Thursday, March 29, 2007

to be tested

(continuance of Ralkien's story)
(This isn't too well thought out. It was written on the fly, so I may go back and edit it)

Through the grogginess of just having woken, I had the feeling something wasn't right. It was warm, no, hot. Unnaturally hot. It was spring, and in spring you should be waking up to frost crisped grass and misty breath.
The black shirt on my back spoke of no such cool though.
My first instinct was to reach out to the Power, draw Saidin into me to highten my senses. But I didn't. Who knew what could be going on in the Black Tower? Better to be safe than, well, dead.

So I was laying on my pallet, eyes closed, listening. I heard no unordinary sounds. Just the rustle of a breeze against the outside wall, the snoring of the other Dedicated and the faint crackle of fire. Who would have a fire lit at this hour though? It was none of my concern. I slowly opened my eyes to my surroundings. I saw the familiar wooden cabin I had been living in for 2 years. Thick timber walls painted black, a dirt floor littered with humped shaped; those would be the other Dedicated, sleeping on thin straw mats. There was a glow illuminating the small room though. The glow of a fire that must have been right above me. The source of the heat, the thing that caused me to wake up.

Realising there no immediate danger, I shifted to look up. Sure enough, there was a small fire burning near the ceiling. I had no idea how it got there, but there it was. I drew on Saidin and wove Earth to snuff the fire. What happened next was very much unexpected. As soon as the weave hit the heat of the flame, it erupted. The weave snapped back at me and the fire started to grow. Very quickly. The paint on the wood began to peel as tongues of flame snaked down the wall and across the ceiling, popping and throwing sparks when it hit the waterproofing pitch. So I wove Water and Air to suffocate and extinguish the growing flame. Again the weaves snapped back and the fire grew faster.

My mind started to panic, so I summoned the Void, reducing my mind to a cold processor, untouched by feeling or circumstances. I gave a shout and rolled to my feet, shaking the other Dedicated awake. None of them would wake. It was as if they were dead. The fire had covered half of the sloping ceilieng and the enitre wall by my pallet, it was bright as day. I had to leave my friends, to save my own life. That's what they had taught me in 3 years here. Rule number one: protect the Dragon Reborn at all costs. To do this, you must be alive, so protect yourself at all costs as well.

I ran out of the open door, barefoot and clad in black trousers and a black shirt. The same as I wore every day and every night. The grass was slippery with dew, but I ran, shouting that there was a fire. It was the dead of night and the sky was very black. It took a while for my eyes to adjust but with Saidin I could soon see every detail as I ran past. My shouts clashed against all the black buildings, but no one came. I kept running, and shouting, towards the M'Hael's house. Surely he would be able to do something.

I was wide awake by now, and I wondered how the fire got there, and why I couldn't put it out. There were no easy answers there. I could have been really tired and messed the weaves up, but that was unlikely. Over the past 3 years, there wasn't a single day, not a single hour even when I hadn't used the Power. The weaves were a part of me and putting out a simple fire was child's play. Unless it was sustained by someone else holding the Power. I had been taught how to invert weaves so they couldn't be detected, so it may have been an inverted weave. But who would do that? Maybe a Soldier who had just been shown inversion, and wanted to pull a prank, but there's no way they could sustain a woven fire in those conditions. There were no easy answers.

The grass thinned to a dirt walkway, and I saw the M'Hael's quarters just up ahead. Then I felt a surge of the Power, a very strong weave from somewhere to my right, Fire, Earth and Spirit. This one wasn't inverted and I saw the ground ahead of me start to tear apart. Heated dirt and rocks began to give off their own light as they were churned up by the weave. Then from my left, another weave exploded into the air, this one Earth and Air. It was the same weave I used to give flight and accuracy to my arrows. The same weave I had never taught anybody. Nonetheless, someone was using this weave to propell rocks towards me very fast.
I couldn't run forward anymore, so I turned around, ignoring the pain as my heel was gouged on the dirt.
I wove strands of Fire to vapourise the rocks, and turned towards the weaver they came from. Suddenly the air thickened and I couldn't run. Pain covered my whole body as my skin heated up. I saw boils start to form along my arms and grow larger and larger. Behind the veil of the Void, pain was meaningless, but I could feel the pressure of it trying to break through. Some of the boils began to pop, spewing boiling liquid onto my clothes. It burned through quickly, revealing a network of boils on my chest as well. Then the liquid ignited, spreading fire across my body. The pain became very intense across the Void, threatening to shatter it.

The ground behind me was still breaking up, the gap widening and getting closer to me. Shards of rock were being shot into my back, and the dirt beneath my feet heated up. The boils, blackened by the fire, stopped growing and began to crumble, oozing molten fluid down my appendages.
I tried to keep my sanity, but the pain finally shattered through the Void and ravaged my mind. I screamed and instinct took over. I lashed out with weaves of Earth and Air, trying to sluice the fluid off my body and trying to kill the weavers to my left and right.

The weight of the air lifted and I slumped to the ground. Hot rocks pierced my skin as I crawled away from the advancing gap. I wove Air to draw the heat away from my skin and I was able to stand up again and summon the Void.
I was tired now, exhausted, but I pressed through it. I released Saidin so the channelers wouldn't know exaclty where I was, and I ran behind one of the buildings beside the path. I felt a tingling on my skin, just then. Saidar. Female channelers. At this point, I realised I didn't have much of a chance of surviving, so I stayed in the cover of the building and slowly retreated, listening for anything.

Nothing changed as I got further and further away.
The sun was finally starting to creep over the horizon and light up the sky. I still held the Void to block the pain of my broken skin as I walked. I followed the path towards the stables by the main gate, hoping to find a horse or something, and get out.

I stepped into the stable doors... and I had stepped into broad daylight. I looked at my arms and the boils were gone! The pain receded immediately and I took in my new surroundings. The house of the M'Hael greeted my eyes, in front of was the M'Hael himself and a couple other Asha'men, noteably Davian Telkeres and Ky. They were looking at me, as were many others standing off to the side.

I walked towards the M'Hael and when I reached him, he opened his right hand, revealing a colourfully inset pin, in the shape of a dragon. He reached up and pinned it on my collar, opposite the silver sword of the Dedicated. "Congratulations, Ralkien Malfouri." he said. Simply and formally.

"Thank you, M'Hael." I replied, "I choose the Dai Madhi'in." The Battle Seekers. I made the choice a long time ago, that my Squad would be the ones on the frontlines of Tarmon Gaidon. The Last Stand of mortals against Shai'tan. Led by the Dragon Reborn himself. And now, I was an Asha'man. Highest ranking male channeler in the land, next to the M'Hael and the Dragon himself.

What an honour!