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You are now entering...THE SCARY DOOR *Sirayn*


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The sky was cloudless but the new moon brought no light. By starlight devious deeds were done. In hushed tones and rasping whispers the tree tops spoke to each other eerily as twilight winds brushed them. Dark robes pulled tight against the cold, the young man drifted and flickered through the yards like smoke and shadow. Against the harmony of insects a distant nightingale sang out a sonorous nocturne. His breath misted in the cool, crisp air of the night. Darkness held no fear for him. He was a Child of the Light. The Creator’s hand would guide him and deliver him.


His orders, the whispers, were memorised. Calen had been given his instructions in that curious way all operatives operated. A dialogue, spoken in almost intelligible codes known only to listener and speaker, had been exchanged and a place had been identified. It was at this place, crowded so as to avoid suspicion; a cloaked individual had slipped Calen’s orders into his pocket as he passed. This was what he was trained for, his true purpose in Tar Valon. He was in service to the Light as one of the secretive agents of the Whisper of the Light. The Whisper of the Light, the clandestine arm of the Children of the Light, led by the Spymaster and dedicated to opposing the Shadow from the shadows.


Heavy, booted footsteps rung out in the darkness and Calen froze. A Tower Guard on patrol made his way past and slipping silently on soft leather boots Calen moved deftly but quickly into the halls of the White Tower. Many of the halls were well lit by candle and lantern but Calen tried to move through the darker corridors, keeping count of his turns and running through the path he had mentally set himself. He had little idea of what to expect other then the rather short list of details which had been left on his orders. A well guarded door behind which may very well be the Dark One himself. The fact that the door was guarded by the Aes Sedai themselves spoke volumes of the importance of whatever dark and curious secret was to be found. He tried not move like one who was somewhere where he ought not to be, there were many guests in the White Tower and if spotted his best chance would be to act as if he moved with a purpose and place to be and hope to be ignored.


Into the Tower he weaved and the need for secrecy increased with every step. Few guests of the Tower would dare venture so deeply towards its heart and on more then one occasion Calen had had to duck into a dark corner or empty corridor to avoid Tower Guards and even Aes Sedai. His heart and mind raced and yet he felt that assuring calm of being one Creator’s most loved Children. If his Thread were to be cut from the Pattern tonight he would stand proudly in defiance of the Shadow.


He was now nearing his target. He felt that keen sense of purpose and almost giddy thrill of anticipation much like he thought an arrow would feel, if arrows could feel, before it struck the heart. The hallway he was in had many wall hangings, most faded beyond recognition so as that they depicted mere dull greying silhouettes of previously proud portraits. The hall was also richly carpeted which suited his purpose well as he quietly tipped candle holders and spilled lanterns and oil as he moved. The flames quickly licked to life and moved on their own accord, spurred on by the oil.


Running, soot covered; down the corridors Calen hurtled by past old suits of armour and weapons banging them over as he went. Sliding around a corner to his left, then right, then another left and then bang! Arms and legs became a tangle and before he knew what had happened Calen was pulling himself off the floor, dizzy headed. “What is the meaning of this?” Shaking his head and still breathless Calen took a while to look around wildly, although not so wildly as to miss his surroundings but rather to impress upon the Aes Sedai he had just crash tackled that he did not know where exactly he was. “Fire…down the hall…a big one…I tried but…too big.” He gasped and, as though on que, the first tendrils of smoke began to drift around the corner. Rubbing his head Calen slumped against the wall and looked up at the ageless face staring down at him. “You stay where you are, this should only take a minute.” That worried Calen; he did not know how long a fire could buy him against an Aes Sedai. As the Aes Sedai moved around the corner, skirts hiked up and setting a briskly determined pace Calen jumped up, perhaps a bit too quickly, he had really hit his head harder then planned.

Now he inspected his next challenge. The door was solidly reinforced and barred from the outside. The bar was held in place by locks thick enough that even a Trolloc, fresh from eating an entire village, could not break through them. Fishing into his pockets Calen produced both pick and pins. Fiddling them into place he turned and jiggled inside the lock; feeling around for the locking mechanism. Fortunately, as with many larger locks, they were fairly simply made and once he clicked one open Calen quickly managed to open the next one.


