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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Chosen to Reign (Solo-RP)


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.. From Twilight into Darkness, the Shadow Never Sleeps ..

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The afternoon sun sent rays of shining light across the Ghealdan Capital of Jehannah.

 

It was a city of many sights and wonders though not on the scale of the most majestic cities on the continent like Caemlyn, Ebou Dar and Tar Valon. The swift-flowing River Boern ran through the city, meandering as it passed the different districts of the Capital. Upon the river boats of different sizes drifted daily northwards or southwards on errands of trade and other services and at its northern end the ancient Jhira Bridge towered over its blue-black waters.

 

From the bridge the splendour of the Jheda Palace could be seen in the distance, the Royal Palace of the King. Gazing toward the palace, the beggar’s piercing blue eyes glinted. Clothed in rags he leaned back toward the railing in an unconcerned posture as merchants swept by in horse-drawn carriages and townsfolk walked by giving him disdainful looks. It amused him to smile back at them, knowing full well that he could snuff out their lives if he wanted. It was an idle thought but somewhat enticing, as one particularly arrogant man glared and almost spat at him in disgust as he passed by, but the beggar had more important things to do. Not that he had not already carried out parts of his plan. Vinadel grinned darkly as he thought of the Ghealdan King’s 'unfortunate' death.

 

 

He had sent the Darkhound to kill the Monarch and of course King Gerard was no more. A Darkhound never failed in its mission. He pictured in his mind the moment of shock the King must have felt when he found the Darkhound in his private quarters.. quite the surprise indeed. He would have had only moments to consider his predicament before the beast would have been upon him, sinking its deadly jaws into his body. You shouldn’t have been so ambitious, Gerard. Once Vinadel had learned of the King’s plans to enlarge the Legion of the Wall - for of course he had spies in the King’s household - it had become necessary to remove him. Vinadel needed Ghealdan weak for what was to come and strengthening the Legion did not serve the purpose of the Shadow. My purpose.

 

He had long had his eye on Ghealdan but rather than setting himself up as an advisor to the King he had chosen to establish himself in Altara and watch from the shadows. Only Divara knew of his activities here and that was an arrangement of necessity. She also had certain.. interests in Ghealdan and so it suited them both to play their game in Jehannah. He knew she wondered why he moved about dressed as a beggar and not as a nobleman, but she would not understand if he told her it amused him to do so and it let him walk about in certain.. quarters without attracting undue attention. He enjoyed surprising people and actions like this easily made others underestimate him. That was never wise. Not at all.

 

Shifting his gaze from the palace to a river boat drifting idly by the Chosen thought about the next part of his plan. Weakening the Legion further would be prudent. He had an idea how to do so. And approaching certain.. nobles with propositions could cause further political chaos in the nation. Perhaps another death would add to the instability.

 

His grin widened greedily.

 

Yes, there was still work to be done in Ghealdan.

 

 

“NO, I CANNOT!”

 

Adriahna Sedai’s scream tore through the chamber as she stared belligerently at the White Tower Oath Rod and the knife. Her soul cried out in pain as she understood that she would not be able to make a choice.

 

Arahna Sedonai Sedai, Blue Ajah-Head, stared resignedly at her former Ajah’s newest Sister while the Green Sister and the Red shook their heads, their eyes hardening by the minute.

 

Adriahna’s tear-stricken face raised to face theirs.

 

“You can kill me but I will not betray the Light!” The conviction in her voice was clear. “I will not.”

 

There was a long silence - and then Arahna Sedai sighed.

 

“So be it.”

 

Her voice was emotionless but it was clear that the sentence had been passed.

 

The knife that lay beside the young Blue floated from the floor, borne on winds of Saidar, to point straight at her heart. She stared at it silently as it hovered in the air before her - and waited for her life to end.

 

One moment.. two.. three..

 

And then..

 

“STOP!”

 

 

The powerful command came from the doorway and the knife moving speedily toward its target was stopped in mid-air a few inches from the young Blue’s body.

 

Her eyes closed and turned downwards as she realized she had been holding her breath.

 

The woman who entered was cloaked in a shimmering light, making it impossible to see who it was, but raising her tearful eyes to look at the newcomer Adriahna’s mouth opened wide as she saw the aura of Saidar that enveloped the other. She had never seen anyone this strong in the One Power and that included the Amyrlin Seat. Gobsmacked her eyes widened even further when she saw all three Aes Sedai bow humbly before the shimmering figure.

 

“Great Mistress!” they said in unison, their voices abject.

 

The figure seemed to nod slightly and then to turn to study the young Blue Sister. Adriahna could still not make out who she was, even her dress was impossible to make out. Her aura of power was so strong that Adriahna was almost unable to comprehend it.

 

“So this is our young Blue”, the woman in the shimmering light said. Her voice was cloaked in some way also, because it sounded like the voice of three different women speaking at the same time. “You are a stubborn one, child.”

 

Adriahna stayed silent, still taken aback but at the same time wondering who this incredibly powerful Aes Sedai could be. Could it be the Head of the Black Ajah in the Tower? The thought made the young Blue’s skin crawl.

 

“She will not swear”, Arahna Sedai said matter-of-factly. “It is better she is killed here and now. There are others we can turn.”

 

“Not so quick, Arahna”, the figure in shimmering light replied. There was amusement in the voice now. “I will take care of this one personally”.

 

“Yes, Great Mistress!” the three Aes Sedai replied. They would obey and not question this change of plan. It was safest that way.

 

Adriahna only had a moment to take in what was being said and what it implied before she blacked out.

 

 

Arahna Sedai and the two other Sisters left the chamber as commanded leaving the unconscious young Blue in the Chosen’s care.

 

The figure in shimmering light studied the unconscious woman on the floor and her shrewd smile widened. Deleyhna dismantled the Weave of Illusion surrounding her, then promptly opened a gateway there in the chamber and dragged the young Blue through to the other side before closing the gateway behind her.

 

Her smile broadened at the thought of Divara’s shock when she discovered that she had been played, that another of the Chosen had pretended to be her in her White Tower and had stolen her prisoner. She would not be best pleased. Far from it.

 

The thought made Deleyhna chuckle inside as Twilight descended on the Andoran Capital of Caemlyn.

 

 

Kharin stared gleefully at the severed head of the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light on top of the long pole that had been placed on top of the castle wall for everyone to see. The cold blue eyes of the former Whitecloak leader stared sightlessly out at the barricades that had been erected around the area surrounding the Fortress of Light. The Chosen, watching through the eyes of the Amo’hra, leader of the Ayyad, nodded contentedly as she saw the Sharan legions, accompanied by women channelers, forming in the huge courtyard. They had been brought through gateways the day before, together with wagonloads of provisions, and now several thousand Sharan elite soldiers protected the stronghold and were ready to conquer the Capital Amador. And then we will kill some more men. The thought made Kharin’s eyes glint in satisfaction and hunger.

