|Affiliation||The Grey Tower|
|Affinities||Earth, Spirit, Fire, Water, Air|
Vitaly stands at an impressive height, the youngest son of a once proud Arafelan house, Vitaly’s prospects require him to seek his own fortune and as such holds himself higher and prouder than he probably should. Pride drips from him, his facial expressions are always clear and precise. His face would never be called pretty, by any standard, but not ugly, just severe. His face is made up of hard planes and intense lines that almost make him look like cut stone. His skin, a pale creamy white, only serves to enhance this image. His broad shoulders and strong arms don’t come from weapon training, but from the smithy, where he first sought to find his fortune. There are scars and pockmarks up his arms and one marring his left cheek, the dangers of smithing.
Vitaly is very thoughtful, yet also quite rash. Depending on the situation he will sit and think out a reaction, moving with purpose, or he will jump right into action without thought. Usually there is no rhyme or reason to his flash reactions, unless there is someone to protect. If someone is in danger that is younger or weaker, Vitaly doesn’t pause to think, he simply acts. Growing up as the youngest in a fairly large House, he was mistreated by his siblings constantly, so he refuses to allow it to happen to another if he can stop it.
Vitale of House Ahenila (“current of a river” in the old tongue) was born the 8th child and 5th son of his House. He was a small child, yet large enough to take his mother’s life as he was born. His father never forgave him for the tragedy, and neither did any of his siblings. As a result, he spent most of his childhood by himself or running from his siblings. His early years don’t hold much of interest to anyone aside from his first introduction to the smithy at about 13 winters...
Vitale was running again. He didn’t even know who was chasing him this time, not that it mattered. Kristo, his oldest brother, or Annya, his youngest sister, or any in between would all end the same; Vitale crying on the cold frozen ground and left there until he could drag himself inside. But not yet. They haven’t caught me yet, and they won’t this time, he thought to himself, as long as I can find a good place to hide.
With his heart beating in his ears, Vitale finally recognized a place of safety, or at least relative warmth. The smithy, where the largest man in the whole town lived, creating marvels of iron and steel, gold and silver, from weapons for soldiers to weapons for kings, from plows to jewelry, and all in between. His name was Kroi and he had been working metal in Jakanda for as long as anyone could remember, and was half mad to boot, but any port in a storm...
Vitale pressed himself against the wall beside the door, praying that whoever was chasing him didn’t see him enter, or if they did they wouldn’t follow. After a few moments of still not hearing anything, Vitale risked a peek outside and saw no one. Breathing a sigh of relief, Vitale finally began to take in his surroundings.The first thing he noticed was the heat. Not just warmth, but hot, steamy, heat, and it caused him to instantly break a sweat. The next thing that struck him was the sound, the loudest banging he had ever heard in his life came from the massive hammer being brought down over and over again on a length of white hot metal. Finally, he noticed the smith, Kroi himself, standing almost half a hand taller than Vitale and twice as broad, he cut quite the imposing figure, especially while swinging that massive hammer down over and over again.
Shoving the now yellow bar of metal back into the forge, Kroi finally glanced at Vitale and motioned him to the bellows. Not sure what to expect Vitale hesitantly made his way over to them and began to pump. He was rather small as a child, and was still waiting for his body to finish catching up, so he was still quite small for his age. The bellows quickly wore him out but he kept pumping them under Kroi’s watchful eye, for how long he couldn’t tell.
Just when he thought he would pass out from the heat and exhaustion Kroi pulled the piece of metal back out and Vitale stopped pumping and slid down the nearest wall to rest himself. After about 15 minutes the bar went back in and without prompting Vitale began with the bellows again. Over and over the cycle repeated itself until finally the shape was made, a spear head it seemed to Vitale.
“You Jordan’s boy, the runt?” After the silence of the forge, Kroi’s voice surprised Vitale. It was like an avalanche of feathers, soft but irresistible.
“Yes, sir, I’m Vitale.”
“I didn’t ask your name or your life story, boy,” Kroi replied bluntly, “but if you need something to pass the time and save you from those beatings, I can always use someone to work the bellows.”
From that day forward, Vitale spent most of his days in the forge, helping Kroi with the bellows. Before too long they didn’t exhaust him nearly as much as that first day, and every day after until he could pull a slow, even breath for as long as was necessary. Then Kroi taught him some real smithing.
Vitale learned to make nails, barrel scrapers, blows and anything useful to a farm. “Nothing that needs a fine touch,” Kroi said when Vitale asked him. And it seemed Kroi knew his business, for at first his nails looked like they had been used already. But Vitale refused to give up and maintained his visits until his iron work passed Kroi’s inspection. It was by this time that he was finally starting to see himself as something more than a punching bag. Kroi was teaching him a valuable skill...far more valuable than he knew at the time.
Eventually Vitale reached his 28th Birthday, and after 15 years apprenticed to Kroi, he was ready to set out as a journeyman, to find a town where he could set himself up. His family all but ignored him now, and Vitale couldn’t be happier. He had finally grown into his height, and his shoulders had broadened, all in all making him look less like a boy and more like a statue of what a blacksmith should look like.
