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About This Club

Forum based Role Play for fans of the Wheel of Time
  1. What's new in this club
  2. "...Saldaea," The Captain-General spoke the final word of Calia's report and recommendations in the same instant she did. Cal inclined her head to acknowledge the perspicacity, along with the truth and weight of shared information. It had taken a further, in-person meeting with Fenn to decipher the exact details of the note he had passed her at the White Flame, and then another week for a second contact to arrive from the same general direction and corroborate his stories. Evidently though, hers had not been the only ears attuned to the growing whispers. The press of the Captain-General's normally rosy mouth into a pale line confirmed it, as far as Cal was concerned. It was time to move, and Saldaea would be the target. Surely there was no denying action now - signs of darkness were definitely spreading at an unusual rate along the edges of the Borderlands; the Blight was stirring once again, and it was past time for the Tower to have coordinated an appropriate response. "Ah-!", the Captain-General held up a finger - a smooth and practised measure of admonishment and caution to patience. Cal pressed her mouth closed accordingly. "- leave it with me, Calia." "Of course," Cal smiled at her colleague of many battles and many years, and pressed her mouth carefully shut again. For an instant. "I know, I know - you're packed and ready to go." An entire cautionary hand lifted above the table-top to head off the unspoken words this time, waving Cal completely out of the room for good measure. In response, Cal nodded and rose promptly from her seat. The Captain General fixed her with an eagle-like stare, knowing her all too well. She was two steps from the door before the expected order came. "Go and get some sleep." Calia turned, smiling over her shoulder with absolutely no pretence of intended innocence or immediate compliance with that order, and slipped out of the room, softly closing the door. * * * "I recommend him," Calia affirmed several days later when the official orders had come through and discussions concerning companions had begun, "Elessar is my pick." "Sister, he isn't exactly the youngest resource in the Tower, and neither are you..." "- the mention of which, I can only assume, you are bringing up to highlight the wealth of knowledge and experience we could each bring to a vast number of situations throughout a journey such as this one." Calia cut the younger Sedai off smoothly, somewhat surprised that anyone would question her recommendation. Cal had been watching the man in question for weeks now, and was more than confident enough in her decision. The Captain General hid a smile behind her hand. "Elessar comes," she confirmed, having been privy to all of Calia's positive observations and thoughts on Elessar's capacity and ability to perform appropriately for this since the two of them had first met. "I'll inform the Captain of the Warders." * * * The blood was warm. It seeped from the meat crushed between his teeth. It ran in messy rivulets around his tusks and down his leathery muzzle. Garg grunted and grinned at the still-jerking body held in his fist. Human bellies were so soft. He wanted more. Now. Like the Eyeless and the hoard of brothers around him, he didn't wait. * * * Dawn seeped through the gaps at the edges of her curtains. Slowly, slowly, the day of departure finally arrived. Slithers of light stretched across the tidy room, highlighting the empty and neatly made bed, the inside of the tightly shut door. Calia strode down the hallway, her hair smoothed back from her face in tiny braids collected in a no-nonsense bun at the back of her head, her green silk riding skirts swishing determinedly with every step. She reached the stables and saddled the mare that had been allocated to her for the journey. Checking her packed belongings a final time and finding nothing amiss, she mounted up and headed to the meeting point just as the sun burst forth from the horizon. Light streamed across her path, minimising shadows and chasing away the dark. She smiled, eyes bright. This, Calia thought. This chasing shadows was exactly what she was made for, and it was high time again for her to put her skills and strength to best use!
  3. .. From Darkness into Light .. ►▼◄ The eight cloaked figures seated in a circle in the cold, damp and semi-dark cellar at the outskirts of the City waited in expectant silence. Their hoods covered their faces and their cloaks were black as night, mirroring the darkness outside in Tar Valon. Candle lights along the walls partially lit the otherwise dark cellar room and they intermittently made it seem as if Shadows were dancing on the walls. The silence deepened, only broken by rapid, shallow breaths from one of the cloaked figures, until a door was opened along one of the stone walls, a door barely visible to those inside, and a Shadow slowly entered the cellar. This figure, tall and imposing, also was covered in a black hooded cloak. His cloak had a thread of silver running down the sides and he carried himself with authority. The man studied the assembled group from within the hood covering his face, his eyes tightening hard, lips pursed, and then walked to stand before the circle of eight. He looked at each person in turn, knowing who they all were even if he could not now see all their faces. Several stared downwards instead of meeting his intense gaze. Then he straightened and a harsh smile came upon his lips. In his hand was a blood-dripping knife, a dagger 10 inches long with a heavily decorated handle and mysterious inscriptions on the blade, and he raised it high for all to see. “This is the prize of treachery.” Drops of blood fell to the floor before him, minuscule pools of ominous dark red. “Treachery and betrayal.” ● His dark penetrating voice had a perilous quality and a certain sharpness which affected them all. From a hidden pocket in his cloak he carefully removed another item. The assembled figures could see what it was. Wrapped in a small piece of paper towel was a severed finger with a man’s emerald ring still fastened. The green was now covered with blood, its spark drowned in a sea of blood-red castigation. “Has anyone else here betrayed the Great Lord of the Dark?” His question was only met by silence. Almost everyone looked downwards now, trying to avoid the man’s accusatory gaze. No one would admit openly to betraying the Great Lord, the man by some known as Samos knew. He studied each man in turn, hoping against hope that one of them would break, but no one did. Pity, he thought to himself. He enjoyed torturing others, he had always gotten delightful pleasure by inflicting pain, which was the main reason he had turned to the Shadow in the first place. And killing traitors, he enjoyed that more than anything. Well, he would get his chance soon. There were always some members of their circles who betrayed their new oaths. Far too many people were weak in this world. Far too few could be trusted. Samos sat down at the head of the circle and gave them each a final cold penetrating stare. He placed his hands on the table in their midst, almost as if in prayer, and waited. The candle light in the middle of the table burned as if with an inner fire, the flame golden and intense. Samos stared into its fiery depths for long moments before finally removing his gaze. He nodded to himself. Placing the severed blood-dripping finger on the table before him he used the sharp dagger-knife to smoothly cut it into eight small pieces, removing the ring. He then placed the small finger-bits on a small plate which he brought from a cupboard in the corner and told the assembled figures to take one piece each. The ring he kept for himself. ● Elessar nodded respectfully to the Captain of Warders and sat down opposite him. They were seated in the Captain’s Office in the Warder Barracks and it was midmorning. Elessar knew the Captain well. He was another Gaidin in his 40s of much experience and a very competent Warder in his own right. A Saldaean, he was dark-skinned with brown oval eyes and a prominent nose. He was fit as a 30-year old and always full of jokes. A fellow Borderlander, Elessar had always liked him. He did not know the reason why the Captain had taken on administrative duties in the past few years but he was doing a damn good job in the role, the Kandori Gaidin thought, balancing authority and pragmatism, and they had spoken on many an occasion in the time since Elessar had returned to Tar Valon with his Bond released. “So Elessar”, the Captain began, leaning back in his chair, a broad and knowing grin on his face. “Are you dying of restlessness?” Elessar grinned back, rolling his eyes. “You know me, Captain. I am bored as hell here.” They shared a chuckle, the Captain knowing very well how much Elessar wanted to be on the road. The mission he had been on in the western region a while back had done him a ton of good, the Captain knew, and he would love to be out in the world again. Well, thought the Captain with a hidden smile, now he would get his chance. “As chance has it”, the Captain began, “I can remedy that boredom. You have been requested.” ● “Requested?” Elessar asked curiously, raising his eyebrow. It was unusual for anyone to request his services. Hardly anyone in the Tower knew him except his former Bondholders and he doubted any of them would ask for him. Not that they had parted on bad terms or anything, just that they had all moved on and would not look to him for help. “By whom”? He added, going through in his head who it could be. “And for what?” “There is a lady at the White Harbour inn, a woman of some.. influence”, the Captain replied in a very serious tone of voice, “who says you owe her sexual favours. On the honour of the White Tower, she said.” Elessar’s mouth opened and then closed and opened again, his eyes widening before finally seeing the lop-sided grin gradually broadening the Captain’s face. Elessar cursed, tried to kick the Captain’s chair in retaliation, and then joined in the laughter. “Seriously though”, Elessar added once their mirth had ended, “who did request?” “The White Tower, of course. Who did you expect, the Whitecloaks?” The Captain grinned anew knowing well what Elessar thought of the Children of the Light. Elessar’s grin turned into a scowl thinking about that militant order. “I might do well as a Questioner, I have been told on occasion”, the Kandori Gaidin replied wryly with some irony. His grin grew dangerous. “I know quite a few Whitecloaks I would like to put to the Question.” The Captain of the Warders nodded soberly. ● Having received his orders, Elessar was ready to leave. He still wondered though if he had been “requested” because of his experience or if there was some other reason behind. He asked the Captain if he knew anything else. The Captain met his gaze squarely. “All I was told was that you will accompany a party of Aes Sedai on a mission heading off into the Borderlands. Some of your Brothers will also go.” Elessar nodded. So he was going, and so were some other Warders too. He was glad to get out of the Tower and out on the road again. That was what mattered. ● Giving the Captain a final smile and a respectful bow, he left the Captain’s Office and headed back to his own room in the Warder Barracks. As he walked along the corridors he thought about what he had been told and wondered if perhaps Aleorah Sedai would be part of this group from the White Tower. They had been on a successful mission together a while back but he had not seen her since. It also made him think of where the Tower party was heading. It was a while also since he had been in the Borderlands. The rumours of increased Trolloc raids and Shadowspawn there must be true, he thought as he came up to his quarters. Entering his room, he lay down on the bed and his thoughts ran to his homeland Kandor and to Shadowspawn raids when he was young. He had been told to be ready for travel the following day and that evening he packed his belongings, cleaned and sharpened his sword, and made sure his valiant black stallion, Stormbreaker, was ready for saddling in the morning. ● As he lay in bed that night before sleep, a full moon shining its silver light through his window, he thought back on the past weeks. Most of the time had been spent doing compulsory watch duty in the Tower, daily physical training with sword forms, and running various errands. He had tried to ignore the urge to go on the road again when he had seen Brothers leave on missions with Aes Sedai and to curb his restlessness, but he had only been partially successful. Every time he had to spend much time in the Tower it was the same and he suspected it would always be so. Some Warders managed to stay focused and motivated in the Tower as Tower Guards. Elessar was not one of them. Perhaps it was his many years as a Bonded Warder, perhaps it was many years on the road on missions. For whatever reason, that was the Warder life he yearned for and where he felt he could -and would- contribute the most. Since he found it somewhat unlikely that he would be lucky enough to be Bonded again, he would find joy and motivation in being on missions for the Tower and serving the Light. He looked forward to leaving the next day and the thought of it lit up his face. Staring at the window which was by now painted in half-light by the moon made him suddenly think of an unusual occurrence a couple weeks before. He had met an Aes Sedai at the White Flame inn here in Tar Valon and the two of them had subsequently been attacked by a trio of thugs on the way to the White Tower. Who would have thought it, a Warder and an Aes Sedai assailed in the streets of the city!? Elessar still could hardly believe it. He recalled in detail what had happened. ● Taking his mind back to that late evening, it was almost as if he were back in time.. After Elessar had warned the thugs, he had watched as Calia Aes Sedai had questioned them. She had done so with eminent skill and poise, her face Aes Sedai calm and smooth. She had told them to heed his advice to be truthful and respectful in their answers and Elessar had contentedly taken the acknowledgement for what it was, a sign of understanding and respect. She had confronted each of the thugs confidently and with assurity, making them consider the great foolishness of what they had done. Her questioning had worked and her use of the One Power had added to the weight of her authority. The thugs had stared wide-eyed at her and had clearly been frightened, even the one laying at Elessar’s feet who scowled a lot but who they suspected hid his fear behind his scowls. The thugs had spilled names and hometowns (probably lies) and two of them had confirmed they were brothers (probably true). The two had not ever sat in the Chair of Remorse, at least they had seemed honestly surprised, Elessar thought, when she had mentioned it, while the one at his feet (dubious character) was quite another matter. All three had sworn, shakily (some more believable than others), that they had never had any intention to actually harm her or him or anyone in fact, that they were working alone and had just tried to get some coin for a meal and a bed for the night. Elessar had not believed it for a moment and exchanging a quick gaze with Calia had told him that neither did she. Her specific glance had also made him understand that these thugs would be brought to the Tower. They had committed a crime, intended violence and strongarming innocents in the streets of Tar Valon, and that required punishment. The City was kept safe and ordered because such crimes would always have dire consequences. The third man was an uncertainty, Elessar remember thinking, perhaps there was more to him than just being a street thug.. who knew what people had connections to Darkfriends.. the Tower was the right place to discover his true “story”. ● He remembered Calia’s final words to the thugs before they had brought them back to the Tower. “Crime can't and won't be tolerated here and you all have things to learn. Let's get you all to the Tower!" Bound, the thugs had been taken through the streets and up to the Tower grounds. By then they had lost any will to resist (not that they could have done much in any case) and were brought sullenly into the Tower itself and taken by a couple of Red Sisters, not too gently, down to the Tower dungeon. Calia had thanked Elessar for his assistance and he in turn had replied that he had only done his duty. They had parted then, the Warder giving the Aes Sedai a Warder’s bow of respect, and she had given a slight nod back as she had walked away. They had not spoken since, he had in fact not seen her at all. ● Thinking back on it all now it almost seemed surreal. But he had to admit that he had been impressed by the way she had handled the thugs, her cool calm confidence, her clearly long experience and proficiency, her delicate balance between harsh interrogation and gentle questioning, and the way she carried herself with dignity and strength. His first impression of her had been right. In this woman there was a passion for life mingled with steel to survive war. She is a true Battle Ajah Sister, he thought with a knowing smile as he closed his eyes. I bet whoever is her Warder is a lucky guy! ▀▄