Pulling the door open and slipping into the dark room Calen felt a chill run down his spine. Now he truly was in the heart of the Shadow. And it was nothing like he expected. For one thing he had half expected jagged rocks and streams of molten fire; with dark pools of pure evil and a smell of burning souls. Instead there were just many cabinets and a few odd sculptures and, if anything, it just smelled of dust and stagnant air. Shaking his head he moved further into the room. He still felt dizzy from that fall. Putting his hand against one of the cabinets Calen felt his eyes begin to blur. Surely he had not fallen that hard. He felt his knees buckle and he breathed in a mouthful of dust as he crashed to the ground before he slipped from consciousness.


He heard voices before he groggily opened his eyes. “She wants to see him right away; as soon as he comes to,” said a voice that was definitely female.

“I think he is waking up now.” Calen felt the unmistakable cold bite of shackles around his wrists.

“Then take him to her office now and try to be discrete about it.” He could see but he still couldn’t think and he was being frogmarched down the bright halls by someone with very firm hands. Doors were opened for him but he was moved along too quickly to make out any faces or discern direction until finally he stopped. Grey eyes cut him to the core and a voice spoken softly but with steel asked “You have searched him and he has been disarmed?”

“Yes, Mother,” came the reply.

“Then the shackles will not be necessary. You may leave us.” The guardsman silently obeyed and Calen rubbed his wrists as he heard the doors click shut behind him. As those grey eyes cool appraised him Calen, for the first time, feared the darkness as it began to dawn on his clearing mind where exactly he was.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Once upon a time thirteen shadows had come for her at midnight and she had faced them in the half-light while beneath her feet, on a hundred different floors chaos had raged through the Tower. Her dislike for being woken during the dark hours by strangers dated back to that night: to surprise and confusion and dawning fear, thirteen against one in private where nobody would ever know, and the taste of defeat so bitter after all her hard work. So when an intricate web of wards set in her outer quarters snapped thread by thread, startling her awake, and the last heavy fingers of sleep clutched at her only to be pushed away by footsteps, she already half knew what she would see when she opened her eyes -- a light, a sea of shadows, thirteen in number arrayed against the gathering darkness.


Instead she found only darkness. Outside lay warning wards, but her bedchamber door had been warded hard enough to prevent entry rather than merely alert her to it, and here respectful of her privacy her visitors had stopped. “Mother? Mother!” They tapped on the door. Still wound about by dreams and fears and sleep, she resisted the urge to bury her head beneath her pillow and swear a lot until all the sound and movement went away. Instead she growled “Just a moment,” for once making no effort to keep irritation out of her tone, and channelled a brief sweet flash of saidar to light a candle beside her bed. Its wavering light threw long shadows across her room, a transient pool of illumination, holding back the dark.


Rapid if clumsy one-handed she pulled on a heavy robe and belted it shut over her plain shift. The mirror opposite afforded her a quick glimpse of a slim pale woman, hard-faced, with rumpled dark hair, and she straightened it with a brief rake of her fingers and crossed the room beginning for the first time to wonder what was going on. All sorts of possibilities prevented themselves … she of all people knew how fragile the Tower’s defences were, how incomplete despite their best efforts, and how many tens of thousands depended on their constant vigilance. Speculation normally led her to conclusions about a hundred times worse than the reality. She opened her bedroom door, blinking in the harsher light, and found herself facing the stranger who was her Keeper.


Coming from different sides of a political divide but united at least in name, the two Aes Sedai eyed each other: tall and short, fine-looking and plain, high-born and commoner, the mirror image of one another. “Mother.” Marajha Sedai dropped a curtsey, brief but formal, and she tilted her head in exquisitely calculated response. “Somebody has broken into the ter’angreal storeroom.”


Nobody without intimate access to her thoughts would ever know how close Sirayn Damodred came to speaking the one name she must never speak and betraying a lifetime’s worth of secrets. By sheer instinct she strangled out the name before it got to her tongue. But … dear Light … she knew fear now, fear and a thousand shades of memory.


Black Ajah.


It had begun this way a year and more ago. Plucked from her steady routine life, let in on the Tower’s greatest secret, she and the remainder of the thirteen Black Ajah Hunters had been set to a hunt none of them were expected to survive. The knowledge and its implications had weighed on her heavy ever since. As her last companions died off one by one, in suspicious circumstances more often than most, sometimes without word or warning -- even the ones she had known best, even the youngsters, even those she had raised with her own hands -- she had looked in the mirror every morning and known that the day would come when only she lived to carry forth the Black Ajah hunt. Of course she had taken steps to stave it off; hadn’t she taken the greatest risk of all and told Lanfir Leah Marithsen on the night of her raising? Hoping to see a second hunt raised which would dwarf the first? Yet her dreams had never been made real. Now everything had fallen to her: last survivor of the Black Ajah Hunt and maybe the last Amyrlin of all time, if she lived to see the Last Battle, for all indications were that the Tower might not survive it. The responsibility was all hers now.


