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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

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Lillian Tremina wasn’t sexy in the same way other domani women were. It was partly her quietness, itself a scar of warfare. But it was mostly her fine-boned, stunning face, the sharp angles of her cheeks and nose and the deep green of her eyes. Her streaming, glossy hair had seemed to be a key part of her appeal. That was gone now, shorn during her captivity, but she was still beautiful. Her hair was beginning to grow in again, a fine soft felt. The lack of long hair emphasized her sculptural features.

 

In the half-light of her thickly carpeted living quarters, Lillian paused to lace up her muslin dress and pull the leather harness of her short sword into place. She forced her mind to be calm prior to starting. Not that she felt particularly calm. This was happening. She could feel it . . .

 

Her skilled hands worked with economic practice, quickly putting together the components of her skimming platform. It was tricky work. As the images appeared into her doorframe, she got a glimpse of country scenery and idyllic stone paths. Been there once on the mission where the white tower worked together with the asha'amen after their leader’s death, the aes sedai wasn’t quite sure where her destination was, but had a general sense where she’d wound up, somewhere outside of Caemlyn. A quiet spot near-ish the farm was good enough.

 

There. That’ll do.

 

She nodded and stepped off the platform towards the narrow doorway, boldly but not in a hurry. Trusting her instincts, she realized she was correct. Nobody was expecting anybody to exit from in front of this stone building near the quarry. She had got through to the farm with remarkable ease, and without a word, without haste, walked away from the building where soldiers might spot her, and carefully joined an access route busy enough for her to blend in. 

 

With her ageless face - though easy to mask with makeup or saidar - she knew she had no choice but to show herself to them - these young men. She had no ambition, she realized. No wish to be better than anyone else, or to rule over anyone, or to have more honor. But she had something urgent to seek, to live for. Her life duty. A battle was coming, the battle she was grimly determined to win. She pushed a ringed hand through her down-like hair. To hear her sisters talk, Lillian listened patiently, sometimes raised an argument to spur on more expressions of truths and logic. But now, head high, as she looked for her answer from channelers of the other half, the other sex if you will, she was silent, the calm of battle already on her.

 

Lillian Tremina

Aes Sedai of the White Ajah

 

Ooc: white sister at the farm. Open to any BT’ers for linking practice, or talk with. :smile:

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Adrim had confined Nox to quarters for three days.  Three bloody days and then he couldn't do so much as lift a fork.  He was healed!  Adrim had checked more times than he could count.  The earth shard had not left any permanent damage, there was a faint scar, but Nox was pretty sure Adrim did that on purpose.  A reminder not to be stupid.

 

His students were off doing healing duty.  Like they had been since he got hurt.  Mostly their own prerogative, not for Adrim's or his own pushing.  Healing was good and all, and Adrim insisted Nox could do it, but Nox wasn't right in the mind so why should he be qualified to heal a body.  His mind couldn't be healed.  Adrim had tried.  Probably also why Adrim pushed for his health, there was already a myriad of things wrongs with him.

 

Nox was bored.  So he did the only things he could do - read and walk.  He couldn't even practice with saidin or the staff.  No, Adrim had everyone making sure he didn't hurt himself.  Even his students got on to him.  Oh you can't make Adrim mad.  And he supposed they knew Adrim as well as he did now. 

 

A near bald woman passed in front of him as Nox sat on a stump with a book in his head.  Women were uncommon.  Men had their wives but rarely their daughters.  But this was no ordinary woman.  The ageless mask was present and Nox shuddered at the reminder of the last Aes Sedai who had tried to help - she'd been red.  

 

Curiosity struck again.  "Blood and bloody ashes." Nox muttered to himself as he caught up to her and walked in stride with her.  It wasn't hard.  His long legs could match nearly anyone's pace with ease.  He grinned at her.  "How may we help you, Aes Sedai?"  Nox wondered if this one would be just like the others so shy he couldn't say a thing without offending them.  Probably was.  Aes Sedai were hardly women, he thought - more like eunuchs.

 

[[ I couldn't help myself. ]]

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“Thank you. How did you manage? With your book?” said Lillian in admiration as she found herself moving level with the man whose voice was richly flavored with personality. He was young, stick-thin but hard, with cropped chestnut hair and his long limbs . . . almost too slender, light like twigs. The black uniform fitted him well. He was good looking. Lillian watched him as he walked with her up the path, moving silently with a fighter's practiced stealth. His bright eyes and scar down his cheek spoke of a rough life, in childhood perhaps. She found he was looking back at her with an easy grin.

 

Nodding while she listened, Lillian smiled as a memory occurred to her. Now she began to remember. She remembered those fun young men who linked with her. Lively, playful, even impetuous. The black tower boys she worked with were a good lot, and such grins typified the good humor with which they and the aes sedai cooperated not so long ago. She remembered the men who winked - very saucy! - at her, an aes sedai who controlled the link. 

 

Even then, she had planned - planted the groundwork for times like today when she would visit the farm and, perhaps then, they could share a meal, have a conversation together. That would naturally open up ideas and information about one another. Lillian never liked the mystification of the aes sedai reputation. She didn't feel manipulation and the withdrawal of information was the correct approach to their allies and the outside world. It made her feel uneasy, unclean to rely on people’s awe or fear of aes sedai and their . . . reputations. The reaction of those who didn’t understand, those who feared and distrusted them, became a gulf of distance she hoped to cover in her small way: one smile, one word, an act of kindness, actively engaging people and communities. The fact that the white tower encouraged and trained woman in isolation, to act with proper ‘aes sedai’ decorum, almost not human, made the contrasted, friendly behavior of the Black tower men wholeheartedly agreeable. Like a breath of fresh air.

 

But she didn’t care about history. She wanted to focus on the future. A future in which she, and they, were alive and smiling. But here she was, sidestepping the man’s direct line of questioning, not deliberately, not in the effortless aes sedai way . . . but, how to word it best? It was a moment before she found the right words to reply.

 

“I’m Lillian. I’ve come today because I wanted to ask you boys a few questions. I’m doing a piece of research, on the black tower itself. One part of that is to get the opinions of different male channelers about the many aspects of their lives on the farm. For example, who are you and what are your hardships? Of course, this is confidential and no names would be named.”

 

“Speaking of names, what is yours? Will you talk with me?” she wanted to add more but didn’t want to weigh down the young man - though approachable in his friendliness - with words without his given consent first. There was a lot of work to be done: collect the information, process it, revise her carefully jotted notes . . . but first she would need his participation. If not this person, then she’d wait. Wait for someone curious enough to answer her questions.

 

Lillian Tremina

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                The morning was a pleasant one. Merdyn had just left the Soup Kitchen after serving (almost) the entire camp. It was pancakes this morning and who didn’t love a good pancake? The only complaint anyone had was that there weren’t more pancakes! Merdyn would’ve happily made more, but then he wouldn’t have had a break before starting on the lunch rush and that would mean a grumpy Merdyn for the rest of the camp. He was here to train as a weapon, but that only made his personal time that much more vital.

 

                Today, Merdyn was planning on altering some of his older doublets and coats for Ful. Sewing was an odd skill for a noble to have, but Merdyn was an odd noble. He wasn't very good at sewing by hand, but he had discovered that with the use of a thin flow of air and a little patience he could make the One Power do the work for him and the results were much finer.

 

                Ful had asked Merdyn to teach him how to pose as a noble. Ful would never pass himself off as one if he didn’t at least look the part and Merdyn had some clothing to get rid of…

 

                Maybe I shouldn’t have brought enough clothing to fill fifteen wardrobes, Light knows I am never allowed to wear any of it. I thought the Black Tower would be like the White Tower! I always hear about those Aes Sedai and the lovely dresses they always wear. Why not Asha’men? It would make us better weapons, I think! Everyone is scared of the imposing man in the long black coat, but no one bats an eyelash at a dandy in a frock coat! I’ll have to speak to the Ma- Wait a sec… Is that Nox!?

 

                All thought left Merdyn’s brain as he broke into a sprint, charging at Nox. Were he not worried about his Teacher’s health, Merd might have very well tackled Nox with a crushing hug. He wouldn’t even risk a light pat on the back, although to be honest, Merdyn wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to get away with any of that.

