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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Tarwin's Refuge [Attn. Sallie. Retro]


Essy
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Fal Dara. The city of the Borderlands. Many souls have lost their lives protecting Tarwin's Gap. Yet nearly no one throughout the world had even heard of a Trolloc; the soldiers and citizens of Fal Dara knew well more then just Trollocs in the area.

 

Jodeen came through the gates, and was forced to remove his head shawl. The guard had told him it was the law, he must show his face. Jodeen, obviously not wanting to attract attention, removed it without a complaint. He wandered the streets for a little while, until finally coming to rest his eyes on a dreary looking Inn.

 

The Inn's wood looked as if it had been standing for over a hundred years. It was as if it was rotten straight to the core. Jodeen pushed the door open, and walked inside. There were a few men and women sitting at the tables in the main-room, but they didn't look up. No one was really talking, or laughing.

 

The Innkeeper was a plump woman, who greeted the young man with the most honest smile he had ever seen. Honest, or just plain stupid?

 

"Welcome to Tarwin's Refuge, traveler. Your clothes aren't of the Borderlands. You come a long way, do you wish for a room, sir?" The fat lady kept smiling dull-fully.

 

"Yes, please. Single bed, and a hot meal if possible." Jodeen made eye-contact and spat the words out. He didn't mean to be rude, but he hadn't a choice for where he was going..

 

"That'll be five silver, sir, and you'll be fed plenty tonight."

 

Jodeen never said anything else, and followed the fat lady to his room. He dropped his belongings on the floor and slept. He was awake, soon, though, for he never could sleep very long since his coma.

 

Everything was still in place, which was a good sign. I hope. He slowly made his way down to the lounge, and took a seat across the room from everyone else. The Innkeeper brought him a decently sized meat. Two bread rolls, a slab of meat; Jodeen couldn't exactly tell what it was, but it was good, and several potatoes.

 

He ate alone at his table, and ate quietly.

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The wall loomed up to admit the advancing figure, its spikes intimating all sorts of mixed messages. "Don't mess," a beacon screamed, and loud had been the silhouette of menshapes guarding the watchtowers against the dimming sky. She threw back her hood, wishing disclosure had not been necessary, for her own safety. Drafts from the Blight had started her arthritis again. She thought the prescribed ants tonic would have helped, and it had, but even the peddler's wares had provided no protection against the bitter assualt by the elements raging around her. She should be retired but she was in working capacity anyway because the need was present. Cold drew tears down from the corners. Beady eyes steady, resembling the pigeon that stared as it found her several leagues back. Here to the Market? Not too far now.

 

Her road twisted to a stop in front of an inn she had always frequented on her journeys to and fro the border. It had been a long week, but they had not encountered any ruffians or unpleasant creatures that plagued the blight. The courier slid off the saddle, patting her beloved as she smoothed the knarls out in the chestnut. She refused to let the stableboys water him down, though it had to be done gingerly due to her throbbing joints. Oh, Asleah would permit anybody to touch him... once. Making sure plenty of hay would be provided she gave him over to the stableboy of the inn. He smiled at the courier, "I thank ye for the sweet, Alanna."

 

Horses are marvellous. Once his trust was gained, he'll be your best friend. Marvelling at the courage of youth, she left Asleah nuzzling a sugar cube from the boy, and slipped into the kitchens to get her meal. Warming herself at the fire with the serving lasses, she poured a drink. Wincing. Tonight she felt at liberty to indulge.

 

It worked wonders for her hands, twisted into claws.

 

She took another sip of the matured mead. It was good vintage, better than her expectations from last time, and grudgingly it warmed her innards, had done its work so well that here she perched in the kitchens, contemplating whether her euphoric appetite would be sufficient in order to tackle the oil slicked viandes that were on the menu as well as the cornbread, Luna's own pastries and the only decent food within a half day's ride.

 

Dabbing the crumbs with a coarse napkin, she entered to a panoply of clamouring voices and flashing teeth. The innkeeper bumbled up, a sanguine woman whose merry laugh pervaded the common room.

 

"Luna," she greeted warmly. There was true affection in her bosom for this woman who singlehandedly ran the inn after her husband went to the Mother's embrace leaving her only this property and heaps of debt. Forfeit was not an option at Tarwin's Refuge.

