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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Elessar

Chosen to Reign (attn. Arissa)

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OOC: This RP takes place in a self-contained, parallel Portal Stone World of the Wheel of Time. Mirrors of ‘reality’ as we know it, reflections of what has been, can be and may become, but in no way a factual portrait or representation of the Wheel of Time-books or its famous characters.

 

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.. The Breaker of Faith ..

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There is no more faith.

 

The echoes of another Age reverberated in Raphael’s mind as he stared emptily into the blazing fire.

 

 

His name was Neram Setin Vadar.

 

Or at least, so it had once been.

 

 

“All faith is lost!”

 

The screams of terror almost drown out the young man’s words of desperation as he runs down the street, blood pouring down his face.

 

“He has betrayed us! The General has betrayed us!”

 

He stumbles and falls face first into the ground, a stab of pain in his side. With some effort he gets to his feet but is almost trampled by the mass of people running in panic from the gates. He stares back for a moment and in the distance sees the guards fighting for their lives atop the gates.

 

“Oh Light, we have no chance now!” His breath catches in his throat as he sees the gates come crashing down. He cannot see the General but he knows he is there.

 

The Traitor.

 

“Run!”, he screams to a couple of tear-stricken children who stand before a half-destroyed shop off to the side, panic in their eyes, shock in their faces, unable to move.

 

“Run, children. Run!”

 

 

Blood fills the street and the stench of death fills the air as the minions of the Shadow crush all opposition on their surge toward the centre of the city of Devalle.

 

The General feels waves of saidin being channeled but quite a way off. Holding onto saidin himself, loving the power flowing through his veins, he walks forwards, his gaze focused. Buildings barely standing on both sides of the street. Destruction everywhere. He halts for a moment, nods contentedly and starts off again, but is soon stopped by a small noise. He turns sideways and suddenly spots a little terrified girl who is holding hard onto her doll. She is crying, tears running down her chin in rivulets, and her big brown eyes stare fearfully at him as he bends down to look her in the eye.

 

She shivers with fear as his hand touches her face. An unreadable look passes across his face, then he says, with passion in his voice, passion mingled with harshness,

 

“Little one, this is a day of death. You should be long gone.”

 

The little girl looks back at his hard face, and starts sobbing even louder. Finally she speaks, but in such a soft tone of voice that the General almost does not hear. He leans down and hears the words.

 

“My brother is dead. They took him. There is no more faith” she says, her eyes watering over, her heart breaking. “No hope at all.”

 

For you that is true, the General thinks. For those fools too. Yes, this is the beginning of the end.

 

Great Lord, it is begun.

 

The man who after this day was to be called Raphael, the Breaker of Faith, stares intensely into the smoke-filled distance as the child crumples to the ground before him.

 

It is begun.

 

 

The spoken words brought him back to the present.

 

“No hope, Great Master. Or atleast so she says. Others are listening to her words and wondering if she is right.”

 

Knee bent before the Chosen, the grey-haired man in his dark travelling-cloak faced the floor as silence followed his words.

 

Finally Raphael spoke.

 

“She will be silenced.”

 

The Friend of the Dark heard the sentence pronounced and sighed. Even so, she had brought it upon herself.

 

“But in one respect she is right”  Raphael added, gaze hard. “Sometimes there is no faith.”

 

Fools! He thought. We must rid ourselves of such fools and cowards before they damage our plans. My plans, he amended.

 

“You may stand.”

 

The words were softly spoken, the voice deep, but were perceived as a command. The man got to his feet and stood silently a few feet away from the Chosen.

 

“Look at me.”

 

The man turned his eyes up to stare the other in the face, swallowing hard even so.

 

What he saw was a dark-haired, strong-jawed, hard faced man in his mid-twenties with dark-brown piercing eyes and a hawk-like nose in a partially scarred face. Those piercing eyes met his now in a no-nonsense manner. He swallowed hard again.

 

Had the Chosen not used a spell of Illusion upon his servant, what the other would in fact have seen was a very tall and imposing man, handsome in looks, in his early thirties with broad shoulders, blue eyes that bespoke of power and intelligence and blond hair that reached below his neck.

 

As it was, the Friend of the Dark stared into those dark-brown eyes of his Master only for a second before shifting his gaze slightly as it were.

 

“You will let me know if others spread discontent, won’t you ?”

 

The words were spoken dangerously softly.

 

“Yes, Great Master. At once!”

 

“Good. You may go now.”

 

The friend of the Dark bowed one last time to the Chosen, shuffled away and then locked the door behind him on the way out, glad to have been dismissed. Most of all he was glad to still be alive, having brought bad news to the Master.

 

 

Raphael’s eyes continued staring into the blazing fire, aflame with memories of another time, whispers reaching across the ages to surround him in his timeless place.

 

“Breaker of Faith!”

“Traitor!”

 

They named me well, those lightfools, and I embraced the name they gave me. For I did betray the Gates of Karan, I did carry the Shadow into the heart of Davelle. Oh yes.

 

Fire.

 

Did they think I didn’t know what I was doing ? Oh I knew - and I conquered!

 

Storm.

 

If only I had gotten to destroy you, Dar Keran! You proud and self-glorifying man! You destroyed the world sealing the Great Lord and us away, you and your two hundred mad Companions.

 

Chaos.

 

Hope has blossomed in the world as the Wheel has turned, but I will break all faith, my naming will be true. That I promise!

 

The intense and hateful look in his eyes would have given even the staunchest warrior pause. There was intelligence there, and an inner fire of purpose and endless determination.

 

 

And the Fire blazed on, Storms raging in screaming Flames; the Past and Present blending in a moment of Dark Revelation.

 

  ▀▄ 

 

Raphael

Chosen

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Sunlight streamed into the front half of the room, alighting the polished glass charms that hung in the air.  Minute rainbows burst across the space and a small delightful tinkle sounded as the shards ever so slightly bumped against each other.  Below, a petite woman dressed in rags gathered a tea set that had been left on the table.  The set consisted of sixteen pieces.  Eight were pristine, the delicate blue flowers as vibrant as the day they were bought; eight were full of imperfections, chipped in multiple places and barely held together.  The mansion and attendants followed much the same pattern – half resplendent and beautiful, half old and tattered showing only a sliver of former beauty.  Always in a delicate balance.

 

A chair sat in the middle of the room, half bathed in the golden light and half draped in darkness.  Though it sat empty, it was reminiscent of its normal occupant: wholly beautiful with nary a string out of place. Despite her desire for balance in most things, the Engineer did not skimp on her comforts.  On either side sat an exquisitely beautiful human contorted into an achingly difficult shape.  One was fully dressed as if winter were coming; the other nude as the day she was born. Their eyes were glazed and a small smile sat upon their lips.  They did not react as a puddle of dark red liquid began to move toward them, sinking into the plush white carpeting under their feet. 

 

Arissa sighed, hands on her full hips as she stared at the body in front of her.  What a pity it was to lose someone so stubborn.  The people that fought back were always the most fun to break.  She would slowly create synapses in their brain until they were fully under her control, watching their faces while she worked.  It was entertaining when they had no idea why they were committing horrible acts; it was stimulating when realization set in and horror shrouded their features. It was arousing when someone chose to fight, pitting their miniscule minds against her superior one. Few lasted longer than ten minutes against her.  When she found individuals that were exceptionally bullish, she kept the weave from fully encapsulating, just so she could savor the game.   This one could have given her a few hours, at least, while he warmed her bed.  Instead, his body was cooling on the floor.

 

Holding her skirts up, she swept past the disappointment into her parlor.  Snapping her fingers, she sent an old crone in rags and her partner - a prince with gold hair and rakish good looks dressed in rich purple silks – to clean up the mess.   The prince’s eyes blazed for a moment before he settled into a loving gaze directed at the crone. They walked hand-in-hand to the other room, looking for the world like two lovers on a stroll.  The crone settled the bucket she was holding in her far hand and together they settled into the puddle, their clothing soaking up as much blood as the cleaning cloths.  Arissa smiled dotingly at the pair. She loved the juxtaposition of rich and poor.  Neither wanted to be tied to the other, but now here they were, tied together in perpetuity.

 

Ice cubes clinked to her left.  Idly, she reached for the glass as a bronze button on the soldier’s jacket caught her eye.  The way the light played on it made her think about a day long past, when she was still Elsebet and was still devoted to helping others.  She had treated Dar Keran himself, his blue jackets always cut to display his striking figure.  The buttons on his jackets had always gleamed; it was like the light followed him.  He had been charming at first, mildly arrogant but with a sense of vulnerability.  He had come to her for aid with a personal matter.  She provided assistance and eventually they became friends.  Yet your pride ruined everything; you couldn’t stand that I was more studied, better, than you in the art of delicate weaves.   How did that turn out for you, Dragon? You are dead and buried, and I? I have thrived.       

 

More memories floated in, “Elsebet Lydea Morendum, at your service”….. Standing at the front of a classroom, rapt men and women attuned to every word she said….An offer of great power and longevity to continue her work…..an endless supply of chattel..…They are nothing, engineer their futures as you see fit.” ..…whispers in awe and fear surrounding her as she walked down the middle of a street laughing with glee, buildings broken and burning on either side…

 

The ice clinked again as warmth from the sunlight melted the frozen cubes.  Coming to from the reverie, Arissa pursed her ruby lips and brushed a swath of wavy auburn hair from her eyes.  “Come here darlings,” she stage whispered to a man and a woman in the corner.  “I’m in need of some entertainment.” There was no hesitation evident as the pair left their hideous partners behind and strode toward their curvy mistress.  Arissa giggled wickedly, her emerald eyes dancing with delight.

Edited by keyholder21

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.. Tel'aran'rhiod: A Meeting of Chosen ..

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..Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams, the Unseen World, a place that exists in the spaces between the weave of the Great Pattern of alternate realities. It is a world much like the natural world - a reflected universe that mirrors the physical world: mountains and rivers; cities and palaces; forests and oceans.  But it’s an empty place.  Living creatures are not reflected; they appear only briefly when they dream themselves into Tel'aran'rhiod, and even more rarely when they enter it physically. To enter the World of Dreams in the flesh can be dangerous for those not capable enough. Very dangerous indeed..