 

She had never questioned the extreme urge she had to bring pain upon men.

 

I will never forget.

 

It had all started when she was ten and she had been brutally raped by her uncle. She had lived in fear for many months after that occurrence and shame and inner pain had turned to anger and self-loathing and finally to madness though she would never admit that to anyone, never mind herself. What she had slowly developed was an urge to hurt men, because men were hateful beings who could hurt girls like her and her hate grew as she became older. When she was fourteen she killed her uncle, watching him die slowly and painfully from the fifteen knife wounds she had given him. No one had believed her when she had told of his rape of her four years earlier and no one believed her now as she explained that she had seen him stab himself fifteen times over. No one ever believed her and she did not care when she was put in a home for criminal children. She had had her revenge and her uncle would never hurt anyone again. The thought made her feel very happy. In her new home, however, she was beaten and molested regularly by some of the male attendants and it only confirmed her belief that all men were evil and worthy of punishment. She slit one of the male attendants’ throat before escaping from the home one late evening.

 

Months of flight and hardships followed until she finally managed to settle down in a small village in northern Tarabon, taken in by a kind old woman of small means but a big heart. It was there some months later that by seeming chance she was found by Aes Sedai looking for girls who could channel. Kharin had had some dizzy spells on occasion in the past year but had never thought much of it, her other pains - physical and mental - much greater. Now she was being told she was one of those born with the One Power and it had to be trained and nurtured for her to survive. She was promptly carried off to the White Tower and a young Kharin had little say in the matter. She had no notion of Aes Sedai or the One Power but the thought of becoming powerful and therefore being able to put fear into the souls of all men was deliciously enticing and kept her going and striving toward that goal in the years that followed. With training she calmed her occasional erratic behaviour and kept her madness from her teachers, hiding her vicious thoughts from everyone. In the darkness of the night, however, she gleefully thought of hurting men, killing men who were evil in their nature.

 

She would kill them all.

 

 

Nerine ni Zethere e’Zahr, Protector of the Lances, Queen of Saldaea knelt abjectly on the floor of her own Hall like a peasant, swallowing her indignation and humiliation.

 

It was outrageous, but there was nothing she could do about the situation at the moment. There were five - 5! - male channelers here in her Royal Palace right now and she was shamed to admit she was fearful. Who knew what these half-mad men could do.. and they were supposedly led by the Dragon Reborn.. All her advisors had argued that this was just another False Dragon and that she should show strength and defy him.. fools the lot of them! She could hear several of them whimpering in fear there they knelt deeply on the floor a little in front of her and despite her own unease she grinned inside. They deserved nothing better, those fools!

 

Once she got the chance she would have to sort this veritable mess with this.. Dragon.

 

The name gave her shivers, she could not help herself.. his army was outside her walls and with these channeling men at his side she was beat. And he knew it.

 

There was some banging on the doors to the Hall but no one was able to enter. The channeling men - Asha’man they called themselves - were obviously using the One Power to stop anyone from interfering. There was silence now as the foreigners studied the kneeling advisors and the kneeling Queen. The Queen felt the Dragon Reborn’s eyes on her and she caught her breath. Daring for a moment to peek up at him she saw that he and the others were normal sized again, understanding that their previous enormous height when they had entered had been a trick. She had been utterly speechless when she had seen them, first thinking they were Shadowspawn come to destroy her, then understanding it was the Dragon Reborn and fellow channelers. She had fallen on her knees before she was even aware of it.

 

She pushed her gaze down again, abjectly and humbly, so as to not provoke the young man. At the same time she wondered whether he was there to invade her nation, to take power, or perhaps to strike a deal. None of her advisors had thought it likely that he would come in strength to propose an alliance, but perhaps they were wrong. On the other hand, if he was here to propose some sort of deal, why had he humiliated her in this way? Then again, she guessed she had not given him much of a choice, arrogantly and defyingly closing the gates for him.

 

The silence lengthened as she remained kneeling and she waited for the young man to speak, hoping she would live to see the night.

 

 

Raphael walked onto the black slopes of Shayol Ghul, the gateway closing behind him.

 

He shuddered in spite of himself.

 

He had been summoned to appear before the Great Lord.

 

Above, dark clouds almost hid the sky, hiding the mountain’s peak. 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 man with blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and a handsome face atop a tall broad-shouldered body, wearing a dark blue cloak with white fringes and symbols down the side, shifted his eyes to the opening in the rocks some way off to his right. He felt diminished without the One Power, yearning for its brilliant intoxicating sweetness as always.. but here it was too dangerous. To even think of embracing Saidin so close to the Great Lord would be to embrace Death itself.

 

The Chosen remembered well how this place had looked in the Age that had been his, before the Long Sleep. It had been an idyllic island in a cool sea, far from the bitter cold and desolate place it had become. How the world has changed..

 

Casting those idle thoughts away, he focused on the business at hand. He needed his wits about him when summoned by the Great Lord. More shivers ran down his spine, part excitement, but mostly dread. Few things in life frightened him - but this did.

 

He had to be careful here. Very very careful.

 

 

Stepping toward the opening in the mountain, he passed silently by the two unmoving Myrddraal that guarded either side of the rock entrance. Inside the path slanted gradually downwards, the tunnel floor marked by the passage of feet over time. As he walked Raphael 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 the Chosen 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.

 

Raphael felt momentary awe penetrate his dread and it was like it had been 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. 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..

 

 

RAPHAEL

 

 

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, every single nerve tingling, and he did not know whether to shout endlessly in glee or cry in horror.

 

 

ARE YOU LOYAL, RAPHAEL

 

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 blue 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, 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.

 

 

“I have always been loyal to you, Great Lord!”, Raphael replied when he had regained his breath. “I am always ready to do your bidding.”

 

YES YOU ARE.

 

The pain continued throughout his body but it was tinged by sweetness.. an impossible combination but true even so. His arm started shaking again and he struggled to make it stop.

 

Was there amusement in the Great Lord’s tone? He could not tell. The voice that was not a voice echoed still in his mind.

 

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 finally broken.

 

THE CHOSEN SPREAD CHAOS IN MY SERVICE. THEY PLOT AND THEY CONQUER. SO DO YOU. BUT ONLY THE STRONGEST WILL SURVIVE. ARE YOU STRONG ENOUGH, RAPHAEL?