 

Speaking of losses, the gamblers were playing Petals Around the Rose. She had played many chance over the half century, and it was not as much luck as skill, really. Watching the round, she felt nostalgia, the players were engrossed in the mood for emotions than verbal truth.

 

Ah, people nowadays only wanted the dramatic segments of people's lives, the action of each vignettes when really, to her anyways, the significance was the experience, the vicarious living, the showing and not telling of a fulfilling story, and the attempts to understand what she conveyed. This old hag - as she fondly named herself - did not flatter herself to know the ultimate meaning, if any, but as she turned she caught the scrutinizing eye of a patron. His gaze was intelligent, and she had the feeling that same analysis captured everybody in the common room, and that the mind behind the look was keen on puzzling out what she, Sallie Meep, was about.

 

Smiling slightly, she decided to tarry a while more, to gather some intelligence concerning this regions' current relations. With an unfeigned nonchalance, and yet more confidence rolled her hips easily, certainly fortefying by the alcohol she consumed. As she glided smoothly (thank the light for high tolerance) across the sawdust floor to where the boy nursed his ale, it was as if something in her mind was distracting her, smiling at her, but it vanished when she tried to define it.

 

Lifting up a Stones board she introduced herself. "My name is Alanna. Care for a game, Master " Letting her sentence drift waiting for him to fill in the gap...

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When this.. woman, came into the Inn, none of the other men looked up to greet the old timer. His eyes met hers a few times, and he pondered for several seconds on what to do when she walked through the doors.

 

She went to the Innkeeper, Luna, she called the plump woman. Atleast now I have a name for the fat one. Now what about the old one? Jodeens' thoughts drifted away as the old woman made eye contact with him yet again. He wasn't afraid, no, just confused as to why she was sizing him up. She's a little old for my tastes. Jodeen chuckled to himself, and quickly peered around himself to make sure no one else had heard.

 

She walked to him, and he began to see the details of the old womans face. She was old, obviously, yet she had the complexity of a new born babe. Her skin nearly radiated, Almost. As she approached him, he could smell the faint odor of alcohol among her. Yet there was an even overwhelming smell, perfume. For the Dark Ones name, why does this old hag wear perfume? I should lea...

 

But his last thought was droned out by her elegant voice. She sounds like a noble.

 

"My name is Alanna. Care for a game, Master.."

 

Jodeen didn't say anything for several moments. He always chose his words carefully and with delicacy. Sometimes, though, anger got the best of him and his outburts would.. well, they wouldn't be what he expected.

 

What am I supposed to say? I don't know this game... there were several stones and a few other pieces, but it looked like a pile of junk to my eyes. Maybe she'll go away if I tell her I don't know how to play.

 

"Jodeen. Atleast that's what they used to call me. It's a fine eve, ma'am, but I don't be knowin' how to play.. whatever that is." Jodeen said.

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Far away anybody could be a dwarf. When she neared she realised Master Jodeen really was quite small, a flurry of sharp ears, wrinkly nose, and the narrow, wiry built so favoured by performers.

 

Sallie nodded. Not many outside of nobility and military knew the game, but she had always found it delightful. His accent was faint, but she had an ear for tongues. Besides, she spent enough days listening to merchants hawking in the Market to recognise the subtleties. Taking advantage of his silence, she proposed.

 

"Aye, lad I will teach you." Shifting across the table from him she motioned for the plate of potatoes floating in gritsy grease to be cleared, for his mug to be refilled, and a fresh brew for her. Curving her lips up at the corners, she patted the board flat - 19 by 19 squares, and pointed to a corner where lines crossed. "This is an intersection, or a Point."

 

After explaining the points were where the stones should be placed per turn, she gave him the black stones, shoving the pile toward his end like chips, taking up the white stones. He was picking his words, warily. Good. Caution is the predecessor to respect.

 

"Black moves first. After you set a stone down, it cannot be removed." Waiting for him to start, she lounged on the bench, leaning back. The game would become more complicated as the spaces were occupied. One had to have practice, and know their opponent. She followed her instincts, and honed in. "So you come from Tar Valon?"

 

OOC: Have fun! Remember that it is a hard, long game. If you want to learn Stones in RL too, I can either teach you or find you somebody who might.

