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Chosen to Reign (Solo-RP)

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OOC: This Solo-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.





.. The Breaker of Faith ..



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 Davelle.


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!”




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.




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




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.




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.


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



..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 Deleyhna.


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 Deleyhna 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. Deleyhna 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.



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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 Deleyhna 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 Deleyhna 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 Deleyhna 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. Deleyhna 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.


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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 ever 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 had 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.



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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.. 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.




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 stern deck. 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 apparently 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 malachite 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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.. Players in a Game of Strategy..



Physically entering Tel'aran'rhiod, closing the gateway behind him, Raphael moved across the marble floor of the small chamber and seated himself in one of the two ornate high-backed chairs facing each other.


Between the chairs was a glass table with a chess board on it. The chess pieces depicted famous rulers in the nations from the Age of Legends. It was a favourite game of Vanahl’s. A game of strategy. A game of power. And this chess set was 4000 years old. How Vanahl had gotten his hands on it Raphael had no idea, but it was the Nae’blis’ pride and joy. On the wall hung objects of light. 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 waited in silence.


Finally a chime sounded and a gateway opened close to the glass table. Vanahl stepped through, his eyes the usual pools of fire, his dark ornate coat swirling around him as the gateway snapped shut.


“I see you are here”, the Chosen said smoothly as he sat down in the opposing chair. Raphael remained silent. Vanahl’s mouth twisted with distaste but he said nothing more as his attention was caught by the elaborate figures on the chess board. His right hand touched each figure on his side of the board, correcting their placement almost lovingly so they each stood right in the center of each square. Raphael still said nothing, just watched calmly until the Nae’blis was satisfied.


Studying the other man, holding onto Saidin as he knew - and felt - Vanahl was doing too - neither man trusted the other an inch - he thought again that the Great Lord had chosen the wrong man to lead the Chosen. Vanahl was dark-haired with high cheekbones and a semi-dark complexion. Besides his burning eyes, he also had a scar that ran down his left cheek, marring what would otherwise have been a handsome face. Raphael knew that Vanahl had kept that scar as a reminder not to trust anyone. He had never revealed how he had gotten the scar but Raphael had his suspicion.



Vanahl’s eyes met those of his opponent’s, in chess as in all walks of life, and he smiled darkly. “Good”, he whispered and then made the first move with his white pawn. E2-E4. A standard opening. They played these games at intervals, when Vanahl wanted to speak privately with Raphael. Vanahl was the better chess player but on occasion Raphael beat him which always enraged the Nae’blis. Were he tactical, Raphael would let Vanahl win every time, to keep the slightly older man satisfied. But Raphael hated losing and loved the few occasions when he managed to beat the other man, so he always played his best. E7-E5. The standard retaliatory move.


Vanahl looked across at him and grinned. “Not too daring a move, Raphael.” He said. His voice sounded amused. “Are you losing your nerve?” Raphael grinned back. “We shall see”, he replied smoothly but his eyes were hard, accepting the challenge. The Nae’blis looked at the board for a few moments, then moved his knight G1-F3. Another common move. As Raphael considered his next move, his attention was broken when Vanahl asked if he had seen Kharin lately. The question made Raphael pause.


“Kharin?” he said in surprise. The other man nodded, a speculative cast to his features. “No, I haven’t”, Raphael replied, studying the man opposite him. “Any reason I should?” he added. Vanahl shrugged. “No particular reason”, the Nae’blis said. “I just haven’t gotten hold of her lately”, he added. “So I wondered if you knew where she was.” The pools of fire deepened if that were possible and Raphael could not help the slight unease he felt inside. “I have no idea”, he replied after a few moments. “You know Kharin, that stubborn woman minds her own business and cares little for anything or anyone else.”


The Nae’blis nodded, knowing the truth of that. He was still unsure if Raphael was telling the truth right now but decided not to press him. “If you see her..somewhere, tell her I want to talk to her. About her plans and that other matter we all spoke about at the previous meeting.” Raphael nodded, keeping his own thoughts to himself. He moved his own black knight B8-C6, a move that mirrored the other. It was a cautious stand-off at the moment between the white and black armies. This was often the case when they played.


The chess pieces flickered at times, as they always did in this place, but both players were so used to this by now that it hardly registered in their minds. They both studied the board with all the pieces with seeming great interest, but were in truth thinking strategy in the real Game of Power, how to gain the upper hand on the other, how to conquer and destroy.



Turning his eyes from the board game to Vanahl’s face Raphael spoke. “So, have you discovered who disobeyed you?” He could not remove all smugness from his voice and Vanahl’s features hardened. “Who messed with your plans for the boy dragon?”


Fire swirled in the Nae’blis’ eyes as he responded. “So far, no” he almost spat. “But I will.. and when I catch whoever did it..” His voice filled with rage. “That person will be very very sorry.” Raphael did not doubt it. The half-mad Nae’blis’ rage was infamous among the Chosen. “Such betrayal must be punished indeed”, Raphael said, thinking inside, not for the first time, that Vanahl would never discover who it had been. Vanahl turned his attention to the chess board again, biting back a comment at the possible sarcasm in Raphael’s voice, and made another move. It was a more aggressive move and Raphael responded in kind.


Back and forth they moved across the battlefield of the chess board.


At one point Vanahl asked Raphael if the business with the Aes Sedai Arahna Desonai had gone well and Raphael replied that it had. The Blue - or rather Black - Sister now was in a good position to disrupt the business of the White Tower. Divara - who was in the White Tower under the guise of one of these so-called Aes Sedai - would give her her commands and keep a close eye on her. Raphael had the impression Vanahl knew all this already, but he answered the questions the Nae’blis had. When he had asked Vanahl why he - Raphael - had been the only Chosen present at the Turning, the other had just shrugged and said there had been no need for anyone else. Raphael had not pursued the matter.



Many moves later, Vanahl removed another of Raphael’s officer-pieces from the board in an aggressive attack. “That is what happens when you are not careful, Raphael”, the Nae’blis said, his voice ensuring the other man understood the double-meaning. “Indeed”, Raphael replied when he a couple of moves later removed one of Vanahl’s officers from the board in a counter-attack. “We all need to take care, don’t we, Vanahl?” His hard eyes met the other man’s burning eyes, the challenge explicit and open.



The gateway snapped shut behind him as Raphael stepped into another room which flickered. This was another place in the World of Dreams, the mirror-image of a similar palace room in another land. Before him was another table with some chairs, a strangely decorated room it was but Raphael’s attention was all on the woman seated there.


“There you are”, the woman said in icy tones as almost always was the case with her. “Why have you come? I have a busy schedule”. The woman was handsome rather than beautiful with brown hair, olive-shaped eyes and high cheekbones. She was dressed alluringly as was often the case.


“Good to see you too, Kharin”, Raphael replied smoothly with a lopsided grin as he seated himself in a chair opposite her. “Do you have any wine?” he asked and smiled as she produced a goblet from behind her. Looking closely he saw that there was a small wine table behind her. He poured some wine from the goblet that she handed him into a cup and placed the goblet between them on the table. He watched silently as she poured some wine into her own cup and raised it to her lips. She watched him like one watches a predator ready to pounce but some of her inherent harshness was momentarily gone and in its place was amusement. “Drink, Raphael”, she said invitingly. “If I wanted to kill you, it would not be with poison. It would be a lot more painful and prolonged.” Her eyes glinted.



Grinning back at her, he took a long swallow and watched as she did the same. “Not bad”, he said as he put his cup down. “Almost as good as that delicious red wine we used to get from the Seihm.”


Some of the best wine orchards during the Age of Legends had been in the nation of Seihm. They both recalled it well.


“As for you being busy”, he added almost like an afterthought, “I presume you meant having some.. amusement with your..plaything.” His grin widened. “Your Merindhra, the voluptuous maid from Arad Doman?” Her face darkened at his tone but then softened somewhat at the subject of their conversation. “My amusements are my business, Raphael. Never forget.”


Her tone became a little less harsh as she added that Merindhra was, in truth, less infuriating than most others around her. It was clear from her voice that this also included the various Chosen. “Now then, why are you here” she asked after a few moments.


“I have been to see Vanahl earlier today”, Raphael said and he saw the woman’s eyes tighten. “He is very keen on seeing you, my dear.” He knew the ‘my dear’ would infuriate her - it always did - but he could not stop himself. She controlled her rage but he could see that she struggled.


“He can wait until I am ready to see him”, she spat. “That arrogant man will get what is coming to him, one way or another”.


The last bit was almost a snarl and reminded Raphael how much this female Chosen hated the Nae’blis. She hated all men, in truth, but Vanahl more than anyone else. It was personal, Raphael understood, and more than the bickering at Chosen-meetings and trying to undermine the Nae’blis, but he kept his thoughts to himself.



“You have not told him where I reside?” she enquired, a touch of doubt in her eyes for a moment. “Of course not”, Raphael replied and her hard eyes softened momentarily. “He can bloody well find that out himself.”


Kharin nodded, a pleased grin on her lips. She knew that Raphael hated the Nae’blis almost as much as she did. She could not stand Raphael either if she were honest, but for the moment it suited her purposes not to be his enemy. Not an ally either, but a neutral party. For now.


“And the others?” Kharin said, taking another sip from her drink. “Are they scheeming as usual?” Raphael nodded and his grin broadened. “Nothing new there. Everyone wants the Great Lord’s favour.” Kharin nodded, knowing the truth of that. She did her own share of scheming, but those were secrets she shared with no one. “As it should be”, she added darkly, her eyes glinting.


She watched him take another sip of wine, then after a few moments pushed her chair back and stood. Her stylish dress clung to her athletic body and her long legs. Had she not worn that angry face of hers most of the time she would have been a very attractive woman, Raphael thought. Her features hardened, in her usual way, as she looked at him, as if she had read his thoughts.


“I have no more time for you”, she said almost imperiously. Her eyes were their usual angry again. “Get out of here, Raphael!”



He stood up from the table and faced her from six feet or so away. He had never let go of Saidin throughout their meeting, as he was sure she had never let go of Saidar. They did not trust one another one bit. As his eyes met hers he wondered, not for the first time, how strong she was in the One Power. Rumours among the Chosen hinted at her being the second strongest female behind Deleyhna but this had never been confirmed. He was certain that she would not be able to overpower him should she ever get the desire, he was stronger in the One Power than she was, but it could still be somewhat risky.. were he to be taken by surprise.


He met her angry stare with an amused one. “I will bother you no more, Kharin.” He said. “And give my love to your lovely.. plaything”, he added mischievously. “If she ever wants the taste of something.. different”, his grin broadened, “a real man.. just send her to me.”


It pleased him to see her fury building, her eyes flashing dangerously.


Opening a gateway close to where he stood, he stepped through before she had time to curse him - and the silvery line snapped shut behind him.



Lord Rehmar, a tall and lean man with brown hair, piercing eyes and a moustache, stared out across the city of Bandar Eban from his room high up in the King’s Palace. The afternoon sun shone over the Capital of Arad Doman. It was an important port city located on the coast of the Aryth Ocean, lying on the mouth of the river Dhagon. Massive gates penetrated the city walls and opened up to streets of packed earth, with wooden boardwalks at the sides. Arandi Square, the main city square, was set with copper fountains in the shape of horses leaping from a frothy wave. The buildings were tall and square, shaped like boxes stacked atop one another. Rows of square wooden houses filled the city, rolling down a gentle incline to the massive port, the widest part of the city. Banners flew above, or hung from every building, some used as business signs, family names, or location names.


The wealthy part of the city was located on the heights in the east. One of the grandest mansions was the seat of House Vedlar. You also had the Council of Merchants which always competed with the Crown for power. And then there was the Bandar Eban's Terhana Library which was considered to be among the best in the world. It was a grand city, perhaps not on the scale of Caemlyn or Tar Valon, but its citizens were proud of it.


Leaving the balcony, Lord Rehmar went inside his opulent living quarters and sat down by his ornate writing desk. As Chief Advisor to the King he had several responsibilities and he carried out his duties with care and attention. He loved all the political intrigue at court and the manoeuvring that was necessary to keep the Council of Merchants off balance whenever possible. He had always had skills in this area and he made good use of them in his present circumstances.


Taking out a piece of paper from a drawer, he dipped his pen in ink and began to write.






Dear High Lady,



I wish to invite you to a meeting here at the King’s Palace to discuss the proposal we talked about last month.



It concerns the Alliance of Houses that the King wishes to build.



This is, of course, confidential for the present, so please keep all details regarding this matter for yourself for the time being.



We look forward to your presence on the 17th of this month. Your loyalty to the Crown is valued.



Yours Sincerely,


on behalf of the King,



Lord Rehmar





Putting the pen aside he studied what he had written, then grinned to himself as he placed the letter in an envelope. On the front of the envelope he wrote, High Lady Dahlia of House Kheren, then he closed the envelope and sealed it.


Placing it together with several other similar envelopes on his desk, Sinam smiled. Things were proceeding nicely, the Chosen thought with a dark chuckle. Very nicely indeed.


Alliances to make, Alliances to break.


‘Lord Rehmar’ leaned back in his chair, his green eyes glinting.


The Great Lord would be pleased.


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.. The Equinox of Collusion ..



Tervihn walked onto the black slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Gateway closing behind him.


Above, dark clouds almost hid the sky, hiding the mountain’s peak. Staring momentarily upwards the Chosen was struck by a feeling of awe. Thunder rolled and flashes of lightning came in several directions in the barren valley, up as well as down, and the slopes were near-cloaked by soft mists.


Releasing the One Power immediately, the tall, bearded, green-eyed man wearing a dark green cloak with black fringes and symbols down the side shifted his eyes to the opening in the rocks some way off to his right. As always was the case when he let go of Saidin, he felt.. diminished, hollow.. as if part of him was lost. The sweetness of Saidin made life worth living, all senses heightened, he wanted to be surrounded by its wonderful embrace at all times.. but here it was too dangerous. To even think of embracing the One Power so close to the Great Lord would be to embrace Death itself.


Before heading toward the rock opening, Tervihn reminisced for a moment how this place had looked in what was now called the Age of Legends. It had been an idyllic island in a cool sea, far from the bitter cold and desolate place it had become. Casting those idle thoughts away, he focused on the business at hand. He needed his wits about him when summoned to the Great Lord. And summoned he had been. Small shivers ran down his spine, part excitement, part dread. Few things in life frightened him - his heart had become one of stone on the day he betrayed the Light and turned to the Shadow, truly a lifetime ago - but this summoning gave him.. unease. He liked to call it that. Deep inside he knew the truth.



Stepping toward the opening in the mountain, as he came closer he saw that two Myrddraal stood guard, one on either side of the rock entrance. They did not acknowledge him, nor give any indication of his existence, their Eyeless faces directed impassively outwards, as he stepped between them and went inside. There was space for three people to walk abreast through the opening and once inside the path slanted gradually downwards, the tunnel floor marked by the passage of feet over time. As he walked the Chosen felt the coldness from above slowly diminish and after a while it was replaced by warmth and heat coming from ahead. A dim light shone from crystals and minerals in the walls but Tervihn paid them no mind as he followed the downward-sloping corridor. As he neared his destination, the heat increased and jagged spikes hung down from the ceiling like pillars of warning, giving the impression that one was walking into a dangerous predator’s forbidden lair. The tunnel opened at last onto a wide ledge which stood above a lake of molten stone with dancing flames. Upward there was only a great hole that reached up the mountain into.. elsewhere..


This was the Pit of Doom.


The Chosen felt just as much awe as he had on his first visit here 4000 years ago when he had pledged his soul to the Shadow and taken the unbreakable Oath. Here he sensed the Bore, the hole that had been drilled through to the Great Lord’s prison all those many years ago. Here he felt the Great Lord’s closeness to the world and beads of sweat now ran down his forehead and chin, and it was not only from the heat.


There was a soft hum in the air but he could not pin point where it came from. It was part of the place, he thought idly. Seconds passed. Minutes. Hours. Time was meaningless here and he could not tell how long he had stood there when suddenly the air around him.. shifted. It was the only way he could describe it. There was no wind here and nothing different in what he could see with his eyes, or hear but his senses felt.. something.


His eyes widened, goosebumps running down both his arms, and then..





Pain and ecstasy co-mingled in his brain and it was like an explosion of awareness and emotion as the voice crashed through his head like an avalanche.


Every single hair on his body now stood on end and he did not know whether to shout endlessly in glee or cry in horror.




With the almost cataclysmic emotions crashing through him the Chosen was unable to breathe, never mind answer. He tried to take a breath but was unable to. Fear made his emerald eyes widen and his hands clenched as he fought for life. His lungs cried for sustenance. For air.


For survival.


An eternity of pain, a moment in time..


..and then death released its clutches on him and he could breathe again.


Falling to his knees, tears streaming down his face and into his beard, his whole body shook as he coughed and slowly pulled air into his lungs. Finally he managed to raise his tear-stricken face, shrugging off the shame he felt at his weakness.


“You need never question my loyalty, Great Lord!”, Tervihn replied when he had regained his breath. “My Oath to you is eternal.”




The pain continued throughout his body but it was tinged by sweetness.. an impossible combination but true even so. His right arm started shaking again and he struggled to make it stop. He waited for the Great Lord to say something more but for a while there was nothing but quiet.



Then, the silence in his mind was broken.




The question crashed through his mind and was accompanied by flashes of light and darkness in his head, of fires eternally burning..


The Chosen screamed.. whether aloud or just in his mind he could not tell. It did not matter. When his scream ended, his eyes opened - had they been closed!? - and his voice shook.


“I..I will survive, Great Lord. I will serve you loyally, do your bidding. You can always count on me!”


He did not like to seem weak before the Great Lord but could not help the pain that continued to storm inside him like a wild and ferocious ocean of fire.




“As always, I serve and carry out your command, Great Lord.” Tervihn replied with fervour. His voice was steadier now, he had control of at least some of the pain. “Command me!”




As Tervihn listened to the Great Lord of the Dark’s commands in his head, tears of pain and joy and exhilaration continued to run in rivulets down his face, and agonizing ecstasy crashed through his entire body until he finally blacked out.



“What exactly do you have in mind, Raphael?”


Gerehl stared at the other male Chosen with a mixture of disgust and admiration. He had always had mixed feelings about the other man. Raphael was a grand schemer, and arrogant as few - perhaps not as bad as Vanahl in that regard but not far off - but at the same time he was a man who got things done. If he gave a promise, it was always kept. That was a quality Gerehl missed in several of the other Chosen - and his other associates. Now as he sipped from the cup of wine in his hand he wondered what really was on Raphael’s mind.


“Nothing more than I am offering”, Raphael replied, taking a sip from his own drink. “It could be mutually beneficial in these..troubled times.”


They were seated opposite one another in high-backed chairs around a small table in the mirror-image of a similar chamber in the real world. The room flickered as it always did in the World of Dreams, paintings and lights on the walls appearing and disappearing,  but neither man paid it any notice, studying each other’s faces, looking for clues of intent. Raphael studied the other man closely. Gerehl was a lean-bodied man in his late twenties. He had brown hair, almost black eyes and high cheekbones. Women would call Gerehl handsome, Raphael presumed, but not overly so. Now he wondered if Gerehl would take the bait.


In his heart of hearts Raphael also wondered what the other man would do if he discovered that it was Raphael himself who had messed up his plans with the Myrddraal and the fist of Trollocs some time ago.


He would probably try and kill me, thought Raphael with dark amusement as he watched the other man carefully.


They both held onto Saidin, neither man trusting the other as was the case with all the Chosen. Raphael knew he was slightly stronger than Gerehl in the One Power, but it was not a clear cut thing so he needed to be careful around this man.



Gerehl stared back at him in silence for a long while. He did not enter into alliances lightly. He was careful and sceptical of being entangled in someone else’s schemes. He saw the necessity sometimes though. He was, after all, a smart man.


His successful time as a teacher in what he now thought of as his old life had shown as much. His hard unconventional methods had been criticized, but he had produced top results! Fear of bad grades, public criticism of poor student work before the whole class, and physical punishment were good and needed motivators at times, he had known, but some students had eventually complained and the school authorities had reprimanded him and, finally, sacked him. They had, in fact, destroyed his career. But he had known the truth: they had all been envious of his excellent results! Nothing should ever stand in the way of excellence! And he had had his vengeance! Oh yes!! Through shrewd manipulation and deft use of Compulsion in his two month notice period he had made student turn against student in their ferocious battle for top grades, had made them suspicious of one another and mean to the point of obsession and physical attacks.


It had ended with a murder, a male student stabbing to death a huge competitor, to Gerehl’s private glee, but he had been arrested by the authorities as a consequence and convicted by his despicable Aes Sedai brethren. He had escaped with the help of associates before the death-sentence could be carried out, and filled with hate and a lust for revenge he had headed off to Shayol Ghul to pledge his soul to the Great Lord. Together with the other Chosen and other comrades he had fought for the Shadow in the War of Power, relishing the thought of killing the despicable righteous Aes Sedai who had destroyed his reputation, betrayed him as he saw it, and scorned his glorious teaching talent. It had not ended well, the war lost and he and his Chosen brethren caught in the sealing of the Bore together with the Great Lord, but he had never regretted any of his actions - and now he was free again. Free - and in a position of power.


His thoughts, momentarily drawn away, returned to the present.


“Let me consider it”, he finally said, his eyes shrewd as he took another sip from his wine.


“Yes, you do that”, Raphael said, slightly disappointed but nothing showing on his face, nor in his voice. “But don’t wait too long”, he added smoothly, a glint in his eyes. “I am considering options too. One never knows what opportunities may arise..”


The Gateway snapped shut behind him, leaving Gerehl alone in the flickering chamber.



He sat in silence for several minutes, thoughtful. As he waited, he removed a ring from his right ring finger and studied it in the pale light of the chamber. It was a gold ring with a strange symbol on its flat top. There was also an inscription on the inside. It was from the Age of Legends, the only precious artefact he had from that time, and most importantly it was a male Angreal, an artefact which made it possible to draw more from the One Power than could normally be done without harm. He doubted anyone else knew that it was an Angreal and he wanted to keep it that way. This was added power and should be kept secret. Putting it back on his finger he grinned. Using the Angreal he might even be able to overpower Raphael if needed. Perhaps even Vanahl. The thought gave him pleasure.


A silver line sliced through the air at the other side of the chamber and a man stepped through the Gateway. He was a short man, blond with blue eyes and sunken cheeks. He was far from handsome, but he had a rugged look which some women found attractive. He wore a lopsided grin as he often did and looked with cool amusement at the seated Chosen.


“You are still alive, I see”, the other man said drily. “That is good. Raphael kept his temper then.” Moving across the room he sat down in the chair Raphael had vacated a while before, his posture leisurely.


“He was.. disciplined, Banohr”, Gerehl replied smoothly. “As a scientist, you know all about discipline.” Handing him a cup he poured some wine for his new guest. The other Chosen nodded with continued amusement as he took a sip from his drink.


“And he knows nothing of our secret plans?” Banohr added after a moment’s silence.


“Nothing”, said Gerehl and his eyes glinted darkly. “Nothing at all.”


If their secret search for the lost male Sa'angreal called Neminahl was successful, everything would change. This Sa'angreal was an artefact of great power from the Age of Legends which was also capable of amplifying the True Power - a source of energy similar to the One Power but much rarer and which found its source in the Great Lord rather than the Creator. Hardly anyone in this Age knew of its existence. But Gerehl did - and he hungered to have it in his possession.


His eyes burned with desire at the thought.


It would change everything.



Seated at his work desk in the palace in Illian, Lord Serafehl finished writing the letter he had been composing and put it aside to be delivered later. Closing his eyes, relaxing in his high-backed chair, Raphael considered his meeting with Gerehl in Tel'aran'rhiod earlier that day. He had been surprised that Gerehl had not taken the bait, but he was always ready for every eventuality and so this temporary setback was of little import. Gerehl would come around or he would not. Raphael had other options if needed.


He sat in silence for several minutes going through his current plans in his mind and reflecting on his recent activities here in Illian. He had lost his temper in a meeting of the Council a few days earlier. That had not been wise, but a fellow councilor had gotten on his nerves with constant bickering and obstruction out of pure meanness. Most councilors had taken Lord Serafehl’s side so no great harm was done, but Raphael reminded himself that he needed to be more careful in the future.


Other activities had gone according to plan. Splitting Illian’s forces, half up north and half down south, had been a masterstroke to weaken the defense of the realm and had created partial chaos in the military. The few who pointed this out were silenced, however, and Lord Serafehl’s arguments that they need be prepared for enemies on all sides in these ‘volatile times’ had prevailed once again.


He had also had several meetings with leaders of Friends of the Dark-circles in Illian, ensuring everything was going smoothly, and enforcing discipline whenever necessary. He had beaten a woman half to death for her stupidity which had almost revealed the Circle’s existence to the local authorities; she would not make the mistake again. And last but not least, using his major influence in the Council he had arranged a meeting with the King of Illian. If the right things were whispered in the monarch’s ear, who knew what benefits could be had..



He finally got to his feet, refocusing his thoughts. It was time for his next meeting, one which intrigued him. Putting on his dark cloak, making sure he looked ‘presentable’, he wove Saidin and opened a Gateway right there in his chamber and Traveled, nearly instantaneously stepping into another place. The mansion was half resplendent and beautiful, half old and tattered showing only a sliver of former beauty. Always in a delicate balance.


Balance was important for Deleyhna, Raphael thought as he stepped further into the chamber. He was not sure if she had told him so or if it was an impression he had gotten, but he was pretty sure it was true. A chime rang, informing her of his arrival. Soon Deleyhna appeared from another doorway and bade him seat himself.


“Good to see you, Deleyhna”, the male Chosen said smoothly, as always finding this seductive woman very attractive and beddable. That she was as dangerous as a viper he thought added to her appeal. “I got your message.” He added with a small grin, his blue eyes glinting.


“You had a proposal for me, I understand?”


As he waited for her reply, he could not take his eyes off her beautiful figure.


His senses were heightened by Saidin.. and he liked what he saw.






That was the name outlanders called their nation. Some also called it Shibouya, she had heard. Other names as well, names on maps, names in books. Names in stories. Nezrava, with her very dark skin and short black curly hair and olive-shaped brown eyes, had little time for such lofty concepts. For her and for all others in this greatest nation of the world, their country was Co'dansin, land of the glorious people.


Outlanders were forbidden in their country with a very few exceptions. The Sh'boan , their glorious ruler, made sure everyone knew this decree and the legendary Ayyad enforced it throughout the land. Nezrava knew little of such things, she was the property of En’mhala Vi’lar and had been so for all her 14 years of life. She had heard whispers though from fellow slaves - for slaves they were, even if the word was banned in their nation; they were ‘property’ or She’zaan, honoured servants - that some outlanders had been seen in their city of Qrii’dhan of late though she did not know if she would believe it. She had never seen anyone foreign or strange in their city streets. It was dangerous to question things and ask questions that their masters did not want asked, fear of breaking the laws and customs made girls such as Nezrava fall into line, or else they would tempt fate. She knew well the laws that governed masters and their ‘property’, her master had been very adamant that all his ‘property’ understood it well. She and others like her were no more than animals to their masters, if truth be told, and could and would be disciplined, put down and slaughtered, for any discrepancies or none at all. She had no rights and would never have any.


She felt guilty even of thinking of this matter as she carried the heavy supplies from the vendor on her back all the way to the home of her master in the baking afternoon sun. The smell of spices and offal permeated the air as it always did in the dusty streets of the city and the buzz of life was all around her as she trudgingly made her sweaty way through the maze of people and wagons. Stop thinking, Nezrava! It was her older brother, Jazrad. It was his fault. He was the one who had planted these questioning, almost rebellious thoughts in her head. He was the one to blame. Him and his angry useless friends who did nothing but complaining. This was the only home she would ever have and it was a waste of time reflecting on her miserable life. Things would never change, that was the only certainty. Things never changed for the poor and the lost.



Co'dansin - Shara - was bordered to the southwest and south by the Sea of Storms, and to the east by the Morenal Ocean. To the north it was bordered by the Mountains of Dhoom and the Great Blight. To the west was the region called the Aiel Waste by some and even further west the continent that Sharans simply called Mehl’zaan, the Outlands. Several tall mountain ranges separated their glorious land from that of these outlanders and they had also built heavily-fortified towns in the few locations where the cliffs and mountains could be scaled. In each of these towns the residents went veiled at all times, and the walls were so tall that it was impossible to see into the towns from outside. Outlanders were not permitted to travel through these towns' eastern gates into Shara proper. Those who were to try would disappear. Some trade was necessary even with some of these outlanders though this was something the authorities kept from most commoners. It was necessary to reinforce the belief that their glorious unique nation was separate from, necessarily apart from, the Outlands.


And we are glorious, thought Zha’malia as she from her lofty position atop the building stared out at the desert beyond the walls of this small village in the central part of the nation. We are the chosen ones.


She was a tall and slim woman dressed in brown as was custom, of very dark complexion with short curly hair and fierce brown eyes. Her face was tattooed in the tradition of the Ayyad, the society of all who could channel the One Power in Shara, but her added personal tattoo was unique since the triangle symbol upon her forehead signified that she was the Amo’hra, the revered leader of the Ayyad and, in practice if not formally, the ruler of the Sharan nation.



Another secret we need to keep, thought the Ayyad-woman as she raised her head to the azure-blue skies and the late afternoon sun.


Secrets within secrets.


The Ayyad carried many secrets and truths that the rest of their glorious nation was not ready for, truths that if revealed could unravel their society, Zha’malia felt sure.


So many secrets, so many hidden truths.


One was that their rulers who always died after seven years in power were, in fact, killed by the Ayyad, they did not just ‘empower’ a new monarch out of tradition and pass away. The ‘will of the Pattern’ it was called, a notion nurtured by the Ayyad in established circles, but it was in fact the ‘will of the Ayyad’.


Another well kept secret was that all male Ayyad, living in segregated, separate villages from ordinary Sharans, were killed and cremated when they reached the age of 21 or when the spark for channeling was discovered in them. Also hidden from most was the fact that male Ayyad primarily served as breeding stock for female Ayyad. They were used to breed more female Ayyad channelers, and as such their bloodlines were traced like horse breeding stock. They could feed and dress themselves but were not allowed to read or to write. Males were communally raised, called simply "the male," instead of "he." When they became of the age of 16, they were taken from their original village and hooded and cloaked and transported to other villages, where they were matched with female Ayyad who desired children.


The Ayyad could never speak of the underlying reason for this practice, of course. That the danger with the taint on Saidin, making all male channelers too dangerous to keep alive, was too great a risk. Some might also wonder if madness was inherent in Saidar as well, just kept a well-guarded secret, and that could be the end of the Ayyad. Silence on this matter was of the utmost importance. And if the males could help breed new female Ayyad channelers before their life was snuffed out, all the better.


It is a wise practice - and prudent, thought the Amo’hra as she felt the sweet seductive power of Saidar in her veins. She was the strongest in the One Power among the Ayyad which was part of the reason why she had been chosen their leader. It helped that she came from the right family, of course. Breeding would always tell.



Hearing some footsteps behind her, Zha’malia had just time to half-turn before a Shield of Saidar was slammed between her and the One Power!


Her mouth gaped open in bewilderment and shock as she stared at her female Ayyad lover Che’nol who grinned back at her with wicked delight. The Amo’hra stumbled backwards, her eyes wide with fear but also with anger at the betrayal. She tried in vain to reach the One Power inside her but she was Shielded as effectively as if she never had been able to channel. She could feel Saidar there waiting inside her.. but it was behind a wall and could not be reached.


This was impossible, she knew, Che’nol should not be strong enough to do this to her. Impossible! She tried to scream for help but no sound came forth. The other woman’s smile widened and a chuckle very unlike her lover and dear friend of many years was heard.


“It is time to die, Amo’hra.” She simply said, her voice cold. “Your service to the Ayyad is at an end.”


Zha’malia never had time to get over her momentous shock. Her dark eyes widened and her whole body went rigid as she felt a thin but lethal weave of Saidar slice through her; her heart constricted, internal bleeding began and respiration stopped. A moment later her incredulous eyes rolled up into her head and she fell dead to the ground.


The other woman stared for a long moment at the dead leader of the Ayyad, a vicious but satisfied look on her face, then lifted the corpse by threads of Air and carried it to a table at the other side of the roof building. The table usually had other purposes but was convenient now as the woman placed the dead body on it. Closing her eyes, the woman remembered every detail of the dead woman’s appearance, and combining the flows just so.. her face slowly changed into that of the dead woman. When the process was complete, the weaves of the Mask of Mirrors set, face and body was the exact same.


Using Saidar to swiftly cremate the body, she placed the remains in a special steel container that she had brought with her. Finally she moved off the rooftop and down some stone steps to the lavish apartment below. It was decorated in the Sharan style which meant primarily use of earthly colours but there were many stylish figurines on shelves and expensive carpets on the floor. Standing in front of a tall mirror which hung on one wall, she appraised herself.



Long live the Amo’hra, glorious Leader of the Ayyad, thought Kharin wickedly and triumphantly to herself as she studied her delectable Sharan reflection in the mirror.


Then the Chosen turned and departed in haste, heading for the building that housed several of the Amo’hra’s most trusted Ayyad advisors.


There was work to be done in Shara.


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..  Keys to an Empire ..



Issandra crashed out of her dream, uncertain for a moment where she was.


As her muddled thoughts evaporated and she got control of herself, the Chosen recognized her surroundings and relaxed, laying her head down on the small pillow again. She used flows of Saidar to calm herself and soon was in control again. She was in her small cabin aboard the Raker Wavesweeper and it was night. She could see the moon through the small window on the side, see the darkness of the night surrounding the glowing globe in the sky. Listening now she heard the waves hitting the sides of the ship as the Raker ran through the sea corridors of the Aryth Ocean. As the ship’s Windfinder, Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, she was responsible for its smooth and swift ride but she needed some sleep as well and so the ship ran without ‘aid’ from a Windfinder at the moment. The Sailmistress, Tarah din Coral Rising Wave, would be at the helm and part of the crew would be at the sails. Soon it was time for Issandra to join them on deck, in the guise of the Sea Folk Windfinder, but first she lay back and thought about her recurring dream. She had had it several times in the past week and that was unusual for her. The dream never changed either. It always started at the moment of the betrayal.


That was how she thought of it.


The betrayal of her, her work and her significant research. In her dream she was re-enacting the murder of her co-worker and assistant at the laboratory, the young man Sarnos, with the bloodied knife sticking out of his throat. Sarnos who had betrayed her, who had in fact stolen her research. Oh they had praised her in the beginning, showing their pride that one of their own - and a woman to boot! - had solved the obstacles they had faced with regards to practical use of accelerated particle division in the production of high-tech wind power. But then Sarnos had begun taking credit for some of the work, gradually whispering in ears and convincing the entire Ner Khalid science facility that she was a fraud and they had all turned on her. In rage and humiliation she had confronted her devious assistant who had only laughed in her face, calling her a liar and saying that no one believed her anymore and that she would be sacked soon for the fraud she was. The way he had laughed spitefully at her had made her mad with rage and in a psychotic moment she had grabbed the knife before knowing what she did and soon it had stood out from his throat, blood flowing onto the floor amid his endless screams.



She had fled the science facility in panic and had hidden in the home of a friend from her school days until she discovered that she was being hunted by the Aes Sedai authorities for murder. She knew she would never get a fair trial and the penalty would either be death or Severing, cutting her off from the One Power, and either way it would be the death of her, she felt. Her only way of surviving, her only protection as she saw it, was to join those who rebels who had renounced the Aes Sedai and the Light and given new Oaths to the Dark One and the Shadow. The thought made her sick to the bone, but she had no other choice as she saw it, and in desperation for survival and anger at what had been done to her, she escaped and found her way to Shayol Ghul where she knelt before the Great Lord of the Dark pledging her Soul to the Shadow in return for the promise of immortality.


In the War of Power, or the War of the Shadow as some also called it, as one of Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever, she did what she could in service of the Great Lord, using her specialist knowledge of wind power machination combined with the One Power to make a fearsome weapon that was used with success in several battles. She was respected now, she was appreciated for her eminent skill, not cheated out of her glory as had been the case at the science facility and any doubts of her purpose in life and her dark allegiance were soon removed. Coldness and hatred found its place in her heart, hatred against all who had wronged her and especially against her former Aes Sedai brethren. Even the word ‘Aes Sedai’ left a foul taste in her mouth as she joined the forces of the Shadow in the war. Forsaken they called her, and she embraced the name in glee and rid herself of her original three names in a dark cleansing of the soul. She would forever more be known as Issandra.


The dream always ended just before that devastating and horrifying moment when she along with her Chosen brethren had been caught in the Sealing of the Bore together with the Great Lord by the bloody Dragon and his despicable two hundred mad Companions.


She had awakened from the Dreamless Sleep in this new world and new Age.. to a new Life.. bewildered at first but soon joyous at another opportunity to serve the Great Lord - and this time she would survive and they would win the war.