  4. No doubt about it, Cal noted to herself. Elessar had practiced moves and cold control, an ability to present a hard, unyielding front and talk smoothly of crushing knee-caps whilst still keeping a wider, watchful eye; and he demonstrated that absolutely unique combination of simultaneously protecting an Aes Sedai from danger and respectfully deferring to her decisions when a situation was more under control without even the smallest hitch. Unless he was the Shadow's best actor, the man was Gaidin. And a competent one at that. Even unbound, the trouble-maker at his feet was going nowhere. "The Warder gives you good advice," Calia warned all of the young men, lowering her hood and exposing a face and tone as impassive as only decades as an Aes Sedai could wring. As she spoke, Cal bolstered and tied off the orb of light. She shortened the wall of Air between the two men, drawing them closer together, and trimmed the rest of the threads around them into a neat and compact block. Carefully, ever so carefully, she secured the weave around each man's chest just a little bit tighter. Better. She suspected Elessar would take the acknowledgement she spoke for exactly what it was - despite the fact her gaze was now firmly fixed on the three young men, and them alone, without even the slightest hint of the satisfaction she actually felt as a result of the solidified understanding. She eyed each of the men in turn. Slowly. With a stare as sharp, direct, cold and impenetrable as possible. She left the man at Elessar's feet until last. "It is curious that you scowl again," she noted blandly, turning her attention back again to the two wider-eyed and Power-held boys in front of her. "You," Cal locked eyes with the youth closest to her and took a step forward, gesturing the dagger lying near her feet, "You would stab an Aes Sedai with a knife?" His gaze flickered wildly from her outstretched hand to the knife and then towards the third the man on the ground before darting back up to hers. Without breaking stride or stare, she crooked her fingers and drew the dagger upward from the cobblestones with a fist of Air. "N-no, Aes Sedai!, no!" Again - a flick of his gaze in the direction of the man at Elessar's feet. The boy's voice was on the edge of panic. "You then?" she snapped her stare and accusatory question towards the other in her net. He swallowed hard, looked wide-eyed and rapidly and emphatically shook his head to either side as much as the weave around him would allow. Cal amplified her voice, matter-of-factly, raising the blade as high as their brows and looking sharply from one to the other, "Yet, here we are. And here is a knife." The weapon dropped neatly from the air into her waiting hand. She held it steady. "And there," she tilted her head towards the knife Elessar still had, "is another." The boys paled. Eyes narrowed, Cal began rapid-firing questions at the two in her best no-nonsense-teacher-of-the-Tower tone. Quickly enough, they spilled names and hometowns she placed little stock in along with believable ages and confirmation that they were brothers from Andor. The two were decidedly not strangers to Tar Valon, Cal decided, and both of them were reasonably aware of how much trouble they were in for being caught as perpetrators of crime in this city, even in these more secluded streets. Neither of them had ever sat in the Chair of Remorse. This she believed at least. Both of their eyes had widened even further at the mentioning of the Chair, but nothing more than that; and try as she might she just couldn't stretch her imagination far enough to cast either of them as the sort that would react as they had, or risk a second session if they had. The third man, however, scowled throughout her questioning, answering apparently both more smoothly and more begrudgingly than the other two boys. His misshapen nose and the scar on his face probably told more truth about his rough life than his words, Cal knew. Most telling of all for her though, was his initial panic at recognising her channeling for what it was, mirrored later at the mention of the Chair, and all of the barely-contained surliness-bordering-contempt in between. All three of them swore, trembling to various degrees of believability, that they had never intended to try and actually harm Elessar or herself or any other passer-by, and that they were working alone, just trying to 'earn' a few coins for a meal and a bed for the night. Cal didn't bother mentioning that none of them looked particularly destitute or in dire need of a meal. Even before the last of her questions, she had weighed the facts of the situation and shared the briefest warning glance with the Gaidin so he might be prepared before the announcement of her decision and ready for any reaction from the men. There were countless paths, some more innocent than others, that might have led these men to tonight's activities and the stories they now told. Regardless, the street was no place for sifting truth. They would be going to the Tower. At the very least, all three of these youths were guilty of intended violence and strongarming innocents in the streets of Tar Valon. That alone was not something she would excuse, nor something that could go without punishment here. The City was kept as safe and ordered as it was because there were always harsh consequences for crime. Lessons needed to be learned in order for behaviour to be changed. Lenience could lead to ruin. It was also entirely possible that the third man, especially, could represent a deeper level of trouble, at the very least for the other two. There was something about him and the way they glanced his way before speaking, something else about the way he appeared to both fear her use of the Power and scorn at her questioning with false bravado. At least with Shadowspawn, you always know... The wind whipped and whistled down the alley-way, stirring up the corner of cloak and reminding her that whether the boys in front of her were common crooks with a sad back-story, terrible plan and the lack of sense to stay away from Tar Valon, or one or more Darkfriends with connections to a more sinister plot - the Tower and tailored experiences in the Chair of Remorse - not this street in the wind - was ultimately where they would be shown the consequences of their actions and the best place for risks and stories to be straightened out. She drew more of the Power as a precaution against any trouble, ready to fight or bind the men as required, and her voice cut through the wind with finality when she spoke. "And yet, here we are, and here are the knives you rushed at us with - knives of a cut for thieves, strongarms and criminals more than for gentle every-day use. In an ambush. In the streets of Tar Valon. Crime can't and won't be tolerated here and you all have things to learn. Let's get you all to the Tower!"
  5. .. Caught in a Net .. ►▼◄ It all happened so quickly. Elessar’s shoulder slammed into the young man’s neck and the man crashed to the ground like a felled tree. ● Out of the corner of his eye the Warder sensed the Aes Sedai act as well and of a sudden the near-darkness was emblazoned in light. As he turned to gaze in Calia’s direction for a swift moment he glimpsed what looked like an orb shining bright above. It made it easier for him to take in the scene. Two other young men stood in mid-stride unable to move and Elessar understood that they were caught in the grips of the One Power. He had seen Saidar used in combat and these young men were going nowhere. Shifting his gaze back to the man on the ground before him he was surprised to see the man attempting to get to his feet. The Warder had expected him to be out cold. Perhaps the few ales he had drunk that evening had influenced his aim somewhat. His dark eyes tightening, he grabbed the young man’s arm and pulled him not too gently to his feet. Studying the man more closely he saw that he was in his early twenties with short dark hair, a broken nose and a long scar running down the left side of his face. He scowled at the Gaidin but Elessar could see that the man was less confident than he appeared. He was held in the iron grip of the Warder’s arm but when he glimpsed his two mates seemingly caught in mid-stride off to the side his eyes widened and there was panic in his gaze now. Seeing the look Elessar grinned darkly. ● The two men caught in Calia’s net of Air carried daggers which were now exposed, Elessar could see. She spoke in a calm and level voice, her face smooth, eyes like deep ice. "Release those knives, please boys. Now." They complied, their eyes staring wildly about, the daggers falling to the cobblestones below. Elessar bent and carefully touched the hilt of each blade in case the daggers were poisoned. He shook his head so Calia would understand that these blades were not poisoned. Perhaps they were not assassins after all. “So, boys.” Elessar said coldly, holding one of the daggers in his hand. He pointed it at the two men held by Calia. “You made a big mistake tonight.” His dark eyes were pools of ice as he studied the two young men. They were about the same age as the first guy but these had the look of Andor about them, light-blond hair and a fair complexion. They looked pretty similar in many ways and Elessar guessed they were brothers. “What major fools you were.” Elessar said with scorn. It was deliberate, meant to intimidate the young men further. “Young you are. But most definitely old enough to know better.” ● He exchanged a quick glance with Calia and then roughly pushed the young man he had been holding to the ground. When he tried to regain his feet one look at Elessar’s hard face made him reconsider. “Now then”, the Warder said with some finality, “Calia Aes Sedai has some questions for you all. Your answers will determine what happens to you.” “I advise you to be truthful.” He added. His eyes hardened further. “And respectful. Any disrespect shown this Sister of the White Tower and I will crush your knee caps”, he lied. From the wary looks they gave him they believed him though. The ability to lie was an important weapon in a Warder’s arsenal. A weapon often utilized with benefit when with an Aes Sedai who could, of course, not lie due to the Three Oaths (though Aes Sedai were very good at speaking around the truth; when he had said as much to Leandreen many years before, the Green Sister had given him a not very amused look which in turn had made him very amused). These could be local thugs attempting to mug an innocent couple in a Tar Valon side street, or something more sinister could be going on. One could never know the attackers’ intentions or allegiance to the Light or otherwise. He was certain Calia would be thinking the same thing. Any Green Sister who had fought the Shadow would. Depending on their answers, they would be brought to the White Tower or the watch-house of the City Guard. They will count themselves lucky if it is the latter. ● He stood silently as Calia began to question them, taking note of her questioning technique and her poise. It was clear to him that she had done this before. Many times. He also kept a watchful eye on the shadows, in case any ‘friends’ of these young men were about. One could never be too careful. ▀▄
  6. "And here we are." Cal slowed her pace at the entrance to the cross-street, turning to the Gleeman with a smile. "Good-night, friend." She brought their conversation and wandering to a close, the chill wind snapping at the hem of her cloak and doing its best to get in under her hood continued unnoticed. "And to both of you!" Fenn bowed with a grin. He bounced backward into the street with a final flourish for them both as Elessar caught up, then he gave a wave, turned lightly on his toes and strolled happily away with the wind gusting at his back. Calia nodded at his retreat and turned her attention back to Elessar and the rest of their journey back to the Tower. * * * The Kandori turned into a back alley she didn't recognise and the Aes Sedai smiled quietly to herself, pleased to find that there were still novelties for her to discover in this world, and particularly this town, even after all this time. She studied the stonework of the buildings on either side until she caught herself automatically setting her 'safe dome' wards in their usual spot and then she supressed a bigger, somewhat self-deprecating smile. The alley they had turned into might have been unknown to her, desolate and dark, but it was also in Tar Valon. With a shrug she cast and expanded the finished net of wards to a distance of ten paces and tied it to the simple circlet-necklace under her shirt. The weave glowed faintly and the circlet warmed against her skin, settling neutrally as it always did. No harm in keeping fresh practice, she reminded herself sternly, inverting the weave and tying it off. An instant later the circlet all but burned at three points from a frontward direction and Elessar leapt away from her with a warning shout. The split second of warning was all Cal required. She drew Saidar deep and near-simultaneously spun an orb of Spirit, Air and Fire and an expandable wall of solid Air. The orb she flung upwards for better light; the wall she softened to a thick, immovable-mallow-like consistency and snapped in front of what had previously been two more rushing shadows. The young men seemed to freeze mid-stride. Cal wrapped the 'wall' tightly around both of them, until the warning points on her circlet returned to normal temperature, signalling the time of threat and excitement was all but over. She maintained her hold of Saidar nonetheless, thanking the Light as she always did that she had been blessed with sufficient strength in the One Power to channel quickly and maintain multiple weaves at once. Battle in the Borderlands this ain't though. That much was certain. With the circlet a neutral temperature, she didn't have to look to know that Elessar would likely have his 'shadow' well-enough in hand, but she did anyway, assessing his manner and technique with an appreciative eye before turning her attention to the two men caught in her wall of Air. Young, yes. But most definitely old enough to know better, and quite possibly candidates for the Chair... if they're not up to something worse. She turned her body slightly so she could continue to take in what was happening with Elessar and his would-be-aggressor as she studied the faces of the two in her net. No way to know the attacker's actual intentions or allegiance to the Light or otherwise at this point. That would come in time enough, as would the decision on whether to take them on to the Tower or to the watch-house of the City Guard. First things first. She made sure there was sufficient laxity in the net at the men's mouths and noses for breathing requirements, but with enough responsiveness and tension to tighten with the vibrations of yelling and smother any obnoxious sound. So much better than a gag, she reflected on the weave, not for the first time. Then she allowed free movement of their eyes and stretched the sections of weave surrounding two exposed daggers in the men's hands, only just enough for them to open their fists, should they so choose. And then she unplugged their ears and spoke in a calm and level voice, her face smooth, eyes like deep ice. "Release those knives, please boys. Now." She kept part of her attention on them, and began preparing short tendrils of concentrated Fire to snake in and heat the blades if they did not comply.
