burn you.”
His father hit him then, not hard enough to register through the pain of his previous injuries but enough to put a stop to all further conversation. Doran lay still as his feet were freed and allowed his father to drag him upright. His only satisfaction came from emptying his aching stomach on the other man’s booths. Small victories in a harsh world.
The guard jeered as Lybell led Doran through the outer room. “Like leading a bloody pig to slaughter, eh Narvalo? Bet he wishes he’d stabbed you quicker now. You tell them to dig deep for the Light in this one, eh?”
It made Doran’s insides freeze though he tried to hold his head high in the face of the taunts. It was highly doubtful it made any difference to his tattered appearance. Lybell mumbled something inaudible in reply and tugged on the chain attached to the manacles. Doran took a few stumbling steps forward and was surprised to see that his legs worked at all.
Their trek through the fortress took longer than Doran had anticipated, not that he had much ability to notice his surroundings. It took his full concentration to stay on his feet. As they moved along Doran began to suspect that something was wrong. The corridors were far too deserted for it to be dawn already. His sense of direction told him they were moving away from the center of the keep. He glanced at the back of his father - the hunched shoulders spoke clearly of tension - but the man had not given him a look since they left the cell behind.
Too bruised and tired to think, Doran resigned to his fate and followed the man’s lead. It was all he could do.
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Justen was no thief, nor was he hungry, but as he paused in the shadow of an alley, he clicked off the hours it had been since his last meal on his fingers. A pair of patrolling White Cloaks passed the mouth of the alley within spitting distance and he pressed himself further back into the shadows. He realized that while adrenaline was keeping him going for the time being, it would not feed the rational thoughts his mind made for long. So, after the patrol was several marching steps past his hiding spot, the Asha’man made his way down the street in the opposite direction from the patrol.
He had the apple cart in his sight, but he had the appearance of a man looking everywhere but. The apple vendor was having a light conversation with a pretty bouncy haired blond with a basket. She was flirting openly for a lower price on the fruit, and by the looks of things it was working. His eyes met the vendors and he nodded and murmured a greeting. Justen showed no interest in the man’s wares and the vendor was too busy ogling and bartering to give the blond haired man more than a passing glance.
He was at the end of the cart and just started to veer away from the wagon when his hand snaked out and grabbed the shiny red apple that he had his eye on since greeting the vendor. He tucked his hand into the fold of his shirt and kept walking. He walked briskly for several paces, listening for the sound of distress from behind.
None seemed forthcoming and the crowd swallowed him into their midst and he took his first juicy bite. The apple was sweet with only smallest bit of tartness. It could have been ambrosia for all he noticed, his thoughts were elsewhere and the fruit was quickly consumed without any real knowledge of it.
Ever since he had made the decision his mind had been churning, trying to figure out how to free Doran from the clutches of the White Cloaks. A hostage exchange was out of the question. Beyond the fact that it would reveal Justen as an Asha’man and raise all manner of hell for both Towers, he had strong doubts that the Children would make such a deal, much less follow through with it. No, if he turned himself in, chances were both he and the Siswai would find themselves cooking in a kettle over a well-stoked fire.
He ducked down another alleyway, startling three desperate eyed youths lurking further in the darkness. Justen eyed them warily while he waited for the patrol he had caught sight of to pass. He could hear them whispering over the sounds of the town outside the alley, their eyes glinted hungrily. He was not dressed richly, but he had stumbled upon their domain. Metal glinted and they began to ooze in his direction, three wraiths who thought they had an easy mark before them.
He heard rather than saw the swish of the pristine uniform and he pressed himself against the cool wall, his gaze still on the trouble that came his way. Justen knew he could take them out without a problem without using the One Power, even with the poor arsenal of weapons.
They must not have cared for the guard in this town either because as soon as the white appeared down the narrow opening, he hard an almost-feral hiss and the trio turned and darted away down the alley. One of the soldiers must have heard it because they glanced toward the alley, but their pace did not slow and Justen was deep enough in the shadows he did not think they saw him. When they were past he breathed a sigh of relief and continued on his way.
He could find another pair of Children wandering the streets and take their clothes and steal back into grounds where they were most likely keeping Doran Narvolo. But as far as he could see, there was a buddy system in Roelford and right now, Justen was an army of one. Trying to enter such would make them wonder where his ‘buddy’ was, and draw unwanted attention to him.