 

 

Raphael, like all the other Chosen, had extensive knowledge of Tel'aran'rhiod, more than any others in this Age. Even so, the World of Dreams had always seemed somewhat of a mystery to him, a puzzle of infinite possibilities.

 

It is the place where no dreams die.

 

 

Where those words came from, like a whisper in his mind, he could not tell - words of another Age perhaps. Whatever their origin, he thought there was a ring of truth about them.

 

Physically entering Tel'aran'rhiod, closing the gateway behind him, he moved across the marble floor of the huge chamber and seated himself in one of the several ornate oak chairs with high backs that were facing each other around an ornate table across a space of twelve feet. On the table were elegant crystal glasses and a dozen candle lights burning. Not that the candle lights were necessary - there were other lights along the walls lighting up the room - but they gave the meetings a certain style and familiarity, he thought. This was a mirror-image, a reflection, of the same estate chamber in the western part of the country owned by a Nobleman who was also a Friend of the Dark. It was an apt place for a meeting, Raphael had always thought, also one conducted in this Unseen World. Raphael had used it several times for clandestine meetings in the time since he had escaped the Dreamless Sleep of the Bore.

 

Holding onto saidin - though he did not expect treachery at this meeting he did not trust anyone, least of all the other Chosen - he stared around the empty chamber as he waited. His piercing blue eyes had a calculated look. His blond hair and handsome face, coupled with his tall broad-shouldered body, was a strong indication for anyone who knew. Then again, there were very few left who knew. This was a different Age and what had once been, what moved in Raphael’s memories from the Age of Legends, was dead and gone to this world. Even so, he preferred masking his appearance from the unknowing world - in the guise of  Lord Serafehl -, prudence was always wise. Brushing his hand through his blond hair for a moment, his thoughts went back to that Age before his Dreamless Sleep and as so often was the case, his mood slowly darkened and his features twisted with anger as his memories were filled with the face of Dar Keran.

 

The blasted man!

 

Even if he was dead and buried now, he still infuriated Raphael whenever he thought of him.

 

Bloody Dragon!

 

Raphael remembered a time when Dar Keran had been impressed by his skill as General and Commander of Legions, a time when they had almost been friends, but everything had changed when Dar Keran had persuaded the Shon Mel to pursue his grandiose ideas.

 

Your pride ruined everything, Dragon.

 

The bitter thought lingered in his mind. His betrayal by Dar Keran, as he saw it, combined with lack of appreciation for his eminent skill as a Battle Commander by his other Aes Sedai peers and comrades had pushed him toward the Shadow and the Great Lord. Being accused of brutality towards his own troops, publicly reprimanded by the White Tower and subsequently having his military command removed, was the final straw. Kneeling in front of the Great Lord of the Dark, swearing a new and unbreakable Oath, offering his life and services, gave him immense gratification and he swore vengeance on all his enemies, on the pityful Aes Sedai and on Dar Keran above all. That he never got to kill the Dragon himself still rankled, like a wound in his soul that never quite healed, but at least that damn man was dead!

 

And I am not.

 

Gradually calming himself, his hands in his lap, reflections thrown by the candle lights, he waited.

 

He wore an ornate black coat to this meeting with frills at the neck and cuffs and his boots also had frills. He looked very much the part of a powerful lord and acted the part.

 

But in his heart he was the General of his past.

 

 

A Master of War and Strategy. One of the best Military Commanders the Great Lord had had in the War of Power. Almost at the level of Vanahl himself.

 

His features twisted anew as he thought of the man who had taken upon himself the role of leader of the Chosen. An arrogant man at the best of times, perhaps even half-mad it was suspected (but never mentioned in his presence), Raphael did not like him at all, but he respected him, sensed the man’s strength in the One Power (which was a little greater than his own and thereby strongest of them all), and followed his lead. At least for now. Political intrigue and manipulation had never been to his liking, unlike Tervihn and Sinam who seemed to thrive with it. Raphael had indeed always preferred open military conquest. But he saw the necessity of politics and subtlety and played along in order to achieve his goals.  It was, after all, a delicate situation and he knew when prudence called for less direct confrontations. He was not the most patient among them though, not the most deft at subtlety, and his temper sometimes got the better of him, but he played the Game of Power with experience and ability.

 

Kieran and Banohr were scientists, middle-aged scholars who had created Trollocs and other Shadowspawn in the War of Power. Dedicated men who definitely had their use, but Raphael had always considered them weak and not his equal. Vinadel, the eternal philosopher, was a valuable ally, often sharing Raphael’s views. He was not the most outspoken but could be relied on. Last of the men: Gerehl. He had been a teacher in the Age of Legends, famous for having made school children cruel, vindictive and murderous through long, subtle and clever indoctrination. He had served the Great Lord well, Raphael thought, spawning a new breed of Friends of the Dark, but he had been less efficient after his awakening from the Dreamless Sleep. Also he was the type of person who always voted with what seemed to be the strongest faction among them, he had no principles as Raphael saw it.

 

Then there were the women. Serahna, Kharin and Divara. Three capable women, but more meddlesome than most, Divara especially. Kharin could not stand him and the feeling was mutual. A handsome rather than beautiful brown-haired, long-legged woman with olive-shaped eyes and high cheekbones, she hated all men and it was a trait that had not changed in 4000 years and her attitude toward her fellow male Chosen was no exception. Issandra was the weakest of the women, in character as well as in the One Power. She had been a research-assistant to the Lyr Nahm, a demure figure of no consequence and Raphael sometimes wondered how she had had it in her to go over to the Shadow in the first place. According to Serahna, Issandra had killed her two-timing lover out of spite and had fled the city to avoid  imprisonment or, even worse, Severing, finally offering her soul to the Great Lord to gain freedom and immortality. It did not sound too plausible to Raphael he had to admit, something about the scenario sounded a bit.. off, but then again human nature was impossible to understand at times and a woman scorned, as most men knew, was not the best of enemies.

 

 

And then there was Arissa.

 

Raphael grinned mischievously as he thought of the very capable and alluring woman. With her dark red, wavy auburn hair, glittering emerald eyes and seductive curves she was a sight to behold. Her flirtatious nature and love of beautiful people, or rather servants, was no secret, and she appreciated his handsome looks, as she had teasingly hinted at on more than one occasion. Powerful in both character and the One Power, she was one of the most formidable Chosen as he saw it. She was an important ally who could be trusted.. at least as far as any of the other Chosen could be trusted, he thought with a wicked lopsided grin. Which meant not at all, if truth be told. But some trust was needed for alliances to be made here - and everywhere - and he gave what he received, some trust and mutual cooperation, building power from behind the scenes.

 

Raphael was brought out of his reverie by the arrival of two of the other Chosen. Kieran with his dark complexion, short brown hair and dark-brown eyes stepped out of what looked like a heavily decorated manor-room and into this meeting place. He gave a noncommittal nod to Raphael and then seated himself in one of the chairs opposite. Raphael was not surprised that the other man too held onto saidin. Few who participated in these meetings ever let their guard down. Almost without thinking he measured or sensed how strong Kieran was in the One Power and it pleased him, as always, to register that the other man was weaker than himself.

 

Another gateway opened on the other side of the room a few moments later, echoes of a stately room, half bathed in the golden light and half draped in darkness, left behind, and Arissa stepped through. She gave him a flirtatious look as she closed the gateway behind her, her wavy auburn hair luscious and dress clinging, and walked slowly toward the ornate table where the others were seated. The beautiful dress she wore emphasized her curves and Raphael stared appreciatively at her, his blue eyes glinting, as she sat down in one of the available chairs at the end of the large table. Her eyes met his, her ruby lips pursed, and he almost expected to hear her wicked laughter which she often shared with intimates when delighted or amused. He wondered how things were going with her ‘pretties’. Probably not so well for them, he thought slyly, remembering their glazed and highly unnatural ‘eager to please’-looks when he had visited her on occasion. Arissa was hugely accomplished when it came to delicate weaves of the mind, skillful manipulations of the brain, using Compulsion and similar so-called ‘forbidden weaves’ on unsuspecting victims, probably the most accomplished of them all in that respect. She had certainly been a valuable asset during the War of Power.

 

 

“Vanahl is late as usual”, Raphael murmured with a slight frown, changing his train of thought, as he took a sip from the drink in the glass before him. “Perhaps one of these days we will have to teach him punctuality.”

 

It was an idle threat, spoken more as a means of breaking the silence than for any other reason; no one, after all, ‘taught’ Vanahl anything he did not wish to be ‘taught’. The repercussions could be.. unpleasant to say the least.

 

Raphael’s blue eyes narrowed, his mouth slightly twisted, as he gazed at the silent Kieran opposite him. The man seldom spoke at these meetings, preferring to watch and listen. Unlike Sinam who never stopped talking. And Tervihn who never stopped arguing. They were 13 men and women, all different but ambitious and all born with - and strong in - the One Power, stronger than the pityful so-called Aes Sedai of this Age, who had sworn allegiance to the Great Lord in return for the promise of immortality. Forsaken, those lightfools had called them, but they were Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever.

 

And Rule we will, Raphael thought emphatically, excitement building inside him at the thought. We shall Reign!

 

Silence followed his words, and as they waited for the others to arrive, Raphael went over in his mind how he was to gain the confidence of several of the other Chosen for his ambitious plan. It would not be easy, seeing as all the Chosen had their own agendas, plots and plans at all times, but Raphael had always enjoyed a challenge.

 

Strategy, he thought to himself as he sipped more from his drink, his eyes taking on a calculated look. Strategy is always the key.

 

 

Memories took him back to Davelle 4000 years before..

 

“The General has betrayed us! Run, everyone! Ruuuunnn!”

 

Screams of pain, endless screams of agony, the stench of death all around.