 

The question crashed through his mind and he almost blacked out. He screamed in pain for what felt like an eternity.. then opened his eyes - had they been closed!? - and tried to form words and a sentence. It was difficult but finally he managed to whisper..

 

“I am strong enough, Great Lord.”

 

He did not want to appear weak before the Great Lord of the Dark but he was unable to stop the pain and the shudders that ran through his body. - Was he on his knees again? Had he been standing!?- Everything became confusing for the Chosen and he tried desperately to gain his bearings.

 

WOULD YOU BE NAE’BLIS?

 

 

The Chosen’s eyes widened and he tried to think coherently as a tidal wave of pain crashed through him.

 

He was dumbfounded for a moment, uncertain what to reply. He was sure the Great Lord could read his mind and sense his panic. For what could he say? To speak against Vanahl here could result in his death. But at the same time he longed to admit his hidden secret, that he indeed wanted to be Nae’blis and thought he deserved the title. The Great Lord would discover if he lied, he was sure of it. Conflicting emotions tore through him and he was unable to decide.

 

He screamed again and was falling.. falling.. and then he opened his eyes and found himself on the ground, his whole body shivering..

 

Raising his head he tried to find the strength to get up again but was unable at first. His heart was racing and he was finally, after some struggle, able to get on his knees. Gazing upward, he sealed his fate.

 

“Yes, Great Lord. If that is your wish.”

 

Another long silence followed.

 

Then..

 

IT MUST BE EARNED. ONLY THE ONE MOST WORTHY WILL RULE ONE STEP BELOW ME.

 

Raphael tried to catch his breath, brushing away the tears on his face. His mind was a swirl of emotions.

 

YOU MUST SHOW YOUR WORTH, RAPHAEL. THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO.

 

 

The Chosen listened to the Great Lord’s commands, his eyes widening at the audacity of the plan, trying at the same time to stop the storm of dizzying pain that crashed through him from knocking him out.

 

As the final command was given Raphael felt a soaring but also agonizing ecstasy flood his senses and his entire body for a long moment.. until he finally blacked out.

 

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.. Bound in more Ways than One ..

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“Salihna Arinahl, come with me.”

 

The Mistress of Novices met the young blond woman’s eyes with a firm but kind stare and recognized the mixed emotions in the Novice’s eyes, exhilaration mixed with some fear.

 

Salihna caught her breath, having known for a while that this moment was coming but even so now that it was here she felt.. unprepared. She had been a Novice for twelve years, ever since she was brought to the White Tower at sixteen, and had shown average progress throughout her time in the Tower. Some of the girls who had started with her had been Accepted a couple of years but there also were a few who it seemed were nowhere near being Raised.

 

Curtsying to the Sister, the young woman from Arad Doman followed her through the corridors of the Tower, going over in her mind everything she had been told and taught about the Test for Accepted.

 

She remembered her Aes Sedai teacher, a strict elderly Cairhienin woman of the Brown Ajah, going methodically on about the Test and why it was so important. “It is a test”, the Aes Sedai had said facing the class of expectant Novices, “that forces you to face your greatest fears about what has happened in your past life, what might be happening in the present-day, and what might happen in your future”.

 

In order to become Accepted, she had emphasized, the Novice must want to be Aes Sedai more than anything else in the whole world, enough to face anything, fight free of anything, to achieve it.

 

I really want this, Salihna thought as they passed several Aes Sedai in one corridor, the Sisters hardly noticing her. I have always wanted this, ever since they found the spark in me.

 

 

Her teacher’s voice echoed in her mind as they entered a doorway heading down into the basements of the White Tower to the room where she was to be tested.

 

A Novice may refuse to take the Accepted Test twice. If she refuses a third time, however, she is put out of the Tower.

 

What a woman sees during her Testing for Accepted is not required to be shared with anyone, as a woman’s fears are her own.

 

Salihna remembered her teacher’s description of the Ter’angreal used for the Accepted Test. It was in the shape of three round, silver arches that stood on a silver ring, with their edges touching each other. The arches were just tall enough for someone to walk beneath them. During the Test, an Aes Sedai sat in front of the Ter'angreal at each place where an arch touches the ring, activating the Ter'angreal.

 

“The Ter’angreal”, the Brown Ajah Sister had said in her lecturing voice, “forces the candidate for Acceptance to enter three different visions, or alternate realities (it is not known which), where she must face her fears. While within the Ter'angreal, she is not supposed to be able to remember who she is, where she has come from, or that she has the ability to channel. An arch will eventually appear in the vision/reality and the candidate will remember that she must go through it.”

 

“Remember, the way back will only appear once. You will be tempted to stay and be distracted.. you must show character and strength.”

 

 

The words echoed in her consciousness as they descended the final steps to the chamber below. They were far below the White Tower. Looking around, Salihna saw that the room was carved out of the bedrock of the island and had a domed shape. The walls were pale, smooth stone. The floor was bare stone. The Ter’angreal sat in the centre of the room, and light from tall stand-lamps flickered oddly on it; she could not see what lay inside. She also saw a plain table near the Ter'angreal holding three large silver chalices which were filled with clear water. An Aes Sedai stood beside the table. It was all as it had been described to her, but seeing it was still a different experience. She felt her heart beat faster and tried to compose her thoughts as she had been taught. She was only partly successful.

 

Three Aes Sedai sat around the Ter’angreal where the arches touched the ring. They did not look up as Tarihna Semendhei, the Mistress of Novices, and the Novice to be Tested entered. Tarihna stopped just inside the room and faced the young woman.

 

“Salihna Arinhal, are you ready to face your fears?” she asked, beginning the formal ceremony.

 

“Yes.”

 

Salihna’s voice seemed a little weak to her as she responded but she was steadfast as she faced the Mistress of Novices.

 

“You will now be told two things that no woman hears before reaching this point”, Tarihna Sedai said, meeting the Novice’s eyes.

 

“If the candidate for Acceptance fails to complete the Test once she has begun, she will be put out of the Tower without enough silver to last her a year, and she will never be allowed to return.”

 

“Also, take note. The Test is dangerous. Some women have never returned from the Silver Arches.. we do not know what became of them.. you must be steadfast.”

 

Salihna nodded silently, trying to quench the butterflies in her stomach.

 

 

“You are now given one more chance to refuse to take the Test.” The Mistress of Novices looked pointedly at the Novice. She had seen Novices lose their nerve at this point before.

 

“I will not refuse”. Salihna replied determinedly. “I am ready to face my fears.”

 

The Mistress of Novices nodded, her blue eyes glinting in satisfaction, and then they walked a few more steps into the chamber. They were now addressed by the Blue Sister who was beside the table with the chalices.

