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A Bond of Faith (attn. Calia Sedai)

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.. A Broken Bond: Part 1 - Destruction and Disbelief ..



Lost in intense, vivid, and powerful Dreams, painful - ever so painful - Memories of the Past flashed again in Elessar’s mind, like needles piercing his brain..


His muscles twitched involuntarily and he trembled in his almost feverish Dreams..





In that timeless period between one second and the next, the Warder-Bond snapped, like a razor sharp knife slicing through the thinnest of paper, leaving only emptiness behind.


Of a multitude of emotions filling Elessar’s mind right then, above all he felt shock.


Utter and incredible shock.


And disbelief!


His world came crashing down upon him.


He swayed where he stood above a fallen Trolloc, his sword deeply embedded in the creature’s side. The Shadowspawn, a twisted blend of animal and human stock, with a wolf’s muzzle and beastly features, was huge in stature and like all his kindred had been a ferocious fighter. Though far from bright, Trollocs knew some tactics and were brutal creatures as Elessar and his Sedai had experienced several times over the years. This one would reap no more havoc in the Borderlands.


Rage and anger swept over him then, replacing the shock, and roaring in defiance he moved like a madman, with surprising agility considering his many wounds, swinging his sword in widening arcs, clearing a path to his Sedai. He was unaware of the bodies he left behind, some also human - Darkfriends! - , of the redness painting the landscape in the colour of death. All his focus was on reaching his Sedai. All his focus was on reaching her.


It couldn’t be.. it just couldn’t be..


Oh dear Creator. Noooooo!


Cradling her head in his arms, a moment later, wetness on his cheeks, he saw the lifeless emerald eyes staring into nothingness, the deadly arrows protruding from her body.


Too late. The thought registered in his mind but he barely noticed it. I am too late.



Staring into her face, the face that had laughed with him so many times during their journeys and missions, the face that had scolded him at times, the face that had set him in his place when he had overstepped himself but which had always looked upon him with respect and friendship, he saw that he hardly recognized her now. It was almost as if this was some other woman. Almost as if this was a nightmare from which he would soon awaken. But he knew better. Even now, on the brink of insanity and a path into blackness, he knew.


Oh Leandreen.. I am so sorry.


So sorry.


The bitter irony of it all was that they had chanced upon this group of Trollocs - and their allies - by accident there in the foothills north-east of the Arafel city of Shol Arbela. On their way toward northern Shienar, on a mission for the White Tower, they had followed some tracks and had stumbled upon the creatures, heading foolishly into an ambush - and battle had arisen. Elessar had felt the taint of the Dark One from a way off, as Warders were gifted with through the Bond to a Sister, but partially distracted by something Leandreen had commented on, partially focused on the next part of their mission,  he had misinterpreted the direction of the danger - a fatal mistake - and before he could assess the situation further it was too late.


Leandreen was a proud and capable Sister of the Battle Ajah and had fought valiantly against the Shadowspawn, shielded but on the attack, felling a good number of them with the One Power just as others fell to Elessar’s deadly sword-action some distance away. He was driven apart from his Bondholder but there was nothing he could do about it as he fought hard with the Shadowspawn before him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her fight proficiently as well and seemed more than capable. A momentary lapse of concentration due to exhaustion, however, made her suddenly trip over a fallen body and that was enough for her to let her defences down for just a second; two deadly poisoned arrows, whether by intent or sheer luck, found their mark in her upper torso, her Warder too far away to intervene. Death took her swiftly.


Oh Leandreen.. Forgive me..




Sadness was replaced by grief for Elessar.

Utter grief and a feeling of desolation.


Grief quickly turned to anger. At himself for failing her. At the Shadow. At the World.


Anger turned to hatred and all the blackness buried deep within him erupted in a roaring scream of incredible fury.


His eyes blacked over.


And laying his Aes Sedai carefully to rest on the bloodied ground, he picked up his sword and turned to face the remaining half-standing Trollocs some way off to his left. There was death in his dark eyes and death in his blows as the whirlwind that had once been Elessar Gaidin of Kandor threw himself into the Shadowspawn with no regard for his own safety.


He was a harbinger of death.




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.. A Broken Bond: Part 2 - A Descent into Madness..



Elessar’s body was lost in a twisted Storm of harrowing Dream-memories..





He was balancing precariously on a thin line between Light and Darkness. He was walking a tightrope.


Echoes of insanity reverberated in his mind. He was lost to himself and to the world around him. All that mattered to him was to avenge her death.




He hardly remembered who he was anymore. Except perhaps when he had his good spells. Day and night became one long blur as he travelled relentlessly toward the Blight. He almost shivered with eagerness, focusing his anger and purpose into what lay ahead.


He was hunting.


He would ride to Shayol Ghul if need be and there he would bring forth his wrath and take as many of them with him as he could into the realms of death.


He would have his vengeance.


For Leandreen.



Though much else came and went in his conscience thought in those long days as he travelled ever northwards, hunting those few who had escaped his wrath, - he was sure there were a few - there had to be! - her name was a constant. Her name was a rock he clung to in a churning sea of madness.




He did not encounter anyone in those first days of his journey. He wished he had. He wanted someone or something to strike at, a minion of the Shadow to make pay for what had happened. He wanted his vengeance. It was all that he had left.


At night came the hallucinations. At night came the madness, slipping under his skin and into his mind like a slithery dark wraith. He saw the beastly, unworldly figures crawling toward him out of the darkness and struck at the shadows with his sword, almost cackling with glee, knowing his sanity was slipping but not caring. His dark eyes were deep wells of fury as he screamed his defiance at the shadows.


They never answered back.


And after a while they were gone, insubstantial ghosts disappearing into the mists as if they had never been there.


At other times, whispering to himself, almost without knowing, soft words passed his lips. Incoherent words and sentences. Whispers that caressed his face. Whispers that tore at him all the way to his soul. Whispers of insanity.



I said I would die for you. And I will.


No, it’s not too late. I will save you!


I promised you, my life before yours.


My life before yours.




I will bring them down. For you!


I will.


My life before yours.


It is my duty.




I am too late. Oh my Sedai, I am too late!


Too late.



In more lucid moments, memories from his past washed over him, almost making him dizzy with their clarity.


“Dad, I want to become a Warder when I am older”, said the 15-year old Kandori boy.


He was fairly tall for his age with dark hair and dark eyes, and one could see in the way he held himself some of the man he would one day become. His eyes were the fairly innocent eyes of youth, however, eyes that would in the years to come harden with the harsh realities of life and death.


“That sounds a very good idea, my son”, said Elessar’s father with pride. “You are a Borderlander, a fighter at heart, and we stand together against the Shadow. The Warders will make an excellent soldier out of you I am sure.”


Smiling, he added: ”Always respect Tar Valon, son. Those soft fools in the south have forgotten the danger, but we remember, we in the Borderlands. We stand ready. Respect Aes Sedai and stand proudly against the Shadow!”



“My son”, said his mother with concern but also pride in her eyes, “you are grown enough to decide for yourself. But remember, sometimes one can push oneself too hard. Don’t do that, my son. Never forget who you are.”


Don’t destroy yourself, my son, she whispered softly to herself, believing mistakenly that he had not heard, as she hugged him tight. Don’t let it all destroy you.



Confusion and darkness everywhere.

Past and present intertwined.





A scream in his soul makes a shiver run down his back.



Mother, I will save you!


I will save you!



The stench of death, the cries of those being slaughtered crashes into him.




No, it is happening again!


I must stop them!


No, it is too late!


Never too late!





Hacking into the Trollocs he is death reincarnated.

The blood flowing makes him grin evilly in satisfaction.





Then silence.





Leandreen, are you there?


My life before yours.


Before yours.




I promise.



Brushing tears of rage and loss from his face, Elessar broke camp in early morning and saddled Stormbreaker, his black stallion. His dark eyes now burned with almost feverish intensity as he stared northward into the Blight. He was a powerfully built man after many years of physical training and exertions in service to his Sedai, a dangerous warrior and swordfighter at any time and even more so now that he had no care for his own safety. He knew that his death lay at the end of this journey. His brown-green Warder’s cloak, which made him blend into the surroundings, was dirt-stained and bloody but he paid it no attention as his gaze was fixed on the horizon.


I will avenge her death.

I will avenge all their deaths.


Elessar of Kandor was on a mission of death and nothing would stop him.





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.. A Broken Bond: Part 3 - A Darkness of the Soul..



The Storm continued raging inside his Mind.


Pulse racing, body twitching, he was caught in it’s stone hard grip and it would not let go.



The darkness of the night matched the darkness of Elessar’s soul.


He had entered the Blight a few days before, that nightmarish land north of the Borderlands which was corrupted by the nearby influence of the Lord of the Grave, the Shepherd of the Night, the Dark One. It was a region where all the vegetation was toxic and home to insects that could cause a hideously painful demise. There were other dangers there too and any traveller had to tread carefully in this land to avoid a quick and sudden death.


Death was what Elessar sought, in fact as many deaths as possible.

His own would be among them.

But he could not die before he had his vengeance.