Closing her eyes, Issandra focused her mind on the task at hand, pushing all thoughts of the dream out of her mind. As the Windfinder of this ship she was to make sure it reached Aile Dashar, the island group north and to the west of Arad Doman, safely and well and as swiftly as possible. A few more days and they would arrive at the islands. She reached out with the One Power, feeling the drift of the sea and the flow of the large narrow vessel and she smiled. They were well on course. It was time to join the Sailmistress up on deck.


Chalor din Togara Evening Tide stepped onto deck under the blackness of the night, silver rays from the moon slicing the darkness, and gave a polite nod to the Sailmistress on Quarterdeck before she took up her usual stance at the front, the soft breeze ruffling her short hair. Weaves of Saidar flowed from her into the ocean paths before them, and into the skies ahead, touching the clouds and moving them aside to make for a smoother journey. This was part of the Great Lord’s plan and she would ensure there were no surprises.


Issandra grinned wickedly. No one would ever doubt her again.



The Stone of Tear was an immense fortress, believed to be mankind's oldest surviving stronghold and indeed oldest existing structure, having been erected shortly after, or during, the Breaking of the World. It was built by Aes Sedai using the One Power: Earth, Air, and Fire fusing stones together without joint or mortar. The Stone resembled a great mountain and towered over the city of Tear. Only the White Tower was taller.


The Defenders of the Stone were the elite military group used specifically to guard the Stone. Only Tairens were accepted into the Defenders, selected at great care, and officers were usually of Noble birth.


The Stone had its own docks, and was an essentially self-sufficient citadel. The inside of the fortress was intentionally complex with multiple hallways joining at odd intersections in order to confuse invaders and provide defenders with even more of a territorial advantage. Arrow slits were the only sizable windows, and any attempt to reach them would only succeed if the person trying was not spotted by the towers (the arrow slits were a later modification, when the kind of warfare was less advanced than the time when the Stone was initially built). The Stone of Tear housed many secrets, for those who had such knowledge, but for most commoners it was simply a grand structure of historical value.


The Stone had never fallen and this was something of which its Defenders were very proud.


Staring up at the Stone from a level below, Gueyam Sendiana, Captain of the Stone, felt some of that pride as his gaze swept over the magnificent structure. As leader and Commander of the Defenders of the Stone it was his responsibility to keep the Stone safe and secure. He was a handsome Tairen man, a minor Noble, in his early forties and his military uniform with an officer’s insignia fit him well. He was a lifelong soldier, and keenly aware that he had had to struggle to get where he was. He was intense, fastidious and meticulous of nature and he was a respected and competent Commander. He took his duties very seriously and it was his life’s mission to ensure no enemy of any kind ever took the Stone.


When he walked up the levels to one of the Stone’s several Gates, he saw several of his guards standing watch beside the Gate. They came at attention when they saw him and he nodded as he passed by on his way into one of the many tunnels leading inwards.


The Stone was his.



Istoril Ghalara, a tall and lean brown haired, dark eyed man of middle age, glanced at the other High Lords and High Ladies present and kept his thoughts to himself.


Their Council was the governing body of Tear and all its illustrious eleven members were given the title of high lord and high lady upon admission. Some nobility speculated that these were inherited titles that gave automatic admittance to be a member of this ruling body, but this was not true. Not that it mattered much in practice, High Lord Istoril thought to himself as he found his seat around the large council table. The Council determined the law of the land, by consensus or so they let it be known and any decision they made was presented as unanimous to the world at large. The lesser lords, the Lords of the Land, then had the duty of carrying out the edicts of the High Lords of Tear.


Only these eleven individuals truly knew what had lain in the Heart of the Stone for so long, a secret they had to keep on pain of death.


And only one of the eleven knew the greatest secret of all: that the object in question had been stolen!


Gerehl cursed inside. The Chosen had killed the real High Lord Istoril and in his guise had taken his place in the Council in order to get his hands on the male Sa'angreal called Turavehl that was hidden in the Stone’s depths. There were prophecies connected to this particular object of great power, prophecies for those who knew that had to do with the boy dragon, and so removing the item from the Stone had been very important for the Shadow. A difficult task for sure, since it was presumed that the Stone - and possibly also the Sa'angreal itself - was heavily Warded, it was but doable or so at least Gerehl had been certain. And he had managed to get past the labyrinths, all the guards and, using Saidin, through the Wards, though they had been somewhat.. annoying as he saw it, only to find that the Sa'angreal was gone! The shock had left him numb for a moment, but then he had regained control of himself and had searched neighbouring chambers without success before escaping back through the tunnels. Not for the first time had he cursed the impenetrable Wards set upon the place that made it impossible to Travel into the Stone, to open a Gateway there.



Could it be that the boy dragon had it in his possession like the prophecies spoke of!? He had asked himself. If so, he presumed he would have heard rumours through his many sources across the continent or from some of his Chosen brethren. But if nothe, who else could have taken it?


The Sa'angreal was kept behind Shields of great power in the innermost part, the heart, of the Stone, in a separate chamber where no one was allowed to go. No one would thereby know it was missing. It was a mystery and it frustrated Gerehl in more ways than one. Since that mission had been a failure, he had put all his resources into finding the second Sa'angreal that he knew existed somewhere on this continent. So far his search, aided by Banohr, had come up with nothing but he knew if he persisted he would succeed in the end. He would make sure this second object of great power did not slip out of his hands.



The leader of the Council, a grey-haired staunch Tairen Noble in his early sixties by the name of Harron Alreima, bade everyone sit down and when all were seated he opened the meeting as he always did with the time-honoured phrase “In honour of Tear, the greatest Nation”.


Tear was indeed one of the richest nations in the land. This came in part from controlling the third largest port on the Sea of Storms behind Illian and Ebou Dar, at the mouth of the River Erinin. A great deal of Tear's wealth came from the oil produced on the country's numerous olive farms. Lucrative trade in grain, fish, and spices also brought money into the rich nation. It was a strategic place from which to build power.


High Lord Istoril Ghalara watched the proceeding with his usual seeming uninterest, a smart tactic which threw the others off balance believing he was not someone to be wary of. Working behind the scenes, however, he gradually built his influence and despite the setback he would continue his secret work to create instability and division in Tear. In this, he would not fail.




"Whoever holds the Stone of Tear is Lord of Tear, city and nation."

-famous Tairen saying




The Deathwatch Guard stood at attention in the late morning sun.


They were the elite Seanchan personal guards to the Seanchan Empress, Tirana Elem Sani Paendrag blessed of her name. The Deathwatch Guard, an elite division that was particularly honoured and valued, was made up of both men and Ogier Gardeners, but the main force was Warrior Ogier, resplendent in their famous armour which was lacquered red and green, the latter colour so dark that it was commonly thought of as black, the colour of death. The humans were da'covale - slaves -  and were the private property of the Empress. The ranks in the Deathwatch Guard stood a half step above those in the Ever Victorious Army, the Seanchan military forces. They were the elite, the best, trusted for protection and missions not given to others. But since they were the elite, more was expected of them - and if they failed they were more heavily punished. It as well known that if a person the Deathwatch Guard was protecting died, the remaining human guards were executed.


Sanek Meredhe, the dark-skinned, shrewd-eyed General and Commander of the Deathwatch Guard, watched his troops with pride. Row upon row they stood at attention with weapons at the ready, their armour shining as a strong breeze drifted in from the Aryth Ocean. He started his inspection round, going from soldier to soldier, checking details on uniforms, speaking a few words to a soldier here and then, his manner gruff but professional as he went through the ranks. Finally he stepped to the front of the ranks and shouted the Seanchan battle cry.


“For the Empress!” he shouted, raising his right arm -  and the battle cry was echoed along the huge plaza before the Crystal Throne, the seat of Empress at the Court of the Nine Moons there in the Capital of Seandar. Then every single member of the Deathwatch Guard bowed to their seasoned Commander, on one knee in the sun.



Watching from a building and a balcony above the plaza, opposite to the Royal Imperial Palace, Selecin Merje, a man of dark complexion with short black hair and deep brown eyes, nodded to himself. The Deathwatch Guard was indeed impressive. His dark eyes shifted to the blue skies above and he spotted a Raken flying northwards. They were creatures with a body considerably longer than a horse and about equal in girth, with leathery grey skin and large powerful wings much like those of a bat. They were ideal mounts for scouting and/or sending messages, as the Raken could fly at approximately three to four times the speed of a running horse. They were ridden by morat'raken, special Seanchan fliers of which three out of five were women. A shadow atop the Raken indicated the person flying though he could not see from this distance whether it was a woman or a man. Raken were only one of many creatures only found on this continent. He knew of Grolm, a large three eyes bear like creature with grey green coloration and skin texture that was used in battle against lightly armoured opponents to break holes in an enemy line, and Torm, an intelligent creature that was a cross between a horse-sized cat and a lizard with bronze scales, six-clawed feet and three eyes which could also be ridden.


There was also Lopar, the main combat animal of the Seanchan. It had an average weight between fifteen hundred and two thousand pounds, leathery hairless hide which was dark brown or a pale reddish hue, and six toes on both front and rear paws, all having large retractable claws. Lopar sometimes reared upon their hind legs when fighting, and could reach as high as ten feet. They were also armoured similar to the style the Seanchan soldiers use.


Selecin knew that all these creatures were unique to this continent and also had his suspicions about where they had originated.


His eyes turned to the Imperial Palace at the other side of the huge plaza and it made him think of this place, the city and its history. Seandar. The largest of all Seanchan cities, it was located inland at the confluence of three great river networks, roughly halfway between the dividing channel and the Aryth Ocean. The city was located on an immense peninsular that extended for several thousand miles north and east out of the southern landmass of the continent, which mostly lay south of the equator. As such, it was somewhat remote from the other major cities of the continent, which may explain why it was able to grow to a large size and gave its name to the rest of the continent during the centuries following the Breaking of the World.


Seandar was located at approximately the same latitude as Tremalking, but more than 6.000 miles to the west. His thoughts turned for a moment to the continent far to the east.. and to Shara which lay at the other side of the Morenal Ocean.. but then he left the balcony and went inside his chamber and refocused. Decorated in the colourful Seanchan fashion, it was comfortable but not opulent. Seating himself in a chair he relaxed as he studied the painting on the wall. He often studied that painting with amusement. It depicted  a moment in Seanchan history or myth, depending on one’s view, when Luthair Paendrag Mondwin, the son of the infamous Artur Hawkwing - or Artur Paendrag Tanreall as was his real name, who created an Empire in the East - came ashore in the Seanchan Empire in his resplendent ship at the head of a fleet sent by his father.


What was truth and what was not? That was the question.



He was the man the Empress turned to for Truth in Seandar. For he was a Soe'feia, a Truthspeaker, a so'jhin - an upper and particularly valued servant of the Empress - who served Seanchan royalty by telling them the absolute truth of a situation as they saw it, no matter how painful or humiliating it might be. While many of the Blood called their Voice "Truthspeaker," few did understood how much power they truly held. Since those owned by the Blood were so'jhin they could be punished, but a true Truthspeaker was required to tell the absolute truth and may not be punished for it. There were many truths to tell Tirana Elem Sani Paendrag, the ruler of this nation. Also truths she may not be happy to hear.


As he walked across the plaza for his appointment with the Empress, he gazed absentmindedly at the women passing him by. Some Empresses through history had demanded that their Truthspeakers were at their side continually, but Selecin had.. persuaded the current Empress that it was wise for him to live apart, that truths were best discovered that way. The women ahead of him were a Suldam with her Damane. Sul'dam - Leash Holders - were Seanchan women who could control Damane, women who could channel the One Power and who were viewed as far too dangerous to roam free in society.


Sul'dam controlled the Damane through the use of an a'dam, a special Ter'angreal that looked like a silver leash and bracelet. Using the a'dam, the Sul'dam could sense the thoughts and feelings of the Damane and also inflict pain or pleasure. If Damane tried to escape their a'dam, they would undergo severe pain and headaches that vanished when they stopped thinking of escaping. Most Damane were terrified of roaming free, having been brought up as leashed women which they found safe, and even the thought of Marath'damane - “those who must be leased” - a term used in Seanchan for any woman who was able to channel the One Power but had not yet been leashed by an a'dam - terrified them.


Selecin found the concept of leashed Damane women.. interesting.. some might even say.. intriguing.. but he had more important things on his mind. Heading towards the main entrance to the palace, he stopped as the Suldam and the Damane entered through a different door. Facing the two Deathwatch Ogier Guards he gave a polite nod, as he always did when passing, and as always they gave no indication that they had seen him, and the continued walking into the palace.


It was an enormous building built by Ogier Stone Masons on several levels and it took him a long time to get to the Royal Reception Hall. More guards waited outside that huge chamber and he had to wait for permission to enter. Finally he was let through and was soon face to face with the Empress herself. She was seated on the the Crystal Throne which was, in fact, a great Ter'angreal that caused anyone who approached it to feel immense awe and wonder. Very few indeed were aware of this fact but Selecin was one of the few who knew. It amused him though he never let the Empress know that he had the knowledge.



“Selecin, there you are”, said the Seanchan ruler as he bowed before her. She was a short woman of dark complexion with large brown eyes and almost black hair that was shaved in the middle. She wore three huge earrings in each ear and a necklace with a diamond sapphire. Her eyes were those of a hawk.


“Empress”, he responded smoothly as he always did, “I am yours to command.”


She gave him a shrewd look as she added, as she always did when they met, “And what truth do you have for me today?”


Seating himself in the provided chair on a level below the Empress, the Truthspeaker smiled.


“Some truths come when least expected, Empress. Some truths will not find favour.”


“I know this, Truthspeaker”, the Seanchan ruler replied, her eyes narrowing. “Speak your mind.”


“The truth has come to me.” He said, looking slightly past her as was custom. “It is now time to broaden your Empire, oh Great Empress”.



Tervihn spoke the words he had been commanded to speak and grinned wickedly inside though nothing showed on his face.


“A change is coming. It is time”, the Chosen added smoothly, “to take back what was taken from Your ancestors in the East.”


“It is time.. to go to War. The time has Come. This is Your Destiny.”


His eyes glinted darkly as he watched her response. Holding onto Saidin, his senses heightened, he could feel some of her emotions. The Empress’ face at first uncertain, slowly turned into a wider grin and her dark eyes glinted with shrewdness and anticipation at her Truthspeaker’s words as he gave her details of what she should do.


She thanked him for his Truth and said she would consider what he had said and would talk to her military advisors, but they both knew that she would do as he had suggested. The delicate weave of Compulsion that he used on her whenever they met ensured that she, despite being a very stubborn woman, would be  agreeable to most of his suggestions. He had long ago learned the wisdom of not doing it too strongly though, which easily aroused suspicion from others and could sometimes even damage the subject’s mind, and so he wove threads with care upon her mind to get the results he wanted.


The first step in the Great Lord’s plan, his command to his faithful Chosen Tervihn, was thereby set in motion.


Chaos would increase across the world, the oceans would be filled with blood from battle and strife, and war would bring the returned Dragon to his knees.



Tervihn, in the guise of Selecin, the Seanchan Truthspeaker, left the Empress a little later, heading straight for his chambers in the building across the plaza. He needed to plan his next move and as he walked beneath the Seanchan sunshine, passing Deathwatch Guards and more Suldam and Damane as well as other servants to the throne, he considered how best to carry it out.


His secret plan was delightfully dark and delicious. The Chosen felt excitement and anticipation building inside him at the thought, and every step forward was one filled with inner glee.


He was going to kill the Daughter of the Nine Moons.


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.. Twists and Turns in Twilight ..



Vanahl looked down at the corpse of the Aes Sedai with contempt.


She was - or rather had been - Svetna Derachne, officially an Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah and a Sitter for the Yellow, but in truth a member of the Black Ajah. Blood flowed from her chest in large streams and her face was almost unrecognizable there it lay on the ground at an odd angle beside her broken body.


The Chosen’s anger had gotten the better of him and he had lashed out at the Sister using Saidin as well as physical blows; countless blows. She had failed her mission and he did not tolerate failure.


He was a man of many names and many faces, right now he wore that of the Cairhien merchant Tennant Seliborh, visiting Tar Valon on one of his monthly visits. Tennant was a tall middle-aged man with light brown hair and green eyes, thin arms and legs. There was an almost scholarly look about him, but deep inside the fire burned in his soul and the deep red pools of fire that usually shone in his eyes waited under the surface, ready to be unleashed.


He kicked the corpse, angry still at her ineptitude. All he had ordered her to do was to try to uncover Divara’s scheme in the White Tower and to keep an eye on Arahna Desonai, the new Black Sister. She had failed on both accounts, making miserable excuses. Vanahl did not permit mistakes and this Sister had paid the price.



I am surrounded by fools, thought the Nae’blis to himself as his eyes turned from the corpse to the window on the side of the room. Fools, traitors and troublemakers.


The room was in a small merchant house on a side street from the main boulevard leading through the City of the Aes Sedai. He could hear activity nearby but this place had been chosen for its location. The house was Warded right now, an added precaution, but even so Vanahl took care when he opened the front door and waved to the pair of huge rugged men waiting outside. They quickly entered from the afternoon sun, placed the dead body in a sack and carried it unceremoniously out without question, having been ordered to dispose of it as instructed. The Chosen shut the door behind them and then, seating himself in one of three chair around a small wooden table in what served as the back room, he gradually got his temper under control. He collected a chess piece from one of his coat pockets and ran it between his fingers, lost in thought. It was the most valuable piece from his ancient chess board and he took it with him at times, for no other reason than it pleased him to do so.


His thoughts turned to the matter of the boy Dragon. And to who had gone against his explicit instructions. His eyes became pools of fire as the Nae’blis changed into his real appearance, the weaves of the Mask of Mirrors flowing through him. Whenever he considered the blasted boy Dragon, he felt the ancient hatred swelling inside him.


His ancient enemy. His eternal enemy. In this he saw himself and the Great Lord as one.


His lips started quivering and he raised a finger to his lips without thinking to make them stop. Fury rose in him and he had to calm himself to regain a portion of equilibrium. His thoughts turned to the slightly less infuriating issue of the disobedience.


He still did not know who had disobeyed and betrayed him, as he saw it; betrayed his orders and his plans.


And he hated it.


Despite his attempt at being calmer his hands clenched in fury. Who could have dared to have disobeyed him? As always, his prime suspect was Raphael, that arrogant fool of a man. A dangerous foe. Or Deleyhna, equally arrogant and ruthless to boot. Or could it have been the devious Gerehl who was almost as dangerous as the previous two?


They were all obstacles that would have to be removed at some point, too dangerous to keep around when he conquered this new world for the Great Lord, but for now he had to tolerate them.. to make use of them in this coming conflict against the Lightfools. He cursed again, wanting to find that proof which showed who had been the betrayer. And to eliminate that person. He knew that the Great Lord relished the rivalry and feuds between the Chosen, even encouraged them, to whittle off the weak ‘weeds’ as it were.


Vanahl would make sure he were the one left standing in the end.


A while later, as the afternoon sun was lower in the sky, he got up from his chair and stepped aside from the wooden table. Walking to a larger open space in the room he opened a Gateway using Saidin, the male half of the One Power, and Traveled, the Gateway falling out of existence behind him.



The Watcher smiled in the Darkness left behind, as the silver line in the air disappeared from the room.


A silent moment passed. Then another.


And then the eyes were gone.



Reeya Eldhem Sare Paendrag, third and favourite daughter to the Empress of the Seanchan Empire, and heir to the throne, was a tall girl of fifteen. She had a dark complexion, short black hair (in defiance of custom: her head was supposed to be shaved!) and brown eyes in a heart-shaped face. She was slim and delicate in her movements though with a vile temper that often got the better of her. She was believed to be a direct descendant of Artur Hawkwing through his son Luthair, who conquered the Seanchan continent according to ancient history and legend. Her personal banner was three golden leopards harnessed to an ancient war-cart.


At this moment she was seated in her resplendent divan in her large chamber in the Palace of the Empress with several so'jhin, personal upper caste slaves, attending her. One was polishing the heir’s lacquered nails while the other was fanning her with a large feathery rod of a sort, ensuring the future Empress of Seanchan was comfortable. They were pretty, young women with half-shaven heads, as befitted their station, their remaining hair plaited into a long braid. They looked excited at carrying out their duties.


The Daughter of the Nine Moons herself was bored.


She yawned as she thought of the endless lessons her mother made her attend, her private teachers trying hard to make her learn history, law, customs, languages and all the many many things a future ruler of the Empire ought to be well versed in. None of the subjects interested her; weaponry was more to her taste, to her mother’s disapproval.


A knife lay beside her on the divan and as soon as the subservient woman before her finished doing her nails she picked it up and held it in her hand, feeling the sharp edge with her other fingers. It had become a daily routine for her, to her mother’s disgust, and she found it eased her mind. She was very good with knives, having been taught to fight with them from an early age (her mother sick of her daughter’s constant pestering and finally relenting), and she always wore one on her person. Sororicide was not unheard of in Seanchan noble circles and both of her elder sisters, she felt sure, were going to attempt to kill her at some point since they had been passed over for the honour of becoming heir to the Empire.


She would make sure she killed them first.



When the attack came a few days later, it was the knife she carried that saved her life.


She could find no other explanation.



The special crystal-hilted knife was, in fact, an old Ter'angreal which suppressed weaves of Saidin, deflecting them, a secret she had come upon (and had confirmed) years earlier and which she had ordered her servants to keep on pain of death. Though she shared the disgust most Seanchan held for Damane and scepticism of the One Power and all the havoc it could cause in the world, she understood the value of the chained - and controlled - Damane in warfare and she also saw the value of artefacts of power. She had held onto the Ter'angreal partly out of curiosity (it was an historic object) but also in part in case it would one day be needed to defend against a man, an enemy, Channeling Saidin (it did not protect against Saidar for some reason). It was a horrifying thought of course, but even so a wise precaution, also in view of certain secret Prophecies she had come across, and today it had saved her life.


She could not see from where the attack came, but felt the knife at her side go ice-cold and a slight burning sensation came in her side as she sprang up from her divan and threw herself to the side before the table beside the divan exploded in a thousand pieces. She screamed a warning to her so'jhin but was unable to see if they managed to get away in time. Staying put, a mixture of anger and fear flowing through her, she waited while fireballs flew above her head lighting up the decorative curtains behind her. Shouts were coming from outside but still some way off. A vase shattered close to her shoulder and the small table upon which it had stood broke and fell to the floor as she lay low, not daring to raise her head to look for her assailant. Screams came from the other side of the room now and more shouts from outside. A moment later several soldiers rushed into the room followed by two Suldam with their Damane, and finding the Daughter of the Nine Moons safe though shaken they breathed a huge sigh of relief as they hurried her out of there to safety. Reeya cast a quick glance over her head as they ushered her outside and saw one of the women who had attended to her dead, her eyes glazed and blood oozing from her head, and another crying hysterically from pain, one arm gone and part of a shoulder badly damaged, as she was being tended to by one of the Damane.


Two thoughts remained in her head that entire day. One, it had to have been a man channeling the One Power - a man not collared! - who had attacked her, however unlikely that seemed. A man who must be found and leashed - or killed - for the safety of everyone. The Ter'angreal  was not wrong. Could it have been him? The prophesized one? She shivered at the thought. And two, could her jealous sisters somehow be involved? It seemed unlikely, for how would they get a channeling man to cooperate?, but they hated her and would certainly want her dead. Shock replaced fury as day turned into night and she swore on her mother’s life that she would find whoever had attempted the assassination and would have him or them whipped naked through the streets of Seandar before beheading the person(s) publicly in the central square.


The Empress, for her part, had the entire military squad patrolling the palace grounds executed for their ineptitude in keeping her daughter and heir safe. She also had a whole division of the Ever Victorious Army, aided by a dozen Suldam and Damane, out hunting the channeling man.


The Commander of the Royal Family’s personal guard was demoted to da'covale, a slave of low rank, whipped and paraded around the grounds on his bloody knees. When the day was over, he wished he were dead.



Selecin, the Seanchan Truthspeaker, hurried from the Palace toward his private chambers in the building opposite. He was swift as he climbed the steps to his current abode, cursing inside at his failure. He slammed the door shut behind him and dropped into a chair, sweat beading on his forehead. Tervihn the Chosen cursed aloud this time. The blasted child was alive and she had a Ter’angreal, that was the only answer. That was the only way she could have withstood his Saidin-wrought attack. His first deadly weave had hit her straight on and she should have been dead. Somehow she had gotten hold of an artefact that deflected weaves of Saidin and now it had saved her life. Slamming his fist down hard on the table in anger, Tervihn closed his eyes and tried to regain his inner calm.


Who could have guessed she would have such an object? The Chosen knew of such objects but they had been rare even in what they now called the Age of Legends, never mind this Age. He could never have suspected it nor prepared for it. The Great Lord had never tolerated failure, he knew, so he simply had to rectify this mistake and blunder before it was too late. He would have to wait with his next assassination attempt though, because now security would be tripled all over the city. Shaking his head in frustration, he gradually calmed his breathing and composed himself. He would need to return to the Palace soon, the Empress would ask him for Omens after this incident - and probably reprimand him for not seeing this coming! - and he would need to be calm and collected and not for one moment must anyone suspect him. That could destroy everything.


Soon Selecin, the Truthspeaker to the Empress of the Seanchan Empire, returned to the Royal Palace to perform his duties. New plans were forming in his head as he walked, but nothing showed on his face as he passed many soldiers outside and inside the Palace and finally arrived in the Throne Room and knelt before Tirana Elem Sani Paendrag, blessed of her name.


She was not pleased.



“So you want an alliance?” Issandra queried, surprise evident in her voice.


Her long blond hair fell in waves behind her back, down her beautiful green dress, and her blue eyes glinted in a face which most would find pretty. She enjoyed being out of her guise as the Atha’an Miere Windfinder Chalor din Togara Evening Tide if only for a short while, and her hand went to her flowing hair at intervals, loving the feel of it.


She now looked across at Vinadel, her eyes narrowing, and wondered if this was a trap of sorts.


They were seated in his private chambers in Ebou Dar.


As chief advisor to the Queen of Altara, Vinadel was in a position to influence the Throne of the Winds. He was a skilful player of the Game of Power, perhaps not quite at the level of some of the others, Issandra believed, but even so a clever operator and more shrewd, she thought, than some of their other brethren were aware of. She found it strange though that he had suggested this alliance. The two of them had hardly spoken or collaborated in the past and she would have thought he would opt for.. other choices.


“I know what you are thinking”, the philosopher of old replied, his voice amused. “Why you?”


Issandra took a sip from her cup of wine and studied the other man, the slight tilt of her face indicating that she was thinking just that. He wore a short beard now and his usual dark hair was slightly lighter than normal, his face also somewhat less distinct than she was used to. Perhaps this was the guise in which he appeared before the Queen, or perhaps it simply amused him to appear slightly different now, perhaps to throw her off balance. They all had their quirks, she as much as the others.


“Perhaps because none of the others would expect it.” He said, answering his rhetorical question, his eyes narrowing speculatively. “I like to surprise them sometimes.. and I feel this.. association between us could benefit us both.”



Issandra took another sip from her wine and then put the cup aside, pursing her lips.


“Perhaps it could..” she replied after a moment’s silence, thinking inside that she would never be able to trust him. But then again, that was the case with all of them. They worked together when they must but no one ever trusted the others.


“But aren’t you in an.. association with Raphael?” Issandra added wryly and watched the other Chosen carefully for his reaction.


“That I am”, Vinadel said and a lopsided grin came upon his lips. “But I find it wise to keep my options open.”


Issandra nodded, knowing the truth of that. Perhaps an alliance of sorts with Vinadel could benefit her. And if it did not work out, well.. she could always terminate it. Or approach one of the others.


As she considered his proposal, she poured some more red wine in her cup and took another long sip. This wine was very good, she had to admit. Almost as good as the red wine she remembered from Seihm back in her old life.


“We have an understanding, Vinadel”, she replied finally, making her decision.



Seeing the answering grin upon his lips, she wondered if he trusted her as little as she trusted him. Of course. All the Chosen, despite their differences, were full of ambition and had, to some extent, cunning and cleverness. They would not have survived this long had they been fools. Vinadel was no fool and she treated him with the respect he was due.


“That we have, Issandra”, the other Chosen said after a few moments. “That we have.”


He watched her open a Gateway on the other side of the room and disappear, the Gateway snapping shut behind her. She was returning to Aile Dashar in the north from where she had Traveled or so at least she had informed him upon her arrival. He saw no reason to doubt her, knowing from before that she had positioned herself among the Atha’an Miere, the Sea Folk.


He wondered what she would say if she knew his real plans.


We all use each other, the Chosen mused as he took a sip from his hitherto untouched cup of wine. But only the best of us, the wisest, will survive.


The Game of Power was all.



The Miagoma clan of the Aiel nation was a proud clan.


It included several septs and one of these was called Spine Ridge. It was the northernmost of the clan septs and its Chief was Sei’ad. He was a tall red-headed man of above middle-age and of good strength. Though perhaps not the strongest man in the sept, he was certainly the wisest and he possessed much cunning, a combination which made him well suited for the position. Staring into the far north he wondered when the ‘bleakness’, as he called it, would descend on them all. The Storm is Coming. He could feel it in his bones, he often said in private meetings with the Wise Ones. These were women of wisdom in the village who often - but not always - had the ability to channel the One Power. They kept many secrets, but as Clan Chief he had deduced some things which were not common knowledge. Wise Ones had great influence among the clans and also great responsibility. They could be stubborn as the desert, like all women in Sei’ad’s experience, but ought to be listened to (that did not mean that they always got their way, however). It was a prudent fact of life. His wife, Karthana, herself a Wise One of many years, had taught him as much.


As Clan Chief he also knew the secrets of Rhuidean. And about the origins of the Aiel. He had been there, he had walked through the Rings of Power, he had learned the Truth. The greatest secret of all. One that could never be revealed to the clans.


Rhuidean was an ancient and holy city in the Aiel Waste built some time after the Breaking of the World by the Jenn Aiel, an extinct faction of the Aiel and unique among their people. The Jenn did not abandon the Way of the Leaf, a pacifistic code of honour, something that went against all that future generations of Aiel stood for. That the Aiel originally had been pacifists was something their people would never be able to accept, the Clan Chiefs agreed.


The buildings in Rhuidean were all majestic palaces, with many unfinished. There was a great plaza in the centre of the city filled with hundreds of objects of the One Power, presumed brought there, in service of the Aes Sedai, to save the objects from the madness and upheaval of the Breaking. Also there was Avendesora, the legendary ‘Tree of Life’, which grew at the very centre of the Aiel city.



The Clan Chief shook his head as his thoughts went back to what he had experienced when he had walked through those Rings. He had seen the past. He had seen a possible future. He had seen the Truth. And he had seen more.. things he could never talk about to anyone. Things he could not believe..


Waiting for.. him..


He who would break them but also save them.


He did not understand that paradox, but he believed there was Truth there.


Turning away from the north, the desert sand whipped up into a storm a way to the west, his eyes shifted to the village before him and a hint of a smile came upon his rugged face. This was home and he would protect it whatever happened. To his dying breath.


Veiled as he was, in the fashion of his people, he looked every part the warrior. His spear lay at his feet at the moment but could be picked up and thrown in an instance. As Clan Chief he had little use for it in every day life, not like warriors scouting or defending the village, but he carried it with him out of tradition and pride. The spear was part of their identity just like many of their other special customs, some of which would be hard to understand for outsiders.


Ji'e'toh was a prime example.  This was the complex system of honour that the Aiel followed. Ji'e'toh determined all interactions in Aiel life; fighting, housing, even intimate relationships and marriage. The term was from the Old Tongue and meant, literally, ‘honour and obligation’. Ji was honour, and toh was obligation. The greatest ji came from touching an armed enemy in battle without harming them. This incurred a great deal of toh upon the enemy, and the person who was touched usually became gai'shain, which in the Old Tongue meant "pledged to peace in battle." A gai'shain served his or her captor for a year and a day, touching no weapon, doing no battle, and wearing only white.



Outsiders will never understand, thought Sei’ad as he walked into the village, greeting several villagers that he passed. Wetlanders are different and always will be.



He did not see the watchful eyes of a dark-veiled Aiel warrior clad in brown who stood a little apart from the others, seemingly guarding but in reality keeping a close watch on the Clan Chief and his movements. Through those dark warrior-eyes, Banohr observed everything and went over his plan in his mind once again. The Chosen had been in this sept for a good while, under the guise of one of their warriors, biding his time. Now he was almost ready to act.


His eyes tightened darkly in anticipation, his hand clutching the spear he held.


Soon the Clan Chief would have no more worries.


No more worries at all.



A cold gust of wind coming in from the north made the Clan Chief think of his premonition again, and as he entered his private abode, placing his spear beside the entrance, the ancient Aiel Oath, known to all their people, popped into his mind.


He murmured the words almost without thinking, whispers out of time.



"Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit into Sightblinder's eye on the Last Day."

-Ancient Aiel Oath



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.. Soul of the Battle Ajah: In Tribute ..



Dorinha Khalarin, Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah, walked the streets of Ebou Dar with purpose. Her green travelling cloak billowed behind her in the strong southern breeze as she strode down the streets, her Warder Cardhan steadfastly at her side. People stepped out of their way, some with animosity in their faces, others with curiosity. Most averted their eyes as they passed, wanting little to do with the White Tower. General feeling in Ebou Dar towards the Aes Sedai was not as negative as in Amadicia but neither was it as supportive as in the Borderlands. Most Altarans just wanted little to do with the White Tower. The Queen in the Tarasin Palace had an Aes Sedai advisor, of course, but that was tradition and so was a different matter as most saw it.


Dorinha was on her way to see the Queen now, on important business of the White Tower, and while she looked forward to her visit with the Altaran Head of State she did not look forward to meeting the Aes Sedai stationed there, Sendhira Nerron who was of the Red Ajah. She and Sendhira had never been anything near friends, as far as one could call Sisters in different Ajahs friends, and Dorinha considered her temperamental and foul-mouthed while Sendhira considered Dorinha arrogant and naive. The Green Sister hoped she would be allowed to speak to the Queen on her own, since she had received her orders from the Amyrlin herself, but if the Red Sister was obstinate she could cause trouble.


Dorinha’s long brown hair, that had a hint of grey in it, flowed behind her in the wind as they traversed the busy afternoon streets and her face was Aes Sedai-smooth as she focused on the Tarasin Palace in the distance. It stood along one side of the Mol Hara square which had at its centre a statue of a woman with one arm raised as to point toward the sea. Dorinha had often wondered who this woman was, but the histories she had read had not revealed the answer. Some Brown probably knew it by heart, she thought with a shrug, as they walked past and headed toward the gate to the Palace grounds. Soon they were shown inside the Palace and were, subsequently, granted an audience with the Altaran Ruler and Queen. To the Battle Ajah Sister’s surprise, a man she did not know was in attendance standing beside the Throne of the Winds. And Sendhira Sedai was nowhere to be seen.



The Queen, Mandhra Theliana Selnobar, by the Grace of the Light, Mistress of the Four Winds, Guardian of the Sea of Storms and High Seat of House Selnobar, had neck-long glossy black hair with grey at the temples framing a rather ordinary face. Her eyes were striking though, dark brown and large. Her smile was friendly though guarded as she greeted the Green Sister, bowing from atop her throne, and her Warder. She then presented her first councillor, Lord Elahron who bowed politely to the Aes Sedai. She gave a brief nod back, just enough for politeness, and studied the man for a moment. There was nothing special about him in truth but something in the way he carried himself, confident and self-assured, made her view him with caution. Her dark-haired, tall and imposing Warder seemed to echo her feelings as he stared long and hard at the other man, before shifting his gaze to a neutral point midway between the Queen and the huge historical painting - it was of an ancient sea battle of sorts - on the wall in the background.


“Now then”, the Queen said after the presentations were made and some pleasantries had been exchanged, “how may I be of service to the White Tower.”


Her voice was steady and polite though tinged with some amusement. Her eyes glittered as she studied the tall Warder at the Aes Sedai’s side, enjoying the sight of him. She liked tall and strong men.. they made good bed partners.


“I come on behalf of the Amyrlin Seat, the Watcher of the Seals, the Flame of Tar Valon”, the Green Sister began formally, using all the titles of the leader of the Aes Sedai as she had been told to do. It was important that the Queen understood the importance of this mission. “On behalf of the White Tower, she has a proposal for you that she believes can benefit Altara as well as Tar Valon.”


Dorinha studied the Queen’s reaction, as she also had been ordered to do, but the Ruler of Altara showed little initial reaction to her words. One eyebrow then raised a little, she looked at the Aes Sedai and a small smile full of intrigue came upon her lips. Privately she wondered whether it would be wise to make a deal with the White Tower now that the Children of the Light had already approached her with an offer of Alliance, but she wanted to keep her options open and, for the moment at least, not to make an enemy of the Aes Sesai. These were volatile times, whispers of dangerous storms coming heard in many a place in her Capital in the past months, and she ought to step carefully.


“Tell me what proposal.. the Amyrlin has for me”, the Queen finally replied, her lips pursed, “and we shall see if it is something we can work on.”


