"I will go as you command, of course, but I just don't understand why it is required," Edynol said to Dedicated Shandar. He really did not want to pick up a sword, and he would do anything short of defiance to talk his way out of it.
"Sometimes you have to fight with what is available," Dedicated Shandar said to Edynol. "In war, you can't always have the luxury of fighting with what you know best and you have to make do."
Edynol grimaced. "That is why we are being trained to use the One Power, for when weapon will not avail us."
The dedicated shook his head. "But what if the power does not avail you? Say you've been drugged with fork root or were shielded, and a sword is the only weapon close at hand? You have to know how to use it.
"There times to fight and times to retreat. I'd think that would be a time to flee." Edynol could be stubborn as a rock when he wanted to be.
The dedicated frowned. "What if you're surrounded and can't run?"
"I have seen the Aiel practice fighting with their hands. They can easily take down most men using a sword with any weapon at all," Edy said, rubbing his hands together.
Shandar shook his head again. "Do you see any Aiel around here to train you? Do you think the Tower will just let you, a new soldier, go into the waste to find some to teach you? And even if they did, you'd probably die of thirst or starvation before you even see an Aiel."
"I have a few friends amongst the Aiel. They would teach me if I asked." Edynol started thinking about a childhood friend of his named Adienna.
"Would even know where to find your friends? The Aiel are spread all across the world now. They are no longer confined to the waste anymore." The dedicated looked at Edynol with a blank expression. "Look. Sometimes you have no other choices. What if a friend or companion was in danger and could not fend for themselves and you had to pick up the sword to fight. You'd need to know how to use. Just think of it as physical knowledge. You like to learn, I know you do. Just keep it in your head that it is something new to learn. It might save your life or someone else’s one day."
Edynol sighed, a submissive look in his eyes. "Very well. I will take up training in the sword and try my best to learn it. You are indeed wiser than I in this. I will report to the White Tower as soon as I am ordered without any delay."
Day one at the Warder Training Grounds:
Edynol tried out several different types of swords in the Warder training grounds. He first tried a small short sword. It felt really odd in his hand. His swings were sloppy and loose and he overheard a few other trainees snickering. His aim was almost non-existent and someone commented he could hit the broad side of a trolloc if it were standing still. Edynol ignored their comments, but still frowned at each one. He would not give them a response.
He put the short sword down and picked up a large Bastard Sword. He was a big guy so maybe a big weapon would be better for him. It wasn't. His form was awful and the sword felt even more odd in his hands than the short sword. As he went to swing at the target dummy, he missed it completely and the large sword flew out of his hands, almost hitting one of the Manshima who just barely managed to jump out of the way. "You must be Edynol," a voice said from the entrance to the training grounds. Edy spun to the voice.
The man was about the same height as Edynol, maybe an inch or less shorter, but a little more broad in the shoulders. His hair was tied back and despite the little bit of grey on the sides of his head, he looked young, not much older than Edynol. But Edy knew a little about the warder bond and that the man could have very well been his eighties, despite his youthful features and strong physical condition. "Yes, Gaidin. I am Edynol Crezlyn. It is an honor to make your acquaintance," Edynol said to the man.
The warder eyed Edynol up and down. This boy is an odd one, he thought to himself. A man of Edynol's size and strength would normally be seen as fierce and powerful, someone you would not want to talk to freely around. But when he looked at the boy's face, he saw nothing fierce about him. If he hadn't seen Edy mishandle the sword, he would have thought him to be a tinker from the friendly look on his face and the peaceful nature of his eyes. "You may call me Kloric," he said to Edynol.
His name was Kloric al'Methran, a former blacksmith apprentice from Baerlon. His dark blue eyes showed no emotion but he wore a slight smirk on his face as he looked at Edynol. "Don't call me Gaidin or sir or warder, just call me Kloric," He said, as if he had said the same thing many times before. "So you have never picked up a sword before today, I've heard. Seeing you almost decapitate Manshima Brant over there, I have to say it doesn't surprise me." It wasn't common for most warders to jest, or show any real emotion at all, but Kloric was not you typical warder. He was one of the few who had wedded his Aes Sedai, his being Anella DeMorgrain of the Green Ajah.
Edynol bowed in respect to Kloric. "As you wish, Gai....Kloric," Edy said respectfully. The man was not as Edynol had expected. He was expecting his teacher to be grim and merciless, but this guy seemed to be pleasant and good natured. "It is true," Edynol continued. "I have never touched a sword before today. I would be lying if I said I am eager to learn, but we must do what we must to fight against the Leafblighter." Edynol was not looking forward to this training, but he would give it his best to learn non-the-less.
