Four Stories by Halan
Written by Halan Leion for his Soldier Contribution, completed 04 May 2010.
The ranked lines of Soldiers visibly shivered as another icy wind swept past whipping around them. They stood in lines on what would soon be a battleground, the dark unforgiving stone beneath their feet was a almost hidden under ice and snow, and the Sky above them was brightly colored and angry as the sun rose into the heavens once more, suitable, considering many would soon die within the hour. Standing like a statue stood their Captain, his warder cloak flapping violently in the wind. He did not move despite the cold, his expression betrayed nothing no emotion crossed his features. He just waited as if for some signal to begin the war, loyally awaiting his command the soldiers dared not move, and waited anxiously for orders, not noticing the stranger that watched from the ridge behind them and regarded a number of them with deep interest.
In his appearance the stranger was mysterious and intimidating; a warder cloak danced around his neck in the wind, dark green leggings and a brown tunic hugged his body against the cold. A long saber hung at his waist, a symbol of the his rank in the garrison an eagle wings spread in flight decorated the elaborate guard. He was different than most other Gaidin in the Garrison, where others favored brute strength, he favored brains, where others favored stealth , he favored facts , where other favored team work he favored precision, and his cold dark calculating intelligent eyes missed nothing as he surveyed the lines of soldier once more.
The wind increased suddenly blasting over the ground in a howl of ice cold violence, the figure stood against the approaching storm watching and waiting, his cloak whipped open momentarily revealing a purple and silver colored sash strapped tightly around his waist before being swallowed up in the depths of the cloak once more. Despite the appearance he put on, inside AXIS was struggling to control his excitement, soon the battle would begin.
He tilted his head and surveyed the soldiers again, how many would still be standing by the end of the day. Soon he told himself, the ultimate test of the towers battle plan would be enacted, soon the soldiers would face the Dark friend army, and soon the plan of Dai M’Hael would be one step closer to being fulfilled. He smiled faintly at the thought, as if knowing something few others did. For months he and a selected few had documented, investigated and analyzed every scap of information about the approaching army. So deep was his involvement, he knew each enemy commanders name, he knew their birthplace, he even where each had been when they had first been kissed. Such was the ability of a DM Gaidin to find information and knowledge. During the previous couple of weeks each of the towers companies had been ordered into training routines, and mock battle to prepare them for the eventual battle. Soldiers and recruits from the garrison had joined the army organized into shield walls or skirmishing units. They had been so eager to join the army and put their training to use, little did they know it was a pre planed final test, they would all take, and few would return alive.
All that had been done was done, the battle plan was simple but effective, sure there was a measure of risk. Even with the resources and experience he and his brothers held, nothing could be considered certain, such was the way with the complex nature of the plan DM followed.
AXIS tensed slightly as his keen ears sensed the sound of Crunching snow approaching from behind, turning slightly he acknowledged the arrival of one of his brothers with a brief nod. A Gaidin cloak and a Rapier sword were the only identifying features of what the man was, the same DM colored sash was also visible, but that was where the similarities ended. A deep hood obscured the features of the man’s face, but AXIS knew his Company Commander when he saw him, and made way for Paxam to stand beside him. Together they watched with predatory interest as Dark friend army began to advance, war drums beating a thunderous challenge to the assembled humans. Soon it would begin, within hours the army of Tarvalon would either have victory or they would have died in the attempt. A shrill whistle cut through the wind and the assembled soldiers numb with cold awoke and surged forwards with a cry of fury towards the black mass ahead of them the Tear of Tarvalon fluttering wildly from numerious colorful banners.
“It begins once again brother, as it did many years ago” whispered Paxam a thoughtful expression on his face, “so it does” Axis agreed with a slow deliberate nod, he allowed a faint smile to touch the edge of his lips, a warmth that didn’t touch his eyes that followed the advancing lines. Tonight Dai M'Hael’s Plan will be one step closer to completion, or their would be complete disaster, such was the will of the plan.
