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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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