 

                No. No touching your Teacher.

 

                If Nox was out and about, that meant Adrim had said he was recovered. Merdyn felt responsible for putting Nox in that situation, contrary to whatever Adrim had told him. The guilt was still there and it probably would be for a little while longer. That was all right with Merdyn.

 

                Merdyn slowed suddenly as he came up to Nox and an unfamiliar female. She didn’t look the sort to be around the Town or the Farm, he only glanced at her. A huge smile, teeth and all, had appeared on his face as he looked at Nox. He didn’t even noticed that he interrupted their conversation, “Oh Nox! It is you! You look fantastic! I assume Adrim has proclaimed you healed, then?” He said that last bit with a chuckle, “You have no idea how happy I-,” that’s when it dawned on him, “Oh my, I am so dimwitted sometimes! Where are my manners? I did not mean to interrupt you two… I seem to have a habit of doing that…”

 

                Dropping to one knee, Merdyn brought a fist to his chest and the other to the ground, giving the woman his typical Andoran bow. With grace, Merdyn rose to his feet with a smile, “My name is Merdyn Gilyard, Dedicated of the Black Tower. Might I ask the fair lady’s name in return?” His eyes rose to her face and his breath caught.

 

                Agelessness…

 

                His eyes goggled and his tongue tied. He had never met an Aes Sedai before. Oh, he had seen the Queen’s Advisor at a few social gatherings, but Father never let him near the woman… It wasn’t that Father hated Aes Sedai, he didn’t really hate many people, he just knew their reputation and did not want them meddling in his ‘designs.’ Since Father wanted to stay away from the Sisters, that had cause Merdyn to crave a meeting with one, if only to talk. He had heard so much of the White Tower, he often wondered how much of it was true; especially now that he was a member of the Black Tower.

 

                Looks like I’ll be missing the lunch rush.

Edited by Oddpositions

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Lillian walked alongside the asha'aman on the bustling road. Through the press of people, she could see a figure running straight toward them. A blonde man, tall and well built, wearing the dark black uniform and gleaming pin of a dedicated. He had come to a halt in front of them and spoke with the honeyed lilt of court andoran tongue. 

 

Interesting. That had not been the sort of answer that Lillian had been expecting by any stretch. The answers came so organically. She heard a lot about Nox from an unexpected third party: this dignified and handsome man (was there something in the air here?) was laser focused on Nox. And the apparent well-being of Nox, who seemed like he could do with some square meals. She shook her head, amused she was being ignored. 

 

As she listened and watched in silence, Lillian contemplated where next to go with her line of questioning. She had so, so many questions for the both of them. She looked at them, her eyes moving from one man to the other. 

 

Then Lillian looked up and saw the look in Merdyn’s eyes just as he rose from his salute. She began to laugh so hard that she had to steady her feet into the ruts on the road to prevent herself falling over. 

 

“Sorry, sorry . . .” she sighed at length. “It’s alright. I should have expected your reaction. All this. All this, and your face is so funny."

 

Lillian stepped forward and touched Merdyn on the shoulder briefly. “You know what? Thank you. Thank you for that courteous greeting, and the compliment. I am Lillian Tremina,” she said softly as she backtracked to his earlier question “Hello, Merdyn of house Gilyard. Let’s have a conversation. What makes you forsake a noble life for that of servitude at the black tower? How long have you been here? What do you do for fun?” she didn’t want to possibly lead his answers with her words, but she really wanted to understand these two. Hmmmm. 

 

She turned back and said to Nox, with a smile “So what’s your relationship with Merdyn? He cares about you."

 

Lillian Tremina

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Nox grinned at the mention of his book and shrugged.  "It's going.  I have to go ask Adrim a few questions about it, but it's interesting enough."  He probably shouldn't have said the latter, she'd probably want to help and Nox didn't exactly want to tell her his questions - mostly because they were words Nox didn't know.  And he didn't want to look like an uneducated man.  Though he'd grown up a whore, he wasn't one now.

 

This Aes Sedai, Lillian, she didn't even address herself as Sedai which made Nox smile.  She was probably more down to earth, but by the Light she had a lot of questions.  Nox didn't get a chance to say he'd answer whatever she asked before Merdyn was stopping in front of him with his ramblings which brought up the topic of his injury and Adrim's permission - which Nox did not have.  He was supposed to be in his bed relaxing.  Adrim had explicitly told him to stay in bed for one more day.  Nox was tired of staying in bed waiting on Adrim to try to play nurse.  He was horrible at it and Adrim would never do more anyway, so Nox wasn't sure why he bothered.  Their relationship was just fine.  Though Nox did wonder... about a lot. 

 

Lillian's question directed at Nox about Merdyn caught Nox a little off guard.  "There is no relationship."  The sharp tone of his voice made Nox stop and look at his student.  There was nothing. Not now... Nox shook his head and let his smile return.  Though he could feel the anxiety and paranoia starting to bubble up underneath like a leaky cauldron.  "What I mean to say is, he's my student and he feels responsible for an injury I did to myself."  Nox looked at Merdyn with a grin.  "It was my fault that I got hurt, you did as you were told."

 

Nox turned his attention to the Aes Sedai with a grin.  "We would love to help you out."  He would make his student endure the questions too.  "Unless you have more pressing duties?", he asked Merdyn. 

Edited by Matalina

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Lillian studied Nox’s face; her gaze latched on him as an almost palpable thing, like a faint tickling under the skin, inside the other’s brain. He had spoken to her, not with careful precision, but with great emotion. She listened without impatience, without interrupting his sentences, without letting her gaze waver from his face. She could listen, so he could speak. 

 

As she listened, she realized she might have made a mistake starting off with relationships. Taking note of the slip - for a moment the grin fell from his face - on Nox’s part, Lillian knew not to make any comment on it. She had come seeking answers because she was curious, but it was not her place to push at another’s pain. Most definitely the conversation needed to shift away from on being too personal. Do these male channelers also discourage having relationships i.e. close ties with their partners and families? Novices and accepted often made pillow friends during their extended years of isolation from the world; however, very few romantic liaises last when they re-entered the world as aes sedai. Lillian made a note to circle back to this point.

 

What interested her most was his thought process - it surprised her. His gentle kindness and empathy toward his student. She wondered if he was still trying to redefine himself in relation to other people. She could see that he was very strong willed, the kind of man who didn’t easily fall apart under pressure in front of others. This person would adapt and thrive, no matter what patterns the Wheel threw at him.

 

She was herself again — thinking. Lillian wasn’t a person who'd shoot back answers without thinking. She was better able to learn from the other’s responses this way. She wanted to draw him out, to help put him at ease, and help him to know he’d be taken seriously . . . 

 

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “you’re definitely worth talking to. And not just to get material for the essays I’ll be writing. I can see that events move down a certain path, there might be a time when we’d need your knowledge.” And your compassion for others, she added this to herself. None of the aes sedai she talked with had ever possessed the full power or wisdom they pretended to, even as some of her sisters considered the black tower channelers to be half trained children needing to be led by apron strings. She knew women who were opinionated, headstrong, bossy, quick to draw conclusions. But she listened to their personal stories, their opposing world views, changed her thinking when their truths made sense to her mind. It made her happy to have the chance to interview both men.

 

“What does it mean to be ‘asha’aman’?” she tried to be more specific, “What to you is the ideal embodiment of ‘asha’aman’ ? The traits and purpose for ‘asha’aman'? Why not name yourselves 'aes sedai' as did the male channelers of old? And can you explain the differences between 'aes sedai' and ‘asha'aman’?” 

 

She recognized that there was a lot to unpack here. And there was a lot she wanted to learn. She did glean much of that kind of information about their structure and the interesting partnerships developed within the farm from tower records, of course— she couldn’t have been a scholar for all these years without learning how to extrapolate much from scant bits of eyes-and-ears reports. All these years she had the privilege of thinking about issues most busy people almost never thought about. 