Her eyes glittered again, as she listened to the Green Sister’s words



‘Lord Elahron’, or rather Vinadel the Chosen, watched the proceedings with interest. The proposal from the White Tower was an interesting one, and far from conventional, and as he listened he considered whether it would be favourable to his own plans to go ahead with it. For of course, the Queen would follow whatever suggestion he made, that much he was certain of.


Studying the Green Aes Sedai - neither she nor any others of these so-called Aes Sedai in this Age were worthy of the name, he thought privately - he wondered whether it would be necessary to kill her in the end. If she meddled with his plans, of course. Perhaps also if she did not. He enjoyed killing, one of the reasons why he had forsaken the Light and joined the Shadow to begin with, though these days he seldom found the time for that pleasure. He had been a renowned philosopher back in his former life, in what they now called the Age of Legends, but also, in fact, a killer, an assassin, and the ‘taste’ of blood and the exhilaration of seeing the light of life disappearing from a person had never left him.


Shifting his gaze to the hard-eyed imposing man standing beside her, a formidable opponent for most men, he recognized the dangerous nature of a Warder-trained man. He would have to be killed too if Vinadel decided to terminate the woman’s life. He had learned how Warders went mad on a killing-spree to avenge their fallen Sedais and he did not have the time to risk having an enraged predator on his heels.


Turning back to the Queen, using subtle weaves of Saidin for Compulsion, he nodded as she spoke the words he wanted her to speak.


When the Green Sister and her Gaidin left the grand Reception Room a short while later, ‘Lord Elahron’ remained behind, talking to the Queen for a while before making his way back to his private chambers in the Palace.



Cardhan clenched his fists and repeated what he had said several times.

“I don’t like it.”


Dorinha was seated in the guest room in the Palace which had been provided for the Green emissary from the White Tower while her Borderlander Warder remained standing beside her.


“I know, Cardhan”, she replied for the third time, a small edge coming to her voice. “I don’t like it either, but these are our orders.”


The Green Sedai looked again down at the opened scroll on the table before her. How could she have guessed that she carried such a message? She would never have believed the Amyrlin would go to such lengths. Were matters so serious in the White Tower? She had been travelling for several months on missions and had lost touch with proceedings in the Tower, only to be ordered on this mission of importance. She had been told that all she needed to know would be in this scroll, which she were to open and read upon arrival, and had departed for the South on those terms. Now she knew what this all was about and she did not like it.


Not at all.


But her place was to obey the Amyrlin, the leader of the Aes Sedai, and that she intended to do however much she personally disliked it.


The Storm is Coming.



She felt it in her one hundred and fifty year old bones. Rumours were afloat in the land, whispers of conflict and strife in several places, and she knew there had to be some truth in it. The boy Dragon was somewhere, loose.. doing who knew what.. the thought made shivers run down her spine even though she privately thought it may have to be so, since the Prophecies of the Dragon explicitly said he was their only chance of victory in the coming Last Battle. She knew that the Red Ajah were adamant that he be captured and held safely, and that some Sisters in other Ajahs agreed, but that no firm decision had been made yet by the Amyrlin and the Hall of the Tower. There was heavy risk with this ‘strategy’, of course, but also hope, Dorinha thought.


In some ways, I hope the Last Battle is soon upon us, the Green Sister thought to herself. It is coming, oh yes it is, and we of the Battle Ajah have stood ready for it.. for many generations. Finally our true purpose will be vindicated and we shall stand at the forefront of the Forces of Light battling the evil Shadow.


A part of her chided her for such ‘foolish thoughts’, she was not an over-excited Accepted after all, but she knew deep inside that this was how she felt. Oh yes!


None of these thoughts were shared with her Warder, however. They were for herself alone. She also made sure the excitement she felt at the thought did not pass through the Bond to her Gaidin, masking the Bond for a moment. He would support and fight for her to death and beyond, she knew with certainty, but she did not want him to misunderstand and become concerned with her lack of focus and her obsession over the Last Battle. For it was an obsession even if she tried to pretend otherwise to herself.


Finally, clearing her mind, she looked up at her Warder and loyal friend and protector of many years and said, “We do what we must, Cardhan.” Her eyes were steady, her voice clear. She touched her Great Serpent Ring, thinking of the duty of an Aes Sedai. “We do what we must”.



Lightning flashed across the heavens..


.. and thunder crashed..


.. shaking the world in its inner folds, as the mounts bearing Oceans of Green Ajah Sisters to War, their green cloaks streaming behind them, and a hundred Warders or more at their side, thundered across the barren lands of the Blight.


Before them awaited a Battlefield of Death, but they rode on proudly, strongly, unyieldingly, the vanguard of the main White Tower Forces, their Battle Ajah banners held high, ready to fight for the Light and destroy the Shadow in this long prophesized Last Battle!


Tarmon Gai'don!


Opposing forces of Dreadlords, Darkfriends, Trollocs and Myhrdraal in uncountable numbers met them head on, like an avalanche of Darkness, and the Power unleashed as swords clashed with swords and fires of the One Power crashed in the skies above made the earth tremble in its heart.


This was what they had trained for.. what they had lived for.. what the Green Ajah, of all the various Ajahs of the White Tower, had always stood in readiness for.. and for Dorinha Sedai and Cardhan Gaidin too, amid the Green Aes Sedai horde, this was the culmination of their existence.


Cardhan’s blade was raised high as he screamed proud and fierce battle cries of Arafel, his nation of origin, and Dorinha’s eyes sparkled as never before, her whole face elated and so filled with determination and steely purpose that it almost shone. Finally the time had come!





Galloping into the horde of Evil, the Arafel Warder’s sword sliced into a trolloc as he passed and almost removed its arm. His black warhorse, trained for battle, stormed into the melee and trampled a Darkfriend in the passing as Cardhan’s blade struck out at more foes, left and right. Balls of fire streamed across the skies, Dreadlords hurling them at the Aes Sedai who deflected them using various combat weaves, and who retaliated with deadly lightning bolts that struck down amid the Forces of the Shadow.


Several trollocs exploded before him, blood and guts and body parts raining down on him as he rushed by, his sword moving in another arc to behead a brute of a Darkfriend who tried to thrust his sword into his horses’ side. The evil minion managed to duck just in time, the Warder’s sword cutting the air above him, but then he was destroyed by a Green Sister’s deadly combat weave of Saidar.


A little further ahead a trolloc with its animal snout suddenly stepped into the horses’ path and swung its huge battle-axe in an arc and smashed in the face of an oncoming Warder, but was then engulfed in flames from a furious, screaming Aes Sedai who threw lightning bolts at the trolloc until it was utterly destroyed. The Aes Sedai, a tall, regal woman with flowing hair the colour of flame, threw herself into a cluster of nearby Shadowspawn, leaving Death in her wake.



Across the Battlefield there was Death and Screams.


Flames ablaze.


Also Sisters of the White Tower and Warders were slain, mostly by Dreadlord attacks but also by Myhrdraal and trollocs when they were simply overwhelmed by numbers.


Blood filled the barren slopes of the Blight.


A Sea of Blood.


An Ocean of Death.



Dorinha, in the middle of the Chaos, hurled Flames of Saidar at an oncoming Myhrdraal and it’s black flowing cloak came afire with deadly shrieks. She deflected weaves hurled at her by Dreadlords some way off, shielding herself and her Warder, and used all her learned combat weaves to fight the Shadow.


Another Green Sister, a blond-haired aged Andoran woman with a short temper, threw a fireball towards a cluster of trollocs and Myhrdraal and saw to her great satisfaction that they screamed and howled in death. Her three Borderlander Warders raised their fists high in the air, crying out in elation and celebration of their Aes Sedai’s successful strike, then swung their swords at the attacking trollocs.


The earth then exploded off to the left, several paces away from Dorinha and Cardhan, and an Aes Sedai, a dark-haired Sister unknown to her, fell screaming to the ground while her Warder threw himself from his galloping horse, rolled and came to a sudden stop beside her. She lay still on the ground, her life force quickly pouring out of the huge hole in the middle of her chest. Her Warder held her close, his eyes wide in shock as she died..


.. tears streamed down his face...


.. and then, those strained Warder’s eyes were filled with death.. and wrath..unending wrath..


Death!! I will destroy them all!! His scream of rage tore through the battleground.


He slowly closed his Bondholder’s dead eyes, kissed her forehead a final goodbye, brushed his tears away, then turned..


..and with fury and almost madness in his eyes and a feral scream escaping his lips, he almost decapitated the oncoming Myhrdraal before throwing himself into the nearest cluster of trollocs, uncaring of his own life, his soul crying out for vengeance, for death.. for oblivion..


..his blade swinging in deadly arcs time and again, becoming the deadliest Shadow among Shadows..



Cardhan, his side bloodied but not lethally, fought the Shadowspawn from atop his warhorse, his sword rising and falling with deadly precision, but the path of Death swerved away from his Bondholder and..




.. out of the corner of his eye, Cardhan saw - almost as if in slow motion, time slowing down - Dorinha scream and fall out of her saddle some way off to his side.


It happened so quickly that he barely had time to react - was it a lethal weave aimed at her? - as he shouted in her direction and then turned his warhorse sharply toward her. A few moments later - but it felt like an eternity - he was beside her, dismounting hurriedly and throwing himself to the ground beside her. The battle crashed on around them, the skies filled with fire and lightning, the battlefield filled with screams and horror, but for Cardhan it was as if the whole world was gone.


All that was left was Dorinha. She was all that mattered to him right then.



Shouting worriedly to her if she was all right, looking for any signs of injury though she lay on her side and it was difficult for him to tell, feeling her pain through the Bond, he took her in his arms and cradled her to his chest. She looked paralyzed, her body limp, her pulse slowing.. and she only stared up into his dark eyes, a solitary tear running down her cheek..


..then another.. her eyes sad.. oh so sad..


Oh Dorinha! Cardhan thought, his soul dying.


His heart bled tears.


He held her close as the light of life left his Aes Sedai. The Bond snapped.


In the Storm of Death around him, her Warder was alone.


Oh, dear Dorinha..




.. the blood rage took him.. and he was Death incarnate as he stormed into the Shadowspawn like a whirlwind, no care left in the world for his own safety, only intending to take as many of them as possible with him into the Beyond..



Cardhan crashed out of the dream with sudden abruptness, his eyes wide and hurting, his heart beating hard and his pulse racing, sitting quickly upright in bed, as he tried to get his bearings.




It was dark all around.. and through the bedroom window to the side on the wall of his chamber in the Palace he could see that it was still night outside.


It had been a dream, he understood, as he tried to gather his thoughts.


He was in the Tarasin Palace, there was no battle and no war.


And Dorinha was.. safe.


Relief flowed through him.


No Tarmon Gai'don.


Of course not.


But it had been so real! So incredibly real!


So vivid in every little detail.. in smell, sight, colour, sound and touch.. more so, perhaps, than almost any dream he had had before.


His breathing gradually slowed as he gained control of himself, and he lay back with his head on the pillow, closing his eyes for a long moment.



Breathing more easily, he nevertheless felt cold sweat on his back as he recalled the ‘visions’ of his dream..


..the Glory of Battle for the Light.. intermingled with Death, Screams and Sadness..


..and for some time he had trouble gaining the Flame and the Void.


As moments stretched into minutes he found, however, that he could not shake the feeling that this might have been a premonition of some kind, a sign of things to come.


An Omen perhaps.


He had, in truth, long had an obsession about the Last Battle that he had tried to hide from his Bondholder. He did not want for her to become concerned that he was unable to focus on the tasks at hand. Though the Green Ajah ‘stood ready’ for Tarmon Gai’don, it was not something usually spoken of, and he feared if she knew, that she would worry about him and that was something he wanted to avoid. She had more than enough ‘on her plate’ as it was. In the past year, with the world changing and filled with rumours of conflict, he had become certain that the Last Battle was approaching and his thoughts and dreams had been influenced by this fact. Without thinking, he was looking for signs of his ‘premonition’ wherever they travelled and he was certain that this last dream had been a product of his mind’s focus.


The thought of the Last Battle both excited him and gave him dread.


It was, however, what he and his Battle Ajah Sister lived for.


To fight for the Light against the Shadow - and to prevail.



It took him a long time indeed to fall asleep again, and this time his slumber was restless and uneasy, echoes of Dorinha’s eternal, sad and lost eyes, devoid of life, remaining in his mind.



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.. Masked in Darkness ..



Selecin, the Truthspeaker for the Seanchan Empress Tirana Elem Sani Paendrag, was scolded


-in front of the whole royal court, who watched partly embarrassed, partly amused.


Tervihn, in the guise of the Truthspeaker, seethed inside but kept his true emotion off his face, seeming abject and ashamed.


When the Empress was finished castigating him for his failure in predicting and neutralizing the danger to her daughter, the heir to the Empire, she ordered everyone else out of the throne room and remained alone with her Truthspeaker.


“Why should I not have you flogged?” She said in an icy voice when they were alone in the room. “You are here to advice, to tell truths and have knowledge. My daughter almost got killed today. Killed!”


Tervihn, still looking abjectly at the Empress, decided that he needed to apply more Compulsion, since the delicate threads he had used on her hitherto seemed somehow to have weakened. He needed her more agreeable and had to avoid a situation where she came in the way of his plans.


“Great Empress”, he began in a demure voice, “you are absolutely right. I have failed in my service”. As he spoke he wove new subtle threads of Compulsion which he directed at the woman. “I am ashamed. I should have foreseen such an attack.”


The Empress nodded as he spoke but he soon saw her hard face soften, the weaves taking effect.


“Yes, you should have.” She said, but her voice was not as emphatic as before. She looked past her Truthspeaker as if hearing a sound from far off, then fastened her gaze on him again.


“I shall, however, forgive you this time, Selecin”. Her eyes glittered shrewdly. “You can serve me still, in several ways.”


The Truthspeaker’s face turned upwards and his eyes locked on hers. “I am grateful, Great Empress”. Tervihn spoke. “I will not fail you again.”


As the Empress dismissed him, her thoughts already on other matters, Tervihn the Chosen departed, his eyes taking on a dangerous, speculative gleam as he left the throne room behind.



Moored in the northern island group called Aile Dashar, the Sea Folk vessel Wavesweeper lay by the quayside in the afternoon sun as crew members worked on her outer hull. Two dark-skinned women with short black hair and tattoos common in the Atha’an Miere were repairing a dent in the bow of the ship while others were working astern. 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, nodded to herself as she watched the others work. She was proud of her ship and proud of her crew. As Sailmistress this was her ship and she would give her life to protect her.


A small sound made her turn and she watched coolly as her Windfinder came up to her. Chalor din Togara Evening Tide gazed at the older woman with just the right amount of respect, giving a slight nod in recognition of the woman’s higher rank. They had had words the day before, an open disagreement, and the Sailmistress was displeased. She did not like anyone questioning her authority as she saw it, least of all her Windfinder. She had her orders, from the Mistress of the Ships herself in truth, and she intended to carry them out regardless of what others thought.


Issandra, in the guise of the Windfinder, stared at the other woman and wondered if it was time to kill her.


The Sailmistress had not followed her suggestion to turn eastwards towards the mainland, had in fact castigated her for her proposition, and Issandra had left in inward fury, heading toward her cabin to calm herself. Stopping here at Aile Dashar was counterproductive to the Chosen’s own plans and they had been here for over a week now and Issandra was becoming restless.


“I apologize if I overstepped yesterday, Sailmistress”, the Windfinder said demurely. “I just think it would be wise for us to head towards the mainland, considering all the rumours we have picked up.”


The Sailmistress looked long and hard at her Windfinder, a woman she usually admired, and finally nodded.


“I understand”, she replied calmly. Her eyes took on a shrewd look. “You are very valuable to our ship, Chalor.” She said. “But don’t question my orders again.”


Chalor nodded and looked downwards abjectly, playing her part, as the Sailmistress continued. “My orders come from the leaders of our Clan. And theirs come from the very top.”


She did not need to speak the name. Seida din Parede Four Moons, the Mistress of the Ships and ruler of the Atha’an Miere, was a dominant and forceful woman and someone one did not cross.


They both turned as the ship’s Cargomaster, and second in command, approached them and spoke a few words with the Sailmistress. He then returned to the ship to oversee repairs and other things that needed doing while they were at the isles. The Sailmistress nodded to herself as she watched him go, pleased to have someone so capable in charge at that moment. Turning back to her Windfinder, she added that she had a meeting to attend later that day and that several other Sea Folk ships were expected soon. Her Windfinder nodded and said she would spend some time onboard the vessel until she was called for. She then walked along the dock and boarded the Raker, never looking back.


Gazing in her direction, the Sailmistress wondered why her Windfinder was so insistent on heading towards the mainland. Yes, there were rumours of conflict and war, as well as unrest in the region the mainlanders called the Borderlands, but this was not their - the Sea Folk’s - business, at least not right now. The Clans were gathering and the Atha’an Miere had their own mission to fulfill. Tarah din Coral Rising Wave did not know the details, but the little she had heard made her feel excitement but also dread.


The Storm was coming.



Sendhira Nerron touched the Red shawl around her shoulders as she walked down the corridor of the Tarasin Palace in Ebou Dar. She was furious inside but nothing showed on her smooth ageless Aes Sedai-face. That the Queen had agreed to see the Green Sister without Sendhira present had put her back up. She was the White Tower’s liaison here, she was the one who mediated on matters between the two parties. And now this upstart Green had suddenly appeared and was running things or so it at least seemed. Touching her Red shawl another time, she turned a corner - and came face to face with Dorinha.


“Sendhira”, the Green Sister greeted her coolly. “Dorinha”, the Red Sister replied equally coolly. Neither woman looked kindly at the other, their eyes almost at daggers. Sendhira turned her gaze on the man standing beside the Green Aes Sedai for a moment and frowned. A Man. And a Warder. The Red Ajah were not kindly disposed toward men in general if truth be told, and Sendhira, like most in her Ajah, did not believe in having Warders, did not believe them trustworthy, and generally thought they would get in the way. She knew privately that a couple of her Ajah Sisters did in fact play with the thought of having a Warder, but she did not take such foolishness seriously. Switching her gaze back to the Green Sister, her eyes fastening on the woman’s Green shawl, Sendhira considered her next words.


“I understand you are here under orders from the Amyrlin.” It was more a statement than a question. “Is there a special reason why I, as the Tower’s representative here, was not invited to your meeting with the Queen?”


Dorinha smiled inside though nothing showed on her face. Sendhira had never been one for diplomacy, which was partly why Dorinha had wondered why the other woman had been sent as Tower liaison to the court of the Altaran Queen. The Red Sister had always been very direct and Dorinha had expected the question. She could not lie, the binding Oath prevented that, but she could circumvent the truth as Aes Sedai were experts at.


“The White Tower was represented well in the meeting with the Queen”, Dorinha replied coolly. “She received the message from the Amyrlin.”


Sendhira stared back at her, pursing her lips. The Green had not answered her question, just stated something obvious. Why did she not wish to tell the truth? Sendhira wondered. The Red considered whether to probe further but just then a man approached them from down the corridor and she turned in his direction.


Lord Elahron stopped before the two women and gave a slight bow, nodding to the Warder. Sendhira stared with distaste at this man who had such influence over the Queen. He was Chief Advisor to the Altaran ruler and rumours in the palace were that they were lovers too. Something in the way he carried himself, arrogant and full of himself, put Sendhira’s teeth on edge. In many ways he was the embodiment of the men she had come across in her life, men of power, men she despised. Dorinha, on the other hand, found the man attractive, more so than she first had, and felt his power of personality as he smiled at her. Her eyes glittered in thrilled response and her smooth face almost lost its smoothness for a moment. Her Warder stared at him with a dark look, however, wondering at his Bondholder’s seeming change of heart and feeling danger even if it was not apparent.


“Aes Sedai”, Vinadel said kindly as he faced the Green Sister, “the Queen wishes to speak to you again.”


Dorinha nodded, a small smile on her lips, and began to move past him. Sendhira began to follow but the Queen’s Advisor shook his head. “Only Dorinha Sedai this time”, he added smoothly, amused at the anger clear in the Red Sister’s eyes.


You are a Red Viper for sure, thought the Chosen as the tall, long-haired woman turned on her heels and walked away from where he stood.


She was not pleased, not pleased at all.



Sei’ad, Chief of the Spine Ridge Sept of the Miagoma Clan of the Aiel, widened his eyes as the sharp spear buried itself in his heart and hardly had time to consider what had happened before falling dead to the ground. Venduin, veiled and clad in warrior brown, stared coldly down at the dead Sept Chief. They were inside the Chief’s tent, alone in the night.


Turning to face the tent opening for a moment, Venduin listened for sounds of running feet but all was quiet. Turning back toward the corpse on the ground, the man known by all in the sept as Venduin smiled chillingly. Banohr was pleased with the ease with which he had killed this man - and thereby removed an obstacle to his plans.


The Chosen had killed the real Venduin a while back and had assumed his identity. He had studied Aiel culture since his return from the Long Sleep in preparation for this. It had given him some small pleasure to kill in the ancient Aiel way as well, instead of terminating the Chief’s life with the use of Saidin. Now he studied the dead man carefully and using the Mask of Mirrors, an intricate weave of Saidin, his appearance slowly changed from that of Venduin to that of Sei’ad. He then incinerated the body using the One Power and placed the ashes in a small box which he had brought with him. The spear he cleaned of blood and then grabbed it.


Satisfied at last, ‘Sei’ad’ Sept Chief stepped out of his tent and gazed up at the shining moon high above. From behind his glittering Aiel-blue eyes, Banohr smiled to himself.



Senna Falhdrid, originally from Cairhien, was a Sitter for the White in the Hall of the Tower. She had been a Sitter for more than twenty years and the hints of grey in her hair spoke of her 105 years on this earth. Most of these she had spent in Tar Valon, as a Novice, Accepted and finally Aes Sedai of the White Ajah. Like most if not all her Sisters she based her life on logic, on logical explanations, reason and sense. So it had always been and so it would always be for her.


Rumours floating around the White Tower that the Amyrlin had plans in progress to deal with the boy Dragon, she took as pure speculation. Something would have to be done about the boy in due course, naturally, but there was no sense in the Amyrlin making such a vital - and potentially dangerous - decision without informing the Hall. It simply was not done and so Senna discarded the rumours.


Her friend in the Blue Ajah, however, was not so certain. Seated opposite the White Sister, the Blue Aes Sedai repeated what she had heard. Nerahna Terin was a dozen or so years older than Senna, a Sitter for the Blue, and what she in the White Sister’s opinion lacked in logical reasoning she more than made up in enthusiasm. A brown-haired woman with a sharp nose and a friendly smile, she leaned over the table which stood in the middle of her own quarters and her green eyes glinted as she spoke.


“They say the Amyrlin is planning to capture the boy Dragon, whether the Hall agrees or not.”


Senna shook her head once again, wondering why her old Novice-friend listened to such foolish rumours.


“Nerahna”, she said at last, trying not to sigh, “those are just foul rumours put out by the Reds. You know as well as I do that they are still miffed that the Hall chose a Green to lead us all.”


A year before, the Hall of the Tower had chosen the Green candidate Visvana Loratehl as Amyrlin after the sudden, unexplained death of her predecessor. The Reds had worked hard, in vain as it turned out, to get their candidate chosen and had been bitter ever since.


Nerahna shook her head. “I agree the Reds are capable of such, but this time I think the rumours have some truth in them. What will the Hall do if she is caught?”


“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills..” Senna replied, using the old Aes Sedai saying. “But I think this is just nonsense. It is not logical at all and I for one don’t believe the rumours.”


Nerahna leaned back in her chair and studied her old Novice-friend closely. They were so different, personality-wise and philosophically, Senna and she that it was a wonder that they had become close friends when they were Novices. They had kept the friendship in the years they were Accepted in the Tower, and though they were no longer as close as in those days past they still were as friendly as Sisters in different Ajahs could be, keeping in touch when both were in the White Tower. Nerahna had always liked Senna, and remembered with fondness their pillow-fun when they were young, but she had to admit that the White Sister was naïve and there were so many things she did not understand.


Her eyes took on a new gleam as she looked at Senna’s grey dress. It was very conservative, high-necked, with a few subtle decorations and some frills down the side.


Staring down at her Great Serpent Ring for a moment, Nerahna thought of her many years in the Tower. The golden ring fashioned into the shape of a serpent biting its own tail, was an ancient symbol of eternity and time itself.




Time eternal.


Turning her gaze to her friend opposite her, she took a sip of tea from the cup before her, then said smoothly, “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills indeed. By the way, I like your blue dress, Senna.”


It took a moment to register, then Senna’s eyes and mouth opened wide.. and a scream began to form in her soul.


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.. Signs and Portents ..



“Oh shut that gaping mouth of yours, Senna”, said Nerahna with an exasperated sigh. “You look like a gasping fish on land.”


Senna slowly closed her mouth but her eyes remained wide and her face haggard as she looked at her old friend. She was unable to utter a word, stunned. It was all so illogical.


All so.. impossible.


“Oh relax, Senna”, the Blue Sister added smoothly as she removed her Great Serpent Ring and placed it in her other hand. “If I wanted you dead, you would have been dead already.”


Senna’s eyes widened even further if possible. Only her long Aes Sedai training and experience of many, many years kept her from screaming aloud. In fear and frustration.


How could her friend of ages be….





“Dead!?” Senna finally stuttered, watching her old friend as if she had never seen her before.


“Oh take it easy, Senna”, Nerahna said as her hand closed around her Aes Sedai ring. “We all do as we must.” Her eyes turned to her friend’s still shaken face. “As will you.” Her eyes hardened and her smile became tighter.


They both held onto Saidar and Nerahna felt her greater strength in the One Power. Senna felt it also and knew she would not be able to overcome her ‘friend’ if it came down to it. Strength in the One Power was something that was usually not spoken of among Aes Sedai but they all knew how strong or weak they were in relation to other Sisters and it made for a hierarchy of sorts, besides the formal hierarchy in the Tower.


Opening her closed hand again the Blue Sister gazed at the Great Serpent Ring for a moment, as if considering all that it stood for, before placing it anew on her finger.


“We all do as we must”, she whispered and her eyes hardened as they fastened on the White Sister seated opposite her in the chamber. “It is time to consider your allegiance, Senna”.


She nodded to herself seeing the fear in the other woman’s eyes. A strong woman in more ways that one, the White Sister did not scare easily, but now she was scared.


“It is time for you to Serve in the.. right way”, Nerahna said, her eyes glinting darkly. “I am sure you have much service to give.”


A Shadow passed before Senna’s eyes for a moment, but she could not tell whether or not it was just her imagination.


Another scream began deep down in her Soul, the Light trapped inside her.



Sendhira Aes Sedai, dressed in a light red coat of style, walked the busy streets of Ebou Dar on a late morning, almost gliding along in the way of women of the White Tower, her face smooth but her emotions on fire. People moved out of her way, seeing the hardness in her eyes even if her ageless face showed nothing. They wanted nothing to do with Aes Sedai or their business. This suited Sendhira well, and it cleared her path whenever she had business in the city.


She was on her way to see the Eyes and Ears for the Red Ajah in the city because she needed to know what the Amyrlin was up to. That blasted Dorinha had told her nothing and she, the Tower’s representative in the Tarasin Palace, had been shut out of the proceedings! It was intolerable! Now she hoped the Red Ajah network had ‘sussed out’ something of what was going on. Passing a local merchant man who stared at her a little too long for her comfort and who got a very icy look back, she entered a flower shop and shut the door behind her. Stepping up to the empty counter she rang a bell and waited. Flowers of all kinds and all colours were assembled around the room and her eyes fastened on some red tulips in the corner. Then she turned as the shopkeeper arrived. A middle-aged Ebou Dari woman, dark-haired with brown eyes and a somewhat pouty mouth, she bowed respectfully when she saw that her customer was an Aes Sedai.


“How may I be of assistance, Aes Sedai?” The Shopkeeper inquired politely. She glanced at the Red shawl around the Sister’s shoulders and then back at her face.


“I am looking for a particular flower”, Sendhira said smoothly, her eyes glittering. “It is not easy to get hold of, but I hoped you might be able to help me.”


“It is called Amarynth.”



The shopkeeper immediately recognized the secret code word and nodded silently. She had expected as much when she had seen the Red shawl, being the head of the Eyes and Ears for the Red Ajah in Ebou Dar, but she always waited for the code word before divulging any information.


“I do know that particular flower”, she replied knowingly as she bade the Sister join her behind the counter. “I may be able to help you out.”


Sendhira Sedai joined the Ebou Dari woman in the back room where she went through the messages in tiny scrolls from her Red Sisters back in the White Tower.


When she left a while later, she was not much the wiser. Speculations were abundant in the Tower as to the Amyrlin’s plans, it turned out, and most of what she read seemed implausible to the Red Aes Sedai. The Amyrlin intent on catching the boy Dragon without the assent of the Hall of the Tower!? What nonsense! Rumours and rumours but no facts. Nothing certain, nothing she could count on.


One way or another, Sendhira thought determinedly to herself as she walked back toward the Tarasin Palace, she would get to the bottom of what was going on.



Physically entering Tel'aran'rhiod, closing the gateway behind him, Gerehl 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.


It is always the same, thought the Chosen as memories of the former meeting in this very place what felt ages ago slipped into his thoughts. Always the same.


On the table were elegant crystal glasses and a dozen candle lights burning. They flickered as they always did in this place, almost as if switching in and out of existence. Seated in one of the chairs was Kharin and she threw him an icy look as she folded her arms beneath her breasts. He gave her a curt nod as he sat down opposite, not bothered by her hostile stare. Kharin was always icy toward all men and Gerehl did not think she would ever change her ways. He considered for a moment asking her how that slip of a female thing warming her bed was doing but he refrained, gazing instead at the other side of the room where a gateway was opening. Sinam stepped through, his heavily decorated coat swinging about him as he took a seat, the gateway snapping shut behind him. He nodded to the two Chosen who had already arrived but stayed silent, his hands on the table before him. His thoughts were back on his exploits as Lord Rehmar in Arad Doman, and the different plans he had put into motion. He had been in the middle of something worthwhile.. when Vanahl had suddenly turned up and ordered him to attend this meeting. And so here he was, slightly annoyed and wondering if this would be another meaningless meeting with Vanahl shouting and screaming and accusing to no end.


He was interrupted in his thoughts when another two gateways opened, one on each side of the room, silver lines tearing through the air. Serahna, wearing what seemed a kind of battle dress, stepped through one of the gateways and Vanahl through the other. Serahna gave a slight bow to the others as she took her seat, her eyes flashing amusedly, while Vanahl’s eyes, pools of fire, swept hotly over them all as he seated himself at the end of the table, as usual.


Staring at each of the assembled Chosen in turn, knowing they found it uncomfortable, he then slammed his fist down hard on the table making Kharin almost jump in spite of herself.



“Enough, I say!” the leader of Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever shouted.


His black coat rippled around him in a strange way, Gerehl thought, but he paid it little mind. Ripples of a kind, slight changes, were common here in the World of Dreams. Perhaps Vanahl was losing his grip on sanity and this was a side effect in this place. Who could tell with him. Who could tell in this strange place.


“Enough!” the Nae’blis repeated.


His eyes burned with anger.


“You have give me nothing but lies when it comes to the matter of the boy Dragon.” Vanahl accused. “No more!”


Gerehl looked amused as he calmly confronted the Nae’blis. “Are we not waiting for the others to arrive?”


He indicated the eight empty chairs around the table. Vanahl shrugged. “The others have not been.. invited this time.” His angry smile turned shrewd for a moment. “This meeting is for.. us.”


Kharin looked about to say something but changed her mind. Her hateful look toward the Nae’blis remained. Serahna seemed surprised but shrugged without comment. Sinam commented, with a lopsided grin, that they would miss Raphael and Deleyhna’s contribution, knowing well that those two were particular annoyances for Vanahl, and he was rewarded with a scowl from their leader. Gerehl grinned under his breath.


“We shall manage quite well without.. them”, the Nae’blis added icily.


Then he stared hard at each of the assembled men and women. “But back to the matter at hand: this time you will tell me all you know concerning the debacle with the boy Dragon.”


His fists clenched before him.


“I will then tell you how we are to proceed next.”


The fires in Vanahl’s eyes intensified.



Seida din Parede Four Moons, the Mistress of the Ships and ruler of the Atha’an Miere, stared forcefully at the gathered clans. She had very dark eyes, almost white hair and a face carved of iron. She was tall for her race and thinly built but her arms had the strength of someone half her age. She had six rings in each ear, a sign of her high station, and numerous medallions on the chain connected to her nose. Forceful, was the word most Wavemistresses used to describe her, and she had embraced it.


The huge Sea Folk ships bearing the twelve Clan leaders, the Wavemistresses - and also the Sailmistresses, Windfinders and Cargomasters as well as all their crews had arrived at the Aile Dashar in the past days and now the leaders were gathered here. They sat in a huge hall in a stone-based building that had been constructed at the inlet of a tall hill on the island. The clans were seated in rows with the most influential near the front. Gazing down at them all from a small elevation and a stone seat chair, the Mistress of the Ships wished she were back on her ship. She never felt comfortable when on land, and already missed the feeling of a ship’s deck under her feet. This had to be done though, and she could not quite decide whether the prospect of change that was coming excited her or made her weary. She had never liked changes.


Raising her hand for silence, the huge hall slowly became quiet. All eyes were on her as she got to her feet. From off to the side Issandra the Chosen, in the guise of Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, Windfinder to Sailmistress Tarah din Coral Rising Wave, watched carefully as the Mistress of the Ships spoke.



“The world is changing”, the leader of the Sea Folk said.


Her voice rang out in the hall. She had long had the ability to make her voice heard in huge gatherings. Now she used it with force.


“Our people are caught in the middle of this whirlwind, as we know. And now it is time to play our part.”


The Mistress of the Ships looked long and hard at all the gathered leaders of her people.


“The one Foretold has arrived.” She continued forcefully. “The one of many names, the one we know. As was promised in the Jendai Prophecies.”


The hall was totally silent now.


“He who will lead us to greater glory, he who will lead us to total domination of the seas.”


Her voice rose as every eye in the hall was fastened on her. She could feel anticipation building among her gathered people and she was carried along its waves.


“He who we have waited for, he who we have sought, he who heralds a New Age.”


The Mistress of the Ships paused slightly for added effect, her eyes now glittering with excitement, her uncertainty driven away by the moment.


Roars of cheers erupted in the hall. Knowing what was coming, the long wait over.


“The Coramoor!”


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.. Death and Ambition ..



He was a man six foot two tall with a light-dark complexion, neck-length dark hair and hard dark eyes.


He had a strong build and also some battle-scars, a prominent one across his left cheek. The muscles stood out on his forearm as he lifted his blade high in the air and swung it in a deadly arc toward the head of his opponent. The other man parried, his angry blue eyes shooting daggers at the man in the colour-shifting cloak as he stepped back, his sword ready in case of another attack. The dark-haired man did not press his attack however, with an amused grin he studied his opponent, considering how much effort he wanted to put into this practice session. He was obviously far more skilled than the blond-haired, blue-eyed younger man and they both knew it. Feeling the slight tug of the Bond that meant his Aes Sedai wanted him, he decided to finish this ‘duel’ quickly.


Moving faster now, combining forms in innovative ways, the older man swept inside the younger man’s defence. Low Wind Rising, a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly, followed by The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain, a vertical slash starting high and which in this case altered course in mid-swing, paired with Tower of Morning, a vertical slash but this time beginning low and ending high. The onslaught continued and the young man’s blade was swept aside and the hilt of the other man’s sword slammed into his chin as he stumbled backwards, losing his balance. He managed to stay on his feet but the session was over. The young Andoran nodded to his opponent, a sign of reluctant respect, though his eyes remained angry. He could not stand the other man’s arrogance and the way he behaved. Weren’t Warders supposed to be strong but humble, ferocious fighters but filled with integrity? This man seemed anything but humble, rather prideful and he gave the younger man a condescending look as he gave a slight nod back and a smirk, as if to say thanks for being a good sport but your skill has been found wanting as you already knew.



The Gaidin walked away from where they had been sparring behind the stables, sheathing his blade as he headed toward the front of the local inn, the younger man totally forgotten. He felt his Bondholder waiting there and grinned coarsely when he saw her standing by the entrance, her brown eyes fastened on him, her green dress showing off her body in all the right places. He could feel her emotion through the Bond and her feelings mirrored his. Stopping before her, he gave her a Warder’s salute (it was a private thing between them which always amused her) and then a big kiss on the mouth. She put her arms warmly around him and returned the kiss affectionately. A local couple leaving the inn stared strangely - and with wide eyes - at the two as they passed, but the Aes Sedai and Warder did not care. They had long ago stopped caring that they were not behaving ‘properly’, as most expected of a Sedai and her Warder, in public. If people did not like it, tough!


“Now then, my delicious Gaidin”, Carzahna Sedai said at last, untangling herself from her Warder and lover, “we have business to attend to.”


He looked at her, more soberly this time, and nodded. Her long flowing brown hair framed a pretty face with high cheekbones and a perfectly shaped nose. The face was ageless - and he never tired of looking at it.