Two days after leaving Jakanda, Vitale found a traveling companion. A man in an entirely black outfit with a silver sword pinned to one collar, a golden sinuous shape on the right, and a cord on his breast in white. He called himself Djane, and was Asha’man.Three days after Djane joined him on the road, Vitale began to get nervous. Djane kept watching him out the corner of his eye when he thought Vitale wasn’t looking. They spoke of little things, until Vitale finally found the courage to ask.
“What is an Asha’man, if you don’t mind me asking?” Vitale finally asked. The question had had his stomach in knots. He’d even had to take the bells out of his hair, for they betrayed his nervousness at every step. He hesitantly looked up to see Djane looking at him intensely.
“I was wondering when you would ask...it has been a long time since I met anyone who didn’t recognize us on sight.” He sighed deeply, “But a suppose a fly speck like Jakanda may still be 100 years behind in the news.” Djane looked at Vitale as though he were weighing him to the pound and then nodded his head as though he’d decided something.
“We Asha’man use Saidin the way Aes Sedai use Saidar. We draw on the One Power to perform any number of tasks. There is the White Tower, where Aes Sedai have been since the Breaking some 3000 years ago, and there is the Black Tower, where the Asha’man were first born recently.” Djane paused to give Vitale another stare, this one completely unreadable. Finally he nodded again and continued.
“However, these two towers are divided. They refuse to work, or even talk together. There is much history of bad blood between them. Finally, fed up with the fighting, some Aes Sedai and some Asha’man founded the Grey Tower in the Mountains of Mist, so those who wished could learn together, and how to work together. I am from the Grey Tower.”
Vitale sat stunned. Of course he had heard of Aes Sedai, everyone had, and the Black Tower, but everyone seemed to think the Black Tower was just full of Darkfriends and mad men who could channel.
“Are….are you going to...you know...go mad?” Vitale barely got the words out. He was usually a thoughtful person, making sure he understood the implications of his words before he spoke. But for some reason, he felt compelled to ask as soon as it popped into his head. Perhaps it had to do with the One Power...something Vitale always found wondrous.
“Of course not! Saidin was cleansed, child, and is as safe for us as Saidar is for Aes Sedai.” Rather than seeming offended, Djane was patient, not assuming stupidity.
“Do you think they need a smith at this Grey Tower?” Vitale asked nervously. He couldn’t bring himself to ask the real question on his mind...I want to learn, but how do I know he’s telling the truth...perhaps he’s already mad.
Djane, however, laughed out loud, startling a rabbit not 3 paces from us. “Bloody Ashes, boy, with the One Power to work, why would anyone need a smith. But if you need an excuse to visit the tower, I could always test you and see if you could learn.” He sat back and seemed relaxed but his eyes were intent on Vitale, who sat stunned and tried to process Djane’s words.
The stories of Aes Sedai always fascinated him. Using the One Power to destroy Trollocs and Myrddraal in the dozens with a flick of the wrist. And to be able to control that power himself...perhaps he could even prove something other than a disappointment to his family. I guess I’ve decided then...
“You can do that?” He finally said, “test me here and now?” Butterflies began in his stomach but he was already committed in his head and nothing would stop him from his goal.
Djane nodded, “Come around the fire and sit next to me.” As he did so a small white flame appeared between Djane’s hands. As Vitale sat down, Djane continued. “Focus on the flame, focus with everything you have, let everything else fall away until there is only the flame, nothing but the flame and you wrapped in a void of nothing..”
Djane continued in a monotone trancelike tone that Vitale eventually stopped hearing, all he did was focus on that flame with his whole heart. He slipped into what felt like a void and across the outside of it, felt the tinges of hope and fear mixed together, but he paid them no mind, all was on the flame.
Vitale had no idea how much time had passed, only that Djane eventually grunted, stopped talking, and made the flame disappear. Having felt nothing new or out of the ordinary Vitale immediately assumed he had failed.
“I guess I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up,” Vitale laughed self-deprecatingly, “It would have been too much to hope…”
Djane then stood, walked over, and slapped Vitale in the face, “I did not say you failed, so stop acting like a petulant child. You are a man grown and if you want to learn at the Grey Tower you must learn self control.”
Djane sat back down while Vitale rubbed his cheek in shock...no one has ever struck me like that before. Always before when struck is was the beginning of a beating, but never just once. “For the record, you have the spark, you would have begun to channel anyway. At least we found you before it manifested too far. Tomorrow we make for the Grey Tower, rest well Soldier.” And with that, Djane fell quickly asleep. Vitale however stayed up most of the evening, too excited to even close his eyes.
Vitale, of course, didn’t realize that the trip would take them far less than over land. Upon awakening at first light, Vitale cleaned up the camp and then turned to Djane. When he noticed, Djane gestured and a slash of light appeared that seemed to twist on itself before spreading out into a large window into a mountainous area. They stepped through the Gateway and Vitale had come to the Grey Tower.
- Soldier (24 August 2017)