The warder nodded his head. "Well the sword isn't for everyone, but it is good to learn just incase." Kloric rubbed his chin as he thought for a bit. "Well, first, we will just concentrate on your handling. Once you learn to not injure yourself or your allies, we will see where we go from there. Safety is the most important thing to learn when fighting with any weapon, even the One Power. Remember that."
Edynol nodded his head in agreement. Safety was one thing Edynol always thought was best to practice. "I agree with you fully on that, friend Kloric. And I apologize for picking up a sword without awaiting your arrival. I was hasty to think it would not be that difficult to handle. I have much to learn," Edy said as he hung his head with a frown. "I will not do anything unless you instruct me to."
Kloric shook his head and smirked. Edynol was definitely not your typical Black Tower type. And even less so a warder type. He didn't seem to have a violent bone in his body, despite being so big and physically strong. Kloric had heard about this boy, the wilder who grew up in a stedding. Some of the other soldiers and dedicated who came to the training grounds referred to him as Treeboy. And by the light, everything about Edynol screamed Ogier despite him being human. The way the boy spoke, his uncommon good manners, how he did not anger at the comments of the other Siswai and Manshima. This boy would make a good Aes Sedai, Kloric thought to himself. "That is a very smart decision Edynol. It will make your training go by a lot more smoothly and quickly." Kloric thought Edynol was a breath of fresh air. Most of whom he trained, Warder and Asha'man trainees alike, were so arrogant and overly proud that he grimaced every time he was told to train one. But Edy was humble and respectful to the point where it almost seemed wrong to train such a gentle young man to be an instrument of war.
Kloric walked over to where Edy flung the bastard sword and picked it up. He then brought it back over to Edynol. "First of all, just because you are a big man, it doesn't mean you need a big sword," he said with a small chuckle. "While knowing how to wield a beast of a weapon like this definitely has its advantages, I myself prefer a standard long sword." He put the bastard sword back on the rack then unsheathed his long sword. It almost as long as the other, but a lot more light and had a finer point and sharper edge. Edynol noticed a Heron on the blade. "This is a long sword. And while it is ideal for beginners, when mastered it can be as deadly as any weapon one can forge." Klroic resheathed the weapon then went to the weapon rack and picked out another long sword. It wasn't as well polished as the gaidin's and the edge was a bit dull, but it was well made and well balanced. "Here take this. Let's see how you handle it first."
Edynol took the sword, making a point not to grimace. He held it with both hands squeezing the hilt tight and his elbows pointing down. It did seem a lot easier to hold than the bastard sword, but Edynol still did not like the way it felt. "You are right, friend Kloric. I think I will better with this one," Edynol said with a blank expression.
"Okay good. We will give it a try," Kloric said with a smile. He then chuckled at how Edy held the sword. "But first, we need to work on how you hold it." He drew out his sword and stood in a readied battle stance. "Put your elbows up, like this. That way you can see your hands while not taking your eyes off your opponent as well as deflect attacks easier." Edynol raised his elbows to mimic Kloric, but did it quite poorly. Kloric smirked. "Okay that's.....better." He walked up to Edynol and sheathed his sword again. He then looked at Edy's hands and put his hands on them. "You are holding it too tight. Relax your hands a little. Squeezing the hilt too tight will tire your hands out quickly and eventually you won't be able to keep the sword in your hands." He loosened Edy's fingers and Edynol found it a bit easier to hold the blade up. Kloric stood back a bit and nodded his head. "That's a lot better."
"Thank you," Edynol replied. "This still feels strange to me, I am not sure if I will ever get used to it, but I will try my hardest." He couldn't really explain it, but holding a sword just felt wrong. And it had nothing to do with the difficulty he was having with handling it.
"I knew man once," Kloric said, "who told me a good man would never truly get used it. And if the time ever came you grew to like it, it was time to throw it away." For a slight moment Kloric seemed to have a wondering look in his eyes. He couldn't remember the man's name, but he remembered his golden eyes. "I think it is good advice." Edynol nodded his head in agreement. "Okay. Now that we got your stance and handle on the blade squared away, let's work on parrying." As the day progressed, Edy showed little improvement, but he warder could see he was giving it his all. It was rare, but some people are just not meant to master the sword.
Edynol moves the sword to parry a low attack from Kloric, but the sword slipped from his hands and onto the ground. Any other warder would be angry and make you run laps or come down hard on you, but Kloric just chuckled. The boy was really trying, but he was just no good! And the look of utter disappointment and embarrassment on Edy's face made it obvious that no harsh words or penance could be worse then what the boy already had to be feeling. "Don't worry so much, Edynol. You deflected my attack at least, but you're bending your wrists too much. Try to use your shoulders and elbows more than your wrists. Need to hold the blade straight while moving it."