“Yes, my lovely Aes Sedai”, Tehric Gaidin replied with a knowing grin. “It is time.”



He followed her inside the inn and up the stairs to her room. Closing the door behind him, he stepped up to the wardrobe and opened it. Inside a young woman in a ripped white dress sat bound on hands and feet. She was gagged as well with a piece of cloth. Her blue eyes widened in fear as she was pulled out and placed on the bed.


Carzahna Sedai stared at the woman like a predator watching her prey, as if ready to pounce, while her Warder removed the young woman’s gag. She was only fifteen or thereabouts with long blond hair and what had been a quite beautiful face. It was now bloodied with several cuts on the cheeks and she had a broken nose. Nodding to himself, pleased with his work, the Gaidin’s grin widened.


“Now then”, he began as he studied the captured young woman. “Perhaps you have more to tell my Aes Sedai here”, he indicated his Bondholder on the other side of the bed, “now that you have had more time to think about it.”


The young woman’s mouth quivered and soft sobs came from her mouth.


“Come on, speak!” the Warder insisted in a hard voice.


“I have told you all I know”, she whimpered after a long pause. “Please don’t hurt me anymore. I don’t know where the Dragon Reborn”, she shivered at mention of the name, “..where he is. I am telling the truth. I don’t know.”


Tears flowed from her panicked eyes.


“You must believe me!” She almost shrieked, sobs taking her. “I am telling the truth!”


“Oh, I am sure you have more to tell us”, Tehric Gaidin said and his eyes hardened further. “I am quite sure.”


Producing a knife from his pocket, he played with it before her tear-stricken face, moving it back and forth and to the sides ominously, touching her cheek with its sharp edge, drawing some more blood.


He was looking forward to this further ‘interrogation’. The sight of blood excited him, it always had. His pulse quickened.


His Aes Sedai’s eyes watched approvingly as he tortured the young woman near to death.


When he finally slit the woman’s throat, the blood streaming down onto her white dress in thick rivulets, the Green Sister felt a thrill as she always did when they killed. The captured woman had revealed her innermost secrets in the end, as they knew she would, as they always did, and they now had good leads to follow.


The Great Lord would be pleased.



Sendhira Sedai returned to the Tarasin Palace passing the guards in silence and headed towards her private chamber. When she arrived there, she locked the door behind her and undressed. She was thinking about the rumours in the Tower and how she would uncover the plot that Dorinha and the Amyrlin were carrying out - she was sure it had to be a plot of sorts - with the help of the Altaran Queen and did not realize there was someone else in her bathroom before she was stepping into her bathtub. As she saw the shadow of a figure to her right, she screamed and embraced the One Power, shielding herself, lifting her leg out of the tub and standing ready to face the intruder. That she was naked was not uppermost in her mind as she faced the man standing there. For it was a man. Her eyes narrowed dangerously.


Before she had time to shout at him to get the hell out of there, the stranger lifted an arm and his fingers signaled ‘no’. She did not recognize him, he seemed fairly ordinary looking with dark hair and a light complexion, a handsome face but his eyes were piercing. They were almost violet, something she had seldom seen. He stared lewdly at her curvy naked body now and she snatched a towel from the wall and covered herself . He did not seem aggressive but she watched him carefully, as she considered her options.


“Who are you - and what are you doing here in my chambers?” She finally asked, her voice filled with anger. “You have no business here, man!”



The stranger stared back at her with a lopsided grin, as if he found the whole situation amusing. This made her even more angry but before she could add something vile, he whispered that he was a friend, a friend she did not know she had.


She looked back at him doubtfully, still furious but also a little curious if there was any truth in what the man was saying. She did not trust men, never had, never would. But if this was an ally of sorts.. perhaps it was worth letting the man talk.


“A friend?” She said inquiringly, as she bade him follow her into her living room. “Why would a.. friend sneak into my bathroom?” Seating herself on the coach, still holding onto Saidar and ready to use it to defend herself if necessary, she waited for his response.


“These are dangerous times”, the man said after a while, his face more serious now. “It is difficult to know who to trust. Things must be done in secret.”


She nodded, still sceptical but knowing the truth of his words.


“I think we can help one another, Sendhira Sedai”, the stranger whispered, his violet eyes glittering now. “It will be in both our interest to stop the Amyrlin and the Queen’s plans.”


As he explained it all to her, time passing with neither of them noticing, Sendhira’s eyes glinted as she saw the opportunities in his proposal. With this knowledge she understood that it was not just possible but necessary for her to act.


She had to stop the Amyrlin from destroying the White Tower.



Thana, her long dark hair encompassing much of her pillow, was sleeping in her bed in her home at the outskirts of the city of Tanchico, dreaming sweet dreams of young love, when her eyes suddenly opened - and she screamed.


Her thirteen year old sweet face tightened in fear and she felt needles all over her body, something pushing down hard on her. Staring wildly around her she could not see anyone as it became difficult to breathe and tears of pain streamed down her cheeks.


This was her room.. but it was somehow not her room..


She could not quite explain it, it was like a mirror image of her room, similar but not the same. The walls shimmered around her, in an unfamiliar fashion, as she tried to escape the death that was consuming her.


She knew it, she felt it..!


She tried to fight free but was held in a tight grip by invisible bonds.


“Oh light!” She screamed as she felt Darkness take her. “Noooooooooo!”


With a final jerk her neck snapped and her eyes saw no more.


The rigid body shimmered in Tel’aran’rhiod, within a room that shimmered, reflections of reality eternal.


Back in the real world, in Tanchico, the body of Thana lay in her bed, her head at an angle, eyes sightless. It would be found by her mother the morning after, tears of grief never-ending.


In the World of Dreams, a gateway opened in the mirrored chamber and then swiftly closed behind a cloaked departing figure.




Gerehl and Banohr stepped out of the gateway onto the Plains of Maredo beneath an early afternoon sun. This was a vast plains area between Illian, Tear and Andor. The only city in the Plains of Maredo was Far Madding but they were several miles west of the city, in an empty landscape.


They were searching for the male Sa’angreal Neminahl, a quest which they hoped would eventually be successful. No one in this Age knew where this great artefact was, neither did the two Chosen in truth, but clues found in an ancient book had indicated that the artefact of great power lay hidden somewhere in these plains. The two had searched for months in all archives they had found and finally had come across a short passage in a text mentioning a lost ancient male Sa’angreal. It had to be Neminahl, Gerehl had thought with confidence. It was the only other male Sa’angreal besides Callandor that had survived the Age of Legends as far as anyone knew.


But where was it? They could spend an Age searching these plains. An Age and more.


Staring pensively into the distance, Gerehl wondered if Raphael had any suspicion what they were doing. And here of all places, so near his ‘territory’ of Illian. Best if he never finds out, thought the Chosen as he faced Banohr. Who knows how he might react, him with that hot temper of his. Same goes for Vanahl for that matter.


“Do you have any suggestion how we are to narrow down the search-area?” Gerehl asked his fellow Chosen.


Banohr shrugged. “It would have been so much easier if we could feel some resonance from the Sa’angreal.”


Gazing at the plains reaching into the distance, he considered their options. “The passage did not mention any specific area along these plains.” He added. “As you say, we could be searching here forever.”


He channeled, spreading weaves of Saidin outwards to see if he felt anything, but after a while he shrugged again. “Nothing”, he said. “I feel nothing.”


Gerehl nodded in frustration. Far Madding was too obvious a location, he felt sure. It was the first place to look and anyone wanting to hide such a rare object of the One Power would surely avoid that place. No, it had to be out here somehwere. The question was where.


On the positive side, he surmised, if they could trust the text they had read, at least they would not have to search around the whole continent. Not that it was much of a consolation at that moment.


“Let us consider the problem, Banohr.” Gerehl said finally, his eyes tightening. “I am sure we will come up with something.”




Raphael waited patiently for Deleyhna to reply.


He stared around the room where they sat. They were in her mansion and once again he was reminded of her focus on balance. The place was half resplendent and beautiful, half old and tattered showing only a sliver of former beauty. Just the way she liked it.


His blue eyes returned to the figure half-slouching, if such could be said of the sensual way she was seated, on the coach opposite him. Her eyes studied him intently as she often did when they were together and she seemed to enjoy what she saw as much as he did her.


When she still did not answer, he added, “Come on, let’s hear it.” His eyes glinted. “I am sure your proposal is advantageous to us both.”


His grin widened speculatively as she remained silent.


“You want us to kill Vanahl, perhaps?” Raphael joked darkly, leaning forwards.


Her ambiguous smile gave him thrills - both of the good and bad kind - and he wondered for a second if she had ever considered such a dangerous idea.


Pools of fire echoed in his mind.


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.. Sowing the Seeds of Darkness ..



Deleyhna’s emerald green eyes glittered and her smile was alluring as she stared back at Raphael. She had always found him attractive and the fact that he was a very dangerous man added to her excitement. She loved teasing him and he enjoyed teasing her back.


“Kill Vanahl, you say?” she finally replied. Her eyes narrowed. “I haven’t considered that to be honest, but now that you mention it..”


Her face became more serious.


“It is too dangerous to contemplate”, she added, “however much we both would be pleased to see the back of that vile man.”


“You have never been one to take unnecessary risks, Raphael. Have you changed?”


Raphael gazed at the beautiful red-head woman opposite him and tried to ignore for a moment how much he desired her.


“No, you are right”, he responded. “It was only an amusing.. thought.”


His grin widened. “Since you had other things in mind, what is this proposal you have for me?” he asked.


Deleyhna’s eyes took on a speculative cast.


“Actually”, she began, “the proposal is from Serahna.”


She saw his eyes narrow, but he remained silent, waiting for more.


“She is based in the Borderlands as you know”, she said. He gave a nod. “She contacted me recently and proposed an.. alliance with me.”


Raphael grinned. All the Chosen were in alliances with one another, no one trusting anyone, everyone trying to get the upper hand. Some alliances were secret, others far less so. He was sure that some of the Chosen were in several alliances at the same time. Everything was a matter of trust, influence and power.  


Deleyhna saw his grin and added smoothly, “She also wondered if.. you might like to join this alliance.”


“She did, did she?” Raphael replied with some amusement.


He was already in alliances of a sort, but it could never hurt to be part of another. In the Game of Power he could see no downside to it and it could benefit him and his various schemes. Serahna had sent him a message a while ago and he had wondered what the reason was since they had had little to do with one another before. He had decided to delay his response and now he understood that this proposal of an alliance probably was what she had had in mind.


However, what he said in reply, was “Thank Serahna for the offer and tell her.. I will consider it.”


Deleyhna saw his calculating grin and nodded. She had expected nothing less. Alliances were not entered into lightly, especially those concerning their dangerous Chosen brethren. One wrong step could be lethal..


“I will tell her.. when I see her”, she said and her emerald eyes glittered, her hand touching her face softly, teasingly.


“Now that we have the formalities out of the way”, she added with her alluring smile, “would you like a drink?”




Lord Taighan closed the door behind him and turned to face the High Lady of House Sirindred.


“My Lady”, he said smoothly as he walked toward her, “you are as beautiful as ever.”


She blushed at his compliment and felt her pulse increase as it always did when this man was in her presence. She could not quite explain it, but he always made her feel.. desire. Her skin burned as he embraced her, touched her face and kissed her mouth. Like every time, she wanted the moment to last forever.


But like every time the moment passed quickly - far too quickly for her! - and he moved away from her, studying her face with those gorgeous eyes of his.


She was middle-aged and handsome rather than beautiful. Her complexion was similar to that of most Cairhienin, her hair light brown and kept in the manner of the nobility. She was dressed in her finery as was expected of a High Lady of a Cairhienin House of Power and looked the part. Lord Taighan undressed her with his eyes.


Kieran, in the guise of Lord Taighan, laughed inside at how easy it had been to manipulate this High Lady. He was using a little Compulsion on her, but even so she had been very easily influenced. In all matters but one. So far. Some people needed only a touch of Compulsion to react favourably to suggestions while others needed a heavier dose. The High Lady Anvaere was in the first category. She looked at him adoringly now as he went to fetch a couple of drinks from a small table in the corner. He returned with two glasses in hand, each filled with local red wine, and gave one to the High Lady. She was still flushed and accepted the glass while keeping her eyes set on his.




“You are too kind, my Lord”, she finally managed to say, taking a quick sip from her drink, all the while pining for his touch.


Lord Taighan took a sip from his own glass, the wine pretty tasteless for him. It was certainly nowhere near the quality of the wine from Seihm in what he now thought of as his previous life. Now that had been superb wine!


They exchanged some more pleasantries as he walked her to the balcony outside her chamber. It was on the second floor of her Manor House which had a decent view of the city of Cairhien. Darkness filled the sky at this late hour but the capital was filled with Light.


Kieran’s plans for Cairhien were bearing fruit, alliances made and broken, the stability of the nation poor with much internal conflict. The Royal House faced close to civil war and struggled to mend the broken country. All in all, Kieran was thrilled with his accomplishment.


There was, however, one alliance left to break, that between House Sirindred and the Crown. The Chosen thought only a small push in the right direction remained for this scheme also to succeed. And so he continued his.. association with the High Lady, knowing she would soon see things his way.


The stars above Cairhien looked particularly beautiful that evening - and he said as much to the smitten High Lady.


She, for her part, saw the stars reflected in his eyes.




The young Aes Sedai was on her knees as she stared up at the shining figure above her.


She could not see the figure’s face, it was lost in intricate shimmers of blue light, but she felt the woman’s awesome strength in the One Power, greater than any she had witnessed, and felt thrills of fear and of obedience.


“Yes, Great Mistress!” She almost gasped in awe. “I will do as you command!”


“See that you do”, the figure’s voice said sternly. The voice was clouded and unrecognizable. “If you digress in any way, I will make sure you never live to see another day!”


The Aes Sedai, afraid in spite of her training, promised she would obey the command to the letter, then bowed in obeisance, resisting the temptation to touch the hem of the other woman’s dress, got to her feet and walked silently away.

She headed for her quarters in the Yellow Ajah part of the White Tower, thinking about the orders she had been given.


And about the Aes Sedai she was going to kill.




Lady Ceriahna was Head of House Terenaga, one of the four big Houses of Kandor. Standing at the castle walls, staring in the direction of the Plain of Lances in the far west, her long dark hair flowing in the wind sweeping across the Borderlands that late evening, she thought once again about the war that was coming.


It filled her with dread.


Kandor was one of the four Borderland nations which lay on the threshold of the Great Blight, sitting between Saldaea to the west and Arafel to the east. The nation was formed early in the War of the Hundred Years, she remembered from her history lessons. The governors of Hawkwing's five northern provinces had met and agreed to form stable nations to preserve the peace and defend against the Blight. Kandor was one of these. And Jarel Soukovni had been its first King. Now Kandor was ruled by a Queen. The question was how long she would sit on her throne.


Saldaea in the west was already caught up in strife and conflict, so the rumours said, with hordes of Shadowforces hurtling down from the Blight to kill and destroy. Kandor had sent part of its own forces in aid of their Borderlander brethren as had Arafel and Shienar. It seemed, however, not to be enough. Messengers had been sent to Tar Valon asking for the Aes Sedai to come to their aid but no reply had arrived. So far. Ceriahna was certain that the Sisters of the White Tower would help in this fight against the Shadow, they always had before, so it was only a matter of time. She feared though that it could be too late.


The invading armies, filled with Myrddraal and Trollocs and worse, if the rumours were true, would enter Kandor the following day. Her castle would see the enemy before daylight four days hence. And she only had two thousand men to defend it.


It would never be enough.




Turning her face away from the disaster that was looming in her mind, she left the castle roof and walked down the stairs to the level below. There she stumbled across her advisor Tenya, a Borderlander woman of iron and wisdom who had given the Lady much good advice in the past year.


“Tenya”, she greeted the slightly younger woman. “Walk with me.”


The woman called Tenya walked beside the Lady of the Castle along the corridor and down another level. As they walked, the Lady talked.


“Advise me”, she began. “An army will be outside our gates in a few days, an army of Shadowspawn.” She almost spat at mention of that name. “How are we to stand any chance against them?”


The other woman thought for a long moment before answering. Her dark eyes had a shrewd look but the Lady did not notice, staring ahead as she did.


“The odds are not very good”, she admitted, “but I think you should take the fight to them.”


Lady Ceriahna stopped in her tracks and looked at her advisor, her mouth agape.


“You mean, we should attack?!” She finally uttered, disbelief in her voice. “They have overwhelming superiority in numbers if what we hear is correct. How can we stand a chance attacking them on open ground? And who will defend the castle?”


Tenya remained calm as she answered. “Lady, an attack is exactly what they will not expect!” She smiled cleverly. “You will take them by surprise! I think the numbers we hear are inflated, and even if you don’t succeed in defeating them their forces will be somewhat depleted. They will not be anywhere as strong when they reach the castle here.”




The Lady still seemed to have disbelief written all over her face, but she trusted her advisor and mulled over what she had heard as they continued along the walkway which led down to her personal quarters. Stopping just outside her door, she turned toward her advisor a final time.


“You really think we can take them by surprise?” When Tenya nodded, the Lady added, “And the castle will stand a better chance that way?”


“Yes, my Lady, that I believe”, Tenya lied. Her face was smooth. “This way you will save more of your people.”


That seemed to make an impression on the Lady of the Castle because she nodded, a small smile appearing on her face.


Tenya, the advisor to the Lady, left her standing there by her door and headed up to the level above, passing several Kandori soldiers on the way. Some winked at her but she pretended not to notice. Once she arrived back in her own quarters she quickly moved across to a small cupboard and poured herself a drink, her pulse rising.


A seed sown, thought the woman as she drank the wine from her cup. May it swiftly grow to bear fruit.


Putting the cup aside she walked up to a mirror on the wall and stared at her reflection. A smile came upon her face, a shrewd smile, as her reflection slowly changed into that of another woman.


The Mask of Mirrors was a very useful weave indeed, thought Serahna the Chosen as she stared at her true self in the mirror. The real Tenya lay dead, buried deep in the ground several miles to the north.


Serahna’s plans for the Borderlands were coming along very nicely indeed.


Her grin broadened as she stared at her own face in the mirror for a long time.


The Great Lord would be pleased.


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.. Dark Proposals and Activities ..



Lord Rehmar was pleased.


The meeting at the Royal Palace with the High Lady Dahlia of Kheren had gone exactly as planned. She had shown interest in the King’s plans for an Alliance of Houses and only a small nudge remained to get her on board. With the help of delicate weaves of Compulsion that would be accomplished soon, Sinam knew.


His schemes of creating strife between the Houses of Arad Doman were developing well and now he was ready for the next stage of his master plan.


He, as Chief Advisor Lord Rhemar, had persuaded the King that his daughter and heir, and only child, Athania ought to be able to ride, since she would soon welcome suitors, and horse riding was a skill expected of most royalty. She was sixteen of age and eager to learn and since Lord Rehmar had skills in this area also the King had agreed that he would be her tutor. For the Lord - or Sinam rather - this was the perfect occasion to get the princess out of the palace and on her own.



They had begun with the basics, how to groom and care for a horse, and then how to mount and dismount properly. The princess Athania was an eager and enthusiastic learner and now they had come to the riding part itself. They had walked their horses to a woodland area west of the Arad Domani capital and now waited with their horses by some trees beside a field with the sun shining down on them from a blue sky with a few intermittent clouds.


"Now then, there are some things that are important when learning to ride." Lord Rhemar began. "I have pointed it out already, but atop the horse the rider must sit in a balanced position." He pointed at the way she sat on the mare’s back. "That way you sit more safely, and it lessens the chance of falling off the horse especially at higher speed. But it is also to help the horse remain balanced underneath and move naturally." He continued. "The rider should sit in the lowest part of the saddle, allowing the hips to open and for the legs to move back and lie gently around the horse so that the heel of the foot is directly in line with the hips". He gestured while he spoke.


"The ball of each foot should rest on the stirrup iron with the toes pointing forwards and the heels pointing down." He added. "The upper body should remain straight but not stiff with the head looking forward. If you can imagine it, it should be possible to draw a straight line from the shoulder to the hip to the foot of the rider. The upper arm should rest by the body with the elbows bent, allowing the forearms to become an extension of the reins."


"We have also spoken a little of how to hold the reins properly. Let me repeat." He continued.


She listened attentively as he went on, her eyes glittering with excitement.



"To hold the reins correctly, have your hand face down with your fingers pointing towards the horse's neck,”, he informed, “place your little finger under the rein and the other fingers over the rein and the thumb underneath. Curl your fingers around the rein and then turn your hand so your thumb is on top and your knuckles are facing forward."


She tried to replicate his instructions and he gestured informatively when she was a little uncertain. "Good," he said in the end. "That looks fine. It may be difficult to maintain this position at first, especially once moving and you may find that your legs creep forward, or you may be tempted to grip with your knees if you feel unbalanced." He nodded. "If you feel unbalanced or feel you are losing the correct position, it is often best to move to a slower pace, reposition yourself correctly and then start again rather than to continue unbalanced, as this only serves to make it harder for both horse and rider to relax and work together."


Athania appreciated his attention to detail, impressed with his knowledge. Part of her felt impatient and wanted him to get on with it, but she was enjoying herself in truth and tempered her impatience.


She waited for him to continue.



"Now then. Let’s look at the various forms of riding." He went on after a short break. "There are several disciplines, but the most common are: The Trot, The Canter and The Gallop. Let’s begin with The Trot. To ask a horse to trot you squeeze gently with your lower legs. The pressure applied should be greater than that applied just to keep the horse walking forward and so may require a gentle kick with your heels. The trot is a "two step gait". This means that the horse moves its legs in pairs. It actually moves its legs in diagonal pairs, that is it lifts the left front (near fore) and right back (off hind) legs together and the right front (off fore) and left back (near hind) together." He added. "You can feel the body sway from side to side as each hind leg is lifted and moved forward. The horse does not move its head forwards and backwards in the trot and so your hands can remain in the same position without restricting the horse's movement."


"Next is The Canter", he continued. "The canter is a three time gait with the horse placing one leg, then two together (a diagonal pair) and then the remaining leg on the ground." He added. "The horse will ‘lead’ with one front leg, that is one front leg is thrown further forward by the mount than the other. Keep especially in mind, that the back should remain soft and supple to allow your hips to rock with the horse's movement when cantering. A stiff back will make the canter uncomfortable for both horse and rider."


"Finally we have The Gallop." Lord Rhemar said. "The gallop is a four beat gait and the fastest speed your horse has. When a horse is galloping, each footfall is heard independently during the stride. A horse galloping on his right lead will first move his left hind leg, followed by the right hind, followed by the left front and the stride ends with the right front."


He saw her begin to grin and he added, that it pleased him to see that she appreciated all the little important details given her in this lesson. They laughed at his comment.



"Equally, a horse on his left lead starts off with his right hind leg, the next beat is his left hind leg, followed by right front and left front." He added with mirth. "You should impart some of this specific knowledge to some of your friends at court, I think. They would without doubt be mightily impressed."


She shared his laughter again, imagining doing just that. "Seriously though", he ended, "the gallop is a very fast speed and cannot be maintained for long periods of time due to the amount of effort and energy it takes for a horse to gallop."


"In the short timeframe we have to teach you riding, we cannot focus on all these disciplines." He said as he met her eye squarely. "What you need to learn is some basic riding, and then - once you get more experience you can learn the other disciplines." He nodded to himself.


"I will teach you the basics of a slow canter since that is a useful way of learning to ride for beginners, and it does not go too fast."


She smiled excitedly, eager to learn.



Back in his private chambers in Illian, Raphael considered his meeting with Deleyhna. It had certainly been.. interesting. His pulse quickened when he thought about it. He just could not get over how desirable she was. He had never been able to.


Seated beside his ornate work table this late evening, he turned his thoughts to the matter of the proposal of an alliance supposedly by Serahna. Should he accept the invitation to join, or should he decline? Or should he not respond at all, for the time being, letting Serahna and Deleyhna wonder what his game was?


Games within Games, Secrets within Secrets.


So it had been with the Chosen since the beginning, even back in the War of Power. Those memories seemed dimmer to him now than they once had been, but he still remembered those days of war and fire.


Only the strongest would survive what was to come, the Day of the Great Lord’s Return, and all the Chosen fought to be the ones left standing. Raphael certainly intended to make sure he survived and, if all his plans succeeded, to become Nae’blis.


Perhaps joining this alliance with the two women could benefit him in his pursuit of true power.


Perhaps it could indeed.



Chalor din Togara Evening Tide stared outwards at the ocean-waves from her vantage point as the Sea Folk vessel, a lean Raker called ‘Ocean Dancer’, sped toward the mainland. As Windfinder on this ship she was responsible for leading the vessel into -and along- the best ocean currents for best speed, and she performed her duties well.


Issandra, in the guise of the Windfinder, grinned inwardly as she channeled her weaves of Saidar into the ocean and the sky, manipulating wind and water. It had been easy to persuade her Sailmistress that the Coramoor was to be found on land, on rock on that vast continent to the east of Aile Dashar. The Mistress of the Ships had agreed and given the go-ahead and the Raker had set off for the north-western coast of the huge landmass, with two official Atha’an Miere negotiators on board. For of course an agreement, an accord had to be made with the Coramoor, and, importantly, an agreement favourable to the Sea Folk.


The two negotiators were experienced Wavemistresses, members of the ruling body called the First Twelve. They stood on quarterdeck beside the Sailmistress, arms beneath their breasts, their eyes fastened on the landmass which came ever closer in the horizon. Issandra was perfectly placed to disrupt whatever negotiations these women intended and to destroy any pact or agreement between them and their Coramoor. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she thought of the boy Dragon building his Armies of Light. Even back then, in that other time, Dar Keran had been arrogant as few besides dangerously powerful. If this boy incarnation had most of Dar Keran’s power, intellect and shrewdness, he would be a lethal enemy.


An enemy that need be destroyed, whatever Vanahl argued.



For now though her mission was to accompany the Sea Folk negotiators to land and find the man who they thought would be their saviour and who would give the Atha’an Miere mastery of the seas. They did not quite know where to look, but rumours overheard when they had docked during their journey indicated he was somewhere in the north.


Issandra was tempted to speak to Serahna, who she knew had based her operations in the so-called Borderlands and who might be well informed, but was unsure if that woman would mess up her own plans and so she decided to refrain. She would do this on her own.


All the glory would be hers.



Lord Elahron watched from his position behind, and to the left of, the Altaran Queen’s throne as Dorinha Sedai spoke to the ruler.


Mandhra Theliana Selnobar, by the Grace of the Light, Mistress of the Four Winds, Guardian of the Sea of Storms and High Seat of House Selnobar, with her neck-long glossy black hair with grey at the temples framing a rather ordinary face, was not best pleased. Her dark brown, large eyes shot daggers at the Aes Sedai.


“Your threats will not gain you my favour”, the Queen replied, fire in her voice. “I said I would consider your proposal, or rather the Amyrlin’s proposal, and I have. But I have decided against it. It is not in the best interest of Altara, as I see it, to go to war with the Asha’man.”


Dorinha was struggling to keep her composure, something which shocked her. She was usually able to keep a straight mask in any situation, any negotiation, she had had many years of training after all, but now she was flustered, her emotions getting the better of her.


Even worse, she could hardly keep her thoughts off the man standing to the Queen’s left. He made her feel desire.. want.. touch.. she wanted to..


What is happening to me!? She wondered, knowing her Warder, standing further down the reception room, could feel her tangled almost panicked emotions.



“No threats are intended, Queen Mandhra”, she implored. “But this is a very vital proposal for the Amyrlin and the White Tower. This is something that needs to be done, however dangerous it may seem. The Amyrlin is well aware of the danger involved, but sees no other option. She needs all her allies to join her in this endaveour.”


“Please reconsider!”


The Queen stared back at the Green Sister, still angry at the woman’s tone. The arrogance of the White Tower had always irked her and now perhaps it was time to stand against it, to show some backbone.


Fighting the Asha’man was a foolish, very dangerous notion in any case. She wanted nothing to do with those half-mad lethal men, and certainly not to make them her enemy.


“My answer is no”, the Queen repeated. Beside her Lord Elahron grinned inwardly, hearing the Queen speak the words he had whispered in her ear the evening before.


Having considered the options, Vinadel had concluded that it was in his own best interest that Altara did not join with the White Tower in this proposed attack on the Black Tower. It suited him better to have Altara outside any alliances, it would thereby be more easily broken. And the so-called Asha’man would be taken care of in due course. From within, if Vanahl’s plans were successful. Oh yes, he knew about those plans which Vanahl had kept to himself. Some secrets were not so secret after all.



“Please give the Amyrlin my regards”, the Queen added, seeing the Aes Sedai’s face become sterner.


It amused her to see this Sister of the White Tower so flustered. It was an unusual sight - they were always so composed - and must mean that her final decision was shocking to the Aes Sedai.


“We stand together in the Light, as always, but on this matter we must part ways”, the Queen said with finality. “We wish the White Tower success in its endeavour.”


Dorinha’s response was caught in her throat and she gaped like a drenched Novice at the Queen as she was summarily dismissed. Bewildered as to both the Queen’s decision and to her own emotional chaos, she turned on her heel and strode out of the reception room, her face filled with shame and anger, a concerned Warder at her side.


As she headed toward her personal quarters in the Tarasin Palace, all she could think about was that she had failed.



The two Aes Sedai stared at the White Tower Oath Rod as if looking at a viper. Their eyes were fearful and their souls cried out, but they knew they had no other choice. If they declined the ‘offer’ to join the Black Ajah and forswear their Oaths to the Light, they would be killed. There had been no doubt about that. Even so, the choice was impossible and neither managed to meet the eyes of the four Black Sisters present.


“It is time”, said the oldest of the four, a stern woman with some grey in her hair, showing her great age for an Aes Sedai, her voice harsh. She wore a red shawl around her shoulders. “Swear your new Oaths”.


She handed the Oath Rod to the youngest of the two, an Aes Sedai of only thirty years.


The rod was one of two in the White Tower, a Ter’angreal created millennia ago in the Age of Legends, smooth, ivory-white cylinder shaped, a foot long and wrist-thick with odd, cursive script carved on one flat end. It felt almost like glass, cool to the touch. Like its twin it was activated by a thin thread of Spirit added to the numeral that was carved into it. It was used when raising Accepted to Aes Sedai, upon which they were required to swear the Three Oaths, making them binding.


The Black Ajah had found a way to break the Three Oaths, to remove them, and to swear new Oaths to the Shadow. This they could do while retaining the ageless faces, a great benefit in their secret work to undermine and overturn the work of the White Tower.

“Come on, then”, the Black Sister urged. There was clear impatience in her tone. They were in the hidden cellars far beneath the White Tower, but even so this was dangerous business and they did not want to linger here and risk getting caught.


Tears were assembling in the White Sister’s eyes as she stared long at the Oath Rod in her hands. She hated herself, her soul crying out in anguish, but she finally spoke the words that bound her to the Dark One, her new Great Lord of the Dark.




Her words came out in a whisper, but were binding just as much. With each word she felt her soul shrivel, felt the darkness consuming her until she was empty of emotion, almost a dead shell.



“I will not betray the Great Lord and will keep my secrets until the hour of my death.”


“I will not betray the identity of any Sister of the Shadow, or else slay me down in death.”


“I will not kill or harm any Sister of the Shadow and will obey all commands by the Great Lord.”




A soft resonance or vibration came from the Oath Rod as her old Oaths were removed from her being and replaced by her new Oaths to the Shadow. She felt the change in her body and soul and knew it was done.


Looking down at the stone floor beneath her, she sighed, her eyes closed.


“Good, it is done”, said the older Black Sister. “We welcome, you, Sister.” Her eyes glittered dangerously.


“Now you”, she indicated the slightly older Blue Sister, handing her the Oath Rod. This woman seemed even more reluctant, but finally she obeyed, stricken to the soul.


When it was done, they all left the chamber behind, taking the Oath Rod with them. It was to be placed back in the artefact-chamber several levels up. The Amyrlin must never know that it had been removed, and certainly not that it was being used to swear new Oaths to the Shadow.


They were increasing their power, secretly, in the White Tower, the Black Sister in charge here knew, but were not ready yet to implement the planned coup.


The Sitter wondered if the time was coming soon. She hoped so, she was tired of waiting. For now though she would continue to do as ordered by the Great Mistress.


Patience was called for. There was more work to be done.


Faint echoes of Darkness were all that remained when they were gone.


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.. Towers of Twilight ..



Cazar Elnovar stared with satisfaction around the training grounds of the Black Tower. He was a tall strongly-built man of middling years with brown hair, brown eyes and a soft beard.


Situated in Andor, four leagues north of the capital of Caemlyn, the training facility had been started by the Dragon Reborn, Ter Sanduahl, to train male channelers for the coming Last Battle. He had been absent for most of its existence though, leaving the training and running of the Black Tower in the hands of Cazar - who now thought of the Black Tower as his own.


It had been a huge farmhouse in the beginning but as the months had gone by they had added adjacent buildings. Recently he had had his students working on an enclosing wall nearly three square miles around the Black Tower, and had built a large manor house where he himself lived, along with most of the full Asha'man, the most proficient male channelers. Most of the Soldiers, the lowest ranked members, lived in barracks, though the Dedicated, the intermediate level channelers, had started building smaller houses for themselves. What had begun as a small organization was slowly becoming a community of male channelers - and Cazar was mightily proud of it.



It pleased him that they had chosen the name ‘Black Tower’ for the community, in clear contrast to the White Tower in Tar Valon. Channelers both, the Asha’man were different from the Aes Sedai in many ways. To begin with, testing for ability was different with men. As opposed to female channelers, it had been believed that men were unable to sense the ability to channel in another, at least to a specific degree. That it was an ability lost since the Age of Legends. When Cazar had claimed the ability to test and train men for channeling, he had been the first. Others had followed in his footsteps. He had claimed there was a way to feel if a man had the ability to channel, that there was a resonance that could be detected in a man, an echo of sorts. Also he had claimed that a large amount of Saidin need be used for it easily to be felt by other male channelers. It was impossible, however, to tell how strong a man could become in the One Power, he claimed, and only time would tell.


Working with Saidin, the male half of the One Power, was also very different from Saidar, the female half. Cazar described Saidin to newcomer Soldiers to the Black Tower as a raging torrent of the Power which must be subdued and dominated by a strong-willed channeler in order to be controlled. Saidar, on the other hand, was rumoured to be a "river of Power" which must be surrendered to or "embraced" in order to gain control. Seeing as men and women were different beings this difference in working with the One Power seemed logical to him.



Thinking about the One Power brought his thoughts back to Ter Sanduahl, the Dragon Reborn. Cazar had ambivalent feelings about the man. He had formed the Black Tower and begun the search for male channelers around the continent for which Cazar was more than grateful. Later he had, however, abandoned the Tower and left it to its own devices. Cazar understood, of course, that the Dragon Reborn had many duties and tasks ahead of him, a man of prophecy, but neglecting the Black Tower as he had for months was unfair on all the Asha’man, as he saw it. He had to admit that he would not have assembled the power he had if Ter Sanduahl had taken an active role in running the Tower, but even so it did not sit well with him that the Dragon Reborn had seemingly forgotten them.


Pushing those thoughts aside, he walked across to a Dedicated practicing battle-weaves off to the side, throwing balls of fire at a tree in the distance. Stepping up to the fairly young man, he could hardly be twenty-five of age, he showed him how it was done properly. The Dedicated found it difficult to duplicate the older man’s weaves but that was to be expected. He was quite newly acquainted with Saidin, having arrived at the Black Tower a few months earlier, and would need time to become proficient. Cazar gave him encouragement and then moved on down the line to the next Dedicated training.


There was much work to be done at the Black Tower.



Arementhe Senican, Watcher of the Seals, The Flame of Tar Valon, The Amyrlin Seat, was a fairly small blond-haired, blue-eyed Andoran woman of one hundred and ten years, only 5ft 5in in height, but what she lacked in size she more than made up for in force of personality and inner strength. She was truly a force to be reckoned with, the leader of the Aes Sedai now for over twenty years, having been raised from the Green Ajah. Some had compared her to Rashima Kerenmosa, one of the most famous, forceful and decorated Amyrlins in history. She was certainly the type of woman you wanted to lead you in war.


At the moment, however, she was a distraught woman in serious doubt about choices she had made for the White Tower. She did not reveal her doubt to the Hall of the Tower, of course. It was important to not show weakness before the Sitters. That was an easy path to being removed or deposed, as weak Amyrlins had experienced in the past. In the privacy of her personal chambers, however, she often lay at night double-guessing her actions and blaming herself for her weakness and lack of judgement.


The decision she had made, though thankfully not carried out yet, to attack the Black Tower was a mistake. Keeping the matter secret from the Sitters was an even bigger mistake. Sending Dorinha to Ebou Dar to get the cooperation of the Altaran Queen was a further mistake. The Queen would almost certainly turn her down, the danger of antagonizing the Asha’man too great for the safety of her nation, and all she - the Amyrlin - would have accomplished was to reveal her desperate plans. Because they were desperate, no question about it.




What was she to do?


