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Glass Columns to haunt her dreams (Mordre's second trip to Rhuidean)


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She knew the way, all the Aiel did. Rhuidean was a sacred place to the People and even if they were forbidden to walk within its walls, the paths that led there were burned into every Aiel's memory. Mordre was no different. She stood outside the barrier to the city, feeling it but not seeing anything to distinguish it from the air around her. Shri said that was her first hint that this path had been chosen for her, that she could feel things she couldn't see. She stepped through the barrior, feeling somehow different now that she was inside. It felt strange, like all of her senses were dimmed somehow. Confusion drove her further into the city and she stared in wonder at the structures surrounding her. These were no semi-permanent homes like those she'd grown up in. These were sturdy, constructed to be permanent. Even knowing the history of her people, seeing the truth of the Jenn Aiel surrounding her stilled the breath in her chest. 


Images blurred and she stood before the Three Rings, not breathing as she knew her life would never be the same once she walked through them. Shri had warned her of this, though without much in the way of details. Possibilities loomed before her, a glimpse into futures she wasn't sure she wanted to see. Leaving now was not an option, however, and she'd never backed away from things that terrified her. It was a quality she'd prized when she thought a Spear was her future. Would it serve her as well, now? 


She closed her eyes and stepped through the closest ring...


She opened her eyes to see the bright blue sky overhead without a cloud to mar its perfection. She heard water nearby, but couldn't turn her head to see it. "Mordre, you have to move," came a voice to her right. She tried, blessed Light, did she try. Her limbs would not comply with her wishes, though, and tears of frustration welled in her eyes. 


Faces loomed in front of her and though she didn't recognize them, at first, names whispered themselves across her lips. "Lunen," she whispered. "Ponia." Memories of training with these women filled her head and she choked at the future she'd been clinging to so tightly being presented. 


"We must leave, Mordre. You are slowing us down." Lunen was always the most logical among them. "They will be upon us, soon."


"Forgive us," Ponia whispered, her eyes full of sorrow. They both disappeared from her view and she could not call them back. The effort was overwhelming. 


Strangely gnarled faces appeared next, dribble falling from tusks and horribly stained fangs. A scream erupted from her lips as they cheered and pain exploded all over her body. The last thing she saw was one horribly contorted face nuzzling into a severed arm that must have been her own...


"WAKE UP!" Shri's hand forcefully shook Mordre and she sat up swinging, her breath panting and tears streaming down her cheeks. It had been a memory of her first trip to Rhuidean, one that she'd been unable to recall after leaving. They all crashed down around her as Shri trapped her arms, though and her body shuddered from them. "You are allowing your fear of the unknown drag you through nightmares." 


There was disapproval in her voice and Mordre tried to calm herself, even as the other potential futures wormed their way into her head. Death, toh, despair... these were all the haunting memories of her walk through those rings. Very few of them held happiness or futures she would embrace. Since the day her sister had died, she'd dedicated herself to learning everything she could to be the best Wise One since the Jenn Aiel, asking questions and soaking up whatever Shri had thrown at her. It had been years since that day and she was no longer the rebellious child she had been. One of the memories that fell upon her, bringing her the peace she'd covetted since she woke. Madoc. He'd been one of her futures, one of the few that offered her solace in a sea of potential destruction. 


"Tomorrow will come, Mordre, whether you want it to or not. These fears are nothing next to what you will learn tomorrow. If these things are so difficult to handle, I fear the truth will break you in two." Shri's voice sounded older than Mordre had ever heard it and she reached to clasp the woman on the shoulder. 


"These things I bear, Wise One, and the fear of creating those things is what keeps me here," she said softly. "It's by your hand and guidance that I have shut them away. Now that I remember them, I can accept them for what they are and choose my path more, dare I say, wisely, because of them. I do not fear tomorrow, my friend. For you have given me all I need to find the true way." She smiled and Shri smiled back. 


"It is nearly dawn," Shri responded and Mordre nodded. It was time to go.




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Mordre paused outside the barrier once more, finally understanding what she'd felt so long ago as she'd crossed it. The barrier was a muffling for channeling. It didn't make it impossible, just very difficult. It was interesting that the rings works under this barrier, at all, which made her curious about what gave them their power, if it wasn't THE Power. The light of the sun tipped the crest of the mountains in the distance and Mordre sighed. That was for another day. Today, she had a mission.


She'd been told very little about today's mission. She moved through the deserted city with it's unfinished buildings, letting her eyes touch them all as she moved towards the center of the city. Avendesora stood there, leaves moving with an unseen breeze. Nearby, a ring of glass columns stretched their fingers to the sky. These were what Shri had instructed her to find. The only other thing she'd been told was that she'd learn the truth of the Aiel inside the circle of columns. The Aiel were simple people. How was it that the truth inside those rings affected so many in so many different ways? 