"If you were using a heavier weapon, you might have broken your wrists just doing the move like that," said a familiar voice. Edy turned to the man, and for the first time all day, he smiled. Rydian had been a good friend to Edynol since the first time he came to Tar Valon before joining the Black Tower. It was because of Rydian's advice Edynol had been able to more easily tolerate the atmosphere of the Asha'man training grounds.
Kloric nodded at the Manshima as to thank him for the input, but Edy spoke before he could. "Hello, friend Rydian! It is good to see another friendly face here. Has they day been fair to you?" Edy said. He was happy to see Rydian again. Seeing a familiar face seemed to be just what Edy needed to make this training a bit more bearable.
Rydian got two short swords as he readied himself for practice. "It has been fair as any other. Any day I learn something new is a good day," the manshima said. Short and to the point, which was Rydian's way. Edynol respected that about Rydian. He might not have been all smiles and laughter, but he was pleasant to talk to non-the-less.
"So you know each other. That's good," Kloric said as he nodded at the two. He then looked at Edynol. "Your friend is right. Try that with a heavy weapon and you may never be able to pick one up again." He nodded to Rydian, who saluted back then nodded at Edynol before going to practice forms. "Now, hold it like this," he said as he demonstrated his stance. "Keep your wrists straight just like I am." Edy did so and Kloric gave him a nod.
Kloric made Edy practice a few parrying moves as he watched and instructed him a few more times to keep his wrists straight. After Edy did a few successful moves, Kloric proceeded with more instruction. He didn't attack too fast at first though, he didn't want to overwhelm the boy. For the next hour or so, Kloric had Edy parrying the same attacks over and over, after each round moving a little more faster. After a while, Kloric thought he might be ready for a small test. "Okay. You are doing well. Now I am gonna come at fast. Pay attention, as you have been, because I won't just be using the same attacks as I have been. We're going to mix it up a little." Edynol nodded that he understood and stood ready. Kloric came at him fast, and Edy parried the first few attacks, but the fourth one knocked the sword from Edy's hands and the hilt landed hard on his foot. Edy jumped back then kneeled down to rub it. Kloric had a sympathetic look on his face.
Edynol paid no attention the other trainees who were laughing and teasing. "Ha! My little sister can do better than that! Treeboy couldn't hit the broad side of a sleeping trolloc," a manshima said. Kloric glared at the manshima and the boy just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"And I suppose you were so much better starting, Brenard?" Manshima Rydian spoke as he turned from practicing forms. "I seem to remember you tripping over your own feet when trying 'The Dandelion in the Wind', something most Siswai learn the first week." Rydian gave Edynol a small smirk as the other turned their laughter towards Manshima Brenard.
The Manshima turned red with anger. "Watch your tongue, Rydian. All you do now is practice forms all day. You wouldn't last against a real opponent," the boy said with a gritted smile.
Rydian nodded his head as if he was agreeing with him, but he wasn't. "Is that so," Rydian said in a cool tone, not a hint of emotion on his face. "Would you like to test that assumption? Just a friendly sparring match."
Brenard stood up and unsheathed his sword. "Very well Rydian. I guess I could give one more lesson today." The manshima smirked as he faced Rydian. Edynol and Kloric watched in amusement.
Brenard went after Rydian with 'The Kingfisher Takes a Silverback', but Rydian easily counters it with 'The Sapling Trembles' followed by 'The Arc of the Moon', but does not execute it fully, not wanting to decapitate the boy, and just holds the blade to his throat. Rydian smirked. "I am learning a lot. You have anything else to teach me?" Rydian said. Brenard shoved him away and attacked again, but Rydian countered, again. And again and again until Brenard decided to cut his losses and stormed off the training grounds. Rydian just nodded his head at Edynol and returned to his forms.
Kloric chuckled and gave Rydian a nod of approval before turning back to Edy, who was smiling again, though still rubbing his foot. "Anything broken?" Kloric asked the soldier. Edy stood up and smiled at him and replied, "No, friend Kloric. I am ready to continue." Kloric nodded and Edynol picked the sword back up.
"Okay, same as before. We will start out slowly, then go faster and faster as you progress. Then there will be another test when I think you are ready." They continued with the same exercises for the rest of day. Edy progressed very little each test, but he was progressing.
It was mid day, and Edynol had been practicing the same defense maneuvers he had the previous day. But he had finally passed the test for the first time. Actually, he passed it three times, Kloric wanted to make sure it wasn't a fluke and that Edynol was actually learning. "Okay. Now were gonna practice some offensive techniques," Kloric said.
Edynol nodded. "Thank you for being patient with me, friend Kloric. I hope my slow progress isn't a burden to you." Edynol knew he was progressing really slowly. A few new recruits that arrived just yesterday were already way further along than he was.
