This is a follow-up to "A Darkhounds Chase" ( viewtopic.php?f=79&t=5934 )
The Seanchan Patrol
Waking up, bandaged head to toe, Synthia didn't understand where she was or how she had gotten here. Sun light shone through the delicately veiled window illuminating the small room with a warm light. Ramshackle wooden shelves decorated the walls with books, scrolls, flowers and jars containing what looked like herbs. The thatch roof dipped to one side of the room and a beedy eyed pigeon could be seen sleeping curled up in a simple purple scarf. "Where am I?" Synthia thought to herself. Lifting her head to get a better view of the window a sharp pain shot through her side. A gasp was enough to wake up the pigeon who immediately began squawking excitedly. Holding her side and waving her right hand at the pigeon to be quiet, Synthia heard footsteps and the door to the room opened. In walked a tall woman by Cairhienin standards but of average height for a westerner. The delicate smile on her face accompanied her welcoming and motherly demeanor. A sense of calm and security overcame Synthia as this well dressed woman poured a steaming hot cup of tea and set down the kettle. Approaching the side of the bed she offered Synthia the cup. Without saying a word Synthia accepted the warm beverage and drank. The tea tasted of honey and something faint could be tasted on the back of her tongue but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. Shrugging it off, she took another bigger sip and enjoyed the warm liquids comfort.
Her silent watcher noded once the cup was emptied and held out a hand. Synthia tried to return the cup but her muscles wouldn't respond. "When did that other lady show up? Why do they both look the same...? I'm seeing double.." She thought to herself. A heavy wave of fatigue took over her. As her eyes shut, the last thing she heard was the sound of the metal cup hitting the floor.
"Ahhh the bayou. My wonderful home. How you have been missed." Synthia said to no one. Knee high grass and wild flowers grew in front of her small moss covered hut built from the remains of a giant cypress tree. The sun light broke through the hundreds of branches that fought for its warmth sixty feet above and like dust scattered in the wind, it shines randomly on the calm swamp waters surface. A sudden shift in the atmosphere makes the hairs on Synthia's arms stand up. The sun light is blocked out by rolling thunder clouds and lightning strikes eradically above her. Darkness takes over the area and the very hut before her begins to disintigrate as if touched by the Dark One himself! Ashes hang in the air as Synthia turns around slowly at the sound of a familiar growl. Face to face with a massive darkhound teeth bared and ears slanted back, Synthia's heartbeat catches in her throat as she tries to run but can't! Held in place by an unseen force, Synthia screams at the top of her lungs!
Screaming and flailing her arms in the air Synthia jolted upright hitting her head on the ceiling and falling back to the pillow stunned. Rubbing her head where a bump was sure to show she thought, "Ouch! what is going on? What happened to that kind woman? Where am I...?" Holding her forehead Synthia sat up and could not recognize the objects in the room nor the simple tapestries hanging on the walls. A small table against the far wall had a dirty mirror and a bowl of water. Washing her hands and rincing her face Synthia blinked at her reflection in the mirror. All bandages were gone and not a scratch or bruise showed from her escape. "How long ago was that...?" she thought outloud. Shaking her head the faint sound of music could be heard coming from beyond the door. A small note was tacked to the door, "The room is paid." was written on it in a delicate hand. Confused with no apparent answers to her many questions she opened the door in search of the music.
Entering the common room of the inn, Synthia smiled at the sight of a grey haired gleeman playing the flute on a small make shift stage. The few patrons in the room were mesmerized by the tune, some even taping their foot to the melody. Walking up to the barkeeper with questions firing in her head Synthia was greeted by a stern looking face and a finger held to his lips. "This is for you." he said as he produced a small oilskin bag from under the bar. "And now you be on your way young lady." Nodding towards the door the barkeeper turned his attention to the gleeman and continued washing a mug with a well used rag. Picking up the bag and straping it to her shoulder Synthia left the inn confused.