San d'ma Shadar
The tavern was loud and busy tonight the innkeeper thought, the ongoing celebration was about the news that the morning battle against the dark friends had been won. Most of the village had dismissed early reports from shepherd about Trollocs being sighted, most had laughed at and ridiculed members of the community who spoke stories of horned men, with cloven hoofs as feet, and darkly clothed humans. Such laughter had been before the first raids began, and the feeling of fear and distrust quickly descended on the minds of the village, the local watch had conducted regular patrols, but they had been unable to stop the raids. All had seemed lost, until the army of the White Tower had arrived, the Innkeeper thought with a smile growing under his bushy mustache as he poured yet another mug of thick bubbly ale for a customer. The fellow had arrived moments before with three other cold and bloody companions. They had entered wearing heavy chain mail armor and dull helmets. Their brown tunics wore a curious image of what appeared to be a bear, which showed them to be foreigners for no bears had been sighted in the area for generations. But it wasn’t their arms or armor that told him who they were, their wide distant stares spoke of the things they had witnessed, the blood on their clothing told of the things they had slain.
The unnamed man before him hungrily eyed the bubbling broth of the dark ale in the mugs before him. By his youthful looks he appeared to be no older than eighteen or nineteen, a mere boy still in other parts of the world, but those eyes belonged to a killer not a boy, such was the effect of war thought the innkeeper with a sigh. Most of the villages youths had disappeared in the direction of the Towers encampments eager to lend a hand, how many of them would return from today’s battle was anyone’s guess. “It’s on the House son” said the Innkeeper kindly as the boy had begun to reach for his coins. The soldier had given him a bewildered look before gratefully gathering up the mugs and setting off in search of his friends.
Tenedoes was tired, his arms ached from the hours swinging weapons and paring with a shield, his body groaned in pain from the numerous bruises and small cuts that had been inflicted on it, and his legs felt like lead weights as he wearily staged through the crowd to him friends who had seated themselves in a corner of the inn, their backs were planted gratefully on the cold stone walls, while their tired eyes were staring at the table lost in thought.
By some small miracle, he managed not to spill of drop on his way to the table, people went quiet as he had walked among them and quickly moved out of his way. Such was his state, that he failed to see the looks of wonder and reverence many people gave him as he passed by, by the time he arrived at his destination there was a stillness in the air as the majority of the Inns customers were looking his way, He did not care, all he wanted to do was rest, as if reading his mind, a chair was pulled out into which he collapsed into, after reverently placing the Ale down. All he wanted now was to have a drink and move on.
The Battle had been as long as it had been vicious, no quarter had been given by either side, or when the lines had come together finally it had been a simple kill or be killed moment. Tenedoes along with his companion soldiers had been placed in the centre of the shield wall. Heavily armored they had been ordered to take the full impact of the dark friends charge and hold them. He could still remember the pungent smell of his foes, their rasping breaths and Animal screams and roars. The fighting seemed like a blur of flashing steel and cascading waterfalls of blood. Shuddering slightly at the memory he sipped at his ale, it was cheap but refreshing, its dark brown liquid sang a calming tune as he drank it down. Hours before he was an enraged being, lost in the battle embracing his feral and ballistic nature, cutting down foes with every swing, he had lost his sword, found another, had his shield split in two, picked up an axe, and would not could not retreat against the sea of black iron before him. It seemed it would never end, but as the shield wall began to crumple under the black sea, the Gaidin had arrived crashing into the Trollocs flank in an orgy of destruction, and sweeping everything aside.
Moments later the battle was over. Soon the only sounds were those of faint groans and shrieks of pain from the injured and dying. He had watched as Aes Sedai appeared from nowhere, gliding across the area they had begun to heal the injured, a balance to the victorious roars of from the victorious humans. It was at that moment he had taken his leave, he needed to be away from the sight and smell of thousands of dead beings, he had turned just as the circling carnon birds had began to descend to feed, and the first fires been lit.