Kloric nodded and smiled. "You're doing fine. At least you listen and do everything you're told, which more than I can say for even some the best trainees we have here. We can only do the best we can. And as long as you're trying your best, I will be happy to train you." People commented about how Edy was so much like an ogier, but Kloric definitely had and ogier's patience. But his patience was about to be put to the test.
Over the next few weeks, they practiced any and every form Kloric could think of including a few he made up himself. Edy showed only a little progress in defensive techniques, but none at all when it came to offense. The boy just couldn't handle the sword well. Kloric never lost his patience, and would have continued to train Edynol for the next year, if he thought it would do any good. Edynol tried his hardest. Kloric even spotted him in the training grounds late after hours [practicing, trying to improve, which told him that the boy was definitely trying his hardest. Sometimes Edynol would show in the morning with cuts and scratches he inflicted on himself while practicing at night with no supervision. The boy was the epitome of dedication, but all the dedication in the world does no good for a lost cause. They even tried several different types of swords, from short swords, to falchions, and even rapiers, but Kloric eventually came to the conclusion that Edynol was just not meant to wield a sword.
Day twenty two:
Kloric put a hand on Edy's shoulder and smiled. "Well Edynol, I think we have hit a block in the road," Kloric said in a soft tone. "It is rare, but some people just aren't meant to wield a sword. I have trained many warders and countless others and I have tried everything I know, but you are just not meant for the sword nor it for you." Only once before had Kloric given this speech, but it wasn't any easier to give. In fact, it was more difficult than he remembered.
Edynol frowned. "So I have failed," Edynol said sorrowfully. "I have practiced for more hours than I can remember, but couldn't get it right. I do not know the cause for me inability to learn this, but I will not make excuses. I am sorry I have failed."
Kloric chuckled and patted Edy on the back. "Hey, it's better to try and fail than to never try at all. And you tried harder than any student I have taught in recent memory. But look on the bright side, you may never be a blademaster, but at least you can defend yourself against one pretty good." Kloric gave him a friendly smile. "I will send word to the Black Tower. I will recommend that they excuse you from sword training. I know it is a requirement there to advance in rank, but maybe they can make an exception. I've heard you show promise using that staff of yours I see you walking around with all the time. Heck, I remember hearing about some farm boy who came to the tower and, with no training at all, bested the two top trainees at the same time. So if a staff can be that deadly in untrained hands, imagine how much so it would be when you actually know how to use it."
Edynol smiled slightly at the warder. "Thank you for your kind words, friend Kloric. It was definitely an honor training with you. I owe you debt I may never be able to repay."
Kloric chuckled. "Jut try your best and stay true to yourself, Edynol, and you do right by me," the warder said as he escorted the soldier off the training grounds to be taken back to the Black Tower. He then returned to his quarters to write a note to the Black Tower for Edynol.
Back at the Black Tower:
It was a good day for Edynol. Not just because he actually received some positive remarks on his on his progress from a few of his trainers, but for the first time his session with Daynir this day went by without the man getting grumpy at him. Through the course of Edy's lessons with Daynir, he seemed to grow more and more skilled in using the power over all. Of course, most of Edynol's other teachers felt it was because of their training, but he didn't see any need in telling them differently. They were finally starting to treat him as one their own. And aside from the occasional test to keep Edy practiced in defense, he was no longer forced to train with the sword. It seemed Kloric Gaidin was true to his word, though Edy never doubted he would be, and that the trainers at the Black Tower respected it. Though Edy did not care for physical combat--He did not care combat in general as a matter of fact--he was content that he was progressing well when using the staff. More than, actually. He was already able to best several of the trained Dedicated and even a few Asha'man. Kloric was right. The staff was definitely a formidable weapon, even in the hands of someone as unskilled as Edynol.
It was early in the evening, the sun was about halfway to the horizon, when Edy finished his lesson with Asha'man Derin. There were very people at the tower who were skilled in the staff, but though Derin was the best of them, his knowledge wasn't vast. He was definitely better than Edy, but that wasn't really saying too much. They practiced mostly basic forms, like 'Climbing the Mountain' and 'The Falcon Dives', but that was it. But one thing Edy had going for him, was that though he lacked much skill, he almost made up for it with raw strength. In several sparring practices, he was able to emerge victorious. Either he'd knock the weapon out of someone's hand, or have them so worried about actually getting hit that they tire themselves out from jumping and dodging rather than deflecting and attacking. But what made today different from all other days, was that Edynol had not lost any of his sparring matches. Usually he lost several time everyday, but he was in top form today. Edy smiled as he made his way to his room.