 

Raphael, confident in his own power and ability, throws saidin-wrought lightening at the defending forces, watches with glee as the men die in pools of blood. His forces attacking from both sides at once, as part of his carefully thought-out military strategy, catch the defenders in a squeeze and they have no chance. None at all.

 

The screams keep coming, shrieks of terror, the storms of chaos steadily building, and Raphael’s blue eyes glitter in endless, glorious exultation..

 

 

Just then, a silver line tore through the air, another gateway opening - dangerously close to the table and chairs this time - and Vanahl, leader of the Chosen, stepped arrogantly through, his eyes pools of fire.

 

 

  ▀▄ 

 

Raphael

Chosen

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Arissa sighed as a charm on her bracelet began to glow a faint red.  "I suppose that means it is time," she murmured aloud, gesturing for the band in front of her to cease playing.  The music ended abruptly, the last note ringing in her ears as she wove a gateway to the usual meeting place.  Their placid faces smiled at her as she shooed them back to ...wherever they stayed when they weren't in her presence. In unison, they stepped apart and marched off. She'd never considered where her playthings existed when they weren't entertaining her, and it wasn't something she would spend anytime on this day either. She just knew they were always within a snap of her fingers, or a short Compulsive tug, and that's all that really mattered.

 

Her body tingled slightly as she stepped into The World of Dreams.  Arissa knew it wasn't an actual physical reaction, rather an affectation she had created many years ago and had yet to dispel.  It served to alert her to the danger of Tel'Aran'Rhiod. Despite her skill - like all Chosen she was deft at molding the dreamworld around her - it was just as easy to die here as in the real world, perhaps more so.  Especially with the company she would be joining. I don't think Tervihn has ever forgiven me for showing Alicendi she was being manipulated. Divara, Kharin, and Gerehl weren't friendly either, preferring to hate Arissa for her beauty AND her mind. Drawing Saidar, the auburn-haired Chosen readied an offensive weave designed to burst thousands of tiny blood vessels in the brain simultaneously - and then shielded her weave from view. Her own design, the shield was unable to be unraveled or observed.  To the world, and most importantly from her Chosen brethren, she appeared unarmed.  At least Raphael will be there. He was beautiful enough to be one of her playthings, and was wickedly intelligent besides.

 

Arriving in the middle of the group, as designed, Arissa winked at Raphael and moved toward one end of the long table.  As always, the table and its setting was lovely enough.  Now and then a lick of flame poked through the opening at the top of the candlelights, as if wanting to prove it was real.  The rest of the room changed slightly every time, a reflection of its real world counterpart, though it never showcased the mounted animal heads the actual Lord was so proud of.  Vanahl had banished them long ago while muttering about their incessant chattering.  

 

Arissa took a seat, gracefully smoothing the non-existant wrinkles from her dress.  It was a lavender piece, designed by one of the most prominent dressmakers before the Breaking.  A time now referred to as the "Age of Legends".  It was one of a kind and it set off her hair and eyes beautifully.  Divara stared daggers at her; she'd been a rival clothier - and a terrible gossip. She was currently operating out of the ridiculously-named White Tower, and still acting as a gossip.  Serahna rolled her eyes, but congenially. She had an unusual strong ability for Earth and Fire and had built many of the beautiful buildings in Davelle and other cities...and brought them down too.  She was dressed simply; Arissa's intelligence put Serahna somewhere in the Borderlands, but couldn't pin down exactly where.  Assuming a person could have friends in this group, Arissa would include Serahna in hers - along with Raphael.  Though you couldn't really trust anyone here.  

 

He loved to make an entrance, so it was no surprise that Vanahl was the last to arrive.  She nearly smiled when Raphael commented on their "leader" 's usual tardiness, but held it back due to mixed company.  She preferred to observe them, not the other way around.  Instead, Arissa kept her face neutral and her eyes roaming. Gerehl whispered something to Divara and she laughed, tilting her head back. Banohr gave Arissa a small smile when he thought he was unobserved; he practically worshipped her for what she could do with the human brain.   

 

No one touched the goblets on the table.

 

Finally deigning to arrive, Vanahl stepped through a gateway, his eyes burning with liquid fire.  Arissa felt a thrill of fear and a small thrill of excitement. Half-mad, it always a guess as to what Vanahl would say or do.  Everyone around the table immediately sat up straighter.  Gerehl and Divara ceased talking and snapped their attention to the Nae'blis.

 

"Someone has been interfering with the boy Dragon ahead of schedule.  Under EXPLICIT orders not to. He has been visited by an unauthorized Myrddraal, two gray men, and a draghkar. Pass orders to your Friends of the Dark near him that any Shadowspawn within one country of his vicinity must be reported to me immediately.  

 

Each of you will meet with me privately to tell me your plans and your knowledge of every one else's plans.  I WILL find who has disobeyed."  Vanahl's eyes blazed hotter as he looked at each one of them in turn.

 

--

 

Arissa stepped back into the warmth of her palace dropping her weave and shield only once the Gateway snapped closed.  She hadn't been the one to mess with Der Keran's poor replacement, but it had been tempting.  The arrogance of youth surrounded him and all it would take was a few tiny weaves....

 

All in due time she scolded herself.  Perfectly recalling their faces as Vanahl finished his fervent announcement, she tried to puzzle out who it was.  There weren't many other than herself, she thought, that would dare to defy Vanahl.   Perhaps it was time to make friends after all.

Edited by keyholder21

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.. Pawns in a Game of Power  ..
►▼◄

 

The room flickered in the strange way things often did in the World of Dreams, a reflection of the real world, caught between moments. Raphael was used to this after his long experience with Tel'aran'rhiod and its ‘laws’ but it still caught his eye at times like remnants of a shadow.

 

Raphael stared admiringly at Arissa as Vanahl droned on. Her lavender dress was unique, he knew that much, and it set off her hair and eyes beautifully. Casting a glance at Divara he grinned. The woman was giving Arissa baleful glances, as usual. That would never change, thought the Chosen as he studied the woman. She had always been fashion-conscious and never liked anyone out-dressing her. She had always been a terrible gossip, so Serahna had told him on one occasion, and apparently that had not changed since awakening in this new Age and time. She had based herself in the pathetically named White Tower and was attempting to influence events among the Aes Sedai. Raphael always thought with scorn when he thought of these women who now called themselves Aes Sedai. So weak in the One Power, and weaker in character, they were not worthy of the name! He had come to hate the Aes Sedai back in what they now called the Age of Legends, due to the betrayal he had felt, but at least they had been men and women of power and ability, worthy adversaries.

 

Something Vanahl just said grabbed his attention.

 

 

"Someone has been interfering with the boy Dragon ahead of schedule”, the Nae'blis said. “Under EXPLICIT orders not to. He has been visited by an unauthorized Myrddraal, two Gray Men, and a Draghkar. Pass orders to your Friends of the Dark near him that any Shadowspawn within one country of his vicinity must be reported to me immediately.”  

 

Raphael could hear the anger in Vanahl’s voice and he laughed inside. So someone had acted against the will of the Nae'blis! A daring move indeed, perhaps unwise.. but exciting even so! Raphael enjoyed watching Vanahl’s fury, though nothing showed on his face. He knew how unwise it was to provoke the man unnecessarily and so he watched and listened as the other spoke on, inwardly chuckling with glee.

 

“Each of you will meet with me privately to tell me your plans and your knowledge of every one else's plans.  I WILL find who has disobeyed."  Vanahl's eyes blazed hotter as he looked at each one of them in turn.”

 

 

Raphael felt a sliver of fear when those blazing eyes met his but he controlled his emotion and afterwards convinced himself it had not been fear, just natural weariness. Inside he felt scorn for this man who thought he was so much better than the rest of them. Yes, he had been given the honour of being chosen Nae'blis, first among them - an honour Raphael felt he should have been given! - but even so Raphael thought Vanahl did not show them - and especially him - the right amount of respect. Your arrogance, Vanahl, will one day be the death of you, he thought maliciously and with glee as their leader’s eyes moved to the next in line.

 

Looking at other faces around the table, he wondered who it was among them that had attempted to influence events with the young poor replacement for Dar Keran. He guessed several had been tempted - except Issandra, who he felt pretty sure would not be brave enough to even consider such disobedience, and a handful of the others who were loyal to the Nae'blis. He, Raphael, had considered it of course, but in the end he had found it too risky. The Dragon Reborn - Raphael felt spite whenever he thought of the name this young so-called reincarnation had been given - would have to be dealt with in due course, in some way or another, but this was not the time. So who had gone against Vanahl’s orders? He did not think Arissa had done so. She was more than capable, of course, if she decided the risk was worth it, but he did not think she was the one.

 

Could it be Kharin? She had hated Dar Keran from the first day she had met him and he expected that she hated his young replacement as well. He sometimes wondered if there was anyone she did not hate. It was rumoured that she got on well, shall we say, with a certain Merindhra, a voluptuous maid from Arad Doman, so perhaps she was not filled with hate all the time. She had been close to defy Vanahl on several occasions, speaking up against his plans with a gusto that several of the others gawked at and some secretly admired, making Vanahl’s features contort in rage. Perhaps this time she had acted on the threat to act against him. He would have to find out. Perhaps it was time for his current alliance with Vinadel to be broadened.

 

 

“I am sure it is all a big misunderstanding, Vanahl.” Raphael said when the Nae'blis had finished staring at everyone, echoes of his command reverberating in the chamber. “We all know better than to disobey Your commands.”

 

There was a hint of sarcasm in his words and his blue eyes glinted dangerously but his face was smooth as stared back at the other man. It was not a challenge per se - though sometimes his temper got the better of him, Raphael was far from stupid and would never challenge the Nae'blis unless he felt he had the advantage - but a small reminder that Vanahl should step carefully and not overplay his hand. A couple of the others smiled thinly at Raphael’s words, baiting the Nae’blis. Serahna looked amused. Kharin’s upper lip curled in disdain. Arissa just stared at him but he thought he detected a hint of a smile on her red lips. Vanahl, however, gave him a hard stare, knowing exactly what game Raphael was playing. Another sly attempt to undermine my authority. I will destroy you one day, Raphael and wipe that smirk off your face. He kept silent though, biting his tongue. That was for another day. For now it was imperative to find out who had disobeyed his orders and almost messed up his carefully laid plans for the young boy. When he found out who it was, that person would wish he or she had never been born!