Pulling himself away from his memories Tenedoes watched his companions, their mugs like his were still full, each had also been lost in his own thoughts and memories of the morning, The atmosphere of the Inn hung heavy with joy, victory, and hidden pain, Adults drank and enjoyed themselves eyes heavy with the sorrow of knowing their children might not return alive. The feeling was depressing thought Tenedoes as he surveyed the Inn with tired eyes, deciding he had better head off before he was noted missing he tilted back his head and gulped down the oily ale, he had just finished when the Inn doors crashed open and silence settled on the Inn. Tenedoes noted the arrival of dozens on heavily scared muscled men, some were big some were small, but they all of them had cold eyes and wore a bear on their brown tabards, his eyes widened as one of them pointed in his tables direction leading the newcomers over to his location.
“Well Boy what do you have to say for yourself” the leader enquired, a thing golden chain hung from around his shoulders marking him as SDS’s CC. Realizing Ban had asked him a direct question, Tenedoes quickly jumped to his feet, as his companions had also done, saluted, and wracked his mind to find a suitable response. He was not given the opportunity to do so. “First you leave the battle without being told to do so, and then you mix with the local people...” Said Ban his eyes dark and forbidding, “not to mention you start drinking without the rest of us” stated Wil pointing to the empty mug on the table. Tension hung heavy in the area, but suddenly smiles appeared on the assembled men’s faces, and chuckles filled the Inn. Tenedoes looked on in bewilderment, his eyes open in shock. He looked up at Ban Gaidin who grinned. “Don’t look so worried Soldiers” Ban Chuckled looking over the table and favoring each of them with a smile. “Or should I say Gaidin” he said with a grin savoring the shock on the faces of Tenedoes and his companions. Dozens of bottles of dark substances quickly appeared on the table from the surrounding men, a picture of what looked like a pirate glued on them. Ban nodded to Wil, who approached the table and spread his big arms wide, “Welcome to SDS boys!” he roared.
The last memory of that night Tenedoes could remember was kneeling on the rough wooden floor under a funnel, above him Ban and other Gaidin began to pour the first of many Captain Morgan’s down the tube towards him, Tenedoes felt the force of the liquor meeting his lips and smiled as he drank deeply, embracing the other side of his company and committing himself to one of many SDS rites of passage for its new Gaidin.
Mahdi'in d'ma Dieb
Marrow swirled the crystal glass holding golden whiskey with his fingers, as he savored his newest victory. He was now the captain of recruits, a position he had longed for since he had first entered the white tower as a citizen so long ago. Back then the captains quarters were Spartan, simple things the DM Captain Jaim had needed. But then there had been a shift in the status quo within the tower and MDD took over the coveted position. First with Darim the Duke of the tower, and then Emp the fabled one, and now it was Marrow, what a glorious legacy and an unbroken line. Like his predecessors Marrow had chosen to have his new quarters as flamboyant and outrageous as possible. Blue and platinum, the colors of his company dominated the quarters and an emperor sized bed engraved in gold was dominated the bedroom, cushions and sheets of blues and metallic silvers shone in the mornings light that cascaded through open windows built into the roof. In one corner of the bedroom sat a personal feature he had recently installed himself. Chained and shielded sat the mistress of novices. He would often speak to her, lamenting his successes to her, sometimes on the odd occasion he would throw things at her when she stopped entertaining him, but such actions were few and far between, truly she actually likes it he often told himself, who wouldn’t want to be my pet and bask in the shadow of my greatness?
He grinned at the thought, and lifting a dripping finger to his lips he savored the sweet and smooth flavor of the whiskey in his crystal gobbet. It was nearly perfect, a few more months of storage and he would have an excellent collection to enjoy at his leisure. Perhaps he would even invite the previous Captains around for a banquette? Maybe... he thought with a smirk. The only thing that had dampened his day was knowing he would not be joining the mornings battle with the others, it annoyed him slightly knowing he wouldn’t be able to stand beside his fellow Gaidin, but that annoyance had quickly been forgotten when he had arrived back at his quarters. “Ahh yes this Marrow this is the life” he told himself cheerfully as he Leaned back in his chair and allowed his eyes to drift lazily to another newly acquired item of his, an immense fish tank built into the far wall by the door. He remembered how his predecessor Emp had it installed during his reign as Captain. Back then it was the home of goldfish, but now it was the home to exotic fish of all species, lush plants and precious gem stones. The result was an underwater paradise of vibrant color and beauty. The main reason he liked it, other than the fact that it pleased him greatly, was because it was a little world that he could destroy in one act, much like the world of the recruits whom he was now in charge of, he smiled darkly at the thought. He gave the whiskey another sip, rolling it around his tongue he happily allowed himself drowned in its exquisite flavor.