"It's been a long time, kiddo", said a man sitting the small table in Edynol's room. "I see you're still carrying that staff with you. That's good. Your mother would be happy to hear it." Edynol was elated to hear the familiar voice.
"Father!" Edy almost shouted. He gave his father hug and then noticed the Asha'man pin on his collar. "You are an asha'man too, father?" Harreck Crezlyn left the stedding almost immediately after hearing about the taint being cleansed from Saidin. He instructed Edynol to stay at the stedding until he sent word to confirm it was true. He wanted to get far away from his family incase it was some cruel rumor, so he headed West. When he eventually passed through Caemlyn, he heard something about the Dragon Reborn recruiting men who could channel and that they had a base set up somewhere outside of the city called the Black Tower. After chasing the rumors and asking questions, Harreck finally contacted an Asha'man and join the Black Tower's ranks.
After a few months of training--and testing for signs of the taint--reached the rank of Dedicated. When he was finally allowed a little more freedom, and after he established that the saidin really was cleansed, he sent word back to Stedding Taijing. He didn't mention the Black Tower, nor did he mention his son to them, because he was afraid they would turn him into something he was not. So he wrote about Arringil hoping it would take him the opposite way of Tar Valon and Caemlyn. But alas, he somehow ended up there anyway. He knew Edy would need training in using the one power eventually, but he was hoping to do it himself once he reach the full rank of Asha'man and was allowed to travel freely.
"I was hoping you'd stay in Arringil. But I suppose I was naive to think I could keep you from Tar Valon. I know how much you had always wanted to visit there. I hoped to keep you away from here, to train you myself once I learned enough to keep us safe. I couldn't bear it if they made you into something you're not. Like one of them." Harreck sat back down and tapped his fingers on the table.
Edynol sat on his bed near the table. "I will never become like them, father. I give you my oath on that. But they need, we need, every hand we can get to fight against the Leafblighter. And remember what Elder Shanam said, 'not all weapons are deadly, and not all battles are won with violence'. There are several ways to fight a battle, father. And healing that which has been injured is just important as killing that which destroys. What good is winning the last battle if the world we save is no longer fit to live in?" Edynol then sighed. "They need us, father. The whole world needs us."
Harreck gave the table a loud thud with his fist. "I know. Burn me to bloody ashes I know! But it doesn't mean I have to bloody like it." His father had not changed much since Edy last saw him, other than being a little more grim than usual. He had always had a sharp tongue and was quick to spout out curses when he was angry. "I just wanted to keep you out of all of this. With me being an Asha'man and your mother and Aes Sedai I thought it would be enough..." Harreck cut himself when he realized what slipped out.
Edynol sat there with his mouth opened in shock. Was what his father let slip true? His mother never told him she was Aes Sedai, but come to think of it, she never out right denied it either. He recalled what she said when he asked once, 'I trained at the tower for a time, but I doubt they think I'm fit to wear the shawl'. Not really a direct answer. After a moment, Edy finally spoke. "Mother is an Aes Sedai?"
Harreck lowered his head and sighed. "She was. Perhaps she still is. She hasn't officially been stripped of the shawl. The White Tower considers her a renegade for running away with me, a suspected male channeler, to the stedding. They knew we were there, I'm sure, but they never came after us. I guess they knew we weren't a threat and decided that if she was willing to stay cut of from the source, it was punishment enough. And indeed it was punishment. That first year, before you were born, was very hard on your mother. I had just discovered I could channel, so I wasn't affected much from the loss. But your mother had been channeling for years. There were times she wouldn't stop crying for days. But when we found out she was with child, with you, it was enough to snap her out of it. She had always wanted to be a mother, to bring a life into this world, and she grabbed hold of it with everything she had. She eventually became her old self again." A smiled appeared across Harreck's face. "Being stuck in a stedding is not so different from being severed, except you cannot even sense the true source. And there are times when one that has been severed lives out their life happily by finding something they love more than the One Power. For me and your mother, that was you. So you can see why I don't want anything to happen to you."
Edynol had never heard his father talk like that. He was never a very open man, never shared his feelings on such things. Edy went over to the table and sat next to him, puting his hand on his shoulder. "Thank you for telling me this, father. I know it couldn't have been easy. I had no idea mother went through so much. The sacrifices she made, I feel honored beyond words to be her son. To be your son. And I promise I will be careful. And after the last battle is fought, I hope we can all live together again in peace." Edynol now saw his parents in a whole new light. He had never known before this day the struggles they went through before he was born. Edy had mixed feeling about all this new information. He was happy to learn how much his parents really cared for him, honored that that they so brave and enduring, and sad at how much his mother suffered before he was born.
