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Black Coats and Red Shawls (Open, ATTN: Ful)


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                For all her claimed ‘worldliness,’ Viviane had never visited the Black Tower.


                Not until today.


                The large black stoned wall loomed before her, it’s heavy doors surprisingly open. Men in black coats sat watch, to be sure, but it was still a shock to see. The openness implied freedom and welcome. The White Tower had made peace with this group, but that did not mean there were not hushed whispers in the hallowed halls of the Tower; whispers about the madmen of the Black Tower and their tainted Saidin.


                Codswallop is what that was. If the Red Ajah could get over their past prejudices, then so should the other Sisters. If only more of them would come and see for themselves that there was nothing to fear.


                In truth, that was why she had come herself. Viviane Accylon still held some prejudice in her heart, but Light, she was determined to banish those feelings. She supported the Tower’s decision to play nice with these boys, and yes, she also accepted the new role her Ajah would play… She just never thought that Saidin would be cleansed… She never thought that the Last Battle would actually occur in her lifetime, but these were strange times. The Dragon Reborn walked the land and all things would be remade in his passing- once the Dark One was dealt with.


                Prophecy said as much.


                The Gateway winked out behind Viviane, not one she had Woven, she was unable to unaided;  two Tower Guards remained as an escort. It was bad form, Viviane knew that, but most could understand her unease. As a sign of good faith, the pair would wait here for her, once she decided to make her return trip to the White Tower. Despite what the escort may have said to the observer, Viviane was still the picture of Aes Sedai calm and authority.


                A light breeze danced through the air, swirling Viviane’s coiled, ginger hair about her shoulders. The full skirts of her deep violet dress rustled against her legs, dagger sleeves waving this way and that. She held her hands clasped at her waist, patiently waiting for her contact to show. Ful Heart. That young man was a junior member of the Black Tower, not yet having earned both of the Asha’man pins. The thought softened Viviane’s nerves a touch. Surely, this Ful was still green behind the ears. Nothing she couldn’t handle with a few well-placed looks or sniffs.


                The two guards at the Gate seemed to be speaking between themselves, finally having spotted Viviane and her own escort. They did not come to greet her. Where was their propriety? Their decorum? And where in the Light was this Ful Heart?

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The traveling grounds of the black tower is wide. The size of a small city itself, it’s the chief hub for the army of the dragon, maintaining a large number of operational staff at all hours. Ful made no excuses for the design of the grounds itself, with its darkened windows at the guard areas, its protective spines of iron spikes around an open area. Critics of the Asha’aman may regard its architecture as comically overdone, playing directly into the stereotypes of the public. That, Ful would say, is precisely the point. Fear keeps the people in line, fear of an institution so terrible, it does not hesitate to punish them for transgressions.


At the start of the day, Ful went to the traveling grounds, escorted by two hooded guards. He had come wearing black: coat, leather boots, trims and all. His dedicated pin was pinned at his throat. His companions were formally dressed too, their uniforms threaded with gold and emblazoned with silver pins according their office. One did not greet an aes sedai of the Red Ajah in casual attire.


Ironically, he felt vulnerable with only two companions at his side. He had grown too used to a large retinue of soldiers and dedicated during his training these last few years. He had to remind himself that there had been a time when his entire class would have numbered two people—Nox and Merdyn. Good old times.


The traveling grounds of the black tower was not a place for casual or accidental meetings. The black tower staff and visitors moved quickly behind shields against eavesdropping, their business confidential. On entry to the platform for gateways, his party was offered a similar anti-eavesdropping weave to ensure privacy. Glinting opaquing fields swirled into being, forming a solid, buzzing corridor of energy that divorced Ful from his surroundings, projecting an insulating cone of silence around his party as they awaited his visitor.


Ful Haert played with the pin on his high collar distractedly as he walked. He was nervous. The oppressive threat of the traveling grounds affected even its own servants.


“She’s late.” He muttered. He blinked, and raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun. He saw twenty other men in black do the same.


He let the privacy weave dissipate around them. His companions looked edgy.


That would not do at all. He smiled and told his duo to wait for the aes sedai in the grounds. The two guards did not accompany Ful as he went outside the traveling grounds to the gates.


The tower had organized a busy schedule for the aes sedai through her first tour of the farm, so he’d be grateful if they could start on time. He’d been charged with arranging as much pomp as possible for their visitor. And pretty much all the aes sedai he’d known in the past (looking at you Eqwina and Lillian) won’t be sticking to their appointments if they could help it…


“Where the hell were you?” grumbled one of the guards at the gate, his face was dark and stern now “they’re here.”