 

As for telling Vanahl his plans, Raphael had no intention of doing so. He was no fool, after all. His plans were secret and would remain so. Their success depended on secrecy. Instead he would give the Nae'blis a loose version of the truth, a vague summary of his current activities, to make the man happy. Divulging other Chosen plans was also out of the question. Not that he knew that much about the others’ activities to begin with, though he had heard some rumours and speculated on a few other things, but alliances were built on trust and secrets were not divulged. Some of the others were so loyal to Vanahl that they might speak of secrets, but most of the Chosen had their own agendas and plots to influence the world  and focused on those plans and strategies whatever Vanahl demanded. Raphael guessed it would never be discovered who had ‘interfered’ with the boy Dragon. And if by some chance the guilty party was discovered.. then Raphael felt pretty certain that Vanahl would punish him or her very harshly indeed. Oh yes.

 

The gateway snapped closed behind him, leaving the World of Dreams behind, as Raphael stepped into his own private chamber and walked slowly across to his work desk, filled with papers, maps and scrolls, and sat down.

 

It was time to put more of his plans into motion.

 

 

The Banners of Illian, Twelve Golden Bees on a Field of Green, situated atop the Palace called the Great Hall of the Council, rippled on the soft winds that came in off the Sea of Storms. Standing beside a large window in one of the top council rooms, Lord Serafehl, wearing a dark coat with golden fringes, ones that mirrored those in his boots in the Illian style, looked across the Square of Tammaz to the almost identical huge Ogier-built white Palace situated there, the King’s Palace, and grinned darkly. These two famous Palaces in Illian bore witness to the struggles between the two political powers in this nation: the King and the Council of Twelve. Your Palace may indeed be two feet larger in every measurement, as the stories go, Lord Serafehl thought to himself somewhat smugly, but here is where the true power of Illian resides.

 

There had been a power-struggle in Illian for what seemed forever. The system of having the Sovereign being “advised” by a council of lords - The Council of Twelve - was bad enough for the King of Illian. But in addition to that there was still another “advisory” body known as the Assemblage chosen by and from Illian’s merchants and shop owners. Both of these groups contended with the King for power, with the result that the nation lacked apt leadership. Or so many thought.

 

And that, Lord Serafehl mused, is what I am going to give them. Leadership. But from behind the scenes, of course.. That was always the best way, a whisper in the right ear here, a whisper in the right ear there, gaining influence among those with power, but without drawing undue attention,  and slowly but surely the master-puppeteer holds the strings of a nation. And then when the time is right.. to strike - and to strike hard!

 

 

It had taken Raphael a while in the guise of Lord Serafehl to manoeuvre into the position he held now, a member of the Council of Twelve of Illian. In the first months after making the city his new home he had set himself up as an advisor to Lord Tiriahm, a rather arrogant but not too shrewd lord from the eastern provinces, helping him solve certain “difficulties” as the Lord had called them.

 

I removed those obstacles for you, Tiriahm. Not in the way you expected, perhaps, but even so.

 

After that, it was easy to prevail upon a somewhat uneasy but at the same time very political-minded Tiriahm to speak his case when the council suddenly were in need of a new member after the untimely loss of Lord Nemihl, who abruptly died in his sleep one night. People whispered about assassination and murder, but no one in government found any proof of that and so it was deemed that his heart had simply lost its will to beat.

 

And so it did, after I crushed his chest with some delicate weaves, Raphael thought with great amusement and relish as he now stared out at the Square of Tammaz.

 

The meeting with the others had taken place the day before and Raphael had since then received messages from two of the other Chosen. Serahna wished to speak on an important matter, she said. Raphael was curious what Serahna had in mind. She was not one with whom he had much contact, but her invitation made him curious. Perhaps she was someone he should consider an alliance with. The other message was from Vinadel. He had put that aside for the moment.

 

Stepping back from the window, he walked across his ornate chamber and seated himself in a high-backed chair. On the walls were paintings that depicted battles in Illian’s history. They pleased him, reminding him of his own battles and triumphs of command. They did also make him think of paintings of a very different kind that had decorated his chamber back before the Breaking.. in his own time.

 

A different world. A different time.

 

 

Brushing thoughts of the past away, though echoes lingered in the back of his mind, he considered instead what he had accomplished since his arrival in Illian. He smiled gleefully as he reminisced.

 

For Lord Serafehl had adapted to a Councillor’s life and political work with incredible ease, something that as time passed by made most of the other Councillors reassured that the right man had been chosen for this highly prestigious position. Even though he had come so recently to the city and they knew so little about him, he radiated confidence and showed great ability with his advice and prudent motions - qualities they knew to appreciate. Though he had somewhat of a brisk manner about him at times, and his temper sometimes got the better of him, they took it as efficiency and the sign of a man born to make decisions, born to rule.

 

With them, of course.

And the King. Of course.

 

That was the way of Illian. That was the way it had always been. That was the way it would always be.

 

All is going according to plan Raphael thought with satisfaction. Seeds of Darkness have been sown in Illian, the Shadow spreads ever so slowly across the land, breeding instability and chaos. The Great Lord will be pleased.

 

Much remained of his very elaborate plans, but things were proceeding quite well.

 

 

Leaving the chamber, he walked briskly down a huge marble staircase to the floor below. He met two servants at the bottom of the stairs who bowed deeply to him as he passed but he hardly saw them, new plans forming in his mind. He rounded a corner and suddenly came face to face with Lord Ardhen, one of the few Councillors who did not think as highly of this Lord Serafehl as many of the others seemed to do.

 

“Lord Serafehl”, he said drily. A slight bow of the head as to an equal.

 

“Lord Ardhen”, Raphael replied in the same manner, giving the same slight bow.

 

“Your proposal to move a good part of our armed forces into our border-region in the north was rather .. rash”, Ardhen said carefully. He was going to say foolish, but decided to be a little more tactful. “We ought to have considered the matter further before the motion was passed.”

 

“You think so, Lord Ardhen ?” Raphael replied with a slight edge to his voice, not liking the man. “Is it not prudent to guard our northern borders when we hear tales of troubles and unrest ? The north has been neglected for too long, I believe, and it was time to do something about it.” Raphael said smoothly.

 

“Troubles and unrest .. , my Lord Serafehl.” Lord Ardhen said. “That is just rumours .... just rumours ... and we need to be alert should those fools in Tear suddenly decide to war upon us again. You never know with them.”

 

 

Lord Ardhen held the neighbouring nation of Tear in as low esteem as most Illianers, and should Illian ever be thrown into a war it would be with Tear, he felt certain of that.

 

“My Lord Ardhen”, Raphael said patiently in reply, “Tear is no threat to us.” He could see from the other man’s return-stare that he did not believe him. It did not matter. “And should Tear at some point in the future become a nuisance,” Raphael added for the lord’s benefit, “we have enough of our armed forces down here south so we can deal with it. The majority of the councillors agree with my assessment of the situation”.

 

In a somewhat smug voice he said, “Only you and Lords Kerdan and Tharin were in fact against the motion.”

 

The other man’s lips tightened. He was an older man, well past his prime but he still had some fight left in him. “Yes, this time we lost. This time.”

 

With those final words and casting the other man a challenging stare, he walked straight past Lord Serafehl and did not stop before he was almost at his private council-room, anger clouding his mind. There was something about that Lord Serafehl that put his teeth on edge. He was a sly one, that one, that was for sure, politically very able, but Ardhen - who came from one of the oldest families in Illian and who had been a councillor for many years - felt in his bones that there was more to it than that. He bears watching he thought grimly as he poured himself a glass of red wine from a decanter and took a big swallow.

 

 

Staring silently at the back of the departing Lord Ardhen, thinking about what had been said in their short conversation and what had not, and also the trouble this old lord could make in the future, Raphael wondered if the older Illianer Lord ought to meet with an unfortunate accident. The ocean currents of the Sea of Storms were particularly dangerous this time of year.

 

The Chosen’s grin widened wickedly as he walked up the steps to his chamber.

 

There was work to be done in Illian.

 

  ▀▄ 

 

Raphael

Chosen

Edited by Elessar

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.. The Price of Betrayal ..

►▼◄

 

Her body plastered to the wall by invisible flows of air, she knew she was dying a slow and painful death.

 

There was no sound coming from her, a weave of air gagging her, but the woman’s pretty features twisted with horrendous pain and her whole body would have jerked with spasms had she not been so pinned to the wall, as extremely delicate weaves of fire every so slowly sliced through her abdomen and her side.

 

 

Raphael did not share Divara’s great pleasure in inflicting pain on others, but he did what needed doing and it was necessary to make an example of this traitor to their cause.

 

For she had betrayed them, had attempted to reveal a fellow Friend of the Dark and a long-planned scheme to disrupt activities in the region to the local town authorities.

 

Very unwise.

 

Before that she had spread discontent within her Friends of the Dark-circle, accusing her leaders - and even the Chosen! - of withholding the truth and raving about there being no hope now that the Forces of Light were marching. Though many took her for a fool, there were also some - especially those new to their oaths - who listened.

 

Finally she had renounced her Oath to the Great Lord.

 

Very unwise indeed.

 

Personally, Raphael thought the dark-haired, slender built woman had gone completely insane. Whatever the case, she was now paying the price of betrayal.

 

She could see his face and his intense gaze as he came very close to her. His words were spoken softly and in her momentous pain she heard.

 

“Lady, this is the price you pay for disobedience.” Soft words. “You betrayed our cause. You betrayed our Great Lord.”

 

 

He felt her vital organs being crushed by his Saidin-wrought fire and understood that she had only moments left before death. And so he said,

 

“The penalty is death. Pray that the Great Lord will give you eternal sleep, after you betrayed his word and your sacred Oath. Perhaps instead you will have eternal pain.”

 

His grin widened wickedly.