 

 

Aes Sedai: Whom do you bring with you, Sister?

 

Mistress of Novices: One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.

 

Aes Sedai: Is she ready?

 

Mistress of Novices: She is ready to leave behind what she was, and, passing through her fears, gain Acceptance.

 

Aes Sedai: Does she know her fears?

 

Mistress of Novices: She has never faced them, but now is willing.

 

Aes Sedai: Then let her face what she fears.

 

 

Salihna knew she was now required to undress and she removed her Novice dress and her undergarments until she stood stark naked before the other women. She focused on what was to come and did not bother covering herself. Nakedness was the least of her worries here. She needed to be totally focused on the tasks ahead to succeed.

 

Before she entered the first arch, the Mistress of Novices told her: “The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

 

Walking through the arch, she did not know what she would face, but she soon found out.

 

She was faced with difficult situations from her past; leaving her sick father in his bed back home, struggling against the man who had tried to rape her at age fourteen in a back alley of the town she grew up in, and facing anew the salivating dogs that had attacked her and almost killed her at the meadow she had walked across when she was a young girl. She faced her fears the best she could and when after a time she saw an arch appear thirty paces or so off to her right, glowing with a silver radiance, she ran towards it and entered, stepping back through the arch to return to the chamber below the White Tower. Her pulse was racing and she tried to get hold of her emotions.

 

The Sister standing beside the table poured one of the chalices of water over her and told her: “You are washed clean of what sin you may have done and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul.”

 

Salihna then entered the second arch after the Mistress of Novices had spoken again, saying: “The second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

The second arch was even worse and Salihna had to face her worst fears of what was happening in the present, not the least that she would fail to become an Aes Sedai and have to live with the shame. When she emerged from the Ter’angreal this time, tears were flowing down her cheeks and she was exhausted, physically and mentally.

 

The Sister standing beside the table poured the second chalice of water over her and said: “You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.”

 

Salihna had to pull herself together to regain the needed courage to enter the third arch. First the Mistress of Novices told her: “The third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

 

She knew the third arch would be the worst of them all, facing her fears about the future, but even so she was taken aback by the harsh trials she faced. On the battlefield facing Myrddraal and other vile Shadowspawn. Seeing her Warder crushed beneath the onslaught and feeling her soul cry out in anguish as the Bond snapped. Failing in missions for the White Tower, betraying trust. And worse.

 

She was drenched physically and emotionally as she staggered through the shining archway and into the White Tower chamber. Her face was stricken and she felt her knees give way. She was caught by the Mistress of Novices who smiled proudly at the young woman and held her for a moment in her arms before helping her stand steady on the stone floor.

 

Salihna was full of swirling emotions as she gradually got her bearings and her head cleared. Echoes of what she had been through remained in her mind but she pushed them aside as best she could and focused on the present. At what mattered.

 

She had passed the Accepted Test.

 

 

Relief and happiness replaced the memories as she dried the tears from her eyes. Once her eyes were clear of water and she was able to take a better look around the chamber she saw that the Amyrlin Seat and one Sister from each Ajah, formally garbed in their shawls and arranged to either side of the Amyrlin, now occupied the room as well.

 

Salihna knelt before Arementhe Senican, the Watcher of the Seals, The Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat who poured the third chalice of water over her.

 

The Amyrlin told her: “You are washed clean of Salihna Arinahl from Arad Doman. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul. You are Salihna Arinahl, Accepted of the White Tower. You are Sealed to us now.”

 

The Amyrlin smiled as she presented the new Accepted with a Great Serpent Ring. Salihna felt tears coming again, thrills of achievement running through her entire body.

 

Pulling the new Accepted to her feet, she said: “Welcome, Daughter,” kissing her on the cheek.

 

The other Aes Sedai present smiled as well and Salihna was quickly helped into an Accepted’s banded dress.

 

Her smile was radiant.

 

She was Accepted.

 

 

Chalor din Togara Evening Tide, Windfinder of the Atha’an Miere sea vessel ‘Ocean Dancer’, watched the skies in the horizon as the ship raced south-eastwards.

 

For a moment her idle thoughts went back to the ship she had served on before, ‘Wavesweeper’ with its Sailmistress Tarah din Coral Rising Wave. They were further north as far as she knew. The Sailmistress had been less than happy when she had been ordered to hand over her accomplished Windfinder to the new Sea Folk vessel, but orders were orders and she had acquired a new Windfinder for her beloved ship. The ‘Ocean Dancer’ was a larger and sturdier vessel, however, and faster which served Issandra’s purpose well. Shrugging off those idle thoughts, she stared into the distance, her mind focusing on more important matters.

 

She was Weaving the Wind, using thick weaves of Water and Air, to speed the vessel onwards. As always she masked some of her power and ability; she did not want to arouse suspicion with her capabilities as a Windfinder.

 

A little while later, Issandra’s mind centered on the previous night’s meeting with Vanahl.

 

She had been commanded to meet with him in the World of Dreams and such a summons could not be denied. However much she hated the arrogance of the man.

 

 

“So Issandra”, the Nae’blis had begun, some amusement in his voice, “what are you up to?”

 

“I am doing the Great Lord’s bidding”, she had replied smoothly, “as I presume are you.”

 

The fire in Vanahl’s eyes had intensified at her impish and slightly arrogant tone.

 

“I am told you are heading toward Falme”, Vanahl had added. “I have taken Falme. There is nothing for you here.”

 

She had looked at him, wanting to wipe the smug smile off his face.

 

What do you know of my plans? She had wondered, studying him, keeping her own face neutral.

 

 

“We are heading your way because of the rumours of an invasion fleet”, she had said. “Seanchan they call themselves apparently.”

 

The Nae’blis had wondered if she was as unknowing as she appeared, had then replied that the Seanchan would be taken care of. In due course.

 

“They are coming further south, in Tanchico.” Vanahl had added. “They think they are strong but they are weak. They will fall beneath our wrath. When it is time.”

 

Issandra had listened in silence, storing the things he said in her mind. “I am glad you are so well informed”, she had lied, envious of his sources of information. “But we all do as we must.”

 

“Do not oppose me, Issandra!” the Nae’blis had retorted, his voice harsh. “That would be a dangerous path to take.”

 

The glowing orbs of his eyes had intensified once again, flames burning. As always, she had felt unease at the power in those eyes. She knew he was much stronger in the One Power than her and she had to take care with her barbs. He was partially sane at best and one never knew what he might do if provoked.

 

“Oh, I would never oppose you, Vanahl”, she had replied, unable to completely remove the spite in her voice. “You need not concern yourself with me. I obey my commands.”