 

These two first-hand sources were the best to draw information from. It took willpower, a measure of restraint, not to pepper them with questions; she didn’t want to overwhelm. The time was approaching for the men to think, to converse, and for her to listen. This was going to take some time -- she grinned happily.

 

Ooc: Thanks to his denying any relationship, Nox just attracted the interest of a very persistent person. Also, I hope Merdyn didn’t have any pressing issues haha. Hoping one of you can walk us to a more quiet area where we can sit and maybe drink tea or kaf. This cultural exchange is gonna take some time AKA dry out some throats. Feel free to ask Lillian questions too if the conversation turns that way, thanks! :laugh:

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Ooc: bahaha. I'm off work in 90 minutes, I'll hop on and post then. Merd has a couple free hours before lunch prep, but he would miss it to talk to an AS. I'll have him walk them over to a sitting area. 

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                Merdyn brightened when the Aes Sedai, Lillian, touched his shoulder. This woman was nothing like the Aes Sedai he had heard of. All the rumors and stories would have one believing that the Sisters were coldhearted and made of stone. Not this one. She was all mirth and joy. He stiffened a little at the mention of his House, but he quickly remembered giving his Surname.

 

                I don’t know why I am surprised. Of course, an Aes Sedai would recognize the name of one of the Great Houses of Andor.

 

                Lillian launched immediately into questions and Merdyn didn’t even bat an eyelash. His life was an open book and he would be happy to answer any questions for this lovely woman… Well… Almost any question…

 

                “I feel like I’ve been here a few years already, Lillian Sedai, but I know it hasn’t been that long… Probably close to a year now. I stick to the Black Tower mostly, so it’s easy for time to slip by without realizing it. I’ve only recently been promoted to the rank of Dedicated, so I am hoping the reins will be loosened slightly… I’d love to see Camelyn again. Perhaps I can go on a supply run in the coming days,” He mused aloud, “As for how I ended up here… It is not a story I tell freely, however, I am more than willing to recount it for you, although not here…”

 

                Nox and Ful hadn’t even heard Merdyn’s story, oh they had probably heard some rumors. Everyone around camp knew he was a noble at the very least. There was too much pain with that story… But if Nox could endure what he had a few days ago… Well, the very least Merd could do was face his own pain.

 

                Merdyn’s eyes flashed to Nox, an eyebrow cocked at the Asha'man, at the quickness in which he denied any relationship. There wasn’t one beyond their professional relationship, to be sure, but Merdyn had at least liked to think that they shared something… Maybe not friendship exactly, nothing in the way Nox treated Merdyn suggested that. Still. They may not be friends but they weren't exactly strangers either.

 

                It stung a little that he was so quick to deny anything between the two of them. It's not as if Merdyn was a horrible monster. He refused to let his disappointment show, he was far too proud for that. Instead, he returned the smirk, however faked, that Nox was now issuing and nodded at his words, murmuring, “Of course, of course… Still, I can’t help the way I feel about the incident, Nox,” he continued on in a louder voice, “The lunch rush starts in a few hours, but I’ve trained the volunteers well enough that I won’t be missed. I’ve been there every day since being given that chore, I don’t think one meal will bring the Soup Kitchen to ruins.”

 

                You never do know though… With my luck, Veric will burn the whole Farm down...

 

                Lillian Sedai started asking more questions and Merdyn knew they would have to talk and walk if they were ever to leave the spot. He gestured with a nod to the left, signifying that the pair should follow him, “Actually, now that I think on it, we might as well head towards the Soup Kitchen. I can have one of the men serve tea or something else if you prefer. Also, that way if there are any emergencies at the Kitchen, I can see to them instantly.”

 

                The way to the Soup Kitchen was a short distance from where they initially stood. It was only a few buildings down the dirt thoroughfare. Many villagers and other Black Tower boys meandered about the Farm, although most gave the trio a wide breadth once they spotted Lillian’s ageless face and Nox; everyone here knew Nox.

 

                “I think that Nox would be better qualified to answer those questions, seeing as I am still only Dedicated. I’ll gladly tell you what I think, but I’d rather my teacher answer before me,” He smiled over his shoulder at Nox, “I am sure I will learn a thing or two just by hearing his thoughts on the subject… I will say this much: I would love to be called Aes Sedai, no respect to the Asha'man name, of course. I feel that the two Towers should be united one day if we are ever to regain the glory of the Age of Legends… I am not sure many of your Sisters would feel the same way about either of those things… At least from what I’ve heard.” 

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Merdyn led the way, all the while talking through the things he had learned, trying to decide what they might mean, what might happen. Lillian, still looking at Merdyn, saw that he seemed worried about the soup kitchen. As if he didn’t like the idea of leaving the volunteers he trained to handle the lunch rush alone. It didn’t seem as much a chore for him as passion, she thought.

 

She nodded in acquiescence, saying nothing as she walked down on the well-beaten path toward the soup kitchen. That was Lillian’s way. Except when she was questioning, or teaching, she said little. Merdyn was a good boy. She liked the fact that he could admit caring what Nox thought about him, and about the asha’aman. And what did it matter if his feelings toward the asha’aman name had self-pity? She had a few thoughts like that herself in the past.

 

Merdyn’s reply had a few points of consideration she’d like for him to explore further. What did Merdyn think of aes sedai? Did he admire them over the asha’amen, to want to carry the title of aes sedai? Was his ideal then, the aes sedai of the age of legends - all those aes sedai who perished during the breaking? They were a different people, from a different time. The aes sedai living in the age of legends served all in a humble manner that was worthy of admiration, but this only happened during a more peaceful time.

 

Lillian understood; though she and her sisters claimed the title of aes sedai, when compared with the aes sedai of a lost age, the aes sedai of the white tower possess but a part of their predecessors’ strength, knowledge and humility. As the threatening shadows from the north drew ever close, sisters of the white tower - though lacking the wisdom of their ancestors - desperately worked on survival. Only some people knew how precarious their world’s survival really was. Fewer still understood how much was at stake; how much was riding on the work aes sedai were doing; how close their contest was with the shadows; how devastating the consequences would be if aes sedai ever fell behind. 

 

Just as well. If majority of people did understand the reality they faced, there would be many who would say, "if it’s inevitable that someday the shadow would overwhelm us, then let’s just join the dark one. If that kills many people, then sorry, but if it’s us or them, we choose us.” 

 

Perhaps, it would be better for this world to trust only strong-willed and opinionated amyrlins - there wasn’t anyone of them who didn’t seem to trust her own judgement above anyone else's - who decided what was in the best interests of humanity, or their futures. It cut Lillian to the heart the need for such secrecy that she couldn’t speak to common people about hall decisions that would affect them as much as it would affect the world at large. And yet her sisters were right. To bring the urgency of their long battle out into the open now, before they even knew what was possible, would lead to confusion and bloodshed.

 

It was fine for Lillian to take the long view, the philosophical perspective, but knew that intellectual understanding did not aways bring about visceral belief. Aes sedai opinion wouldn’t matter to the normal people of this world once they knew all the dangers, realized the consequences of every failure or mistake. Their own lives were at stake here, and the lives of their families. And who would watch their destruction as it approached, day by day, knowing their future was in the hands of other people? 

 

I have too many secrets, thought Lillian. For all the years I’ve been an aes sedai of the white ajah, uncovering secrets and helping people to live in the light of the truth.

 

Aes sedai told no lies. But now, she no longer told anyone half of what she knew. Because if she told people the whole truth, there would be fear. Hatred. Chaos. All she could do now, all she had ever done since her first day as a novice, was listen and talk. And after all the talking, perhaps they would be closer to solving the problems that darkened their future. Because she firmly believed that the solution to their world’s problems - some of them set in motion by aes sedai themselves - depended on the knowledge and action of other people. How did their black tower allies see themselves in this fight? 

 

Lillian could follow many trains of thought at once, but her thoughts were prioritized, with many different levels of attention. She relegated her self-investigation to a low order of attention, and turned her close attention to what laid before her. 