 

In that final moment of torturous pain, Raphael slackened the weaves of air holding her bound a little bit - enough so that he would see her body break. And with a widening of her eyes, she gave a final jerk, a final soundless cry and then her body went limp, all light leaving her eyes forever.

 

The Chosen let go of all the weaves of air and she fell like an empty sack to the ground. He only gave her a quick glance, then turned to the middle-aged man standing off to the side with impassionate eyes.

 

“Take her body to the circle and display it well.” The Friend of the Dark nodded. “Let everyone know what was done to her and that this is the price they will pay if they betray our cause or break their Oath.”

 

“Yes, Great Master.”

 

The man spoke deferentially and did not meet Raphael’s eyes.

 

“It shall be done”, the man said.

 

Raphael nodded satisfied, then watched as the Illianer Friend of the Dark lifted the dead woman up onto his shoulder and carried what was left of her corpse out of the room. On the floor remained small parts of her in a widening pool of blood.

 

 

Seated in his high-backed chair in his chamber in the Great Hall of the Council, Lord Serafehl shuffled through the bunch of papers on his desk, his mind elsewhere. Outside twilight was descending on the Capital City of Illian, day slowly turning to night. Getting up from his chair, the Lord walked across the room and out onto the balcony. He stared out at the Square of Tammaz as he so often did in the evenings, thinking about strategy and what move to make next.

 

Raphael’s thoughts went back to the evening before when he - or rather Lord Serafehl -  had been challenged in the Council. Lord Ardhen, together with his two accomplices, had accused Lord Serafehl of threatening councillors and of incompetence with regards to a financial transaction-deal which the council had previously approved but which had gone awry. Raphael - in the guise of Lord Serafehl - had barely been able to contain his anger and has used his strong influence in the council to carry a motion which criticized Lord Ardhen for baseless accusations and made him apologize. Lord Ardhen had stormed out of the council chamber afterwards, staring daggers at Lord Serafehl as he passed. Raphael, for his part, had decided to accelerate his plan for the Illianer Lord’s unfortunate demise.

 

You should be more careful going for a swim with these dangerous ocean currents, my Lord Ardhen. The Chosen thought with wicked amusement. One day it will be the death of you.

 

His evil laughter remained, wisps of shadows in the air, as he walked inside his chamber again, new plans forming in his head.

 

 

Ebou Dar.  

 

Raphael stepped out of the gateway and it snapped shut behind him. He was in a small palace in the Altaran Capital, in a private chamber that stood next to the reception hall. The walls were decorated with paintings of all sorts and in all the corners were luxurious vases on ornate pedestals. Lord Elahron, first councillor to the Queen of Altara, enjoyed affluence. Vinadel has not changed since his re-awakening in this time and Age, thought the Chosen with some amusement as he studied the paintings with some interest. He knew that a chime would have alerted the other Chosen to his presence and that Vinadel would join him shortly.

 

Walking across to a window which showed the Royal Palace in the distance, Raphael stared out at the afternoon sun which lit up the Altaran Capital.

 

It was a beautiful city, with its pale white buildings and plenty of canals. Transportation was easy on the passenger canal boats as well as on the broad streets and bridges. Large buildings and palaces were scattered throughout the city, the palaces richly decorated with tall spires or domes in the shapes of turnips or pears, emblazoned with bands of crimson, blue, and gold. The city was surrounded by a very thick white wall, which had three main gates - the Moldaine Gate, the Three Towers Gate, and the Dal Eira Gate - as well as several minor ones. Throughout the city, paved squares were very common, often containing a fountain bubbling water, a large statue, or both. Out of these squares, the Mol Hara square was by far the largest. At its center stood a statue of a woman with one arm raised as to point toward the sea. One entire side of the Mol Hara square was dominated by the gleaming white Tarasin Palace, home of the current ruler of Altara.

 

Ah, but the real power is here. Vinadel was not the most accomplished of the Chosen in Raphael’s view, neither a great general nor a master manipulator, but he did have a way with words and ideas, having been a renowned Philosopher before the Breaking, and had managed to move himself into the position of chief advisor to the Queen, influencing things nicely here in his base of power. He and Raphael saw many things in the same light and had had a loose alliance since escaping the Dreamless Sleep. They did not trust one another, of course, but they had an understanding of sorts which benefited them both at present.

 

 

The door at the other side of the room opened and Raphael turned around. Lord Elahron entered, closing the door behind him. He wore an ornate grey coat with frills at the neck and cuffs and his boots also had frills. It was almost a mirror image of Raphael’s black attire. A tall, slender, scholarly man in his late thirties, dark haired with a short beard and brown eyes, the Lord nodded to Raphael and a small smile came upon his lips.

 

“Lord Serafehl”, he said in a pleasant voice. “How good of you to visit me.” Raphael returned the small smile.

 

“Lord Elahron, I am pleased to be back.”

 

Raphael was not surprised when Vinadel made a weave which ensured their privacy from prying ears - he always did this for their meetings, something Raphael thought prudent - and then bade him sit in one of the two chairs near the window. Seating himself, Raphael considered how much or how little he could tell Vinadel. With all that was going on he expected Vinadel would be just as careful.

 

“So”, Vinadel began tentatively. “How are things going in Illian?”

 

Raphael smiled thinly. “Oh, very well. A few obstacles, as can be expected, but on the whole things are going smoothly. And here in Altara?”

 

“Very well”, Vinadel replied. “The Queen is.. stubborn, but she listens to good advice. She affords trust to her advisors.”

 

Raphael nodded. “That is good.” His eyes intensified. “And what of Vanahl’s commands?”

 

Vinadel’s brown eyes narrowed slightly. “Ah yes. He was rather.. displeased by the whole boy Dragon affair, wasn’t he?” A small grin came upon his lips.

 

 

Raphael grinned back. “Indeed. Our Nae'blis was not happy at all.” A small pause. “Any idea who was behind that whole thing?” He said it lightly, wondering what Vinadel knew and what he would share.

 

“Oh, it was not me”, Vinadel replied with a small chuckle. “In case you wondered. I have no idea, but it was rather unwise, I think.”

 

“Yes”, Raphael said, his mouth twisting slightly. “Some of our.. associates have been.. premature before.” He chuckled, knowing the double-meaning would not escape the other man.

 

“Indeed”, Vinadel replied with similar amusement. “Have you spoken to Vanahl since the meeting?”

 

“Yes, I have”, Raphael answered.

 

His lips tightened momentarily. It had been an unpleasant meeting where Vanahl had accused him of holding things back - which he had, of course been doing - and Raphael accusing Vanahl of losing control of the group of Chosen. They had parted in anger.

 

“He was not overly pleased by what I had to tell him.” Meeting the other man’s eyes, he added, “And you?”

 

“Yes, he came to see me some days ago.” Vinadel replied, his eyes narrowing once again. “Not a very pleasant man. Never was.”

 

Raphael nodded in agreement. “He feels things are falling apart, but it is more the question of him losing control, I think. Our plans are going ahead, the Shadow is slowly spreading. The Great Lord will be pleased.”

 

“I agree”, Vinadel said. “I don’t know what some of the others are up to, but down here South things are going according to plan.”

 

 

When he returned to his chamber in Illian a little later, the silver line of the gateway disappearing behind him, Raphael went over in his mind what his fellow Chosen had said. He had watched the other man carefully during their conversation, trying to pick up on body language and signals which spoke of intent and emotion, but had perceived little of use. Perhaps Vinadel had spoken truth, perhaps deception. It would have to do for now. The man could at least be relied on, as far as any of the other Chosen could be relied on in the great Game of Power.

 

 

The Council of Twelve were horrified when they were informed the following morning that Lord Ardhen had been found dead in the sea outside the Capital. It was ruled an accidental drowning in strong ocean currents, a probable heart attack when the councillor had gone for his regular evening swim.

 

Lord Serafehl had been most gracious in his kind words of the late Lord, saying that despite their differences Lord Ardhen had been an honourable man who had served Illian with dignity and strength for many years. A motion had subsequently been passed, honouring the dead Lord, and only when the meeting was over and he was alone again in his private chamber, had his somber mask of melancholy broken to be replaced by gleeful jubilation. There was an empty seat on the Council now but with his influence and power Lord Serafehl knew he would be able to get the right man selected.

 

Oh we shall miss your valuable council, my Lord Ardhen. He grinned wickedly. We shall miss it immeasurably.

 

 

The dying rasp of the Myrddraal (they always took a long time to die, damn them!) made the man’s almost black eyes harden even further, if that were possible. Disobedience of the Chosen was almost unheard of but this servant had questioned his orders and he would not stand for it.

 

What business is it of yours, he whispered in his mind to the almost dead creature, how I decide to carry out the Great Lord’s commands ? You are a Servant of the Shadow, of the Great Lord, of me, and you live to obey!

 

Disgust shone in his eyes as he stared at the dying body of the Fade. He tightened his fists and tried to control the anger within.

 

“The penalty for disobedience is death.” His words were hard as stone. “May the Great Lord’s wrath be as harsh.”

 

Turning to face the other Eyeless Ones, three tall figures with cloaks that never moved, he said softly but dangerously, “Anyone else want to question my orders ?”

 

There was no emotion coming from the remaining Myrddraal but from their stance it was almost possible to detect some unease. But also some displeasure. The one standing nearest to the Chosen bowed carefully and rasped “No Great Master. We obey.

 

“Good!” The Chosen said, anger in his voice. “Any more betrayals and you will all die painfully. More painfully than this one.” He pointed at the dead Fade.

 

“Now take the Trollocs north”, he commanded. “There is a change of plan. Be ready for new orders.”

 

Gerehl looked them each in the eyeless face, his stare boring into them, before he turned and entered the gateway. The lights of Tanchico could be seen in the far distance as his gateway snapped shut.