Though walking a thin line between sanity and madness, reason and rashness, he was not so lost in himself that he did not take some care of his movements. As the days and hours had lengthened his outward fury had subsided somewhat, changing from a frenzy of ideas and confusion and hate and grief into a single-minded fiery dark purpose of how he would inflict as much damage as he possibly could when he brought his wrath upon the Shadow. For his wrath was not gone, though it lay dormant inside him now, like an animal of prey. Waiting. For release.



They will pay. They will all pay.

And that will be the end of it.


At night, in that half-awake, half-sleep state Warders were so practiced at achieving, never losing total vigilance even when resting, his thoughts went often to his many years protecting his Sedai. Other times he thought of his years in Warder-training, and how hard he had worked to excel, to become the best. He had worked relentlessly toward that end.


But still I failed you, my Sedai, he thought with anger and bitterness as he clenched his fist, staring darkly into the night.


For that, forgive me. But I will avenge you!


The following day he saddled Stormbreaker early and set off toward the north at a gallop. His bottled up rage threatened to erupt as he raced across the desolate lands.


Death’s Messenger.


His eyes had become almost feverish again and he felt his tight reign on his sanity begin to slip. Not that far now, he thought to himself, trying to focus his anger. Soon now. The trail he had found a few days before had been clear and he thought it unlikely they kept lookouts. Why should they? Only madmen travelled these lands of death and none survived long. When he overtook them he would bring death to them all. His eyes intensified and his inner fire blazed.


To death!, a scream came from within his soul. To death and vengeance!


He was riding at a hard gallop, just topping a small rise and still half a mile behind his prey, his body almost trembling in anticipation of what was to come, when abruptly a heavy shadow came at him from the side, brushing his horses’ flank, making him swerve in his path and forcing him to slow down. Only as Elessar swung his mount furiously around and, with death in his eyes, brought out his sword to strike, did he see that it was another mounted rider!


The rider hailed him but it took him a moment to register what was being said. He did not lower his blade but frowned with strong suspicion - and undisguised anger - at the woman, for it was a woman rider who faced him from across her own mount. And not just any woman rider, but an Aes Sedai. There was no doubt.


Her commanding words echoed in his turmoiled mind.


“Halt! Gaidin, halt!”



Carrain Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah looked at her newly bonded Warder, feeling his pain.


She had Bonded him forcefully to save him from throwing away his life in a futile death at the hand of the Shadow. It had been necessary. That was all there was to it. She did not know if he would thank her for it, though. Perhaps he would have preferred death. Perhaps he would never truly heal from this deep wound of the soul.


She kept her thoughts to herself, however. "You share your Leandreen's loyalties, I see." She said.


His eyes met hers and his unbalanced gaze intensified as he said, with strong emotion, ”I hate the Shadow, always have, always will. So did Leandreen. Our lives were formed around fighting the Shadow at every step, every corner. And in the end, she died fighting the Shadow. Those Trollocs and their human allies. Darkfriends!. I just wish I had killed them all.”


I should have saved you, Leandreen. My life before yours. Forgive me.



He managed somehow to locate Leandreen’s body back in the wilderness south of the Blight. Perhaps it was part luck, perhaps the path had stuck in his mind even in his near-madness. For whatever reason he was grateful and Carrain could feel his strong emotions through the Bond. Leandreen had told him that she wanted to be cremated and nothing would stop him from honouring her wishes.



He stood together with Carrain Sedai watching Leandreen’s burning funeral pyre lighting up the darkness. The Borderland night was silent, as if in homage to a brave warrior. She seemed so regal laying there, her Emerald green eyes closed and her fiery Red hair embracing her so familiar face, ready for the final journey. Soon she was enveloped in flames, in a blaze of light that defied the night.


Oh Leandreen, forgive me.


...Words whispered on the winds of time…


“You were a brave fighter, Leandreen”, he said, speaking words of strong emotion. ”As brave as they come. You fought the Shadow ‘till the end. Just as you always promised you would.”


A short pause followed.


Then he added, “Your courage shall not be forgotten, your sacrifice will be remembered. You will be remembered. Rest in peace, Leandreen Aes Sedai of the Battle Ajah. May the last embrace of the Mother welcome you home.”

Goodbye Leandreen.



Elessar crashed out of his painful dream-memories.


For a moment he did not know where he was. He sat upraised in the bed, trembling slightly, sweat on his brow, his eyes wide, his mouth open, his hands holding hard onto the sides of the bed.


The Dream again..

..the painful Memories..

..the Madness.


He sometimes wondered if he would ever be rid of this eternal pain on his soul.


The eternal guilt.

The eternal sorrow.


Though his Bond to Carrain had given him new purpose, a new duty and something to live for again - and his sanity had, over time, stabilized - he had always struggled with the ability to forgive himself for what he saw as his failures. With Leandreen. With mother. Years and years had passed and he still struggled with this Darkness upon his Soul.


A Darkness that in his depressive moods he was quick to feed with new personal failures..


In some ways I failed them all, all of my Bondholders.. Leandreen..Carrain..Carys..Kathleen..Myrrhi..  nothing ever lasted.. service always broken..


Laying his head slowly back on his pillow then, he closed his eyes, forcefully pushing all the painful memories and negative thoughts away for the moment, and tried to stabilize his breathing.


He lay there for a long, long time, gradually relaxing his body and mind, slowly pushing the returning dream-memories away, before sleep finally came, as he blissfully drifted off into a thankful dreamless slumber.



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.. To Breathe on the Embers of Light ..



Elessar Telcontar, Borderlander-bred, unbonded Warder of Kandor and veteran Gaidin of many years, was forever lost in the Dance.

A soft western breeze blew through the Warders Yard that morning as the Borderlander went through the sword forms. In the calmness of the Flame and the Void, the Gaidin felt detached from the world around him as he moved with experience and assurance. The sword was a part of him as he leapt to strike, bent to defend, went high and then low, moving from one form into another, slicing through the air with his blade and moving with agility and swift footwork to get his imaginary opponent off balance.



The morning sky was sapphire-blue with only a few patches of clouds making an intermittent appearance in the horizon. A large bird of prey floated on the winds far above, gazing down at the Aes Sedai island-city of Tar Valon in all its splendour there by the River Erinin. As it headed ever south-eastwards on its long flight it focused its vision, for a moment, on the grand White Tower and the Warders Yard far below and on the figure of a Borderlander man and warrior there pushing himself through the motions in his deadly dance.

Stopping for a moment, Elessar caught his breath. To keep the edge one had to train again and again and again. No matter one’s experience or skill - and his was excellent. But there was always something which could be bettered. Always something to perfect. To gain that extra skill, that small but vital edge, which might be the difference between life and death in a given danger situation.


That had been his way ever since that time long ago in his youth - what almost felt like another lifetime ago - when he had decided that what he wanted for his life was to become a Warder of the White Tower. He had worked hard at excelling at everything he did ever since.

He was a man six foot three tall with a northern complexion, short dark hair and hard dark eyes. He had a strong build (a result of hard physical training over many years) and also some battle-scars, most prominent was one across his abdomen. In fury over the death of his mother and his inability to prevent it many years before, he had shaved off his forked beard (so common in Kandori men) long ago and had never re-grown it.


And I never will, he thought to himself intently as he prepared himself for another spell.


Breathe on the Embers of Light, Elessar. The words of his old Warder teacher echoed in his mind as he attained guard stance. Be One with your Sword. Feed all your Light into the Void.

Unfolding the Fan, the smooth opening move, which flowed into Low Wind Rising, a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly, followed by The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain, a vertical slash starting high and which in this case altered course in midswing, paired with Tower of Morning, a verticle slash but this time beginning low and ending high.


Combining forms in both traditional but also often innovative ways, using all his extensive experience and proficient skill, he flowed in the movements of his dance, almost as if he were outside of time.



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.. Memories and Reminiscences ..



The banners standing proudly on top of the Shining Walls of Tar Valon, ancient city of the Aes Sedai, rippled softly in the breeze coming out of the far reaches of the north. The sky was an ocean of blue as far as the eye could see and far above several large birds of prey floated on winds of prescience.


Far below, seated on a bench in a park area of the White Tower grounds, the Warder was reminiscing. His many years in service of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai had given him many things to reminisce about. Good times and bad, successes and failures. Moments of pride and moments of humility. To walk the path of a Gaidin was not always an easy one.


But it is always one I have walked with pride. Elessar’s dark eyes took on a determined gleam. And honour. Always, honour.



A Green Sister he did not recognize, a woman with short blond hair, an oval face and fiery eyes, walked past the bench he was seated on, regal as all Aes Sedai often seemed, the green shawl on her shoulders of a slightly darker colour than the dress she was wearing, totally oblivious of him. He gave her a nod of respect but she never noticed. Watching her disappear along the path, his mind went to the many Green Bondholders he had had through the years.


And that made him think of Myrrhi - and he sighed. Closing his eyes, he pictured her in his mind. He had fond memories of their time together as Warder and Sedai, they had had what he had thought of as a good and effective partnership in the Light and she had become a valued friend, but the way their Bond had ended still puzzled him and brought him some sadness. She had released his Bond, citing Tower orders and that she was needed elsewhere. She had thanked him for his service. And then she had left.