Stepping out of the inn Synthia looked up at the brightly painted sign hanging overheard, "Woman of Tanchico?" she said aloud. "What am I doing in Tar Valon? How did I get away from that darkhound...? Who was that woman who cared for me?!" Synthia thought to herself. Distracted by questions lacking answers in her head Synthia made her way to the main gates of Tar Valon when a familiar high pitched tweeting caught her attention. A black winged pigeon flew down from its perched position on the gate and landed on Synthia's shoulder bobing its head out of excitement. Smiling at the friendly bird Synthia noticed a small note attached to its left leg. Stepping aside and out of the way of the merchants and peddlers entering and leaving the city, Synthia opened the note and read,
"To the young lady who brought this pesky bird to my home. You should rest for a day or two more, but you should be feeling well enough to travel if you so feel like it. Do not worry about paying us back but if you feel you must, then all we ask is for a few herbs. If you happen to come across some powdered gheandin blossom in your travels, we would ask that you collect it and bring it to the innkeeper at the inn."
The signature at the bottom of the note is blotted out by a large pool of ink with a hasty note next to it, "Damn pigeon knocked over the ink well!"
Folding the small note, Synthia reached back and added it to the few contents of her backpack. A smile on her face, Synthia knew exactly where to get powdered gheandin blossom. It flourished under the right conditions of moisture and sunlight and could be found in the Great Forest north of the city of Whitebridge. "The quicker I get these herbs, the quicker I'll get them to the inn and maybe get to thank the healer myself!" With a smile and a determined step, she left the busteling city and headed west towards the wild plains and a three days trip to the Great Forest.
As day turned to night on the second day, Synthia could start to smell the familiar scent of the Great Forest hang in the air. Moving off the beaten path, she found a toppled pine tree recently used as a temporary shelter by another traveler. Signs of burnt wood and chopped branches to leave access to the underside of the pine tree could be made out. Recognizing a patch of gheandin blossom growing at the bottom of the stump Synthia smiled to herself. "What luck, this will be a quicker trip than I had hoped." she thought to herself. Carefully picking the herbs and placing them into a velvet purse Synthia smiled at her good fortune. Tired as she was from the long days walk, Synthia removed the backpack and crawled into the small yet well made space under the pine tree. Protected from the wind and the nights chill air she rested her head on her backpack and sleep came quickly.
Shouts woke Synthia from her reverie. The deepest slurred voice she had ever heard yelled, "Here Sir! I found one Sir!" Gasping Synthia tried to move away from the largest hands she'd ever seen as they easily grabbed onto the tree and lifted it into the air, revealing her small form curled up underneath. Tossing the tree to the side the Deathwatch ogier knelt and picked up the stunned girl with a hand. The neighing of horses could be heard as 2 soldiers and a seanchan officer riding a cat-like beast with copper scales arrived. In a slurred voice the officer said, "You have found us an Oathbreaker, well done Yuni. Set her down so we may see if she will take the oaths." On command the ogier released Synthia and moved back a step.
The well armored officer looked down at the visibly shaken woman and said with a heavy drawl, "Will you swear to serve the Empress, may she live forever? If you answer correctly you will live otherwise Yuni will bury you under that tree." The officer pointed at the pine tree. Recovering from her initial shock of seeing an ogier for the first time anger quickly reigned in her emotions. Looking at the officer square in the eyes Synthia responded angrily, "You bloody startled me awake and then man handled me! And then ask me to swear to serve some light-blinded fool?! Are you a wooden-headed buffoon?" With every word that came out of her mouth the officers smile faded from his face and the grip on the hilt of his sword tightened. The towering ogiers jaw dropped when the tiny woman spat on the ground in front of the officer. In a calm voice the officer slurred, "Kill her."
Synthia's eyes widened as the enraged ogier reached out to grab her and she felt a familiar feeling rise within her. Synthia could feel the inner power and her fear intertwine and flow outwards straight into the ogiers eyes. His massive hand stopped inches from her face and the ogier stood stunned. "Kill her!" The seanchan officer shouted. Eyes wide open and hands beginning to shake the massive ogier turned around and ran at the seanchan patrol with fear filled eyes. One of the soldiers was tossed off the back of his horse and his scream was cut short as the ogier crushed his head underfoot as he charged past and continued running away.