 

They came in sight of their destination, a soup kitchen made of dirty, black stones, as if soot had been baked on and then varnished. It was part of a ramshackle collection of similar stone buildings set on a low hill amid the tall, invader grasses, in an area studded with trees. Southwest- a little distance beyond the soup kitchen, a thicker belt of lush woodland began. Lillian looked around, taking in the stone buildings, and the surrounding vista of the countryside. She spotted penned livestock on the dirt ground amongst farm tools. The functioning structure of an air mill, its cloth-hung vanes moving like wings, appeared less broken down than the animal courtyards and outhouses missing their roofs. Lillian remembered seeing a few ruined mills before. That had seemed an awful long time ago.

 

This rustic place proved an interesting contrast to her home, the cosmopolitan island city called Tar Valon. Lillian considered, for a moment, the growing number of people abandoning the countryside for the cities in all nations. This was . . . nice. Nice to see the expansion of population and renewed economy here, as new recruits, new settlers take the place of the ones who left for the city, and the restoration of these abandoned farms. 

 

They walked over to a door, narrow and painted black. She pushed open the door; it was noiseless, but it cast a shaft of light across the room. Lillian stepped into the soup kitchen and sat on a bench besides a communal table. She eyed the mismatched pots and drinking cups and other receptacles, laid out in a curious pattern on the wooden tabletop: a chipped cup for drinking; a plate still half-full with a stack of fluffy pancake; and a bowl of vegetable soup beside it, but no spoon. 

 

She sighed. It hadn’t been that long since she lived in this world away from the tower, and people had been suffering then. 

 

Would a thought, or word, or act from her help? Lillian had no way of knowing. She tried to think, to learn, to act. Perhaps it would fall somewhere between her best hopes and worst fears.

 

Here and there people got up and left, closing the door softly behind them. But Lillian looked around, and noticed people watching the three of them. 

 

She glanced at Nox with a smile. His turn to talk.

Edited by Lih-Lyh

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Years and years of reading people taught Nox to see things no one else saw.  It was part of his job to make sure his Johns and Janes were kept happy.  To know when they didn't like something or didn't want to do something.  Nox saw the flash of disappointment and hurt cross Merdyn's face with the denial of any relationship, and it stung all that much more.  He didn't understand and Nox wasn't about to tell him anything in front of this woman - aes sedai or not.  He might be willing to share his history, but Merdyn didn't need to be part of the rumors that would undoubtedly fly through the farm if anyone had heard their conversation.  

 

Merdyn took them to his pet project and the Aes Sedai went inside, before the other man could step through the door he caught his arm.  Once his student, he kept reminding himself of that, turned to look Nox let him go like he had just touched fire.  Nox spoke in hushed tones, anyone could be listening with the Power nearby and he didn't need to start more rumors.  "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings back there.  But you don't need the rumors if someone mistook that conversation.  My reputation, my background, where I came from almost always brings trouble.  Many here think, once a whore always a whore, you don't want your peers thinking your slept your way through your pins do you?  No relationship - friendship, whatever is possible until you get that second pin."  Nox grinned hoping to take the sting from it the last few words.  "Afterwards, and this goes for Ful too, afterward, things can be different."  

 

Nox glanced back inside the soup kitchen and Merdyn's pet project.  "We shouldn't keep her waiting."  Nox gave the other man a bright smile.  Nothing had changed for Nox, not really, he just didn't get paid for sex anymore, and he didn't do it because he had to.  It was his choice, and Nox hadn't chosen anyone since he'd come here.  There were possibilities - always but nothing ever happened.  It was a little disappointing, but they had an Aes Sedai to tend to and Nox sat down across from her and smiled.  "Sorry we delayed."  He knew there was a question he was supposed to answer.  He didn't know really where to start.  

 

Nox really didn't know what it meant to be an Asha'man.  Or what the ideal was.  He was again after all only a whore.  This was something to ask someone who actually created the place.  Someone like Adrim, or Shekid, or the M'hael.  Not him.  And he was pretty certain she didn't want to know his opinion on the difference between Aes Sedai and Asha'man.  Nox sighed.  "You ask a lot of big questions.  Philosophical even.  You have to be a white.  I can't answer the why's and the ideals.  I can tell you what being an Asha'man means to me.  It means I'm something more than what I started out as.  I can help people who are like me.  People who didn't start out great, didn't have a chance.  I can protect them from the evils of the world by becoming a weapon the Dragon can wield.  That's the difference between an Aes Sedai and an Asha'man.  We are weapons.  We can do good, but even healing is a weapon against evil.  Where there are hurt souls, we can save them.  Where there is a war , we will fight."

Edited by Matalina

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Lillian eagerly considered Nox’s response as she sipped delicious tea from a cup placed in front of her. He had the courage to admit that there was an immediate barrier between them, even though he pretended that the barrier was her love of philosophy. 

 

She sensed his impatience, his discomfort with ‘philosophy’ or ‘ideals’. Within minutes she could see how it’d be easy for Nox, if this whole intellectual thing made him uncomfortable, to get away. So much to do this afternoon. See you later. Then perhaps plot how to avoid her as much as possible in the future. 

 

No, no, she didn’t want their conversation to end like so. 

 

Of course, she could see why it was hard for Nox to think of himself as well educated. But then, she didn’t know him at all. She spent her life guessing at what went on inside everybody, and when she happened to get lucky by guessing right she thought she’d understand. She hadn't even been around the two of them long enough to know what passed as natural between Nox and his student.

 

But, he was knowledgeable. Nox seriously considered the things that mattered. She believed in hearing what people meant, not what they said. And, despite his protest of ignorance, Nox just told them his ideals.

 

Being close to people. Leading by example. Doing good. The method of doing good might be different, but regardless of an individual sisters’  approach as to how, people saw the good that aes sedai of all ajahs enacted. Blues sheltered the homeless, fed the poor. Greens fought side by side with the people holding the borders, providing battle know-how. Yellows healed. Yes, there were many ways to earn trust. In the meantime, Lillian spent her time learning from people. Of their estimation of aes sedai plans, and how much they could be trusted.

 

So, Nox made something better of himself, his situation, all this to help people, to protect people from the evils of the world.

 

And all the better that he’d be the one burdened with the cares of the world, because pain and loss touched other people the way it had touched him.

 

The differences that really mattered weren’t the big things, she concluded. It was the small stuff. For now, channelers from every walk of life had a right to know what was going on, and then decide together what, if anything, to do. In the meantime she’ll watch carefully, and prepare for a time that might come, even though she hope it wouldn’t. 

 

Perhaps, then, we can find a way to fight and hope to win . . .

 

She was disappointed not being able to discuss all this with a certain storm leader with whom she used to be close. They’d shared such open, productive talks. When they met again, Lillian had thought all was well, and she was merely glad to see him at last. But soon she understood that something was deeply wrong. He had changed after that battle in Kandor; had become withdrawn. She’d wondered at first if it was some kind of leftover taint, but it wasn’t that. He had just changed. She wasn’t someone he could talk to anymore, not about the things that mattered to him anyway. He had seen things she hadn’t. What happened to him? she wondered, not for the first time. She’d like to thank him in her own way, some day. Their talks had lifted a great burden from her heart, even if only for some short time. But now he changed. Why add to his worries by telling him her own?

 

She looked at Nox and Merdyn, shaking her head as she asked.

 

“So, the difference between the two towers is that you fight for the dragon? It could be said that the dragon is himself a weapon, a tool to fight against darkness, just as the amyrlin is watcher of the seals. That’s how you fight, supporting the dragon the best you know how, kind of like how we support our amyrlin. To that end, some may go so far to say in this current age aes sedai and asha’amen share the same goal. What's the reason you fight? Because it is necessary? Also, I ask you this again, what - to you - constitutes an ideal asha’aman? What traits should he embody?” 

 

Now it was the dedicated Merdyn’s turn to reveal things she hadn’t thought about. For a moment Lillian looked thoughtful as she listened to his life's story; then she grinned. 

 

“You're the first person I've met here who's highborn. Why do you have to sacrifice your obligations as a noble, cut all ties to your family, in order to fight as an asha’aman?"