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It took a few moments for Alanna to answer his rude comment. But still she persisted, trying ever so hard to gain the trust of young Jodeen. What does she want? Why is she here? Why me? Hundreds of thoughts of distrust ran through Jodeens mind.

 

"Aye, lad I will teach you." She said, and with a wave of her hands servants appeared from lack lusting no where and took his food away. He was going to say something, but they came and gave him free ale. ..alcohol is better then nothing, I suppose. Been a while since I've actually spoken to another human being. Might be the last time for a while, to...

 

Her lips parsed back and forth, and once again; sized Jodeen up and down. It also seemed for a moments past that she was going to lick her lips and jump across the table at the young man.

 

This is an intersection, or a Point, " Alanna had said, "Black moves first. After you set a stone down, it cannot be removed." She handed Jodeen the small satchel of black stones, and he simply looked at them in awe. What the hell do I do with this?

 

He watched Alanna with his beady little eyes, weighing her and trying to read her. It was a gift he had, some said, that he could read a person from a moments notice. He tried to read her, but he couldn't really decipher anything in particular. Maybe she's just looking for company? Yes, that must be it. Lonely old hag is just looking for a friend. Why does poor old me have to be this so unlucky individual.

 

"So you come from Tar Valon?" She spoke in haste, and his thoughts droned out. What? How? Was she following me? Maybe she's one of.. them. Maybe she's a Red Ajah Witch, coming to kill me.. or whatever they did to.. me.

 

"I.. uh.." he stumbled on his words, then recooperated. No time to fall now. I have to keep ahead of my self, and her, if she really is a witch. "Yes. I'm from an outside town of Tar Valon, Luagde. And you? Where do you hail from, Sist-" He stopped, and shook himself. I'm going nuts. I just about lost it. "Where do you hail from, Lady Alanna? And what brings you to the Borderlands?"

 

He paused, and stared at Alanna. Rather he took his attention off the game of stones. This is a game I am much better at, rather then this silly game of rocks and a board.

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Laddie appeared alarmed. So he should be. Alarm bells had been tolling in her head as he left his last liberty open for the taking. She did not take it however, she was fascinated by how conversation had stunned him, make his less than glib tongue falter with stutters. Sallie gave him an encouraging smile. When he turned his question on her, she replied this time permitting a murandian accent to thicken, her words elegant as the silk in Lugard.

 

"I come from Tar Valon as well." Misleading, of course, but not exactly lying. "I am not a native though; Papa and I were on the road in his wagon, as he was a puppeteer. Sometimes it is lonely on the road, being the only child." She shook her head mockingly. "Have you any siblings, Master Jodeen?"

 

Avoiding his question of her purpose here, she hoped he would concentrate on the board as well. As of now there were several spots she could take prisoner at anytime. Of course the first few times one played Stones, the beginner always loses. Still, one should try their best to keep up the appearances. At least he did not start his first game as she had so many decades ago, smack in the middle.

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She answered quite quickly, but with a twist in her smile that sent Jodeen off the knockers.

 

"I come from Tar Valon as well. I am not a native though; Papa and I were on the road in his wagon, as he was a puppeteer. Sometimes it is lonely on the road, being the only child. Have you any siblings, Master Jodeen?" Did she know something I did not? She seems to know the right questions for the right times.

 

"Nay, Lady Alanna, I do not. I'm an.. orphan." Technically I am, aren't I? My mother is apparentally dead, so this Daria told me in my dreams. My father is dead, as well. But that's all she told me, could there be something more?

 

Jodeen sat quietly, and gave a little of his attention to the board. He moved his stones, and placed them down. This game.. I can see why soldiers play it. One wrong move, and you're in the gutter. Isn't that like the borderlands? One slip of the tongue and you'll find yourself and chopped up in the pig sty, I thinks.

 

The thought made him choke on his ale. What if I already made my slip? Maybe she's going to.. gentle me. Then kill me. Bloody witches.

 

His hatred grew and the table shook a tiny bit for a moment, and knocked some of the stones off the table. He saw a light, almost behind him, and wondered what it was.

 

He shook his head, and the table stopped rocking. Light, what was that? What.. am I? He eyed the table, trying to keep eye contact to a minimal with Alanna after the incident.