 

 

Stepping out of the gateway in quite another place, the Chosen walked up to a tall mirror that stood beside a huge painting depicting a battle-scene. Looking at his reflection, he grinned at what he saw. A brown-haired man in his late twenties with almost black eyes and high cheekbones, a lean body and a dark green cloak with frills. Chuckling to himself, the image in the mirror slowly changed as the weave known as the Mask of Mirrors in the Age of Legends gradually changed his features from those of Gerehl back to Raphael’s.

 

These were interesting times indeed, thought Lord Serafehl of Illian with dark elation and great satisfaction as he returned to his work desk to go through some more council papers.

 

The chaos is spreading. The Great Lord will be pleased.

 

His grin widened.

 

Gerehl.. perhaps less so.

 

Raphael laughed inside. Oh, it was good to be alive!

 

  ▀▄ 

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It was summer and a storm was brewing.  Outside the air was heavy with moisture; the cloud underbellies deepening in color as people scurried to finish their daily tasks.  Streaks of lightning occasionally jumped from cloud to cloud, heightening the need for haste. Shopkeepers had already ducked into their storefronts, not wanting to tempt the weather in order to sell one more item.  Children followed along behind their parents, many pointing at the sky and whispering excitedly to another.

 

Inside the Palace, Arissa looked out the window toward the sky.  She frowned slightly, pulling her lips into a pretty pout, and swirled the drink in front of her.  A storm would make a stroll outside less than pleasant, and she had planned to suggest Enara hold Court in the High Garden today.  She could alter the weather if needed, but she admittedly, she wasn’t great at it.  Changing the weathers required multiple large weaves of varying complexity, and a certain spontaneity that Arissa despised.  She preferred the controlled intricacy of the mind. 

 

She heard the rustling of fabric and smiled as she slowly turned, the gray light casting an almost eerie glow on her unclothed frame.  Enarra, blonde hair unbound and splayed messily across a pillow smiled at her sleepily.  “I could stay in bed all day,” her voice hitching slightly as she stretched two pale arms skyward.  “Especially if you would stay with me.” Her frame relaxed back against the nest of silk covered pillows and she brazenly watched Arissa cross the room. 

 

Gathering one of the pale pink robes that had been neatly set out for the pair, the Chosen winked, her green eyes flashing in wicked delight.  She drew Saidar and almost sighed as the perfection of the One Power flooded through her.  “As much as I would love to stay in bed all day, we have Court this afternoon.  And,” she added, tying the sash loosely around her waist, “you know we must be careful not to be seen together lest the rest worry that you are playing favorites.” She punctuated her admonishment with a soft Compulsion weave and the spitting image of an adoring smile. 

 

“Sometimes I can’t believe the decisions I make,” Enarra said, half to herself, “Sometimes I think I am playing favorites…” the Queen of Andor trailed off, bounding to her feet.  Snatching the other robe, she leaned in close to push some glossy dark blonde hair out of Arissa’s face and peck her lovingly on the cheek, “but you just make so many bloody good points, Aleya. Maybe you should be Queen.” Laughing, the blonde pushed her lover left, toward the hidden door connecting their rooms and walked toward her enormous powder room.

 

Arissa dropped the seductive gaze as Enarra disappeared into the other room.  “Oh lovely, ignorant Enarra,” she murmured, “I already am.”  Stepping into “her” rooms, the Chosen swiftly donned her Lady Aleya attire – it was much too modest for her personal taste, but it was a necessary discomfort – and headed toward the throne room.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*   

 

“I’m so glad you could join me for tea, Lady Aleya,” though the tone sounded less than welcoming.  “It seems you have had the Queen’s ear of late, and well, as we differ on many fronts, I thought it may be best to meet and discuss.” She took a sip of her tea and smiled a cold smile that did not reach her eyes.  Arissa tipped the cup up to her mouth but did not drink.  When finished, she smiled at the other woman, baring white teeth that gleamed slightly in the sun.  She'd already removed the bullish "Aes Sedai" from meddling; this Lady would be even easier to break.  Arissa had been manipulating people since the Breaking...before the Breaking if Dar Keran was to be believed.  Fool man, she thought bitterly, before returning her attention to the irritating person in front of her.

 

“It’s a pleasure to be here,” the Chosen said, in a tone only mildly more friendly than the host had used. In the current political climate, pleasantries were necessity, but actually being nice would be viewed as suspicious.  Though Cairhein was famous for Daes Dae’mar – Arissa scoffed at the name – Andoran politics could be just as vicious.  Especially when whispers of a succession crisis had begun to spread through the great Houses.  The Queen was young, but had no Heir.  Nor had she shown any interest in remarrying after the rather sudden death of her husband nearly two years ago.  To the world she seemed content to remain alone.

 

Harlin gave the impression of a tight smile – or grimace, it was difficult to tell – before launching into her pitch for Succession should it come to that.  She morphed into almost a different person, as she met “Areya’s” blue eyes, passion in her voice and real emotion in her body language.  It was a truly impressive performance. Someone not highly studied in mental inner-workings may have been swayed.

 

But Arissa was aware and Areya was loyal…for now.

 

“Harlin,” she said, interrupting the other woman, “Enarra is still a young woman; she’s only in her mid-20s.  Besides, this sounds like treason.  You are speaking of taking the crown!” Arissa inwardly cocked a brow as she watched horror and resentment fall over the face of the other woman.  The Chosen had little desire to actually sit on the Lion Throne, but her proximity and “friendship” with the Queen placed her in high regard politically, and socially. She was the logical choice for succession if it came down to it, but her loyalty to Enarra would only serve to cement the people’s love for her and drive Harlin mad with competition. Enarra was a popular Queen, a fair and just ruler with a pretty face and a love for her people.

 

Word of Harlin’s lust for power would soon be out; Arissa had made sure of it. But she’d also ensured there were some loud vocal supporters of the Lady as well, just to make it interesting.  She took a dainty drink, nearly spitting the disgustingly weak liquid back into her cup. “I suggest you cease this talk and settle back down to drink some tea.  It must be almost chilled by now.” The other woman narrowed her eyes, but reclined into the chair slightly.  Areya was right.  The tea was cold.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Arissa wove a Gateway, stepping once again into the Dreamworld.  She readied her usual weave and shield before snapping the shut.  Strolling around the suggested meeting place, she let a small smile come to her lips. The pale gray walls shimmered with minuscule reflections of the hearth blazing across the room and a dark plush carpet muted the sound of footfalls.  Similarly dark furniture dotted the moderately sized room though there was little else here. Beautiful stonework if austere in decor; it fit Seranha perfectly.   There were no hints of where the other Chosen might be, though Arissa surreptitiously checked anyway.  Everyone made mistakes at some point.  Like myself in trusting Kharin with Wendalle after the Breaking.  She shredded his mind beyond repair and cackled as I had to scrape together the information we needed. 

 

Locking that frustrating memory away, Arissa leaned against the arm of the chair closest to the fire.  It gave off the same intensity of light, but the flames were mere reflections of true world. No heat attempted to ward off the ever present chill of tel'aran'rhiod.  Interestingly, the hearth never flickered to be fully out; Seranha must keep the fire stoked constantly.  There might be something to that....the auburn-haired beauty filed it away for possible future use.  The other Chosen was probably the person most akin to a friend, but that didn't mean she wasn't also a threat Arissa may need to neutralize in the future.

 

Humming quietly to herself, Arissa waited patiently.  Were she and Seranha different people, she would have thought Seranha was making her wait on purpose.  However,  Seranha was more blunt than passive and Arissa was extremely patient.  She had always enjoyed playing the long game; often as much or more as the eventual outcome.  She pondered her next move with the Andoran nobility as the fire made almost natural crackling and popping sounds in the empty room.  It wasn't long before Seranha appeared, her dark hair in a solitary braid hanging at her back and an empty weapon belt slung across her hips.  "Thanks for coming," the shorter woman said, crossing the room to sit in the ebony chair across from where Arissa stood.  "I have some news you may be interested in, and a proposition for you."

 

"Do tell," the redhead purred, a goblet of chilled white wine appearing in her hand.   She took a deep draw from the liquid and when she met Seranha's eyes, Arissa's emerald eyes twinkled with mischief and malice. "I enjoy a good proposal."

 

 

Edited by keyholder21

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.. As the Shadow Rises ..

►▼◄

 

The old Illianer woman screamed in pain.

 

Her face felt as if it were on fire. The pain was endless and she knew she was going to die.

 

Just as she was going to black out, the pain stopped suddenly and she gasped, her whole body shaking, her hands trembling uncontrollably.

 

She was hunched over on the sharp rocks near the ocean, waves hitting the slippery rocks close by, the domes of Illian in the far distance. A canopy of darkness from horizon to horizon filled her blurred vision as she raised her head to the night sky. Tears streamed down her once handsome face, her semi-blond hair now matted with blood, her dress torn and dirty.

 

“I ask again”, the cloaked man demanded harshly. “Did you break your promise?”

 

“I do be doing no such a thing”, the old woman stuttered between panicked gasps. “Do be trusting my words. I do be keeping my promise.”

 

Raphael looked down at the woman and cursed inside.

 

Another worthless servant of the Shadow. Another oath-breaker.

 

 

She had broken the trust they had put in her, speaking secrets to family members however much she denied it now, revealing things that were not to be revealed. There was only one punishment for such disobedience.

 

Death.

 

But first he had to know how much she had revealed. Not that she knew that much to begin with, being a minor member of the local Friends of the Dark circle, but any breach was serious and had to be closed before the problem escalated.

 

“Don’t lie to me”, Raphael said icily and applied more pressure on her abdomen using delicate weaves of Saidin.

 

The woman screamed in renewed agony and shook her head. “I do be truthful, Great Master”, she cried.

 

“We know that you broke your oath”. He said it as a statement of fact.

 

Easing up on the pain, he grabbed the woman’s hair and forced her face upwards. “There is no use in lying”, he added. “Who else did you tell, apart from your two cousins?”

 

“I do no break my promise”, she cried.  The pain increased.

 

“All right, I do tell Willfred and Keldon about my meeting”, she spluttered, the pain grabbing her, her limbs trembling. “Only that. But they do be family. They do be trusted, they do be telling no one. You do be trusting them, Great Master.”