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                With a start, Merdyn’s eyes shot down to where Nox had touched him briefly. He had not been expecting that. He listened attentively to his Teacher and nodded when appropriate. The sting did go away a little, but not completely. He did not know Nox’s story in its entirety, just that the man had worked in Pleasure Houses before coming to the Farm. That didn’t bother Merdyn in the slightest, he had visited those businesses many times in the past, although judging by Nox’s words, it would be wise if Merdyn didn’t mention that fact.

 

                It was hard finding physical release for a man that preferred the company of other men. That was the main reason Merdyn had frequented those places from time to time. Sure, some on the Farm had been lonely enough to indulge their curiosity, but it only ever happened once and always with the other man so drunk he barely remembered that anything had happened. Those nights were never fulfilling and usually lead to awkwardness on the other man’s part once he realized what had transpired. Merdyn had made that mistake his first week at the Farm, it hadn’t happened again… Well, not many more times after that… Surely not in the past few months.

 

                “Nox, I just want you to know that Ful and yourself are the only two people here that seem to give a damn about me. I don’t fit in well with the other men, they all sidestep me because they know I am of highbirth. They assume I think I am better than them without even getting to know me. I’ve tried to no avail. I no longer give a bloody fig for what they think. I respect you, however, so if you say that’s how it is to be, then I will accept it… But once I get that second pin, I will start calling you my friend. At the very least,” He whispered back before being lead into the room.

 

                The other two went back and forth a little at the table before Lillian Sedai turned her attention on Merdyn. She went right to the question he had been dreading. He had decided upon meeting her that he would share his story. It had been a year since he had told it to anyone. It might even spur Nox to share his own story with Merdyn, probably well after Lillian departed the Black Tower.

 

                Embracing the Source, Merdyn wove a dome around their little gathering. It would prevent eavesdroppers, anyone in the room would just see their mouths moving but nothing else. For all he knew, Lillian Sedai had already woven one, but he couldn’t be sure. He was not ready to share this with the rest of the camp.

 

                “I must apologize in advance if at any point I start to cry. This is not an easy tale for me to tell, but I have held on to it for too long. Bottled it up, you could say. I am beginning to think that is not healthy, however…” Merdyn took a deep breath and began, “I am Merdyn Gilyard, first son to Lord Gilyard, one of Andor’s 19 Great Houses. Since the day of my birth, I have been an ever-present disappointment to my Father. You see, he has great ambition. He had designs to become the first king of Andor, but the plans never got off the ground. Then I came along. Father wanted a girl, but he got a dandy boy instead. No matter. If his daughter couldn’t be Queen, then his son could very well marry the Queen.”

 

                Taking a sip of some tea, Merdyn collected his thoughts and went on, “For the first 15 years of my life, Father groomed me for the Courts. He paraded me around at countless parties on different estates, hired the best tutors his money could buy, and even positioned himself to manage a few of the Queen’s other estates in an effort to get our feet in the door. It seemed like it was working for a while. I was quite shocked, once I had fully understood my father’s plans. It was around that time that I had started to grow into manhood… And I also grew curious.”

 

                “Around the age of 14 or 15, I kissed my first boy. It was innocent, to be sure, but it was enough to let me know that I was no fit for the Queen. Everyone deserves love in their life, and even at that young age, I knew it would not be fair to her if I succeeded in Father’s plans. I could never love her or give her what she must need. It would never do. Oh, I continued on with lessons and courtly life, but every day grew harder. I love my Father, I would never want to lie to him or do anything that might upset him. I chose to carry on the masquerade for his sake, no matter how much it pained me inside to be living a lie…” Merdyn was quiet for a moment, the pair watching him intently. He sucked breath in between clenched teeth.

 

                Keep going, Merd… You’re almost there…

 

                “Shortly before my 16thnameday, I met a boy named Kyllian Na’chiso. He was the same age as I. His father was a farmer on one of our estates and Kyllian was working and learning under him. The plan was that he would take over for his father once the man grew too old to work the fields… We met in the Markets… in Camelyn… When I first saw Kyllian…” tears welled up in Merdyn’s eyes, but he went on without even the hint of a quiver to his voice, “I knew. I knew he was the one for me. The Creator had made that man specifically for me. Everything about him was perfect. His eyes, that smile, those arms… Everything. I don’t know what came over me that day, but I marched directly up to him and told him exactly what I thought.”

 

                “Do you know he actually laughed at me? Right to my face. No one had ever don’t that to me, much less a commoner; but I also realized at that moment that I did not care. I think I fell in love as soon as I saw him. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it sure felt like it to me. We hit it off right away. Kyllian was the funniest man I had ever met. He never took anything too seriously and was always there to help if you needed it. He would give you his house if he thought you needed it more than him… He never… Sorry.”

 

                Merdyn blinked back the tears that were forming, hoping that neither of the pair had noticed. He cleared his throat and lowered his eyes to the cup in front of him. “One thing led to another and we became lovers. It wasn’t hard to meet up with each other, although it had to be kept secret. Still, it was easy since he was living on Father’s lands. I would tell Father that I was off to spend time with other Nobles, but in reality, Kyllian and I were carrying on, stealing kisses in the barn when we thought nobody was watching… This went on for three blessed years until I slipped up.”

 

                “I began contradicting myself when speaking about plans with Father and he inevitably grew suspicious… The summer of my 18thnameday Kyllian and I had arranged to meet in the shed not far from his own father’s house. What I didn’t know was that Father had sent some of his men to follow me and report back to him…”

 

                A tear was finally able to escape Merdyn’s eyes, falling quickly and splashing on the tabletop. His voice didn’t change, and he pretended not to notice, “I will not tell you exactly what he and I were in the middle of. Suffice to say, if my Father’s men had arrived sooner…”

 

                Another tear, “They burst in on us and immediately ripped us apart. I was dragged back to Father, kicking and screaming. He had one of his men beat me within an inch of my life that night. I was confined to my chambers for two weeks after that to recover from cracked ribs and various other wounds. Not to mention he said that I was to ‘reflect upon my transgressions…’”

 

                His lip quivered, “When I was well enough, I snuck out of my room and went in search of Kyllian… I found that where his Father’s house had been now sat a blackened ruin of timbers and rubble. Father had Kyllian and his family murdered the night he caught us.”

 

                Tears were now streaming down his face like a torrent, voice quivering almost as hard as his lip was, “I went b-back to Father and d-d-demanded an explanation. He di-didn’t even d-deny it! H-h-h-he l-l-laughed at me. I was so angry t-that I… I… I set fire to the estate w-with Saidin. I promise. I d-didn’t know w-what I was doing! I didn’t mean t-to…”

 

                Sobs broke through and Merdyn couldn’t go on. Everything came back to him. Blood. Ashes. Father’s laughing face. The screams. The flames. Mother’s lifeless body. He couldn’t be strong anymore. He couldn’t. Merdyn had spent so long trying to impress everyone. He had tried to be something he wasn’t. The cracks had appeared in the foundation and he would never be able to seal them.

 

                Kyllian was dead. Father murdered him. Merdyn would never know love again. It was time to accept that fact and move on.

 

                He crumpled as his head fell down to the table, arms covering the back of his skull and his sobs were muffled. Tears kept falling from his eyes and he was sure that they would never stop.

 

                I am weak and worthless. Letting these two respected individuals see me like this… I’ve let them down. I’ve let the Black Tower down. I’ve let myself down.

 

                “I’m s-s-sorry…” Merdyn said between his sobs, but he didn’t know if he was saying it to Nox and Lillian or Kyllian.

Edited by Oddpositions

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She was as calm, outwardly, as she had been. Lillian sat in her place, silent, holding something back. She didn’t answer for a while. Her silence didn’t mean that the conversation ended. But she remained silent, thinking, brooding, trying to make sense of Merdyn Gilyard.

 

Lillian, for her part, did not look away. Indeed, she pointedly looked only at Merdyn. She studied his face, while processing the information he had given her. Lillian listened so carefully and well that she understood his words, even when they choked up— his two listeners never once asked him to repeat something. It took a real effort of will at times from showing any sign of emotion. 

 

What happened was too bad. Parents always made their worst mistakes with the oldest child. That was when parents knew the least, and cared the most, so they were more likely to be wrong and also more likely to insist on that they were right. But, hearing this, she didn’t like to leap to conclusions about his family—no one had faced them squarely, except Merdyn.