Putting aside those memories, he focused on the good times and fun they had had together. It made him think of one particular incident that happened in Cairhien what felt a lifetime ago. It was after they had listened eagerly to a court bard’s performance in an inn one late evening. Myrrhi, a young Aes Sedai, had been so excited and had seen her excitement mirrored in his dark eyes..


Now as he stared thoughtfully toward the imposing White Tower in the near distance, he went back in his mind to that evening and with clarity and detail it was almost as if he were re-living the moment…



…He saw it now in Myrrhi’s Eyes - the Passion for Life - and it warmed his Soul.


She must have felt something through the Bond, because she looked at him intently and smiled.


He smiled back, before taking her hand and silently leading her outside. It was dark that evening, the moon shining high above in a canopy of blackness and stars that blanketed the nation of Cairhien. Elessar looked about, gauging the darkness, and then met Myrrhi’s eyes.


“There is still time for some more fun tonight”, he said with a glint in his eye. “It will be good for you, for us both in truth, after all that’s happened.” He saw her questioning face, wondering what he had in mind, and he grinned in anticipation.


“Have you ever ridden in the dark?” he asked, a mischievous but also excited grin on his face. “When it is solid, stone-wall dark outside?”


They had ridden in near-dark on their journey a few times, out of necessity, but had always camped for the night before all light was gone. He did not think she had ridden in total darkness before; many riders had not.


Before she had time to reply, he set off for the stables at the back of the building, a somewhat flustered Sedai in tow. She had not ridden in pitch black surroundings before, no - and was more than a little dubious whether it was safe. But at the same time she felt the excitement of the prospect growing in her as she walked, and she felt she needed some more fun tonight, some more elation, to keep those other darker memories and thoughts at bay. And so she followed eagerly, a thrill running through her, with most of her skepticism under wraps.


The Warder found the young stableboy who quickly prepared their horses and within minutes Elessar and Myrrhi literally flew down the road, atop Stormbreaker and Tempest, leaving dust in their wake! As the stableboy had finished, the Gaidin had told his Sedai that horses, in fact, could see well in the dark, and as long as they kept to the roads and paths and trusted in their mounts’ instincts, all would be well.



Excitement at the fun, but somewhat wild, undertaking flowed through them both, feeding the pulse of life, driving away any doubts or fear, as they pushed their mounts hard down the hill through the darkness, running like the wind, elation and exhilaration making their Eyes shine and their Souls soar!


As they sped down the hill in the darkness, following the empty road or wide path (depending on one’s definition) that meandered downwards at an angle, at a fast canter but still not at a full gallop, Myrrhi shouted to Elessar that this exciting ride was exactly what she needed!


The sky was quite dark. Big fluffy clouds had appeared during the early evening and they had not moved much since. From the scarce moonlight that slipped in between the clouds it was hard to tell, but she seemed to him a bit flushed and he felt the thrill of her heart racing coming through the Bond. Seeing the elation in her eyes, in the moments when her face was visible, made him smile inside.


He had the impression that she’d like to go even faster but held back a little, perhaps thinking their station as Warder and Aes Sedai demanded that they behave responsibly. His suspicion was reinforced when at one point she placed her mare right behind Stormbreaker, seemingly happy to follow his lead.


Well, to hell with convention and responsibility! the usually very responsible and somewhat serious-minded Warder thought with unabashed excitement and a lopsided grin, as he made his black stallion pick up speed and go into a full gallop down the dark road, waving for Myrrhi to follow!


She was soon beside him, Tempest storming forwards in great leaps, neck and neck with Stormbreaker, as they flew around a corner of the ridge and headed onwards into the ‘unknown’ dark!



Elessar chuckled inside thinking of that ‘wild ride’ that Cairhienin night. It was not in his character to do such a ‘crazy’ thing but they had both needed it that day, both affected by their hunt for Darkfriends and constant danger from the Shadow. And he remembered Myrrhi thanking him when he brought her back to the inn and showed her to her room before departing for his own for the night.


Oh Myrrhi..


Thinking of her made him also reflect on his current situation.


He was unbonded and his service was to the White Tower here in Tar Valon. He missed being out on the road; he was getting restless again, he could feel it in his bones. Most of all he wondered if a Sister would offer to Bond him or if his time as a Bonded Warder had come to an end.


He had some years on him, and he carried some darkness within, but he had much valuable experience and skills and he still felt he had honourable service to give an Aes Sedai. There had been so many Bondholders.. so many missions.. but he would fight the Shadow ‘till he died, as he had promised many years before.


And he belonged at the side of an Aes Sedai.



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  • 2 weeks later...


.. Tar Valon: a Place of History and Wonder ..



Elessar had travelled much in his many years as a Warder to his Aes Sedais, seen many beautiful cities and wondrous sights, but even after all these years he still thought Tar Valon might be the crown jewel of them all.


Walking along the city streets on a sun filled late morning under an ocean-blue sky, amid the buzz and sounds and smells of a major metropolitan city, he marvelled at the place. Beautiful buildings, monuments, pathways and streets. And people of all nations. They are all assembled here. A handsome if not beautiful woman, dark of hair and eyes with an olive complexion, passed him in the street. She wore a pale dress with a snug bodice and full skirt over a bright petticoat as well as a curved dagger through her belt. The Warder recognized her as being from Ebou Dar and it brought back memories of his visits to that beautiful city in the far South. The woman studied him as she walked past, noticing his strong build and the confidence in his step. Then she was gone in the crowd, one among many.



Another woman came toward him and she looked very different. Her physical appearance was not that different - her skin light brown, her hair and eyes dark - but the diaphanous, form-fitting light green dress she wore which was almost see-through and would be considered quite scandalous in most countries easily bespoke of her origins. Only Domani women, citizens of the nation of Arad Doman, would be seen in such attire. It was said that Domani women had raised the practice of seduction and flirtation and the befuddling of a man’s senses and mind to an art,  and that Domani mothers began teaching their daughters this ‘art’ at an early age. Elessar did not doubt this, having come across a Domani woman or two over the years. Oh yes.. The Domani woman, in her twenties he would say, looked self-assured as she met his eyes with a flirtatious twinkle in her eye as she walked sensually past, a briefcase in her hand, and the Warder guessed she could be a merchant doing business in Tar Valon. For almost all Domani merchants were women according to their culture and the City of the Aes Sedai was a central trade link on the continent.


Continuing along the busy street Elessar passed the “White Flame” inn on the left hand side, an inn he was quite familiar with having known its owner for a decade or more, and finally came to the Great Fish Market, the most prominent fish market in the city. It was famed since it resembled a school of multicoloured fish swimming. It had been constructed by Ogier masons and was one of several impressive sights in the city. The market was as busy as ever and the Warder saw several buyers haggling over fish as he continued along the street. He passed all kinds of shops including an interesting little place with souvenirs and old paintings in the window and Elessar stopped for a short while as he admired the old painting. It showed a battlefield with soldiers and fallen and with the White Tower banner prominent in the upraised arm of a victorious armoured Aes Sedai who the history-competent Warder guessed could well be Rashima Kerenmosa, the legendary “Soldier Amyrlin”. He had many times listened in awe to poems and songs sung by gleemen in her honour and hoped to experience it many times more.



He finally arrived at Southharbor on the southern tip of the island. It was an Ogier-built basin surrounded by high walls of the same silver-streaked white stone that composed much of Tar Valon. Studying the high walls in wonder, as always was the case when he was here, he was as ever impressed by the work of the Ogier. He had never met an Ogier in real life but had read about them. They were a race of non-human creatures who were famed for their stonework and work as great architects and were responsible for many of the most impressive structures and cities of the world. Some old books he had read indicated that Ogier loved knowledge and trees and were a peaceful race but he presumed no one knew all that much about them. They were a solitary race living in their steddings, “havens for the wary” he had seen them described in an old manuscript. He would love one day to meet an Ogier.


Finding a bench by the side he seated himself and found pleasure in relaxation under the now midday sun. He saw large birds of prey in the sky far above, on their way southwards to warmer lands, and he travelled in his mind to many of the places he had visited through the years. Andor. Tear. Illian. Arad Doman. Cairhien. The Borderlands. So many places, so many fascinating things to see and enjoy.


He missed being on the road.


Brushing that thought away for now, he concentrated on Southharbor again and that made him think of this grand city and its history. Located on an island on the River Erinin within sight of fabled Dragonmount, Tar Valon was the center of Aes Sedai power and also the second largest, most populous city on the continent. The city was linked to the mainland by six bridges, each one of which was a mighty feat of engineering in its own right. Even the shortest bridge was still almost a mile long and gracefully arched from the island to the shore. Ruled by the Amyrlin Seat, leader of the Aes Sedai, the day-to-day bureaucracy was, however handled by a council of Aes Sedai sisters and civil administrators. The city was a vital trade and transport link between the Borderlands in the North and the more populous, richer Southern kingdoms. Multiple major roads met at the city, directly linking it to the cities of Fal Moran, Shol Arbela, Chachin, Maradon, Cairhien and Caemlyn, while the River Erinin linked the city to Tear in the South along with many important ports and trading centers along the way.