 

She had promised she would stay clear of Falme and take care of things with the Sea Folk.

 

“See that you do”, the Nae’blis had said before she had opened the gateway and left the partially flickering room in Tel'aran'rhiod.

 

He had watched the disappearing gateway for a long time, wondering how much or rather how little Issandra could be trusted.

 

When finally he had opened his own gateway and stepped into elsewhere, he had already decided that she had to be dealt with at some point regardless of her actions.

 

 

Arrogant bloody man!

 

Standing at the bow of the ship now, Issandra pushed irritated thoughts of Vanahl away and stared at the azure-blue waters of the Aryth Ocean. She was considering how to approach the current situation now that she knew that the Seanchan invaders were further south. If she told the Sailmistress what she knew, she would naturally be asked how she knew, and that she would be unable to answer. She needed to stay cloaked within the figure of Chalor din Togara Evening Tide until this mission was completed. Perhaps she could advise the Sailmistress, a grey-haired staunch woman called Salis din Sharama Three Stars, to head toward land north of Falme? Thereby she could go ashore and pretend to come across the information without stepping on Vanahl’s toes as it were. The more she thought about it the more this plan seemed to be the most feasible.

 

The decision made in her mind, she wove the winds so the far-away storm came toward them instead of turning it away, and used this as a pretence for heading toward land. Salis din Sharama Three Stars looked a little dubious, wondering why her Windfinder could not work the weather so they could pass the storm at a distance, but was convinced in the end, the safety of her ship always most important to her, when her Windfinder added that it could be that there would be useful rumours to be had ashore, and so a win-win situation.

 

Heading east they made landfall that same evening and Chalor din Togara Evening Tide was happy to report to the Sailmistress some hours later that she had come across credible information that the invaders, the Seanchan, were further south in Tanchico and they were a huge fleet. There was trouble in Falme as well, not with these Seanchan but some local strife, so it was best to stay away from there. Salis din Sharama Three Stars agreed after some persuasion and ordered that they head north again as soon as the storm passed to inform the Mistress of the Ships. The minor Compulsion Issandra had used on the Sailmistress helped of course.

 

As ‘Ocean Dancer’ sped northwards again a couple of days later, Issandra considered how this change would affect her plans. Her main purpose was to weaken the Sea Folk and make sure they did not join the boy Dragon in the coming conflict. Perhaps having the Atha’an Miere do battle with the Seanchan would further that purpose, but she had no such orders as of yet and would bide her time.

 

She would succeed with her plans. There was no other option.

 

 

“Where is my Queen?!” The King shouted and banged his hand on the table. “Where is she?”

 

Lord Rhemar stared back the Arad Doman Monarch silently.

 

The King paced back and forth for a long time, running his hands through his hair in frustration.

 

Elihna Tharan a’Satirelde, beloved Queen of Arad Doman, had disappeared and was nowhere to be found. The King had sent out a hundred men to look for her in the Capital but without success. No one could report even a whisper of anyone having seen her anywhere.

 

“She cannot just disappear into thin air”, the King continued, a desperate glint in his eyes. “Advise me, Rhemar”, he added as he stopped pacing and stared out of one of the huge windows in his private chambers that faced the royal gardens.

 

Sinam, in the guise of Lord Rhemar, shrugged. “We have looked everywhere”, he lied. “We have done everything we can. There is every possibility that she has somehow been abducted. Perhaps for ransom.”

 

Inside he grinned at the plausibility of what he was saying. They had indeed looked everywhere and she was nowhere to be found just as he had said. Unless you know where to look, of course.

 

“Ransom!? They would take her for ransom?” The King’s voice sounded dubious. “How did they manage to take her in the first place? No one is able to get into the Royal Palace, it is too well guarded.” 

 

“I cannot say”, Lord Rhemar lied again. “They must have found a way.”

 

The King mumbled something unintelligible under his breath, then turned and faced his chief advisor. “She must be found, Rhemar!” He said in a commanding voice. “Leave no stone unturned, she must be found!”

 

Lord Rhemar bowed low, his face serious as the circumstances demanded. “I will do my best, my King”, he lied for the third time, and turned to walk out of the room, his serious face turned away from the Monarch brightening considerably with a broadening grin as he left the chamber.

 

 

Serahna watched the Shadowspawn army marching eastwards.

 

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 stood regally like a Queen as the Captains saluted her walking by.

 

Myrddraal led the legions of Trollocs, shadows of black in front of rows upon rows of Trollocs of all kinds, some with eagle beaks atop human forms, others with wolf muzzles and others again with horned goat faces, but all ferocious and all heavily armed. It was an army to be feared.

 

When the final squad had passed, the Chosen turned away and walked back into the mansion she had occupied. The lady of the house still sat whimpering with terrified eyes in the corner, not daring to look up more than once in a while, while her husband groaned in pain on the floor. His left hand had been cut off and it lay in a pool of blood a few paces away. His arm was bound with a cloth to try and stem the blood flowing but it had been done hurriedly and with little success.

 

He raised his face upwards when he heard steps outside the door but when he saw that it was her his head sank to the floor again in abject misery. Serahna looked at the pitiful man and wondered at how weak men were in this day and Age. He had refused to divulge information about the local Lord of this region and had paid the price.

 

Instead of lying there feeling sorry for yourself, she thought disgustedly, you should be happy you just lost a hand, not your head.

 

 

“I will ask you again”, the Chosen said as she came to stand before him. “Where is the Lord of this region?” The man mumbled that he did not know, groaning at the pain that came from his hand or rather where his hand had been.

 

“That is not good enough.” She spoke softly but there was anger in her dark eyes. “Shall I cut off your other hand as well?”

 

The man whimpered and begged her not to.

 

She looked down at him disdainfully. Either he was very strong, withstanding the torture, or he simply did not know. Serahna suspected it was the latter. All they knew was that the local Lord had disappeared, probably gone into hiding as the Shadowspawn army was approaching. She wanted to find him and execute him publicly, it would bring fear to the Lords further east in Kandor and make their eastward march swifter. Shaking her head, she decided that there was nothing more to learn here.

 

Putting the old couple out of their misery, she slit the man’s throat with a thin weave of Saidar and used another lethal weave to make the lady’s heart stop.

 

Rest in peace, she thought scornfully.

 

Heading out of the Borderland mansion, she walked across to where her horse was tethered to a pole. It suited her purposes to stay close to the army for the moment and to be seen - and so she rode behind the army atop her white mare as they headed into eastern Kandor.

 

 

 

Deleyhna removed the shield that Arahna Sedai had placed between Adriahna and the Source and replaced it with a Domination Band around the young Blue’s neck.