She hated them. She hated their very existence, poisoning her beloved Tower from the inside, corrupting the hard work of centuries. One day she would take them apart herself, root out every last lying, scheming one of them, and put the entire Black Ajah to the sword. One day she would shout it from the rooftops that the Tower had once had its shadow, but that Aes Sedai had cleansed themselves for their own sake and that of the world, that they truly deserved to be the Light’s champions and to overhaul that madman child who called himself the Dragon, and when the Last Battle came they would be ready.


“Thanks for the warning.” She kept her tone dry. Inwardly she seethed. She wanted to demand to know who it had been, which Black Ajah members had worn friendly faces for so long, if she had known any of them … but her Keeper did not know anything of this blackest of all secrets and she dared not even intimate it right now. She settled for a suitably discreet: “Who was it?” If it had been a sister … if the Black Ajah had betrayed themselves in one glorious moment of stupidity … why cover up for them? Why hide their black, shrivelled little existence from the light when they couldn’t even keep their own affairs in order? And what, she wondered, would she do with a caught Black Ajah member?


That question was easy enough to answer. It had been a long time since the Chair of Remorse had seen any practical use. And if she couldn’t operate it herself, being as she was running short on fellow Black Ajah hunters now the Black Ajah had killed them all, she could think of one or two more direct ways of … starting a diplomatic dialogue.


“Some boy, Mother. Light only knows what he thinks he’s doing.” A boy? Her mind worked fast. Not a Black Ajah member himself then, unless the darker persuasion of Aes Sedai had mastered some very convincing forms of illusion, but a spy for them? Another stripe of Darkfriend? An agent for one of their many enemies? Her Keeper looked and sounded harassed and she didn’t even know about the Black Ajah implications: “It may be just a prank -- or …” she left a significant gap; everyone knew that a fair portion of the Tower’s strength resided in that innocuous little storeroom and no doubt half a hundred of their enemies would love to destroy it. “Will you speak to him?”


“Speak to him?” growled Sirayn, resisting the temptation to roll up her sleeves and get her hands … hand, damn it … dirty immediately. “I’ll hold the little bastard. See how long it takes him to sing like a canary.” There were Tower Laws governing all sorts of things these days, no doubt concocted by a bunch of soft-hearted liberals, and if she was entirely honest she didn’t know how harsh she could stand to be with the memory of her son still fresh in her heart, but she was damn well going to work on it. “Bring the wretch to my office. I’ll be along in a minute.” One definite advantage to being Amyrlin Seat, which at least balanced out being the target of every assassin in the known world, was that when she wanted somebody locked up until she could interrogate him … she got it.


She dressed swiftly. No doubt the boy wouldn’t mind, or possibly he wouldn’t even notice, but she had had it drummed into her that the Amyrlin Seat should be immaculate at all times; smartly dressed, orderly and every inch the most powerful woman in the world. In a few minutes’ time she made her way through the shadowed corridors, trying to work out what particular outlandish time it was, to her office. Her Keeper accompanied her talking of the strange happenings of the night: a fire, a breaking-in, a captive. Outside she paused a moment. The rooms still held more of her predecessor than her and she felt a stranger in them, but much less so, she hoped, than the future object of her wrath. She needed to immediately and ruthlessly establish the ascendancy here. Unless sufficiently scared the wretched boy might not talk. And talk he must.


Sirayn Damodred entered in a slam of doors, icy composure on her face, and skewered her victim with a glacial stare. The first surprise was that the Keeper had been speaking only the truth to call him a boy; though tall by her standards, he was scarce as old as her son, with hair the colour of gold and a face straight from ruined Malkier. The second surprise was that she recognised him. Once upon a lazy afternoon, perhaps, she had come across a Malkieri boy in the library somewhere … had spoken to him, an old Aes Sedai instinct to pry and question and gain information … and thereafter thought nothing of it. To come across the same child now shackled in her office and maybe a Black Ajah agent disturbed her in some way. He was far too young for these games. When she thought of her children … no, that was a dangerous path to walk at any time, and right now she had to be the Amyrlin to her fingertips.