 

"Earthquakes in the Borderlands. Can't say I heard much about those." He gave a wry chuckle. If I can't get away from her I might as well play along.

 

"So, Alanna," he gave a sip of his ale between breaths, "You never told me why you're here. What brings you to Fal Dara, to the Borderlands?"

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His play sustained. Unable to progress at the upper left corner, he could see her cluster now. His hands trembled before they could relinquish the black marker that they perspired into. Avoiding eye contact with her he spoke into his cup, shifting his position slightly.

 

Two pieces started falling and she quickly cupped them in the air, deftly plucking the whites from the sawdust to blow at them. Sallie stared at the stones. She had been witness to many mind-boggling events, but a tremor so far removed from the Mount?

 

"Earthquakes in the Borderlands. Can't say I heard much about those."

 

Tumbleweed spoke. He shook as if frightened but when she peered at his face it was giggling. The humour was jarring, as if a smile was floating over a blurr of gravity, or baring too many pearly whites. A strange reaction to an odd evening. She struggled not to lose her smile. Part of her flushed, exhilarated by the unexpected she had been expecting from this boy. There was something feral in his eyes when they first touched her. Perhaps it was his orphan upbringing, and the sensation of always being alone. Destitute, but not left in peace.

 

Casting her dark eyes about a quick survey of the room showed no visible change. Men pounded at the gaming table, and a dice which was about to stop completed one more rotation due to the inertia, the cup turned, showing the Dark One's Eye. Some poor fool just lost his round. Had nobody else noted the tremor? Supressing the impulse to convulse, she foresaw she would soon need another drink.

 

Head raised, poised to attention as he addressed her by her alias. "You never told me why you're here. What brings you to Fal Dara, to the Borderlands?"

 

Examining the board the situation had to be rectified. She restored the white to its point. The board mapped out as she set the pieces down, a stone to block each intersect. Marble and mahogony hybrid engendered a muted click.

 

"I gather stories from all over. People pay well for inspiration. Sometimes you have to talk, or die out. So many people keep themselves to figurative as well as literal bottles." Nodding she spoke slowly, to formulate her thoughts into coherent clarity. "There are refugees from Kandor who have tales, and I am on my way to see one of those camps for myself. When you have walked as long as I have in this world, you too will come to realise that retirement is the real death of one's self. I'd rather die once, than to suffer life's little deaths."

 

She did not inform him of how the Red had sent her. Perine Sedai's message was not her secret to tell. Instead she returned the other stone to its fateful spot. Click.

 

"As we were," a smile crept over her visage. "Still your turn, I believe." Oddly she felt protective of this boy, and would help him if she had not her assignment. Sallie tend to believe well in strangers unless they gave her cause not to. It was a good way to live.

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Alanna studied the board, and moved the pieces accordingly. He still had no idea what was going on, In game, or this woman.

 

She put her head up, and recited a message. It seemed as if she had said it many times before. But is it true or not? She could still be one of those witches. What if she was sent here to kill me? Bloody, I just shook the table by accident. I need to get out of here.

 

"I gather stories from all over. People pay well for inspiration. Sometimes you have to talk, or die out. So many people keep themselves to figurative as well as literal bottles. There are refugees from Kandor who have tales, and I am on my way to see one of those camps for myself. When you have walked as long as I have in this world, you too will come to realise that retirement is the real death of one's self. I'd rather die once, than to suffer life's little deaths."

 

He took a moment to decipher all the words. Kandor? Moth-.. Mira.. told me of a war that was beginning to unfold up there. If I wouldn't of left I may of been drafted. He studied his thoughts, and once again chose his words carefully. I've made enough mistakes tonight, time to stop being so reckless. But she's lying, isn't she? That's no reason to travel across the world.

 

Moments passed before he finally answered, and in a harsher tone then he had expected. "Kandor, eh? I hear there is something happening up there. The armies of the Light and Dark are moving and conspiring against eachother once more, no?"

 

Light, how did I know that? What is going on? But he didn't let his thoughts trouble him. Must have a strong front. The thought left a knot inside him, What am I thinking? Do I think I'm going to kill this woman? She's done nothing wrong.. right?