 

She was puzzled that he addressed this matter so openly. It would have been hard for Nox and Merdyn to speak openly in front of her, if Lillian had not taken to make sure the young men heard nothing but respect and interest from her. Yet he was more forthright, more plainspoken than she expected. Lillian also came, without invitation, and installed herself in a tiny eating area where there wasn’t even room to have a table to themselves, where one of the males must have set up a ward to prevent loss of privacy. Why this young man should be so open telling his story to an outsider such as her, she really could not understand. But she realized: he had to do it anyway. And as he talked, Lillian knew that he was right— who he told, after all, was up to him. He could live with his secret; contain it, often for years; but like a dangerous, hungry fire, it’d keep burning within his heart until the day it let out in a terrible eruption and consume him.

 

Also, she was startled by how moved she was. For a moment it felt like a hammer in her heart. For reasons she was not able to explain, she could not contain Merdyn Gilyard only in her mind. He was a living victim, beautiful, appealing but damaged and abused. Most of the time, she tried not to dwell on her feelings. Now, she had to and she allowed herself to. 

 

She found she felt great kinship with him. He, and he alone, had opened himself completely to Nox and herself through his conversation. Perhaps, Lillian understood the sense of disillusion he felt. 

 

He was bitter, angry, frustrated, and filled with self-pity and loathing for his past action, but all that was understandable— his loss had happened only a year before, and he was still trying to face himself. 

 

But he was tough. He had not yet despaired; not harmed himself, she mused. There might yet be something he could do that justified his continuing to live. And perhaps, it would begin with his innate spark to channel. That, and his choice to live at the farm that had some hope in it.

 

There was a great deal at stake, and Lillian was already doing all that she could possibly do to try to fight. She had already written her essays on their alliance, in larger terms. Now, she needed the personal things. She wanted to be able to let the other people know black tower men as people. If it was possible, to bring people to like them. And, if spending a few hours with Merdyn could help her to do it better, it’d be worth taking the time away from her writing in order to talk with him. 

 

Merdyn had buried his face in his arms. He probably didn’t want to show such weakness in front of them. For Nox and her to see him lose control of himself. But she recognized that ragged, heavy breathing. His swollen eyes were ones that dropped warm tears onto his cold skin, his voice was the one crying out the pain in his heart.

 

He wasn’t a child; wasn’t her student. She shouldn’t meddle.

 

She paused and placed her cup onto its saucer.

 

She wasn’t his therapist. She didn’t meet him to show him how to cure the hurt that couldn’t be removed — the shame of his past, of his unworthiness. She had met him so that he could help her. If he wasn’t going to, fine. If he was, fine. 

 

". . ." 

 

Lillian leaned forward to the man sobbing across from her. Her ringed hand rested on Merdyn’s shoulder gently as she lifted his head, and pulled it toward her, so their faces were only a few inches apart. 

 

“You’ve never cried for yourself, have you?” she whispered. Then she embraced him. 

 

Grief, she reminded herself as she held him, was always for the mourner’s loss. She said, “we had a good talk. Thanks."

 

Lillian had listened to his words, weighed them, and now gave a tentative nod now that he grew calm. 

 

Letting go of him, Lillian waited for him to catch his breath and ignored the wetness on her dress. When she judged he was ready, she moved her conversation with Merdyn and Nox onto another line of thinking 'on families'.

 

“I think I need to continue with my research—and the answers you can give me are the resources with which I can do my work.” 

 

“Also, I like you as long as you tell me all that you think matters,” said Lillian. She wanted to test how well he could distill the important from the unimportant in his knowledge about a particular subject. “Are you ready to hear my next question? It’s more of a long thinking exercise, actually."

 

“There was this controversy, right from the start. A few aes sedai stirred up trouble when they broke the tower rules and insisted on having children. It’s rare for aes sedai to have babies, as ties to our families are frowned upon to the point of taboo,” she said. 

 

In the rare case where the sister had a baby, she was always removed from her sphere of influence and respect. That was partially why many aes sedai hid their children. 

 

“However, due to our aes sedai numbers dwindling, even as we ramped up recruitment efforts-  a grassroots proposal started from the ground up to force a change in the way the tower viewed aes sedai families. It’s an easy enough concept. Since children born to aes sedai were far more likely to be born with the gift of channelling, some sisters felt proud to add their children to the towers’ numbers.” 

 

Another part of why a sister might hid their children, was if she preferring them to have a different life as wilders, rather than bind them to the tower. Perhaps the rumors were true.

 

Lillian had made a decision— keep her lines of research open, and decide later when she knew more.

 

"Of course, if that child turns out to be male and inherit the gift to channel saidin. This can be interesting for the black tower. What do you both think of black tower recruits as children of aes sedai?” 

 

She heard some of the men even placed the bonding link to their wives, so that the families would enjoy a closeness to them. That dynamic would be interesting to study. Perhaps Nox or Merdyn knew of such a family around the farm or in town that she could visit.

 

“To go even further, will you do your duty— raise a child in the hopes he can bolster our numbers? Will you obey the will of the black tower for example, even when it might seem wrong, as long as you believe in its cause?” Now, though she understood that some of the towers’ actions might not seem good. Yet that didn’t necessarily mean that they were not good.

 

It was often the ideas that sound most absurd and counterintuitive at first that later caused fundamental shifts in the way she saw the world.

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As Merdyn told his story, Nox felt bad for the man.  He had a rough life.  Though, Nox wasn't sure he'd have considered the pampered life terrible.  But to have your own parents hurt you because you were the way you were Nox knew all to well.  Though he had no parents.  He was no stranger to the prejudices that came with being unlike others.  While Merdyn told his story Nox placed his hand on the other man's.  It was a show of comfort and Nox could feel the rumors starting.  His skin itched, but Merdyn was his student and he cared about him.  

 

Even after the story Merdyn told she thought to ask if they would have children of their own.  Nox smirked.  "I don't know about Merdyn, but I don't think I will be having natural born children.  My preferred partners aren't capable of bearing children.  And most Aes Sedai that I've met have been rather unreceptive of any intentional or unintentional slips of the tongue when it comes to sex.  Most of them clamming up or yelling at me.  But hey if the girl in question doesn't want happily ever after I'm game.  And again, most respectable women want the whole thing.  I can't give them what I don't have in me."

 

[[ sorry short, but so much I got lost in it all lol ]]

Edited by Matalina

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Lillian passed tactfully from the subject of Nox’s preference for bed partners. Her mind raced back over the details of the aes sedai delegation here. She didn’t remember Nox.  Although many things happened in a short period of time that sometimes she wondered, had all that really happened? She was too interested in her work and could get carried away sometimes. 

 

She looked at Nox inquiringly, “I gather you’ve encountered several aes sedai before? What is your thought on asha’aman-aes sedai partnership, not physical but as two partners mentally linked to one another?”

 

She added with a grin “I’ll be coming back with a few red sisters as led by Jagen Sedai. Maybe we can have a meal together then.”

 

Something smelled good, and she hadn’t eaten yet today.

 

Ooc: Haha, sorry. I'll be clear :laugh:

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                Merdyn felt the touch of Lillian and Nox, if only distantly. “No,” was all he could murmur behind the sobs.

 

                They couldn’t understand. There was no way. He shook himself despite their comforts. He knew that such actions could very well be enacted for politeness. He had no right to show them his shame, nor had they asked for it. Still. What was done was done. He had promised himself that he would show his pain to some and thereby facing it himself. He did not need a reassuring hand to comfort him.

 

                Still.

 

                It helped more than words could say.

 

                He really couldn’t explain why he chose to share. It could have been the unforeseen emotion that had welled up at Nox’s actions and it could have just as easily been the shock at talking with an Aes Sedai. An Aes Sedai that had seemed more warm-hearted than he had first been lead to believe any Sister could be.

 

                Nox would surely question him later. This was no time to be sharing, especially with an outsider… Still… Merdyn had felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. A weight that he had not realized he had been carrying for the last few years. He felt invigorated! There was nothing in this world he could not conquer… Until he remembered Kyllian’s face.