“Sorry.” He paused. “And thanks.”


“Viviane Accylon Sedai? I’m Ful. So sorry! Have you been waiting long?” He called out, making a show of acting very sorry to spare any embarrassment on her part should she be to blame.


He was fascinated and horrified at the thought he might have gotten their meeting place wrong, because you see he thought all along she’d been late. This encounter with the lady in violet—whose fault it was, it did not matter!—was disturbing enough.


It was impossible to guess her age, but she must have been at least a hundred years old to hold such a high office? Thanks to the power, she looked like a gorgeous woman in her early twenties.


He strode toward her. Wary. Lillian and him had a good working relationship, and Ful felt she had trusted him ever since they linked up a year ago. Since then she’d been pleased to lead him, guide him, and oversee him personally when he was at Tar Valon. But one did not become friends with the aes sedai of the White Tower.


“Can I offer you refreshment?” Ful asked.


He took from his coat chilled water taken from their springs this morning to give her. “Uhm. Would they care for drinks as well?” gesturing to her guards.


Ful, dedicated

Edited by Lih-Lyh
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                A well-dressed, young man came striding out of the gates after speaking quickly to one of the guards. Apprehension painted his face, although it was clear that he was doing his best to hide it. Viviane assumed this to be Ful, the Dedicated assigned to lead her through the tour of the forboding facilities.


                Showing such emotion, Viviane thought wryly, these men really do need our help. They could learn much from the way we do things. An Accepted would never let a guest see them sweat.


                Viviane gave a slight bow of her head to the young man, nothing more than his station required, and offered up a polite smile.


                “You are correct, Ful. You may call me Viviane Sedai,” she went on in a calm tone, “I was only waiting a short while. Thank you for your apologies, and no, I do not require a drink at this time. Perhaps later. The men here are free to accept, however.”


                Looking over her shoulder, Viviane cocked an eyebrow at the two Tower Guards; they both shook their heads in silence, maintaining a cool demeanor. It was all the same to Viviane. She was sure that they’d break from their post as soon as she left, no doubt finding their way to chat up the Black Tower’s gate guards. Viviane smoothed her skirts out of habit and hitched her red-fringed shawl up a tad higher on her arms. Ful was exactly what she had anticipated: young and green. A weight lifted from her shoulders.


                “Shall we be about it, then? I am eager to see the infamous Black Tower for myself,” Viviane said as she strode forward, past Ful and almost up to the gates. The Tower Guards stayed put. She paused and took a closer look at the black stone that made up the gargantuan fortifications. Viviane spoke on in a more conversational tone to put the boy at ease, “You men built these walls yourself, I understand? Quite useful, your natural strength in Earth. You have not yet completed your Tower yet, though?”


                The walls were plain, once you looked past their imposing nature, not unlike the walls of Tar Valon. Would the rest of the property look like the mirror image of the White Tower? She doubted it. It was most likely purposeful that these walls resembled the Shining Walls of Tar Valon. Such imagery would invoke the trust that the common people most naturally felt when thinking of the Aes Sedai. A clever maneuver on the Asha’man’s part. Perhaps they were more cunning than she initially thought. Perhaps not. Viviane would save that judgment for later.

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Her tower guards stayed with the gate guards. Viviane didn’t seem to mind that leaving these two behind. Then again, she also didn’t mind his lateness.


Viviane chattered to herself, noting the elements of the black tower, her hunger for accumulating knowledge unstinted. Ful watched her for a while, her eager moves, girlish glee at new details, the chop of the breeze fluttering her red shawl.


He smiled.


When asked about the walls, he said quietly, “yes, Viviane Sedai. It’s a never ending work in progress. Everybody pitches in at the quarries and buildings… asha’aman, students, even normal people without powers who live on the farm. It’s not grand, but it’s our home.”


He was alert and sharp as always. He walked in front of the aes sedai, soaking up the details like Viviane. But the details he noticed would be far less pertinent and immediately useful than the red sister’s. He doubted many sisters would ever have come here under her own steam. For him, the black tower was the epicenter of the male channelers culture, the big bright world Ful had always dreamed about and of which he yearned to be a part.