Justen scowled. He wished he had a book. He thought best when his mind was on something else completely. But from what he saw, Roelford had no procurer of novels, nor did they avail the more boring government or authoritative documents to the public. At least not in any of the buildings he had passed. Either the Children had squirreled them away, had them burned, or the good authority figures of Roelford did not believe in keeping records of any sort. And by this time he had made several passes around the inner streets of the city. He was quite familiar with it by now.
He pressed himself into another alley as he caught a flash of white ahead. Taking several deep breaths he instantly realized there was something foul afoot. Glancing around, he found a fresh steaming pile near the mouth of the alley. His eyes found the path of the patrol. If they kept on their bearing, the man passing closet to Justen would step right in the pile. Justen felt a stab of malice and he hoped the man soiled his pristine boots good. But another, probably wiser, side of him knew that if the two men stopped even long enough for one to scrape the dung from his boots one or the other might very well spot Justen.
It was too late to dart and find a different place. He moved further into the shadows. Something crunched under his boot and he looked down. His foot had cracked a shattered shard of glass. A few inches away, a frayed length of rope had been discarded. He heard their crunching footsteps as they marched past but his mind had gone blank with the fermenting of an idea. Once the patrol was passed he swooped down and took up the length of rope, gathering up into a loop.
He started past the pile of dung, careful to step around it. Justen paused. He looked down at the steaming pile. Small pieces of hay stuck out of its moundy structure. Flies were beginning to flock to it.
The apple must have helped, Justen thought. He took a seat in the cluster of stalls opposite of the main gate and sat working the rope, braiding it and unbraiding its dirty length. It did not take long for his presence to scent away most of the customers to these booths, and the vendors cast him nasty looks when their noses picked up something foul. A dark look from the Asha’man set them back to their own business however.
Someone must have complained, however, or someone must have caught wind of his presence from the guards shack at the gate because one of the soldiers stormed over to where Justen was leisurely braiding. His face took on a ruddier color when he came within sniffing distance. Arms flailing, the man shouted, “What are you doing here? What do you want? Move along you pond scum before I bring you in for interrogation and- by the Light! I do not think I would dare offend our senses that much, I’d simply put you out of your filthy misery!”
Justen smiled absently, glad his ploy was working. He held forth the length of rope, "Doesn't his Lord Commandership need rope? Needs rope, doesn’t he?"
The soldier put his sleeve over his arm and eyed Justen up and down. It appeared he came to the conclusion that the man before him was not worth it because he shouted, while obviously holding his breath, "Get out of here before we put you on trial and burn you! You stink!"
He scrambled to his feet, the man’s boot barely missed him and he scampered a short distance off. Inwardly he was smiling at his wiseness for the horse manure in his pocket. Annoying the guards at the gate and stinking out the vendors and customers was not all that productive, however and he began moving around the area instead of staying in just one spot as he turned his mind again to the direction of how to free Doran.
He was just beginning to think that whatever he tried would be a fruitless venture that would end in nothing less than a very painful death for the both of them when he was surprised to see none other than the gangly, Siswai being led out of the gate. He looked a bit worse for wear, he had several darkening bruises that women would be fawning all over- should they survive long enough to have their wounds fawned over that is.
Doran’s hands were still tied behind his back and the very same man Justen had nearly stuck his dagger in to the night before was prodding him along.
What game is this? Justen wondered, his lips drawing back into a grim line. Was he going to execute Doran here, now, as punishment for the attempted murder? It was a possibility.
But his dagger, assuming he had one, remained sheathed. The man’s gaze swept the area twice before coming to a rest on the blond haired Trizidad. Justen stiffened under the man’s scrutiny. He gave Doran a sharp jerk even as he made a subtle beckoning gesture.
A trap? Justen looked both ways before crossing the street, approaching warily. This could end horribly….
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
It wasn’t that Doran had come to terms with his imminent death. He was far too young for such a philosophical poise and besides, his fate had changed too quickly for him to gather any possible thoughts on his future non-existence.
No, it was more that he had stopped caring.