 

Her bloodshot eyes begged him to believe her, her body quivering, but for him there was no mercy.

 

“I - trust - no one”.

 

His words were final and she saw her death in his eyes, partially revealed in the silver light of the moon.

 

Closing her own ocean-green eyes, her body slowly going limp, readying herself for the inevitable, she waited for death to take her.

 

When it came, a subtle weave of Saidin slicing through her brain like a sliver of ice-water, she hardly felt a thing.

 

 

The city of Cairhien was situated on the east bank of the River Alguenya just south of its junction with the River Gaelin. There was a large dock area on the river with many granaries on the other side. The city walls formed a perfect square. The area outside the city walls, the Foregate, was also heavily populated. A sprawling settlement, the buildings in Foregate were mostly made of wood, and some of them had multiple stories. There were inns, taverns, homes, and shops galore. For the highly status-conscious and reserved Cairhienin nobility, Foregate was beneath their notice. The population was mostly commoners.

 

Staring down at the city from his balcony atop the Manor House, Lord Taighan did not care about any of the commoners in Cairhien. In fact, he did not care much about the Nobles either. All he cared about was putting his plans into action and making sure no one messed them up. He was a dark-haired man of average height and build in his mid-thirties with dark eyes and a handsome face. He wore a dark blue coat and looked every part the Nobleman.  The sun was rising in an azure-blue sky, a soft breeze drifting in from the north-west. It was late morning and it looked to be a beautiful day. Turning away from the view, Lord Taighan re-entered his chamber and headed across to his work desk. He picked up an envelope which read ‘To Lord Senidhred’ on the front and carried it down the stairs to the floor below. A young servant met him at the foot of the stairs and gave him a polite bow. Handing him the letter to have it delivered, the Lord walked past him without a word and out the front entrance.

 

A horse and carriage waited outside and he stepped quickly inside the carriage, closing the door behind him. Soon they were headed into the centre of the city, a city soon filled with the sounds of voices and life; shopkeepers selling their wares and customers haggling, dogs barking in the distance, farmers bringing in their produce from the nearby region, horses and carriages bringing Nobles and merchants to and fro. Nothing of this registered in Lord Taighan’s mind as he passed down the city streets toward his destination. He was, in fact, thinking about the confrontation of the evening before.

 

 

“That is a ridiculous proposal, Lord Taighan!” Lord Madhrid had made no secret of his strong disagreement. An older Lord in his early fifties, dressed as always in his finery, he had never been afraid to speak his mind. “Allying ourselves with Houses Sehnin, Khaledred and Lihren will cause major divisions among Cairhien Nobility”, he had shouted. “It is not in our best interest. We need some stability now that the world outside seems to be growing more and more chaotic every day.”

 

“What rubbish!” Lord Taighan had replied emphatically. His voice was condescending as it often was when talking to people he considered his inferiors (which meant almost everyone). “This will bring more stability to Cairhien. Those Houses are often at each other’s throats as you well know; an alliance will benefit everyone, and the few Houses that may disagree will be.. persuaded otherwise.”

 

Lord Madrid had not been convinced, suspecting this was a personal grab for power, and had left the meeting in anger, promising that he would do whatever he could to stop these new plans.

 

Manoeuvring for power was part of every Cairhienin Nobleman’s blood. They had, after all, invented Daes Dae'mar, The Game Of Houses. It was the political and social manoeuvring employed by the Nobility to gain status or wealth, or to cause the downfall of others they dislike. Sometimes also called The Great Game, it was played heavily in Cairhien, where the most seemingly irrelevant act could cause Lords and Ladies to speculate endlessly about one's motives; even servants of the Cairhienin Nobility it was said play their own version of Daes Dae'mar. Lord Taighan was a deft player and used his skills to further his ambitions.

 

And you, Lord Madhrid, thought Lord Taighan with some amusement, just overplayed your hand.

 

 

Stepping out of the carriage before a large mansion at the outskirts of the city Lord Taighan brushed the dust from his dark coat and then walked up to the entrance. The door was opened before he got to knock and a male servant invited him in. The walls along the corridor were heavily decorated in a fashion which did not impress the Lord and he walked swiftly along, his mind on the meeting to come. Finally he entered a long hallway and saw a figure waiting for him at the end. Lady Surhin welcomed her guest enthusiastically, ushering him into a larger chamber which turned out to be the reception room.

 

“Lord Taighan”, she said politely when they had seated themselves around a small table at the northern end of the room.

 

“Lady Surhin”’, he replied with a thin smile. “Thank you for inviting me.”

 

The long-haired, usually stern-faced middle-aged Noblewoman looked shrewdly at this Lord from the outer provinces, or so it was said, who had climbed the ladder of power in Cairhien in a surprisingly short time. Wherever he came from, he was certainly a man suited to The Game. His proposal for an alliance with her House Khaledred had certainly come out of nowhere and had surprised her. His House had often been opposed to her interests.. but his offer intrigued her and she was curious to hear what he had in mind.

 

“Your offer interests me”, Lady Surhin said smoothly after they had exchanged the expected pleasantries. “It did come as a surprise though, seeing as your House has not been the most.. agreeable to House Khaledred’s activities of late.”

 

Lord Taighan nodded with a thin smile. “We have been at odds for some time, that is true”, he replied smoothly. “But that is about to change.”

 

The man once known as Esahm Seldin Terivahr grinned widely, his dark eyes glinting with possibilities.

 

 

“Good times are ahead of us, Lady Surhin”, Kieran said. His deep voice resonated in the large room and the Noble lady’s face lit up, delicate threads of Compulsion aiding her positive reaction. “Together we shall help make Cairhien stronger”, he lied.

 

The Chosen chuckled inside as he saw the Noble lady’s face glow with eagerness as he spoke of his - Lord Taighan’s - plans. Oh, these Nobles were so easy to manipulate, thought the Chosen with disdain as he watched her fall into his trap.

 

Breaking up alliances, forging new ones, breaking up those through betrayals and re-forging them again later made for perfect instability and chaos.

 

Kieran enjoyed the Game of Power though he missed his time as a scientist back in the world before the Breaking, when he had been doing truly important work. Working at the Sihn Theal, in his laboratories, he had created the Trollocs and other Shadowspawn for the Shadow, a feat almost unmatched by time. Banohr had aided too, of course, but it was he, Kieran, who had been the true brains behind the scientific success, the true innovator, the greatest scientist that had ever lived! This new Age knew nothing of such marvels, children they were playing in a world playground which was a poor and faint echo of the splendour of the world and Age he and his brethren had left behind.

 

Scholar as he was, Kieran was a methodical man and he had quickly decided to make the most of it, after awakening from the Dreamless Sleep that he preferred not to dwell upon. For his own gratification. And for the Great Lord. Of course.

 

He used his methodical, experienced skills in persuasion now as he convinced the Lady of House Khaledred to support his plans.

 

Outwardly he was serious and formal, a slight smile on his lips.

 

Inside he was chuckling with glee.

 

Cairhien was there for the taking.

 

 

The Sea Folk ship flew like an arrow across the waves of the Aryth Ocean, borne by strong winds. The Sailmistress, Tarah din Coral Rising Wave, a tall dark-skinned woman with grey streaked hair, a grave face and with four rings in each ear, one of them being connected to her nose by a chain, a sign of her higher rank, smiled contentedly from her position of command on the Quarterdeck. This was her vessel, a Raker called Wavesweeper, and she was mighty proud of it and her crew. The vessel was large with multiple decks, easily a hundred paces long, with three towering masts amidships and one shorter one on the raised sterndeck. It had large triangular as well as somewhat smaller white squared sails, and a very narrow body, as was common in such ships, that made for great speed across oceans. Tarah had begun aboard a ship as a deckhand many years before, in the tradition of the Atha’an Miere, and had worked herself up through the ranks. She had finally fulfilled her ambition and gained the rank of Sailmistress with her own vessel - and she felt as protective of her ship as she would of a child.

 

Her eyes swept over her ship with practiced ease, storing every little detail in her mind, and spotting her Windfinder Chalor din Togara Evening Tide near the bow. Windfinders were women who could channel the One Power and they were invaluable in plotting the best course based on the wind and currents. Manipulating the weather with flows of Air and Water, weaves  Windfinders were particularly skilled at, they could change the weather to avert storms and speed their ship along to its destination. And Chalor din Togara Evening Tide was the best Windfinder the Sailmistress had ever had on her ship. She gave silent blessings for her fortune in obtaining this highly skilled and proficient Windfinder after the sudden, unexpected death of her previous one, Mebreille din Eiran North Wind. The woman had been found on deck one morning, dark eyes staring emptily into the sky, her heart no longer beating. There had been no sign of injury or any wrongdoing though the Sailmistress found the whole thing puzzling seeing as the woman had been healthy as a dolphin in heat from what the Sailmistress had observed. Soon after Chalor din Togara Evening Tide had appeared at one of their landfalls with good recommendations from other Sailmistresses and Tarah had taken her on, even if this woman was a stranger to her. They needed a Windfinder and this woman seemed capable. It was the best decision of her life.

 

 

Chalor din Togara Evening Tide stared outwards at the ocean-waves from her vantage point. She was dark-skinned like her Sea Folk-sisters, dark-eyed with short hair, a lean body and she wore tattoos on her hands of stars and seabirds surrounded by the curls and whirls of stylized waves. She was ranked only under the Sailmistress and Cargomaster on this ship and the arrogance in her gait as she walked the decks befitted her station.

 

Gazing at the dark and heavy clouds moving in the sky ahead of them, floating in an unnatural manner against the wind, pushed by strong weaves of Saidar, Issandra grinned and there was wickedness in her dark eyes. She was very pleased with herself. Under the guise of Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, who unfortunately lay dead at the bottom of the Aryth Ocean (it was very unwise to eat posioned mussels!), she had easily manipulated this stupid and naive Sailmistress into giving her the position of Windfinder on this ship after poor Mebreille din Eiran North Wind had died suddenly in the night (I guess she had not prepared for my inverted weave after all.. poor soul!).