"Kill her!" Shouted the seanchan officer waving his drawn sword at the last soldier. Kicking his horse into a charge, the seanchan soldier leaned forward as he charged at Synthia. Raising her hands Synthia concentrated on the surrounding area and the moisture in the air. The temperature suddenly dropped and shards of ice formed in front of her. Growing in length and sharper than a dagger Synthia waved her hands and hurled the shards of ice at the oncoming soldier. As if hit by a wall the soldier was torn from his mount as the shards of ice ripped into his tunic, exposing flesh and blood. Dead before he even hit the ground his face was painted with pain and eyes wide with surprise.
Looking up at the officer Synthia gasped in pain as an arrow pierced her shoulder! "I didn't want to have to kill you but you leave me no choice! You would have made an excellent damane for the Empress, may she live forever!" Grabbing her shoulder Synthia turned around and ran towards the riderless horse. Synthia jumped onto the horses back and awkwardly held the reigns with one hand and kicked her heels into the horse as hard as she could sending the horse into an immediate sprint. Looking back at the charging torm, Synthia saw that the seanchan officer was right behind her. The torms nostrils flaring and cat like paws leaving giant claw marks in the hard soil as it charged closer. Heart beat pounding Synthia waved her blood covered hand at the seanchan officer and gasped as the ground shook and the earth suddenly opened as if the Creator himself were to will it and the broken rocks and boulders tore through the rider and mount like a knife through butter. Blood splattered into the air like a mist and the rumbling of the earth and its victims became silent as everything stopped moving and grew further away.
The sight of the seanchan officers impaled body was burnt into her mind. As the horse ran on putting further distance between the decimated seanchan patrol and herself Synthia could feel the horses energy waning. Light headed from the blood loss Synthia couldn't hold herself upright anymore and slumped forward in the saddle. Synthia pressed her palm on the horses neck and closed her eyes. Thoughts of reaching Tar Valon, returning the herbs and getting the blasted arrow out of her shoulder ran through her mind. Suddenly the horse picked up its speed again and a feeling of heavy fatigue came over her. Closing her eyes for a second the world went black.
The sound of the horse breathing heavily from exhaustion brought Synthia back to reality. She raised her head and saw in the distance the gates to Tar Valon! "Almost there." she thought to herself. Laying her hand on the side of the horses neck again she thought to herself, "Just a bit further!" The horses ears perked up, eyes went wide and the horse neighed in pain. Bucking wildly the horse sent Synthia flying to the ground and took off with a jaunt only to fall down a few yards away. Foaming at the mouth the horse whinnied and lashed out with kicks and bites visibly in pain for a moment before its movements stopped and the the life in its eyes winked out. Without energy to stand Synthia lay on her back. The dried blood covering her shoulder let her know that the wound had stopped bleeding but was most likely going to be infected if not treated soon. Raising her hand covered in dried blood Synthia waved at the black spec that flew above her. Unable to move from exhaustion and blood loss Synthia whispered, "Go find help.."
Feeling paralyzed from the waist down, Synthia opened her eyes with a gasp. Her hands felt a heavy sheet covering the lower half of her body and that was what was holding her legs down. Wriggling a toe just to be sure, Synthia smiled at her foolish thoughts. Without moving her head she looked around the room. Strangely familiar Synthia felt she had been here before. The sound of a mortar and pestle being ground slowly caught her attention and Synthia turned her head slowly wincing from the pain of her shoulder. The same motherly looking woman sat smiling a few feet from the bed calmly adding a pinch of what looked like andilay root to the mortar. A pitcher of steaming hot water sat on the small wooden table next to her filling the room with a sweet aroma. Smiling a smile of relief Synthia nodded to herself. She was safe.
Mixing the ground herbs into the warm water, Synthia's caretaker poured a cup and offered it to Synthia. Taking the cup and drinking in its warmth Synthia returned the empty cup. "A lucky one you are, you know that? This pesky bird caught me as I was returning to the city and you were in such a terrible state I wasn't sure I'd make it in time. What in the creators name were you doing?" Without a word Synthia reached into her sleeve pocket and produced a small purse filled with the picked gheandin blossom. Handing out the purse the other woman chuckled and shook her head. "You are an interesting one, I'll say that much." Smiling to herself, Synthia closed her eyes and embraced the calming effects of the tea and fell fast asleep.