  7. Happy to leave her as Novice, didn't get too far in, and think I'm going to make it as if neither her nor Calia are aware the other is there at this point in the current timeline...
  8. I like it! May I assume from this bio that Thay is a novice in the current timeline or will you advice her? If she is an Accepted or even a Sister by now, can you add a section about her character reputation? 🙂
  9. .. What May Happen In Shadows .. ►▼◄ Three shadows detached themselves from the darkness in the desolate back-alley and moved silently toward their prey, the unknowing couple that were walking down this dark Tar Valon sidewalk this late evening. A strong breeze was coming in from the south-west and sounds of festivity came from the inns and bars further along. Here, however, there was just silence, a stillness only broken by the sound of a cat skittering across the cobblestones in the dark, and this suited the three young men well. No prying eyes, no inquisitive stares. Elessar’s Warder instincts warned him a second or two before the three shadows were upon them and he shouted a quick warning to Calia as he leapt at a moving shadow and crashed into one of the attacking men, his shoulder slamming into the surprised man’s neck! ● A little earlier, Elessar had clapped appreciatively as the gleeman finished his performance of the historic poem and song about the Fall of Manetheren. It seemed everyone had been captivated by the story and the gleeman bowed many times, his smile betraying how pleased he was with the audience reaction. Calia clapped as well and smiled. She enjoys a good story too, Elessar mused. He knew his eyes were still alight with enthusiasm as always was the case when he enjoyed history and good stories. A Warrior Poet indeed, as Leandreen had teased him many years ago, her emerald green eyes sparkling in the firelight. Calia’s blue eyes seemed to study his face for a moment but then she shifted her focus to the next song on the gleeman’s repertoire. Elessar listened enthusiastically again because it was a tale of Blaes of Matuchin, turned Hero of the Horn. After more applause the gleeman said now there would be dancing and that the tables needed to be appropriately cleared. Soon half the audience were kicking up their feet, dancing joyfully while the gleeman played his flute. Elessar could have imagined Myrrhi enjoying such a dance. Of all his former Bondholders she had been the youngest and the most impulsive. He had never been much of a dancer himself though he did recall dancing with Myrrhi at a Nobleman’s Ball in Cairhien during a mission. She had enjoyed herself a lot and had found his reaction somewhat amusing. His dancing had been passable, he guessed, but he preferred dancing with blades. ● "Something tells me I'm going to be here quite late waiting for Fenn to finish up," Calia confided to Elessar a little later as she signaled to one of the waitress staff, "The two of us go a long way back though, and I promised I would stay until the end. Would you like another ale?" The Warder was surprised that she knew the gleeman but did not comment. He probably frequented this inn quite often when he was in Tar Valon and she had confirmed that she had been here many times over the years. So his name is Fenn. And Calia knows him well. He nodded to the Aes Sedai, a smile on his lips, and replied that he would love one more ale, yes. It was served quickly by a young blond-haired, long-legged, voluptuous waitress who winked at Elessar before heading off to another table. Senna was her name and she loved flirting with the Warder. They both knew nothing would come of it, she was not his type, but she kept up her ‘game’ whenever she saw him and it gave them both a few laughs. ● Fenn performed more songs and provided ample entertainment. As the evening lengthened, however, Elessar’s mind drifted. He sipped his ale, enjoying the atmosphere, but his thoughts were on his homeland Kandor. Was that region one of those struggling with Trolloc raids right now? There had been intermittent raids even during his childhood in the Borderlands but the rumours now told a more serious story, of armies of Shadowspawn moving across the region. His eyes tightened in anticipation of fighting the Shadow again at some point. Soon, I hope. Soon. Whenever he thought of home though he thought of his father and the bitterness that always existed between them. Father will never forgive me for what happened to Vehran, I just have to accept the fact. He clenched his fists momentarily in frustration, thinking back on the tragic accident which caused his younger brother’s death, but then gradually as the minutes went by he relaxed, putting aside his brooding, focusing instead on the joyful melody and the cheerful crowd. Soon he was caught up in the general merriment of the evening, taking further sips from his ale as the gleeman played on. ● When Fenn was finished and had bowed to the audience a final time, he made his way over to their table and offered both of them a full-flourished bow with a swirl of his gleeman’s cloak before speaking to Calia. He declined the offer of seating himself at their table, saying it had been a busy day and he was eager for his bed, to which the Aes Sedai smiled and teased him about a sweetheart he had in the city. It was clear to Elessar that these two had known each other for a good while, they spoke in that comfortable fashion. Calia then said it was getting late and she ought to be going too, would they join her as she thought they were all heading more or less in the same direction? Elessar realized the question was primarily aimed at him. The way Calia tilted her head reminded him of Leandreen. She had also had that ‘tilt’ when she asked a question she was particularly curious about. He wondered what this Aes Sedai could be curious about, but only smiled and replied affirmatively. She smiled back, her smooth face hiding what she was thinking, and soon they left the inn behind, Elessar walking in front of the other two who chit-chatted as they headed in the direction of the White Tower. The gleeman veered off less than two blocks from the “White Flame” inn, waving goodbye to Calia, and she and Elessar continued onwards. He had considered which path to take, either the shorter path through some dark alleyways or the longer path through the main streets. The wind had picked up through the evening, now whipping their cloaks back and forth, and it was a bit chilly in the air, and so Elessar thought it best to get back to the Tower as quickly as possible. Calia did not seem to mind and he therefore chose those alleyways and side streets which be believed should be safe enough. Who would, after all, try to rob a Warder and an Aes Sedai? He thought assuredly. Anyone would be a fool to attempt such a thing! ▀▄
  10. Name: Thayetta Luin Age: 14 Place of birth: Four Kings, Andor. Physical Description Hair: Light brown, chin length bob. Eyes: Blue, large and wide. Skin: Fair, with a sprinkling of freckles over her nose Height: 5’1” Voice: quiet/timid Other: Dimples in her cheeks and ‘Crow’s feet’ wrinkles at the corners of her eyes when she smiles. Personality Thayetta is inherently brave, and has a strong inner will and sense of duty, but outwardly she is quiet, gentle and shy to a fault. This is partly due to age, and partly due the fact that she has been raised a protected, only child. She may develop a stronger outward attitude as she grows, although it is likely that she will always prefer sidelines to centre stage. She loves children/babies and small animals and, oddly enough, fire. It is likely that her love of fire will show/grow with her as she learns to channel. Special Skills: Quick reader, almost photographic memory, especially for faces and names. Knowledge Weakness: The grown-up/real world. Thayetta has been rather sheltered by her parents and has spent most of her life with her head in a book. Physical Weakness: Height, or rather, a lack thereof. History Thayetta Luin was born the only living child of Amelie and Joem Luin, in Four Kings, Andor, and it was not for want of her parents trying. Raised in the background of the inn and alehouse that had belonged to the family for generations, her childhood was (purposefully, at the wishes of her father) very different from that of the girls in the family before her. She never wanted for attention from her parents, but she was very sheltered from the life that broiled on around them. The alehouse was off limits on pain of scolding - or worse, bringing her father a heavy sadness - and she was strongly encouraged by both her parents to keep away from any guests of the inn. She was not made to work in the kitchen, or tasked with the cleaning out of rooms. Rather, she was in charge of mending drapes and cushion and odd things here and there, all in the privacy and shelter of the master house – the floor above the entrance to the inn. Oddly, somewhere along the line she picked up on a natural talent for recalling the names, voices and faces of others, clear as day in her own mind, even when she had only seen or heard them for the slightest of seconds. To keep her occupied whilst they worked (her mother in the inn and her father at the bar) Amelie and Joem taught Thayet to read at a young age, and from there bought and traded her books whenever and however they could - adequately censored and innocently appropriate books, of course. As a result Thayetta developed into a bright, well-spoken, but timid and quiet child, with an inordinate sense of right and wrong. From the age of five or six years old, her duties expanded to minding the children of her parent’s staff. She developed a natural affinity for babies and young children. At night once the young children were asleep and her chores were done, Thayet’s favourite thing to do was sit at the table, a book in her hands and lantern burning bright within her reach, and read, or stare studiously into the flickering flame until she fell asleep. A month before her fourteenth name day, Thayetta half sat, half lay at the familiar, worn oak table, doing exactly that - staring at the flickering, dancing, dimming flame, her head resting heavily on her outstretched arm. Her book lay closed on the table beside her. It was late, and she was almost asleep. Her mother would be up from the inn soon, she thought, since no further guests would be likely to arrive tonight. Or would they? The cadence of two ‘new’ voices drifted upwards from amidst the quieting mumbles of guests downstairs. Thayet stared intently into the flame and strained her ears, trying for a moment to match a face or name to either of the two voices she could hear conversing with her ma. Nothing came to mind. She dismissed them as strangers she had yet to meet and went to sleep. She did not hear the new voices - or even glimpse the faces they belonged to - at all during the next day. Until early evening, when there they were again! Talking to both of her parents this time. A man, mostly silent, and a woman - with a strangely calm but strong, authoritative, voice. They didn’t speak long, but as they – and their voices - faded into the quiet din (likely heading to the dining room for supper, Thayet thought), she caught the words ‘Channeler’, ‘search’ and ‘Tar Valon’ coming from her father’s lips. She shivered, although she wasn’t really - or even remotely- sure of the reason why she should. At dusk the next evening she heard them again, the voices. This time quietly accompanying their owner’s footsteps up the lane towards the inn. Curious, but careful not to be too obvious, Thayetta paused briefly in her task of lighting the lanterns at the door, and looked carefully down the lane towards the sounds. The pair belonging to the voices looked normal enough at a distance, but even from where she stood, solidly perched on an ale box, she could tell that these guests were like none she had ever met before. Again she shivered slightly without really knowing why. The man was huge, and muscly, and had the presence of a rolling mountain. The woman was average in height and build, but somehow she seemed stronger even than the man. It was the woman that made her… nervous. Quickly, Thayet turned her attention back to the lantern immediately in front of her as the pair approached. Not really wanting to be noticed, she lit the wick and deftly coaxed the flame, staring at it momentarily to calm her nerves before jumping down and walking smartly to the box and lantern on the other side of the door. She kept her head down, lit the second wick and turned up the flame. She was almost done. Almost finished. A second more and she could dart unnoticed back inside to her books and flames... Except, of course, she couldn’t. The woman spoke. Thayetta was encouraged to look into a small jewel, which glowed. Then she was told that she had the ability to 'channel', and that she would be going to Tar Valon to be trained as 'Aes Sedai'. And from there, Thayet learnt, it was only the beginning...
  11. Hm! It's definitely intriguing! We can keep that she did this at least once, earning a not-so-good reputation. I'm sure it might be assumed by other sisters she will not do it again. Though, if she did do it anyway, she could get into serious trouble, if this was something she just decided to do on her own. In that vein, it might be worth considering how hard it is to get rid of years and years of conditioning she had as a novice and Accepted, where "custom is as strong as law." And I imagine Greens probably have all sorts of special Warder rules of their own. But in the end, it really depends on her personality (and if you're opening to her habit to being discovered and the eventual consequences of that!) So in the end I think I will go with what you decide as it could make for potentially interesting RP arcs (or in the least, her interesting reputation!).