She stared across at her stole - a long strip of silk about a hand wide, the symbolic regalia worn over her dress as Amyrlin - on the chair by the window. It was striped with all the seven Ajah colours: in order - Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, White, Gray and Brown. She was of All Ajahs and None. She represented All Aes Sedai, regardless of which Ajah she had been raised from. Her own Ajah, the Green, would always have a special place in her heart, but she was indeed of All Ajahs as the stole indicated.


It made her think of the huge responsibility placed on her shoulders - and not for the first time did she wonder if she truly were worthy of the stole.


What to do about the Dragon Reborn?

What to do about the Black Tower?

What to do about the Black Ajah?



She had had several plans regarding the Dragon Reborn, but had discarded them all. He was too dangerous to be let free in the world, but it was also too dangerous to try and capture him. Did he need to be free to fulfil the Prophecies of the Dragon? Or did this endanger the world and destroy the only chance of victory in the Last Battle? She knew that the Ajahs had differing views on the subject and so far she had managed to uphold a stalemate in the Hall. It would not last forever though.


The question about the Black Ajah bothered her perhaps the most at present. Secret histories passed down from Amyrlin to Amyrlin over the years had strongly indicated the presence of a secret Sisterhood in their midst dedicated to serving the Shadow and the Dark One. Several Amyrlins had died questionable deaths through the centuries and there had been strong, though secret, speculation that Darkfriends had been involved, though there had never been any proof. Arementhe was certain though that the Black Ajah did exist and that it had infested her White Tower. She could not prove it but she knew deep inside. And the knowledge that any of her Sisters could be a traitor to the Light made her skin crawl, in fear but also fury.


How was she to find, and ferret out Black Sisters?

How dangerous would such action be?


In her innermost heart she also worried that the Black Ajah would at some point attempt to take over the White Tower, either openly or secretly, and perhaps try to assassinate her in the process.


She had no one to confide in, even though she trusted her Keeper of the Chronicles with her life. What if her Keeper was Black as well? She could not believe it, she just could not, but at the moment she did not trust anyone and it was tearing at her soul.


Sometimes she wished she had never taken on the responsibility of the Amyrlin Seat.



She was a tall and slim woman dressed in brown as was custom with a very dark complexion, short curly hair and fierce brown eyes. Her face was tattooed in the tradition of the Ayyad, the society of all who could channel the One Power in Shara, but her added personal tattoo was unique since the triangle symbol upon her forehead signified that she was the Amo’hra, the revered leader of the Ayyad.


The mid-afternoon sun was strong over Shara as the woman stared at the long line of women assembled along the perimeter of the village. They were all female channelers of the One Power and they stood ready to serve her. She had not given them details of this special mission, only that it was important for the safety of their nation. They trusted her from years of service and though she had acted more independently in the past months, sharing her mind on matters less than she used to, no one questioned her authority or wisdom. She was the Amo’hra, she was their leader.


Laughing wickedly inside, Kharin watched the row of dedicated women and wondered how they would react if they knew they were being led by one of the Chel’sin, the Forsaken Ones, and would be serving the Shadow. Their howls of fury and anguish would be heard in the Aiel Waste, she did not doubt. She would make certain they did not learn the truth before it was too late.



“It is time”, she said, her voice amplified by the One Power, and they all heard. They all started channeling at the same time, linked as they were, weaves of Saidar creating a huge gateway that encompassed every single woman.


The Chosen, in the guise of the leader of the Ayyad, controlled the huge flow of Saidar, masking some of her own strength at the same time, but even so clearly the strongest of them all.


The gateway shimmered under the sun and started to vibrate with a powerful hum.


The Amo’hra signalled and they all stepped into the gateway, and the gateway snapped shut behind them, a long silver line seen in the air for a few moments before it too disappeared.



Lord Rhemar smiled and mounted his black stallion. He was teaching the princess Athania of Arad Doman how to ride and he now asked her to dismount and to hold the reins to her mare Waywind so she remained steadily in place.


Then he asked her to watch carefully as he proceeded to show her a slow canter in practice. He rode fairly slowly back and forth several times along the field and each time he came back he stopped for a few moments, explaining details, with accompanying gestures, in accordance with what he had told her before. Athania watched intently and asked a few questions which he answered as best he could. Then she tried herself. When she made mistakes, he corrected her and encouraged her to keep going. She lost balance a few times, overcompensated and made beginner’s mistakes but she kept on trying and, with her teacher’s aid and advice, became better as the afternoon passed. She still had a long way to go before she would be a capable rider, but she had passed the first hurdle and was more than ready to take on the next (though she had to admit, with a grimace, that she felt pretty saddle-sore).


The lessons continued that week and the next.



And then, on a sunny but quite windy day close to two weeks after they had begun, they were riding along the field, she was twenty feet or so ahead of him, when it happened! Waywind suddenly lurched and stumbled at high speed - the princess had eventually persuaded him to teach her how to ride at high speeds too - and threw her rider. Athania flew through the air with a scream, hitting the ground hard.


The stable boy who had joined them this morning came galloping from off to the side, not far away. Lord Rhemar brought his stallion to an abrupt stop and jumped from its back to check on the princess. She lay still, her neck at a strange angle, her eyes dead and looking into the beyond. There was no blood though her face had scratches from the heavy fall. Pretending shock Lord Rhemar shouted for the stable boy to join him, and soon they were both staring down at the dead body.


“She is dead”, the Lord said with feigned pain and sorrow in his voice. “The princess is dead, there is nothing we can do. The horse threw her, a terrible accident as you saw.”


The stable boy was too shocked to say anything, staring at the young woman as if willing her to come alive, nodding to the older man.


“The King needs to be informed”, Lord Rhemar finally said in a commanding voice. “Ride back at once and give word. I will bring the princess on the mare’s back.”


The stable boy nodded, still struggling to believe what had happened, then finally shook himself and ran for his horse and headed down the field at high speed in the direction of Bandar Eban.



Meanwhile Sinam picked up the broken body of the princess and carried her to Waywind who was waiting a short distance away. He lay the young woman on the horse’s back and bound her by ropes which he had brought in a sack, then he rode slowly back toward the capital, the mare following behind the stallion, connected by a rope.


Alone now, the Chosen grinned triumphantly, an evil gleam in his emerald eyes. What a great misfortune that the mare stumbled at that particular point, he thought sarcastically. Helped somewhat by a delicate thread of Saidin cutting across her nose, of course, startling her, but accident do happen, he thought gleefully, and the princess was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Mission accomplished, the heir to the Arad Domani throne removed which would lead to further chaos and instability in this nation, as had been Sinam’s intention all along.


Oh he could have killed the princess at almost any time, but it suited him to do it outside the city, where it could be confirmed a riding accident by the stable boy who unwittingly had been brought along for just that purpose. The King would rage at this misfortune and also criticize Lord Rhemar for not being careful enough with his daughter, but knowing the dangers of riding for himself, and with the stable boy as witness to what had happened, the King would not pursue the matter any further.


And the various Houses of the nation would now compete for the King’s favour in appointing a successor, fighting among themselves, caught in a spiral of intrigue and blood, and thereby increasing the domestic chaos.


Just as Sinam wanted.



And why did I go through all that methodical horse riding training, if all I intended was to kill the princess, you might ask? Sinam asked himself rhetorically.


Well, because I can.. and because it amused me, since I do love horses and enjoy imparting my extensive knowledge in certain areas whenever I can.. and it also gave me some small pleasure to make the princess think she would have years of enjoyable horse riding before her, when in fact she only had days more to live.


It is the small pleasures in life that make life worth living, Sinam thought with a broad grin on his face, the darkness within thrilling, as he soon caught a glimpse of the capital in the far distance.


The small pleasures in life.



Reeya Eldhem Sare Paendrag, the Daughter of the Nine Moons and heiress to the Seanchan Empire, stood with feet planted steadily on deck as the Seanchan warship flew across the waves of the Aryth Ocean into the east. Behind came the rest of the ships in this massive fleet, a hundred vessels or so. A strong wind blew in her short black hair and her brown eyes studied the horizon for land. She knew it was days yet before they would make landfall but she watched expectantly even so, curious to see the lands stolen from her ancestors.


Like all Seanchan nobility she believed those lands had been stolen from Artur Hawkwing’s descendants and now they were going to reclaim them. The Corenne, the ‘Return’, the Empress had called this vital war-mission, and it was led by the Daughter of the Nine Moons and, under her, Captain-General Rital Deltan. He was a tall man with his white hair in a crest, its tail plaited to his shoulders. He had a creased face and grey-green eyes, stern features and his fingernails were lacquered red. He was a brilliant battle-commander of many years and he was utterly loyal to the Royal Family.


Further down on deck Selecin, the Truthspeaker to the Seanchan Empress, stood watching the seamen who were doing all the dozens of little tasks that needed doing to keep a huge vessel like this afloat and running. His thoughts were elsewhere, though, replaying in his mind how he had botched his attempt to kill the Daughter of the Nine Moons back in Seandar, the Imperial Capital. Cursing himself for his ineptitude, Tervihn tried to focus his mind on the positive aspect of his situation; he was, after all, getting the Seanchan into the war on the continent, furthering the worldwide chaos, just as the Great Lord had commanded him to do. His ‘truthspeaking’ had convinced the Seanchan Empress that it was time to take back what had been lost - and here they were with a massive fleet speeding eastwards.



The Chosen turned to look up at Reeya Eldhem Sare Paendrag, there she stood on quarterdeck by the side of the Sailmistress of this warship, her personal banner with three golden leopards harnessed to an ancient war-cart beside her. Should he kill her before they found land? Or would that risk the fleet turning back? For sure he did not want to do something that the Great Lord would disapprove of, and after his earlier failure he did not want to take any chances. And so he let the Daughter of the Nine Moons be and focused instead on what awaited them when they reached land.


Sul’dam and Damane, leash-holders and leashed channelers, crowded the lower deck, dozens of women ready for the strife and conflict ahead. A hundred soldiers or more also walked the decks, weapons ready, under the watchful eye of their captains. At the bow of the ship a Windfinder gave them smooth and swift travel through the waves. And high above in the grey sky Rakens, Seanchan animals with a body considerably longer than a horse and about equal in girth, with leathery grey skin and large powerful wings much like those of a bat, flew parallel to the ships below, ridden by accomplished Morat’raken, mostly combat-women.


The Seanchan were going to war.


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  • 11 months later...

.. Pools of Darkness ..



Raphael stared with desire at the beautiful red-haired woman seated opposite him.


Deleyhna stared back at him with amusement in her emerald green eyes. They glittered as they often did in his presence and she knew very well what effect she had on him. And as always she felt drawn to him, to his attractive good looks and knowing he was a dangerous man. It excited her and she felt a thrill run through her body as she imagined him in bed with her. She knew he felt the same way and she loved teasing him, holding back just so, keeping him from having what he wanted.


An impish grin came upon her red lips as she repeated her question.


“Are you sure you want to join this alliance, Raphael?”


Raphael grinned slightly as he took a sip from the goblet of wine in front of him. Placing the goblet on the table, he considered his reply. He had thought about the matter for some time. Was there much benefit in this alliance in truth? He could not tell. All the Chosen were in alliances, it gave added strength and support at least for a while. In the Game of Power appearance was just as important as true strength, it kept your opponents on edge and though united in purpose for the Great Lord Raphael did see his Chosen brethren as opponents. Dangerous ones at that. But it suited him to be in alliances right now, and so he was curious what Serahna had in mind. And he had to admit that Deleyhna’s involvement enticed him.


“Oh, I am sure I will find it pleasurable, Deleyhna”. He grinned darkly. “A threesome could be quite.. interesting.”


Deleyhna knew exactly what he meant and she laughed. “Dream on, Raphael.” She grinned mischievously. “Knowing Serahna, she would wear that armour of hers. It would become a nuisance I should think.”


Raphael chuckled. She was probably right. Her armour was probably such an integral part of Serahna that she probably slept in it. He had certainly never seen her without it, even back Before..



His thoughts went momentarily back to the time before the long sleep.. to the world that had been theirs, in the Age that now was called The Age of Legends.


Echoes swept through his mind as he remembered..


“Breaker of Faith!”



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.




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




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.




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!



He pulled back from his strong memories, his hands clenched, his face hardened. Like every time it felt so real when he immersed himself in what had once been. He took another sip from his goblet, not tasting the wine.


The amusement grew on Deleyhna’s face. She has seen the momentary change that had come over Raphael. Taking a sip from her goblet, she leaned back in the high-backed chair. Serahna was late which was quite unusual and not in character. The Borderland-based Chosen was soldierly in all manners, including punctuality. Perhaps something had come up, Deleyhna wondered.


Staring past Raphael, her eyes fastened on the large elaborate painting which hung on the wall behind him. The painting flickered, becoming solid and then less solid, in a never-ending circle of motion as was common here in Tel'aran'rhiod. She was so used to it, as were the others, that she did not think of it ordinarily, but it caught her attention now. The painting depicted a scene of war in the Borderlands, probably a scene from the Trolloc Wars, and she knew it was one of Serahna’s favourites. She wondered where the real painting was, where Serahna’s stronghold was. They all knew it was somewhere in the Borderlands but Serahna had never admitted exactly where. Deleyhna had her suspicions but she kept them to herself. Let Serahna keep her secrets, she thought with amusement.


It is not important, at least not yet.



A chime rang suddenly in the chamber announcing the arrival of the third party in this alliance. Stepping through what looked like a Gateway Serahna came to stand before the two others.


“Sorry I am late”, she said perfunctorily as she seated herself in the third chair around the table. Grinning slightly, she looked them each in the eye. “Glad you both made it.”


Deleyhna gave a small nod, her eyes showing some amusement, while Raphael gave Serahna a lopsided grin. “Glad you could make it too”, he said with a hint of sarcasm.


Looking at the handsome woman, he wondered what she would look like in a pretty dress. She had dark wavy hair to her neck, dark eyes and high cheekbones. She wore soldier-outfit though, fitted with armour, as she often did. It made her less attractive in Raphael’s eyes, but he was used to her apparel and would have been surprised had she worn anything else. Deleyhna looked at the other woman and grinned inside. She liked the fact that the other dressed the way she did. That way no one would ever find her as attractive - or desirable - as Deleyhna herself.


Serahna took a sip of wine, setting the goblet on the table in front of her. Her eyes studied the faces of her Chosen brethren. She wondered which of the two was the most dangerous. Raphael probably, though she would not like to have Deleyhna as an enemy. Both these two were dangerous as vipers. Which was exactly why it was beneficial to include them in an alliance. In the Game of Power Serahna had learned that it was wise to choose the right.. partners so to speak. Perhaps things would change later, but for now an alliance of these three of the Chosen was.. prudent, as she saw it.



“These are perilous times..” she began smoothly. “An alliance is.. wise.”


She saw that she had their attention. Her eyes took on a conspiring gleam.


“An unexpected door has opened.. the Sehn Rha’ad has been found.”


Serahna enjoyed the look of surprise on both Raphael’s and Deleyhna’s faces.


It was time to tell the rest.



Arementhe Senican, Watcher of the Seals, The Flame of Tar Valon, The Amyrlin Seat paced in her private chamber in the White Tower. She was a troubled woman. For what seemed ages she had gone over any and all choices left for her regarding the perilous situation, but she had still to find a good answer. Her doubt in herself was tearing at her and did not make the situation any easier. She could trust no one and that was the main problem, she had no one to confide in, no one to share her strong suspicions with.


That the Black Ajah had infested her White Tower.


She knew it though she had no proof. She could feel it deep inside. Sisters had disappeared, never to be seen again. She had read the secret histories. And some of the decisions recently made by the Hall of the Tower just felt.. wrong. They were meant to strengthen the Aes Sedai, so the Sitters said, but Arementhe felt they weakened the Tower and, more importantly, the Amyrlin Seat herself. Who were the Black Sisters? The idea that Aes Sedai, women serving to protect the Light and all that was good in the world, would sell their souls to the Shadow and betray everything they stood for, made her skin crawl. And her soul screamed in frustration at being unable to root them out. On top of this there was the matter of the Black Tower.. and, not the least, the boy Dragon.


What am I to do.. she wondered silently.



She touched the stole about her shoulders. It was a long strip of silk about a hand wide, the symbolic regalia worn over her dress as Amyrlin, leader of the Aes Sedai. The stole was striped with all the seven Ajah colours: in order - Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, White, Gray and Brown. She was of All Ajahs and None. She was the embodiment of Aes Sedai and all they stood for. But right now, she did not feel up to the task. Not at all.


She kept pacing for what seemed an eternity, when suddenly there was a knock on the door to her chamber. She was seldom disturbed here unless it was something important, so she collected herself and her face was smooth, in control as she faced the door and bade the person enter.


Centhira Susmihnen, Keeper of the Chronicles, stepped into the room and gave a small curtsy to the Amyrlin. “Mother”, she began. “There is an.. envoy from the.. Black Tower to see you.”


Raised from the Green, Centhira was a fierce woman of one hundred and fifty years, formerly a Sitter for the Green. She was a Borderlander woman through and through, and she had been a very capable Keeper of the Chronicles under Arementhe.



The Amyrlin stiffened when she heard who the visitor was. She kept her face smooth though, but inside she almost quivered at the thought that the Black Tower somehow knew of her original intentions, what she had planned to do..


“Thank you, Centhira.” She replied carefully. “I will see the envoy in a short while. Bring him to the guest hall and give him some refreshments.”


Centhira nodded, giving a small bow of respect. Inside she wondered why the Amyrlin seemed a little on edge.. not that it was that apparent, most would not have noticed, but Centhira knew her so well that she recognized the slight unease in the Amyrlin. Not that it was so strange, considering that one of them.. the Asha’man.. was here in the White Tower.. but even so. Few things rattled the Amyrlin.


Giving another small bow the Keeper left the Amyrlin’s private chamber and walked down the stairs and into the entry hall where the envoy waited. Three Aes Sedai stood close by, watching the man closely. One of them was a Red Sister and she looked ready to jump on him and gentle him on the spot. This was only the second time an emissary from the Black Tower had come to the White Tower. Half the Hall of the Tower had been in uproar the first time it happened some months before. It would probably be no different this time.


Approaching the black-cloaked man, Centhira tried to still the butterflies she felt inside at being so close to a man who could channel. She waved for him to follow her as she led him into what they called the guest hall, a large chamber used for entertaining guests to the White Tower. The man followed silently. As they rounded a corner, a girl in a novice outfit almost jumped out of her skin at the sight of the hard-looking man and Centhira had to stop for a moment to calm the terrified girl down. Finally the girl collected herself and continued on her errand while the Keeper and the Asha’man walked up to the chamber in question and seated themselves in some comfortable chairs.



“The Amyrlin will be with you shortly”, Centhira said once she had handed him a drink.


The man nodded his thanks and took a sip from the glass, his eyes dangerously focused on the Aes Sedai at the other side of the table.


“That is good”, he replied smoothly. “We have much to talk about.”


His eyes glittered darkly of a sudden and Centhira felt anew those butterflies in her stomach. She was not easily rattled either, but she could not put aside the unease she felt at the proximity of the Asha’man.


This was a dangerous man.. and he was in their midst.



Gerehl was in an angry mood.


Together with Banohr he had searched the Plains of Moredo for the lost male Sa’angreal Neminahl but with no success. It had been an almost impossible task to begin with, but the clues they had found in an ancient text had indicated that was the place to look. He had hoped they would somehow.. sense it, but no luck. They had looked in many areas in the region before finally giving up. As long as Raphael has not found it, he thought for the hundredth time. The region was close to Illian where Raphael had settled. He could not be sure, but he felt that Raphael would have boasted about it if he had come across the Sa’angreal. He would not have been able to resist the temptation, Gerehl thought wryly.


But the question remained: where was this powerful artefact?


Standing on the balcony, staring down at the city below him, he wondered for a moment what he would do if he did find the Sa’angreal. He would then be the most powerful of them all, the new Nae’blis. They would have to follow his lead then. The thought made his pulse rise and heart quicken. It would be no more than he deserved.


I will then have what is rightfully mine!



His eyes shone as he left the balcony and re-entered the chamber inside. The blonde haired woman lay where he had left her, half-naked in the twin-sized bed. She stared up at him with large eyes, strands of Compulsion flowing, wanting to please him in every way. “My Lord”, she said seductively as he knelt down on the bed to kiss her. He felt desire in his loins and pulled off her remaining clothes. Undressing quickly, he joined her and they embraced in the fashion of lovers.



Seida din Parede Four Moons, the Mistress of the Ships and ruler of the Atha’an Miere, listened as her advisor spoke, then dismissed her. Heading up to the main deck of her ship, she walked its length as she thought about the news she had received. Her features hardened. Her very dark eyes were fierce as she stared out across the waters of the Aryth Ocean. Where are they? She wondered silently, her hand going to the six rings in each of her ear, which signified her high station, and to the numerous medallions on the chain connected to her nose. Why have they come now to mess things up, now that we were so close to contacting the Coramoor?


She almost felt close to tearing her whitening hair. They had received word a while back that ships coming from the far west had been spotted, but only recently had they been told that it was an armada of war-ships and that they were coming here. Her advisor’s most recent news had been confirmation of the fact and the Mistress of the Ships now had an important decision to make. The Sea Folk had many ships themselves, but not as well equipped for battle and nowhere near enough to be able to overcome this major threat. Perhaps they could find and ask the Coramoor for help, but they still were not certain where he was, never mind what he could do. The thought of cowardly running made her skin crawl, but she had to do what was best for her people.


I will do what I must, she swore silently to herself, her face a mask of iron. What must be, must be.


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.. Memories of the Past ..



Visvana Loratehl.


That had been her name.


Arementhe Senican remembered how amused several of the Sitters had been when she had announced in the Hall of the Tower that she was taking on a new name upon her ascension to the Amyrlin Seat. It was an unusual thing to do, but the Aes Sedai histories told of it having happened a few times before so it was not totally without precedent. Her reason for making the change had not been outwardly known, but was in truth an inner desire to make a fresh start in her new position among the Sisters of the White Tower.


Also, she wanted a fresh start from her troubled past.


She had been in the Tower ever since she was found with the spark by Aes Sedai when she was 15 years of age and taken to Tar Valon. Her childhood had been a difficult and painful one, living with an abusive father and a mentally struggling uncaring mother, and she would never forget the countless hours she had hidden in a closet to get away from her life of despair. Being taken away and to the White Tower was, in truth, a blessing for her, but her past remained in her mind even after all these years, her parents now long gone, and her name was a constant reminder of that horrible past. She felt better with her new name, the memories remained but it was as if she had cloaked herself in a new identity, a new and better persona, and it did not bother her that some of the Sisters in the Tower still gave her sly looks whenever her current name was spoken or announced in ceremonies.


She did not know why she was thinking of this right now, as she was walking steadily down the stairs to the guest hall where the Asha’man waited, but memories of Visvana Loratehl and her difficult past were uppermost in her thoughts until she entered the guest hall itself, the seven-coloured stole of the Amyrlin on her shoulders, seeing her Keeper and the male channeler seated there.


Then she pushed everything else to the back of her mind and she focused totally on the present and on the potentially precarious and dangerous situation she was in.



Vanahl, his eyes burning pools of intense fire, watched the Dragkhar as it swooped down on its intended victim.


An assassin of the Shadow, the Dragkhar had been created by Kieran and some other scientists in what was now called the Age of Legends, using the One Power on human stock, corrupting and re-shaping. These Shadowspawn had unnaturally large eyes, pale skin and a pair of leathery wings. They were slender and tall with very thin, frail arms and hands that were tipped with sharp talons. A closer look at a Draghkar's almost white face would reveal that in addition to the soulless, huge eyes and gaunt cheeks, it possessed a misshapen mouth of blood red lips containing sharp pointed teeth.  Vanahl could hear it sing to its victim in a soft, crooning voice, and knew it was lulling the victim into a hypnotized state, sucking the very soul out of the person, leaving it an empty husk. After devouring the soul, it would drain the life out of the victim as well.


The Nae’blis knew some of the other Chosen felt they had little use for Dragkhar, preferring instead to use Myrddraal and Trollocs in all their dark schemes and machinations, but Vanahl liked to use Dragkhar in some of his undertakings because of their special stealth and agility. Looking past the Dragkhar, the Chosen saw the Myrddraal, a muscular caped eye-less figure, that was controlling it. On his orders of course. On his command. Nothing was done without Vanahl’s instruction and permission. The last Myrddraal that had disobeyed him had suffered a very painful death.


And so they had assailed this local lord’s castle just outside the town of Falme on Toman Head where many lords and ladies that were high in the power structure of this region, as well as  several local military leaders, were gathered for talks and festivities. Falme was a strategic place in the time to come - and the Great Lord had commanded Vanahl to seize the town. This was the first step, to cripple the command structure. There were more to come.


The evening sky was black but the ground was turning red with blood. Several men and women finely dressed lay unmoving on the ground, their bodies broken, their eyes without light. The lord who had just been ‘kissed’ by the Dragkhar slumped to the ground unmoving too and Vanahl’s grin broadened. This was going very well indeed. Without thinking, he touched the scar that ran down his left cheek, the scar he had left there as an important reminder not to trust anyone. His eyes burned in the night.


He watched until all the lords were dead.


Chaos was spreading, the Shadow was rising. The Great Lord would be pleased.



Taramandha Sovey, Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah, was a fairly non-distinct Sister, neither among the most powerful healers in her Ajah, nor among the most influential politically. She was what would be considered average in every way, a person you did not take much notice of. This suited Divara well. The real Taramandha lay dead and buried several miles outside of Tar Valon and the Chosen had taken on her identity for her business in the White Tower. She used the Mask of Mirrors so her face and appearance was Taramandha’s and she had watched the Yellow Sister over a period of time, hiding in plain sight as it were, learning her mannerisms. She masked her true strength and ability with the One Power to avoid suspicion and immersed herself in this new identity to the extent that she sometimes almost forgot who she really was. One of those Chosen to Rule the World forever.


The woman who had once been Danya Lehvin Bardhine, renowned doctor and surgeon at the Tihran Medical Facility in Gheriahn, opened the door to her quarters in the Yellow Ajah section of the White Tower and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. Staring at her reflection in the huge mirror that took up most of a wall, her thoughts swept her momentarily into the past. Back to the time before the long sleep..


Her face hardened and a vicious smile came upon her lips when she thought of how she had been sacked, ridiculed and then prosecuted by the other Aes Sedai for her ‘extreme and unethical methods’ as they called it. They had not appreciated, upon discovery, Danya’s experiments on humans to combat deadly diseases, had not understood, as Danya saw it, that some sacrifice was necessary to gain vital success and progress in the field of medicine. She had been imprisoned but, with the help of others, had managed to escape, fleeing the region and heading to Shayol Ghul to pledge her service and life to the Shadow. She wanted recognition for her great ability as a surgeon and her impressive work, not spite and becoming outcast, and she wanted power and influence and for this she was willing to turn to the Shadow. She had found likeminded people among Darkfriends and had made further progress in her experimental work. She had also gradually found that she got some thrills and enjoyment in experimenting on humans, enjoyed seeing the effect of pain and suffering on the human body, also in part in bitterness over how despicably she had been treated by the other Aes Sedai. She did not question her mental state, but became harder and more vicious as time went by.



And then.. it all went wrong.. the War of the Shadow lost, and the blasted Dragon sealed them all in the Bore for the long sleep..


Anger swept through her as it always did when she thought of Dar Keran.. she had admired him once, a strong and fearless leader, attractive and forceful, but ever since his betrayal as she saw it, ever since that.. she had hated him.


And now the Dragon had been Reborn.. in a boy called Ter Sanduahl..


Her eyes tightened. Vanahl had ordered the boy to be untouched, but Divara had plans of her own and they included capturing him and making him suffer.. for everything. She had almost managed to capture the boy a while back but her plan had backfired and now she was pretty certain that Vanahl suspected her involvement though he had no proof. She cursed inside at the mistakes she had made, trusting people who could not be trusted, but she swore to herself that the next time she would succeed.


The Dragon Reborn would pay.


Gazing into the mirror, she watched as her reflection gradually changed, turning from a dark-haired oval-faced woman with brown eyes and high cheekbones into a blonde-haired woman with shoulder-length hair, blue eyes and a handsome face. She smiled as the weave set and she could see her true appearance in the mirror.


All that’s missing is a nice fashionable dress, she thought to herself, her mood lifting, as she moved a few steps to the side, as if in a remembered dance.



“Damn!” The King’s hand slammed hard down on the table. “How could it happen!?”


His anger and grief were evident in his red twisted face as he looked at his Chief Advisor.


“You were supposed to protect her, keep her from harm!”


Lord Rhemar stood with a bowed head, faking deep regret, as the King continued to show his anger and frustration at the sudden death of his beloved daughter. Only Lord Rhemar’s assurances that it had been an accident, and his trust in the character of his advisor, had kept the King from imprisoning the man. He still was flustered how this could have happened, even though he knew riding accidents happened on occasion. Even so, his poor young daughter had just been learning to ride.. just beginning her life. Now it was all lost.


“My deepest apologies, my King”, Sinam the Chosen heard himself say, as his face took on feigned grief. “One moment she was riding safely and well, and then.. she was falling. She must have lost her balance. And she fell badly..”. He paused momentarily for added effect. “There was nothing I could do. I am so sorry. She was a precious girl.”


Inside Sinam was grinning about his performance.. it was important that the King believed him so he could continue to manipulate events in Arad Doman in the guise of Lord Rhemar.


The King, a noble man of 47 years, with dark hair that was slowly turning grey framing a handsome though worn face, stared at his advisor and saw the other man’s pain. He controlled his temper, his brown eyes lowering, and he nodded. “Yes, I know. There was nothing you could do.” He turned and gazed out the window. They were in one of the King’s private chambers. The palace grounds were almost empty at this mid-afternoon hour, slivers of sunshine pouring down from the sky, since the King had declared this a week of mourning. The pain he felt inside was almost unbearable. His wife, the Queen, had closeted herself in one of her private rooms and had not been seen for days, but servants whispered that cries of grief and despair were often heard from that room. The King was unable to look his wife in the eye at the moment, feeling guilt, and understood that they both needed more time.


“Leave me”, he said finally, turning back to his advisor. Lord Rhemar bowed deeply, his face sorrowful and drawn, then he turned and walked slowly out of the chamber. His face, now not seen by the King, was gleeful as he closed the door behind him.



Her Keeper came swiftly to her feet and gave the proper bow of respect to the Amyrlin. “Mother”, said Centhira Susmihnen, touching her long green skirt with one hand, while the Asha’man remained seated, staring wryly at the Leader of the Aes Sedai as she approached. The Keeper’s face became hard, her mouth twisting, at the disrespect the Asha’man was showing by not greeting the Amyrlin properly. Arementhe could see that her Keeper was about to give the man a tongue-lashing and so she intervened smoothly, welcoming the Asha’man to the White Tower. The man’s lopsided grin did not change but a dark gleam came to his eyes. He had deliberately provoked a reaction from the Keeper. Arementhe noticed it, and inwardly she was not amused, but she feigned ignorance.


“We are glad the Black Tower wants a line of communication”, the Amyrlin began carefully. “These are troubled times..”


“I think we need to speak privately”, the Asha’man cut in, in a deep voice, and his eyes became more serious. “There is much to talk about.”


Arementhe trusted her Keeper, as much as anyone could trust anyone these dark days, but even so she had not shared everything of her plans regarding the Black Tower with her. This was a very delicate matter and so it suited her well to take this talk in private.


“My Keeper of the Chronicles is to be trusted”, she replied smoothly, giving Centhira face. “But since you insist, we can talk in the next chamber. It is more private.”


The Asha’man nodded, giving no other reaction, while Centhira exchanged a long look with the Amyrlin before giving a quick bow and leaving the chamber.


Outside, as she walked toward her own private chamber, she wondered what it was that the Amyrlin did not want her to know.


Arementhe walked to the other side of the ornate guest hall where there was a door to a smaller room. This room was locked and the Amyrlin produced a key which opened the door. Stepping inside, she watched the Asha’man enter the chamber and then she closed the door behind her. She seated herself in one of the high-backed chairs around a center table while the black-cloaked man seated himself opposite her. There were geographical maps and small historical paintings on the walls and some shelves on the walls behind them with books. A small window at the far end had a view of the island city. Other than that, the room was empty apart from them.



“Now then”, the Amyrlin began smoothly. “Please tell me your name and the nature of your business. I have warded the room so we can speak freely and privately without anyone listening in.”


Her tone of voice managed to be friendly and firm at the same time. It was her ‘Amyrlin-voice’ as some of the Accepted whispered when they did not think she heard. She did not discourage them.


Looking at the man opposite her, a tall middle-aged man with light-blond hair and green eyes, a prominent nose in an otherwise handsome face, she was not quite able to remove the fear she felt when close to a man who could channel. She could not tell whether he was holding onto Saidin right now. She was holding onto Saidar, enjoying the sweetness of it, but she did not know if she was in danger. She highly doubted an Asha’man would try anything inside the White Tower, but these men were only partially sane so one could never know. It was necessary to speak to this man regardless of risk, to hear what he had to say and to confront any accusations he had if he had any. She cursed inside her premature plot to attack the Black Tower - What a fool I was! - and hated the fact that rumours of her original intentions, thankfully not carried out, had spread. Did the Black Tower know? Was that why this man was here now?


She tried to keep her face smooth and hoped this envoy did not see or sense the turmoil inside her.


“My name is Vector Sendrihn.” The Asha’man grinned. “I am the envoy the Black Tower sent this time.” The Asha’man pin on his black cloak spoke of his position and standing.


“As for the nature of my business.. these are indeed troubled times as you said, and some very important news has come to our attention..”


His green eyes became fierce and his face hardened.


The Amyrlin steeled herself for what was to come.



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.. To Become Aes Sedai ..



"Adriahna Meryhn, you are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai. The Light keep you whole and see you safe."


Tarihna Semendhei, the Mistress of Novices, was formally dressed wearing her fringed shawl as such an official occasion demanded. Her voice was matter-of-fact, her face smooth but there was a glint in her blue eyes which the young dark-haired Altaran woman staring back at her recognized.


Adriahna’s heart stopped beating for a moment, her breath shallow. She had known this moment was coming soon, her training to become an Aes Sedai close to completed, but even so she was taken aback now that it was time.


Time to take the test to become Aes Sedai.



She had been an Accepted only fifteen years which was less than usual in the Tower, her steady progress had been lauded by the Sisters, and she had anticipated this moment in her mind a hundred times in the past months, but now that it was here her mind went momentarily blank. Her mouth opened but no sound came out. She blinked, trying to collect her thoughts, her hands going nervously to her fringed Accepted dress.


Finally she got hold of herself and curtsied to the Aes Sedai. She was then escorted down into the basements of the White Tower to the room where she was to be tested. She knew the procedure and went over in her mind what awaited her. In order to become Aes Sedai an Accepted had to complete a test that assessed her ability to weave Saidar and her ability to remain calm under extreme pressure. If an Accepted failed she was put out of the White Tower, there were no second chances. I will not fail!, she swore to herself as she walked silently down the steps to the lower levels. She knew that during this time she must remain silent unless spoken to; she must also show no emotion and remain composed. She would be led to a large circular room on the lowest level of the Tower in which seven Sisters would be waiting, one from each Ajah.



Adriahna kept her composure as she arrived at the Testing room. Walking through a doorway she saw the Ter'angreal, the object of the One Power, in the middle of the room. The Sisters were waiting. She recognized them all, several were Sitters in the Hall of the Tower. She remained silent, not exchanging glances with any of the Aes Sedai, her eyes fixed on the Ter'angreal. She had been told of it, but this was the first time she actually saw it.


It was a great oval ring, shimmering in a multitude of colours; a span high and a pace across. The colours seemed to be constantly changing. The Ter'angreal stood alone with no support. It was, she had been informed, activated by the channeling of all five Powers by seven Sisters. When this happened the Ter'angreal would change colour even faster than it did when not in use and would begin to revolve slowly. The air within the oval would turn to a pure white that seemed to draw in light from the room.


She had also been told the basics of the test. She remembered the Mistress of Novices’ lecturing voice:


An Accepted must step through the Ter'angreal into a 'reality’ that is determined in appearance by the Sisters operating the Ter'angreal. From here she must find a six-pointed star carved into the ground and stand on it; she will then be required to create a weave. One hundred weaves are required for the test - these the Accepted has been taught - and so she must find one hundred carved stars. The weaves must be completed in order and must be woven within the star. Each weave must be completed correctly for the Accepted to pass.


With echoes of those words in her mind, she came to stand in the place allotted to her.



The Sisters quickly formed a ring around her and the Mistress of Novices - and then began the ancient ritual:


Mistress of Novices: "You come in ignorance, Adriahna Meryhn. How would you depart?"
Adriahna: "In knowledge of myself."
Mistress of Novices: "For what reason have you been summoned here?"
Adriahna: "To be tried."
Mistress of Novices: "For what reason should you be tried?"
Adriahna: "So that I may learn whether I am worthy."
Mistress of Novices: "For what would you be found worthy?"
Adriahna: "To wear the shawl."