The island of Tar Valon was eight miles long and more than two miles across at its widest point. The city filled the entire island, bar an Ogier grove, which apparently was the only one within a major city still maintained and kept as a garden. The buildings in the city were noted for being graceful, tall and sometimes linked together by unique ‘skybridges’. Elessar had always been amazed by them. They seemed to him like monuments of a bygone age. And in its center, rising around 600 feet in height, the White Tower, the tallest building in the world.


Historically, beside being the center of Aes Sedai power, Tar Valon was perhaps most famous for being the site of the famous Battle of the Shining Walls. This was the final and decisive battle of the Aiel War, fought in the final month of 978 NE. Historians had described this event in some detail and much was known. Aiel clans left their homeland in the Aiel Waste and travelled across the Spine of the World mountain range to avenge the Cairhienin King Laman Damodred’s destruction of Avendoraldera, a sapling of the legendary Tree of Life. Once King Laman (whom the Aiel had now named Laman Treekiller) had been executed, the Aiel clans turned and left.


Historians had also spoken of other, older events but of those only parts were known among common folk though Elessar suspected Brown Ajah Sisters knew much added to what was probably hidden in White Tower vaults. Many years before, as a young Warder, he had asked Leandreen, his then Bondholder, out of curiosity to tell him some delicious scandalous historical secrets of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai, but she had only looked at him with a smooth cool Aes Sedai face and he had dropped the subject. Much history survived in poems and songs though, some also involving Aes Sedai, and Elessar had enjoyed and relished whatever he had come across of this through his years as a Warder of the White Tower.


Bringing his thoughts back to the present, as a soft breeze came out of the far west caressing the banners atop the Shining Walls of Tar Valon, Elessar of Kandor headed back toward the center of the city and the White Tower, Warder duties awaiting.



Tar Valon: City of the Aes Sedai


"The Wheel of Time turns around Tar Valon, and Tar Valon turns around the Tower."

-Axiom, origin unknown



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.. Echoes of the Past: To Become a Warder ..



Elessar had practiced in the Warder’s Yard earlier that morning but now he was back to take a look at some of the Warder trainees. They were going through the motions under the supervision of an older Warder teacher, a rugged-looking Saldaean with grey in his hair, a blademaster Elessar knew very well. Watching them try to copy the older and much experienced Gaidin’s proficient moves made the Warder from Kandor think about his own training many years before and the long path he had walked to become a Warder.


Seating himself on a wood bench on the side of the yard, nodding politely to a couple of starry-eyed Accepted who walked past, his thoughts went back to a time years before when he was Bonded to Kathleen Sedai. They had embarked on a journey together into the Borderlands, a journey which would eventually end quite differently than he had expected. They would also visit Kandor, his homeland. But before they got that far, he recalled sitting down with Kathleen one early evening, in a camp in the woodlands, talking. He had spoken of his past from when he was a young boy in the Borderlands..


Echoes of the Past drifted along Elessar’s thoughts now as he watched the trainees practice their skills, and as often was the case with him, since he had an incredible memory for detail, it almost felt as if he were re-living the moment..



… It was early evening when they stopped to make a small camp a little off from the road by some tall trees and bushes..


..The weather had turned for the worse and clouds now blanketed the sky, though no rain had come yet. The wind had also gained in force and sent swirls of dust around them and made their cloaks flap as they headed for the somewhat secluded area. Once there, Elessar tethered the horses, gave them another apple each, which he had brought from the Inn, and then made a quick scouting of the area - he did it almost without thinking - before returning to where Kathleen sat in the middle of the small camp beside a small fire. He seated himself opposite her, handed her a strip of cold mutton and some water, before taking some himself..


They sat in silence for a while, eating and drinking a little, but mainly resting, as dusk settled around them, before Elessar spoke. Putting his water-flask to the side, he said: “We have come a fair distance today.” He added. “The weather seems to be changing though.” He stared upward through the canopy of trees surrounding them. “I think it’s a good idea that we decided to rest here until tomorrow.”


He chewed noncommittally on the piece of mutton in his hand, his eyes looking toward the horses and beyond as his mind was deep in thought. Echoes of those dreams had returned in his head, but he ignored them, forcing them to silence. Trying to put his mind on other things, his thoughts refocused on their journey north. Their path went almost straight northwards and a little to the west, which meant that their present course would bring them to Kandor. He had not been told their precise destination yet, for now all he needed was their general direction, but Kandor meant ‘home’.


Or my former home.



Sometimes Elessar var not sure whether he truly believed his inner voice which said that he had discarded his homeland for Tar Valon once he had chosen the path of the Warder. In some ways it felt like it, in other ways it did not.


Tar Valon and Kandor are both my homeland. He thought pensively. Just in different ways.


Thoughts of Kandor - of home - made him recollect that he had spoken very little to Kathleen about his past. He needed to open up a little, he owed it to her to show trust. He knew from his previous Bonds how important it was that a Warder and Sedai trusted each other, only then could they function as an efficient team. Trust came from familiarity and some personal knowledge. Trust came from openness and honesty.


It might as well be now.  


Meeting his Bondholder’s eyes, across the flames from the fire, he said: “Our path leads to Kandor, my homeland. I guess I never told you how it was that I ended up choosing the path of the Warder.”


He went on to tell her his story, a story that began when he was a little boy.



“I was the second son of a minor Kandori House”. He began. He was brought up by a harsh and unloving father and a kind but repressed mother-figure. His father, a proud man with angry dark eyes and a hard face, insisted he become a soldier and from an early age started weapon’s training, and physical training, with him, pushing him hard and relentlessly.


“He pushed me too hard”, the Warder said thinking back. “But that was his way. I hated him for it in the beginning.” His voice had taken on a slightly bitter edge, but it lightened as he continued. “I endured, and strange as it may sound, as time went by I came to enjoy the physical exertions and the swordplay.” His eyes took on a pensive look. “I guess I enjoyed finally excelling at something.”


The Sword became my Beacon of Light.


As he grew - he explained - he developed a strong muscular build and good fitness and in the many staged spar-fights he most often won against the other boys on the manor (boys of servants mostly). His elder brother Valdherien was more politically-minded, the heir to the estate and title, and did not care much for the weapon’s training, while Elessar’s younger brother Vehran usually watched in awe while his older brother fought.


“I was Vehran’s hero, I was.” He said with fondness, mingled with sadness.


Oh Vehran. You did not deserve your fate.



Taking a long sip of water from his flask, his dark eyes pained, he then put it aside and continued his story.


Speaking on, he explained that he had not taken much interest in politics himself, like Valdherien, but had enjoyed reading and - at times - writing poetry, something his father had deplored (a waste he had said) but his mother had approved of.


Passion came into his voice when he spoke of his love for poetry and stories. It was a passion that had stayed with him.


That passion will always be a part of me.


“Then, when I neared the age of 17”, he said, “I decided I would go to the White Tower in Tar Valon and join the Warders. I wanted to excel at swordplay, and who better to be my teachers than the fabled Gaidin?” There was a touch of amusement in his voice at that, but also warmth at the dreams - and wonder - of a Borderlander boy.



His father, he explained, had, unsurprisingly, been proud of him while his mother, though understanding - as did all Borderlanders - his eagerness to stand against the minions of the Shadow - had looked at him with pride and kindness but had expressed some worry for the harshness she had seen in her son. She knew he was kind at heart and very loyal, he had always been that, but he often pushed himself too hard and excelling had almost became an obsession with him, an obsession she was afraid would destroy him one day.


A deep sadness entered his voice. “A short time before I left Tar Valon my mother.. died of a fatal illness.” Painful thoughts. More haunted memories. “She had been sick for a while.. but I somehow believed she would pull through.” A touch of bitterness returned in his tone, bitterness and something else. “Alas, it was not to be.”


He did not add that his mother’s death had created a coldness inside him and a fury that he had not been able to save her, but perhaps his pained, stricken gaze conveyed the feeling.


Mother, Forgive me. That I could not save you.



Now as he gazed at the tired Warder trainees sheathing their swords some way off, with clouds becoming heavier in the sky above Tar Valon and the wind picking up from the south-west, he felt the memories receding in his mind.


His dark eyes tightened though thinking about his dear mother. Even after all these years he still struggled to forgive himself for not saving her somehow.


Seeing the old Warder teacher head his way, Elessar’s mood lightened and a small smile came upon his lips as he met him halfway across the yard. He shook the older man’s hand warmly and they walked back to the barracks together, exchanging grins and jokes about rookie-trainees and their hopeless lack of skill and stamina.



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.. What Dreams May Come ..



Elessar was caught in Dreams.


And as so often happened with him, they were detailed Memories but sometimes also different somehow.. as if what was and what could have been were intertwined..


Caemlyn.. we were in Caemlyn.. with Carys..




“My ...Lady.” Said the old shopkeeper rapidly, looking curiously at the blond woman before him. “To what do I owe this visit?”



