1. A Fire Too Bright
The first naming of Shas’nel Ar’sho E’taro Lynu’nan
Even amoung the hotblooded reputation of the Vior’lan sept her youthful insubordination was considered unbecoming. Quick to jump to action, even against her elders, she had nearly been denied entry to the fire caste academies despite her already burgeoning combat skills and with no lack of excellence in her childhood academic pursuits.
She recalled being brought before an ethereal the day before her fate was to be decided. To her surprise it was at the ethereal’s request - such an action would have been considered a great honor in another situation. The reverent leader of her city examined her closely, asking her to complete a series of tasks, each more degrading than the last. She recalled her embarassment and shame, unsure how these tests related to being a warrior. She did find some relief as the trials stretched on that her temper did not overcome her that day. Instead she had felt a new focus as she performed each task with great aptitude.
At the end of her trials the ethereal summoned back the young fire caste’s caregiver. For most fire warriors the greatest moment of their lives was to graduate an academy and be considered one among the great warriors of the Tau, or to join their brethren in tal’issera. For E’taro it was the simple and elegant words of the single greatest Tau she had yet met.
“Train her” she said “and she will yet learn to become an obedient fire warrior.”
The ethereal turned back to her, her piercing gaze somehow both expressionless and overwhelmingly benevolent. “I will, I swear it” E’taro said, making the gesture of receving-a-great-gift.
And so she did, slowly. She did not find her focus and obedience so easily among her own caste. She followed orders regularly enough in most sitautions, but she was loathe to follow those she thought glaringly incompetent. She would too often act against these orders, whether it be senior cadets in training exercises or even her instructors. Through grueling punishment they tried to shape her time and again, their aim to break her stubborness. Instead she found herself growing stronger in her conviction, especially as her aggressive gambits were often effective, if unorthodox. Despite her behavior she was performing at the top of her class in nearly every trial.
For this reason she had gained the name of E’taro, spoken in varying inflections among her peers but always in the negative among her instructors. The “agressive mind” was most often an insult in Tau doctrine, but she took great pride in her belief that her way of thinking was superior.
After nearly two years of reprimands and frustrated instructors she encountered a grizzled old Shas’el, scarred and tough, with a reputation for breaking his pupils all over again. Being assigned to his courses, she considered his reputation a challenge.
He did not consider her reputation in the same manner. After her first session with him on field tactic theory, in which she was the only student to challenged any of his words, he bid her to come with him to the training halls.
Upon arrival he gave her a simple instruction. “I will direct the war game from here, and you will lead a squad in a simple combat simulation. Defeat your enemy, and you will immediately graduate my class with the highest marks.”
She steeled herself for the challenge. She relished it. She would tackle it headlong as she had so many others.
She failed the first trial within minutes. She quickly understood what had happened. She was no stranger to learning from failure. She tried again.
She failed again, her new strategy quickly countered.
She would not be so easily deterred. She tried again.
She failed again, her holographic unit wiped out to the man without firing a shot.
Again. And again. She devised new strategies as quickly as she could. When she had no more ideas she tried to fall back on the teachings of the code of fire that she had so often challenged, believing perhaps the scenario was tuned to them specifically.
Hours and hours passed. The stone-faced Shas’el never once attempted to discourage her from trying again.
Finally she let out a great scream of agony. She was exhausted. Her frustration had at last gotten the better of her. She would not try again.
The Shas’el stared at her, not harshly, not even coldly. He simple looked at her as though he had known her her entire life. She felt bare as she brought herself as close to composure as she could. The defeat washed over her, drowning her deeper in emotion than any trial she had faced before. “This war game” she said at last “is it winnable? Is this a test in futility?”
“Any game is easy to win once you understand the rules. War is not the same.
“You are intelligent, cadet, you know it and I will not deny it. It is your assuerity that this intellect makes you superior that causes you so easy to defeat by a wise opponent.
“The cadet exercises do not seem logical because you do not have the wisdom of experience the countless warriors in our history have used to shape them. Your inability to follow commands endangers the larger plans of battle you cannot see. Your egotism does not serve the greater good.
“This is my lesson to you, E’taro: without the temperment of wisdom you will be a raging fire that burns itself out. Learn the lessons being taught. Trust in the Tau’va above all else, and someday it will trust in you to defend it.”