Adriahna then hurriedly undressed, which symbolized that she trusted the Light to keep her safe; she then removed her Great Serpent ring. The Mistress of Novices then faced her again and gave her instructions of what she must do during the test.


The Blue Aes Sedai intoned: "Remember what must be remembered". She repeated it four times in all as was tradition and cast a weave on the Accepted.


The seven Sisters now activated the Ter’angreal using Saidar in a complex weave and a powerful hum permeated the circular chamber.


Naked, focused in on herself, composed as well as she was able to, Adriahna stared for a moment at the great revolving ring, the air within turning the pure white .. and then she took first one step, then another.. and another into the ring.. and was lost from sight.



She was walking down a street. It seemed somehow familiar but she could not quite make out where it was. It was only as a man came around the corner and looked lustfully at her, his grin wicked, that she realized she was stark naked. Light! She resisted the urge to sprint off in panic, and instead walked with as much dignity as she could muster past the man, then turned down an empty side alley where she saw some clothes hanging on a line in a backyard. She grabbed some underclothes, a white shirt and a long green skirt which she pulled on, breathing more easily. She was glad she had managed to remain fairly composed, but now she looked around to see if the first six-pointed star was anywhere close. She did not see it at first but when she took a few steps further down the alley she suddenly saw it off to her left. It was carved into the ground by a low concrete building. She hurried toward it and stood on it as she performed her first weave. Once it was done she walked to the end of the alley, glancing around. Something shimmered to her right, fifteen or so paces away, and she saw it was an arch. Once she stepped through, the alley was gone and in its place were unfamiliar woodlands. Her clothes had changed as well, now she wore dark brown riding attire which surprised her somewhat since she had never been overly fond of riding though she did know how to ride.


Slivers of sunshine came through the canopy of trees and branches above, it was mid-afternoon she thought, but she noticed there were no sound in the woods, no sight of any woodland creatures either. A feeling of danger came upon her and she held Saidar ready. She walked a few tentative steps forward, looking around for the threat, and suddenly a shadow stormed at her from her right! Her eyes widened but she managed to step smoothly aside just in time for whatever it was to miss her. Suddenly a six-pointed star shimmered off to her left. The shadow, now growling dangerously not far away, made her weary but she managed to stay composed as she reached the star and made her second weave. She turned swiftly as the beast leapt at her and threw a Net of Saidar on it which caught it and left it immobilized, growling in pain. An arch shimmered off to her left and so she stepped quickly past the beast, whatever it was, and entered the archway.


On and on it went, familiar and unfamiliar situations and places, testing her will, strength, ability, endurance and concentration. Lightning striking her from above, gale winds slamming into her body, deserts with monstrous heat that made her lightheaded, knives and short-swords thrown at her in combat, being buried in the ground with only her head visible, stumbling in huge castles and buildings in utter darkness. On and on it went. And each time she managed to remain composed and in control and found the six-pointed stars, performed the correct weaves, and survived, continuing through new arches.



At one point her dying father screamed her name as he begged her to help him, but having made the appointed weave under duress she suddenly saw the arch shimmering outside the door to their house and knew she had to reach it before it disappeared. With sorrow and regret in her eyes she hurried toward the arch and ran through.


She found it harder to focus as she completed the final weaves. Her body was tired and her mind was exhausted. But she knew she had to finish this, she had to find strength she perhaps did not know she had, or she would be lost. Finishing the ninety-nineth weave, there was only one more to go.


Passing through another arch she found herself suddenly in a storm-filled ocean, struggling to keep her head above the stormy water. The waves were huge and they slammed down on her as she tried to keep afloat. She had never been a good swimmer and the thought of swimming in the ocean far from land had always frightened her, but she focused on breathing correctly and managed to keep some composure in this - for her - very demanding situation. She swallowed some water and her head went under for a moment, but she managed the calm that was expected of her in such a stressful situation. Then she channeled.. and felt the world change around her. There was light.. and then the ocean was gone. She stood on dry land, in a desolate place which she knew to be the Blight. She had never been there, but it had been described to her in class and this could be nowhere else.


Her clothes, an Aes Sedai travelling dress blue of colour (she had chosen Blue?), were dry and framed her body well. There were some foothills in the distance and she started walking towards them. Everything about her seemed barren and dead, a wasteland bereft of hope. She knew, however, that this was a place of danger. Coming past a small ridge she saw what appeared to be a swamp of sorts off to her right. Something drew her instinctively in that direction, she could not tell what, but as she came nearer she saw what seemed to be a six-pointed star in the ground near the edge of the soggy, dirty waters. She approached carefully, but then suddenly a huge creature with very long tentacles emerged in the swampy water and headed straight for her! It was incredibly quick for its size but Adriahna was ready and composed! She threw fireballs at the creature and threw a ward around her just as it reached her. It pounded on the invisible barrier she had erected but was unable to breach it. Using the One Power, Adriahna threw another weave at the creature and heard it cry out in pain. She then moved to the side and twisted her body, attacking it again from another angle. This time she took it by surprise and her deadly weave hit it straight on, it sank silently beneath the dirty waters and was not seen again.


Breathing a little more heavily from the exertion and exhilaration, she was nevertheless pleased she had removed the danger, composed in the circumstances. Taking another look around to ensure there were no more immediate threats, she went to stand on the star. Fully focused she completed the right weave. It was a most difficult one that had to be completed just right but she managed it. Shining, colourful specks of light shone in the strange twilight for a moment as the weave came together, then dissipated.



She nodded to herself and looked around for the archway. It was nowhere to be seen. And so she headed back from where she had come. The colours of this place were strange, she noticed again, there was no sun in the sky, a kind of permanent twilight with neither night nor day beckoning. She had walked for quite a while (though time here could not be measured) when she of a sudden saw something to the south-west. Someone or something was approaching. Steadying herself, she held onto the One Power as the figure came closer. It was a Myrddraal. From descriptions of Shadowspawn by Brown Sisters in the Tower she knew that this could be nothing else. Her body tensed as the creature came closer and she readied her weaves. It stopped twelve feet ahead of her and she saw its muscular body and eyeless face. She felt weariness inside at the sight.. but felt composed and ready even so.


And then there was suddenly a scream from somewhere behind her.


Turning swiftly she saw a Trolloc twenty feet or so away and it was about to crush the skull of a little girl. At the same time there was a buzzing sound off to her right. It was the archway! The little child screamed again and the Myrddraal came at her from the other side. For a split second she was uncertain what to do, but then she acted! She threw a weave of lightning at the approaching Myrddraal who was thrown forcefully back and turned to throw a fireball at the Trolloc. It barely missed them both. She knew she had to reach the shimmering archway before it disappeared, however, and so she sprinted towards it, leaving the others behind, and threw herself at the arch seconds before it was gone. Her last thought was one of regret for the little girl.


Adriahna almost stumbled as she stepped out of the Ter’angreal, her face drawn, her mind and body totally exhausted, and after a few trudging steps fell into the caring arms of a waiting, smiling Mistress of Novices.



After her night of contemplation, seven Aes Sedai, one from each Ajah, summoned her to be Raised. Adriahna knew she must be alone when the Aes Sedai came to collect her and so she waited expectantly in her Accepted quarters. She was then escorted in silence down into the basements of the Tower to the room where she had taken the test. It had only been yesterday that she had completed the test, but to her it felt like an eternity.


When she arrived, she saw that there were many women present as was custom. The Amyrlin Seat, the Keeper of the Chronicles and the three Sitters of each Ajah accompanied by the newest member of each Ajah. All the Sisters wore their shawls and the Keeper held the Oath Rod on a cushion. Adriahna walked slowly into the room and stopped at the appointed place. She now had to ask to be Raised, she knew. It was the final step.


Arementhe Senican, the Watcher of the Seals, The Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat, of all Ajahs and yet of none, wearing her seven-striped stole over her dress broke the silence.


Her blue eyes glittered.


Amyrlin Seat: "Who comes here?"
Adriahna: "Adriahna Meryhn"
Amyrlin Seat: "For what reason do you come?"
Adriahna: "To swear the Three Oaths and thereby claim the shawl of an Aes Sedai."
Amyrlin Seat: "By what right do you claim this burden?"
Adriahna: "By right of having made the passage, submitting myself to the will of the White Tower."
Amyrlin Seat: "Then enter, if you dare, and bind yourself to the White Tower."


Adriahna walked to the Amyrlin Seat and passed through the Ter'angreal, not active now, and knelt before her. The Keeper then passed the Amyrlin Seat the Oath Rod and she placed it in Adriahna’s hands. She channeled Spirit into the Oath Rod and Adriahna had to swear the Three Oaths:


To speak no word that is not true


To make no weapon for one man to kill another


To never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending her life or that of her Warder or another Sister



Adriahna swore the Three Oaths, her voice steady and clear, and they settled tightly into her skin, becoming part of her, the binding Oaths of an Aes Sedai. She felt great pleasure and a rewarding sense of achievement, her smile widening. She returned the Oath Rod to the Amyrlin.


Only the final part remained now. Her choice of Ajah.


She had been ‘courted’ by Sisters from several Ajahs over time and had had time to think about where she thought she belonged. Some Accepted made their choice early, having decided on the kind of service they wished to provide long before being Raised, while others were more uncertain and did not make their final decision before the very end. Adriahna had from early on discarded several Ajahs that did not fit with her personality and philosophy. Discussing logic with the Whites was just as unappealing to her as was studying history with the Browns. She did not want to be stuck in the Tower Infirmary with the Yellows either and hunting men who could channel with the Reds was not her calling. Spending her time with treaties for the Grays, being go-betweens in conflicts, did not really appeal to her either. So the choice was between the Blue Ajah, fighting for causes for the Light and Tower, and the Green Ajah, carrying out missions for the Tower out in the world and above all standing ready for the Last Battle. Both these Ajahs and their commitments appealed to her and in the end she made her choice based on her gut feeling.


The Amyrlin looked into the face of her newest Aes Sedai and saw strength and commitment there. She smiled inside though her face was outwardly smooth and formal as she began the final part of the ceremony.


Amyrlin Seat: “In which Ajah will you serve?”

Adriahna Sedai: “I have chosen the Blue Ajah. That is where I will serve. If they will have me.”


The ceremony now over, she walked happily over to the Blue Sisters there who welcomed her heartily. The Amyrlin Seat, the Keeper of the Chronicles and the other Sisters, all smiling at the new Sister, left the room and let the Sisters of the Blue Ajah speak with their newest member. The youngest of the Blue Sisters, a young-seeming blonde Andoran woman, then lay the Aes Sedai shawl on Adriahna’s shoulders and they escorted her to her Ajah quarters for a proper welcome from the entire Blue Ajah.


As she walked up the stairs to the levels above, her hands touching her blue-fringed shawl, Adriahna’s eyes watered. This was what she had worked for so many years in the White Tower, the culmination of her dreams, her ambitions and hardships.


She was finally Aes Sedai.


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.. A Darkness of the Soul ..



The hundred feet wide gateway opened right there in the air before an astonished company of armed Whitecloaks that was ready to depart on a mission - and thirty female channelers of the Ayyad stormed through, weaving Saidar as they threw fireballs and lightning at the defenders!


A shout of “Witches!” came from several places in the enfolding chaos before the walls of the Fortress of Light in Amador, Amadicia. Soldiers wearing the white cloaks of their order drew swords and tried to defend against this powerful surprise attack but they were unable to stop the onslaught. Kharin, in the guise of the Amo’hra, led them ferociously on as they pushed onward in the direction of the huge fortress gate. She channeled powerful weaves of destruction and relished the sight of men dying in blood before and around her.


Cursed men! - who also considered her kind, channelers of the One Power, an abomination.


She took great pleasure in killing the Whitecloaks who tried in vain to defend against this sudden and unexpected threat. She saw a couple of her Ayyad channelers fall along the long line of women, deadly arrows in their chests, but it did not stop their momentum. This was her personal pleasure, to weaken this despicable army of men who, blindly fighting for the Light, could easily become more than an annoyance when the Last Battle arrived. This action had not been commanded or approved by the Great Lord nor by the Nae’blis, but it would further the chaos in the lands and so would serve the Shadow, as she saw it.


She would explain it all to the Ayyad women as a threat of zealous male power that would eventually set their sight on channeling women in Shara, a threat now being diminished, and she believed none would question her authority. If any did, they would be dealt with.


In a deadly way.



Bolts of lightning struck the fortress several times leaving destruction in their wake, explosions abounded and screams and shouts were heard everywhere. She erected a protective shield around herself using the One Power and arrows that flew at her hit the invisible shield and dropped aimlessly to the ground. One of the Captains of the Whitecloaks changed tactics at one point and directed a counter-attack at her, understanding that she was the person commanding the invading force, pointing at her - the tall, slim dark-skinned woman dressed in brown who led the attack - but the mounted Whitecloaks fell before her, their horses dying from deadly weaves cutting their legs from under them. The Children that remained standing cursed the witches, regrouped and then retreated into the fortress, shouting commands all along their diminishing line, and the gate shut hard behind them. Holding up her arms with finality, her voice of command boosted by the One Power and carrying to all the women along the line, the Amo’hra stopped their advance and the women channelers from Shara came to a halt where they stood, many panting from the exertion, but still holding onto Saidar.


There was a deathly silence before the gate of the fortress.


The Chosen, in the guise of the leader of the Amo’hra, studied the scene of bloodshed and dead white-cloaked men before her with glee and contentment. Almost the whole company had been obliterated, only a few had escaped behind the fortress walls.


The Fortress of Light, stronghold of the Children of the Light, was theirs for the taking.



The Amyrlin walked the White Tower gardens in silent contemplation.


The day before had been a happy day, welcoming another Aes Sedai into their ranks. They needed every Sister they could get because Arementhe Senican felt in her bones that the Last Battle was coming. Chaos was brewing many places as had been foretold. She knew the Prophecies of the Dragon well and did not believe this boy Dragon was a false one, as some of her Aes Sedai Sisters did, and she wanted them to prepare for the final confrontation with the Shadow.


Thinking back to her meeting with the Black Tower envoy three days before, she sighed. What he had told her complicated things even more. As if she did not already have enough on her plate with the Black Ajah, the boy Dragon and the Black Tower, now in addition was the matter of the massive fleet of warships, an ‘armada’, the Asha’man had called it, that was coming out of the western seas heading for this continent. Who they were the Black Tower envoy could not say, or chose not to divulge, but there was little doubt that the Black Tower saw this as a threat to stability and the ‘balance’ that had existed between the Towers. Because, he said specifically, that these warships carried channeling women in huge numbers. Channeling women? Wilders!? A hundred thoughts had run through her mind at the same time as she had taken in this incredible news and its implications.


She had struggled to keep her composure as she had listened to what he had to say. She knew from history that there were said to be lands far far to the west, rumoured to have been populated by descendants of Artur Hawkwing, but no proof of such existence had seen the light of day as far as she knew, neither from Sea Folk ships roaming the Aryth Ocean nor from other seafarers. Could it be true!? Could it?



The Amyrlin had hidden the momentary relief she had felt when he had told her of the reason for his visit, having been certain he was there to condemn her and the White Tower for de facto planning war against the Black Tower, but her inner relief had turned to astonishment and deep concern when he had told her his news. She had agreed that this new threat need be investigated further and the Asha’man had departed with the knowledge that they would talk again.


She was sure that rumours of warships would flourish in no time as the fleet neared land, and probably before, and so she brought the matter to the Hall of the Tower without delay. Was this a prelude to invasion? Could this news be trusted? How should the White Tower react? And what might the Black Tower do? The Sitters argued long into the night what to do about the matter, some discarding it all as ‘filthy rumours’ as one Red Sitter said, clearly not trusting anything being told by channeling men, others taking the threat more seriously, saying the White Tower had to send Sisters as soon as possible to Tanchico and Falme, the two suspected towns where the ships - if there were indeed ships coming - would arrive, to get a clearer idea of what was happening. The majority in the Hall had agreed with the Amyrlin to send Sisters - it was only prudent as many pointed out - and they had been dispatched swiftly. It was a long ride to the western coast, however and she wondered in her heart of hearts if they would make it in time.



What nobody brought up, though it was certainly in Arementhe’s mind, was what - if anything - the boy Dragon would do? The Dragon Reborn. There were rumours that he was building an army somewhere and he had formed the Black Tower, after all, and could, potentially at least, have many Asha’man fighting for him in that army. It was a prospect that would terrify many Sisters of all colours. She had mentioned the boy Dragon in passing in her conversation with the Black Tower envoy, almost as if it were an afterthought, and the Asha’man had replied that they had not seen him in the Black Tower in a good while. First Asha’man Cazar Elnovar was running things in the Black Tower, he said. He could be lying, of course, but somehow the Amyrlin felt he was being truthful. The Asha’man’s arrogant behaviour made her think he would have boasted about it if the Dragon Reborn was indeed in the Black Tower.


Sitting down in the early afternoon sun on a white wooden bench among some small maple trees and in front of several beautiful flower beds, resplendent in their seven Ajah colours, the Amyrlin now thought of all the present threats to the White Tower, from near and afar, and she despaired inside. Her hand went to the bodice of her dress, feeling the fine fabric, thinking of her beating heart beneath. These were indeed troubled times as she had said truthfully to the Asha’man. And the times were more troubled than even he was aware of.



She was an old woman and the pain in her bones, getting worse every year, left her cranky and weary. Studying her reflection in a handheld mirror, the long grey hair framing an old wrinkled face, she saw little of the fair beauty that had been her appearance in her youth here in Falme, when she had been a proficient maker of local embroidery for both rich and poor.


Ah, my home town. She sighed, thinking about the town and the region that had been her home for over seventy years.


Falme was a harbour on the Aryth Ocean in the west. It had always been the largest town on Toman Head and on the Almoth Plain, and had been independent since the fall of Almoth. Historians knew that the town had formerly been known as Miereallen while a part of the nation of Safer during the Compact of Ten Nations, but for the old woman it had always been Falme. The unwalled city contained streets of cobblestone, dark stone buildings, and docks also of stone. The city rose up from the high cliff slopes of the hollow that made the harbour.


She had always been content here, and had not travelled to far away places like many of her friends had. Falme had been enough for her, a safe and secure place.


Her home.


Change was coming now though, she could feel it in her tired old bones. Also there were rumours in the markets of a Storm Coming and not necessarily of the natural kind. It was ominous, she thought to herself as she slowly climbed the stairs to the floor above and to the bedroom of her grandchildren. They were her primary pride and joy now in the winter of her life. She heard the twins giggle as she neared the bedroom door and then their cries of joy when they saw her. They were six years old, Gerard and Victoria, almost mirror-images of one another. They jumped out of bed and threw themselves joyfully at their beloved granny who held them close, chuckling at their boisterous enthusiasm.



“Now then, you two scoundrels”, she said finally, “get back into bed and I will tell you a bedtime story.” They screamed with glee, jumping back into bed, loving the stories their granny told them - and the old woman seated herself in a wooden chair by the bed. “What do you wish to hear today?” She asked, seeing their excited faces.


“Tell us something epic”, Gerard said, always the most eager of the twins. “With battles against the Shadow!” The old woman shook her head softly, fearing that they would have problems sleeping if she told them something very scary. “I think perhaps a different kind of story is more appropriate”, she replied smiling.


“Noooo”, screamed the boy in true disappointment while his twin sister remained silent. “I want to hear stories about battles, about fighting the Shadow, about the Forsaken..”


The old woman’s face hardened hearing those last words. “Don’t you mention the evil Forsaken, little Gerard”, she said, her voice stern. The boy’s eyes grew larger, unused to this tone of voice from their granny while the girl slid beneath the bed covers. “Or one day”, she added, “they will come and get you, little one.” Her voice was partly serious, partly playful and the adventurous boy felt part thrill, part fear at her words.


She mouthed the ancient incantation under her breath: "The Dark One and all the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time. The hand of the Creator shelters the world, and the Light shines on us all.”


“Now then, I have a better story for you, little ones.” The old woman’s smile was back and her eyes glittered. “This story is exciting as well..”. She went on to tell a story of a princess in a far away land who fell in love with a blacksmith whereupon they eloped and were chased by her angry sword wielding royal brothers..


So caught up in this story were they all that they did not register the sound of ominous thunder and lightning - and screams of terror - in the far distance.



The Sehn Rha’ad has been found.


Serahna’s voice echoed in Raphael’s mind.


Seated in his private chambers in Illian, his thoughts went back to the meeting with Serahna and Deleyhna a few days before. Serahna had been secretive and had been reluctant to say any more about this discovery, but it had certainly piqued their interest. Agreeing to the alliance between the three of them had been useful in the circumstances, the male Chosen thought, and this news of the Sehn Rha’ad made it even more interesting.


Who would have thought the Sehn Rha’ad would survive 4000 years?


Seated beside his writing desk, he signed the parchment before him before putting it aside with the others. They were invitations to several of the councillors on the Council of Twelve in Illian. Raphael - or rather Lord Serafehl - was convening a meeting, outwardly to work on strategy to bolster the defences of the nation, but in reality to secretly further weaken the Illianer army and thereby increase the current chaos. Time and again his thoughts returned to the matter of the Sehn Rha’ad though. It was a wonderful discovery, but most importantly they had to ensure Vanahl did not hear of it. If he did, he would demand that they hand it over to him.


It had to be kept a secret.



He set pen and paper aside and put on his dark cloak, the one with silver fringes at the bottom. Smiling at his attractive reflection in the mirror, the guise of Lord Serafehl dispelled for the moment, his grin darkened as he thought of the matter at hand and he turned facing the far wall. Weaving Saidin, channeling the complicated weaves, a gateway appeared right there and then in his chamber, showing a village in northern Illian, and he stepped through, Traveling in an instant hundreds of miles. Stepping out of the gateway, it shimmered behind him for a moment and then disappeared entirely. He was standing at the outskirts of the village behind a large mansion owned by Darkfriends. Walking up to the back door he knocked three times and the door was quickly opened. “Great Master”, whispered the man within and bowed deeply as Raphael walked past him into the building.


“Where is he!?” commanded the Chosen and the tall middle-aged man pointed up the stairs. Raphael headed up to the floor above and stopped before a huge oak door. Smiling grimly he opened the door and went inside. A man bound to a chair stared at him with fear in his eyes. He was bound hands and feet and gagged as well. Blood streamed down his rugged face and upper body.


“So”, began the Chosen as he came to stand before the bound man. “You are the traitor who planned to tell the authorities of this man’s allegiances.” He nodded to the mansion owner who stood silently in the background, eyes fixed on their prisoner. The bound man shook his head in denial, babbling incoherently into his gag. “Oh, there is no need to deny it”, Raphael added darkly. His eyes tightened dangerously. “We have proof.” The man continued shaking his head, his eyes watering from pain. “To break your Oaths to the Great Lord carries the penalty of death as you know.” The Chosen’s face hardened even further. “But first we need to make an example of you, so that others of our..flock do not get similar notions.” His grin broadened as the bound man screamed into his gag, knowing that he would be tortured for a long time before death would claim him. And then the Great Lord might give him eternal pain.



Raphael channeled tiny threads of Saidin into the bound man’s body, needles of pain that hit every nerve and gave unending agony. The man screamed and screamed in futility, his heart-wrenching shrieks only partially stopped by the gag. Using the One Power skilfully, the Chosen prolonged the traitorous Darkfriend’s pain for a very long time until finally cutting through flesh and bone, legs and arms, and rupturing the man’s heart, lungs and bowels. Raphael sighed with satisfaction, his blue eyes gleaming, looking at the bloody corpse. It was done.


“Pick up all the remains”, he commanded, pointing to the bloody mess on and around the chair, “and leave it in the shed outside for the rest of our people to see. Tell them what happened here.” It would make the others think twice before considering betrayal. A shadow rose from a dark corner of the room and nodded, bowing deeply to the Chosen. It was he who had interrogated the man on Raphael’s orders. The mansion owner bowed deeply again as the Chosen walked past him and down the stairs. Raphael left the mansion, his business done, opened a gateway and Traveled back to Illian.


Stepping out of the gateway, the Chosen entered his chambers again. The thin vertical light line in the air disappeared behind him. It was twilight outside in the city, day gradually becoming night, but Raphael’s mind was far from focused on the time of day. His thoughts were on these traitors among the many Darkfriend cells, as he thought of them, around Illian. There had been several such instances in the time he had built his power in this region and they were becoming a concern. Betrayal from within had to be stopped swiftly and harshly. It was not yet time to be open with their true allegiance.


The time was coming, but not yet.



Dorinha Aes Sedai watched the gleeman performance in the Ebou Dari inn seated beside her concerned Warder but her mind was far away. She was thinking of her many fruitful years in the Green Ajah, the many missions she had been on which had been successful for the White Tower, her many years of service for the Light.


And now this shameful debacle.


The Amyrlin had trusted her with this important task and she had failed miserably. Not only had she failed, but now she was almost possessed with the thought of the Queen’s advisor, the man called Lord Elahron, drawn toward him to the extent that she was hardly able to think of anything else. She was behaving like a love-stricken novice, for crying out loud! She felt ashamed and knew her Warder could feel her strong emotion through the Warder-Bond, though she shielded him from her personal feelings. What is happening to me!?


She could not fathom what was going on - and it almost made her tear her hair. Her Warder had more or less forced her out of the Palace that afternoon to get some fresh air, seeing her bewildered frustration and being unable to do anything about it, and they had walked the streets of Ebou Dar for several hours before ending up at this inn. Some food and entertainment might be good to get his Bondholder in a better mood, Cardhan Gaidin had thought, but the meal had seemed tasteless to the Sister of the White Tower and now she looked at the performing gleeman, a short-haired handsome man in his late twenties, wearing the cloak of many colourful patches that bespoke his profession, without really seeing.


Cardhan was near beside himself with worry. He knew there was more to it than just his Aes Sedai’s disappointment at the Altaran Queen’s dismissal and non-acceptance of the Aes Sedai proposal, but she would not talk about it however much he insisted. He had never seen her this upset in the many years since he had accepted her offer of service as her Warder, she seemed utterly bewildered which was very unlike her. She appeared lost in her own thoughts even here this early evening, a far-away look on her face, and after a while he broke the silence, wanting to engage her in conversation.



“Aes Sedai”, he said, being formal as he often was around her, “do you know the story behind Altaran Marriage Knives?” She looked at him as if she had not heard. “Knives?” She murmured, as if it were a strange word. “Yes, these knives have a cultural significance here in this region”, Cardhan Gaidin added. “It is a more interesting topic than one might assume.” She drew her thoughts back from whence they had been and focused on her Warder’s face. She saw a small grin there and knew what he was trying to do. “Alright, I can see that you will tell this story whether I want to hear it or not,”, she replied with a small grin on her lips, “so let me have it.”


Her Warder was glad he had her attention now and that he could take her mind off her problems at least for a moment. “Ah yes, Altaran Marriage Knives." He began. “They do have some very peculiar customs down here. The knife their women carry tells any who care to look a great deal about the wearer. A white sheath means the woman is widowed and does not intend to remarry. A blue sheath means she will consider offers. Jewels or glass beads set into the knife represent children of the wearer, white stones for sons and red for daughters. And they love their duels.” He went on after taking a sip from his ale. “If a child dies in a duel he or she has died honourably, they believe. However, many women remove their children’s stones, effectively disowning them, if they refuse a duel past the age of sixteen.”


“Strange notions of honour they have indeed, the Ebou Dari.” There was undisguised mirth in his voice now. A man of the Borderlands, he knew much about honour. “Though there are many strange customs around the world, and we have both experienced many, this must surely be one of the weirder ones.” He added. ”Another Borderlander I once knew stated flatly that the Ebou Dari are insane.” A small chuckle escaped his lips and he thought he saw his Aes Sedai’s face relax somewhat, her mouth twisting slightly in a wry grin. Cardhan was glad to see it.


A moment of inspiration came upon him and he excused himself for a moment walking through the Common Room toward the small stage where the gleeman was concluding a musical performance with a flute. Once he was finished, he bowed to the applause of the inn’s lively guests. The Gaidin caught him before he left to take a break, whispered something in his ear, handing him a few coins. The gleeman nodded and Cardhan headed back to the table where Dorinha Sedai waited. She looked questioningly at him and his grin broadened as he sat down opposite her.



“The gleeman will be back in a moment”, he said, “I am sure he will perform something interesting.”


She could see his secretive smile and it made her wonder what he was up to. He did sometimes like to surprise her and this was obviously one of those occasions. She just hoped it would not be something embarrassing.. like that one time when..


Her train of thought was stopped as the gleeman was back on stage, saying to the gathered crowd that he would now make a special performance, telling a humorous tale apt for this place.


“For those of you fond of Daggers”, he ‘whispered’ conspiratorially - and the guests roared in appreciation, guessing which song was coming.


Cardhan listened with amusement as the gleeman spun his satirical tale of the ‘doomed’ Ebou Dari husband, and his traditional Ebou Dari wife.


He was glad to see his Aes Sedai’s face and being lighten for a time as they, and everyone in the Common Room, listened to - and enjoyed - the comedic, satirical poem and song performed by this talented gleeman.





A Dagger in my Heart

A dagger for you, my Dear

Now that our wedding day is Here

If I displease you, stab me True

I’ll be dead, but I’ll still love You!


You fought for me well, as you Vowed

Your duelling scars make me Proud

There’s no other lady for Me

You’re everything I’d want to Be!


A duel is good for the Soul

Teach our children to fight, it’s their Role

And should they be weak, without Spine

Disown them, they’ll tarnish our Line!


Oh love, stick the dagger in my Heart

Your strength makes me proud for a Start

I am sure I’ll deserve this Rest

An Ebou Dari man at his Best!





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.. The Karaethon Cycle: The Prophecies of the Dragon ..



The Dragon Reborn.


That was who he was.


It was a truth he could no longer escape.


Ter Sanduahl, a red-haired, tall young man of nineteen years with piercing blue eyes and a strong chin, ran his fingers through his hair as he stared in silent contemplation at the city gates of Maradon, Capital of the Borderland nation of Saldaea, a quarter mile or so to the north-west.


His army was camped behind him, tents in rows and with banners swirling in the soft north-easterly breeze near the swiftly flowing Arinelle River. They were twenty thousand strong, filled with men and women, soldiers and commoners, who had flocked to his Dragon banner.


He was waiting.



It had been a year, and for a fair part of that time he had not been totally sure that he truly was the one Foretold, the saviour of the land. And the Breaker, he had thought grimly, having read the Prophecies of the Dragon.


He had long been in denial about his Destiny, it had simply seemed impossible that he, a young man with nothing to his name, could be the prophesized man.. the Dragon born again, destined to go mad with the Taint but also destined to save the world from the ravages of the Dark One. He had denied it as long as he could, but he had gradually understood that he had to face the truth.


Pain was evident in his blue eyes as he raised them to the azure-blue afternoon sky above - and remembered.



It had started a year or so before in his home village of Welton Brook in western Andor with the ‘spells’ as he called it, those moments with heat and cold alternating and with his emotions going haywire, something the village wisdom had had no remedy against. He had been rattled but had presumed it would pass as all momentary sickness did. It had, however, only gotten worse. Periods of dizziness and confusion had made him unsteady on his feet and finally one afternoon he lost consciousness, his whole body feverish. The wisdom, a staunch woman in her mid-thirties, had been beside herself, frustrated because she could not find the cause of his condition. He had finally regained consciousness and the wisdom had given him various teas to get his fever down. The next day he had been back on his feet again and nothing more had happened that week. The following week, however, he had the ‘spells’ again and this time he felt great pain in his head. He could not understand what was happening to him and it made him very frustrated and bewildered. He wanted answers - and he soon got them, though from an unlikely source.


One day she was there, as he lay on a bench outside his home, his head aching, his body covered in sweat, his heart pounding. She came out of nowhere from what he could see, a quick movement out of the corner of his eye, but suddenly the woman stood before him with an amused smile upon her lips. She wore an elegant travelling dress and her long dark hair cascaded down her back. Her dark eyes studied him closely, almost as if in recognition, before she spoke.



“Ter Sanduahl”, she began in an almost seductive voice. She spoke his name almost as if she had expected an other. Her face was handsome rather than beautiful, he thought. But it still captivated him even in his poor state. “You must listen to me”, she said. “What I have to say is important. It will sound crazy perhaps, but you must believe me. I know what is happening to you.”


He looked back at her, his mouth open. When she touched his forehead and his headache lessened, his mouth opened even further. He looked for a Great Serpent Ring on her finger, deducing that she had to be one of those Aes Sedai his father had spoken of in his tales and that she had used the One Power on him, but she wore no such ring. Looking more closely at her face he registered that it did not have the ageless look that his father had described when speaking of Sisters of the White Tower that he had come across in his youth.


Puzzled, confused and more than a little wary, he stared up at the woman, waiting to see what more she had to say. Seeing his confusion, the woman shook her head slightly, but her voice was clear when she continued.


“You will not believe me.” She began. “But please listen. What you are going through is called channeling sickness.” She saw his eyes grow wide. “It is a condition experienced by people born with the ability to channel, but who are unguided in learning how to do so.” She saw him begin to shake his head and stopped him. “Accept what I say, it is the truth.” His head became dizzy again, whether from this supposed sickness or from assimilating her words he did not know. “You must be wrong”, he replied, his whole being screaming in denial. “You must be wrong”, he repeated, an edge to his voice now. “I am sorry, but I am not wrong”, she said and then proceeded to tell him the rest. That he was using the One Power without knowing it and this unsafe usage was causing a slow, sapping illness that would eventually kill him unless a trained channeler helped him control it.


It was too much for him and he lost consciousness.



The woman touched his face, a strange expression upon her own facial features, and gradually he came awake again, his mind foggy. He kept mumbling that she was wrong, but deep inside he feared that she was not. After all, even the wisdom had no idea what was wrong with him and she knew everything with regards to sickness as far as he knew from his upbringing in the village. It had to be something very unusual, something not widely known, and what else could it be? When he tentatively asked the woman if she could help him control whatever was happening to him, she replied that she could not. Only a male channeler could do so. The concept gave him chills. Male channeler. Those mad male channelers 4000 years ago had Broken the world! And now he was supposed to be one of them!? Screams of denial began back in his throat, all logical reasoning gone for a moment, his eyes tightening in fear, but she forestalled him. “There is no use being in denial”, she said, her voice a touch harsher now. “That will only make it harder for you.”


Her gaze met his pointedly. It was hard to say whether there was sympathy in her eyes. He wanted to scream at her but something in her look made him stay silent. There was something.. “What you must do”, she went on, “is find some of the other male channelers, those who have learned to control Saidin. Only they can teach you. They are living in secret, hiding from the Aes Sedai. Red Ajah scouts are everywhere.” Her mouth twisted in a sneer when she said the word Aes Sedai. “But I know where some of the men are. I will give you directions.” She spoke softly now, for his ears only, giving him the name and location he needed.


“Oh, and there is one more thing you need to know”, she added, as if an afterthought. Her smile was amused again. “You are the Dragon Reborn, prophesized to save the world.”


Ter Sanduahl lost consciousness again.



In the days that followed the young man lived in denial. His momentary logical reasoning had evaporated and panic had set in, he could simply not accept what he had been told. Not only was he supposedly a channeling man, but he was the Dragon Reborn, fated to destroy the world but also save it. It was just too much. It could not be true. Whatever his ‘spells’ were, it had to be something different. As the days passed he convinced himself that it had all been a dream, a very realistic dream but a dream even so. A dream brought on by the sickness. But then the pain and dizziness gradually returned, the cold and the heat, the weakness and the tiredness.


After the third evening in a row with painful dizzying ‘spells’ he was so beside himself that he was ready to sell his soul to the Dark One to make it all stop. Crying in his sleep, silent tears running down his face during daytime, he finally admitted to himself that he had no choice but to seek out those men the mysterious woman had talked about. Whether he was a channeling man or not, perhaps they could help him. He did not know anyone else who could.



Packing a little food and some travelling essentials, he said goodbye to his dear father, pretending he was only going on a week-long journey to neighbouring towns. He did not want to worry his father and so did not tell him the real reason for his departure. Saddling his horse, a brown mare of good temperament, he rode slowly out of the village early one morning and headed for the north-east. While he rode he went over in his mind what the strange woman had told him, but no matter how much he considered it, he could not accept those facts. He, the Dragon Reborn, destined to save the world!? It was ridiculous! And if it were somehow true, then he might as well throw himself off a cliff somewhere. The burden placed upon him would be far too great.


The mysterious woman had disappeared as quickly as she had arrived, no one had apparently seen her, he was told when he inquired. Very strange indeed. He felt sure she must be Aes Sedai though - her touch had lessened his pain, who else could do that? - and if so what she had spoken was truth. Aes Sedai could not lie, that much he knew from lore and stories, though the stories also added that what the Sisters of the White Tower said was not always what you thought it to be. Even so, he could not yet face what she had said about him. He focused on covering as many miles as he could while there was still daylight, his mind on the men he was trying to find. At any other time he would have thought himself insane to seek out men who could channel, men like those who Broke the world. But he was desperate to find help for what was happening to him, and would seek it anywhere he could.