 

"As we were. Still your turn, I believe." she had said, smiling almost wickedly. What is she grinning about? She must be thinking of all the different ways of how she's going to put a dagger into my back. Or my front, I don't think there is anything I could do if that happened. Jodeen felt a little guilty about his course of actions of the last few days, but this thought made the worst impression on himself.

 

Jodeen slid his pieces to where he thought they must go, obviously wrong though; he didn't care much about stones at this point in the conversation. The night was drawing to a close, but this woman seemed to be intent on sitting there until dawn.

 

Decided that should probably find out about the Aes Sedai, he figured this Alanna would be the one person he could ask for quite a while. If he mentioned that in the Fortress in the Blight, he might not live to see the morn. "What do you know of the Red Ajah Sisters, Alanna? I've heard rumours of their power, but I don't know much about Aes Sedai."

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His tone grated at her nerves. "Kandor, eh? I hear there is something happening up there. The armies of the Light and Dark are moving and conspiring against each other once more, no?" She did not reply, content to let her wits wander, molesting his Stones with hers. Pointing out a few spots that would have served him better, she contemplated bed soon.

 

"What do you know of the Red Ajah Sisters, Alanna? I've heard rumours of their power, but I don't know much about Aes Sedai."

 

How did he hit the mark? Don’t know much, indeed. Snorting, she contemplated on how much to reveal. Should she ask him in the guise of a fellow Tar Valon native, for the Aes Sedai were the authority there, yes? She could easily see how a lie would suffice. Bemused, she worded it in her mind: “We travelled a fair bit; I am in the dark about the Sister as well” combined with a rueful grin. Initially she wanted to laugh because of the irony of his mentioned Red, her patron. He was digging her for information when he was the Tar Valon citizen. How tragic to not know more about the people who reigned in your home. It seemed to her that they often find fun at the expense of others, or the innocent. To the innocent the world had been so pure, so simple before they were disillusioned and forced to take on aliases, fake masks, and grow in suspicion of the others.

 

She was better than that, for she determined tell him the truth. Yet how much had she known of the folks she served for so long? She knew that the female Aes Sedai hunted down and gentled the men for their own health, but Sallie wondered if cutting them from the True Source had eventually left the male Aes Sedai insane anyway. Were the men thankful and relieved, or feeling betrayed by their fellow Aes Sedai? Imagine trying to salvage your sanity, like some of the men had done, hiding out in Ogier Groves where they could not even sense Saidin. Had these attempts prolonged the Breaking when the men cannot stand living without channelling anymore and came out into the World once more to wreck their madness on; or did the Ogier's extended hospitality salvaged and helped bring order to what would otherwise be more chaotic or the final demise of the entire World were all the male Aes Sedai with access to Power at the Age? Of course, that was where the Ways came from, beautiful works of the Power even though the touch of the Dark One corrupted them too, gradually.

 

It seemed to her that the Sisters were especially resourceful learning to band together for survival and more brave hunting down the men who might resist. She admired the Red Ajah because of their clear-cut purpose to protect the World against another such Breaking and to protect and guide the men from the demented state of destruction that would have happened without any intervention. It bothered her that the ancient Guild was split in a Civil War that came of no fault on the parts of either parties; the male Aes Sedai probably fought in what they justified as self-defence against the women Aes Sedai; whereas the women had to hunt and inflict what was unpleasant on the male Aes Sedai, but somebody had to save the World. Sallie resolved to discuss more with Perine Caval about the male Aes Sedai and the Breaking the next time she dropped by Tar Valon as Alanna, the intelligence agent. But now was not the time for her wits to wander.

 

Sallie folded her hands calmly though her voice turned scratchy and she resisted the urge to shiver again as she lifted her drink to her parched lips. A rustic creativity on his part. Struggling to blank the paranoia from her thoughts, she settled for a lecturing mode.