  12. The Gleeman caught and held her eyes as he sang of Ellisande's fight against the Shadow, and the death she met. Calia inclined her head and lengthened her spine, obscuring the slight shiver that would otherwise have unsettled her poise. He did have news for her after all. And the man knew how to sing a vivid saga, that was sure. A glance into history, a glance into the past... and perhaps parts of the future as well, she mused. With an effort, she relaxed her jaw. The Wheel would weave as the Wheel willed. All they could do was try to be ready. She smiled and clapped appreciatively along with the rest of the audience's applause, neatly wiping the memories of battle and Sisters burnt out from her mind. Besider her, Elessar of Kandor's eyes had been alight with enthusiasm from the outset of the poem. Calia's smile and curiosity deepened. She studied his face momentarily. The Gaidin with impeccable manners liked history, then? She was sure by this point that he was, indeed, Gaidin, but she could not place him in all her time at the Tower. A curiosity, indeed. Gleeman Fenn bowed and launched from the wave of applause into a tale of Blaes of Matuchin, turned Hero of the Horn. Calia's thoughts turned to the Horn itself, and the words of the prophecy she had read so many years ago promising salvation in the last fight against the fall of long night. Not for the first time, she wondered where the Horn might be, should it still exist, and how it might be found to aid them in the Great Battle to come. The tale ended with a roar of amusement from the crowd that shook Cal from her musings. She came back to the present to hear Fenn cry with a lift of his ale mug that next there would be dancing, and that the tables needed to be appropriately cleared. Innkeeper Taman laughed and nodded his assent as the patrons near the stage began to shuffle back tables and chairs towards the walls. Fenn picked up his flute and began a lively melody that soon saw half of the audience kicking up their feet. Calia watched with a slightly dimmed sparkle in her eyes. How many times had Joesh and Shem whirled herself and Kaylan to this tune? She looked to the Borderlander beside her, wondering idly if he liked to dance even as she wondered if her dancing days were all but done. With a wistful shadow of a smile, she turned and signalled to one the wait staff for their attention. "Something tells me I'm going to be here quite late waiting for Fenn to finish up," Cal confided to Elessar as she signalled, "The two of us go a long way back though, and I promised I would stay until the end. Would you like another ale?" * * * It was indeed late by the time the Gleeman finished up the last of his tunes and made his way over to their table, though the inn was still bustling with the business he'd brought in and more than one patron grumbled good-naturedly at him that they were sorry to see him step down for the evening to leave them to revel on their own. "Calia Sedai - and friend? - I trust you enjoyed the show?" Fenn grinned as he approached, gallantly taking Cal's hand and offering both of them a full-flourished bow with a swirl of his multi-coloured cloak. Cal smiled back at the man and shrugged, "Much better than the last one," she teased, tucking the tiny note he'd passed her into a skirt pocket and offering him a seat at the table she knew he would decline. "If you don't mind, Aes Sedai, I just came to say hello before I depart. It's been a busy day and I'm eager for my bed." "And to see your sweetheart in Town, no doubt," she teased some more with a knowing smile. "But of course. It is late and I should be going too. Elessar, I believe we may all be headed more-or-less in the same direction part of the way at least, if you'd care to join us?" She smiled at the gamble, tilting her head in question as she waited for his answer. The Gleeman would veer off less than two blocks from here, she knew, and it would be nice to walk back the rest of the way accompanied for once - and to discover once and for all if this man from Kandor who liked history and missed the Borderlands was truly a Warder...
  13. .. Meeting a Sister of the Green .. ►▼◄ It was a woman who entered. An Aes Sedai. He could deduce as much from the way she carried herself, confident in her stride. Self-assured to a point. She wore a green dress and a matching silk blouse. She appeared to scan the room before being met by the innkeeper, Taman. He seemed to recognize her because he smiled broadly when he saw her enter and approached her quickly. They exchanged a few words and then they headed for Elessar’s table. The Warder looked at them with some curiosity and surprise as they came to a stop before him. Had he seen her before? No, he did not think so, at least she did not spark a memory. She was a woman of fair complexion which made him think of Andor, of average build with long light brown/blonde streaked hair worn wound up, and she had blue eyes. Her voice was friendly when she spoke to him but he recognized some steel in her otherwise smooth Aes Sedai face. He had seen it in many Battle Ajah Sisters before. ● "And, since I'm here and hungry and the place is full, I'm happy to share a table, if you are, Sir?" Still smiling, and packages still tucked under-arm, she raised an eyebrow at the Borderlander and waited for his reply. “Please, Aes Sedai”, Elessar replied kindly with a respectful Warder’s bow. “The honour is mine.” He added. “ I am Elessar of Kandor.” It sounded a little formal even to the Warder’s ears but formality had always been a part of him and of the way he sometimes spoke, especially to esteemed strangers. It was also a sign of respect and integrity and though some of his former Bondholders had teased him about it he had stayed true to himself. This Sister of the Green did not seem to mind his formal greeting. She sat down at his table with a smile, placing the packages on a stool, and presented herself as Calia Sedai. The bobbing innkeeper gave them both a shy smile which seemed almost apologetic. Probably because there was no available table for the Aes Sedai this evening, the Warder assumed. Elessar, however did not mind sharing and studied the woman discreetly while she ordered a meal. He ordered something to eat too and sipped at his ale while they waited for the food to be served. ● He saw something of Leandreen in this woman. Something of Kathleen and Myrrhi too. Not that she looked like any of them physically, but it was the way she held herself. There was a particular strength in Green Sisters, the Warder had found over the years, and not just physical but just as much of character, a passion for life mingled with steel to survive war, something not as easily found in other Aes Sedai. Leandreen, his first Bondholder, and a Battle Ajah Sister if ever there was one, had stared at him silently but with a very amused look on her face when he had said as much many years before, but he had always felt he was right. They chit-chatted a little - talking about this inn which it turned out they both loved - and Calia seemed interested when he then spoke a little about the Borderlands where he grew up and said he had not been back there for quite a while. “There are rumours of Shadowspawn spreading across the Borderlands”, the Warder said with obvious distaste. “Some of my Brothers have mentioned it in passing.” His look became distant for a moment. She knew he meant Warders, and as for the rumours.. she knew them to be true. She thought she detected some longing in his voice there at the end, as if he were a little frustrated that he was not up there fighting the Shadow, but did not comment, just studied his hard face as he sipped his ale. Perhaps they had more in common than he thought. When the food arrived she tucked in, her body appreciating the nourishment even if her hunger had been quenched by her use of the One Power earlier. Elessar also enjoyed his meal which consisted of beef and potatoes with vegetables and some gravy. ● Later a brown-haired man of middling years with an oval face and slightly sunken eyes wearing a cloak of many colourful patches walked onto the small stage at the front of the Common Room. He bowed to the audience and swiftly proceeded to play several jaunty melodies on his flute. The crowd recognized the tunes and clapped enthusiastically. Elessar smiled from the back of the room. He was particularly looking forward to the songs the gleeman would perform, songs of poetry and history. He had heard such songs many times before through the years but he enjoyed the performances every time. Bowing again a little later, appreciating the applause from the enthusiastic crowd, the gleeman readied himself for his next song. Elessar’s eyes lit up when the gleeman said he was going to tell an epic story next, the epic and tragic story of the Fall of Manetheren. This was one of the Warder’s favourite poems and he had heard it countless times before but he rejoiced in it every single time. The story of the Aes Sedai Queen Ellisande’s bravery and fall. Of her valiant Stand against the Shadow. Of Manetheren’s valour. Of Glory and Tears. A Glance into History. A Glance into the Past.. Calia turned her chair so that she too faced the stage. This story was part of both Andoran and Aes Sedai history and she appeared interested in the re-telling which quickly captivated most guests in the Common Room. They were swept away on the Winds of Time… ● ►▼◄ Rose of the Sun (The Fall of Manetheren) “Carrai an Ellisande!” For the honour of the Rose of the Sun! The Shield against the darkness, the Hammer weight to Stun. The Sword that could not be broken. Was shattered in the End. As valiant Manetheren, no longer could Defend. Brave fighters of the land. Fought with pride and with Heart. Under Red Eagle banner, they resisted Shadow’s Start. Until Mountain Home was taken. No one came to their Aid. Weep for Manetheren!, all their allies were Afraid. King Aemon and his men ran to aid from Field of Blood. Countless miles they covered, daring river huge and Flood. Slaughtered beasts of Shadow. Crying battle cries of Might. “Carrai an Ellisande!” echoed everywhere in Sight. Brave warriors, brave King! They fell to Darkness’ Yoke. When Aemon husband died, Queen Eldrene’s heart Broke. Woe to the Shadow! With anger, grief and Pain. An Aes Sedai of might, she struck out like Insane. She filled herself to bursting. The Power oh so Sweet! The Sa’angreal beside her, glowed brightly with its Heat. She was an awesome figure. Her arms she lifted High. And then she threw her Balefire and Storms of Lightening Nigh! A harbinger of death. She destroyed the Shadowspawn. The messengers of Darkness disappeared from Battle’s Lawn. But her body came on fire. Flames of Saidar burned her Soul. In her agony she cried out, for Manetheren, her Goal! The destruction levelled all. Old Manetheren was Dead. The Rose of the Sun, she was gone, it was Said. But she would live forever. In many people’s Hearts. And Manetheren’s bravery, is eternal in its Parts. Oh Ellisande! Greatest Queen, we won’t Forget! Your fight against the Shadow and the death you Met. Mourn for Manetheren! The bravest place of All. Honour to the Mountain Home! Your enemies shall Fall. ►▲◄ ▀▄
  14. Calia pushed the last of the heavy wooden desks back into place and eyed the reconstructed lines of furniture critically for a number of seconds. Then she grinned. Let's see that new Janna ...whatsit... whine about the disorder of the room after my 'chaotic' classes now! She gave a self-satisfied nod and swept the dust from her hands in two swift wiping motions that happened so abruptly they each made a little clap. Done for the day. She tilted her head slightly to the left, considering whether she really was done in the classroom, or if there was anything else she needed to do. Lately the teaching duties she'd undertaken never seemed to end. After-class paperwork 'requirements' were piled on and on and on (and on) to teacher workloads, to ends ultimately unnecessary and untenable. She pressed her lips into a tight line. Time in the classroom was one thing - hunting and igniting those sparks of determination and understanding in the eyes of her students was almost as satisfying as imploding the earth under a hoard of trollocs. But pointless paperwork was an entirely different beast. The issue definitely needed to be brought up with the current Mistress of Novices and the Greens. Tomorrow perhaps. She nodded again. This afternoon, Tar Valon and further preparations for travel. This evening, the Inn. She had the itch again, and once it had started, it would not be quelled. She loved teaching, yes. But there were whispers amongst her networks of a swell of shadowspawn throughout the Borderlands, particularly Saldea, that could not be ignored. Early signs, perhaps, but experience had taught her it was best to ensure she was well-prepared ahead of time. When the decision was made and the call came, it would be swift. Therefore, so would she. Both her and her belongings would be ready. * * * "And that's the deal done well, Master Eldwin, as usual," she smiled sincerely at the cobbler as she handed over the required coin and then some. In all of Tar Valon, there was nobody who had taken care of her boot and leather repairs as competently and quickly as he, for nigh on thirty years. It had been only a few days since she had put in her request, and yet she had barely needed to glance at the repaired goods he'd laid out on the counter for her to be impressed by the same high quality, once again. "And with pleasure, as always, Calia Sedai," he smiled back at her, pocketing the coin and then tucking her gleaming belts, knife-sheaths and boots back into her saddlebags and bundling everything into an easy-to-manage package. Job done, he bobbed his head, turned from the counter and shuffled back towards his workroom, collecting a well-worn pair of shoes from a shelf along the way. She watched his slightly hunched and aging form retreat, anchored the package under her arm, and tried not to wonder how much more grey there might be in his hair, how much frailer he might be on her next visit. If she ever managed to return. * * * The gurgling in her gut was growing in intensity. If she didn't stop for an evening meal soon, that gurgle was going to turn into an audible growl most unbecoming of an Aes Sedai strolling through the shops and sidewalks of Tar Valon. Calia arched an eyebrow ever-so-slightly and embraced saidar, weaving together a tiny, modified circle of silence and tying it off inconspicuously around her middle. There. Problem solved, she smiled serenely and carried on. * * * The gurgling and growling may have been silenced, but the gnawing was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. On the outside she was all Aes Sedai calm and poise as she travelled though the last of twilight - her weave held, the swishing of her green split skirts and deliberately soft foot-falls were the only audible sounds from her person, her face remained as smooth and unruffled as the simple, no-nonsense silk of her blouse. On the inside however, dull hunger had turned to increasingly savage pangs. When was the last time I ate? she wondered, without any real hope of recall. It hadn't been lunch, that much was certain. Breakfast? she gave up both wondering and wandering, and decidedly changed direction, towards the White Flame. The inn came into sight with the edge of night, a warm glow spreading out from the windows and the occasionally opening door. She breathed deeply, memories of evenings here with Kaylan and Joesh and Shem right from the beginning of their time at the Tower lapping gently at her heart where once they had flooded it with grief. How many times did we laugh and dine well within these walls? she half-wondered as she slipped over the threshold, nodding to the young man who had simultaneously managed to stumble drunkenly through the exit and still hold the door open for her to walk straight in. One of the heavies at the door - Javen? bobbed his head to her and closed the door gently behind her, she smiled her thanks. Her blue eyes scanned the room, counting things that had changed and stayed the same since her last visit, noting Sisters and Warders present, but no Gleeman yet. It was a busy night. Exactly the kind of night herself and Kaylan had revelled in as young girls. She smiled at Taman, the current inn-keeper and grandson to Aman, the original owner she had known, bustling in a corner. He quickened his pace toward her, nodding half-apologetically towards a table that was presently occupied by someone Calia assumed to be Gaidin, of Borderland origin - one she didn't believe she knew. Interesting- "- Sedai, apologies, I thought you were intending to dine a little later?" The noise of the room obscured the beginning of the inn-keeper's greeting, but his eyes conveyed all of his perplexity. "And so did I, Taman, so did I. But here I am, and hungry to boot!" She smiled more broadly at him as momentum and her intention continued to lead them towards the table he had indicated. There was no harm in being early, really. "And, since I'm here and hungry and the place is full, I'm happy to share a table, if you are, Sir?" Still smiling, and packages still tucked under-arm, she raised an eyebrow at the Borderlander and waited for his reply.