A week later he found the men he was looking for. They were living in a nondescript village in northern Andor, a long way from any major city. Dust flew into the air behind him as he rode into the village beneath a cloud filled sky. Scruffy-looking children gazed at him from behind unkept picket fences and working men in worn clothes and with rugged faces glanced at him dispassionately as he rode past. He stopped outside an inn near the center of the village and tethered his horse. He threw a coin to a stableboy and told him to give his horse some hay and care and then he headed down the village street past a row of houses to one building that stood a little apart. It looked as shoddy as all the rest, perhaps even more so, but this was the place he was looking for. Knocking several times on the door, he waited for it to open. When it did, an ordinary looking somewhat older man stared back at him. Ter Sanduahl spoke a few words and saw the other man’s eyes widen. Then he was hurriedly shown inside.



The man was not alone in the building. Another man, middle-aged, waited in the living room. The young man from western Andor seated himself in a chair and gazed silently back at the two men. His emotions were in turmoil, part fear of these two men - if they were what he believed they were - part desperation. His ‘spells’ had increased in the past days and he had had to stop many times during his journey. He just wanted the sickness, whatever it was, gone. He was uncertain how to start the conversation and waited for them to speak first. Finally the man who had met him at the door asked him who he was. He replied honestly. They were cautious at first when he approached the subject of why he was there and wondered how he had found them. He explained what he could (leaving out certain bits) though they seemed as puzzled as him at mention of the mysterious lady. When he told them of his predicament, leaving out the talk of the Dragon Reborn for the moment, they listened in silence though he saw a look of recognition pass between the two men.


When he was finished, a long silence followed. He knew he needed to win their trust but he was getting desperate and pleaded with them to help him. The older of the two men finally nodded and brought him to a guest bedroom at the back. It was very small and simple but it had a bed and a small window which let in some light. The young man lay down gratefully and soon fell asleep, fully clothed, exhausted from his long journey and his ordeal.


When Ter Sanduahl awoke several hours later, it was getting dark outside. He could see the sky darkening through the bedroom window. He could also hear voices from the living room, a discussion taking place. He could guess what they were talking about. Was this young man to be trusted? Was he a threat to them? He would have reacted similarly if he were in their shoes. They were keeping a low profile from authorities and especially from the White Tower, could they risk the truth with this supposed channeling man, should they help him? The voices stopped as he entered the living room. He seated himself again and told them that he understood their doubts and their uncertainty. But he needed their help. The older man nodded once more, looked at the other man who reluctantly acquiesced, then reassured the young man that they would help him.



They explained that they kept to themselves and kept their abilities secret. It was safer that way. Ter Sanduahl could understand that very well. The older of the two men then spoke of similar ‘spells’ he had had years before but that he had somehow managed to control it after a while. He did not know how but mental exercises learned from combat - he had been a soldier in the regional army once - had helped him. He had been as horrified as Ter Sanduahl upon suspecting that he was using the One Power in some way but had gradually accepted what he was and focused on staying alive. In time he had met others like him and they had taught each other how to wield the One Power safely. Listening to him talk the young man felt horror at the thought that this was most probably happening to him now - the strange Aes Sedai woman had been right! - but his thoughts soon centered on what could be done to help him with the ‘spells’.


He stayed with them for three weeks and they soon began teaching him how to channel safely. It was a strange experience, unsettling at times and difficult, and part of him still resisted the idea that he was one of those cursed channeling men, but the dizziness and bad ‘spells’ lessened as the days went by, as he worked the One Power with the two men. It was hard to know what to believe but in truth he was just happy to feel better for the first time in weeks and if this training was going to save his life, who was he to complain. A small bitter voice in the back of his mind whispered that he would go mad in the end though, but he ignored the voice and worked hard at the practice sessions with the two male channelers.



After the three weeks had passed, they told him that they could not teach him anymore. He had a certain control over Saidin now but he still needed to learn more to be absolutely safe from the channeling sickness or ‘black tide’ which the men called it. He needed, they said, to see another more experienced male channeler who lived further west. Personally Ter Sanduahl was surprised to hear of all these male channelers; before the events of the past weeks, he had not really thought many were around, but right then he was just pleased to get the help he needed. He got directions from the men, thanked them heartily, and continued his journey. A few days later he came to another small undistinguished village and found the man in question. When he explained who had sent him, the man relaxed somewhat and welcomed him into his home. Ter Sanduahl told the same story he had told the other two men and this new male channeler listened in silence, nodding a few times as the younger man spoke.


The other man was older, maybe in his early 40s, and seemed slightly erratic to the young man. He wondered deep inside if the other man was entirely sane but the man seemed focused as he asked some questions and began to tell his own story. It was not that different from the story the older man in the previous village had told, but this man had been a channeler longer and had learned the mental exercises needed to teach another male channeler how to be safe from the channeling sickness, the ‘black tide’.


Ter Sanduahl stayed and trained with this man for another couple of weeks until he was told that he now had the necessary basic skills and was safe with regards to the channeling sickness. The young man was relieved. Very relieved.



He was slowly coming to terms with the fact that he could channel the One Power, that he was one of them; reality was slowly sinking in. He understood this was not something he could run away from and as the days went by he adopted a positive stance. This was a new challenge for him and one just had to make the best of it, there was nothing else to do. He was still the same person as he had always been. Now he just had an added ability. He kept telling himself that. He kept telling himself that time and time again.


As for supposedly being the Dragon Reborn, that part still rankled him. It still seemed too incredible to be true and part of him just did not want to believe. Even so, what the Aes Sedai woman had told about being able to channel had been true, was it likely that the second part was untrue? Aes Sedai told no lies, no?


In the months after he left his teacher, as he had come to think of him, he travelled across country, from place to place, trying to come to grips with his supposed Destiny. Without really knowing how, gradually he became more and more convinced that he really was the man the prophecies spoke about, that it was all true. Even his dreams seemed to indicate it. A recurring dream had him walking beside a mountain that looked like fabled Dragonmount and a whisper in the surrounding mist calling out to him.


To the Dragon. To the Saviour. To the Destroyer.


She came to him in a dream as well. The Aes Sedai who had placed him on this path. The woman who had told him about the channeling sickness and that he was the Dragon Reborn. She had praised him for the steps he had taken and had told him to stay true. He had already fulfilled one prophecy, she said. He would fulfil more on his path. She had told him to embrace and cherish the Power for the Glory would be his.


“You are who you are”, she whispered to him as she faded into nothingness. “Never doubt it.”


And so he came to a point where he felt he could no longer deny it. It had to be true, after all. It had to be who he was. He would be an ignorant fool if he remained in denial. Taking on the burden of saving the world was almost too much to contemplate, but there was no one else to do it as he saw it. He had no idea how he would accomplish what needed to be done, and part of him was terrified at the daunting task ahead of him, but he had to try.


There was no other option.



He started alone, one man.


But soon there was a group of them.


Then several groups.


Had he known it, he would have understood that this happened because he was Ta'veren, a person around whom the Wheel of Time specifically weaves the Pattern with all surrounding life-threads. They were ‘drawn’ to him these people without knowing why, only knowing that his path was their path - and they followed him as he travelled, strong in the belief that they were doing the right thing.


His confidence in himself and in what he was doing was growing as the weeks went by and he was formulating plans in his head. His thoughts often went back to the channeling men who had taught him to control the One Power and he soon had a vision for them all. It was necessary, not the least if they were to have any chance against the Shadow. They needed channeling men. They needed the One Power. He knew there was risk involved, and possibly danger, but it seemed the only way. The first task was to find them.


Several weeks later he had assembled the channeling men who had helped him, as well as a dozen others who had somehow felt ‘compelled’ to come to him, letting them all know who he truly was, the Dragon Reborn of prophecy, and he shared his vision, an ambition for everyone of their kind: a safe place for men like them. And a base to build Power.


A Black Tower, as he called it.


In Andor.



It was built with the Queen’s blessing, or at least her acceptance; it depended on who you asked. The Black Tower grew from a few small houses to greater buildings and soon had an enclosing wall nearly three square miles around the structure. Barracks were subsequently added as they managed to find and ‘recruit’ many more channeling men using a new testing method. Scouts were sent out in all directions gathering men and their number grew. The initiative was time-consuming - and the Dragon Reborn was frustrated that there was not a faster means of travel than by horseback - but it was important to assemble all men who could channel for the Last Battle.


In time, the Black Tower was organized almost like a shadow of the White Tower: with leadership and a Hall of the Tower, with Asha’man (fully trained men with advanced skills), Dedicated (partially trained men with intermediate skills) and Soldiers (‘rookies’ with beginner skills). Teachers trained the men and their skills with the One Power grew. Rumours of the new Black Tower spread across the lands and also reached the White Tower.


Thinking of the Black Tower now, his hand touching the sword at his side, his gaze returning to the battlements of Maradon in the distance, Ter Sanduahl felt certain that Cazar Elnovar, the First Asha’man and leader during the Dragon Reborn’s absence, had everything in hand. He was a very capable man and leader, the right man to leave in charge. He knew that Cazar wished him to be more present in the Black Tower, and he was not alone in that view, but that he also understood that the Dragon Reborn had other tasks and duties, prophesized as he was.



And then there was the Taint. Whenever he thought of male channelers he thought of the cursed Taint on Saidin. His channeling teacher in that village had told him the facts. That according to certain ancient histories, the Dark One tainted Saidin as a counterstroke to the acts of  Dar Keran, the Dragon and his two hundred Companions, sealing the Bore to the Dark One’s prison. As a result, all male channelers, present and future, were doomed and would suffer insanity and slow death. There was no way around it. It was a nightmare and something the young man usually kept out of his mind.


The slight ‘wrongness’ he felt with Saidin was this Taint though, he felt certain of it. He looked for signs of madness in his Asha’man and also in himself. He felt in control of himself, but whispers appeared in his mind at times and it frightened him though he kept it to himself. Knowing madness would slowly creep up on him was a terrible strain on his mental state, but he had so many things he had to do so he tried to ignore it. He became fatalistic after a while, resigning himself to the fact that something was going to kill him anyway, at the Last Battle if not before.


He only partly convinced himself.



There was still no activity by the main gate that he could see. He wondered if the Saldaean rulers would welcome him and his army. Advisors in his camp had informed him that the Cordamora Palace was the residence of the rulers of Saldaea. The nation was presently ruled by a Queen, they said. He had had no word from the Queen or anyone in the day he had been camped outside the city, though it was clear from the battlements that they were aware of the army camped outside.


He had decided to wait to see if the Saldaeans would send a messenger to him. He had thought they may be more comfortable that way, that they could initiate negotiations since this was their homeland after all. His army was camped far enough away to not be misunderstood for an invading force. Now, however, he was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake.


In the past months he had often wondered how it was that he was going to gather nations and armies to him, to be able to fight the Shadow in the Last Battle as the prophecies said. He was no Battle-General after all. He was just a young man who had had this massive mission for the world thrust upon him. But his growing number of followers believed in him, Battlesworn they called themselves, and gradually he had built an army, soldiers and would-be soldiers coming from near and afar. Now they needed to grow further and so the Dragon Reborn had travelled into the western Borderlands to forge an alliance with the Saldaean rulers. Word of armies of Shadowspawn further north and east in Saldaea and in Kandor concerned him greatly and he wanted to discuss this matter also with the Saldaean Queen.


If she ever appeared.



Sighing, Ter Sanduahl closed his eyes and opened himself to Saidin, focusing on a point of light within him in the way he had been taught, and it rushed into him like a flood, like a torrent, filling him almost to bursting. He readjusted the flow, as he liked to think of it, his skill with the One Power having increased in the last months, and the pressure lessened. It was wonderful to hold onto the One Power though, everything felt more real, more detailed and alive. He did also feel that odd ‘wrongness’, that sensation that he now understood to be the Taint. It was like a foul oily substance on clear water, a touch of sour bitterness among the surrounding sweetness, but he was able to ignore it.


Letting go of Saidin after a while, he felt somehow diminished.


When the whispers began again in his mind a little later, whispers of an Age long past, whispers of a man long dead, Ter Sanduahl’s facial features tightened and he clenched his fists, hardened himself and faced the taunting voice.



Arementhe Senican, the Amyrlin Seat, held the ancient parchment - one of the oldest in the White Tower - in her hands and her eyes tightened as she read the words of prophecy. They were sentences from the Karaethon Cycle: The Prophecies of the Dragon. Only a few were aware that these prophecies were a collection of Foretellings by ancient Aes Sedai rumoured to be from before, during, and after the War of Power, that cataclysmic event that changed the world forever, which ended what was now known as the Age of Legends 4000 years ago.


She knew that some of the prophecies were vague, perhaps deliberately so, and many could only be understood in hindsight. Prophecy was never a certainty as she thought of it, merely a possible outcome, a vision of a possible future. Prophecies could never be fully trusted and had to be interpreted with care, and these prophecies in particular. Any prophecies concerning the Dragon Reborn were avoided by most people in this day and age and in some countries any telling in public of the Karaethon Cycle was banned and could result in the person being put in prison.


She had read this ancient text many times in the period since the Dragon Reborn had suddenly appeared, Signs of Prophecy - war, strife and building chaos - paving his Path. It filled her simultaneously with hope and dread. The world would Break again to be Saved if this ancient Prophecy was to be believed. And she felt deep inside that it was so.


She was in the Amyrlin’s office. Outside, twilight was almost upon the Island City of Aes Sedai, Tar Valon, day slowly turning into night, but here inside there was plenty of light coming from burning candles spread around her workspace and time did not have the same meaning. She was working late and had told her Keeper, Centhira Susmihnen, to leave for the night. Seated in her high-backed Amyrlin’s chair, the ancient parchment in her hands, the leader of the Aes Sedai, the stole of seven stripes upon her burdened shoulders, wondered for the hundredth time whether it was safe and prudent to let the boy Dragon run free in the world or if the Tower should capture him, control him, guide him.



The Hall of the Tower was split on the issue. The Reds were pushing hard for the channeling man to be taken. The Amyrlin feared that some Red Sisters might be tempted to gentle him on the spot if given the chance, never mind the consequences. There were several among the Red Ajah after all who believed he was a False Dragon, someone who had to be ‘pacified’ as they called it. She knew what they meant by ‘pacification’. Opposing them were the Greens, her former Ajah, and Blues who believed the boy Dragon had to be free to fulfil the Prophecies and that the risk of ‘interfering’ with him, as they put it, was too risky and could put the future in jeopardy. The other Ajahs were mostly split on the issue and so the matter was undecided. So far.


Arementhe had at one point been ready to try and take the boy Dragon into custody, something she had shared with her Keeper of Chronicles. She had simply felt the risk too great to have the Dragon Reborn, possibly half-mad through the Taint on Saidin, roam the world free. They needed him to be ready to fight the Last Battle and alone, without guidance, he might do something foolish which might, worst case, result in his premature death and their doom. After a while, however, she had changed her mind. Her Keeper had been insistent that they not ‘interfere’ with the boy Dragon and as she considered the matter over several days and nights she was finally persuaded and came to the conclusion that it was better to wait. And as long as there was a stalemate in the Hall, she had time on her side to make a final decision. She feared that rumours of her original intention had spread in some circles, but no one had confronted her on the issue which made her feel that perhaps another potential blunder - she had not forgotten her original Black Tower proposal - had been avoided.


Even so, reading the text another time, she felt shivers go down her spine.


Light, help us! She thought, her eyes widening, trying to keep her Aes Sedai calm. Help me make the right decision!


The time was coming. The Shadow was Rising.


Soon, the Last Battle would be upon them all.


Tarmon Gai'don.





And it shall come to pass that what men made shall be shattered,
and the Shadow shall lie across the Pattern of the Age,
and the Dark One shall once more lay his hand upon the world of man.
Women shall weep and men quail as the nations of the earth are rent like rotting cloth.
Neither shall anything stand or abide...


The Shadow shall rise across the world, and darken every land, even to the smallest corner, and there shall be neither Light nor safety.
And he who shall be born of the Dawn, born of the Maiden, according to Prophecy,
he shall stretch forth his hands to catch the Shadow,
and the world shall scream in the pain of Salvation.
All Glory be to the Creator, and to the Light, and to he who shall be born again. May the Light save us from him.


Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow,
born once more as he was born before,
and shall be born again, time without end.
The Dragon shall be Reborn,
and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth at his rebirth.
In sackcloth and ashes shall he clothe the people,
and he shall Break the world again by his coming,
tearing apart all ties that bind.

Like the unfettered Dawn shall he blind us, and burn us,
yet shall the Dragon Reborn confront the Shadow at the Last Battle,
and his blood shall give us the Light.
Let tears flow, O ye people of the world.
Weep for your Salvation.




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.. Amid Rivers of Blood ..



Adriahna Sedai’s dark oval eyes widened in disbelief! and she cried out in shock as a shield was slammed between her and the Source!


She could still sense Saidar inside her, like a shining light that burned beautifully, but she could no longer reach it. It was as if an invisible wall stood between her and the One Power.


She could not believe it. It was impossible!


She looked frantically around for whoever was responsible, all acquired Aes Sedai calm gone for the moment, but saw no one in the corridor. She was in the Blue Ajah quarters in the White Tower, having just returned from a meeting with some of her Sisters. There was no one about at this late hour.


Or so at least it had seemed!


“Who’s there?” she cried out, trying in vain to break through the shield keeping her from the Source. It was like trying to push a rock the size of a carriage with her bare hands. An impossible task.. but she could not give up.


There was no response, only silence.


Trying to compose herself, keeping in mind her time under duress in the Testing, she ran her fingers through her dark hair and moistened her dry lips as she leaned back against a wall and gazed hard down the corridor both ways to see who was doing this to her. Candle lights placed at intervals lit up the otherwise dark long corridor to some extent, but even so there were shadows where a person could stand unseen until you came really close.


Why was anyone doing this to her? What was happening?!


Searching hard for any gaps in the shield that kept her from touching the One Power, feeling utterly helpless, she found none. Saidar was closed off to her.


She considered running but knew she would not get far.


She was caught like a mouse in a trap.



Finally a shadow detached itself from the Shadows off to her left and a familiar woman clad in a dark blue dress and a Blue shawl came to stand before her.


“Arahna!” the young Aes Sedai cried out in recognition, “help me!”


The momentary relief she had felt at seeing the First Selector, Head of the Blue Ajah, quickly turned to disbelief and unease as she saw the other woman’s face, her merciless sapphire-blue eyes and vicious sneer, realizing that she was the one shielding the young Blue.


Adriahna could not believe it, her mouth gaping open, but the older Aes Sedai’s facial expression affirmed it. And there was no one else about. The Head of her Ajah was doing this to her.


“Arahna!”, Adriahna cried out, drawing herself up from her partial crouch, “what are you doing? You are shielding me!”


The First Selector stared coldly at her.


“Doing to you, Adriahna?” she replied mockingly. “Am I doing something to you, my dear?”


Adriahna stared back at her gobsmacked. The older Sister seemed like a different person to her, not the same woman who had welcomed her to the Ajah not that long ago. That face, that voice.. it was almost..


Light, what is going on here!


There was a long pause.


Adriahna struggled against the shield, a part of her hoping somehow that this was some sort of bizarre Blue Ajah initiation ‘game’, but knowing in her heart it was not. The First Selector’s next words affirmed it.


“There are new lessons to be learned, my child”. Arahna’s voice turned even colder, her mouth twisted, her eyes hard as stone. “You did not think you were done with lessons, did you?”


The former Blue Sister paused before adding,


“Or Oaths?”



The way the Head of her Ajah spoke those last few words made Adriahna’s blood run cold.


She tried to get her head around the dangerous - impossible! - implications but all her thoughts were muddled and she started to cry out for help, sensing that she was in great danger, but was too late. Arahna channeled and a gag of Air made it impossible for the young Blue to utter a sound and she felt her whole body become heavy, her arms bound involuntarily to her sides, as further weaves settled on her.


Light help me! She was unable to keep panic at bay, staring with wide eyes at the First Selector.


The young Blue was pushed further into the corridor and practically thrown into a small room at the end. She stumbled hard to the floor, her arms flailing and her face crashing violently into the wooden leg of a chair, producing a bad cut and with some blood flowing, and lay still.


Dizzy after the fall, crying soundlessly out in pain and shock, she barely heard Arahna Desonai Sedai’s chilling final words before she blacked out.



The Warder’s blade sliced through the young man’s body, crushing his heart and other internal organs and pushing all the way through his back, and he was dead before he hit the ground.


The bloodlust in the Warder’s face mirrored that in his Aes Sedai’s. She looked with relish at the blood rushing out of the corpse, enjoying the moment.


Her green travelling dress was travel-stained and mud-specked from days of hard riding but she did not care at that moment. Carzahna Sedai, the Green shawl across her shoulders, exchanged a warm glance with her beloved bonded Gaidin, then turned her attention back to the woman bound by flows of Air to a tree trunk. She was a young woman in her early twenties who once had been pretty. Now, however her broken nose and many smashed teeth as well as the blood in her long dark dirty hair gave her quite a different appearance. Her light-brown eyes stared in fear at the Aes Sedai before her. She knew almost nothing of Aes Sedai, but the little she had heard had not prepared her for this horrible, vicious woman.


“Why are you beating me!?” She cried desperately another time. Tears flowed from her eyes.


“Are you going to kill me too?”



Her eyes shifted to the dead body on the ground twelve or so feet away and she shivered. “I told you,”, she added brokenly, “I don’t know about this.. man you keep asking about.”


The Dragon Reborn.


The name almost made her quiver. Did he even exist? Would he be their saviour or their destroyer? Her grandma had once told her a scary bedtime story when she was a little girl, something about prophecies and the Dragon and the Creator and the Shadow, but when the village Wisdom had learned of it she had scolded the old woman to the extent that she had never mentioned it again to her grandchild.


She knew nothing of this so called Dragon Reborn but the Aes Sedai had not believed her, and she and her Warder had taken turns beating her severely. She tasted blood in her mouth and could not stop the steady stream of tears.


“Please let me go”, she begged, her voice desperate. “Pleaaase, I know nothiiing.”



She did not know the dead young man either. He had been a stranger, someone from Amadicia in the South he had said, who had joined her on the road to the village she was visiting here in Northern Andor, and they had talked a little casually as they walked. Even so, she was horrified that they had killed him. He had not been able to give them any helpful answers either, even after long sessions of torture, had in fact spat at the Sister of the White Tower, cursing her for being a bloody witch, whereupon the Gaidin knocked his teeth out and then ran him through with his broadsword.


The sun was moving across the horizon and in an hour or two twilight would descend on them all. She feared she would not live to see the night.


Carzahna Sedai stared at the broken young woman and chuckled to herself as if reading her mind. “Oh, you will suffer some more before you are done, girl.” Her voice was filled with scorn. “And then you will have your blessed rest.. a permanent one.”


The Black Sister looked forward to torturing this girl some more. She loved prolonging a person’s suffering and this was one of the traits she shared with her Warder. Her dark grin broadened viciously at the thought.


The rumours said he was heading north toward the Borderlands, but they could not be certain. She would learn the whereabouts of the boy Dragon, one way or another.


Producing a sharp knife from her sleeve, she brought it slowly toward the young woman’s face. She enjoyed using the knife in her interrogations, it was a primitive tool but effective. The knife drew blood, a stream soon running down the victim’s face, and the young woman’s cries became even more desperate.


The Aes Sedai’s smile grew with each frantic scream, pleasuring her Black heart.



The huge Trolloc’s blade almost cleaved the defending soldier in two.


One second the young man’s deep brown eyes were alive, filled with a mixture of exhilaration and fear in the face of this sudden fearsome attack, the next all light was gone from them.


His crushed blooded body fell to the ground, his armour shattered, his sword broken, his life and all his plans and hopes and dreams destroyed, and the huge boar-snouted fierce-looking Trolloc swept past and headed resolutely down the streets of Falme.


Shadowspawn poured into the streets, fists of Trollocs driven by several black-cloaked Myrddraal - muscular and serpent-quick with their lank black hair, waxy-white skin and eyeless stare - leaving death in their wake. Draghkar dropped from the sky, swooping upon intended victims, singing in their soft crooning voice, lulling them into a daze before their ‘kiss’, sucking the very soul out of them.


Valiant town soldiers tried to stop the onslaught, their captain spurring on his defenders, but to no avail. They were brushed aside as Trollocs of all kinds - some with wolf-snouts, others with goat-horns and yet others with eagle-beaks but all monstrous in size and heavily armed - smashed through the town’s defences. The screams of terrified and dying men and women and children filled the sloping streets as the hours went by, blood flowing in streams down toward the harbour and the ocean, and by nightfall the town of Falme had fallen to the Shadow.


Vanahl, the Chosen and Nae’blis, cloaked in black as dark as the night except for some ornate golden fringes on the sleeves of his coat, watched from a height above the city, nodding in satisfaction. His plan had been a success. His strategy had worked. The pools of fire in his eyes burned intensely.


The Great Lord would be pleased.



Lord Taighan, dark of hair with his handsome features and calm exterior, stared with feigned sadness at the dead body of  the elder son of the High Lady of House Sirindred, slouched over his dinner table. His face was buried in the mashed potatoes and gravy on his plate, his features twisted in death. A thin line of blood ran from the side of his mouth. The glass of expensive red wine beside the plate stood untouched.


What a pity the young man ended his life.


With a little help, of course.


Eating poisoned mushrooms is never a good idea. Young man, you should have known better.


Kieran hid the glee he felt inside at the removal of this final obstacle to his plans. The young man had tried time and again to turn his mother from the course, suggested by Lord Taighan, she had chosen, gaining the ear of several leading members of the House including the High Lady’s high-strung brother, and in the end the Chosen had found no other solution than to have him killed. Unlike several of his Chosen brethren Kieran did not enjoy or relish killing. He had always been level-headed and scientifically minded, the proper scholar - and had turned to the Shadow only to be able to experiment and show his genius, to create masterful new living beings, something which had resulted in his legendary successes with Trollocs and other Shadowspawn.


He did see the necessity though of removing obstacles when it was necessary and this had been such a case. Lord Taighan, resplendent as always in his dark blue coat, commiserated openly with the High Lady at the tragic loss of her elder son, his face sad and drawn, his voice sorrowful, while inside Kieran chuckled with delight.


The final piece was sorted. House Sirindred would fall in line.


The alliances of Cairhien were now broken, the Houses at each other’s throats, fighting for power and influence on their own. Chaos was spreading and Kieran was thrilled.


The Shadow would soon be Rising in Cairhien.



Reeya Eldhem Sare Paendrag, the Daughter of the Nine Moons and heiress to the Seanchan Empire, watched with hunger in her eyes from the top deck as the Seanchan warship neared the shore of these lands they were taking back, lands that had been stolen from her ancestors.


Behind them came the rest of the fleet, the force that comprised The Corenne, the ‘Return’, the war-mission for the Empress Tirana Elem Sani Paendrag, blessed of her name. Beside the Daughter of the Nine Moons stood the ship’s Sailmistress, keeping her eye on her crew and the work they were doing, and the Captain-General Rital Deltan, a tall man with his white hair in a crest, its tail plaited to his shoulders. His eyes were fastened on the handful of ships confronting them here at sea defending the seaside city of Tanchico. Behind the token force lay Tanchico Bay. In truth he was more interested in the military forces on land; the few war vessels here at sea would be brushed aside easily, of that he had no doubt. His eyes swept to the peninsulas and hills surrounding the bay and he considered strategic positions for placement of his army units once they were conquered.


Further down on deck Selecin, the Truthspeaker to the Seanchan Empress, stood watching the shore in the distance with mixed feelings. From behind the eyes of the Truthspeaker, Tervihn watched and considered. The Chosen was still angry at himself  that he had botched the attempt to kill the heiress, but on the other hand he had gotten the Seanchan to war as the Great Lord had commanded and chaos would spread. The Daughter of the Nine Moons would be dealt with later.


On a lower deck dozens of Sul’dam and Damane, leash-holders and leashed channelers, stood ready, the leashed women holding onto Saidar as commanded. Some of the Sul’dam were petting their Damane like a favoured dog, calming them before what was to come, and the Damane seemed to appreciate the loving attention. A hundred armed soldiers or more stood on deck, weapons ready, under the watchful eye of their captains. And high above the dark waters of the Aryth Ocean in the azure-blue early afternoon sky Raken, huge winged beasts of war, flew parallel to the ships below, ridden by accomplished Morat’raken.



They were soon within range of the defending ships - and with a feral scream the Raken descended toward the ocean far below just as the Damane threw lightning at the enemy from the deck of the ships, destroying several vessels in the first wave of the attack. The remaining defending ships tried to resist and fight back but had no chance, their sails and masts afire and swiftly sinking, brushed easily aside just like the Captain-General had expected. Soon the conquering war fleet rushed into Tanchico harbour and the coastal region to the north and south and reached land.


Stepping carefully onto the Tanchico harbour docks, Reeya Eldhem Sare Paendrag knelt and kissed the stone foundation. She remained on her knees as the Deathwatch Guards watched the surroundings attentively and vigilantly. They were the elite personal guards who protected the Imperial Family. Easily recognized by the green on their armour and carrying dark green tasseled spears and dark green lacquered shields, the most honored and valued of the Imperial da'covale, they were always willing to lay down their lives for the Imperial Family. All the people on the docks had scarpered in fear at the approach of the warships and they were now empty.


Beyond the harbour, however a force from the local garrison was gathering and there would be further military resistance in the city, the Commander of the Deathwatch Guard expected, with heavily guarded fortresses. He wore a winged golden helmet and the insignia of his rank on his uniform shoulders. His armour mirrored that of his elite soldiers. His name was Aidal Catal. He was in his early fourties, a strong and capable fighter and leader. He was good at what he did. Very good indeed.


After a few more moments the Daughter of the Nine Moons rose to her feet, the soft western breeze brushing against her short black hair. Staring resolutely toward the city beyond, her brown eyes sparkling in anticipation, she placed the Royal Banner of the Seanchan Empress that they had brought, beside her.


“We have Returned”, she whispered into the wind. Her voice was soft but it carried and everyone heard. “Carai an Corenne!”


 And behind her everyone on the ship and on the docks - lowborn and highborn, da'covale and those of the Blood - bowed low.



Soon the streets of Tanchico, Capital city of Tarabon and one of the oldest known cities in the world, embraced by the Verana peninsula to the east, the Maseta in the center, and the Calpene nearest the sea, were running red with blood.


And echoes of war cries were heard everywhere in the city, amid the thunder of explosions and lightning destruction by damane, screams and shouts and chaos, as battles were fought between armoured soldiers: young and old, hardened and frail, defender and invader.


“Los Seviementi!” “Los Sevieahrin!”


Forward the Empire! Forward the Empress!


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.. Speculations and Machinations ..



“Sendhira Aes Sedai.”


The Master of Ceremony’s voice was loud and clear as he banged the ornate ceremonial staff three times on the floor, announcing the visitor to the Queen.


The Queen of Altara by the Grace of the Light, Mistress of the Four Winds, Guardian of the Sea of Storms and High Seat of House Selnobar looked up as the Sister of the White Tower approached her throne, passing several dozen people dressed to the nines that comprised her court. Sendhira Aes Sedai glided across the floor of the Hall like a Queen herself, her Red shawl across the shoulders of her soft magenta-coloured dress, her whole posture regal and stern.


She stopped ten or so paces before the throne and her steady gaze met the Altaran Queen’s. She waited for the Queen to give a bow of respect first before inclining her head ever so slightly in return. She saw the small frown on the Queen’s face, knew that the sovereign hated to bow to Aes Sedai, and smiled inside. Thrones had always bowed to Sisters of the White Tower. It was the way of things. How could it be any other way?


“We need to talk, Queen Mandhra” the Red Sister said, getting straight to the point. The tone of her voice was serious and business like.


“Yes, we do, Sendhira Sedai”, the Queen of Altara replied in a similar tone. “We do indeed.”


There was a devious glint in the Queen’s smile and her large dark brown eyes sparkled.



“So”, Raphael murmured as he for a moment tried to take his eyes away from the seductively curved body of the woman with dark red, wavy auburn hair and glittering emerald eyes slouching in the opulent settee, “how did the Queen take it when the boy Dragon insisted on building his so-called Black Tower?”


They were in her personal chambers in Caemlyn. Outside the midday sun shone in a sapphire-blue sky that enveloped the Andoran Capital.


Deleyhna turned slightly in the settee, meeting his lustful eyes. “Oh, she took it quite well. After I gave her some.. incentives of course.”


Raphael grinned in spite of himself. Incentives indeed. Deleyhna was highly accomplished in the use of Compulsion, using delicate weaves manipulating the mind, Raphael had no doubt she had the Andoran Queen well in hand to do her bidding.


“There were some.. rumours that she had reacted rather.. unfavourably to the whole idea”, he added, enjoying the look of her. “That she had kicked up quite a fuss in fact.”


There was some amusement in his voice but it also gave the impression that he was not really that interested in the answer.



Deleyhna studied the handsome but dangerous man seated in a chair by the table. She knew as always what effect she had on him and she loved teasing him. The potential threat he represented only added to the excitement as she saw it.


“Oh, she did throw a tantrum”, she replied smoothly, changing her posture on the settee ever so slightly, “until I convinced her otherwise.” Her smile became cunning. “She behaves well now, does our Queen.”


Raphael wondered what advantage the Black Tower gave Deleyhna here in Andor, her Seat of power, since she appeared so positively inclined to it, but he did not ask. She had her secrets just as he had his. Personally Raphael thought having a Black Tower full of half-mad male channelers was a nuisance, something which possibly also could disrupt his own long term plans, but Vanahl had insisted that the Black Tower be left alone, he would deal with it. These Asha’man, as they called themselves, would aid the Shadow once he was done with them, Vanahl had added.


Could Deleyhna and Vanahl have a plot brewing to disrupt or corrupt the base of the boy Dragon’s power? Raphael would not put anything past them. All the Chosen were enmeshed in plots and counter-plots and Vanahl and Deleyhna were no different. Perhaps I should watch the Black Tower more closely, Raphael thought to himself as he took a long sip from the cup of red wine on the marble table. He tasted the grapes of Tarabon on his tongue. It was a decent vintage he thought, nothing like the splendid red wine he used to enjoy from the nation of Seihm Back Before.., but not bad for this Age. Not bad at all.


“I am sure she does”, he replied smoothly, placing the cup back on the table. The Andoran Queen would behave indeed. Deleyhna would make sure of it.


His gaze moved momentarily to a painting on the wall behind them. It was an abstract picture of geometric shapes and figures, the kind of artistic expression outside ordinary boundaries and rules that he had seen her favour before. It was not of this Age that painting, of that he was pretty certain. He wondered where she had found it.


He considered asking her, but then changed his mind.


“Another rumour I came across”, he asked instead, this time with feigned disinterest, “says that the boy Dragon is somewhere in the Borderlands.”


He studied her closely to see her reaction. Her face was smooth but he thought he detected a slight colouring of her cheeks for a tiny moment. It was gone in an instant though.


“Is that so?” Deleynha replied, her voice indifferent. “I did not know that.”



The way she quickly denied any knowledge of the fact made him certain that she knew. She had always been infatuated with Dar Keran - damn that man! - and he strongly suspected the infatuation had carried over to this boy Dragon who called himself Ter Sanduahl. She had not given any indication it was so, but he knew her well..


A more honest and humble man might have admitted that he felt some jealousy at her attraction to another man, and that man especially, Raphael however would never admit such a thing, not even to himself.


Deleyhna kept her emotions carefully hidden as she replied to him. She gave him a long, careful look.


Did Raphael know? That it was she who had aided this Dragon Reborn at the start when he had gotten the channeling sickness? She who had ‘guided’ him to those channeling men so that he could learn to control Saidin and thereby survive and conquer? And that she had met and spoken to him in Tel'aran'rhiod? He could not know, no one could. She had been so careful. Even so, she suspected that Vanahl had his suspicions. Then again, Vanahl suspected everyone of everything. Thinking of the boy Dragon gave her a thrill. She had been in love with Dar Keran back in their true time and place, the Age that now was called the Age of Legends, had had an affair with him in fact, a relationship that had been destroyed by the Dragon’s cursed wife.. In this time and Age she is no longer here to meddle in things, Deleyhna thought with great contentment.


No one will stop me this time for claiming what was always mine, the female Chosen thought with determination. Dar Keran, you may look different and name yourself different in this Age, but I know it is you. We will be together again. Soon.


Raising herself from the settee, the unique lavender dress setting off her hair and eyes beautifully as always, clinging to her delectable figure, she moved across to his chair and stopped beside him. His desire mounted as she looked down on him seductively. Dar Keran would be hers. But it did not hurt to have a little.. fun with Raphael as well.


“I am sure we can find a more.. interesting topic of conversation than the boy Dragon”, she whispered invitingly into his ear.


He felt his whole body respond to the warmth and desire in her voice as he met her in a passionate embrace and lustful kiss.



Tenya stared dispassionately at the dead woman before her. The Lady of the Castle. Lady Ceriahna, former Head of House Terenaga. Her long dark hair was blooded and half the woman’s face was gone, smashed in by a Trolloc’s battle-axe. The army of Shadowspawn had taken the Kandori castle easily once the squad of armed defenders had been lured out in a fateful attack. Driven by Fades, Myrddraal in their black unmoving capes, the Trollocs had stormed the castle and now it was in Shadowhands.


