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Challenge # 15 - Lessons Learned


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#1 Ranya

Ranya
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Posted 03 December 2008 - 02:49 PM

Snippets only, mayhaps some kind of drabble-like pieces dealing with the topic 'learning' in more general terms, I suppose.
Since I didn't manage to write anything coherent, it's pure patchwork - I hope I didn't miss the point of 'school' by interpreting life as the merciless kind of school we all have to face.
Comments, critique, advise or any kind of typo-killing are always appreciated.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Lessons Learned


The sound of battle rings loudly through the crisp morning air.
The grass beneath her feet is wet from dew, the earth smells of water and spring and growth and life.
And she whirls about, moving fluidly, bending and flexing and swaying like a willow?s branches with her feet barely touching the ground, hands moving in rapid succession, blades leaving a faintly whistling song behind whenever their swirl grows faster once again.
Long sleeves follow her every motion, orange fabric twirls and twists, contrasting with the cloudless sky above.
Her long braid has escaped its holds, hair flowing around her face like the snakes of a gorgon, her eyes blazing with fire and fury and fierce determination.
A sudden flick of one wrist sends her opponent?s sword flying, a flash of silver under the bright sun.
The tip of one blade rests on the unarmed girl?s collarbone, the other on her throat.
And she laughs.
They both do.
For it is the first time she has defeated her; it is her first victory in a long time ? ever since she decided that one blade could never be enough to keep her two hands busy.
For the young orphan from Candlekeep has learned to fight.

***


Something has changed, yet he cannot decipher it.
It has to be the sounds that are different ? there is no more ringing steel, no more battlecries, only silence, heavy and thick like brocade, suffocating the tiny spark of hope that was set ablaze as the fight started.
If there are no sounds, then none of the fighters has survived; then there is only him.
And the darkness and silence that surround him.
As he hears the strange voice, it startles him ? for he did not expect to hear anyone talk to him, to ask him whether he is alright, whether is wounded, whether he can walk.
The torchlight blinds him after the countless hours spent in infinite night, and his body refuses to move as the binds that hold him are cut by a slender figure kneeling next to him.
He feels dizzy as he tries to rise and reach for the moonblade that is strapped to the stranger?s belt, feels hands on his shoulders that keep him from falling, hears a female voice ? an elven voice! ? call for help, feels cool fingers on his feverish forehead.
And as he sees his saviour?s face for the first time, sees her honest concern as she realizes how weak he is, and as his fingers finally reach the hilt of his blade, he realizes that he does not witness his own dying dream.
For he has just awoken from a nightmare.
For the lone Greycloak has learned to keep doom waiting a little longer.

***


The old parchment rustles loudly, as her fingers trace the symbols, follow each rune, each line of ink in utmost concentration.
The candle on the wooden table flickers, droplets of wax paint intricate patterns on the rough surface.
And she reads on and on, starting anew as soon as she has finished the text, biting her lips and playing with a strand of dark brown hair just the way she did when she was younger.
One hand reaches for the quill she has laid aside only a few heartbeats ago, scribbling words on her palm, runes, symbols, magic in the making.
Her fingers move with practised ease, her voice is raspy when she starts to weave her spell.
And nothing happens.
She turns to regard the parchment once again, slaps her forehead when she realizes the mistake she made ? and regrets it a moment later, for she is sure that there will be ink all over her face.
Her smile grows wide as the mirror shows her a black blur on her forehead as well as the pink hair it is framed by.
For her first spell turned out to be wrong yet right.
For Winthrop?s girl has learned to use magic.

***


The streets are crowded, they always are.
Full of life, full of death, full of danger and safety and money and poverty and shrieks and talk.
Silent forms in grey robes moving along, homeless children in worn-out clothing, garishly dressed harlots, heavyset traders, foreign travellers, fighters clad in armour and strange creatures of any colour and shape.
And a man with eyes black as jet, humming an old tune.
He follows him without knowing why, without even thinking likewise ? as if his feet decide on their own accord, as if his mind completely blanks out for a moment.
He has seen the stranger before.
The first time he has heard a lilting voice, singing with an accent he did not know in a language he could not even hope to know. In a run-down tavern, with a lyre in his hands, surrounded by those he had captured with his tales.
Now he hears a blade?s music; someone fending off street thugs on the look for anything of value. In a dark alleyway, with a sword in his hands, dancing.
And he knows what he wants to be taught.
For the stranger only smiles at him, pats him on the shoulder and tells him that fate must have guided them to meet again.
For the urchin in the city of Sigil has learned be grateful for whatever life offers.