  15. Hmmm, ta Jagen, I think you're right that it's custom to bond for life... I was going on a reference from The WoT Wiki that said 'Finally, Warder bonds can be dissolved unilaterally by the Aes Sedai at any time' I had figured Calia used it as a (not entirely logical) 'balance' between serving effectively as a Green in the Borderlands and attempting to avoid attachment, and also a character flaw that caused 'strange bonding habits' to be a part of her reputation. A search showed a quote from RJ saying that it would be incredibly rare/the AS is expected to be in for the whole ride, though. Ultimately it does indicate a level of immaturity/emotional selfishness that probably shouldn't be present in Aes Sedai. I'd imagined that she'd held/released at least one bond in the 14 years since that 'decision', in order to get that reputation etc. But I am also unsure how to feel about this now, to be honest 🤣 - is it something I erase or play out (hopefully to a 'she's definitely matured or doomed' kind of end)? Happy to go with whatever you approve!
  16. .. At the “White Flame” inn .. ►▼◄ The two Warders were joined in a Dance of the Blade. Elessar attacked with skill but his opponent was almost as skilled and experienced. He parried deftly and went on the attack himself. Elessar stopped the attack with proficient moves and they circled one another in their corner of the Warder’s Yard. Some tentative strikes with their swords, clashing in the morning breeze, eyes meeting in challenge, and then they went at it again. ● Back and forth they flowed, thrusting and parrying, attacking and spinning out of range and moving swiftly from stance to stance, two opponents locked in combat. At one point a sudden move from the Illianer Warder brought his blade arching towards Elessar’s neck. Steel met steel but the blow was deflected and the Gaidin sidestepped out of the way of an oncoming strike. He in turn swept his scimitar in low and the other man blocked it and immediately retaliated, bringing his sword up and around in a way that gave his opponent only one blocking-move and one which could well leave him open for new attacks.. At another point, a little later on, Elessar suddenly moved forwards and performed a vertical slash, high to low, but which altered course in mid-swing. The other blocked the move deftly but Elessar followed up with another hard swing which was parried. Then the Warder from Kandor changed form, performing a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly and on the return swing began a series of powerful overhand blows. This took great stamina and strength and Elessar was only able to keep it up for so long. He had less stamina now that he was unBonded, not gaining added strength from an Aes Sedai, and his strength was weakening as he fought. The Illianer Warder parried well, however, with powerful strokes, but was driven back on the defensive.. Finally they sheathed their swords in one smooth move and gave each other a respectful bow. Breathing hard they brushed off some sweat from their bare upper bodies with a towel. ● “You do becoming slow in your old age, Elessar” the Illianer Warder said with a lopsided grin. “Well, I can still handle younglings like you, Sedorin” Elessar replied which a chuckle, keeping up the friendly jesting between them. The Illianer was, in fact, only 1 year younger than Elessar but always pointed out this “significant” age difference.. “Well at least we do not be stabbing ourselves in the foot anymore”, Sedorin said mirthfully. “At least not when anyone do be seeing..” Elessar laughed heartily and joined his friend as they walked across the Warder’s Yard toward the Barracks. ● “How are you?” Sedorin asked after a while, a more serious tone in his voice. He knew that Elessar was restless when he had to spend too much time in Tar Valon. Elessar had returned from his mission to Falme several weeks before, a journey which had done him good in Sedorin’s opinion. Some Warders functioned well as Tower Guards in the City of the Aes Sedai. Elessar was not one of them. Sedorin hoped his friend would get the opportunity to leave on another mission soon or, even better, find an Aes Sedai to Bond. He knew Elessar’s proud history in the White Tower and knew that he very much hoped to be Bonded again and fulfil what he saw as his duty. Elessar took a moment before he responded. “I am doing alright, my friend”, he replied. “If I am asked though”, he added with a glint in his eyes, “I will go on another adventure for the White Tower.” He laughed softly but there was longing in his voice. “You do never be knowing, my friend”, Sedorin said, giving Elessar a friendly pat on the back. “One of these days a Sister do be wanting you as her Bonded Gaidin”. “I’m probably too old”, Elessar chuckled. “And too stubborn. Too set in my ways.” Inside though he had not given up hope, and as he closed the door to his room in the Barracks behind him and settled on his bed, he wondered if he would get his wish some day. ● That evening, after his Warder duties were done, he put on a clean shirt and pants and wandered down the streets of Tar Valon to the “White Flame” inn. The streets were still busy with people from all over and when he entered the inn he saw that it too was near filled to the brim. The innkeeper though, upon seeing him, found him a table at the back and smiled before putting an ale in front of him. Elessar had been going to this inn for many years and knew the innkeeper well. It was not the best inn in the city but Elessar liked it the best. It was cozy and had charm and character and the innkeeper was a cheerful nice guy who appreciated the Warder’s many visits. Sometimes they talked a while but this evening the innkeeper had too much to do so he left Elessar alone with his ale. Sipping from his drink Elessar studied the people in the room. There were some Southerners present, a few Northerners from the Borderlands which Elessar recognized easily being from that region himself, many locals and some Andorans recognizable from their complexion. Many were drunk but not overly so and there was much cheer in the room. A couple big guys stood by the entrance door ready to throw out troublemakers and they knew they job well. There was seldom trouble in this inn. ● There were also some Warders present that Elessar recognized and a few Aes Sedai as often was the case in this inn. A gleeman was going to perform a little later but had not arrived yet. Elessar gazed at the Sisters sitting at different tables, a White Sedai with her Warder and a Gray and a Blue sitting alone, but did not recognize any of them. He had not seen Aleorah Sedai since their return to the White Tower and did not really expect to see her again. Neither did he see any of his former Bondholders. As always when he thought of them, he wondered how they were doing and wished them well. It also made him think of his complicated situation: of his wishes and hopes and dreams. He wondered what lay in store for him. There was a sound then and movement and his gaze returned to the entrance door where another person was entering the room. ▀▄
  17. .. Homeward Bound along Twisted Paths .. ►▼◄ The journey back to Tar Valon was a long one but they took their time now having completed their mission and stayed for the most part at local inns along the road. They spoke a little at first about the mission and how they had carried it out, but as the days and weeks passed they kept mostly silent, lost in their own thoughts. Aleorah thought mostly about the success of the mission and that she had vindicated herself in the eyes of the Tower, while Elessar’s thoughts were mostly on what awaited him back in Tar Valon. He had been invigorated by this journey out in the world and did not look forward to the slow life of a Warder or Tower Guard in the White Tower. He hoped something would come up, some new mission or new duty on the road or, best of all, if some Aes Sedai wanted to Bond him (Aleorah had thanked him for his valuable service and had said he had impressed her but that she was not looking for a Warder to Bond) but the Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills, a favourite Aes Sedai saying that especially Leandreen had used in his presence, and only time would tell. ● They stayed two days in Caemlyn on the way back, resting their horses. Elessar enjoyed a couple of gleeman performances during his stay and went to bed late on the final night. That night he had weird dreams. They were a twisted bundle of real memories and things that had never happened with each of his former Sedais. It began with Myrrhi. At the beginning it was all as he remembered… “There is a change of plan”, Myrrhi had said as she had met his eyes squarely. “We have been ordered to Amadicia.” There was a strange look in her eyes, as if she had not yet decided whether this was for the good or the bad. Elessar knew from their talks that she wanted to go forward in her journey, return to Tar Valon as they had planned, but that she also enjoyed this ‘mission’ and journey that they were on together. He remembered also a young Leandreen saying she enjoyed the freedom on the road with her Warder, free of ‘Sisters looking over my shoulder all the time’ as she had put it. Perhaps Myrrhi felt the same. Amadicia. Elessar thought to himself, as he nodded in reply. Never the best place for Aes Sedai.. He had visited the land of the - in his eyes - fanatic and often downright nasty Whitecloaks a couple of times through the years and each visit had been.. difficult. With broad anti-White Tower sentiment in those parts Aes Sedai and Warders had to take special care with people and places and tasks. “Alright.” Elessar said at last, nodding again. “Amadicia it is.” ● Part of White Tower duty and training, for Warder and Aes Sedai both, was to adapt to circumstances. They would now have another long - and probably tiring - journey ahead of them into the South-west, but they would manage. They had become a well-functioning Warder-Aes Sedai team and partnership, the Gaidin thought. And this new journey would give them the opportunity to build on that strong foundation. Also it would mean they would get to travel together some more, on the road, in this new or extended mission. Elessar had always been happiest as a Warder on the road, with the freedom it entailed, rather than being ‘closed in’ in Tar Valon. So all in all, he could not say he was unhappy with this change of plan. Myrrhi did not share any details from her letter, but that did not concern her Warder. She would explain later, if needed, and would let him know what was necessary for him to be aware of, so they could succeed in this ‘new’ mission for the White Tower. They agreed to get provisions and to leave for the South-west as soon as was possible, and the Gaidin immediately left for the nearby shops to get the things they needed for the long journey ahead. He asked the shopkeeper if he knew where the nearest village on the River Erinin was and was given directions. The village was some leagues to the west but the Cairhienin had a cousin who in his business travelled between the two places a couple of times every day and if the Warder wanted he could ask his cousin to take a message on his journey this afternoon. Elessar thanked the man and gave him the necessary instructions. He then headed for the stable and talked to the young stableboy to have him ready their horses the next morning, and returned inside the inn. ● That early evening he received a message at the inn, a piece of paper brought by the eager innkeeper, where the cousin in question confirmed that berths had been booked for the Warder and his Aes Sedai and space for two horses on the next riverboat, ‘the River Princess’ captained by a Southerner called Gueyam Ennariz, going southwards in the afternoon the following day. They would go by boat all the way to northern Tear and would then cut across country westwards toward Amadicia. Elessar nodded satisfied, then informed Myrrhi that everything was arranged.. Then things changed.. twisted reality.. Myrrhi’s sparkling blue eyes were now green.. and her hair had changed, her face older.. she looked accusingly at him and there was bitterness in her eyes as she stared at him.. “How could you!” she screamed bitterly and pointed at his chest. He looked down and blood was flowing through his shirt from a mortal wound… his eyes widened in disbelief and confusion and he tried to talk but was unable… A scream formed in his head… this is not true! .. and he took a step forwards before falling… ● Falling… ..and then the darkness around him was gone.. replaced by green woods.. and he was with Kathleen. They were riding northwards. An echo in his mind reminded him of Myrrhi and what had seemingly happened but it soon disappeared and he focused all his mind on this new journey. He recalled it well and in the beginning all was exactly as he remembered. Slivers of sunlight shone down on them through small gaps in between the clusters of heavy tree-branches above as they made their way toward the wide path leading north. Another soft breeze made their travelling cloaks flap behind them as they rode, and seemed to awaken the forestland they were entering. Elessar’s gaze swept across the terrain they were riding through, in the subtle but very effective way of experienced Warders, but his mind was partially on the evening before and on his shared words of the past with Kathleen. He had wanted to share, but had not, in truth, intended to share quite as much - it was very personal to him after all - but once he had started his story it had felt right somehow, and though he would not have admitted it aloud, a part of him was relieved to have opened up, as it were, to have given voice to some of his enduring inner pain. ● Kathleen had shared her compassion and had offered her comfort and her ear, late into the night, something he had appreciated. She had thanked her Warder for sharing his story and had assured him that if he wished to stop in his old stomping ground she would be honoured to accompany him there. He had not been at his old home in Kandor for a long time. His travels with Carys, and before that with Carrain, had not taken him there and, perhaps subconsciously, he had deliberately avoided the place. It was a place that had given him joy. But also pain. He appreciated Kathleen’s offer to stop there on their journey into the Borderlands, but his initial thought had been to decline. Now though, as he thought the matter over, sitting astride Stormbreaker as they made their way northwards, he began to reconsider. Perhaps it was time for him to visit his homeplace. And to face my past. He mulled it over in his head as morning approached midday, the sun peeking out from behind a cluster of clouds high above, and they had a short stop to rest their horses and to stretch their legs. Coming to a decision, he spoke with his Bondholder as they cared for their faithful mounts and accepted her offer. They would alter their northern path slightly westwards and head for Kandor and the estate where he had grown up. It was still a fairly long distance away, though, so they decided to ride until early evening and then set up another makeshift camp in the woods. Inns were few and far between in this part of the forested region and they would not be able to reach another one for several days. ● Brushing down the horses, Elessar patted them caringly on their necks, giving them each a carrot - which they had brought from the Inn in Ainsbury - to enjoy. Satisfied that all was well with their mounts, he then made his customary quick scouting of the area. It was not that he really expected any danger, but it was an almost automatic routine a Warder developed when out in the wilds, one that could - and would - come to very good use if danger approached. It was better to be safe than sorry - and Kathleen was under his protection as her Warder. Bandits were known to inhabit some of these forested regions between Tar Valon and the Borderlands, and one could never