Lybell led him through corridors, stairs and passageway, setting a pace that soon had Doran’s whole body ablaze in pain. The adrenalin had left his body hours ago and now he felt his fatigue and pain with every step he took. It wasn’t long until the Siswai let go of all ambitions to keep track of their movement, his focus no longer on their path, or on his life for that matter. He focused only on placing one foot in front of the other and giving his father as little cause as possible to tug the chain connecting his wrists. Already this had made him stumble and fall twice and each time he was reminded painfully just how much steel was inlaid in a Child’s boots.
So in the end he stopped caring. Death seemed like a reasonable prospect compared to walking the endless corridors of the Roelford fortress with only his treacherous father for a guide.
When they emerged it was through a side gate further down the street from the main gate. It was guarded by two Children and at first it seemed they had come to an end on what Doran started to suspect was their route to his freedom. It took some fast talking on his father’s side to get them through and Doran was surprised to hear the Ghealdan bandy about Watase’s name as if he actually knew the man. It surprised him even more when the guards treated Lybell as someone who could claim to act on the Lord Captain Commander’s orders and survive it. He breathed a sigh of relief when the gate closed behind them.
Once they were outside and his eyes had adjusted to the morning light enough to see that Justen Trizidad was standing not ten paces away he thought nothing would surprise him ever again. Relief and exaltation flowed through him. He wanted to wave to his companion, to shout for him to come over, but a low hiss from his father quieted him. His mind must not be working properly, Doran realised. They were outdoors now, Justen was probably the most sought after man in Roelford and Doran himself was still in chains. Better not be a fool and call too much attention to himself. At least that was the gist of his father’s hissing. Doran nodded numbly while Lybell proceeded to unlock the manacles, at the same time keeping up a constant whispered string of curses over his Darkfriend son who forced his hand against his beloved Children. Doran decided it was prudent to keep quiet.
Doran’s dazed brain cleared enough for him to realise that if he and Justen wanted to get out of there they better move before his scum of a father had second thoughts. He looked up and down the street – where the few people around made a point of avoiding looking at the Whitecloak and his abused prisoner – before he motioned Justen to join them. The man did so, hesitatingly, but stopped an arm’s length away, carrying a rope coiled about his arm in a way that told Doran he was ready to use it to deflect any possible blows from Lybell.
See. That sort of thinking is why Justen is standing in the street a free man while you’ve spent the night in a cell Doran thought to himself with a grin. He shook himself. Light, he needed to focus! His head was not working right. Maybe one of the Whitecloaks had kicked it hard enough to do some serious damage?
"Do you need any rope sir?" there was a tremor to the Asha'man's voice as he approached, as if he were afraid of the White Cloak. Like many of the vendors in the city were probably afraid of the occupying force. Doran's nose was almost punched in, but his olfactory sense seemed to be working just right because as the blond haired man neared, a horrible smell overwhelmed the Siswai's senses. He heard his father cough behind him.
Lybell held his sleeve over his mouth, wrinkling his nose as if disgusted by the approaching man. Which he probably was. Lybell’s voice was muffled as he said, "My son is a Darkfriend of the worst sort. The right thing to do would be to hand him over to his executioner, that he might find peace in the Light....” Doran shifted uncomfortable in his father’s grip. “Still, I am his father.Perhaps I am weak. Perhaps I am losing my faith but..."
He gave Doran a push and the younger man stumbled the distance between the men. Justen caught him right before he fell. The smell was really bad, pressed into Justen's shoulder. He managed to breathe through his mouth. Justen was still staring at Lybell, considering him with compassionate eyes. Doran wondered absent-mindedly what Justen made of their unplanned family reunion.
"Come with us," Justen offered.
What? Am I missing something? Doran wanted to protest, but it was unnecessary. Lybell was already shaking his head.
"I hope the Light will let me make amends for abandoning my son to the Dark forces of the world, and I will pray he repents and finds the Light himself. I will not deflect. I still am an obedient and devoted follower of the Children's ways. We must all face the judgment passed on us by the Light. "
Justen nodded. Doran thought his father talked nonsense as always.
"I cannot and will not help you get out of Roelford. You will need to do that on your own."
"I understand," the Asha'man said. Doran was not sure how the man's eyes were not watering from the stench. "Thank you.”
Lybell nodded and turned on his heel. It was unlikely they would meet again. It was unlikely any of them would survive the day.
“Come on, let’s get going...” Justen said, taking a firm grip of his own on Doran’s arm and half supporting, half dragging him across the street. “Your fool father won’t make it long before the Whitecloaks starts wondering where he misplaced you and believe me, we need to be far away from here by then.”