***

The endless skies are calling out to her; the clouds seem inviting and soft.
The sweet sun of midday tickles her nose and the warm summer air makes her think of how wonderful and tiny everything seems when watched from above.
Rivers, forests, mountains, waterfalls, valleys disappear in the distance, grow smaller and smaller as if trying to fit into her delicate hands.
Singing birds accompany her and the glittering snow that still covers the highest peaks of the mountains tempts her, dares her to soar higher, to enjoy the rush of a fall trough the clouds.
A pair of wings unfolds next to her, a sudden splotch of colour exploding in her field of vision ? long blond hair, the colour of the sun-kissed wheat far below, a flowing robe of red and orange and her best friend?s hands on hers, pulling her up, farther still, to the sun, to the moon, to the stars she loves to watch at night.
Somewhere in the distance, someone calls for them, urging them to return back home.
But neither one of the girls listens ? giggling, they make their way into a castle made out of clouds, laughing at the fears of adults and the perfection of it all.
For they do not fear the depths or the height or the wind.
For the young Avariel has long since learned to fly.

***


He is holding his breath, moving silently from shadow to shadow, blade in hand, more on the edge than ever before in his young life.
He can feel the blood pound in his ears, his violent heartbeat, the slight motion of muscle as he shifts his weight.
A door opens, the rusty hinges creak and groan; a human silhouette is outlined in black shadows.
And just then, the light disappears again, shut away behind the creaking door.
He is still holding his breath, closing his eyes, waiting for the soft footfalls to turn around the corner, stabbing as they do so, feeling relief wash over him as the man slumps to the floor, unmoving, bleeding from a mortal wound.
Nimble fingers make short work of anything valuable, searching the dead man for the amulet he is known for, a silver coin with a tiny ruby set in the middle, now splattered with crimson blood.
The amulet that will prove that he killed the man and thus earned the bounty - the money that will enable him to leave, to see more of the world.
For he will go west, to the lands of the setting sun, where fortune and fame may await him.
For the young man from Kara-Tur has learned to leave his home behind.

***


Gorion?s face haunts her.
She sees herself as a child, back in Candlekeep, annoying the monks and being chided by her foster father, who would abandon his lecture in the face of her half-hearted promises not to do it again.
Immature.
She sees herself as the young woman she was when he died, protecting her.
Confused.
She still remembers those she met along the road that led her to Atkathla ? the ones who were beside her, whose faces she will never forget.
Imoen, as the Cowled Wizards took her away.
Fear.
Jaheira as they found Khalid, as she saw her dead husband.
Grief.
Minsc, as he learned that Dynaheir had died.
Anger.
Xan, as she turned into the Slayer for the first time.
Regret.
Wandering through the Underdark, her soul stolen, knowing that if she lets her guard down, the Slayer will consume her, she wonders what Gorion would say if he could see her, whether he would be able to give her the advise she needs.
For the faces of her companions show trepidation, determination, sorrow and remorse, for she does not know what to do.
For the child of Bhaal has learned how it feels to be defeated.

***


He hears her cry out, her shriek ripping into his heart for he cannot help her as she loses control and turns against him.
And he can?t do anything but look on helplessly.
He sees the long claws, the Slayer?s eyes glowing with the lust to kill, hears the deafening roar of the charging beast.
He barely notices the blood that suddenly drenches his robes, unable to care about the wound she just inflicted upon him, never paying attention to the voices of their comrades as they rush to his side, to shield him from her.
From the monster she has become.
A few hours later, her shape is back to normal and his wounds have been healed, but the silence remains, separates them.
He knows that she is crying, he knows that her condition is far worse than his, that he has failed to protect her, that she is in dire need of his support, and he yearns to hold her close until her tears have dried, but every time she looks at him, he can not muster the courage to do so.
Her soul is gone.
Her eyes are hollow.
And his heart aches.
For he has always known that they were doomed.
For he has learned that being right does not mean to be able to cope with it.