In Serahna’s hands in fact.


Throwing off the guise of Tenya, the advisor to the Lady of the Castle, she assumed her true appearance. A shimmering aura enveloped her as the weaves of the Mask of Mirrors dissipated until the change was made. She stood there, a handsome woman with dark wavy hair to her neck, dark eyes and high cheekbones wearing her battle dress, dark of colour with inlays of armour. She raised her arms and channeled Air, lifting the body of the Lady from the stone roof of the castle where it lay and threw it over the side. She felt neither relish nor sadness at the Lady’s death. Fool woman, was the words that came to mind. Hearing soft movement behind her, she turned to face a Myrddraal. The Eyeless One gave a quick bow, then remained standing before the Chosen.


“You have done well”, Serahna said, her eyes hard and determined. “Move the army eastward tomorrow to the appointed place”, she commanded, her voice stern. “There is more work to do.”


The Fade nodded, then gave another quick bow and disappeared almost without sound down the back stairs leading to the level below.


Filthy creatures, thought the Chosen as she descended the stairs herself.


She had never been fond of them, and always felt unsure of their loyalty however much they bowed and seemingly obeyed, but they had their uses same as the brutish dumb Trollocs and the sly Draghkar that Vanahl often used.


Coming to a stop before a Borderlander in full armour, a dark-eyed man in middling years with black hair dusted with grey and a forked beard, her eyes tightened. The Kandori man immediately came to his knees, his head bowed.


“Great Mistress”, the Darkfriend whispered. “How may I serve you?”


Serahna smiled darkly at one of the Captains of the Shadowspawn army. He was a traitor to his kind and so obviously only to be trusted so far, but he was useful. Very useful. Her smile widened connivingly as she told him what his new mission was.



Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, Windfinder on the Sea Folk vessel ‘Ocean Dancer’, channeled, Weaving the Winds, so that the lean Raker avoided a storm and ran smoothly through the currents south-eastwards. Flows of Air and Water combined just so, and the ship literally flew through the ocean. Issandra the Chosen, in the guise of the Windfinder, had assisted the Sailmistress in plotting the course based on her knowledge and experience. Issandra’s plans for the boy Dragon, to disrupt negotiations between the Atha'an Miere and the Coramoor, had never materialized and now she was uncertain what her next step ought to be.


At least there was no alliance with the boy Dragon, the Chosen thought to herself. That at least was good.


As for the rest..


With news that a huge fleet of ships from a continent supposedly called Seanchan far to the west was heading toward the mainland, ‘Ocean Dancer’ had been ordered south-eastwards to investigate. The Sea Folk dominated the seas, they had always done so, and so they viewed any substantial sea-faring nation with scepticism. It also represented a danger to the Atha'an Miere if the rumours of so many warships were true. Especially at this volatile time. The Sailmistress’ face was serious and determined on the top deck as she stared contemplatively into the horizon. She touched her black hair which had touches of grey in it, framing a face with brown eyes with fine wrinkles on the corners of them. This was the biggest danger to her people in many a year and she wondered deep inside if she would survive it. Her orders from the Mistress of the Ships had been clear: investigate but do not engage. She would follow the instructions to the letter.


Issandra had her suspicions about what was going on, but kept her thoughts to herself. For the moment she focused on her Windfinder duties as Chalor din Togara Evening Tide and waited to see what they would encounter further south-east. Perhaps this could all be to her advantage after all.


Like on so many occasions, her thoughts as she Wove the Wind returned to an earlier Age, to an earlier life, when she was a successful research-assistant to the Lyr Nahm, the leadership of her science facility, carrying out important research on wind power and accelerated particle division in the science facility of Ner Khalid.



High Lord Istoril Ghalara was present at the council meeting, seated among his colleagues, but his thoughts were elsewhere. Gerehl, in the guise of the High Lord, could not take his mind off the lost male Sa’angreal Neminahl.


Where was it?! Where did it lay hidden?


He was unable to get over his unsuccessful hunt for it in Far Madding with Banohr. It had to be there somewhere.. he had to find it! He clenched his fists without being aware of it and a fellow High Lord seated next to him, misinterpreting the gesture, commented that he did not know that High Lord Istoril was such a strong supporter of the proposition under discussion. Gerehl unclenched his fists and murmured something noncommittal, calming his thoughts. The topic being debated concerned raising taxes and the Council of Tear was divided on the issue.


Gerehl had more important matters on his mind. The missing Sa’angreal for one. But also rumours that had drifted south to Tear that the boy Dragon was gathering forces in the far North. Vanahl had ordered that they all stay away from interfering with the boy, but Gerehl had always had his own plans and he feared the Nae’blis was underestimating the Dragon Reborn as he called himself.


Dar Keran, is that you, masquerading as this young inexperienced man? he wondered not for the first time. Have you returned as well?



Like the other Chosen he had hated the Dragon for his self-righteous ways and for Sealing their defeat in the War of Power. Now he had another chance to take revenge on the Dragon. The thought made him warm inside. But it had to be done with patience and care. Disobeying the Nae’blis could be.. unwise. Disobeying the Great Lord could be.. lethal.


His eyes took on a cunning gleam as he considered the first step of a plan.


The tall and lean brown haired, dark eyed man of middle age that was the High Lord Istoril brought his thoughts back to the present just as the vote was beginning.


“My High Lords”, he said in a strong voice interrupting the voting proceedings, “I suggest we postpone the vote.”


He got to his feet and walked to stand before them. The other High Lords seated around the huge round table in the council chamber all fixed their eyes on him. He was the most influential High Lord and usually he carried the vote. Seeing their attentive looks, Gerehl smiled inside.


“We have a more important matter to consider.”



He saw interest in many faces and also sour scepticism in some. There were some who always worked against him in the council, ‘the usual suspects’ as he had come to think of them, and he would deal with them in time.


“The Dragon has been Reborn. Yes, the rumours are true”.


The silence in the council chamber was so complete that one could have heard a pin drop.


“He is in the far North right now, assembling his forces.” His High Lord voice became stronger and more forceful as he spoke. “But soon he will set his eyes on the South - and on Tear.”


Several High Lords were muttering, shaking their heads, their faces darkening; some were part way out of their high-backed chairs.


He will come and he will destroy our world, shatter our homes, our families in a new cataclysm as was foretold in the Prophecies of the Dragon, him and his witches and sorcerers!”


“Will we permit this, High Lords?!” High Lord Istoril screamed forcefully. “What say you?!”


The thunderous roar of defiance that erupted in the council chamber at his powerful words almost made the walls tremble.


Gerehl the Chosen grinned broadly inside.




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.. Taking Courage from an Ancient Aes Sedai Queen ..



Finally on the second day, on a late morning with sunny rays reflected on the Arinelle river, the main city gate to the Saldaean Capital Maradon opened and a horse and rider appeared.


The Lord Dragon, as his commanders had come to call him (he was not overly enthusiastic of the title but his objections had led nowhere so he accepted it), was quickly notified and stood ready to meet the messenger or envoy of the Queen as he presumed it to be.


The rider approached carefully and stopped ten or so paces from the assembled men. Beside Ter Sanduahl there were two commanders and an advisor. The rider carried a banner with the sign of Saldaea, three silver fish on a field of dark blue, and when he dismounted he planted the banner on the grassy ground beside him. He was middle-aged with dark hair, slightly slanted eyes and a bold nose and was casually dressed. The Dragon Reborn did not believe the man was of local nobility, but sometimes people were not what they appeared to be. It did not matter anyway. He was obviously a messenger and Ter Sanduahl was very interested to hear the message.


The Saldaean man studied the four people waiting before the army camp, trying to pick out the Dragon Reborn. His dark eyes quickly fell on the tall red-haired figure standing in their midst. The other three were older than the young man and he was the only one who suited the description he had been given. That had to be the man. The Saldaean messenger did not know what to think of the young man. He did not look particularly dangerous or threatening, but if he was the Dragon come again, the saviour and destroyer, a half-mad channeler, then it was only to be expected that his Queen was highly sceptical of this man and his army. Or could he be a  false Dragon stirring up trouble? They had enough trouble with Shadowspawn coming down from the Blight in the eastern part of their nation, they did not need any more.



He was not a common messenger, but one of the Queen’s personal advisors whom she had sent to get a better idea of what threat this so-called Dragon Reborn represented. He was to play the part of low-level messenger though and so he came to stand humbly before Ter Sanduahl and gave a bow of respect, handing him the parchment he had been given.


“This is a message from the Queen, Sir”, he said simply. “Your reply can be delivered to the city gate and they will make sure she gets it.”


With those few words he gave another small bow and then mounted swiftly, taking a good long look at the army camp and how it was set up and what he could see of soldiers and logistics, before riding back to the city gate and disappearing inside the walls.


Ter Sanduahl stared after the messenger and rider until he was almost back at the city gate and then shifted his gaze to the parchment in his hand. Opening it carefully, he read what was inside and then sighed. He exchanged glances with the others and they saw from his look that the message had not been what he had hoped for. Informing them that he needed some time to consider his response, he left them and headed for the tent that served as his command quarters. The men and women he passed gave him respectful nods but he did not notice, so preoccupied was he by the message and its contents. When he reached his tent, he nodded to the two guards standing outside and then went inside and directly to his work desk.


Why must everything always be so difficult, he thought to himself with another sigh and a frown, as he sat down in his chair, placing the parchment on the small desk before him.



That taunting voice that had come to plague him more and more often buzzed in the back of his mind, whispering of treachery and false messengers. He tried to shut the voice down but as usual he was not successful at first, and it took some time to drive the voice away. He tried not to think too much about what the voice was and what it meant, but it was not easy. Shaking his head, he brushed the echoes of the voice away and studied the short message in the parchment anew.




It simply read:



We do not welcome invaders to our land.

Nor false pretenders.


Leave before it is too late.



In the light,


Nerine ni Zethere e’Zahr

Protector of the Lances

Queen of Saldaea




Leaning back in his chair, he closed his eyes and tried to calm his thoughts. Either the Saldaean Queen thought he was a pretender, a false Dragon, or she used it as an excuse so she would not have to meet him. His advisors had told him of political games nobility liked to play, the Game of Houses as they had called it, and he wondered if that was what was going on here. No matter what, with the world moving into chaos, he did not have the time to stay here and wait for the Queen to come to her senses. But neither could he start a war with the country he was attempting to ally with. So what option was there?


He asked one of his personal guards to go fetch one of his commanders and the man arrived swiftly. He was well past middle age with grey in his hair but he had a good head for tactics and had proven to be a loyal and dedicated military officer. When he was told by the Lord Dragon about the message from the Queen and asked about his opinion of their options, he answered quickly that there was only one thing to do: to be bold and show that they meant business. Ter Sanduahl listened to his commander’s advice and then dismissed him, spending some time going over the other man’s suggestion. The more he thought about it, the more he agreed it was probably the only way considering the little time they had at their disposal.


The Queen would not like it, but she would have to accept it.



Leaving his command tent, he walked across the encampment to where the Asha’man were stationed. There were four of them in the camp and they each wore the Gold and Red Dragon pins of their rank pinned on the right collar of their distinctive black coats, opposite of the silver sword pin. Ter Sanduahl trusted them as much as he was able to trust any other male channeler and needed them for this task since he was literally going into the ‘lion’s den’ as it were. He explained the situation to them and told of his plan, then the five of them walked to the outskirts of the camp where the older military commander waited with six soldiers. All were armed. The Dragon Reborn nodded and the party of twelve mounted their horses and rode in the direction of the city gates.


One of the soldiers carried the Dragon Banner which rippled in the wind, making the Red Dragon move as if it were alive.


Ter Sanduahl held onto the One Power and could sense that the other Asha’man also were filled with Saidin, or perhaps it was just something he thought he sensed. His channeling teachers had been unclear or ambiguous on the matter, just saying it was different for channeling men than for channeling women. If this went smoothly, then it might not be necessary to use the One Power offensively. However, he would not take any chances or accept any foolishness on the part of the Saldaeans.


When they neared the city gates, they saw increased activity on top of the wall and several soldiers were pointing down on them with crossbows. The party of twelve stopped their mounts some way from the city gates. Gazing up at the closest guard on the wall, Ter Sanduahl shouted, using Saidin to amplify his voice:


“I am the Dragon Reborn. I am here to talk to your Queen. Open the city gates.”



The guards atop the walls shook their heads. The Captain of the guard sneered disdainfully as he shouted back:


“You are not welcome here. Leave while you can.”


Ter Sanduahl sighed and shook his head. The small voice in his head reappeared and whispered, -kill them all, kill them all!- but he tried to ignore it. Exchanging a resigned glance with the Asha’man beside him, he gave the prearranged signal. They would have to do this the hard way it seemed. So be it.


“Stop this foolishness”, he shouted up to the guards again. “We have come in peace, in the light. But we don’t have time for games. Let us in or face the consequences. This is your last chance.”


The Captain of the guard mocked him in reply, shaking his fist in defiance, and gave the order to use the crossbows against them.


The Dragon Reborn nodded to the Asha’man beside him and watched as the black coated man raised his hands and threw a fireball at the main city gate, destroying it in a fiery explosion.



Screams of fear and outrage came from the men atop the wall but the arrows they aimed at the black coated group outside the wall were stopped in mid-air. Another of the Asha’man had thrown a protection shield over the group and nothing came through. Heading towards the now open city gate before them, leading his horse carefully, Ter Sanduahl used Air to move everything, rubble and stone, out of his path. Two of the Asha’man rode beside him, also removing any physical obstacles in sight, but making sure no people were harmed as he had commanded them. The other two male channelers brought up the rear behind the soldiers and the commander.


Walking through the city gate they headed up the nearest street, a street paved with cobblestones, ignoring the screams and shouts and soldiers running toward them from all sides. The soldiers were thrown back by the shields of Air surrounding the whole group and watched agape as the procession moved slowly towards the city’s centre. The buildings on both sides of the street were low as was often the case here in the Borderlands, not too ornate but practical and sturdy. And none of the people they saw watching - with surprise and uncertainty in their eyes - the procession along their route wore hoods or wide headcloths of any kind, keeping to the Borderland tradition that everything should be transparent, all faces should be seen. They passed a monument of sorts, a huge statue of a crowned woman with a sword in hand facing north, and stopped when they saw a military officer  standing by a local shopwindow pointing at them and swearing furiously.


The Dragon Reborn walked slowly up to him and looked at him sternly for a moment.


“Take us to the Cordamora Palace”, he commanded. “Right away.”


The officer was taken aback, but understood that these men were obviously using the One Power - it was the only explanation for what was going on - and he could not stop them. Biting back the curse he had on his lips, trying to ignore the horror he felt at standing beside channeling men, he simply nodded and bade them follow him.


Ter Sanduahl nodded back and followed resolutely with his group of men.


Finally he would meet the Saldaean Queen.



The Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light, Lord Evrem Santhin, stared hatefully at the woman before him. The witch! She was a tall and slim woman dressed in brown, of very dark complexion with short curly hair and fierce brown eyes. For a second he wondered where she was from, she had a very exotic foreign look, but he did not really care.


He was bound to a chair by invisible bonds and gagged the same way, unable to move a muscle. He despised the fact that the Fortress of Light had been overrun so easily by these evil Aes Sedai, for they could not be anything else! He had always said to anyone who would listen that one day the evil witches would attack them here in Amador. That they had apparently popped out of thin air right before their gates spoke of powerful witchcraft and now they were going to kill him, he felt sure of it. Their so-called three oaths were meaningless, pure lies of deception, just as he had always known. His only regret was that he would be unable to take some of them down with him.


Kharin the Chosen, in the guise of the Amo’hra, leader of the Sharan Ayyad, stared with hatred but also some amusement at this captured commander of these Children of the Light as they called themselves. His white cloak was full of blood from the..sessions she had had with him and his conical helmet lay discarded in a corner of the room. His grey hair was blooded, his face was swollen and blood also ran into his grey-black beard. There were cuts on his cheeks and on his forehead. He gave her a baleful stare.


She lifted the gag of Air from him for a moment to let him speak, but kept all the other invisible bonds in place. He spat at her and cursed her for a witch.


“Do your best, witch - you vile Aes Sedai!”, he shouted scornfully as his eyes took on the fanatic light and inner fire of his kind. “The White Tower will learn nothing more from me!”


“I am no Aes Sedai!” Kharin spat back, her mouth twisted sourly. “You are a fool if you think so.”



She could see that this despicable creature of a man did not believe her, but she did not care. He would soon be dead in any case. He had not told her much of use, but the little she had pressured him to say gave her a good overall picture of the Whitecloak defences and what forces they could expect would try and retake the fortress.


“I will not replace the gag of Air”, Lord Captain Commander”. She spoke his title with a sneer. “I want to hear you scream.”


Her eyes lit up in pleasure as she tortured him some more, his screams increasing in strength as she used her knife on his limbs.


She finally tired of the ‘game’ as she saw it and with a final hateful glance at this horrid man she slit his throat, watching with elation as all life left the Lord Captain Commander’s cold blue eyes and the blood ran down his white cloak in streams of crimson.



Elihna Tharan a’Satirelde, Queen of Arad Doman dried her tears and tried to compose herself.


Looking at herself in the bedroom mirror she felt she had aged in the week or so since her daughter’s death. Her long brown hair was unkempt and her face looked drawn and tired. She looked thinner than usual in her night dress. Her brown eyes were sorrowful. I look a mess, she thought studying her reflection.


She was still devastated by the sudden death of her beloved daughter and her soul cried out in pain. She had avoided her husband in the past days, she just could not face his shared pain. She needed to be on her own to try to come to terms with the fact that her daughter, Athania would never again throw her arms around her in great affection and smile lovingly at her.


She felt pain and also anger that this could happen. She knew somehow that she ought to be furious with Lord Rhemar. He was her riding teacher after all and was there when it took place. The responsibility for her safety had been his. But however much she wanted to, she was not able to blame him. Instead she admired him.. she did not really know why she did, but she did.. and knew that he had done everything he could. He was to be commended in fact..


Puzzled by her muddled thoughts she removed her night dress and undergarments and threw them on the bed behind her.



She stared at her naked body in the mirror, wishing she were fifteen years younger, her breasts firmer, her tummy smoother. Her fingers traced a line between her breasts going downwards, wondering if her husband, the King, truly found her desirable anymore. Their love-making did not seem to give him any thrills, they were just going through the motions as it were. She loved him, but she had begun to doubt if she could satisfy him the way he deserved.


She shifted her gaze upwards again - and her heart almost stopped! as she suddenly saw the image of a man’s face -  a blond-haired, green-eyed attractive but very unfamiliar man with a leering lustful smile - reflected in the mirror behind her.


The Queen screamed in shock!


Her eyes grew wide in disbelief when she turned quickly, covering herself with her hands, and saw no one else in the bedroom with her. She was agape as she faced the mirror again and saw that she had not imagined it.. the male face was still there, grinning lewdly, eyes indecently fixed on her naked body. Her breath came in short gasps, fear and disbelief enveloping her.


When the man stepped out of the mirror, his body moving through the glass as if it were simply air, hands outstretched ready to grab her, her mind could not take it anymore and she fainted.



Banohr opened the gateway and three dozen armed Trollocs, some with boar-snouts, others eagle-beaked or wolf-muzzled, stormed onto the Aiel Waste with a black-caped Myrddraal at their side.


The Chosen appeared as Sei’ad, Chief of the Spine Ridge Sept of the Sen’dahl Aiel, tall, red-haired with piercing blue eyes and with his spear in hand. They were on the outskirts of the Aiel village and took the scouts totally by surprise.


When they saw their Sept Chief they shouted a greeting, but when the Shadowspawn were upon them, battle-axes flying, they cried out in anger and despair, understanding that they had been betrayed. The Chosen grinned darkly behind the ‘mask’ of the Aiel Chief and closed the gateway behind him. He followed slowly as the Trollocs quickly drove the Aiel men back. They were very able fighters the Aiel, better than most, but against such numbers and such foes they did not stand a chance.


Some of the Aiel recognized their Sept Chief and screamed at him to help them, their hopes turning to disbelief and then to horror as they saw him join the Shadowspawn in killing the villagers. Banohr cut down any fighter that came near, sometimes using the spear, sometimes the One Power. He had held back for so long and now he enjoyed the killing spree.



Not far away, the Myrddraal - its eyeless stare striking fear even into staunch Aiel fighters -  tore through the defenders with lightning quick moves, its black-bladed lethal sword - dipped in the black river that ran through Thakan'dar - swinging.


Blood flowed in the Aiel village, turning the dry desert ground red, and the screams did not stop until every single Aiel man, woman and child was dead.


Banohr nodded to himself with satisfaction and glee once it was all done. This was only one village, one step, but more would follow. Many more.


In time, he felt sure, the entire Aiel nation would Fall under the Shadow.



It was early evening as Arementhe Senican, the Amyrlin of the White Tower, leafed through the ancient book and its texts, written by White Tower historians in Ages past, and tried to gain courage.


She was the Amyrlin, the supposedly strongest Aes Sedai in character and judgment, strong in the One Power and wise in its usage, she was their Mother and the one everyone looked to for strength, wisdom and guidance.


And yet at the moment she felt like a ship adrift on the ocean, uncertain of herself and of her choices and decisions.


She was alone in her personal chamber, seated by her work table which was lit by two candle lights, one on each side of her old book. She had been absent-minded all day and had retired to her chamber early, after saying goodnight to her concerned Keeper. There were so many things on her mind and she felt inadequate to the task.


What to do about the Dragon Reborn was uttermost in her mind. And she still could not decide. The matter with the Black Tower also made her concerned, and then you had the war fleet with channeling wilders coming out of the west. On top of this there were rumours of war and chaos on the continent, not the least in the Borderlands with the Shadow advancing according to reports.


She needed the courage and wisdom of former Amyrlins and other Aes Sedai who in the past had faced great challenges with dignity, strength and power. And so she had spent the last few evenings delving into old histories, trying to get inspiration, clarity and some wisdom.



One of the historic Aes Sedai that she had always admired and enjoyed reading about was Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, the last Aes Sedai Queen of lost Manetheren.


What would you have done in my place? she wondered contemplatively, as she returned to the chapter in the ancient book about the historic Aes Sedai Queen, one of the greatest of all time or so historians claimed.


As she read, the White Tower historian’s words almost jumping off the page, she was reminded again of the history of Manetheren.


Manetheren, the historian wrote - descriptively and with great detail - was located in and around the southern Mountains of Mist, stretching from the River Arinelle to the north and the River Eldar and Damona Mountains to the south, the Arinelle and Manetherendrelle to the east and the Mountains of Mist and Lake Somal to the west. It was bordered by Aridhol to the north and Aelgar and Eharon to the south, then Coremanda to the east and Safer to the west. Its Capital city was also called Manetheren and was located in the mountains between the headwaters of the Tarendrelle and the Manetherendrelle. Its other major, Ogier-built cities included Corartheren, Jara'copan, and Shanaine.


In the centuries following the signing of the Compact of the Ten Nations, the historian wrote, Manetheren flourished. It was in this time that Ogier were invited to assist in the construction of the nation’s Capital which was built high and secure in the peaks of the Mountains of Mist. It is said that once completed the Capital of Manetheren was a true marvel to behold and that Ogier stonemasons would come to the Mountain Home simply to stare at it in wonder. The city contained an Ogier grove accounted as the second most beautiful in the world behind the grove in Tar Valon, as well as a waygate providing easy travel to a multitude of sister cities and Stedding.



During the Golden Age of Manetheren, the historian continued, the country produced many goods and resources which it traded throughout the Ten Nations. Farmers and craftsmen abounded and harvested a cornucopia of agricultural goods from the nation's verdant heartland. To help facilitate trade, Manetheren engineers built vast networks of paved highways and bridges to provide easy travel within national boundaries. Though Manetheren was rich in agricultural goods, its true wealth lay in the Mountains of Mist. Gold and silver abounded in the range along with baser metals such as iron and copper. Precious metals mined from the mountains provided the basis for Manetheren's economic strength.


The Amyrlin was captivated as always by reading about this great ancient nation in the western region of what now was Andor - and its Fall always saddened her. She did however take courage and find hope in the valiant fight against the Shadow that the nation, under its brave King and Queen, had put up.


What an Aes Sedai Queen you were..


Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, the White Tower historian wrote, was the wife of King Aemon al Caar al Thorin. She was an Aes Sedai of exceptional strength in the One Power, one of the most powerful of all time, and a beloved figurehead of her people who named her Ellisande which translates from the Old Tongue as "The Rose of the Sun". The Aes Sedai Queen possessed tremendous beauty, her hair was alike to spun gold and any man who gazed upon her was easily smitten. It was said that wherever she went, flowers bloomed at her feet to make her smile. Histories relate that she was kind and patient and loved her subjects dearly. In turn she herself was greatly revered and it is known that soldiers of Manetheren frequently invoked her name in battle as a rallying cry.



Manetheren was destroyed circa year 1800 after the Breaking of the World amidst the upheavals of the Trolloc Wars and Shadowspawn army conquests. The White Tower historian noted that some historians thought it happened closer to year 1750 after the Breaking, but that he adhered to the official view. Manetheren's doom was sealed, he said, when King Aemon's army was driven back to a crossroads. In a final desperate last stand, Aemon and his army were overpowered in a one day battle that came to be known as the Battle of Aemon's Field. The moment Aemon perished Eldrene felt the severing of the Bond with her beloved husband.


Alone in the evacuated Capital city she became consumed by grief and thus she began to draw upon the True Source. With her exceptional channeling ability fully unleashed, using a powerful Sa’angreal to increase the flow, Eldrene Aes Sedai poured forth devastation and Balefire at what remained of the Shadowspawn army. In a display almost reminiscent of the Breaking of the World some historians postulate, Eldrene destroyed almost all the Shadow's forces - including all the Dreadlord generals. Those few Shadowspawn that survived fled to be hunted down and exterminated in other nations. But in her final moments Queen Eldrene Aes Sedai had drawn to herself more of the One Power than any human could wield even aided, and as the enemy generals died, so did she; the fires that consumed her, also consumed the empty city of Manetheren, even the stones of it, down to the living rock of the mountains it was said.



O’ brave Ellisande! thought the Amyrlin as she re-lived in her mind the ancient Aes Sedai Queen’s final moments. You fought against the Shadow with your last breath, destroying the enemy that had killed your beloved and had come to invade your land, and you made the ultimate sacrifice.


Arementhe wondered if she would have been as brave in a similar situation. So many depended on her now, just as so many had depended on the Aes Sedai Queen back then.


I wish I could have your strength and courage, Ellisande..


The last chapter about this historic figure in the ancient book included a poem which had always moved the Amyrlin to tears - due to its strength, emotion and as a moving tribute to the Aes Sedai Queen and to brave Manetheren. According to the White Tower historian, no one truly knew who the poem’s author was or when it had been written, but it was believed to be authentic from that Age and that it spoke of the historic events surrounding the Fall of Manetheren, seen through a poet’s eyes.


It was heroic and sad, dramatic and overwhelming, but Arementhe Senican, the Watcher of the Seals, The Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat drew courage from the beautiful and forceful words of historic poetry, taking inspiration and strength from brave Manetheren and the resolute, wise and legendary Aes Sedai Queen Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, the ‘Rose of the Sun’.





Rose of the Sun (The Fall of Manetheren)


“Carrai an Ellisande!” For the honour of the Rose of the Sun!

The Shield against the darkness, the Hammer weight to Stun.

The Sword that could not be broken. Was shattered in the End.

As valiant Manetheren, no longer could Defend.


Brave fighters of the land. Fought with pride and with Heart.

Under Red Eagle banner, they resisted Shadow’s Start.

Until Mountain Home was taken. No one came to their Aid.

Weep for Manetheren!, all their allies were Afraid.


King Aemon and his men ran to aid from Field of Blood.

Countless miles they covered, daring river huge and Flood.

Slaughtered beasts of Shadow. Crying battle cries of Might.

“Carrai an Ellisande!” echoed everywhere in Sight.


Brave warriors, brave King! They fell to Darkness’ Yoke.

When Aemon husband died, Queen Eldrene’s heart Broke.

Woe to the Shadow! With anger, grief and Pain.

An Aes Sedai of might, she struck out like Insane.


She filled herself to bursting. The Power oh so Sweet!

The Sa’angreal beside her, glowed brightly with its Heat.

She was an awesome figure. Her arms she lifted High.

And then she threw her Balefire and Storms of Lightening Nigh!


A harbinger of death. She destroyed the Shadowspawn.

The messengers of Darkness disappeared from Battle’s Lawn.

But her body came on fire. Flames of Saidar burned her Soul.

In her agony she cried out, for Manetheren, her Goal!


The destruction levelled all. Old Manetheren was Dead.

The Rose of the Sun, she was gone, it was Said.

But she would live forever. In many people’s Hearts.

And Manetheren’s bravery, is eternal in its Parts.


Oh Ellisande! Greatest Queen, we won’t Forget!

Your fight against the Shadow and the death you Met.

Mourn for Manetheren! The bravest place of All.

Honour to the Mountain Home! Your enemies shall Fall.





Edited by Elessar
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.. Schemes and Secrets and Dark Reflections ..



The man walked the streets of Jehannah as if he did not have a care in the world.


He was dressed like a beggar, in rags, but his piercing azure-blue eyes had an intelligence which did not fit a beggar, neither here in Jehannah, Capital of the great nation of Ghealdan, nor anywhere else for that matter. His gait, his manner of walking, was not that of a typical beggar either. He walked with the relaxed confidence of a soldier or a nobleman. He did not seem to care that to any experienced eye he would look conspicuous as he headed down one street and up another. His light-brown hair was cut in the typical style of the region but that was the only thing that did look local on this man.


He was certainly far from what he appeared to be, but it suited his purposes to dress as he did and to walk as he did. The ‘beggar’ rounded a corner, the dust swirling in the street from a horse and carriage that had just passed, and almost ran into a lady who had just come out of a local shop. He excused himself as he had to walk around her but in that instant their eyes met and anyone watching closely would have seen the apparent recognition in both their eyes. The lady, a blond-haired woman of middling years with green eyes and high cheekbones dressed in the fashion of the local nobility, watched the man continue down the street and then turned to talk to her male companion who seemed not to have noticed anything. She smiled inside, amused as always at how gullible men were. As the man took the lady’s arm in his, Divara stared imperiously at everyone as they walked past several shops and a local smithy. She enjoyed playing a local noblewoman. She wondered though if Vinadel enjoyed walking around in those beggar’s clothes though.


These were interesting times indeed.



The nation of Ghealdan stretched from the Great Blackwood, along the southern banks of the River Manetherendrelle, to the River Eldar in the south, and from the Mountains of Mist in the west to the immense ridge known as Garen's Wall in the east. Its Capital city was Jehannah, located on the banks of the River Boern. Ghealdan was a land of mountains and foothills in the west, the rocky lands along the ridge in the east, and large swathes of forest in between, such as the Dhallin Forest. Though one of the smallest Kingdoms, Ghealdan was a proud one and none more so than its current ruler and King, Gerard Aspel Segarin. He was advised by the Crown High Council, which consisted of lords and merchants, at least formally, but in truth he made most decisions on his own, at least most of the time, aided by his close advisors. He thought it only right. He was the King after all. And those old fools on the Crown High Council were just interested in intrigues and political gain anyway, they did not care much for ruling the nation.


King Gerard was in his early fifties and his once dark brown hair had streaks of grey now. His physical strength was weaker and his body fatter than it had once been as well and his face more worn. Even so he had a warm smile that won over any doubters and he had a good head on his shoulders. At least he was convinced of that himself. He chuckled as he walked down the corridor to his private chambers in the Royal Palace. He had had a great idea which he knew would infuriate the Council. He would triple the size of the Legion of the Wall! His grin grew as he anticipated the lords’ and merchants’ reaction to this bold new move.


Oh they will hate it, for sure! he thought with glee.



As a small country, Ghealdan did not possess a substantial standing army. Instead it had a small, professional force - the Legion - which protected the borders, policed Jehannah, and protected the ruler. In times of war the Legion formed the core of the Ghealdanin war effort and trained new levies to support its operations. In recent years the Legion had become less and less effective, however, since the Council in their endless wisdom had decided that the money could be better spent elsewhere in these peaceful times and the King though opposed had been advised to not push the matter. Now chaos was erupting everywhere according to the secret reports he received from his agents domestically and abroad and there would be need for a bigger Legion. He did not feel confident the Council would agree though, he knew they would call it  unsubstantiated rumours and would argue and stall the whole matter for months if they had their way, and so he was taking matters into his own hands. The thought excited him. Finally he would take the initiative and damn them if they didn’t like it!


Stepping into his private chambers, he immediately sensed that he was not alone. He did not see anyone there as he closed the door behind him but he felt eyes on him. Turning full circle his eyes searched for the intruder. His good mood was slowly evaporating but he did not feel any fear. No one who would want to harm the King would be allowed into the Palace, never mind his private room. It was probably his boy, Prince Cynric, who was hiding somewhere in the chamber. He had been told many times that he was not allowed in here, but telling a boy of eight such a thing only made him even more eager to try.



Sighing to himself, he looked more closely toward the wardrobe at the end of the room by the southern wall, thinking that that was the most probable hiding place for the boy.


“Alright Cynric”, he finally said with exasperation. “How many times have I told you not to come in here?”


His statement was met with silence.


“Alright, come out now”, the King demanded in a louder voice, tired of playing this game.


Still there was only silence.


Behind him though he suddenly heard a sound, a strange sound.. almost as if it were from an.. animal.. a predator..


Turning slowly, the hairs on his neck rising, sensing true danger for the first time, he just had a moment to realize that there was a creature of great size by the huge writing table on the left side of the room before the Darkhound, darker than night, eyes shining silver, and double the size of a wolf, leapt at him and sank its poisonous corrosive saliva-dripping jaws into his neck, ripping out his throat.


The King’s last bewildered thought before he descended into eternal blackness was that now he would never be able to increase the size of the Legion of the Wall after all.



Gerehl looked at the dark-haired, high cheek boned man with a semi-dark complexion seated opposite him in the chamber, wanting what he had. The title of Nae’blis. The power to rule the Chosen. At least as much as one could rule such a bunch of dangerous scheming backstabbing power hungry channelers. Vanahl’s eyes were pools of fire and they studied the other Chosen just as carefully. Gerehl had never understood why Vanahl had kept that scar that ran down his left cheek, but then again one could hardly understand anything that man did anyway. Now those pools of fire tried to draw him in and Gerehl had to focus hard to avoid it. Both men held onto Saidin of course, and it frustrated him always to know that Vanahl was the stronger in the One Power.


“And why did you go against my orders and involve yourself in the boy Dragon?”. The Nae’blis asked in an impatient voice, repeating the question.


“I have done nothing”, Gerehl replied, irritated that Vanahl was making such a big deal out of things. “All I did was mention to the other High Lords in Tear that the boy Dragon might come there next. They are highly skeptical towards the Dragon Reborn in any case, so what I said did not make much of a difference.”


It was a half-truth but it would have to do. They were indeed skeptical when it came to the Dragon Reborn and Aes Sedai, so were most people in Tear, but he had of course deliberately fanned the flames with his action in that council meeting. It suited his personal plans, not that he had any intention of telling Vanahl of them.


The Nae’blis studied him closely, doubtful that Gerehl was telling the truth. His own agents in the South had informed him that High Lord Istoril, who Gerehl was masquerading as, had made a speech in the council which had apparently made quite a stir. A speech about the Dragon Reborn. The Nae’blis was fed up with many of the Chosen disregarding his orders. Already some of them - he still did not know who - had made attempts to interfere with the boy Dragon and here Gerehl might have plans to do the same. Vanahl wanted to set an example but he dared not risk a full confrontation with Gerehl. That could turn very.. nasty. Even so, he needed to know if Gerehl was a threat to his own plans.



“So you say”, the Nae’blis replied smoothly, his tone reflecting that he did not believe him. “But should I believe you?”


Gerehl stared past Vanahl for a moment as the painting on the wall flickered, becoming momentarily almost transparent before returning to apparent solidity. They were in Tel'aran'rhiod, the Unseen World, so this was not an unusual occurrence. The chamber mirrored Gerehl’s private chamber in Tear and he loved that painting. It depicted a Borderland battle scene from the Trolloc Wars or so it was assumed. He had been surprised to find such a painting in his quarters there in the South, but something about it.. captivated him. Staring at this mirror-image of the painting now made him think of his younger days when he had wanted to become a soldier and a commander of soldiers. The military academy had not accepted his application, however, and this was a cause for bitterness which had stayed with him. Anger and envy had slowly built in him and when he was in his early twenties he decided to become a teacher of children in order to have his revenge: he would make sure those children became bad people, people who would never be accepted into the military either.


He soon found that he found a perverse kind of joy and satisfaction in making other peoples’ lives a misery and his constant bitterness turned nasty and vicious and cruel. Punishing schoolchildren for the smallest thing became a pleasure fo