 

Issandra was now exactly where she needed to be, to influence events.

 

She knew (though it hurt to admit it to herself) she probably was generally the weakest of the Chosen in the One Power, but she had one ability which outranked them all: she was very strong in Air and Water and very proficient in manipulating the weather, or Weaving of the Winds, as the Sea Folk called it. She doubted any of the so-called Aes Sedai of this Age were anywhere near her ability in this regard, Cloud Dancing they appatently called this Talent, though perhaps some of these Windfinders were closer in skill; she had watched several at work on several ships since her awakening from the Dreamless Sleep and she had to admit they were not totally useless. She did not use all her skill as Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, however, not wanting to cast suspicion on her ‘extraordinary skill’, doing just enough to impress the Sailmistress and make their journeys swift and efficient. Having to act the Windfinder at all times vexed her in truth, but she put up with it in public, venting her frustration only when in private.

 

It was all worth it and the Great Lord would be pleased.

 

 

Chalor din Togara Evening Tide changed the flows of Air, altering her weaves ever so delicately, and the Sea Folk vessel jumped forwards, entering an even better sea corridor towards the north. The ‘Windfinder’s’ thoughts were, however, not entirely on the skies and the horizon ahead but partly in another Age and another Time, where Issandra was carrying out important research on wind power and accelerated particle division, to much scientific acclaim, in the science facility of Ner Khalid.

 

 

A goblet of delicious, perfectly chilled blood-red wine stood on the table. Lord Serafehl poured himself some of that red wine and enjoyed the taste of Taraboner grapes on his tongue. He looked with relish at the plate with a large steak, roasted potatoes, vegetables and a spicy sauce in front of him. It looked delicious but just as he raised his fork and knife to cut that steak a servant came into the private dining room with a message. “Can it not wait?” He said briskly. The servant, a young Illianer man in his mid-twenties, bowed and apologized for disturbing him but said this message was urgent. Receiving the piece of paper, the Lord looked at the heading which read “Lord Serafehl”. It was written in a flowing script which to Raphael’s eyes looked female. A woman had written this, of that he felt sure.

 

Gazing at the message, he saw that it was an invitation to a reception at the Manor House of Lady Derinha. She was a fellow councillor here in Illian, someone who had been neutral in most of the discussions in the council in the past year but who had supported Serafehl in the voting. He had not spoken much to her in truth, so he was a little curious why she wanted this meeting. Things were coming along well in Illian as he saw it, but he could always use some added support to his schemes. Maintaining a majority vote in the council was important and any action that aided in this endeavour was worthwhile. Nodding to his young servant, he bade him send a quick reply on his behalf accepting the invitation. When the man had left, Lord Serafehl focused on his meal once again and almost sighed with pleasure as he tasted that delicious red meat.

 

 

A chime rang in his private chamber later that evening and he understood it was time to go. His orders by the Great Lord has been explicit. He intended to follow them to the letter. Putting his dark coat on, Raphael seized Saidin and opened a gateway right there in his chamber. Through the gateway he saw parts of a semi-dark hill cave, hard stone reaching in all directions, candle lights lit at intervals. Stepping through, the gateway snapped shut behind him. He knew he was in the Blight though he could not say specifically where. Not that it mattered for today’s business. It could have been carried out anywhere, in truth, but this place was.. appropriate, he thought. Secret, out of the way. Solitary. They would not be disturbed.

 

Heading further into the hill cave, on a path that angled downwards for a long while, Raphael considered the evening’s business. This would be the first time since awakening from the Dreamless Sleep that he would participate in such an action. It had been done before, of course, during the War of Power but it needed ample ‘resources’ one could say and so was fairly rare and only done when deemed especially necessary for the Shadow. The cave path slowly straightened, then angled upwards and finally opened up, walls of stone rising upwards on all sides, with huge malachites hanging from the ceiling high above. In the middle of the huge stone chamber, criss-crossed by symbols on the ground and partially lit by three dozen candle lights, stood thirteen Myrddraal and twelve Dreadlords. Raphael joined them. Bound by flows of Air to the stone wall behind them, two feet off the ground, was the Aes Sedai. Arahna Desonai, Head of the Blue Ajah of the White Tower. Her blue eyes stared icily and defiantly at everyone gathered, her smooth ageless Aes Sedai-features strained, her long curly blond hair flowing down from her shoulders. She was gagged with Air but had she not been, Raphael felt sure she would have cursed them all as evil traitors to the Light. He liked women with spirit, but her defiance would soon turn to terror when she realized what they were going to do to her.

 

Seven of the gathered Dreadlords were male, the remaining five female. The females were of the so-called Black Ajah, Aes Sedai who had forsaken their oaths to the Light and joined the Shadow. The Myrddraal stood silently waiting, their Eyeless faces turned upwards. Raphael walked up to the bound Aes Sedai and smiled wickedly.

 

Staring up into the Andoran woman’s face he whispered, “This is a day of joy for you. Soon you will join your sisters and brothers in service to the Great Lord. You are forsaking the Light. Aren’t you happy?”

 

Defiance gradually turned to terror as recognition dawned on her and she realized what he had meant, what was about to happen to her. Her eyes widened in horror. Her soul cried out and had she been able to, she would have killed herself rather than go through what she now understood was about to happen: she was going to be Turned to the Shadow against her will. Tears flowed down her chin, her cheeks burning with frustration, as she thought with despair that they would make her betray the Light forever.

 

She had been told of this secret evil practice from Ages past - the last known case was during the Trolloc Wars as far as she knew - when she had been raised Aes Sedai more than one hundred years before. In order to Turn someone unwillingly to the Shadow, it was said, one needed to gather thirteen Myrddraal and thirteen Dreadlords in one place. The victim of Turning must also be able to channel. The combination of Saidin and Saidar channeled through Myrddraal in this way was said to shift the allegiance of any channeler to the Shadow against their will. The process twists the person so that any previous commitment to the Light is redirected towards the Shadow. It was the ultimate horror Arahna could imagine and she screamed silent screams that almost tore her soul.

 

 

Raphael grinned wickedly, seeing the horror painted on her face. It was time to begin.

 

He joined the other twelve Dreadlords, making and completing a circle of thirteen channelers. He was the one leading, controlling the flow. He felt Saidin surge through his body and he increased the flow almost to bursting, feeling ecstasy in his soul. The power coming from the thirteen channelers was so strong that it made the air vibrate. He removed the gag of Air from the Aes Sedai and she screamed loudly, unendingly, a desperate cry that welled up from the bottom of her soul. Channeling through the thirteen Myrddraal, mixing with the power that the Fades derived from the True Power, the thirteen channelers of the Shadow threw their combined might at the Aes Sedai woman and it hit her like a burning storm.

 

Horrendous screams erupted from her mouth as she tried to fight the massive onslaught. Crying out for the Light, tears flooding her face, she fought the mental rape for what seemed an eternity, using every fibre of her being to defend her soul, her heart, everything that was Arahna, resisting for as long as she was able. Hysterical with pain and fear, trying in vain to reach for the blessed One Power, and wanting oblivion, she fought on.. and on.. OH LIGHT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!.. her will strong and fighting and brave and pure….. but it was not enough.

 

Not enough.

 

Slowly, by increments, she felt her inner defences weakening, her thoughts became muddled and she knew .. OH DEAR CREATOR, I CAN FEEL IT!!! .. that her soul was being darkened. Her strength waned and then at a point, an eternity later, she could not tell, she felt a.. change inside her, as if a hand of darkness had reached into her and extinguished everything she had ever been, everything she had ever thought, every love she had ever nurtured, every dream she had ever had.  

 

Her soul was breaking - and the scream in her mind was endless.

 

Her last thought as herself before she passed out, was that she wanted to die and end it all.

 

 

Afterwards Raphael felt spent, and he crossed over to one of the stone walls to recover. He did not want the others to know how much this - leading the circle - had temporarily weakened him, so he brushed the sweat from his brow without anyone seeing and shielded his strength in the One Power in a way he had learned in the Age of Legends. It was a trick that had come in handy on several occasions. Looking at the others he saw that several of the Dreadlords were pretty exhausted too. It had taken longer than expected to break this Aes Sedai woman, she had been strong-willed, but they had succeeded. She had been Turned to the Shadow and was no longer the same woman, the same personality, that she had been.

 

When Arahna Sedai recovered a little later, she had walked up to the Chosen and bowed to him. Her face had been flat but without any defiance as she had sworn new binding Oaths to the Great Lord holding a Binder, or Oath Rod as they called it in this new Age. Her eyes had been deep wells of nothingness.. but this did not surprise Raphael since he knew that Turned channelers were said to have a darkness or soullessness behind their eyes, at least for some period after the event. She had joined her Dreadlord sisters in the huge cave, and would now willingly (even if perhaps slightly diminished) join the Black Ajah’s efforts on behalf of the Great Lord to disrupt matters in the White Tower.

 

Raphael did not know why none of the other Chosen had been asked to be present at this Turning, not either Divara who operated out of the White Tower, nor did he know if she had been informed (though he assumed so), but it did not matter. He had done as he had been ordered. Apparently this Head of the Blue Ajah was a person who it would benefit the Shadow greatly to have on their side. The Great Lord would be pleased. Raphael, feeling his strength slowly returning, exchanged a few words with some of the Dreadlords present, handing out commands and orders, then told them all to leave.

 

All except the Aes Sedai.

 

“Are you ready to carry out your duties for the Great Lord?” He asked carefully, looking deeply into the woman’s eyes.

 

“I am, Great Master.” She replied truthfully. Deferentially.

 

Her eyes were dead but there was no doubt in her voice.

 

She was ready to serve the Shadow.

 

 

Raphael was the last to leave the cave in the Blight.

 

He opened a gateway to Travel to Illian.  When his gateway snapped shut behind him as he stepped into his private chamber at the other side of the continent, the darkness of the night surrounding him, he grinned with malice but also contentment.

 

Another day’s work completed.

 

It was time to celebrate with some more delicious blood-red wine.

 

  ▀▄ 

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