Harreck smiled slightly at his son. "I would like that as well. I just hope we all live to see those happier times again." Harreck then thought silently for a moment. "You must not tell anyone about your mother. I know the White Tower probably already knows, but I still would not want to take any chances. Whatever type of consequences they have set out for her, she doesn't deserve."
"I am afraid I have told one person her name. Rakein Sedai, but I do not think she will cause any harm. I am sorry, father, but I had no idea. If I had known, I wouldn’t have. But you have my oath, father. I will not tell anyone else," Edy said with a slight bow of his head.
Harreck lowered his head and sighed, the worry showing on his face. "It's not your fault. We should have told you from the beginning, my son. Hopefully this Rakein will leave well enough alone for now, at least until I can send word to your mother. No doubt she's worried about both of us."
Edynol nodded his head in understanding. "So where have you been all this time? I have been here for several months now and never knew you joined Tower's ranks." Edy spent a lot of nights wondering where his father was, if he was well, or if he would ever see him again. But he was happy he was here now.
Harreck rested his hands on the table. "I have been helping the battle at Tarwyn's Gap in the Borderlands. I have been back for a few days now and was ready to set out for Arringil when I heard your name mentioned by a soldier." Harreck then let out a chuckle. "I heard you've humbled a few dedicated and asha'man with you staff fighting. You are to be promoted to dedicated soon yourself I hear."
Edynol nodded, his expression blank. "I am honored that my teachers think I am ready enough for it, but I do not care too much about achieving rank, aside from the fact it will give me a little more freedom to learn more of what I want to learn and have some more solitude for my thoughts. As grim as it may seem, I have come to realize that those here who are not my friends, are just tools for me to use to learn what I need to learn and do what must be done. Most of who we see here today will probably die at Tarmon Gai'don. So it is better not to forge too many friendships only to feel the pain of their loss down the road."
Harreck frowned and shook his head. "You get those thoughts out of your head right now boy!" Kloric snapped, but not loudly. His tone then softened. "That is not how you really feel. You're starting to sound like one of them with talk like that. Make what friends you can, son. Yes, they may die, but they would be dying for us. For the world. And those of us who survive the last battle will be the only ones to remember their faces and names, to tell their names in stories to our children and them to theirs for generations to come. Don't they deserve at least that much for dying in the battle for our lives? Sure, people will write about the Dragon, the Amyrlin, the glorious commanders who lead their armies to victory. But who will remember the countless other men and women who died or did some heroic deeds that would otherwise go unnoticed? Who will tell their stories? We will." Harreck put a hand on Edynol's shoulder. "So please son, for me, for yourself, for everyone, make all the friends and connections you can. Sure we will mourn those we lose, but don't they deserve to be mourned?"
Edynol hung his head in shame. "You are right, father. How can I even think such thoughts!" Edy nodded his head. I do not like this place, how it seems to sink its claws into you and pull you in. But I will not become like them. There has to those who can bring peace to the world rather than just fight wars against the shadow. And I will be one of those whom bring peace." The grim look was gone from Edy's face completely and his gleamed with that child like hopefulness that Harreck remembered fondly.
"That's what I like to hear from you, son," Harreck said, ruffling his hand in they boy's hair. "Hey I'm starved. What say you to a quick bit at the inn?" Edynol nodded eagerly and smiled. They started reminiscing as they headed out of the room. "Hey do you remember when you ran through that garden and...."
The next day:
Edynol Slicing technique was both odd and spectacular. It was about the only thing the boy did that really stood out. The way he used his staff to direct his to direct his own counter-flows made it seem as if the staff itself was doing the actual slicing. By now, everyone knew Edy used the Songwood Quarterstaff mainly as a focusing tool, like many Aes Sedai do. The staff itself was just that, a staff. The only thing different about it is that it, being made from Songwood, was as hard and durable as steel. All the blades and axes it had turned during Edy's combat training and it still bore not a scratch or a chip.
"Very good," Asha'man Hastel said after Edy sliced his fire weave. "Now lets see how you handle some real attacks." The Asha'man started throwing multiple short bursts of flame at Edynol, not strong enough to kill, but a few hits would put anyone out of action for the next week unless they were healed. Edy started his weaves of spirit and guiding the flows with his staff, pointing it at each of the flames, Edynol snuffed out each of the small flames Hastel threw at him. Hastel stopped and nodded his head. "Congratulations Soldier," he said in a smarmy tone with a smirk on his face. "You've gone from a lost cause to a waste of my time. Keep up the improvements and I might even let you spend some more time playing with your stones, whatever reason you and Daynir do that for."