discard the various minions of the Shadow. Elessar knew that from experience. When he returned to the campsite, where Kathleen sat before a small fire, he gave her an almost imperceptible nod, indicating that he had seen nothing untoward. A short time later they were sharing some food and drink, as dusk was approaching anew. The Warder stared into the dancing flames as he chewed on another slice of mutton. They ate in silence, companions on the road. They had made camp underneath a canopy of tall trees some way from the road, sheltered somewhat from the wind and weather. The rain that had come in the afternoon had passed, thankfully, and they hoped it would be a dry night. Staring into the trees, Elessar heard the noises of small animals moving about in the darkness. The enduring breeze also made the leaves rustle on the nearby trees and created a whistling sound in the night. The Warder and Sedai appeared caught up in their own thoughts - and the silence lengthened. ● His gaze fell, across the flames, on Kathleen’s calm and collected Aes Sedai face - and he wondered for a moment who this woman really was. He did not know her well, after all. She had not shared her own past with him the evening before, something he respected and was fine with. She would speak when she was ready.. Then suddenly things changed and twisted.. and she faced him across the flames and asked him in a harsh voice why he was false. Her other Warder, her first Warder, was never false, she said. Her eyes looked at him accusingly and he was dumbstruck. In his dream he knew this was not what had happened in reality but he was unable to stop it. “You are a coward!”, she spat and there was bitterness in her voice. Elessar began to reply but was stopped in his tracks by his Bondholder’s forceful accusing look. He got to his feet and felt fury and shock run through him, started to walk around the flames but stumbled and fell face first onto the ground.. blackness enveloped him.. darkness never-ending.. … And then he was suddenly somewhere else, the light of day all around.. ..and Carys was now looking at him, with concerned eyes.. ● On and on throughout the night it went with all his former Bondholders, in an endless parade of true memories and false invented scenarios, a twisted blend of truth and lies, of right and wrong, of what had happened and what never had, which left him mentally exhausted. When he finally managed to sleep, a blessed dreamless sleep, he slept until late morning. The following day as they made their way northwards he tried to forget all about those weird twisted dreams (what did they mean? was it the guilt that never truly went away that played with his mind? was it a manifestation of all his hopes and dreams and confusion?) and focused instead on the remaining part of their journey. Finally, on a sunny afternoon under an azure-blue sky, Aleorah Sedai and Elessar Gaidin rode slowly across one of the many magnificent arching bridges over the River Erinin connecting the island city to the mainland. Fabled Dragonmount rose in the distance and on the city walls high above them the proud banners of Tar Valon - wonderous city of the Aes Sedai - rippled strongly in the wind, as if welcoming them home. ▀▄
  18. .. A Mission Completed .. ►▼◄ In the following days High Lady Evenia of House Almiathin was arrested by the local law enforcers and put in the local dungeon. Aleorah and Elessar participated in the interrogation of the Darkfriend who insisted upon her innocence and claimed the letter from a friend was no proof of anything. They had a game between them where they humourously used the phrasing ‘Great Lord’ in their correspondence, she claimed with a straight face, and Elessar could not help but be a little impressed with her performance. This was a lady of steel without doubt. ● “She is a tough one”, the Warder commented drily to the Aes Sedai after several interrogations. Aleorah Sedai nodded, her eyes tightening. “Many Darkfriends are”, she replied. “You don’t sell your soul to the Shadow if you are a weakling.” Elessar nodded back, knowing well the truth of that. “I think the time has come”, he said, “to take the interrogation to a new level”. She looked at him closely and knew what he meant. Sometimes it was necessary to use harsher measures than words when interrogating Darkfriends. They would never physically torture a suspect, of course, but threats could often work just as well. And the Warder had one advantage that the Sedai lacked: he could lie. Elessar had made good use of it before even though horrible threats always left a bad taste in his mouth. It was one thing to meet a Darkfriend or Shadowspawn on the battlefield; this was different. Even so, it had to be done since they needed some sort of confession from this vile woman. ● Entering the interrogation chamber, Aleorah Sedai now seated herself behind the table in the middle while Elessar remained standing by the door, a knife now in his hands. The High Lady stared at him defiantly from the corner, bruises visible on her face and arms. The guards who had dragged her screaming from her Manor had insisted the marks had been there already, but the Warder knew some guards might get a tad “enthusiastic” when bringing in a suspected Darkfriend. “So”, the Warder said and Aleorah was surprised by the cold ice in his voice. “Which ear shall we cut off first, my High Lady?” The Aes Sedai kept her smooth face but even she was taken aback at the tone in his voice. It sounded like that of a torturer who enjoyed his trade. She was impressed. Facing the Noblewoman she could see a touch of uncertainty in the High Lady’s eyes for the first time. A vicious smile came upon Elessar’s lips as he slowly moved toward the Darkfriend. He brushed the knife with his fingertips and his eyes were the eyes of death. The High Lady’s mouth twitched as if to say he was bluffing but when she saw his dark eyes she knew he was not. She licked her lips and tried to stare defiantly at him. She was only partially successful. “Now then”, Elessar said as he stood calmly before her. His hand touched her scarred face. “I think we shall remove your left ear.” ● He sounded almost gleeful and Aleorah watched with almost morbid fascination as the Warder placed his knife against the woman’s ear. She tried to move away but he had cornered her and she was unable to move. She started to curse but stopped when she felt the knife against her ear. Great Lord, help me! But there was no help to be had. Elessar pushed her against the stone wall and pressed the knife slightly into her ear so droplets of blood started flowing. “I think this Darkfriend lady will look pretty even with only one ear, don’t you think, Aleorah Sedai?” He said cheerfully over his shoulder. “Unless she confesses her crimes, of course. If she admits guilt, perhaps we will be more lenient”, he lied. A convicted Darkfriend would face death no matter what, he knew, but perhaps the High Lady did not know that. “I am no Darkfr..” the High Lady began, repeating her much used statement of innocence, but stopped when the knife drew more blood. It was not much of a wound but enough to make her stop. It made her think of the endless pain of that dream.. the dream that had felt as real as life. She tried to suppress the shudder than went through her body. ● “We could, of course, let you go”, the Warder added as if it were an afterthought, “and spread the word in your somewhat dark circles that you cooperated.. and betrayed the Shadow..” He needed go no further. She gasped at the thought of what such seeming betrayal would mean. Not only death at the hands of powerful Darkfriends but eternal torture by the Great Lord. Endless pain, endless… She could not help herself and began sobbing, terror filling her now. Elessar seized the moment and it only took another nudge before she started confessing, haltingly at first but then gradually more clearly. She did not give up any names of accomplices though, she only admitted her own guilt and shame. Show mercy, Great Lord! ● They arrested her ‘friend’ and associate Siriana a day later, a middle-aged woman of noble blood, and she was not as strong as Evenia, soon giving up several other associates under interrogation and admitting theirs was a Darkfriend cell in Falme. She was not able to give them names of more powerful members though, only a few of the ordinary members. Of their activities she had been able to offer little. Aleorah Sedai and Elessar Gaidin were pleased though with their findings and having uncovered this Darkfriend cell. The White Tower would be pleased also, Aleorah said with a satisfied glint in her eyes. It was a good day for the Light. ▀▄
  19. .. A Night’s Mission in Shadow .. ►▼◄ “It is the only way”. Aleorah Sedai looked into this Gaidin’s eyes and saw the determination there. He had been a valuable companion on the road for this mission and had more experience than most Warders. He was not afraid to speak his mind either but at the same time showed her the respect that was her due. She could well understand that several of her Sisters had seen the value of Bonding such a man. She nodded and turned away to stare at the Sea Folk ship that was leaving harbour. ● They were at the Falme docks and it was early afternoon. The sun shone in a partially clouded sky and there was much activity around. A second Sea Folk ship was moored not far away and Elessar was gazing at the men and women running around that ship carrying out the necessary tasks at hand. On the top deck the Sailmistress was following all the activity with a serious face but inside she was proud of her crew. She turned to stare after the departing ship and wondered if her Sailmistress was thinking about the dangerous journey ahead. Of course she was. The Aryth Ocean was no longer the safe place it had once been. Facing the Blue Sister again, Elessar added that he knew it was a dangerous option, but what other choice did they have? They had spent several hours discussing the situation - and it was a serious one. The fact was they had no proof of any Darkfriend activity even after a week spent in Falme. All they had was rumours and suspicions. Aleorah Sedai had received a message the day before from the White Tower and it was clear they were not best pleased with the lack of progress. They had suggested perhaps sending more Sisters to investigate but Aleorah had insisted it was not necessary. It would be a huge loss of face for her and she did not intend to return to the White Tower in shame. She had never done so in her 145 years as a Sister and did not intend to start now. The fact remained though, they were stuck. And so, risky as Elessar’s suggestion was, she was at the point where she was willing to try almost anything to discover this supposed Darkfriend cell in Falme. ● “We need to take risks now”, the Blue Sister whispered, meeting his gaze. “We need to find out if the High Lady is indeed a Darkfriend.” Her eyes tightened. “If she is, then she will be judged. And harshly.” A short pause followed. “If she is not, then we must continue our search.” She faced the ocean again and was silent for several long moments. She then spoke over her shoulder in a voice loud enough for him to hear but low enough so no one else could. “Begin your preparations, Gaidin. We break into the Manor at midnight.” And the Light help us be successful! ● As they crouched behind the wall facing the south-side of the Manor that night, darkness enveloping Falme with only a partial moon sending slivers of light, Elessar could not stop thinking that this situation mirrored another one when long ago he and his Bondholder at the time Myrrhi had attempted a similar break-in in their hunt of the Shadow. It is so similar it is almost eerie, he thought to himself as he watched the Manor and the guard walking past the entrance door in the distance. Let’s hope we are as successful this time. Taking the lead, he motioned for Aleorah to follow him as he crept along the wall and into the garden behind. They could see the entrance off to the side but had deliberately chosen to enter the grounds from this direction because there were several trees here giving cover. Stopping in his tracks, Elessar waited and listened. There was only the one guard outside as far as they had observed and probably one inside as well. The man on the grounds disappeared around the corner of the building and the Warder and Sedai went into motion. Hurriedly they moved from beneath the trees up to the building and put their backs against it. They were both wearing black cloaks and Aleorah wore the hood up. Elessar listened carefully, using all his senses, but all was quiet. It would take the guard another minute to return in the Warder’s estimation. ● Nodding to the Blue Sister in the near-darkness he moved to beneath a window a little further along the building and reached upwards. Feeling the window sill he reached into his pocket and removed an item which Aleorah knew was a knife. She watched silently as he worked on the window lock and finally managed to open the window. She had experienced many different things in her decades on the road for the White Tower but breaking into a Manor of a suspected Noblewoman Darkfriend was not one of them. She was far from the squeamish type but she did feel a little tingling in the nerves of her neck as she half-climbed, was half-lifted through the window above and into the room beyond. Elessar silently closed the window behind him and they both stopped breathing for a moment as they waited for an alarm to go up. There was only silence, however and they both breathed a sigh of relief. She might be an Aes Sedai but if she was caught breaking into this Noblewoman’s home she would be in trouble. It was, perhaps an act of desperation but it was too late to turn back now. The door in the room, a kind of sitting room, was not locked and they moved carefully into the corridor behind. It was mostly dark though a few candles lit up the hallway intermittently. ● They crept silently along, at any moment expecting the inside guard to jump them but they encountered no one and reached the end of the corridor. They stopped again and waited for several long moments. A door separated them from another shorter corridor and then the door to the High Lady’s office where the Blue Sister had met the Noblewoman on that first occasion. This first door was locked but Elessar picked the lock with a small lockpick (this was something all Warders needed to have some skill in, he said) and it opened with only a small creak. It sounded loud in Elessar’s ears though and he was relieved when it did not appear anyone in the Manor had noticed. They stepped into the next corridor closing the door behind them. When they came up to the office door, Elessar stopped again. They had been lucky so far, but would their luck hold up? Knowing the office would be locked he picked this lock in the fashion he had picked the first one though this one took a little longer to open. When they entered the dark office, they needed a few moments to get used to the blackness. A sliver of light came through the office window at the end but mostly it was dark and they had to focus as they moved toward the huge desk and the shelves that dominated the room. Aleorah had taken notice of everything in the room when she had spoken to the High Lady. And, thinking back on the visit, she had figured that any special documents would probably be safely locked in a drawer in that prominent oak desk. She headed for it now while Elessar walked up to the book shelves and tried to get an idea of its contents in the partial light from the window. At the same time he was listening to any sounds in the Manor, anything which could indicate movement. He picked up a map from the shelf and attempted to read it. It seemed to be a map of Toman Head with some crosses here and there but did not seem that important. Meanwhile Aleorah was checking some documents on the desk. So far she had found nothing but it was difficult to see. She could have used Saidar to