 

                The tears still came, of course. But now they felt under control. Merdyn had picked his head back up from the table and smiled weakly at the other two. A frothy lace kerchief came from his sleeve and he blotted at the tears and the snot.

 

                “I am sorry for that outburst. To the both of you. However, I thought it high time that you heard my story, Nox, and you, Lillian Sedai, who have come here asking questions of us. I thought it only proper to give you a tale worth your efforts in coming here,” He sniffled slightly, “But please, accept my apologies. I tried to refrain from an emotional outpour, but there it is…” Merdyn dispelled the circle of silence and called over one of the volunteers.

 

                “Yes. Please bring us three slices of apple pie and another round of tea… Perhaps some milk with the pie… Yes… Thank you…” He murmured to Wilfred, one of the men volunteering from the village.

 

                Dabbing again at his wet eyes, he answered Lillian Sedai as best he could, “To be honest, I have already accepted the fact that I would need to fulfill my duty as the head of a house, so with enough wine, I am sure I could muster what is required of me… I wouldn’t like it, but if it was required of me… I think that I could sire a child with an Aes Sedai if it meant keeping the gift of channeling alive… Who knows… If ever I were allowed to claim my birthright, such children could unite the White and the Black Tower… Not to mention the political clout they would wield… Were I to have a daughter, she might claim the Lion Throne. Wouldn’t that be something? A child born of the White and the Black, destined to rule a country. I think it would be beneficial to both parties…”

 

                But I also might be putting my foot in my mouth. You have no desire for a wife, Merdyn Gilyard, and do not claim otherwise if only to impress this Aes Sedai!

 

                “That is… if the conditions were right. I would gladly raise a child to bolster our numbers. The Dragon may be reborn, but what if the Final Battle doesn’t happen for another two hundred years? We would have to have as many channelers as possible…”

 

                Merdyn didn’t fancy fathering a child, but if it meant winning the Last Battle… And, really, any conversation to take his mind off of Kyllian was a welcome one.

Edited by Oddpositions

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Lillian poured herself more tea from the new pot. She sat back on the bench and sipped her drink, smiling. Outside the ornamental window, the sprawl of the buildings spread out, many parts of it busy with people comings and goings. Settled in her seat, she looked around the room, taking in the curious looks and general whispers around them.

 

“Thank you,” she told the white haired, copper skinned volunteer who served them the fantastic apple pie as the same man came around to pick up the empty dishes. The man paused, uncertain; after a moment he smiled back. He was missing a few teeth, probably due to poor diet or past fights. The man had shrouded the weapon at his hip, as was the custom inside households.

 

Lillian turned her thoughts toward Merdyn’s earlier answer. She couldn’t help looking ahead at Merdyn with interest. He wouldn’t deny a direct order if the conditions were desperate enough? She cleared her throat as her green eyes fixed on the dedicated's across the table.

 

She spoke as the fire of the tea warmed her body. “A child born of aes sedai and asha’aman, potential heir to the lion throne if female, such a person might become a popular and decorated figure in gleeman chants and prophesies. But I am sure, all the glory achieved will become hollow for this child who needs to reflect the confidences of his or her heritage."

 

She knew leaders whose fierce eyes and hard gazes were the subject of barrack legends. Leaders who were personally calm, quiet and inspirational, wise in decisions and popular with those who follow. She also knew leaders who approached battles politically rather than tactically, appointed leader who appeased nobles rather than the lower classes. What kind of leader would such a person who’d been born to aes sedai, asha’aman, and the heavy crown of nobility become answerable to, in difficult circumstances?

 

But that was still some time until the final battle. They must be strong. Fast. Secured well with allies before then.

 

What did it mean to be strong?

 

She considered this as the room became deadly quiet. It seemed that their conversation was private no longer.

 

Lillian Tremina

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Nox paled at the idea of linking with an Aes Sedai.  He didn't want anyone that close inside his head.  That was too close to bonding.  And the mention of Jagen Sedai made Nox snort.  "I think I'll stay far away from Jagen Sedai.  She doesn't like my brand of humor."  Nox smiled.  "Though I can always eat."  

 

Merdyn's own answer echo'd his except he would have considered it a duty versus pleasure.  That was a difference between them.  But then there were a lot of differences.  Nox was very low born, didn't even know his parents, or even his own name.  He took Nox from being an obnoxious kid.  It was humorous at the time, but it stuck.  Nox enjoyed the softer side of women, but it was nothing more than pleasure and most Aes Sedai he wanted would look on it as a duty.  And they'd be stick and unforth coming - so not his idea of a pleasurable night.

 

But the talk of prodigious heirs brought the soup kitchen to utter silence.  Nox spoke loudly "And then trollocs will no longer be stories borderland parents tell their children."  There were a few gasps as the rumors of what had happened had spread through the farm.  Nox added with a wink to Merdyn, "Oh, wait, we already dispelled that myth, with a horn to my gut."  Not everyone knew the truth and Nox had distracted the kitchen from their conversation.  He didn't mind the whispers.  

Edited by Matalina

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Across the table, Lillian chuckled as she imagined Jagen together with Nox. There was a look on his face at mention of the red. 

 

"She’s got things to do; although I suppose paying your respects is a courtesy to do since you do know each other.” 

 

She said, putting down the sugar tongs. Lillian considered going for another helping of pie, but decided against it. Face facts, she was getting old, and she didn’t want to end up looking like a fruit pie.

 

“Wait, are trollocs this far south?” asked Lillian, with a touch of concern. Judging by the other men's widened eyes and the growing fervor of their whispers, the nature of Nox's injury was not common knowledge. “Are you ok, Nox?"

 

People hovered beside the table where the three of them sat. There was a chorus of general laughter at Nox’s quip. His self-deprecatory remark to his student had helped dispel some of the tension in the air. It had taken years for them to get this far with the male channelers. 

 

She paused, and changed the her line of questioning to be more palatable for their audience. “You’ve got many recruits to whip into shape, and I hear the asha’aman are very keen on mentoring roles. It must be strange for you to do your active duty by teaching. How do you get your students through training, particularly considering the unstable nature of saidin? How do you test in order to promote your students through the ranks?” 

 

Lillian had felt saidin through her link with asha’amen prior to the cleansing. The memory made her stomach turn. Even without the taint, instead of embracing or surrendering the flows into the one power, one always had to constantly seize control over saidin or lose oneself. She had to give these men some credit for that.

 

She was curious also if, similar to aes sedai of the white tower, the asha’amen now used objects of power to test the soldiers and dedicated.

 

Lillian Tremina

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                Linking and Bonding. Merdyn had heard talk of such, especially since the White and Black Towers were now in open communication with one another. He had thought about it a long time and reached a conclusion.

 

                “The way I feel about procreating with Aes Sedai is the same as how I feel about Bonding and Linking. These things make us stronger. Plain and simple. I fully expect to have to do those things by the time the Last Battle is upon us. It is our duty, is it not? To the World? You know my persuasion, so I would obviously prefer to Bond another Asha’man or perhaps even an actual Warder, were such a thing permitted. It is an intimate bond, from what I’ve heard, and I think I would rest easier if it were with another man. But again, I do have an interest in uniting the two Towers and restoring Channelers to their former glory. Were it required of me, or if an Aes Sedai approached me, one that I trusted of course, and asking to bond me; well, I could hardly refuse.” He said before taking a sip of his tea. It was quite good. Just a little honey and milk was all he needed. The bitter didn’t bother him, but he preferred smooth and sweet.

 

                “And you are quite right, Lillian Sedai, still the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. If that was truly what the Pattern needed, I doubt that we could stop it. I only mentioned those things because anyone with eyes could figure that out. I am sure the White Tower would approve and even encourage such a union, but I cannot say what the M’Hael would think. These things will happen sooner or later, once the relationship between our Towers warms a bit more and others become comfortable with such an idea… Still. I do think I am the only highborn man in the Tower. Camelyn has always enjoyed a warm relationship with the White Tower, so I do not think my fellow countrymen would be against a Queen born of the Two… Such a woman, especially if she had both Towers backings, would be someone to be reckoned with. With the right personality and ambition, she might even be powerful enough to unite the Nations as Artur Hawkwing once did… But we all know how that ended… And I am sure neither of the Towers has any interest in meddling in the affairs of other Kingdoms,” some of the men listening chuckled and laughed at that, "But if it were her inclination? The world is fast changing... Who know what will happen in the next hundred years, let alone the next month."