Hastel wasn't the friendliest guy on the farm, always dishing quirky insults every chance he got, but he was fair and a good teacher. The words he spoke to Edy were actually mild compared to how he usually talks to soldiers, which meant he actually liked Edy a little. Edy saluted the Asha'man respectfully. "Thank you, Asha'man Hastel," Edy said. He wanted to tell the man how much he appreciated his teaching him, but he'd learned that when dealing with Hastel, it was best to be short and respectful.
After he was dismissed from class and gathered up a few stones to put in his small bag, his name was called. He was lead over in front of the main building where a few other soldiers were standing at attention. Edynol joined them as directed and stood straight as an arrow, his staff at his side as if it was part of his uniform. Aside from a short speech from one of the Asha'man, the pinning ceremony wasn't anything special. And while the other former soldiers, now Dedicated, fought to keep from grinning, Edy stood there with a blank expression. It wasn't that he was unhappy with being honored with a new rank, it was good to finally be given a little more freedom, but he wasn't exactly elated. Edy wasn't concerned with becoming a high ranking Asha'man, but with learning as much as he could so he could help the world and people in it.
After the ceremony, Edynol was approached by his father. "Well, now that that is out of the way and you have yourself a new pin, what are you gonna try to focus on?" Harreck smiled and had a glint of pride in his eyes as he rubbed Edynol's new pin with his thumb. He knew the boy would still have to train in a lot of the stuff he didn't want to learn, and the training wasn't going to get any easier, but he would get a bit more time to focus on his strengths and what he wanted to do a bit more. He knew Edynol was very strong with spirit weaves, so they weren't going to stick him a fire or earth lessons all day. They were going to train him in slicing and probably traveling, shielding, and probably even weave unraveling if he shows a talent for it. But while his training in other areas might get a little more relaxed, his training in spirit weaves would get many times harder to help him reach his full potential.
Edynol thought about his father's question for a moment. "I am hoping to concentrate more on healing, maybe even traveling," Edynol said to Harreck, a small smile appearing on his lips as he thought about finally getting to learn more of what he wanted to. "I know the training is only going to get more difficult, but the harder the lesson, the more you learn from it. As long as I remember that, I will endure whatever they throw at me."
Harreck nodded and smiled as he patted Edy on the back. "You're becoming even wiser than myself, my boy," he said with a chuckle. "Well now that we won't be breaking any rules, as long as you stay with me," he said while fingering his Asha'man pin, "what say you to traveling somewhere to get some real food for a change?"
"That would be nice, father," Edynol said with a smile that touched his eyes. Harreck nodded and opened a gateway, which lead to Arringil. When They stepped through the gateway, Edynol's eyes settled on the sign of the Singing Duck inn. He stood staring at the building for a moment, lost in thought. This was where his life took a turn which would change it forever. It was here that Edynol met Endrea Yashiere, a thieftaker, who altered Edy's course, which was do west, to go up north to Tar Valon, to the Gholam Inn, where he would join the Black Tower.
Harreck gave Edynol a questioning look. "Have you been here before, son?" Edy nodded, a wondering look in his eyes. "You look as if something happened here. Want to talk about it?" Harreck wasn't sure rather Edy wanted to be here or not, his expression was blank as stone. But then a small smile crossed Edy's lips. "Well let's talk over some roasted pork. I'm starving."
When they walked in, Edy recognized one of the serving he met when he was here before. She greeted them both with a friendly smile as they took a seat and ordered some drinks. Edy took a cider and Harreck an ale. "This is where I changed directions, father," Edynol said, remembering that day and the days that followed. "I met friend Endrea here for the first time. And when she started talking about going back to Tar Valon, I saw is as an opportunity to see the great city I read about in the books." They talked for the rest of the evening, Edynol telling him about his trip to Tar Valon, Harreck talking about his time in the Gap, and both of the reminiscing about old time back at the stedding. And for that one evening, things were somewhat back to the way it used to be before Edy joined the Black tower. One last taste of the normal, simple life they had left behind.
Next day, back at the Farm:
It was morning at the Black Tower training grounds, the days lessons just starting as Edynol stood listening to Daynir, one of the few teachers that thought him worth teaching despite his reluctance towards violence. The asha'man spoke about how in times of hopelessness, when men cannot see the future beyond their next meal, let alone the next generation that drive for goodness dies, greed and brutality is all that is left in a world without hope for a better day. Even victory over the Shadow will likely mean the destruction of the world. Before that recognition, what point lies in thinking beyond that day? This was how most asha'man thought. All too many men saw that light flicker and fade to nothing before the singularly-focused violence of the Black Tower. All too many Asha’man saw no light after the Last Battle. Better to destroy the world in defense against the Dark One, than to let him remake it in his image.