They had stepped out onto the streets of Caemlyn, the Andoran Capital, the sun shining brightly above. People of all kinds had filled the streets. Hawkers and merchants had called out their wares; shopkeepers had swept their front steps and women had hung clothing out to dry. Various smells had floated on the easy breeze, bringing hints of the delicious food and expensive scents that Caemlyn had to offer. Carys had looked up at Elessar, as if waiting for him to suggest where to go, but he had let her decide. She had turned right, heading toward the walls of the Inner City and the Warder had followed her, thinking her choice a good one. She had felt.. almost joyous.. through the Bond, Elessar had thought, though her face had been more neutral in an Aes Sedai kind of way, and he had felt sure that this walk around beautiful Caemlyn would do her good.


After a pleasant walk along the streets with much to see Carys had stopped suddenly next to a shop, making him tense slightly in the middle of his long stride. She had spoken his name with a lowered voice, pointing to the small shop. Looking at it he had seen that it was a kind of antiques-shop and when he too had spotted the tagline that mentioned that it specialized in Caemlyn history his interest had increased. She had added that they should go in there; despite the White Tower library having a ton of history on Caemlyn she would bet that a shop here would have even more. She had entered the shop without waiting for a response, knowing that he - with his passion for history - would eagerly follow.


A tiny bell had sounded as the door had clicked shut. Carys had looked around, her nose twitching at the dust in the air. Apparently this was not a shop often entered, she had thought. There were objects on tables all around, small plaques in front describing why they were important. Paintings had hung on nearly every inch of wall space, making the small shop seem even smaller. The Aes Sedai had begun speaking, and then the shopkeeper had come upon them. He had been whistling a tune, unknown to Elessar, and now he stared at them with wide eyes, holding tightly onto a plate of steaming food, his words drifting away like whispers..



He was a very old man, wearing a woollen shirt which had once been colourful but where the colours had faded over time, and trousers which had not been in fashion for over a century. He had a prestigious girth, and a wrinkled old face, grey hair, crystal blue eyes with bushy eyebrows, big ears and a large nose. He wore ancient glasses and he looked positively shocked to see them there.



Elessar and Carys exchanged a quick look and the Warder tried for the second time that morning not entirely successfully to hide a grin. Light, the man looks like an ancient scholar! he thought with kind amusement. He must be as old as some of the books in here!


Carys met the old man’s eyes and answered him that they were visiting the city and had seen his shop as they were walking by. “We’re students of history, my good man” Elessar added, his gaze eagerly taking in the room with all its objects of great age. “We’re interested in Andoran history and traditions”, the Aes Sedai said and smiled. The old Andoran scrutinized them, noticing the woman’s fair skin and complexion, then nodded to himself, murmuring under his breath. “History and traditions you say?” he said and a wide grin came upon his lips. “Well then, come in, come in strangers”, he added as he started to walk back in the shop, bidding them to follow. “Old Celter will give you some of our history”. He chuckled a little, then added: ”Come now. Hardly anyone visits my shop nowadays anyway, so little chance we will be disturbed. Come follow me. Follow me to the back. Follow old Celter.” They exchanged a quick glance, shrugged, and followed the old man to the back of the shop.


He placed the plate of steaming food on a shelf in the back room and it was soon forgotten as he motioned for the two of them to sit down in a pair of heavily decorated brown wooden chairs that looked as old as the Trolloc Wars. The ancient chairs creaked slightly as they seated themselves carefully and Carys and Elessar exchanged a silent glance which read: please, let these antiques carry our weight! “Traditions... yes”, the old man mumbled to himself as he ran a finger down the side of his chair. “I don’t often get visitors”, he said and he pushed up his glasses that had fallen down on his nose. “History is all about us here”, he said, “but no one seems to care.” He shrugged. There was regret in his voice, but then, as if a switch had been turned, his eyes lit up and he studied them closely again. “But you do, strangers”, he said and a playful grin came upon his lips. “So all hope is not lost.” He smiled in a strange way but Elessar was charmed by this old man, who, he somehow felt, was more than your everyday shopkeeper and antiques-dealer. What is your history, old man, I wonder? the Warder thought to himself. I bet you have seen many things in your long life.



“History and traditions, yes” the old Andoran mumbled and looked them each in the eye with a fixed stare. “Here is an old tradition for you”, he began. “Perhaps the oldest and most well known tradition in Andor: The Succession.” The Warder nodded, smiling inside since he had read about this Andoran tradition just that same morning. Carys also seemed interested and they sat back to listen, leaning backwards in their chairs ever so carefully so as to not put too much strain on them.


“The most widely known tradition of Andor”, the old man began enthusiastically, “is - as you have probably heard - that only a queen may sit upon the Lion Throne and wear the Rose Crown, never a king.” The old man paused for slight dramatic effect. “But you might not know that it was not so in the beginning”, he said. “Or rather, it was not meant to be so from the beginning I should say. The tradition, in fact, arose when none of the royal sons survived the War of the Hundred Years.” He mumbled something under his breath about sons always going off to war only to get killed, what a waste.. but his words were not clear. Then, in a stronger voice, he continued. “The First Queen, revered Ishara, only had a daughter left alive after her sons died and so she became her heir. She in turn also was left with only a daughter many years later and so her throne was passed to another woman and queen. In time this became Andoran law and ever since only Queens have ruled Andor.”


Elessar listened, captivated. Always interested in history, it was special to hear about it in such an old and history-oriented establishment and especially from a very old man who seemed to have lived through some of that history himself



“Now then”, the old man continued, “as I am sure you know” - he said this last bit with a quick look at the Aes Sedai - “the eldest daughter is named Daughter-Heir and is by law sent to the White Tower to study, then ascends the throne upon her mother’s death or retirement.” Elessar nodded to himself, recalling the description in the book he had read. “Her eldest brother”, the old man went on, “who is styled First Prince of the Sword, is sworn to protect and defend his sister with his life. He is trained from childhood, and later in Tar Valon,” - he gave the Warder a quick look - “to command the Queen’s armies in times of war and to be her military advisor. If the Queen has no surviving brother, she appoints the First Prince.” He mumbled to himself for a moment and reached out behind him, removing an ancient parchment from the shelf. “Now then”, he said, coughing slightly, “what happens when there is no surviving daughter? Ah well, that is when we often get.. the disturbances.. ah what you foreigners often call.. Andoran Wars of Succession.” He added the last part with slight disdain, refusing - as did all Andorans - to acknowledge that their system for selecting an heir could possibly lead to war.


He chuckled and a broad grin came upon his face. “Ah yes, the Great Houses - there are nineteen of them, you know - come into the playing field”, said the old man, his finger softly brushing the parchment that he held, “out they come to.. play.” His eyes seemed to go far away for a moment, as if in old remembrance. Then they fixed back on the two attentive listeners and his eyes widened, almost as if shocked that they were there with him. Soon though his face relaxed and he seemed to recall why they were there. He pushed his glasses back up from his nose and ran a hand through his hair. Then he spoke. “Where was I? Oh yes, the Succession.” He handed the parchment to Carys who opened it reverently - Elessar leaning over to have a look - and saw that it was a list of all the Great Noble Houses of Andor, resplendent with House-signet and honours.


The old Andoran chuckled a little to himself again before he went on. “Yes, when there is no Daughter-Heir, the throne is given to the nearest female blood relative. But succession is based not only on close relation to the former Queen, you see, but also on the degree of blood in a line of female descent from Ishara, our first Queen. As you can surmise, this makes things very intricate.. and interesting.” He seemed to be enjoying himself now, like an old tutor lecturing in front of his favourite students. “Ah yes, matters of lineage have become quite complex, since all the Great Houses are related after years of intermarriage. There have been political reasons for this practice, of course, sons and daughters marrying for the benefit of the House.. Families craving power and influence.. always power and influence..” Again he seemed to drift away, lost in thoughts.. but he caught himself and fixed his gaze on them once more.



“And so the question of succession”, he said, “has led to intrigue, plotting and often bloodshed” - he sighed - “when the Houses do not agree.” Another chuckle escaped the old man’s lips and his right hand clenched. “Ah, they are like children.. who act before they think.. who want it all, never mind the consequences.. but so it has always been.. always..”


The old man shook his head resignedly and his eyes seemed to drift.. to go back.. into lost memories. He folded his hands and placed them on his lap, weariness embracing his features. As Carys and Elessar watched in rapt silence - and with fondness - , the old man’s eyelids gradually became heavier and heavier and finally his eyes closed, his head leaned back on the top rail of his chair to rest, and he drifted slowly, slowly into blissful sleep..



When Elessar woke from the dream, it was still dark outside. Old Celter. He had dreamt about that charming old man he and Carys had met on that journey to Caemlyn and beyond several years before. I remember it all as if it were yesterday. It also made him think of Carys and his smile disappeared. He always remembered her fondly but also with a tinge of sadness. She had passed his Bond to another Sedai, for good reasons but even so.. He wondered how she fared in the Infirmary with her other Yellow Sisters. He had never spoken to her again, not seen her in fact in several years. He hoped she was well and cultivating her craft in Healing.