“You have searched him and he has been disarmed?”


“Yes, Mother.”


“Then the shackles will not be necessary. You may leave us.” The guards obeyed her and left her alone in an otherwise empty office with a Darkfriend.


Silent, a subtle movement perceptible only to another channeller, she warded the rooms against eavesdropping. Still silent she took her seat; a polished wooden chair, too hard for her old bones, or maybe that was a diplomat’s soft unfitness talking. Then she favoured her quarry with a remarkably cold stare. Darkfriend for certain, perhaps an agent of other powers as well, and helpless in Aes Sedai hands. Perhaps he feared her and the seven-striped shawl round her shoulders. It would be the better for him.


“Good evening, young man.” She kept her voice cool, toneless, betraying nothing but her authority. “Did you, perhaps, lose your way just now? Drop a candle? Stumble into some room or other?” Her eyebrows raised just a fraction. “One would have thought that the Warders’ Yard would teach basic navigation. Do you need a ball of string in future to lead you back toward the exit?”


Sirayn Damodred

Watcher of the Seals

Flame of Tar Valon

The Amyrlin Seat

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Now this was Daes Dae’mar. The stakes had never been higher. Tonight he played for his life and to say that his opponent would be far more experienced would be the greatest of understatements. As his mind fought off the fogging remnants of what could only have been weaves of the One Power Calen began to feel that all too familiar thrill that accompanied the start of the Great Game, the game that could make or break kings and commoners alike. A single misstep, an ill-chosen phrase and he would find himself dumped in the Erinin with heavy chains around his ankles, or perhaps even worse. He had not been able to find out where the White Tower kept their residence of trollocs but he was none to keen to find out either; particularly as he would be, most likely, their honoured dinner guest on this night.


His heart pounded in his chest and he fought for calm. He silently cursed himself for not making more progress in his training; he had heard that the Warders and Tower Guards had mental exercises that could bring clarity and precision of thought even during the heat of battle. If he survived the night and still had the opportunity he promised himself he would seize it. He could not help but think this particular game would be beyond him. The Amyrlin Seat herself. The woman had decades, perhaps even centuries, of experience playing and moving at the highest of levels. It was impossible to tell with the ageless face of Aes Sedai. She could have been thirty or ten times that old and the Wheel would leave few clues of its turning upon her face. Regardless Calen felt he must try. The truth would get him killed just as quickly as a lie. Perhaps if he was a Lord Captain or someone of rank within the Children then the Amyrlin might think twice before ordering his death. He could not waste time with fleeting thoughts of hypotheticals.


He must play and play well for tonight he competed with the best. Taking in the facts Calen began the game. It was still dark which meant that those strange objects in that storeroom were important enough to rouse the Amyrlin from her bed in the night. It also meant that the Aes Sedai would like to keep this secret. If not he would have been kept jailed and brought before the Amyrlin or the Hall of the Tower at a more respectable time. He regarded the Amyrlin, there were still a few stray hairs that suggested she had just awoken and she looked like she had dressed quickly meaning that she wanted to be the first to question him.


“Good evening, young man.” She kept her voice cool, toneless, betraying nothing but her authority. “Did you, perhaps, lose your way just now? Drop a candle? Stumble into some room or other?” Her eyebrows raised just a fraction. “One would have thought that the Warders’ Yard would teach basic navigation. Do you need a ball of string in future to lead you back toward the exit?”

Calen took his time before he spoke so he could measure his response. Her voice was all cool authority, smooth but deadly like a pearl handled dagger. He followed Malkieri tradition of not quite meeting her gaze but he could still feel the weight of those grey eyes. Her sarcasm surprised him; it took perhaps a bit of the edge off her tone and stare. Had their roles been reversed Calen would have made a different choice. He must be careful the woman was no fool and if she spoke in jest it was not without purpose. Also she called him ‘young man’ tradition required she refer to him as her son. Perhaps the early hour had robbed some of the potency of her faculties, or perhaps it was a slip of a recently raised Amyrlin. Tradition amongst Aes Sedai was often as strong as law. Calen began to formulate a possible story for this turn of events, it was a long shot. He could not let it be known right away either. There was no way he could compete with her experience and intelligence but he may be able to hide behind his age and her perception of his own inexperience. The intelligent often underestimate the ingenuity of fools. In this situation there was no way the Amyrlin Seat would believe the first thing he told her. Yes, she might play towards his fears by wearing her stripped stole and being the incarnation of authority but the fact was he respected her too much to take her as one who would soften if he simply broke down and began bubbling about it being a childish prank gone awry.