“Does a man’s arm stand for else but what the man himself commands?" Daynir says to Edynol. "If the man stands for peace, his arm holds foes from each others’ throats. If a man stands for war, his arm wields the blade and shield.” Daynir clenches a fist before them, clutching his shoulder with the other hand. His arm and himself, inextricably linked. “We are the Dragon Reborn’s arm. We hold Tairen from Illianer, Cairhienin from Andoran, and the Seanchan from everyone. These foes must march together with the Dragon Reborn. We will wield the swords of lightning and the shields of fire against the hordes of Shadowspawn and match strengths with Dreadlords.”
And if the man dies, what then becomes of his arm? Here the metaphor breaks down. Or, at least Daynir hopes it does. What do even the most hopeful see beyond the Last Battle? “As for after?” he continues more slowly, “Who can say.”
Edynol thinks on the man's words for a bit and then nods. "The strongest arm can have the softest touch, I think. The fire that destroys can also warm the body and spirit." Edy knew the time was comming when he himself would have to spill the blood of others for the greater good. He did not look forward to it, but he accepted it. "The last battle will test our strength, but the aftermath, if we win, will test our spirit I think." He rubbed the tip of his staff with his thumb, tracing a few of the outlining markings. These were bad times, and even worse were to come before it got better, but he held in strong belief that in time, things would get better.
Edy had accepted he was being trained as a weapon. He even recieved a letter from an Aiel friend of his that a few of the ogier themselves had been puting long handles on there axes. After reading that, Edy had become noticibly more focused in his combat training and was no longer so guarded at learning offensive weaves. He was starting to progress the same as everyone else. No one had asked him about the sudden change, small though it was, perhapse they credited it to their teachings, Edy decided to let them think what they would. "All we can do is work on becomming stronger for now. The Lord of the Morning will need all of us at our strongest for Tarmon Gai'don. I was reluctant at first about being trained as a weapon, but for the time being, weapons are what we need. But I believe we will not always be so."
Edynol looked down at small pieces of stone in his hand and started making a small weave. Nothing really spectacular, more than anything to show what he was thinking. A few of the small pieces started joining together to form a single piece of stone. Nothing to notice really, like he was just twittling his fingers, he was barely embracing the source. "If we win the Tarmon Gai'don, our strong arms will need to have a soft touch to mend that which has been broken. And who better to mend the earth than those of us who are strongest with it? I hope to put the future bloodshed behind me and heal what we may help to destroy in this battle. If I should fall in battle, then I only hope someone looks for the same and leads the way." Edy let go of the source and let the now one small stone fall to the ground.
As the other man appeared to be about to say something, one of the other Asha'man came and addressed Edynol. "Dedicated Edynol, your are summoned to the west forge. Report there immediately." Edynol saluted the asha'man and did as instructed. When he arrived, he saw an Logain there talking with a few other asha'man. Some of the dedicated and soldiers there were ones that used to give Edynol a hard time, but over the past few months, they started being nicer to him. Things were certainly amiss at the Black Tower as of late, those who used to be friendly to him now mocked him, calling him Tree Boy and such. Edynol didn’t mind the nick name, he actually liked it, but it was the context, how some meant it as an insult that he didn’t like. It was no secret the Asha’man were becoming divided, even though no one openly talked about it.
When he approached and saluted Logain, the former false Dragon nodded at him, a small smirk on his lips. Logain was one of the few there as tall as Edynol, though his presence made him seem even taller, though in fact he was a tad shorter. “Edynol,” he began in a deep voice. “I have been waiting for the day you became a dedicated. I am sorry if I cut your celebrations short, but there is a task I must ask of you.”
Edynol nodded and smiled. “There was nothing to interrupt, Asha’man Logain. What will you have me do?”
Logain gave a short nod. “There are reports of shadowspawn around Caemlyn. We think they maybe planning an attack. There is a small group of Aiel and soldiers of the Red Hand. You are one of the best portal makers and unweaves we have I know I can trust. Yes, I have had my eye on you for quite some time. I will open a portal to them for you. Once you are through, I want you to get rid of all traces of the weave so none here will be able to trace it. They are a small group, but they are in need of a good healer. The one Red sister they have is not well skilled in such and the few Aiel Wise Ones cannot handle it all on their own. You know Caemlyn well enough, so maybe if you linked with the others there, you can make a portal large enough to get them all through quickly and warn the queen.”
“As you command,” Edynol said with a salute. When Logain opened the portal, he stepped through and undid the weave as fast as he could before walking towards the camp. When he got close, he approached an Aiel girl and spoke softly. “I see you, tree sister. May you find water and shade,” he said in the traditional ogier greeting to aiel. Though a few other aiel close by gave him a strange look, a man talking like an ogier was indeed uncommon. “I am Edynol Crezlyn. I have been sent by Logain of the Black Tower to provide assistance.” He then bowed his head and waited for a reply.