Getting out of his bed the Warder walked to the single window in the room and, placing his hands on the windowsill, stared into the darkness. It was a starless night and the moon was half-full. Several hours remained until dawn. The building was quiet. His room was in a section of the Warder Barracks set aside for officers, teachers and Gaidin. The Warder trainees slept at the other end of the Barracks. Returning to bed, he lit a light by his bedside and grabbed a book from the small shelf. It was one of his favourites, a book of ancient poetry, history and stories. He would read a little before trying to get some more sleep. He wanted to read more history about Caemlyn.


Old Celter, you charming old man. I hope you are faring well.



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.. For Maragaine ..



The old Warder grinned as Elessar came to stand before him.


“So, Elessar”, he began with a lopsided grin, “what do you think of my trainees? Have they improved since the last time you saw them?”


Elessar chuckled, a very amused look on his face. “Well, considering the teacher they have I am not surprised they are as pitiful as they are.”


The older Warder laughed under his breath. “Careful now, young man or I may have to kick your ass in a spar.”



Elessar laughed good naturedly. He was not that much younger than the Warder teacher though a span of ten years or so separated them. “You wish”, he responded, a crooked glint in his dark eyes.


On occasion the two had sparred over the years, both knowing the importance of keeping the edge which was so important for Gaidin, and they were quite close in skill. The older man was slightly more skilled but Elessar was slightly quicker in his step which made them fairly equal all in all. They had both attained a very high level of skill with the sword and most opponents would be hard pushed to overpower them.


“So where are your students?” Elessar asked after a few moments. He did not see them in the Warder’s Yard and guessed they had other classes. A Warder needed many different skills to carry out his duty well, not only sword work. Trainees would learn about survival skills, world politics, geography, etiquette in different cultures and lands, some philosophy, history and some basic first aid among other things in order to be able to serve and protect and assist their Aes Sedai competently. The Warder teacher confirmed that they were doing other classes now.


“History, I think” the old Warder added. “Perhaps you should visit and impart some of your extensive knowledge”, he said, knowing Elessar was more than competent when it came to the history of the world.


Elessar grinned in reply, shaking his head. “No, I would only bore them with details.”



The sky was azure-blue that morning with a soft wind coming in from the west. The temperature was normal for the time of year. Gazing toward the other end of the Warder’s Yard where a couple of young Warders were engaged in a duel, it made him think of his younger days as a Warder.


We are getting old, he thought with a pensive smile. But we are not too old to do our duty, competently and well.


That thought made him think of his situation here in the White Tower and he sighed softly. With every week that passed he felt more restless, felt almost useless. He was meant to be out on the road with an Aes Sedai, a Bondholder, to serve and protect, to fight the Shadow. Not bottled up here in Tar Valon. It was something he had often thought in the past weeks and it always left him frustrated.


The Warder teacher recognized the look on Elessar’s face and kept silent with his thoughts. He knew how restless Elessar was becoming and that his frustration was increasing. Some Warders were able to serve just as capably as Tower Guards here in the White Tower, they found valuable purpose in such service and did not crave a more active service out in the world.


Elessar was not that kind of person, he needed to be out there, at the side of an Aes Sedai, to serve the Light and fulfil his calling, his purpose as a Gaidin. He himself had been the same in his younger days. He knew the craving, the want, the need.



“I have something to attend to”, he said when Elessar turned back to face him. “But I will meet you later for a drink.” He smiled. “Then we can reminisce about the old days.”


Elessar nodded, smiling back. There was still that look in his dark eyes, that spoke of longing, but he hid it quite well. The Warder teacher only recognized it because he knew Elessar so well.


“I look forward to that, old friend” Elessar replied. “We have plenty of stories to share.” He grinned and his weariness seemed to slide off him at least for a moment.


He watched the older Warder walk away toward the Barracks as he pushed his other thoughts aside and considered the duties that awaited him that day.



That evening they met up at the White Flame inn. It was far from the grandest inn in Tar Valon, nor the best, nor the cheapest but Elessar had always liked it. He knew the owner, an Andoran man of middling years with a fat belly and a wonderful humour, since many years and had always found the atmosphere in the inn friendly. The meals were good, the beer excellent and often there was entertainment with gleemen something which Elessar enjoyed.


This evening the Common Room of the inn was about half-full when the two Warders entered. A mix of locals and foreigners as was often the case. They found a table at the back and Elessar waved to a young waitress to bring them some ale. She recognized him and winked at him as she headed off to get their drinks. The owner had seen Elessar enter and came up to their table smiling broadly. He promised them that the evening’s entertainment was the best in the city and Elessar exchanged friendly greetings with a big smile.


Gazing around the room he saw several other Warders seated at tables and also some Aes Sedai. It was not unusual to see Sisters of the White Tower in the inn but Elessar did not recognize any of them. Just then the waitress returned with their drinks and the two Gaidin sipped the ale contentedly. They then spoke of the old times, when they were young Warders, sharing some adventures. The old Warder tended to embellish them somewhat but Elessar did not mind. He knew the older man only did so to increase the fun, the telling, not to overstate things, and so he did it too at times. Telling the stories did not decrease Elessar’s urge to be out in the world again, far from it, but it soothed his impatience a little and it was good talking with someone; he had been a little solitary lately he had to admit.



When the gleeman arrived a little later, they were both ready for a story out of history. The gleeman, wearing the traditional cloak with many coloured patches of his profession, seemed to be in his late twenties, blond of hair and with a fair complexion. His accent confirmed that he was from Andor. He bore a flute which he placed to the side before facing his crowd. The inn was three quarters full now and many faces looked at the gleeman in anticipation. A few locals were somewhat drunk and started banging their tables but they quieted down once the Andoran began to sing. His voice carried to the furthest reaches of the room and captivated everyone.


The story was about the legendary Andoran Queen, Maragaine. Elessar knew about her from history books. She was said to have been the fifth Queen of Andor, succeeding Queen Termylle in FY 1054. There was some uncertainty as to whether Maragaine was Termylle's daughter, but she was without doubt a descendant of Queen Ishara Casalain, the founder of the kingdom of Andor. In FY 1063, during the War of the Hundred Years, Andor faced the gravest threat to its survival since its founding when Four rival Kings, envious of the growing power of Andor, united their armies and invaded the kingdom from the west, marching on Caemlyn.


The battle that ensued was to be known as “The Battle of Four Kings”. Queen Maragaine bravely led the Andoran army into battle, meeting them some distance west of the River Cary. In a furious battle, in which Queen Maragaine is often depicted personally leading a charge, the Andorans broke the invading force and routed it, securing the future survival of the kingdom. The Andoran town of Four Kings later grew up on the site of the battle, thereof its name.





A name that would not be forgotten in Andor. A name remembered in honour.








The White Lion banner held High

With screams of Andor! Around

Forward! Our Queen! The Cry

Echoed on the Battleground


Sword at the ready, they Charged

Maragaine leading the Way

Blooded death they Discharged

Strategy giving them Sway


Her blond hair streamed in the Wind

Her passionate face glowing Strong

A storm unleashed and Twinned

By soldiers’ courage, for Long


To me! She cried in Force

Fighting for her kingdom with Strength

Behind her the army, on Course

Pride in their eyes, at Length


Like a Warrior Queen of Old

Maragaine’s eyes Blazed

Brave as few and Bold

She destroyed the threat they Faced


 For the White Lion! Forward Andor!

Were the battle cries of Might

At Four Kings so says the Lore

Maragaine conquered in Light







Edited by Elessar
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.. To Be On The Road Again ..



It was a couple of weeks later that Elessar breathed a huge sigh of relief.


He had been ordered to accompany an Aes Sedai on a mission to Falme on the west coast. She did not have a Bonded Warder and Elessar would take on the role as protector and companion on the road. He had become really miserable in the past week and the Captain of the Warders had ‘asked’ Elessar to take on this responsibility partly to put him out of his misery. He was well suited for the mission as well with his vast experience and Elessar was very relieved and pleased by this new duty.


It was in late afternoon, under a gorgeous sapphire-blue sky and with the sun sending golden rays down upon the travellers, that Elessar Gaidin and Aleorah Sedai of the Blue Ajah [NPC] rode across one of the long bridges connecting the island of Tar Valon to the mainland. They passed people going to and fro, people of all nations and origins, and when they reached the other side they headed southwards toward Andor. A tender breeze coming out of the south-west touched their travelling cloaks and blew softly in their faces as they rode at a canter down the main road. Their destination was Toman Head and the city of Falme in the far west - and they had a long way to go.


Their plan was to travel south to Caemlyn and then to head straight west across Andor to Whitebridge. By this route they would avoid the Caralain Grass, an extensive area of plains a little farther north - once part of several ancient kingdoms of the past - that was largely unsettled and harder to travel through. From Whitebridge the plan was to head towards Baerlon in far western Andor and then across the mountains to Katar near Almoth Plain.