make a small light or to illuminate the room but she did not wish to use the One Power in case there were other channelers about. Breaking in was risk enough, and one could never know what lay in wait. ● She looked at the desk drawer and tried to open it. As expected it was locked. Whispering to Elessar to come help he moved away from the shelf and up to the desk. He had to use a smaller lockpick to open this drawer but he finally succeeded. Aleorah was quite impressed though she said nothing. Opening the drawer carefully she shuffled through the papers inside holding them up to the partial light from the moon outside. Nothing of value so far. It seemed to be financial records, some merchants’ statements, and some letters that gave nothing away until she saw the final part of the bottom letter. It was of a private kind. “Elessar, look at this”. She handed him the letter and he read it quickly. It was a message from someone called Siriana and there was nothing untoward.. until the end. He read: .. but the fool woman, Evenia, she stole the money and then blamed her husband. She has no wits about her, I don’t know what’s happened to her quite frankly. She used to be quite sensible. If she does not pull herself together, she might blabber about more serious things and the Great Lord knows what trouble she might get in.. I fear for her, Evenia, perhaps you should talk to her and make her see sense. ● Aleorah could see Elessar’s smile in the near-darkness and knew it mirrored her own. This was the proof they had been looking for, or near enough. No person of the Light would ever speak of the Dark One as ‘Great Lord’. Only Darkfriends spoke of the Great Lord or Great Lord of the Dark. High Lady Evenia would not have kept a letter from a Darkfriend unless she had a similar association herself. This was incriminating evidence without a doubt. “Good”, the Warder said as he handed the letter back to her. He nodded, clearly pleased. They had been lucky to find such evidence but luck was always a part of any hunt. They spoke for a few seconds about whether to search some more or to leave quickly with what they had found. They agreed it was unlikely they wound find much else, at least in the time they had at their disposal, and that it was more important that they got out of there without being seen. Returning the same way they had come, they moved carefully down the corridor. The Manor was still silent and Elessar could almost not believe their luck. He had locked and closed the doors behind them and was half-way out of the window when he heard a sound from outside! ● For a split second he was undecided whether to creep back inside or jump out but his instincts told him to jump and so he did, landing on his side and rolling to his feet, a knife in his hand. The tall guard saw him too late and crashed to the ground as Elessar’s shoulder smashed into his head. Pulling the unconscious body up to the Manor he looked around and waited for any other sound. There was nothing. Nodding to himself, all his senses alert, he sheathed his unused knife and turned back to the window and whispered for the Blue Sister to follow. She crept carefully out the window and he held up his arms and caught her when she jumped down. She stared for a second down at the man laying there, then focused on Elessar as he led them swiftly out of the Manor grounds. They arrived back at their inn a little later, mentally weary but also elated, the night’s mission a success. Elessar smiled darkly as he went to bed that night. He loved nothing better than to spit in the eye of the Shadow. ▀▄
  20. .. Evenia: a High Lady of Twilight .. ►▼◄ Evenia of House Almiathin was a proud woman. Her House had been the most prominent in Falme for several generations and they had done whatever needed doing to stay the most dominant and powerful. They had become very proficient at playing the Game of Houses and although Falme was no Caemlyn or Cairhien the power-game was just as ruthless. To stay on top one had to neutralize or simply destroy the competition. And High Lady Evenia had become very good at both. What the other Houses in Falme and on Toman Head did not know, was that her House was the central cell of a west coast network serving the Great Lord of the Dark. That had been her House’s greatest secret for several years - a secret worth dying for. ● Several years before, the High Lady had turned to the Shadow, losing faith in the Light. It had not happened overnight but been a gradual decision as she had felt an urge to increase her power in the region. In her dreams - which had seemed so lifelike - she had wielded much political power and she had always awakened with a feeling of bliss and an urge to conquer. Some time later she had been approached by a messenger who had invited her to a meeting. Curious what this was all about she had accepted the invitation. The people at the meeting had been unknown to her but they reflected power both in their dazzling attire and in their confident attitude. They had proposed an alliance of like-minded people and had promised her increased power if she joined. Sceptical at first she had soon come around to the idea - almost without being aware how it had happened - and she had left the meeting with a feeling of bliss. A week or so later one of the men who had been at the meeting - average-looking in every way, the kind of person you overlook in a crowd - met her and whispered that she could achieve all she wanted and more if she decided to serve the Great Lord. She had begun to feel that the other Noblemen in Falme were cowards, unwilling to take necessary risks, almost sickeningly worshipping the Light, and had looked for a way out, a better way. She had no problem turning to the Shadow. It gave her the opportunities she craved for. It gave her increased power. It gave her standing in the circles of the Great Lord. But everything had to be kept secret, of course. Were it to come out that she was what Lightfools called a Darkfriend, she would be dragged through the streets of Falme by her long brown hair and into the local dungeon for a probable swift execution. To add strength and believability to the perception that hers was a Noble House which abhorred the Shadow she had cultivated a relationship with the White Tower and Aes Sedai over several years to the point that the foolish Sisters thought she was their closest ally in Falme. It had been a very clever ploy, she thought to herself, and she felt quite confident no one from Tar Valon suspected her true allegiance. ● And certainly not this Blue Sister Aleorah Sedai who she had met several times in the past few days. She had pretended deference at their first meeting and had listened silently as the Aes Sedai had informed that they suspected there were Darkfriends in Falme, a Darkfriend cell in fact. This was obviously a very delicate matter, the Blue Sister had insisted, and so she had been sent to discuss it in person. Evenia had admitted that she had heard rumours of such filth, but had no proof whatsoever. She had told the Aes Sedai that she was going to discreetly pass the word around her “network” and would get back to her in a day or two with any news. It had been necessary to ‘play along’ but she thought the Sister had had no suspicions. Evenia had always considered herself a very good judge of character and though the Aes Sedai’s smooth face had given nothing away, Evenia felt this Sister was pretty dim-witted for one of her kind. Inside she had grinned elatedly, thinking about how this naive Sister of the Blue Ajah would react if she knew that she, the High Lady, was the major player behind everything.. unsavoury going on in the region. Their last conversation had not been that unlike their first. This time Evenia had told her that she had enquired in her network but they had found nothing to substantiate such dark rumours. She would stay alert though and would inform if she heard any filthy whispers, she told the Sister in a hard voice. When they parted, the Aes Sedai looked as smooth-faced as before but there was something in her eyes which made the High Lady think she was not happy. Evenia was pleased by the fact. ● She woke screaming from the dream. Something or someone had tried to pull her into a dark well, simultaneously beating her and screaming at her to admit what secrets she had shared with the Aes Sedai. Her head had come under water suddenly, as if it had risen from the bottom of the well, and she had struggled for life. Pain had erupted in her lungs and she had almost become unconscious as her face had been dragged out of the water. Coughing and crying despite herself, she had been thrown to a stone floor and had sensed a shadow standing over her. Have you betrayed the Shadow?! A voice screamed in her head. Betrayal is death! Have you betrayed the Great Lord? More pain. Endless pain. ● She felt searing pain in her arms and legs as blood started to flow from wounds that suddenly appeared on her skin. The wounds burned and she screamed some more. The voice - she was unable to identify whether it was male or female, young or old - kept asking her if she had betrayed her eternal allegiance. She screamed that she had not, that she would never.. but the pain just continued. She sensed light in the darkness, as if whoever or whatever stood before her was retreating.. Where? How? She could not tell. It was all a confusing blur through her tears and the never-ending pain. A final burning sensation, then all breath left her. A swirl of colours took hold of her, as if she was an eternal vessel of Twilight. Her screams continued shamelessly for a long time after she awoke - and she was shocked to find blood running down her arms and legs. ▀▄
  21. .. The Watchers Over the Waves .. ►▼◄ “I just don’t know”. Elessar shook his head and shrugged. Aleorah Sedai had explained that a local agent of the Blue Ajah’s extensive Eyes and Ears network had heard rumours that the High Lady in question - Evenia of House Almiathin - had had some rather shady dealings in the past. That did not necessarily mean she was a Darkfriend, of course; many Noblemen -and women were used to playing the Game of Houses which sometimes involved shady dealings of one kind or another. But it did make them more suspicious of her. The Blue Sister had asked if he thought the High Lady was in fact a Darkfriend. “We don’t have any evidence beside some rumours.” He added. “And as we know, half the rumours that fly about are never true, perhaps more than half as well.” The Aes Sedai nodded, knowing well the truth of that. ● “She is the local Noblewoman who has been on the best terms with the White Tower as far as I know”, the Blue Sister said, a thoughtful look on her face. “That could, of course, be a deft tactical way of appearing the least likely to betray the Light.” Darkfriends were indeed often sly creatures in Elessar’s experience, but sometimes too clever for their own good. “We can have her followed”, the Warder suggested. “That will at least give us an indication of her activities.” The Aes Sedai nodded in agreement. She would talk to the local agent again. They agreed to split up the following day. Elessar would walk the streets of Falme and see if he could pick up on anything useful while Aleorah Sedai would visit a second Noble House and have a discreet talk. ● Clouds covered the sky the following morning as Elessar went through his sword forms at the back of the inn. When he was done, he went up to his room, washed himself, put on some clothes and then ate a small breakfast alone in the Common Room before heading out into the streets. There was rain in the air and the wind was picking up from the west. The city was coming to life with shops opening, stalls appearing and people walking hurriedly down the streets. They still seemed totally focused on their own tasks with hardly a moment to look around and this still puzzled the Borderlander. Walking down one of the cobblestone streets he turned a corner and almost bumped into a rough-looking fellow with shabby clothes and a scowl on his face. The man cursed, threw the Warder a dark look and then hurried on his way. Elessar stared after him as he disappeared in the distance. That man was trouble. Elessar had seen his like many times before. If there was a guild of thieves in this place, that man would probably be a member. Continuing down the street he passed a florist shop (noting that there was a blue flower in the center of an intricate flower arrangement) and several small stalls selling wares. Further down the street he passed another inn. A painted sign above the entrance said “The Watchers”. The name interested him. He knew of a poem and song about “Watchers” that was popular around these parts. He had watched it performed on his earlier visit and he would bet this inn would have gleemen singing the tale often. Perhaps he would visit the inn that evening and see if he was lucky. ● They spoke later that afternoon back at their inn. Elessar had little to inform in truth. He had not come across anything suspicious during his walks except the rough-looking man. He had bought an ale to a grizzled old man with little hair and no teeth (who had been very appreciative of the gesture) and tried to chit-chat and see if the man had heard any rumours he could tell, but the man had only repeated what the local fisherman had said before, that there were strange goings on out to sea. The Blue Sister told him that she had spoken with the High Lord of the second Noble House (who had been very honoured by her unexpected visit) but that little had come of it. Her impression was that the Nobleman was clever and tactically astute, as most Noblemen needed to be to survive long, but nothing had pointed at anything suspicious. “Of course”, she added squarely, “one never knows with people.” She met his eyes with a direct stare. “Sometimes the most innocent appearing is the least innocent when it comes down to it.” Elessar nodded, knowing the truth of that as well. ● When he later during dinner in the Common Room asked her what she thought of these apparent rumours that something was going on out in the Aryth Ocean, she replied smoothly that it was not something they needed to focus on right now. He thought the answer was a little strange since it indicated that she knew more about it than she let on. Certainly more than he did. Then again, it could be that he was reading too much into things. And their focus was on this mission. The man following the High Lady had reported nothing of use and so the Blue Sister said she was going to meet the woman for the second time the next day. Perhaps she would learn something more; Evenia of House Almiathin might let something slip. Meanwhile, she had another errand that evening and would have an early night, she said. Elessar nodded and added that he would head down to “The Watchers” inn which was closer to the docks, and perhaps he might overhear something in the crowd. Fishermen and thirsty folk sometimes revealed more than they intended, especially when drunk, and the Warder would be there in case it happened. ● Sipping his ale at “The Watchers” inn that late evening, Elessar (clad in his casual inconspicuous dark attire) watched the crowd without seeming to and listened to all the talk around. The inn was almost full, with a mixed crowd, and there was drink aplenty. A gleeman, a short dark-haired man in his late twenties wearing the cloak of his profession, had been playing the flute (decently enough but not at top level in the Warder’s opinion) but was now taking a well-earned break. From what the Warder could hear, people were echoing the thoughts that something was up out to sea, fewer fishing boats were around and more Sea Folk vessels. No one seemed to have any idea what was going on though. Some joked that the fishermen were frightened of whatever was on the bottom of the sea, some sea-monster coming to get them, while others talked of silly superstitions. There was nothing of value to learn for the Gaidin, and so he focused once again on the gleeman who was returning to perform some more. And he was in luck. The gleeman spoke a few words of the history of this place here on the west coast and ended by saying that “the Watchers are always here” which brought banging on tables and many cheers from his enthusiastic crowd. They knew he would now sing “The Watchers Over the Waves”, a favourite song in this inn. Elessar smiled cheerfully and listened as the crowd was captivated by the gleeman’s performance. ● ►▼◄ The Watchers Over the Waves To Watch and Wait, that was their Call The proudest people of them All Their duty clear, sworn on their Graves They were The Watchers Over the Waves Do Miere A’vron, the Old Tongue Learn They waited for the Armies’ Return That Hawkwing across the Ocean Sent With mankind’s hope, their chances Spent On Toman Head-coasts, watchtowers Raised And the wisdom of the First Watcher Praised They would remember, what others Forgot Bending the knee, when others would Not From dusk ‘till dawn they watched the Sea Awaiting sights of sails that Be The warriors of ships and Stones Returning to their rightful Thrones Long have they waited, their loyalty Strong Their steadfastness will be remembered in Song When Hawkwing’s armies return to the Land In triumph and glory, the Watchers will Stand ►▲◄ ▀▄