She stared at the rings without walking into them for a while, letting the sun rise over her shoulder as she contemplated what dastardly truth the circle contained. She felt the power moving through them, though her own felt distant and difficult to reach. Finally, she took a deep breath and stepped into the ring. 


The world around her changed, the light changing. She looked down at her hands and blinked at the sight that met her eyes. In place of her youthful smooth skin was gnarled and wrinkled flesh. One hand was curled over the lip of a bowl of water. She looked up again and into the eyes of a dark-haired woman with deep brown eyes. Her features were sharp and her frame was slight. "Please, drink. You should keep up your strength. My husband is clearing out the extra room upstairs. When you've had your fill, please go rest. Your people have been walking for a long time, it's obvious. You need to rest. We will protect you from those who chased you here." Relief filled her body and she drank from the bowl, trying not to appear a savage as her parched throat absorbed the moisture. When the bowl was set aside, she was shown to a small room with a bed covered in soft linens. "I wish we could offer you more, but this is all we have. Now, please, rest. I will have my son come get you when dinner is ready." 


She closed her eyes, a tear slipping past her eyelids as the door closed. She took off the top layer of dirty clothes to keep the linens from being horribly soiled and stretched out on the bed, sighing in pleasure at the comfort and warmth it offered up before she fell asleep. 


Mordre's lips parted as she stepped forward, the realization of who those people were sinking in as she stumbled in her next step. She landed on her knees and gasped as the world changed again, this time to be surrounded by men with dragons on their hands and women in skirts. This time, knowledge of who she was and why she was here crept into her thoughts and her lips parted even more. She was Denera, a Wise One of the Jendai Sept. This meeting of all Sept Leaders had been called for they were agreeing to...


Mordre's head shook in denial, looking around her at the faces of smiling people. These people were here to pledge a vow to live in peace! They were giving up their swords, they were agreeing to live a life of simplicity and... Her head shaking increased vehemently as she watched them, one by one, agree to this treaty between the Septs. This can't be! The Aiel would never have gone against a treaty, their word was law! They'd given up blades, but not... no, this couldn't be right! The Treaty was specific to Swords! It wasn't meant to be...


Mordre sat down heavily and people moved around her, some offering her a hand up that she shook off. Finally, she gained her feet and moved along with the others, watching in horror as her hand signed the treaty right next to the others of her sept. She'd agreed to live peacefully, in such a way that took away the war-like nature of the Aiel. She smiled at the others, murmured words of encouragement and optimism, hopes for future generations of Aiel as she moved out of the center of that circle.


Once on the outside of the glass columns, she collapsed, herself once more. Tears fell from her eyes and she turned, staring at the columns. What trickery was this? To bend the will of the Treaty to show her something so... No, she'd lived it, it was real! But if it was real then...



All of the Aiel owed toh to their ancestors. 


They'd all gone against the will of the Treaty. They'd betrayed their ancestors by turning back to their more war-like lifestyles. Why? To protect the angreal? To protect themselves? That woman that had offered her water and shelter... she'd been Cairhienin! Oathbreakers! They were terrible! They wouldn't... but they did! Water and shade! They'd given it to the Aiel when no one else would! Was that why they'd been given a cutting from the Avendsora? Mordre rubbed her head, closing her eyes and trying to fit the pieces together. 


How could she walk back into that hut and look Shri in the eye, knowing what she knew now? How could she condone the Aiel the way they were? How...?


She needed answers! She pushed herself to her feet and ran, wanting to be as far away from that circle as possible. She ran all the way back to Shri's hut, tears streaming and refusing to meet anyone's gaze. It was nightfall and she could've been more stealthy, but she didn't care. She flew past people whose faces blurred around her. These people didn't even know the truth! 


She burst through the door, seeing Shri and a few other Wise Women sitting around her fire. "How? Why?" she stammered, closing the door behind her, lest someone else hear. "How can you live like this, knowing the truth? Why did they forsake their vows? We are the oathbreakers!!!" 


Shri sighed and rose to her feet, draping a shawl around her shoulders and easing her to the ground in front of the fire. "The truth is hard to bear, Mordre, well we know it. You came back to us, which shows the strength of your heart. You see why we work with our Septs for peace, now? You see the toh we tell no one about. We work for harmony between what was and what is. This truth rests on the shoulders of every Wise One, every Sept Chief. All of our leaders know the truth, for that is the only way to lead a people. We take their toh upon ourselves. That is the only way to live with this truth. It is a burden we ask you to share, Mordre, for you are strong enough to bear it. Will you do this? For your Sept and all of the People?"


Mordre stared at the flames, reminded of the day her sister had died. She had died believing that her way was the Aiel way. It was not. To agree would be to take all of that upon herself for every Aiel raised to believe that the spear was their way. What was her alternative? How else could she live with this? No one would believe her if she ran through the clan telling them the truth. No, the only way to move forward was to accept the toh and work towards earning the respect of her ancestors again.


She closed her eyes, her shoulders straightening. When she opened them this time, she looked directly in Shri's eyes and said simply, "I will."



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