 

" Aes Sedai... have this mystique around them. It sets them up on a pedestal. Most people look up at the Tower and see the sun illuminating it, the everlasting beacon of hope. A few others see the pedestal from above and realise only shadows cast by the very structure that elevates them. They are the women of the White Tower, and like other women are susceptable to fears and failures. These women were powerful, wise and strong-willed but not altogether infallible in their decisions and sometimes there is no benevolent choice and one is left with executing the lesser or greater evil. They do not work miracles but people expect them to, even as they are struggling with their own. Aes Sedai are supposed to be servants of the common people, but instead the people sees them hanging about the nobles meddling and manipulating with only the Tower’s own affairs in mind. Aes Sedai are no longer objective or just because they have an ulterior agenda, and the people fear to reveal their problems to deaf eyes and ears, unless the desperation leaves no other choice. Desperate people are not the most stable citizens and even in Tar Valon they've closed themselves off from the common people." She paused, thinking about Perine Caval. "When the Aes Sedai does the task flawlessly; the ungrateful countries want more and more feats with less interference. Not only the Aes Sedai enclosed the World away from their affairs. It was also a pushing away from the other countries, as they no longer accept that Aes Sedai do what they do. If a Sister has the power to heal, it's a natural but cruel tendency in times of despair to expect for miracles that even Aes Sedai cannot perform. In case of failure, the Aes Sedai are always being blamed. Aes Sedai are human." Letting the cascade of words wash over him before continuing, she warmed to the subject.

 

"From the Age of Legends, Aes Sedai were described as having other occupations, and the Sisters then – as a Guild - were more involved instead of being tied to Tar Valon, nowadays they are above the World and isolated in the White Tower." How could the Aes Sedai care to preserve the World if the Sisters no longer are attached to the experiences of living like they used to? Perhaps this distancing oneself away from the rest of the World had been a serious mistake because people tend to forget the abstract ideals that they fight for. But she could not tell Jodeen this. It would frighten him to know of the intra-ajah tensions in the Hall. Nay, the Tower must be presented as a unified front. "That indicates why I do not know much about them as well." Flashing him a rueful grin, which widened with increased warmth, "Old women fancy the sounds of their own voices sometimes." This more teasing, augmented the heat. "You should not have permitted me to babble like the Manetherendrelle."

 

"I notice her appetite pales on our Stones." Had it been any shade more blatant that his mind was not on the game she would have eaten Luna's bonnet. "Shall we call it a tie?"

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Jodeen looked astonished at the old woman. How could this old geezer think... that? It seemed to Jodeen that Alanna was almost opposing the Aes Sedai; in her own way. Atleast the current Sisters, they just weren't like you used to be, apparentally.

 

He took each word and examined it in the light, as if he were testing it for it's pureness. Lies? Or truth? Which one is which? If she was an Aes Sedai, she couldn't lie; right?

 

"It's a shame, Alanna, that the Aes Sedai have been almost.. neglecting the public. I have heard great stories of their victories." Hopefully I won't have to hear it again, for my sake.. "It is late, and I must depart for my journey 'morrow morn. It was a pleasure, Alanna, Lady of Tar Valon and Lady of the Travelling.. puppeteers I think you said. Thank you for teaching me Stones, for it will come useful in my coming days, I hope. May you sleep well, and may you find the Kandor camps to be welcoming and warm. Light be with you, Alanna of Tar Valon." His speech was done, and yet for some reason he meant every word. Even though his short experience with this woman, he began to enjoy her company.

 

No. Can't let my self get attached. I'm for the Great Lord now, and he will not have me being emotionally tied to a stranger. No weakness.

 

With that, Jodeen gave a deep bow and walked back to his room without looking back. I truly hope she's not of the Red Witches. I would hate to stab such a nice old lady. Nice? What is wrong with me!

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It was strange to hear the boy defend the Aes Sedai with tales of their triumphs. Odd that such loyalty should still exist, when the people are tried by the Tower. Grinning, she realised her faith in people had not been misplaced. Like a Stone, every move affected the outcome of many.

 

"It was a pleasure, Alanna, Lady of Tar Valon and Lady of the Travelling.. puppeteers I think you said. Thank you for teaching me Stones, for it will come useful in my coming days, I hope. May you sleep well, and may you find the Kandor camps to be welcoming and warm."

 

Perhaps he would be a soldier. A steady peon of the Tower... Maybe as he matured, he would come to actualise his unique voice as well. Puppeteers! Laughing she drained the remnants of her ale, and landed a bit more bargain than Luna probably intended, but it was done. Letters quickly exchanged sachels.

 

Closing her eyes only brought the image of his stiff back as he retreated to a private space. The last words ringing she slipped a message under his door.

 

It said in fashion of a crisp farewell: "Peace, Jodeen of Tar Valon."

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