|Knives At Noon
After taking the Oath and leaving Illian, several Hunters headed for the White Tower, in the hope that amidst the many secrets known to Aes Sedai might be the location of the Horn of Valere. Among them rode Jedar and Shandra, of whom you have already heard, and one of whom you have not. Introducing Jarim Knifehand...
It was one of those long summer days, with high temperatures and higher humidity. Even some of the Aes Sedai showed signs of sweating. Which left little hope for the rest of them, Jarim thought, leaning against a shady wall. Only a hardy few were practicing in the training yard - most of the Warders were emulating him and the other Hunters, sitting in the shade where it was cool. Or as cool as it was anywhere today...
He blinked as he spotted a black-clad figure strolling across the yard. Light, could nothing haze that man? Jedar was wearing his trademark black coat even in this heat, yet he seemed perfectly comfortable - not a drop of sweat on his face.
He waved, and Jedar came over. “Hey Jarim - are you interested in a knife-throwing contest? I'm organising a group in the barracks. And I persuaded an Aes Sedai to set a few Accepted to creating a cool breeze in there as part of their practice.”
Jarim grinned wolfishly. “A knife throwing contest, eh? I'll be there.” He paused. “Persuaded an Aes Sedai to...? How did you manage that?”
“She's Green, and wanted to watch the contest. And she looked like she's enjoying this weather about as much as everyone else. She thought it was a good idea - and she doesn’t have any Warders yet.”
Jarim laughed. He’d been in the Tower long enough to know about the Green Ajah reputation. A couple of Hunters had already been bonded. “Who's competing?”
“Just about everyone who's ever thrown a knife, though most will probably drop out after the first round. There are a few with some skill. Watch out for the Domani - I've heard she's good...”
“We'll see about that...”
Half an hour later, Jarim slouched against the wall, watching as the first contestants took their turns. First up was an Illianer - one of the other Hunters staying in the city. From 10 yards, this should have been an easy shot, but the man's first throw slammed into the wall left of the target. His second hit well, but the third was another miss.
“Eliminated” called Jedar. The rules agreed on at the start had been that you needed two hits out of three throws to continue. Well, that was one less opponent.
They continued through the line. When Jarim's turn came up, he strolled up to the line, grasped the three knives, and casually threw them in quick succession. “Passed” came the call. All three were in the centre, the last two knocking the first from the board. The crowd applauded.
He stepped back to watch as a green-eyed Domani woman stepped forward. This must be the one Jedar had warned him about. Sure enough, her hand blurred, and three knives appeared in the middle of the target. Again, applause rang out.
They continued, and by the end of the first round, more than half had been eliminated. Jedar had been exaggerating - most of these had probably never thrown a knife in their lives. Still, there were a few good people. Like that Domani. He recognised her now. Shandra, one of the few female Hunters. Not bad indeed.
The contest continued, at 15 yards, then 20, 25... There were half a dozen left - himself, the Domani, another Hunter, an Accepted, and two Warders. He was taking more care now - he couldn't afford a miss. Both he and Shandra were consistently throwing bullseyes, though the others were starting to miss now and then.
Suddenly the crowd gasped. As the Accepted threw, her knife looped up into a corkscrew flight - spiralling across the room before hitting the target. Everyone looked astonished, but the Green sister laughed as the knife jerked out of the target, flying backwards to rest in front of the woman.
“Very nice, but shall we try that without the Power this time?”
The young Accepted smiled, before throwing again. This time, it flew normally, hitting near the edge of the target. “Passed.”
By the time the range reached 40 yards, only he and Shandra remained, both consistently hitting the centre. Determined to find a winner, Jedar replaced the targets for smaller ones, until they were aiming for a spot on the wall no bigger than his fist. When both proved they could hit it, Jedar looked stumped. “Can anyone think of a better target?”
Just then, there was a curse from one of the Accepted keeping the room cool. “Someone get rid of these bloody flies!”
Two hands jerked back, blurred forward...
Two blades appeared in the wall beside her.
The crowd looked stunned. Jedar was - as always -the first to recover, sauntering over to the wall.
“Shandra wins!” he declared. “By half a fly!”
Thunderous applause rose from the audience.