 

The Aes Sedai was only partly conscious and aware of what was happening there she lay on the settee in Deleyhna’s private chamber in Caemlyn. As the Band clicked in place, like a metal necklace, the Chosen smiled contentedly. The Domination Band was a very useful tool which she had made use of several times before, and it - and its twin - was one of the very few things she had in her possession from her earlier life, that in what they now called the Age of Legends.

 

It was a Ter’angreal used to control channelers. There was a male version and a female version and this one controlled women who could channel wielding Saidar. It consisted of the necklace or collar and a bracelet, leashless and practical, where the controller or leash holder used the bracelet, and the controlled or leashed wore the collar. They had been made during the War of Power, but even back then it was not clear who had constructed the first one since there had been several attempts at the time. Deleyhna suspected it was one of the Aes Sedai who had turned to the Shadow and become a Dreadlord who had first come up with the idea, as the device had only been used in service of the Great Lord as far as she knew. Aes Sedai back then had considered the device evil and the practice atrocious, but Deleyhna and others of like mind had scoffed at the reluctance and had seen the value of this Ter’angreal.

 

 

Adriahna felt overwhelming dizziness, her head pounded as she tried to focus on the room she was in and the person staring down at her. She tried to mumble something but realized to her horror that she was unable to speak!

 

What..!?

 

Gaping, she concentrated on the figure of the woman but her mind was still clouded. Her muscles felt heavy and unresponsive but finally she was able to move her arm a little. She tried again to cry out but was unable to. Her eyes were wide with consternation as they focused on the unknown face studying her closely.

 

“Yes, my child. You are caught like a mouse in a trap.”

 

The woman’s voice was hard but also filled with amusement.

 

Adriahna felt dread in her soul as she tried to take in her circumstance. Where was she? And who was this unknown woman in that seductive lavender dress with dark red, wavy auburn hair and glittering emerald eyes?

 

Then as her arm slowly moved to her chest she suddenly became aware of the smooth collar around her neck. Her eyes widened even more as she touched it and found no clasp to open it. It was cold to the touch. Deathly cold.

 

Seeing her troubled confusion, Deleyhna spoke. Her voice was as cold as the metal around the Young Blue’s neck.

 

“That, my child, is a Domination Band. It is a Ter’angreal that gives me the power to control your channeling. To control you in all ways actually.”

 

Adriahna felt shivers run down her spine and despite her Aes Sedai training fear overtook her.

 

 

Delayhna saw the fear in the young Blue’s eyes and thought scornfully how weak Aes Sedai were in this new Age.

 

“It means you are unable to walk or speak or do anything without my permission.” The Chosen’s voice now took on an amused tone. “You can breathe and your bodily functions are not affected, but anything else..” Her smile grew dark and evil.

 

“Anything else.. is mine.”

 

Horror crept into Adriahna Sedai’s eyes. This was worse than being shielded as she had been by Arahna. This was.. evil. That was the only way she could think of it.

 

Who are you? She wanted to ask, but was physically unable to do so. Something stopped her from speaking and voicing her thoughts.

 

She had never heard of such a Ter’angreal that could do that. She moved the other arm slightly and tried to get into a more comfortable position on the settee, all the while trying to not become overcome with terror at the desperate situation she was in. It was all like some horrible nightmare that she waiting to snap out of.

 

Deleyhna watched the young Sister but there was no pity in her eyes. She let her move her hands and arms for the moment, enjoying the control she had over the Aes Sedai.

 

“I shall make good use of you, child.” The Chosen’s grin widened. “And just so you know, there is no use to resist or disobey my commands, here is what happens if you try.”

 

An avalanche of pain hit the young Blue and it was as if a thousand needles stabbed her at the same time. She screamed inside, again and again and again, her body shaking on the settee, and her face contorted into a twisted mess of tears and agony as the pain continued. Finally, an eternity later or so it seemed, the pain stopped though her arms and legs shook for a long time afterwards.

 

 

It took a very long time for her to raise her tear-stricken eyes to the Black Sister, for it had to be a Black Aes Sedai, who else would do this to her? When she did, she was almost unable to meet the other woman’s eyes, echoes of pain still reverberating through her.

 

The Chosen looked at her victim for long moments before speaking again.

 

Outside, Twilight was descending on the Andoran Capital. The Queen would be in bed early as she usually was, a routine Deleyhna as her advisor had encouraged. The men of the Queen’s Council would also be out of the Royal Palace by now. Deleyhna had some more matters to sort before the evening was over, but just now the young Blue had her attention.

 

“I will be kind and let you speak for a moment”, the Chosen said and momentarily adjusted the control through the bracelet. “Be careful what you say though, child. I will not have any bad manners from you.”

 

She is speaking to me as if I were a small child, the young Blue thought in indignation. I am no longer a novice! But she held her tongue, and with a dry raspy voice asked the first question that came to mind.

 

“Who are you, Aes Sedai? And why I am here?”

 

Her voice sounded weak to her ears, little more than a whisper, but it was a relief to be able to speak if even only for a short while.

 

“Who am I?” Deleyhna replied rhetorically. “I am no Aes Sedai!” she said with a sneer. Then her calm returned and she added with a lopsided grin, “You can call me Mistress Malah. And from this moment on your name is Lita. Be a nice little child, Lita.”

 

She leaned over and patted the young Blue on the head as if she were a pet. Adriahna’s face reddened in shame and indignation but when she began to protest she realized speech was cut off for her once again. Her eyes teared up again, her soul crying in anguish.

 

“As for why you are here”, the Chosen added after a long pause, her eyes narrowing shrewdly, “you will help me secure something that is mine, something that belongs to me.”

 

Her emerald eyes glittered in eager anticipation.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

.. Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever ..

►▼◄

 

Nerine ni Zethere e’Zahr, Protector of the Lances, Queen of Saldaea, got shakily to her feet when the Dragon Reborn told her she could do so.

 

Trying to retain some dignity in this whole mess of a situation, her hands went to the sides of her dress straightening it as she pulled herself to her feet. She kept her head slightly bowed as she slowly faced the tall red-haired man before her.

 

“We shall have a talk, you and I” the man said pointedly, studying her face. “I wish it was not necessary to do things this way”, he added, pointing around him at the Asha’man and at the still kneeling weary councillors, “but your refusal to see sense left me no choice.”