 

                The more Merdyn talked, the more he considered the idea. It would be very complicated, but if he ever did gain the rights to rule over the Gilyard House, these things would have to be considered. It seemed that an Aes Sedai would be the ideal mate. Most of them do not marry, nor do they have any expectations to. It might work quite well, especially if the other knew this was a political marriage. He could produce an heir and still enjoy a few men on the side… It would take the right woman, of course, but Merdyn wouldn’t deny who he was. He had spent too many years doing that.

 

                This conversation had been touched upon briefly with Ful, just a few days prior. It had gotten Merdyn to thinking. If he did get his rights back, then where would his loyalties lie? With the Queen of Andor, or the Black Tower? The two had a friendly relationship, at least Merdyn hoped. Perhaps they could work an agreement out between the two. Being a noble at the Black Tower meant he could represent Andor’s interests and being an Asha’man in the Court of Camelyn meant he could represent the Tower’s interests…

 

                But that was simplifying everything and Merdyn knew that life was far from simple.

 

                Merdyn bristled at the mention of Nox’s injury. The tears came again, although Merdyn did not lose control of himself as he did previously. The memory was still fresh in his head and he really did not like that Nox was making light of the situation… Still. It was Nox that had to bear that wound, so if anyone was going to joke about it, he had the right.

 

                “There were two… We’re still not sure what that was about, seeing as how those were the only two that we have encountered. I myself think that they got separated from their horde and got lost… They seem to have been chasing a young boy; for dinner no doubt…” Merdyn said, although he refrained from mentioning what had happened with Nox.

 

                That was his story to tell.

Edited by Oddpositions

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Lillian shrugged a no-matter, and decided against asking, right this moment at least, why it was that the Andoran noble said neither towers had any interest in meddling. She didn’t want to offend a dedicated she’d lunched with just moments before. 

 

And the truth was, she hadn’t known the aes sedai advisor at court long, though she was a semi-regular face that frequented the tower now and then, and she didn’t know the queen of Andor well. Lillian had a feeling the fact that the queen tolerated the presence of the farm on her territories meant something.

 

Merdyn was affable, a good conversationalist, and expressed an attitude toward duty that Lillian found appealing. He’d openly shared his background and attachments, and considered seriously the conflicts of interests in his service to M’Hael, the queen, and the world at large. Over lunch in Merdyn’s company, she could see clearly the way he thought about these topics.

 

Over the same period of time, Lillian could see also that Nox had not volunteered anything of the sort, which meant that he was either a remarkably private person, or he was concealing something. No matter, she turned her mind to other things.

 

For one, the trollocs attack that injured Nox this far from the borders was disturbing. And, had Merdyn mention the two trollocs being separated from a horde? Impossible for a fist of trollocs to move this far without earlier detection, unless by way gates, which meant the forceful presence of a fade.

 

Lillian paused, then agreed. “True, the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. We but try to comprehend. These days, strange events crop up in the Pattern more and more.” 

 

She looked up from her cup and held the other man’s gaze. “How would you like to practice Linking, Merdyn?”

 

Perhaps, the experience would change Merdyn’s mind about linking and bonding. In any case, she was curious how saidin felt after being cleansed.

 

Lillian Tremina

Edited by Lih-Lyh
*Grin* Lillian didn't get the joke ;) Feel free to refuse the linking, or go for it either of you.

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                The tears had dried. Finally. Although Merdyn knew himself and didn’t doubt for a second that he might break down in sobs once more. It would only take one wrong word or comment to reduce him to that state. He didn’t cry often, but once the floodgate was open, it took hours to close it back up. Merdyn knew he’d probably cry a little more once he returned to his quarters, but that was nothing to worry about now. These emotions would be an afterthought tomorrow.

 

                Merdyn’s eyes lit up at the offer to Link. “Of course I would love to try. It seems that I am experiencing something new every day, since joining the Tower. Is it true that I can actually feel Saidar once we are linked? I’ve always been curious about that… Is it as gentle as they say? I cannot imagine… Saidin is such a… force… I can’t imagine the female half of the Source being any different. What do I do? Should I embrace Saidin?”

 

                All thoughts of tears and Kyllian fled from Merdyn’s mind. He didn’t expect this today, not even after seeing a Sister on the Tower grounds. He was sure he wouldn’t encounter an Aes Sedai, much less link with one, until he had earned the second pin.

 

                “Oh, I have so many questions, Lillian Sedai! How does it work? Can you link with both Nox and myself at the same time? Can men link together or is this something exclusive to Saidar? Do we add our strength to yours or is it like using angreal, where your own strength is magnified by our presence? Oh, this is so exciting!”

 

                Merdyn was nearly bouncing in his seat now. A shocking contrast to the pile of emotions he had been just earlier.

 

                Light, I must look like a crazy person.

 

                Perhaps I am crazy.

               

                Crazy about learning!

Edited by Oddpositions

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Lillian caught the excited look, and grinned. There was no use to explain in words the remarkable difference in one power unless the other was willing to try it first hand.

 

She remarked, sipping tea from the little, heavy-bottomed porcelain cup. 

 

“Yes, you can actually see saidar, study and feel my flows of saidar once we link. It’s as different as night and day with saidin. How saidar and saidin are handled. There aren’t many weaves that form the same way, so being linked or in a circle is a precious time to learn how to do things the other way, as well as give you invaluable skills when encountering unseen weaves. I was here, taking Storm Leader Arath Faringal’s lessons in saidin as part of a linked circle. It really is a beneficial exercise.”

 

Her personal history with male channellers drove her to take the storm leader’s lessons. 

 

Lillian and her fellow tower initiate Elyna's abduction by a dreadlord named Talin Losey had culminated in their rescue and subsequent release by a rival dreadlord whom they never learnt the name of, only noted for his distinctive black robe with golden symbols worked in. After Lillian's return, she had seriously begun to question the tower's traditions. Her thesis on the tower grew from a way to determine her Ajah to a critique upon the tower from its practices and culture and things that needed to change. 

 

She peered at both men and tapped the side of the table, “As far as we know, there are some rules of linking. When only women link, circles are limited to thirteen. Adding a single man extends the circle up to twenty six women. In that type of large circle, one of the women must take control. But if there are two men, either male can take control of the flow. Also, men cannot link without women, so you and Nox won’t be able to link without one woman."

 

“If you’re ready, let’s move outside. I’ll initiate the link, but then you have to take the lead and embrace saidar for yourself. Come on.”

 

Lillian Tremina

 

ooc: right, feel free to move us outside and Lillian will instruct for you to put yourself on the cusp of seizing saidin. Also, Lillian isn't strong in saidar but she's quite skilled. The reason we are outside is she's going to have you practice traveling since that's Nox's specialty and Merdyn's strong enough for it as well, but build a much bigger gate; also the way to weave travel gates is different for men and women. To travel the male channellers fold two parts of the pattern and bore through it. Please show her how you do this way/your version and then with the strength of two (or three), we can create a much bigger gate by reinforcing your gate with saidar flows.  :)

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Nox didn't really get to say much before Merdyn was hyper with excitement at the prospect of linking.  Nox couldn't let a dedicated show him up.  He thought to himself, yes I can.  But he didn't say anything.  His hands started to sweat and he could feel it beading at his forehead.  

 

Nox felt his heart pounding in his chest he was surprised no one could hear it.  But the soup kitchen was loud.

 

They went outside.  The air was cool against Nox's sweat slicked skin.  Nox was certain that he was going to pass out but he followed the excited pair in front of him.  One foot in front of the other.

 

[[ I'm going to let you decide if you notice Nox's anxiety or not... either way he'll link after merdyn does, and when asked about gateways he'll look to Merdyn, 'can you explain it?' as a lesson for him. ]]

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