He was so caught up in his paradise that at first he failed to notice his door gingerly open and close quietly behind a muddy recruit, in fact it was the smell that first alerted him that something was amiss. When his eyes did eventually focus the recruit was leaning up on the glass on his tank staring in astonishment at the world of color within its glass walls.
“And you are?” growled Marrow, his vision clearing enough to get a better look at his uninvited guest. He noted the recruit had forgotten to remove his shoes upon entering. He had better have a good excuse he thought darkly, it was not often he had time alone to enjoy himself; he suddenly wondered if Darim and Emp had had to undergo such rude intrusions into their own personal leisure time. The question sent the recruit spinning around quickly to face the him. At a glance the recruit was young, maybe only fourteen winters old, his frame told of yet unreached maturity, dusty blond hair cropped short hugged his head, it was obvious he was scared. “I…I..am.. Umm...” stammered the recruit.
“Your name is um? Is it” mocked Marrow, growing less and less impressed with his uninvited guest. “No sir” the recruit said quickly, “my name is Lawrence... recruit Lawrence” he said with a short bow.
“The correct title you will address me as is Captain” said Marrow in a dangerous voice, casually pouring himself another glass of whiskey, “call me Sir again and I will have your tongue cut out, is that clear?” he added in a kinder voice with a pinch of menace, and fixed the recruit who had suddenly gone very white with a cold dangerous stare, the recruit nodded feverously in acceptance.
“Good” replied Marrow in a satisfied tone, “now tell me why you have been sent here?” he said in an uninterested tone, whatever the recruit had better be good to disrupt his peaceful moment. Resting his head on one hand he looked expectantly down at the recruit before him, giving his temple a slight massage with his fingers as he waited for a suitable explanation from the recruit who suddenly looked very uneasy.
Outside the wooden door of the Captain of Recruits, Recruit Karl waited apprehensively for news of his friend who had entered to report and so far failed to return. For what seemed to be hours he had stood motionless with his ear intently listening on the door for any news concerning his friend’s fate. Unfortunally the door were thicker than he had imagined, and he could barely hear what was being said. Images of the pain and humiliation his friend would be put through gathered in his head as he remembered the stories experienced soldiers had told the recruits about the Captains legendary punishments, stories of pain, chicken suits and other horrible added to an already powerful reputation. Beside Karl stood a small group of very worried recruits also waiting for news. Likewise they were expecting screams of pain or horrible things to happen. What they did not expect, was the slow sudden build up sound of hysterical laughter coming from behind the Captains door. The laughter was piecing and unnerving, Karl felt his soul trembled and screamed out in horror at the sound, soon laughter was booming from within the Captains quarters, causing the waiting recruits to scatter and flee in terror. As Karl ran he sent a silent prayer to the Creator to spare his friend, but he knew his friend Lawrence would not be the same when he returned.
It was mid evening by the time the first rider approached the crest of the hill. The going had been tough with the trail covered in deep snow which had delayed progress and exhausted his horse. Below the trail snaked onwards flanked by snow covered oak trees, their naked branches clawing angrily into the darkening sky, in the distance he saw the faint outline of plane fields, the edge of the forest, and their way out of this accursed place. Recently the air had become colder the depths of winter were not far away. His breath created mist from his mouth, and shivering he shivered tugging his black cloak closer around his body as the sun slowly sank from the sky, darkening the landscape around him. One more night he told himself, one more night and we are free, one more night and we are safe. Scanning the landscape with his jet black eyes, he searched desperately for a suitable site to rest for the night. Ahead there was a small clearing, it looked cramped and cold but it looked welcoming none the less compared to what he had slept in the past week. He turned his head mindful of the warmth sapping breeze and spared a glance behind him and surveyed the eight remaining soldiers of his command. They were as weary as he was; bloody and battered from the defeat a week ago, they had only survived by fleeing the battle, cutting through the enemy line and escaping into the snowy landscape. Once they had been proud soldiers destined to serve their dark master with their bodies, and their souls. They had been promised riches and power, but now they only wished to escape with their lives and return home. Wearily he pushed such memories from his thoughts and spurred his tired horse onwards; tonight they would rest, regroup, and begin to plan their revenge on the White Tower.