They did not speak much during the first part of their journey and Elessar did not know what the mission entailed. It was not necessary for him to know details at this point and he was just happy to be out of the Tower and Tar Valon for the first time in what felt like ages. It felt so good to be out on the road again that he found himself enjoying the vibrant forests they rode through and gazing with a smile upon the colourful countryside. Normally he would not have noticed such things but now they felt literally like a breath of fresh air. He kept his vigilance at the same time, always alert for any sudden danger. Even though it was a little different to accompany someone not his Bondholder, he would, naturally, protect Aleorah Sedai with his life. It was his duty and he loved feeling useful again.


Several days later they arrived in the Andoran capital. Elessar was riding slightly ahead of the Blue Sister as they came in sight of the majestic city. The White Lion banners of Andor rippled in the wind atop the City Gate. They almost seemed to dance, the Warder thought, as they passed through the Gate and headed into the city proper. Clouds had darkened the sky in the past hours and there was rain in the air. He thought they would reach their inn before the downpour started though and he was proved right. They passed an abundance of shops, stalls, people, colours, smells and sounds along their path and had to slow down as they got into the busier parts of the capital. Finally they reached the “Lively Pheasant” inn and dismounted in front of the establishment. Elessar brought their horses to stables at the back and soon returned to accompany the Aes Sedai inside. They quickly acquired lodgings for the night.



The next morning they met up in the Common Room and shared a breakfast. The Sister was not very talkative and Elessar focused on his food and the kaf as he went over in his mind the next leg of their long journey. They were going to leave later that morning and head for  Whitebridge, passing not that far from the town of Four Kings along the main western road. That made him think of the gleeman he had watched a few weeks earlier who had performed in Tar Valon and had sung about the Andoran Queen Maragaine who had fought and won against several armies at the place that would later be called Four Kings.


Forward the White Lion!


Their horses had been taken good care of and the Warder threw a copper coin to the young blond-haired stable boy who grinned widely, just as much for being in the presence of what was surely a Warder of the White Tower as for the money itself. He gazed wonderingly at the big warrior as the man led the horses to the front of the inn and dreamt of becoming a famous Warder one day.


Soon Elessar and Aleorah were on their way, packs with supplies fastened to the side of their mounts, riding slowly out of the city. The weather had improved and the blue sky was only marred by some intermittent clouds.


Elessar thought it would be a good day for riding.




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.. Mirrored in the Light of Whitebridge ..



It was a long journey across Andor.


They passed some way south of Four Kings a few days out from Caemlyn and continued westwards. The dusty road was not that much travelled if the few travellers and locals they came upon was anything to go by and the further west they came the fewer people they encountered. They made camp in the woods some nights and slept in small villages at other times.


During the journey the Aes Sedai told Elessar the basics of their mission. She was to pass a message to the head of a local Noble House, something she had to do in person. The Warder felt there was more to it but did not ask. She would tell him more later if it was necessary.


They stopped in the town of Arien which was larger than the villages they had passed through but even so it was very small for anyone used to a large city like Tar Valon. Finding an inn proved no trouble since there were only two and they chose the first one they came upon. The innkeeper, a tall and thin man with a permanent frown on his face, looked very carefully at the Aes Sedai and seemed about to say something but then changed his mind and offered them adjacent rooms with hardly a word. The Sister’s face was smooth as they headed up the stairs to the floor above but Elessar guessed she was a little miffed. He carried their belongings to their rooms and soon they were settled in. Elessar’s mood was still brighter than was usual with him (he was known to be serious at most times except when in the presence of gleemen tellling stories) but he also found that being on the road was beginning to feel ‘normal’, as if he were ‘home’ in a way, just where he was supposed to be.



Many days later the Aes Sedai and Warder from Tar Valon rode slowly into the town of Whitebridge in central-western Andor on a bright and sunny mid-afternoon. The wind was blowing from the south-east, making their travelling cloaks flap against the side of their tired mounts. Both travellers were weary from a long day’s ride and looked forward to some rest before continuing their journey.


Riding across the huge white glass-like bridge - from which the town took its name - which spanned the River Arinelle, Elessar recalled the knowledge he had of this impressive structure. The bridge was believed to date all the way back to the Age of Legends, thousands of years before. It looked to be made of impossibly fragile white glass - almost as if carved from one piece - yet of a type so strong even a chisel and hammer would not mar it. Furthermore, despite its glasslike surface it never became slick, even in the hardest rain. The White Tower knew perhaps more of its origin, but even with Elessar’s limited knowledge he was mightily impressed.


The town of Whitebridge grew up around the large stone-paved square at the bridge’s eastern foot. With its imposing bridge being the only span crossing the Arinelle south of Maradon in Saldaea in the Borderlands, Whitebridge town had from early on flourished in trade. Most buildings in the town were made of stone and brick, and the docks were made of wood. From what the Warder had read, all social classes were represented in Whitebridge - from merchants in their shiny lacquered carriages and velvet coats to farmers and peasants in rough wool.


Elessar did spot several merchants in carriages and a few farmers passing, as the Warder and Sedai headed toward one of the town’s inns a little further up the road. They dismounted outside the “Crystal Bridge” inn, one of the better inns in town if the locals were to be believed, and Elessar as usual took their horses to a stable boy at the back of the establishment before returning to join the Sister.



They quickly found the innkeeper, a somewhat fat, blond-haired man of middling years with a large nose and sunken eyes but a welcoming smile (quite a contrast to the sour innkeeper in Arien, Elessar thought), standing at the back of the room wearing an apron, who seemed suitably impressed at having an Aes Sedai visit his humble inn.


A short while later they were settled in their adjoining rooms (one of the inn’s best rooms for the Aes Sedai, of course) and it was time for a well earned rest.




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.. Arriving in Falme ..



They arrived in Falme just as the sun was setting, colouring the sky a beautiful crimson red. If a poet had been present, he would have praised its inherent beauty in extravagant ways.



They had ridden throughout the day with few stops and were very weary. Arriving at their end-destination, however, brought a touch of relief to their faces. It had been a very long journey and it was good to finally be in Falme. They found an inn fairly close to the waterfront, the Ocean Swirl inn a sign proclaimed above the main entrance door, and dismounted.


After leaving their horses with a young stable boy they entered the building and quickly got two rooms. The innkeeper, a big local man with a big smile, was of the pleasant sort who welcomed them heartily and wished them a pleasant stay. A quick meal followed in the Common Room, alongside a somewhat rowdy crowd of locals and travellers from all over the land, and then they headed for their rooms and a very welcome night’s sleep.



Their journey from Whitebridge had been a long one. They had travelled north-westwards in the direction of Baerlon, a small town in far western Andor, where they had arrived one late afternoon under a dark and cloudy sky. After spending a night at a somewhat tired looking local inn, a place not used to getting many guests, they had continued onwards through the Mountains of Mist north-west of Baerlon on the road that lead to Katar on the other side of the mountains, a city on the north-eastern edge of Paedish Swar, the Darkwood to the east of Almoth Plain. Their passage through the mountains had been arduous, not the least because of days of rain and bad weather, and they had been happy to see the back of them. From Katar they had headed westwards towards Toman Head and Falme, at one point leaving the main road that lead to Bandar Eban, the Capital city of Arad Doman.


Much of the time they had ridden in silence, focusing on travelling as many miles a day as possible, but in between they had spoken a little and had conferred on practical matters. Elessar had continued what had become his daily scouting-routine, even though no danger of any kind had been apparent, and they had continued their - by now - regular camp-routines when no inn had been close by. Even though Elessar was grateful to be out in the world and on the road again the miserable weather and hard trek through the mountains had taken their toll. He was happy to have arrived in Falme.



The next day they got up bright and early and enjoyed a decent breakfast in the Common Room. The sleep and rest had done them good and the Warder’s mood was much improved. Afterwards they headed out into the city streets. Elessar had been in Falme a few times before with previous Sedais but each time the place seemed somewhat.. different. This time the place felt.. unsettled. It was hard to say exactly what it was that gave him that impression, but the feeling persisted as he watched the local people hurry from place to place with seeming no time to talk or dwell as the two of them made their way through the streets of the city.


Elessar knew Falme’s history well and had also read about the place and its people. Falme was a harbour on the Aryth Ocean and was the largest city on Toman Head and on the Almoth Plain. It was formerly known as Miereallen while a part of the nation of Safer - ruled by  King Eawynd according to history records - during the Compact of the Ten Nations. The next country to control the city was Darmovan. It is likely that the residents of Falme participated significantly in the famous “People’s Uprising” that squashed a rebellion against High King Artur Hawkwing. After the War of the Hundred Years, the nation of Almoth came into being. It controlled most of the Almoth Plain, as well as Toman Head and thus Falme. In time this country too faded away, as most nations do after a period of time ..


All too true, thought the Borderlander Warder pensively as they made their way along cobblestone streets toward the Noble House where the Aes Sedai was to have her meeting.



Falme city was unwalled and was filled with cobblestone streets, dark stone buildings, and also docks of stone. The city rose up from the high cliff slopes of the hollow that made the harbour. Passing people in the streets the Warder noted the local fashion which involved copious embroidery for both rich and poor. Some men, obviously wealthy, sported intricately embroidered shirts, vests and dresses while women of more modest country life wore embroidery on the chest of their long fleece coats. They all hurried onward on their business with not even a quick glance at the Warder and Sedai.