“I…” Doran said unintelligently, letting Justen lead the way across the street and in to the ally which Justen knew well. Doran halted suddenly, taking Justen off guard. “Wait, you’re different… you’ve done something to your hair! And you smell. You smell really bad.”
"And feeling like crap and smelling like crap is a lot better than being dead."
As someone who had been fixed to hang the very same morning Doran agreed.
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Doran was still coming to his senses when Justen pulled them into a stable. Horses and sheep muttered at their arrival, but soon fell quiet when the Asha’man did not do anything more than strip to the skin. He used one of their watering buckets to wash the stench from him. Doran looked dazed but he would likely be thankful later.
He ran his hands through his damp hair. They came back streaked with brown. Well, it would not do to leave such a half-acorn job in his hair. He quickly dunked his head in the water and vigorously washed the grounds out.
Shaking himself dry, he pulled on the clothes he had pilfered from the clothesline a few alleys back. The waistband was a little loose and the neck of the shirt was a little tight, but all in all they fit. He sighed, happy to be clean. They would do for the time being.
The Siswai was in the stall that he had left him in, his back pressed against the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest. Doran's black ringed eyes, heavy with the weariness he was feeling. One eye was still partly blocked by the dark swelling. He looked in sorry shape, but at least he was alive. Justen looked down at the lad, he looked dead on his feet. Had he not slept, or passed out, since they had been seperated the day before?
Doran's forehead lowered to his knees when Justen did not say anything and the Asha'man stepped forward and patted his shoulder consolingly. By the way the man jerked, Justen felt he had touched on a sore spot. From his exposed skin, he had the feeling there was not much that did not hurt on the lad. "Hold on there, Narvolo," he offered. He started to pat the young man again, but paused, thinking better of it.
He partly closed the wooden door of the stable. They could no longer just waltz out the front gates of Roelford. He scratched his forehead with the pad of his thumb as he pondered their predicament. Since obtaining Doran, the number of White Cloaks flocking the streets had tripled. Several times they had nearly had a pair of Children fly up their nose. The powers that be must have realized that Lydell had freed the one traitorous scum they had managed to apprehend.
That did not make a pleasant- or long- future for Doran's father. He wondered if the Siswai realized that yet.
There was little they could do for the man right now. He had made his choice when he had joined with the Children of the Light, and again when he had gone against their orders and freed Doran.
He wandered out to the mouth of the stables. Justen did not want to go too far, but the way was clear, from what he saw. He looked around, mentally figuring out where he was. How was he going to get them out of here? How were they going to escape Roelford? How...?
The undertaker! The undertaker they had met in the tavern outside of Roelford. What was his name again? Jerniko! That cheerful tender of the dead. Where had he said his shop was located?
A few minutes later he entered the stables once again. Doran looked up wearily when he opened the stall door. The Siswai was lucky it were not the White Cloaks looking for him. He did not look to be in any shape to put up a fight.
He leveraged Doran to his feet, “Come, Doran. We have our own graves to dig, lad!”
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
Doran woke up with a gasp, throwing himself out of bed and landing in a heap on a wooden floor, to his own amazement. His legs would not support him, but that did not surprise him nearly as much as his surroundings did. He had vague memories of moving through the city searching for something, or someone. Yes, someone they needed to visit. It appeared they had found him. He lie on the floor close to a fireplace, the remnants of a fire still warmed the room, and the room also held the bed he’d just rolled out of and a few more items of furniture as well as pots of dried flowers everywhere. It was a homely room. Where the blazes am I?
He scrambled back in to bed, weak but miraculously healed from his bruises. Though miracle was the wrong word; he recognized a Healing when performed upon him. Justen would be close by then. Hopefully the Asha’man would show up soon; Doran was starving and he wanted to know where they were, and what would happen next. And, he realized, he needed clothes. He was undressed save for a soft pair of soft cotton trousers, no trace of the dirty and bloody uniform he’d worn last.
In the end he lay back in the bed again under the multicolored quilt. If all he could do was to wait then he might as well make the best of it and sleep some more. Doran had been Healed plenty of times before but never had he felt this level of exhaustion afterwards. Just as he was about to drift in to the realm of dreams the door opened, revealing a short haired Justen with a bundle of clothes in his hands. The Asha’man’s face split in to a smile at the sight of Doran.
