|Affiliation||The Grey Tower|
Tal is a meaty, hamfisted fellow of considerable height and breadth. He walks with shoulders hunched and head stooped, a learned behavior from years of being too big and too clumsy for most folks.
His hair is a mix of blond and brown, unkempt and grown out over his shoulders, accompanied by a thick beard. His eyes are light brown, and almost burnished in the right light.
His brow is indefinitely knit in consternation, puzzling out the actions and goings on around him as quietly and unassumingly as possible. He’s quite apt to flinching at sudden noises.
Though seeming to be big and slow of wit, Tal is actually quite a thinker. He learned his letters young, hiding away his knowledge from the headmaster of the orphanage which he was subjugated to for his youth. He carries with him a dog-eared copy of The Way of the Light, though some pages are crossed through with ink, and others missing outright.
He’s further on in years than some that were destined to channel the power no matter what. He’s rather weathered and leathery in complexion, one part abusive raising to two parts workmanship.
Taldorin was born out of wedlock and given up to the Light without knowing either of his parents. He was left on the steps of the Hand of Light orphanage in Amador when he was little more than days old. From there he was not expected to survive by the caretakers, but prove resilient enough to grow larger than most children of his disposition.
The Hand of Light was overseen by Master Cyrrin Balenhold, a devout to the Children of the Light. Despite his faith - or perhaps in direct result of it - he was seen as a cruel and hateful taskmaster to the children unfortunate enough to be in his care. Balenhold held an almost special contempt of Taldorin, if only because of his bastard origins and unseemly size.
Taldorin was often used as an example by Master Balenhold of the temptations of the Shadow, and often ridiculed for being ‘misshapen’ in the eyes of the Light. Because of this, Tal was a very withdrawn and meek youth, developing a habit of hunch in himself and trying to draw his own size in as much as he could. His strength damned him to the hardest tasks and longest work of all the children, which he did nothing but endure. This only made him stronger and able to work longer, which infuriated Master Balenhold. “The Light must break you, only to reshape you anew!” he would scold. Tal only hunched lower and worked harder.
At nineteen winters, Master Balenhold’s heart gave out in the midst of a rather furious teaching session with one of the younger students. With his demise, the orphanage was taken over by Lady Duterna, who methodically purged the orphanage of those able to provide for the Light. Tal was conscripted as a livery man for the Children of the Light, and dutifully put to work cleaning, carrying and tending to the daily needs of five hundred stiff-lipped and officious soldiers of the Light.
Though difficult at first, Tal found the work became easier when the line soldiers saw his tireless work ethic and endurance. Thinking him slow but taking a shine to him, the company took to calling him ‘Ox’. For his work to provide, the veterans looked out for him and did small favors to show their appreciation. One of these favors was teaching him to read and write, which Tal took to eagerly, surprising some. He was grateful at this new world he had been opened up to, and took it to mean that this work was his place in the Light.
Further knowledge would test that belief.As he learned and thirsted to know more, he began to ask questions; at first innocent enough and broad ranging on how the world worked. He retained the things he learned well - too well, like sand soaking water. When his questions became more real, the answers began to not be to his liking.
In Arad Doman, the work became harder again, and more daunting. What had once been exemplary had now become unsatisfactory. The questions kept coming, and the punishments came - worse than anything he had grown up with. His heart ached to know more, and to know why. But his body began to suffer for those questions.
Some of the veterans tried to help him, to shield him from the anger and plead with him to learn discretion, and in turn to know his place in the world. Then the fighting came, not with those that would keep him in place, but with the invaders from across the seas.
He saw pain, and death, through the eyes of one who thought he knew it. He learned real fear - worse than all the fretting over beatings and pain and loneliness. He knew the height of this new fear when their camp was attacked, and he saw those veterans who had tried to save him be wounded - some on their deathbed. He couldn’t lose these small grips of meaning in such a piteous world. Fear gripped him when he tried to pick them up and carry them to safety - one, five, ten men, more - each one left in better shape than when he found them. Each one on the slopes of death, but sure to survive once he had carried them.
A few thought it a miracle. Then questions came, and Tal had to do the answering. The questions were asked over and over, and he couldn’t answer them. The men with red shepherds crooks came, and the terror rose again. They tried to shackle him, but the fear for survival made him break free. Even those veterans he had thought friends tried to beat him and hold him for those damn red crooks.
He ran. He didn’t know where, or how, or why, but he ran. He hid in the forests, and saw mountains on the distant horizon. Mountains were high, and hard to reach. The books had showed him. He would stay there, and maybe try to figure out the answers for himself.
- Soldier (19 September 2017)