***


In the distance she can hear shouts and screams and manic laughter, the hiss of destructive magic, the rattle of iron bars and the dissonant screech of keys being turned in old locks.
The walls of her cell do not respond as she stares at them, the stone does not cringe as she starts to yell, to curse and to cry until she has no words left, no more strength to carry on.
The blackness behind her closed eyes does little to comfort her as she sits on the cold floor, sobbing, crying and willing her life to be the way it was before the world she knew started to crumble beneath her feet.
As tears flow down her face, she can only chuckle grimly for she knows that if willpower alone could change anything she would have left a long time ago.
One of the wizards is staring at her through the barred window in the solid door, his face hidden beneath the folds of his grey cowl, scrutinizing her, sizing her up like some kind of rabid dog barking and howling in its kennel.
But she hardly cares at all.
For there is worse than being observed.
For the one who found herself locked up in a madhouse has learned to value her sanity more than privacy.

***


His voice does not falter as he sees the other man fall; his song does not end with the viciously placed stab of a dagger or the barely deflected coup de grace one of their many enemies tries to deliver.
Magic rings through the air, a sizzling bolt of lightning bounces off of a shimmering globe, woven with magic and music.
As the last opponent has died, he is quick to rush to the fallen man?s side, to kneel down and see the grin on the pale face, one of the dark horns that protrude from his forehead broken, his demonic eyes struggling to focus.
A teacher, a father, a brother, a friend, a strand of chaos in the webbing of the worlds.
And his voice does not break as he keeps on singing, concentrating on the deep wound, begging fate for just this single favour ? and failing miserably when the older man begins to laugh.
He tells the orphan that is no longer a child to leave, to tell Raelis Shai that he did not make it, to escape this hostile plane and never return, to cling to life in his stead.
And as he takes his mentor?s swords, his voice is as steady as never before.
For he knows what rules the universe.
For the man who walks the planes has learned to surrender to chaos and entropy.

***

The starlit sky above calls out to her.
She listens, but cannot respond.
For something is amiss.
Broken, crippled, lost, amputated, dead, gone, vanished and never to return again.
Her entire body is shaking as she clings to the cold bars of the cage she has just fled, flashes of white hot pain blurring her mind as she slowly tries to rise, stumbles and yet again never ceases to try.
She knows that she is free again, no longer an attraction shown to gawking townsfolk in a shabby tent, no longer a curiosity, no longer without identity.
Free like a bird and damned to walk the surface of Toril forevermore.
A hand reaches out for her, supports her as she climbs to her feet once more, determined to see the full moon that casts its silvery light upon the sleeping Swordcoast.
And as she feels the wind on her face, she cries and weeps and mourns for what she lost.
For there is only the path under her feet.
For the one who lost her wings has learned the meaning of gravitation.

***


The red dragon hisses loudly, breathing flames as it turns around to face the one who scored a hit, scorching the stone of the cave.
The blazing heat forces him to seek shelter behind a stalagmite, to close his eyes against the stinging glow, and he is caught unaware by the great wyrm?s tail as it lashes out, smashing rocks and blasting away the slender pillars of stone in its way.
He can hear ribs crack as his back smashes against the wall, on the far side of the cave a strained voice?s vigorous chant and the bard?s tune entwine with the beast?s roar as its head snaps forward, sharp teeth bared, fire flaring from its nostrils.
And the world turns into a fiery pandemonium.
Until everything grows dark.
As he dares to open his eyes again, the first thing he sees is her wide grin, showing white teeth in a blackened face. Her clothes are torn, her hair is burned, her hands are shaking and yet she only shrugs and nods towards the dead dragon, her blades still gleaming with the intense heat of dragon?s breath and mighty enchantments.
He has not cheated death ? she has bargained with the reaper in his stead, delivering the final blow recklessly, trusting the obviously shaken elf to finish her spell in time.
For his sake and his alone.
And the mere thought disgusts him.
For he knows that he cannot be a part of the group, for he does not deserve their na´ve trust.
For the traitor has learned that there is neither sin nor redemption in this world.
Only lessons to be learned.

Edited by Ranya, 03 December 2008 - 02:52 PM.


#2 Aliya

Aliya

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 07:29 AM

Woohoo! Another masterpiece, Ranya! I really like your style! But I didn't get it... Who's your party? I only know, that Xan, Minsc and Jaheira, are present. :D Anyways, great work!

#3 Ranya

Ranya
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Posted 04 December 2008 - 10:10 AM

Well, dear Aliya, the ones whose names are metioned are not exactly those from the other snippets: Xan is in there, but as for the others, I won't tell - maybe you'd like to make a guess ^_^