“Good morning! I dare say you look a great deal better than what you did when I heaved you on to that bed. No surprise there, after the amount of sleep you’ve had.”
Doran swung his legs over the bedside and tried to will them out of the trembling fit caused by the motion. “Sleep? How long?”
“You just missed breakfast. Or breakfasts I should say; it was yesterday morn that your father handed me your sorry form. We got here at lunch time and you’ve slept ever since.”
“A whole day?”
“Almost.” Justen threw the clothes on the bed next to Doran before moving to the opposite side of the room where he sat down in a wooden armchair. He looked relaxed and rested which told Doran that wherever they were, whatever safe house the Asha’man had found for them, was secure.
Doran combed his hair with his fingers, trying to sort out the mess and dirt while pondering what Justen had just said. He was just about to ask Justen one of the million questions on his mind when the door opened again, revealing a middle aged plump woman with a large tray. Doran could smell the food from across the room, it made his head spin.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” the woman said in a tone of voice that belied her words. She eyed Justen with distrust before making her way over to the bed where she placed the tray. Clearly she wanted nothing more than to disturb them enough to make them leave. “I was told you would be hungry.”
“Thank you mistress Popplehem.” Justen said with a charming smile that had no visible effect on the woman.
“Yes, thank you mistress,” Doran echoed him before turning all his attention to the food. Mistress Popplehem eyed them both with pursed lips before she turned and left the room. Doran barely noticed that she was gone. The tray held a bowl of porridge with a large dollop of butter in the centre, bread and cheese and two apples as well as a large mug of watered ale. It was a feast.
Only when most of it was gone did the Siswai look up. “Mistress Popplehem?” He asked Justen, bemused.
“The undertaker’s wife. Silly sort of a name for an undertaker, but that’s irrelevant. She’s not too fond of us staying here.”
“I could tell. Where exactly is ‘here’?”
“We’re still in Roelford.” Doran’s eyebrows rose at that but Justen waved dismissively before going on. “Don’t worry, Jerniko was more than willing to help anyone who played a trick on the Whitecloaks and his wife won’t tell, no matter what she thinks of hiding refugees like us. Jerniko will get us out of the city, but I fear there is one more thing we need to do, if you are up to it.”
Doran wiped the last of the butter from the bowl with the bread and chewed for a while before he answered. He felt good; the bruises gone, plenty of sleep and hot food in his stomach. It was hard to believe it was only a day ago that he’d felt ready to give up. Maybe he ought to be ashamed of that but he wasn’t. Accepting his fate had always been one of his strengths and it had seen him through the twist and turns that had always been his life. This time was no different. He’d come out all right in the end.
“I’m up to it. What do you have in mind?”
“There is something you need to see before we go.” Justen rose. “Get dressed and then meet me downstairs. I need to prepare a disguise if we are to venture the streets of Roelford again. It wouldn’t do for you to end up in a cell again would it? A man should try to keep the times he is imprisoned to a minimum after all.” He grinned but soon grew serious again. “Brace yourself Doran, you will not like what we are to witness.”
Doran wanted to answer that whatever it was it could hardly be worse than a close up view of the Childrens’ boots, but something in Justen’s manners made him hold his tongue.
Here we go again…
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
It had been rather easy to find the undertaker's place, Justen simply followed the trail of bodies, so to speak. The smell of death lingered in the place, causing the small hairs on the back of his neck to stand up to attention. The Asha'man had to remind himself that it was better that these poor saps had finished this rotation of the wheel and not the two of them.
He had carried Doran much of the way, the lad had been somewhere between mostly out of it and completely out of it, and seemed to seamlessly slip from one to the other and back again. It would probably be just as well if he ended up not remembering anything afterwards, Justen had to evade the men searching for them several times during their hastened search for the grave man, and a few of the slimy spots he wedged their bodies, he knew he would have nightmares about for some time to come.
They were received through the rear of the man's residence and his life partner took an almost instant disliking to the two fugitives. Justen could not imagine why. Maybe it was due to the lack of potential income her husband had barred her for getting should the White Cloaks put a price on their heads. Justen did not think they would remain in Roelford long enough for Watase to make the executive decision, barring they did not fall into the hands of those that searched for them. Jerniko was willing to help them out of the city and he had a rather ingenious way of doing it.