He remembered something he had thought earlier in the night. If my Thread is to be cut from the Pattern tonight I will stand proudly in defiance. So he began his first tilt of the game. Lowering upon bended knee he responded formally “I am Calen Yvresse, son of Marcel Yvresse, of Cairhien and Malkier. No mother, I did not lose my way. I stand ready.” Tradition being as strong as it was within the White Tower Calen felt this was the right way to begin. He had answered simply but he had answered all questions. He wondered if she would see his strongly traditional response as indicative that he had picked up on her slight misstep but that remained to be seen. The Malkieri were once well known for their firm belief in honour and tradition as well so his response was not unnatural. Now however he needed to gain some information in order to complete his back story. Still kneeling as he had not been given permission to rise Calen offered “Mother, I must confess I was in that room simply to satisfy my own personal curiosity.”

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  • 1 month later...

Ooc: Calen is wrong -- check out The Great Hunt, chapter 8, in which the Amyrlin Seat addresses Rand al’Thor as “boy” repeatedly during a formal audience. :P


Her dark brows rose only a fraction as, for reasons known only to himself, the Darkfriend boy went down on one knee and launched into what was possibly designed to be a display of how heroically honourable he was. The implication she read clearly: he intended to brave this out. Unfortunately however pretty his words, and however much he reminded her of another young Borderlander before she had ruined him, she found it rather hard to swallow.


She amused herself imagining the scenario he was about to sell her: this upstanding young scion of Malkier had perhaps fallen against a lantern, thus starting a fire, then coincidentally stumbled across a door guarded by Aes Sedai, whereupon a string of lies had inadvertently tripped from his tongue -- damn that tongue, he always seemed to lie somehow, he should cut it out and spare everyone the trouble! -- and then, as he had rested, the lockpicks he always carried had slipped into the lock and accidentally opened it, whereupon his curiosity had kicked in -- but of course, Mother, all boys suffered from this curse -- and he had of course wandered inside …


On reflection, she found it not so much amusing as offensive. Being lied to she expected; everybody lied, she had not met an honest man since she came to the Tower before she saw her sixteenth summer, the world brimmed with liars and flatterers. The white city thrived on them. It was business. But what genuinely stung her was that her intelligence should be rated so low, her wit discarded altogether that people should feed her such frankly preposterous lies. This young man who wore the hadori so boldly thought her such a halfwit that she couldn’t even draw the most obvious conclusion in the world. Perhaps everybody he had ever met had been fooled by his face and flowery language. She knew the type. She disliked them; it did something to people, to be young and strong and beautiful, she had never met a one who had not been poison.


Only a masochist would be won over by a face like hers. And her penchant for polite young men did not extend to Darkfriends. Coldly she ignored all the ceremony he had done his best to inject; a Darkfriend did not deserve any higher form of address, he should consider himself lucky to receive an audience at all. Instead delivered the kind of stare one would give an object under a magnifying glass for the purposes of dissection. “Young man, when I want to know what name you currently go by, I will ask you.” No doubt it would be even more of a lie than her own. “Spare me the truisms. I dare say you could fabricate a definition of standing ready which covers setting fires, lying to Aes Sedai and breaking into locked rooms, but it would merely protract the lie and I have a passing interest in the truth.


“You have already proven yourself a liar, an arsonist and a would-be burglar. I do not look kindly on these offences. But it is just barely possible that you are a pawn, of value to nobody, and proper punishment would be wasted on you. So I invite you to prove yourself a survivor. If you are especially convincing, you may even receive some limited degree of freedom, although I fear that your association with the Tower is doomed to take a less friendly turn whatever you say.” Since she was all sorts of a fool, it occurred to her in an unwary moment that this Darkfriend boy was somebody’s son. Perhaps before this night was out she would rob another mother of her son. It would be necessary, she knew that, and yet … she wanted done with killing children.


Damn it: she couldn’t keep her personal life straight but it was not going to interfere with her work. That much she could not permit. She had to be Aes Sedai. Grey eyes narrowing, she continued in the same even tones: “On whose orders did you break into that room?”


Sirayn Damodred

Amyrlin Seat

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