 

She accepted the rebuke as dignified as she could, knowing he was at least partly correct, and kept silent. Ter Sanduahl noted her silence and nodded to himself, trying at the same time to silence the voice that crept into the back of his mind. Brushing a hand through his short hair, he turned away from the Queen for a moment as he studied the Hall of the Sovereign as it was formally called. It was simple compared to the affluence and luxury of Southern courts, but still elegant and impressive in its own right. Such elegance so close to the Blight, he thought for a moment before the voice in his head started raving about killing everyone in the Blight. Kill them all, destroy the Shadow, make sure they are aaallll deeeeaad! He shook his head, willing the voice away, his eyes tightening as he turned back to face the Saldaean Monarch.

 

 

“Alright, let’s talk.” He ordered the Asha’man to remove the councillors from the Hall and the kneeling men seemed more than happy to oblige as they were pushed out the now open doors. The Asha’man stayed out, knowing the Dragon Reborn wanted some privacy for this, guarding the doors and barring anyone from entering. Not that anyone even considered doing so, seeing the ferocious looking channeling men.

 

Ter Sanduahl seated himself casually on the Queen’s throne and saw the glimmer of irritation on the Queen’s face before she smoothed her features again. She took a chair which stood a little to the side and placed it opposite him; not too close but also not too far away. He noted her posture - filled with uncertainty but attempting some dignity - and smiled inside. She would not like what he was going to propose.

 

“The Last Battle is coming”, he began in a smooth voice, “and we need to be joined in purpose if we are to stand a chance against the Shadow.” The Queen remained silent, and he felt sure she would be wondering where this was going. “We must all be loyal to this purpose.”

 

The Queen nodded silently, waiting for what else he was going to say. Inside she was debating with herself what tact to use with this young but powerful man. “We are all loyal here in the Borderlands”, she said finally, some pride coming into her voice. “We have stood against the Shadow for generations.”

 

Ter Sanduahl nodded. “Yes you have, and all the lands are grateful.” He sometimes wondered how it was that he now felt much older and less naive than only a year ago. Harder as well. Perhaps it was all the things he had experienced. Perhaps.. or perhaps it was something different. He preferred not to think about that part..

 

“Now however, a new challenge faces us all. Tarmon Gai'don is coming”, he said with emphasis, “and unfortunately I don’t have the time to peacefully and strategically gather all the nations to me as the Prophecies proclaim, time is short and I do what I must.”

 

 

Queen Nerine looked at him with some concern in her eyes now, fearing she would not like what was coming next.

 

“I was going to propose an alliance with Saldaea”, the Dragon Reborn then said, and the Queen’s heart sank at the implication, “but I now believe we need stronger unity and leadership to forge the strength we need in the time ahead.”

 

“You are not going to like it”, he added, and his voice turned harder, “but I see no other choice. I need Saldaea for what is to come - and Saldaea needs me.”

 

The Queen’s eyes tightened and then she closed them, her breath becoming shorter. She knew what was coming and it almost felt like a death sentence.

 

“I am relieving you of your crown, Nerine ni Zethere e’Zahr”, he said with formality. “I am the Dragon Reborn. I will be King of Saldaea.”

 

The words were like daggers in her heart. With one sentence he had stripped away her royal birthright and her whole body started shaking. She flushed angrily and had to work hard to pull herself together, but knew there was nothing she could do. She was in this young man’s power and he knew it. Her army was spread around the nation and what remained of it here in the Capital would not be able to overcome the Dragon’s army almost outside her walls. Especially not when he had 4 other male channelers here in the Royal Palace. If she did anything rash, he might do away with her. Self preservation won out and she calmed herself and nodded in abject silence, hiding the pain she felt inside.

 

Ter Sanduahl watched her closely and understood her complex emotions. He would have felt the same had he been in her place.

 

“That said, I will need your guidance in the days ahead”, he added. “You shall be my loyal advisor and caretaker-Regent when I am away from Saldaea.” The Queen nodded, appreciating the trust he put in her, but the pain of his decision was still too great for her to be able to appreciate fully his intentions.

 

“I do need your sworn loyalty though”, the Dragon Reborn said, his voice harder again.

 

 

And so it was that a little later that day, under the Dragon Banner, the Queen of Saldaea swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn before her assembled councillors and advisors and army commanders, as well as the Asha’man and some of the commanders of the Dragonsworn army, her stomach in upheaval during the short ceremony but relieved to still be alive.

 

 

Arementhe Senican, the Amyrlin Seat, studied the piece of paper she had been given earlier that day. Her eyes were tightened, her brow furrowed. The message from one of the Aes Sedai heading toward Falme to look for information regarding the Seanchan did not make any sense.

 

It said that there was strife and battle going on in Falme and that the town was close to being taken by outside forces. But they were not Seanchan. The Amyrlin shook her head. The Gray Sister had to be mistaken. It had to be those Seanchan come out of the western seas. Who else could it be? The party from Tar Valon was several days east of Falme but had come across refugees fleeing the town. The Amyrlin wondered how the Seanchan could have reached Falme that quickly. And how grave a threat did they pose?

 

Standing up from her work table in her private Amyrlin’s chamber she moved across to the window facing south. The afternoon sun was descending and soon twilight would be upon them here in the City of the Aes Sedai in the lee of famed Dragonmount. She looked down on the rooftops of the city, glimpsing the movement of people far below, thinking that she had to protect them all come what may.

 

I am the Amyrlin. It is my duty.

 

She turned back to her work table and found a pen and a small piece of paper on which she wrote a short reply. She rang the small bell at the side of her table and soon the door was opened and the Keeper of the Chronicles entered, her face expectant.

 

“Please deliver this message, Centhira”, she said, handing her the piece of paper. “I will, Mother” the Keeper said, gave a formal nod and a smile and departed as swiftly as she had entered. In the moment before the door closed the Amyrlin thought she saw a shadow outside in the hall, but it was gone in the blink of an eye and she guessed she had been wrong.

 

Seating herself again, bathed in the light of burning candles, her mind returned to the problem of those Seanchan and their Wilders.

 

 

Sendhira Sedai listened as the Queen of Altara spoke of mutual interests with the White Tower.

 

“But not so this time, Queen Mandhra”, the Red Sister murmured as she fixed the Queen with a stare.

 

Mandhra Theliana Selnobar, 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, stared back at the Aes Sedai, her eyes glittering with amusement.

 

“Perhaps not, Sendhira Sedai”, she replied with a lopsided grin. “But then again, it is not always easy to tell.”

 

“There is no need to be mysterious with me, Queen Mandhra” the Red Sister remarked, her own eyes glittering now. “The Amyrlin’s” - she was going to say insane but changed the word at the last moment - “controversial plans are known.” They were known to some so it was not a lie.

 

“Is that so?” the Queen mumbled as she stared mystically down into her cup filled with red wine for a long moment. “Then you may know why I may be.. reluctant to go ahead with them.”