  22. .. Remembering the Atha’an Miere .. ►▼◄ Elessar stood at the harbour in Falme and stared silently at the large Sea Folk ship anchored there. It was midday and golden rays from the sun streamed down from between intermittent clouds. The Warder’s thoughts were not on the weather though. His mind was travelling back to a time some years before when he had been here in Falme with his then Aes Sedai and Bondholder Carys of the Yellow Ajah. They had been here on a mission where she was to meet the Sea Folk, the Atha’an Miere. It was a journey the Borderlander Warder remembered very well. He could recall in detail his thoughts as he had seen the Sea Folk vessel, a Raker, for the first time.. It was called Windsweeper.. ● .. it was a large vessel with multiple decks, easily a hundred paces long, with three towering masts amidships, and one shorter one on the raised stern deck. It had large triangular as well as somewhat smaller white squared sails, and a very narrow body, as was common in such ships, that made for great speed across oceans.. The ship, it turned out, was commanded from the Quarterdeck by a Sailmistress called Marah din Toral Rising Wave, a tall dark-skinned woman with grey streaked hair, a grave face and with five rings - of good quality metal - in each ear, one of them being connected to her nose by a chain, a sign of her higher rank. She had begun aboard a ship as a deckhand many years before, in the Sea Folk tradition, and had worked herself up through the ranks. She had finally fulfilled her ambition and gained the rank of Sailmistress with her own vessel - and, they learned, she felt as protective of her ship as she would of a child. Elessar’s problem was, in truth, not with the ship. Not really. It was rather with the ship’s owners. The Atha’an Miere. ● The Warder was in a foul mood. The way these Sea Folk women in authority aboard the Windsweeper appeared to be treating his Bondholder and Sedai, with arrogance and little gratitude or respect, pushing her to exhaustion more often than not, working her so hard that he could feel the strain through the Bond, was grating on his nerves. Damn them! Though he was never present during the ‘lessons’ in question, he had seen the looks they had given his Bondholder behind her back - and also, a few times, almost to her face. Patronizing looks full of smugness. Condescending stares. With the constant exhaustion coming through the Bond it was enough for the Gaidin to understand that they were inexorably wearing her out. He worried for her health and condition and had told her so emphatically in the several ‘discussions’ they had had in the two and a half weeks since boarding the Sea Folk ship in Falme. At one point, after a particularly heated ‘discussion’, he had considered confronting ‘these bloody Atha’an Miere’ as he had called them, and telling them to their face what he thought of their treatment of his Bondholder. But Carys had - eventually - calmed him down and had made him see that their cause would not benefit from any ‘confrontation’, however well grounded. She was Aes Sedai. She would cope. He need not worry. ● Even so, his mood darkened and he was far from happy with the situation. Like most Bonded Warders he was very protective of his Aes Sedai and of her honour - and the one thing he would never stand for was her being treated badly or disrespectfully by anyone, especially outside the White Tower. Cursing to himself for the third time in as many minutes, Elessar’s fists clenched and unclenched as he stood on deck, staring coldly outwards at the rolling ocean around them. He tried, moreover, to ignore the growing - and very familiar - feeling of queasiness in his stomach, as the ship mounted the rising waves of the Aryth Ocean. He already regretted the breakfast he had had that morning. Damn this accursed sea! With as much dignity as he could muster, he walked not too steadily along the deck past several Sea Folk, who gazed at him with amused looks, toward the bow of the ship where, in a slightly secluded spot by some heavy ropes on the starboard side, he unceremoniously vomited into the sea. It was becoming a daily routine. A daily nightmare. He sincerely hoped it would not take him long to get his ‘sea legs’, or he might, very soon, voluntarily throw himself into the ocean, Warder-Bond or no! ● Elessar chuckled to himself darkly as he now thought back on it. In hindsight it was funny. While it was going on it had been far from it. Thankfully, as the days had gone by and another week at sea had passed, he and Carys had gradually grown more accustomed to the rolling waves and motion of the ship and the gibes coming their way from the sea-accustomed Atha’an Miere men and women had become less frequent. The Warder now saw activity on the nearby Sea Folk Raker, they were preparing for departure, and he was quickly lost in old memories again.. ● .. Time passed in its own way on board the ship. Elessar had a daily routine and kept as normal a sleeping and training schedule as possible. He rose at dawn, walked the deck every day, found a spot out of the way of the working Sea Folk where he could practice balance and sword-forms, and spent some time reading in his cabin. As time went by it also seemed from the emotions coming though the Bond - and from Carys’ sparse words on the matter when he asked - that the Sea Folk were putting somewhat less strain on her, something which comforted her Gaidin. Even so, he still felt some of her frustrations, at times, seeping through the Bond and his view of these Sea Folk remained adverse. As the Sea Folk ship sailed further southwards, Elessar’s daily routine continued. In the late afternoons he retired to his small cabin to read. He had brought a couple of books about the Atha’an Miere from Caemlyn and had purchased a few more in the port towns they had stopped at on their journey south. Carys had only come ashore a few times since their departure from Falme - she had duties to carry out on board it seemed - but Elessar had taken every opportunity to do so. He used these port calls to ‘stretch his legs’ as it were, to gather news on events, and to listen for rumours on matters of interest. He also bought a few choice items on occasion. ● The Sea Folk had several strange and unfamiliar customs, as Carys and Elessar learned during their sea journey, not the least the fact that Atha’an Miere women at sea, away from port, wore nothing above the waist. That particular custom was certainly.. exotic.. and Elessar tried not to stare too much. They had a dark complexion and their outlandish appearance was further enlivened by their colourful clothing and tattoos on their hands as well as gold and silver jewelry. Some authors pointed out that “Sea Folk women are known as the epitome of seductiveness and grace” and Elessar did not doubt it from the impressions he had gotten. He climbed the stairs to the raised stern deck of the ship one afternoon and stood there by the railing watching for a while as the Sea Folk worked. Looking at the dark-skinned men and women moving about the ship with quick and sure steps and ever-present alertness, with grace and proficiency and obvious pride in their work, the Borderlander Warder could not help but be somewhat impressed. Shifting his attention, he sensed his Sedai through the Bond, working on a different deck at the other end of the Raker, and once again hoped they were now treating her with respect. With the Sea Folk general attitude toward Aes Sedai, that was far from a certainty. But things were getting better, or at least that was his impression, and that knowledge kept his latent anger at bay. He turned to face the sea. Standing there, with both hands on the railing, he gazed silently at the endless sapphire-blue ocean waters for a long, long time, tasting the salt sea air, feeling the growing breeze on his face, and he wondered where and when they would reach their next port of call.. ● Memories blended with the present as the Sea Folk Raker slipped its moorings and drifted slowly away from the quay. Elessar could see the dark Sea Folk shapes moving hurriedly about deck and it was almost a mirror image of what had occurred several years earlier except at the time the Warder had been standing on deck. He watched the departing ship until it was out of the harbour, heading into the Aryth Ocean, then walked back down the dock past a couple of smaller vessels. A local fisherman, a grizzled-looking bald older man, was mending his nets aboard his thirty foot long moored fishing vessel. On impulse Elessar stopped beside where the fisherman was working and asked him about how the fishing was going these days. The man shook his head and grumbled that things were going poorly. “And the seas are restless these days”, he mumbled as he continued working. The Warder thought the comment was a bit strange but fishermen were known to be superstitious folk. When Elessar repeated the word “restless?” with a questioning tone, the fisherman met his eyes squarely and said that there were more Sea Folk ships about than usual and they seemed stresses out by something. ● Elessar nodded and thanked him for the information, wondering inside what was going on. He departed the quay and headed back into the center of Falme. Aleorah Sedai should be finished with her errands by now. They were to meet up at the inn and speak some more about their options. They had still not agreed on their plans going forward and the Warder was still uncertain what was their best course of action. They had important decisions to make. ▀▄
  23. .. Discussions and Sword Forms .. ►▼◄ “So, what do you think?” Aleorah Sedai asked Elessar once they were back at the Ocean Swirl inn. They were seated in the small library at the back of the inn all by themselves. Calling it a library was perhaps an overstatement; it was a large room with several book shelves filled with books, maps and various parchments, some historic paintings on the wall and two tables with four chairs in all. It did function as a small library though for the inn’s guests and Elessar found it a good and suitable place to talk. They had closed the door to the library to speak in private and now sat opposite one another with a table between them. The Aes Sedai wore a dark blue dress that matched the colour of her eyes while the Warder wore a black outfit that neither stood out nor looked shabby. His dark cloak rested on the back of his chair. Now he met the Blue Sister’s eyes squarely and shrugged. “I have no idea”, he replied honestly, going over in his mind again what she had told him a little earlier. ● She had spoken of the talk she had had with the local High Lady. The White Tower suspected there were Darkfriends in Falme, a Darkfriend cell in fact. This was obviously a very delicate matter and so Aleorah Sedai had been sent to discuss it in person with this High Lady who was, apparently, on good terms with the White Tower. The High Lady - Evenia of House Almiathin - had admitted that she had heard rumours of such filth, as she called it, but had no proof whatsoever. She was going to discreetly pass the word around her “network”, as she called it, and would get back to them in a day or two with any news. The question was how they were to proceed next. “I have rooted out Darkfriends before”, the Warder added after a few moments. His dark eyes tightened as they always did when he thought of the Shadow. “We have come across them several times over the years.” The Aes Sedai nodded, having been told in the White Tower about his past. “In one instance, in Ebou Dar, we broke into a Manor house where we suspected - correctly as it turned out - a Darkfriend Noblewoman had incriminating evidence in her office.” “In other cases.. we set traps.” The Blue Sister nodded again. She had hunted Darkfriends too. ● “In this case”, Elessar continued questioningly, “we don’t have anything to go by so far and so it’s almost impossible to know where to look.” She noted the almost in that sentence but remained silent. “Not to be too conspirational here”, he said, his eyes tightening again, “but are we sure we can trust this High Lady?” It took a few moments before she replied. Her smile was hard. “We can trust no one.” Her words cut like a knife. Her dark blue eyes glittered dangerously. ● Early the following morning just as the sun was rising in the distant horizon Elessar stood ready in the yard behind the inn to have a training session. He wanted to go through the sword forms, something he had neglected during the last part of their journey. The yard was empty except for the stable boy who, standing by the stables, looked wide-eyed at the shirtless Warder as he unsheathed his sword. In the calmness of the Void, the Gaidin felt detached from the world around him as he moved with experience and assurance. The sword was a part of him as he leapt to strike, bent to defend, went high and then low, moving from one sword form into another, slicing through the air with his blade and moving with agility and swift footwork to get his imaginary opponent off balance. Finally he sheathed his sword in one flowing motion and stepped back. He caught his breath and waited a minute or two for his pulse to drop before regaining guard stance and repeating the exercize. Unfolding the Fan, the opening move, which flowed into Low Wind Rising, a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly, followed by The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain, a vertical slash starting high and which in this case altered course in midswing, paired with Tower of Morning, a verticle slash but this time beginning low and ending high. Sweat beaded on his brow and chest by the time he was finished, his breath coming in short gasps. It had been a good training session and he promised himself he would try and have one every morning hereafter. A Warder needed to keep the edge and that was the case however proficient one was. ● Brushing off some sweat with a towel that lay off to the side he turned to catch the young stable boy looking at him with admiration and, perhaps -though he tried to hide it-, a touch of fear. Elessar smiled kindly at him and on impulse walked up to him and placed his blade in the young boy’s hand. “Feel how heavy it is”, he whispered as he saw the boy’s eyes grow wider. He raised the sword higher, his big hands clasping the boy’s smaller ones. “Perhaps one day when you are older you will swing a blade like this”, Elessar added kindly. “Perhaps you will take up the honour of serving as a Warder of the White Tower.” The stable boy was speechless but Elessar could see the wonder and gratitude in his young eyes. This was a moment that would stay with the local boy forever. ▀▄

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