Maybe it was his thoughts of revenge that distracted him, perhaps it was his exhaustion, but he failed to notice the sudden calm in the forest as he and his companions trudged down the trail. Birds stopped calling to each other, and even the wind itself slowed as if sensing something unseen in the surrounding forest, or maybe it had sensed the dozen cold feral hungry eyes of unseen hunters who stealthily waited and watched.
Auduin watched as the riders walked their mounts down the snow covered trail through his viewing glass, like all Val’Cueran Gaidin he had made sure to darken the glass to prevent reflections. His foes numbers had not changed since the night before; neither had they changed as he had watched them every night since the battle. At any time he knew he could have finished them off, but had waited and stalked them instead, wearing them out while patiently planning their demise. Glancing to his left he spotted the comforting signs of his company brothers in the snowy landscape, a flash of movement by a tree, a slight swaying grass by another, the Gaidin of Val'Cueran advanced as one mind, and with one purpose, to engage their targets, and destroy them.
Risking a look Anduin raised his head slightly viewing more of the trail. Motioning slightly with his hands, he sent an order to the nearby figure of Rienn, who nodded slowly in response before disappeared swiftly from sight in a whirl of his warder cloak. Allowing himself a moment of rest while he waited Anduin thought back to the reason they were here. The battle had gone well; the DM commanders had planned and devised a strategy that devastated the Darkfriend's army, which had almost completely been wiped out. Despite this tactical knowledge, small bands had fought free and escaped in the surrounding forest, it then that Val’Curen were tasked with hunting down every last one, and giving them the lights justice.
As a former Honor Guard of his Company, Anduin was an obvious choice to lead one such band of gaidin in the hunting down of the Dark friends, and was one of the first his Commander Valorian had selected, a great honor Anduin would not allow himself to fail to repay. During his time as an Honor guard he had learnt much about the Company and about himself, he hoped that the current one, Euriel would learn the same things he had too. He quickly dismissed such memories with the return of Reinn who was sending him hand signals. Nodding in acknowledgment he motioned Rienn forwards. Good he thought, the trap was set, and his squad ready, he allowed himself a smile of satisfaction, his yellow eyes gleaming hungrily in the dim light of the winter’s dawn at the prospect of the final kill.
He was content, the group of riders were riding into a cunning and inescapable trap, which the wolves of Tarvalon would soon spring, destroying their foe once and for all. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the flickering movement of what looked like Lucas slowly raise up and sight a crossbow on the lead rider, and to his right Anduin watched with growing anticipation as the rear of the approaching group of riders was cut off by three other Brothers taking up positions on both sides of the trail, their color changing warder cloaks blending them into the dark shadows of the forest.
His hair on the back of his neck raised he waited for the time to be right in anticipation, was this not the way all battles should be fought he wondered? With team work, what better way to fight in battle than with a tight group of likeminded men hunting as one?
Following the riders with cold hungry eyes, he watched as they passed a half buried branch in the snow, the time was right his mind suddenly screamed at him, and his primal instinct to kill began to erupt threatening to consume him. Bearing his teeth he waited until the last rider had crossed the line, a sight that caused a grin to spread across his features. “Now”!” he barked, at his command half a dozen crossbows snapped loudly sending bolts of death forwards into their targets eagerly seeking life to snuff out. Suddenly the silence of the forest was destroyed with the sounds of battle, the desperate battle cries of surviving riders, the screams of the injured, the whinnies of horses and the exulted roars of the victorious hunters as they descended upon their foes, with one mind, one purpose, and one destiny, such was the way of the wolf pack.