Fanfic:Trail by Fire

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Trail by Fire
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Alin shut the door hard behind him and sat heavily down on the bed. This was so difficult! He had the ability to channel, they had told him so. But he couldn't produce any effect of it unless he was scared out of his wits. And the same 'they' said he had to learn control. Admittedly he could see their point. It wouldn't do to get scared, or angry, and wake up to find out that he had demolished his home or murdered everyone around him. Like that day...

Alin rode beside his brother on a bright spring afternoon. They had another week of travelling before they reached their destination, then another several months home, but Alin found he didn't mind the lost research time as much as he'd thought. On the contrary, he had learned several new folktales and history and collected ideas for some new machines. His family might make fond fun of his 'toys' now, but one day they would make life better for everyone. For now, they laughed and rode, as did the guards and wagon-drivers behind them.

Then everything changed. Snarling men leapt from the earth like monstrous children being born and they were surrounded. As Jani and the guards tried desperately to defend themselves against this unexpected foe, Alin had a moment of surreal disbelief - bandits and highwaymen were supposed to give you a chance to hand over your goods! - then he found himself cowering under one of the wagons, the sword he had barely any idea of how to use still hanging sheathed at his hip.

Trembling in his hiding place, he watched his brother and the men fight for their lives, unable to make himself move, to go and help in his own defence. He lost sight of his brother for a second and desperately scanned the fight for him. No sign, nothing, he seemed to have vanished, although most of the guards still fought. No, there he was, but his situation was dire. Two men engaged him in front, and Alin tried frantically to force a sound of warning out of his throat as he glimpsed another man behind Jani raise his weapon to strike. He failed, and it was too late. The sword flashed and the brother Alin loved best was struck down

And this, as nothing else had done, spurred him into action. Still silent, but from a different sort of terror, for his brother not himself, he crawled out from hiding and attempted to reach Jani. Too many combating figures blocked his way and he couldn't even recognise the point where his brother had fallen.

Fear, rage and frustration filled him, a roaring fire that had to find some outlet. It did. Some bizarre hallucination made it appear that his hands spouted a stream of fire to strike down all those in his path and the earth rolled and shivered as fire gouted from deep within it as if in sympathy and battling men fell all around him like dominoes. He stood untouched in the maelstrom like a colossus and he still couldn't see his brother. Then he heard or felt something snap inside him as a flailing arm hit the back of his head and the world faded into red and black.

When Alin awoke, he murmured 'Why did you choose this inn? The beds here are very poor quality and conducive to ill dreams", assuming that his brother as always during the trip was in the same room. There was no response, so he opened his eyes. Staring at the sky, he registered the twin facts that he had been sleeping on rocks in the open air and that he had a splitting headache at the same moment. Groaning, he closed his eyes again. What had happened? As the memory of yesterday came back in one fell moment, he opened his eyes again and forced himself upright. Where was Jani?

Looking around, he registered the bodies around him. What had seemed the previous day to be two massive armies clashing were revealed in the new morning as perhaps forty bandits, who had attacked the caravan of a dozen guards and as many wagon drivers, as well as Alin and his brother. All of these littered the ground, dead and dying, in various states of burnt and broken. Alin was only looking for one body in particular. He looked desperately through the ground that looked like an incredibly devastating earthquake and forest fire had moved over and through it.

After what seemed like hours of searching, though the sun had moved but little, Alin turned over yet another body, and saw the face he had been searching for. Like a few of the others, he was still breathing, but severely injured. As Alin looked at the pain-harrowed face of his brother and felt the fear surge inside him, he felt the same fire of the previous day rise up, but like to the gentle fire of the hearth not the wildfire it had been. As he tried to settle Jani more comfortably on the ground, too scared to move him much, and eased his folded coat under his head, his brother's strained breathing seemed to grow a little easier, the wounds and burns shrinking a little in size. Not understanding, but grateful, Alin sat on the ground beside Jani and waited as his breathing grew fainter and shallower and slowly stilled. Then he folded his brother's hands carefully and stood. His parents would need to know what had happened here and that their second son would not be returning. And Alin himself would have to come to terms with what he had done here and his part in it. He would have to learn about who and what he had become, and there was one place he could do that.

"I have to learn control," he said softly as he came out of that memory. "I have to."

Although they had told him that once he had learned control he could leave, he knew really that he could not. He was a man who could channel and even among those who knew that the Taint was gone, that meant he was an unknown quantity, not to be trusted. But here he could find acceptance, perhaps even friendship and the respect he craved. His life was here now, and along with control, he had to learn that fact.