 

Sendhira Sedai studied the other woman’s face, trying to read her mind. Having been the Tower’s representative in the Tarasin Palace for a good while she had gotten good at reading the Queen’s face, but this time there was some ambivalence in the Altaran Monarch’s features. Could it be that the Queen had declined the Amyrlin’s offer to join in her plans? Nothing would please the Red Sister more, but she had to tread carefully.

 

“I am of course loyal to the Amyrlin”, she said and believed she was within the Oaths saying so - she did after all support the Amyrlin despite their disagreement on this one issue - “but there could be.. dangers with some proposals like this.”

 

“I am glad you are loyal to your supreme leader”, the Queen said and there was bite in her voice and the hint of a sneer, “it is always important to know where your loyalties lie.”

 

“That said”, she added smoothly, “I think now may perhaps not be the best of times to go ahead with.. dangerous plans.” The Queen met the Aes Sedai’s eyes squarely. “Don’t you agree?”

 

Sendhira Sedai’s answering grin spoke more than a thousand words and she took a big sip from her cup of red wine, thinking also of a pair of violet eyes.

 

 

Cazar Elnovar listened to his second in command, Rahtim Andar, making his daily report but his mind was elsewhere.

 

He was leader of the Asha’man in the Black Tower in the Dragon Reborn’s absence and just the day before he had received a message from said person ordering him to send eight more Asha’man north to the Borderlands as quickly as possible. Cazar would obey of course, but he was not too pleased about it. There were several reasons for his unease.

 

First, he needed all the Asha’man they had to train the Dedicated and Soldiers in the Black Tower. Second, some of the Asha’man were becoming a little.. unbalanced at times. It was the Taint, Cazar knew, and as such he preferred having them close by to monitor their mental state. Third, on a personal level, Cazar felt some disquiet over a section of the Dedicated which seemed to be on a collision course with the rest, wanting to push harder and faster in their training than their teachers thought wise. Cazar wanted to have some trusted Asha’man to watch over those young men, to ‘guide them back on the right path’ as he saw it. If eight trusted Asha’man left to join up with the Dragon Reborn, fewer would be left to take care of things here.

 

His mind returned to the present as the Asha’man before him finished his report. The man was middle aged with dark hair and a bold nose. Cazar presumed some women found the man handsome. As far as Cazar was concerned, the man’s best quality was that he was trustworthy.

 

“What was that last part again?” Cazar asked, feeling it was important.

 

“The Seanchan forces have taken Tanchico”, the Asha’man repeated. “Or so at least our spies tell us.” He paused momentarily letting that piece of news sink in. “And they have done so with the aid of a good number of Aes Sedai”, the man added pointedly. “Or so we are being told.”

 

“Not Aes Sedai as we know it”, Cazar murmured, thinking also of the talks with the White Tower, as he considered the news. “But they might as well be, in the general order of things.” He met the Asha’man’s eyes squarely. “Then again, these Seanchan channelers could be even more dangerous.”

 

“Chaos is erupting everywhere”, the black-cloaked Asha’man said, and for a split second there was a dark gleam in his eyes, but Cazar did not see it as he contemplated the situation and how things could affect the Black Tower.

 

“Yes, you are right”, Cazar replied finally, getting up from his chair to walk across to the window facing the training grounds. He could see Soldiers and Dedicated training with the One Power in the distance. He touched the Gold-and-red Dragon pin on the right collar of his black coat, thinking of what it represented. “These are trying times indeed.”

 

 

Time stood still as the 13 Chosen stepped simultaneously out of gateways and surrounded the White Tower.

 

The gateways snapped shut behind them, slivers of light disappearing into nothingness.

 

They were all there, these most powerful of the Great Lord’s channelers and commanders, assembled against all odds, standing in a circle around the bastion of the Aes Sedai. Filled with the One Power which flowed from their hands in spectacularly complex and powerful weaves making them glow like fallen stars, there they stood exultant, facing the Tower.

 

Vanahl. Raphael. Deleyhna. Kieran. Serahna. Gerehl. Divara. Tervihn. Sinam. Vinadel. Kharin. Banohr. Issandra.

 

Names used to frighten children in this Day and Age. All believed to be bound in Shayol Ghul together with the Dark One, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the End of time.

 

Forsaken they were called by Lightfools - but they called themselves, Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever.

 

We have been Chosen to Reign, thought Raphael gleefully feeling the ecstasy of Saidin rushing through him. Woe to anyone who stands in our path!

 

 

And red fire blossomed in the air, swirling like a maelstrom, pushed by winds of Saidin and Saidar, forming at the base of the White Tower and flowing upwards, accompanied by a booming sound which rocked the island’s core and caused wide panic in the island city of Tar Valon. The fire embraced the white granite walls of the tall structure as it sped ever upwards and was soon met by thunder and lightning from the twilight sky which struck the top of the White Tower in a blast that shook the surroundings.

 

The 13 Chosen were almost ablaze in the One Power, hands outstretched, all channeling their strength using Angreal upon their person. For Raphael it was a dagger which he held in one hand which besides increasing his power also ensured he would not draw too much. He held onto it tightly as he channeled the weaves he needed, glorying in the might.

 

Assemble the others, and attack the White Tower.

 

That had been his explicit command from the Great Lord. And assemble them he had - despite Vanahl’s great displeasure at not being the one given the command, he was Nae’blis after all - the first such joint attack together by all the Chosen ever as far as Raphael knew. He had in truth doubted he could make it happen, it was a logistical nightmare to gather them all since they were spread around the continent and busy with their own schemes, but all the Chosen had heeded the Great Lord’s command and had obeyed.

 

As the wind of fire ascended towards the top of the White Tower and its flat-topped roof with a waist-high railing, Raphael redirected part of the flow he was channeling and lightning struck the huge entrance doors to the Tower in a blast which shook the building and destroyed the doors and part of the hallway beyond.

 

Soon lightning struck all parts of the White Tower as the 13 Chosen, standing at intervals around the structure, with triumphant eyes and ablaze in light, directed their flows for maximum destruction.

 

Thunder rolled and the skies ran red with fire, time almost standing still as moments were trapped within moments, tiny threads echoing with strain within the massive tapestry that was the Wheel of Time, as the Shadow struck out at the Aes Sedai in the sanctity of their home.

 

 

The Tower will bleed.

Black tears.

As what Was will Return.

Shrouded in burning light.

Prepare the way.

Oh, Glory to the Shadow!

 

Found written on the back of a stone statue in Aile Dashar,

 

An excerpt from,

The Prophecies of the Shadow

 

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