The main graveyard for the city of Roelford was located outside the city's walls. It was the only place that the higher-ranking officials could be buried in their large and pricey tombs. Inside the walls of Roelford it appeared commerce was the most important. The deceased had much less to offer. Few officials requested to be buried with their valuables, choosing instead to pass them on.
Of course, that was before the White Cloaks had taken over the city. Now there was an abundance of Roelford dead, many of them individuals removed from official positions. Kin had been stripped of their inheritance as well as their homes and in some case their lives. Justen really did not care for the Children of the Light, but he supposed they were neither as good nor bad as any invading army.
The Asha'man had already been to the undertaker's storeroom and had a look at the caskets they intended to ride in. Jerniko was kind enough to give him the go-ahead to choose which set of coffins they hitched a ride in. Since Doran was still unconscious, put there further by a simple weave of Healing, Justen had chosen for both of them. He found a pair that fit them just right, not too large- it wouldn't do for the Children to do body check at the gate only to find one of them in an overly spacious coffin. He did not believe the Children were all that intelligent, but he did not want to trust his assumption that they were all backward goats and get stabbed in the gullet for his arrogance.
No, they would fit snugly in their coffins. If they were stopped, they would simply have to hold their breath and do their best to put of the front of being a pair of corpse. Hopefully the tests would not go so far as stabbing them to determine their corpse status.
Justen decided not to think on that, or what he would do- other than bleed and potentially die thus alerting them to his living presence- should that happen. Sometimes he worked better when put on the spot anyway.
The slumber-bug slept for a complete full day once they were safely hidden in one of the gravedigger’s back rooms. While Doran looked like he needed it- his complexion was pasty beneath the purple and blue bruises that dotted the landscape of his face- it left Justen with little to do but sit and wait for the lad to wake.
Sure, it might have been easier to smuggle him out while he was asleep, given he was sleeping like the dead, other than the adorable snort that wafted out from his slack jaw, but the Asha’man did not want the Doran-corpse to wake up and find himself sealed in a coffin. A screaming corpse did not a free man Doran make!
So he simply bide his time, twiddling his thumbs and counting the ways he had so eloquently managed to botch up the assassination of Yu Watase. It was a surprisingly long list.
Finally the Siswai woke. Admittedly he was a bit dazed and more than a little confused. Especially when he heard that they were still in Roelford and that Justen had a way out. What? Didn’t the lad trust him to get them out alive? He had managed this far…
“Get dressed and meet me downstairs,” now that Doran was awake, Justen was excited to put his idea into motion. Warning the Siswai seemed pointless, he had mentioned they were at an undertaker’s home, but Justen was not sure how many lifeless bodies the young man had seen in his time. Or if he would be willing to temporarily become one.
Justen was in the silent company of Jerniko, counting the number of wrinkles on his knuckles when Doran appeared. His shirt was clean; Mistress Popplehem had washed most of the stains from the fabric and mended most of the tears. With a reassuring smile, Justen rose to his feet, "I do not dare stay too long, I do not know how long our new friend's hospitality will last."
Jerniko winked at that and the Siswai nodded. Justen rose.
He had not taken one step when there was an insistant knock on the door. All three men froze. Mistress Popplehem, ever the dutiful housewife, went and opened the door. Three fully uniformed Children of the Light barged in, their faces grim.
“You!” they said, drawing up short when they entered the sitting room and saw the three men, the soldier barked, "You are to come as well, as citizens of this area, and witness the result of treason!"
Justen’s skin tingled with fear. No..wait.. they weren’t here for them. For… What? “Who committed treason?” he asked as the men stepped forward and roughly pushed him toward the door.
No answer was forthcoming and they were herded like cattle, all four of them, into the milling river of people that was pressing toward the center of Roelford. Justen glanced at Doran. Well, on the plus side, whoever the Whitecloaks had captured, it probably was not either of them.
As they drew closer Justen had to swallow his growing fear. "Yu Watase is here. I can feel his evilness. But I think we have cheated death enough. I had my chance I do not think it is wise to continue." Indeed, as more people pressed into the open area, even if he saw Watase, there was no way he could have gotten to the man. So he remained silent, his hand casually gripping some of the spare fabric of Doran’s sleeve.