But Viviane lived and worked in Tar Valon, that vast, bloated hub of industry of commerce, the most productive capital in the region—the white tower and its city boasted a human culture for thousands of years, governed by powerful nobles and aes sedai, whose combined wealth and influence rivaled the output worth of whole countries. It was the administrative heart, whose reach and power extended across the world.


The black tower rose before them, gleaming in the sun. Once inside, Ful could appreciate how nice, how towering it was even in its unfinished state. Rising from pillars formed of basalt and limestone, the tower and its other buildings were constructed from smoothly fitted, stone blocks, their facades weather-washed, their roofs dressed with copper tiles. Gargoyles yarned at the gutter ends or curled around pipes and drain sluices. Upper levels had balconies with railings; many of the balconies had construction scaffolding and awnings. Arched stone bridges and metal stairs linked buildings, and sometimes across the canal. Along the canal sides, stone walkways formed a street for pedestrians.


And there were many of those. The place was alive with movement, color, noise. Once they got into the farm proper, their passage down was slowed by other traffic. Above them, everywhere he looked were banners celebrating different regiments of the dragon. Tinny music played out, distorted, from the horns that dressed the street.


The canal was busy. Ful saw a few young men, all wearing their newly issued coats, drunk despite the early hour. Soldiers, raising hell and risking death by downing as they enjoyed their free hours before lessons and chores. Ful wondered when he graduated, would he be sent to a gateway bound for who knew what horror half a world away?


One of the boys fell into the canal as they tried stagger home. His friends dredged him out, and baptized his head with the contents of a beer bottle.


“They’re simply having fun,” he said. “There’ll be hard work later.” He knew one of the boys from the soup kitchen...


He smiled his brightest smile as he showed her on the map. “See, dorms are five streets away. Now that you're here, is there anywhere in particular you’d like to see first, Viviane Sedai?”

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                Ful guided Viviane through the front gates and onto the main property. An unfinished tower stood just beyond, gleaming black in the early morning sun. Copper tiles and stone blocks made up the various homes and shops that surrounded the Black Tower. It was all very severe and so quintessentially masculine. They had indeed made great progress in the short amount of time that they had come together as an organization. Commonfolk and initiates alike went about their daily tasks, not a few offering a polite bow or nod of the head to Ful and herself. Viviane twitched her red fringed shawl with every greeting, a nervous reflex, before returning the greeting with a small incline of her head.


                “It may not be grand yet, but you’ve got the proper groundwork laid. Be humble, yes, but do take pride in what you lot have accomplished thus far. I do hope that I am alive to see the completed construction of the Black Tower,” Viviane admitted truthfully. Despite owing their progress to the One Power, Viviane was still amazed at how far along things seemed to be moving for these men. Was this an inevitability, the Black Tower? Would a False Dragon have succeeded in a similar endeavor had the Pattern allowed it? Viviane doubted that. The White Tower was too powerful, the common folk too fearful to allow such a thing. This was all due to Tavereen influence.


                Ful smiled broadly at her as he pulled out a map of the grounds, indicating the dorms. She had no desire to see those. Men were a smelly lot and their living quarters even more so, especially when they had no woman to keep them in line. Viviane had assumed the Black Tower would look more like it’s original namesake, The Farm. She had been wrong about that, but perhaps the dorms would fit more in line with her own assumptions.


                “Not the dorms, thank you very much,” Viviane said with an emphatic shake of the head, “Perhaps you can show me a class or a lecture? I admit I am no Brown, but I do take education very seriously. If you men are to rise to prominence in the world, I would rest more comfortably to know that you are taking the time to expand the minds of your initiates.”

Edited by Oddpositions
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  • 4 weeks later...

Ful chuckled and nodded. It made sense she wanted to see a class.


“Yes Aes Sedai,” said Ful. “This way please.”


Ful found Merdyn ten minutes later in one of the individual training rooms. The noble had signed the practice room out on the board outside, and added “NOT TO BE DISTURBED”.

Ful went in anyway. Just inside the door there were racks of training dummies: multi-legged metal machines with lashing weapon limbs. They circled Merdyn, jabbing and striking. 

Four. Four at once. That seemed excessive to Ful. He’d always admired the Asha’man’s blade skill, and knew it took a lot of practice to keep such skills honed. But four…


He watched for a moment longer, not wanting to distract his friend.


Sensing his movement, the nearest dummy broke away from Merdyn and came for him and the Aes Sedai, skittering its metal legs off the practice mat onto the metal floor. Its power-driven arms spinning…

Edited by Lih-Lyh
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