In front of them, a raised platform had been hastily constructed. At least it had not been there all the times Justen had made a pass through this sector. In spite of its hasty construction, it looked structurally sound. It looked as if…
… it was strong enough to hold a man fit for the hanging.
He heard Doran suck in a breath even as his own lodged in his throat.
Re: Rash Plans and Delinquent Quests
It seemed like the Children had roused Roelford’s entire population for the execution. The crowd grew larger and larger for every minute and the main square was already bursting with people pushing to get a good view of the crudely built gallows in the middle. Tension was high but checked by the Children who stood in lines, boxing the people in and preventing them from overrunning the central area. Among the tightly packed spectacles rumour ran wild; they were going to execute all men over twenty, they’d caught an Aes Sedai and were going to burn her; no three Green Aes Sedai and their Warders, no, the Dragon Reborn had seized control of the Whitecloaks…
One rumor spread faster than the rest: the Whitecloaks were going to hang one of their own. A Darkfriend Whitecloak.
The rumor started at the back of the crowd and created frenzy as everyone jostled to get a better view. The Children might have taken Roelford without creating a full blown bloodbath, but neither had they gone out of their way to ensure a peaceful takeover. More than a few had lost loved ones on a Child’s sword and the prospect of watching a Whitecloak hang set vengeance soaring through their veins.
The first tomato hit him in the face as he entered the square. It was rotten and the stinking juice, thick with putrid pulp, stung as it ran down his bruised face. More projectiles followed as the crowd turned, a great wave of emotion, to see him. Lybell barely noticed. He hunched, trying to protect his face from the more heavy objects as he walked between two burly Children, thankful for his comrades who stopped the now vivid crowd from reaching him.
Comrades no longer. Ruthless abusers, tortures and murderers some would say. They’d used him, exploited his belief and been willing to sacrifice him. Lybell saw that now. Most would resent them for it. Not him. He would have done the same had positions been reversed. That had not stopped him from screaming during the torture, or cursing the Light. Never would he blame the Children though. Never. They’d changed his life, saved him from the wreck he’d been when they’d found him, given his life true purpose. Given him the authority he deserved.
And then his worthless son had come and taken it all away in a single day. Doran, who he'd thought he'd never see again. His son, who's loathing of him had shown from his eyes even as they were bruised and swollen from the Children’s treatment. Eyes like his mother.
Lybell stumbled numbly on the paving stones of the square, lost in his pain, his thoughts and his regret. Only the firm grip on his arms held him from falling over. His broken hands were bound together, his bare feet left a trail of blood on the ground, his body was covered only in blood and a hairshirt. They had ripped his uniform off him the first thing they did and had made him admit that he did not deserve it. That he’d never deserved it. That he was a Darkfriend. He’d done it gladly. He believed himself to be one.
How do you pray? Lybell thought as he was led up the steps to the gallows, the roar of the crowd blocked from his dimmed senses, and placed on top of a closed hatchway. How can I ask the Light forgiveness when I deserve none?
They put the noose over his head.
What if there is no Light to forgive me?
Yu Watase stood on the wooden floor next to him. The Lord Captain Commander raised his hand and silence fell eventually, spreading eerily from the center until the crowd seemed to hold a collective breath. Watase stepped forward and spoke, of what Lybell could not say. His mind had retreated only a short time after the Questioners had begun their work on him. As the Lord Captain commander finished his short speech the crowd erupted into a massive uproar. Lybell’s head snapped up at the noise and for the first time he registered his surroundings.
His gaze swept the crowd but he hardly noted the hate and the loathing displayed by the townspeople. Then suddenly he saw it; two men who stood perfectly still, a sharp contrast to the surroundings. He ignored the taller of the two and focused on the lad. His son. They locked eyes. Doran’s gaze held only loathing and terror. There was no love. Lybell could not blame him; with the noose around his neck he finally saw the depth of his abandonment. But he’d made amends and taken Doran’s place at the gallows, hadn’t he?
Yes. But he had not been strong enough to withstand the Questioners.
Lybell’s mouth formed the words on his mind but nothing came out. It was a silent scream and an admission of one final act of betrayal.
I’m sorry son.
Someone pulled a lever and the hatchway opened. The crowd roared. Lybell held his son’s gaze as he fell.
Eyes like his mother.
What is a nine horse hitch, anyway? -Min
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