Finally they rounded a corner and half-way up the adjacent street there was a tall building with heavy doors which spoke of wealth. What looked like a guard stood in front of the door and the Blue Sister walked right up to him and presented herself. She was quickly led inside with Elessar close behind. The guard led them along several corridors of the manor, decorated with paintings along the walls and some smaller statues at intervals, until they came to a large oak door with a large insignia. That of the Noble House.


The door soon opened and a tall brown-haired, square-faced, sharp-eyed Noblewoman greeted the Aes Sedai politely and with just the right amount of respect (which meant little respect in truth, seeing herself as an ‘equal’ to the Blue Sister). Aleorah Sedai was not amused though her face remained smooth. Her eyes though made it quite clear that the High Lady had overstepped herself and the woman, seeing the look and understanding perfectly, made a deeper bow as she led the Blue Sister into her office.


Elessar remained standing outside.



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.. Discussions and Sword Forms ..



“So, what do you think?” Aleorah Sedai asked Elessar once they were back at the Ocean Swirl inn.


They were seated in the small library at the back of the inn all by themselves. Calling it a library was perhaps an overstatement; it was a large room with several book shelves filled with books, maps and various parchments, some historic paintings on the wall and two tables with four chairs in all. It did function as a small library though for the inn’s guests and Elessar found it a good and suitable place to talk. They had closed the door to the library to speak in private and now sat opposite one another with a table between them.


The Aes Sedai wore a dark blue dress that matched the colour of her eyes while the Warder wore a black outfit that neither stood out nor looked shabby. His dark cloak rested on the back of his chair. Now he met the Blue Sister’s eyes squarely and shrugged.


“I have no idea”, he replied honestly, going over in his mind again what she had told him a little earlier.



She had spoken of the talk she had had with the local High Lady. The White Tower suspected there were Darkfriends in Falme, a Darkfriend cell in fact. This was obviously a very delicate matter and so Aleorah Sedai had been sent to discuss it in person with this High Lady who was, apparently, on good terms with the White Tower. The High Lady - Evenia of House Almiathin - had admitted that she had heard rumours of such filth, as she called it, but had no proof whatsoever. She was going to discreetly pass the word around her “network”, as she called it, and would get back to them in a day or two with any news.


The question was how they were to proceed next.


“I have rooted out Darkfriends before”, the Warder added after a few moments. His dark eyes tightened as they always did when he thought of the Shadow. “We have come across them several times over the years.” The Aes Sedai nodded, having been told in the White Tower about his past. “In one instance, in Ebou Dar, we broke into a Manor house where we suspected - correctly as it turned out - a Darkfriend Noblewoman had incriminating evidence in her office.”


“In other cases.. we set traps.”


The Blue Sister nodded again. She had hunted Darkfriends too.



“In this case”, Elessar continued questioningly, “we don’t have anything to go by so far and so it’s almost impossible to know where to look.”


She noted the almost in that sentence but remained silent.


“Not to be too conspirational here”, he said, his eyes tightening again, “but are we sure we can trust this High Lady?”


It took a few moments before she replied. Her smile was hard.


“We can trust no one.”


Her words cut like a knife. Her dark blue eyes glittered dangerously.



 Early the following morning just as the sun was rising in the distant horizon Elessar stood ready in the yard behind the inn to have a training session. He wanted to go through the sword forms, something he had neglected during the last part of their journey. The yard was empty except for the stable boy who, standing by the stables, looked wide-eyed at the shirtless Warder as he unsheathed his sword.


In the calmness of the Void, the Gaidin felt detached from the world around him as he moved with experience and assurance. The sword was a part of him as he leapt to strike, bent to defend, went high and then low, moving from one sword form into another, slicing through the air with his blade and moving with agility and swift footwork to get his imaginary opponent off balance. Finally he sheathed his sword in one flowing motion and stepped back.


He caught his breath and waited a minute or two for his pulse to drop before regaining guard stance and repeating the exercize. Unfolding the Fan, the opening move, which flowed into Low Wind Rising, a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly, followed by The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain, a vertical slash starting high and which in this case altered course in midswing, paired with Tower of Morning, a verticle slash but this time beginning low and ending high.


Sweat beaded on his brow and chest by the time he was finished, his breath coming in short gasps. It had been a good training session and he promised himself he would try and have one every morning hereafter. A Warder needed to keep the edge and that was the case however proficient one was.



Brushing off some sweat with a towel that lay off to the side he turned to catch the young stable boy looking at him with admiration and, perhaps -though he tried to hide it-, a touch of fear. Elessar smiled kindly at him and on impulse walked up to him and placed his blade in the young boy’s hand.


“Feel how heavy it is”, he whispered as he saw the boy’s eyes grow wider. He raised the sword higher, his big hands clasping the boy’s smaller ones. “Perhaps one day when you are older you will swing a blade like this”, Elessar added kindly. “Perhaps you will take up the honour of serving as a Warder of the White Tower.”


The stable boy was speechless but Elessar could see the wonder and gratitude in his young eyes.


This was a moment that would stay with the local boy forever.



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.. Remembering the Atha’an Miere ..



Elessar stood at the harbour in Falme and stared silently at the large Sea Folk ship anchored there. It was midday and golden rays from the sun streamed down from between intermittent clouds.


The Warder’s thoughts were not on the weather though. His mind was travelling back to a time some years before when he had been here in Falme with his then Aes Sedai and Bondholder Carys of the Yellow Ajah. They had been here on a mission where she was to meet the Sea Folk, the Atha’an Miere.


It was a journey the Borderlander Warder remembered very well. He could recall in detail his thoughts as he had seen the Sea Folk vessel, a Raker, for the first time..


It was called Windsweeper..



.. it was a large vessel with multiple decks, easily a hundred paces long, with three towering masts amidships, and one shorter one on the raised stern deck. It had large triangular as well as somewhat smaller white squared sails, and a very narrow body, as was common in such ships, that made for great speed across oceans..


The ship, it turned out, was commanded from the Quarterdeck by a Sailmistress called Marah din Toral Rising Wave, a tall dark-skinned woman with grey streaked hair, a grave face and with five rings - of good quality metal - in each ear, one of them being connected to her nose by a chain, a sign of her higher rank.  She had begun aboard a ship as a deckhand many years before, in the Sea Folk tradition, and had worked herself up through the ranks. She had finally fulfilled her ambition and gained the rank of Sailmistress with her own vessel - and, they learned, she felt as protective of her ship as she would of a child.


Elessar’s problem was, in truth, not with the ship. Not really.


It was rather with the ship’s owners.


The Atha’an Miere.



The Warder was in a foul mood.


The way these Sea Folk women in authority aboard the Windsweeper appeared to be treating his Bondholder and Sedai, with arrogance and little gratitude or respect, pushing her to exhaustion more often than not, working her so hard that he could feel the strain through the Bond, was grating on his nerves.


Damn them!


Though he was never present during the ‘lessons’ in question, he had seen the looks they had given his Bondholder behind her back - and also, a few times, almost to her face. Patronizing looks full of smugness. Condescending stares. With the constant exhaustion coming through the Bond it was enough for the Gaidin to understand that they were inexorably wearing her out.


He worried for her health and condition and had told her so emphatically in the several ‘discussions’ they had had in the two and a half weeks since boarding the Sea Folk ship in Falme. At one point, after a particularly heated ‘discussion’, he had considered confronting ‘these bloody Atha’an Miere’ as he had called them, and telling them to their face what he thought of their treatment of his Bondholder. But Carys had - eventually - calmed him down and had made him see that their cause would not benefit from any ‘confrontation’, however well grounded.


She was Aes Sedai. She would cope. He need not worry.



Even so, his mood darkened and he was far from happy with the situation. Like most Bonded Warders he was very protective of his Aes Sedai and of her honour - and the one thing he would never stand for was her being treated badly or disrespectfully by anyone, especially outside the White Tower.


Cursing to himself for the third time in as many minutes, Elessar’s fists clenched and unclenched as he stood on deck, staring coldly outwards at the rolling ocean around them. He tried, moreover, to ignore the growing - and very familiar - feeling of queasiness in his stomach, as the ship mounted the rising waves of the Aryth Ocean.


He already regretted the breakfast he had had that morning.


Damn this accursed sea!


With as much dignity as he could muster, he walked not too steadily along the deck past several Sea Folk, who gazed at him with amused looks, toward the bow of the ship where, in a slightly secluded spot by some heavy ropes on the starboard side, he unceremoniously vomited into the sea. It was becoming a daily routine. A daily nightmare. He sincerely hoped it would not take him long to get his ‘sea legs’, or he might, very soon, voluntarily throw himself into the ocean, Warder-Bond or no!



Elessar chuckled to himself darkly as he now thought back on it. In hindsight it was funny. While it was going on it had been far from it. Thankfully, as the days had gone by and another week at sea had passed, he and Carys had gradually grown more accustomed to the rolling waves and motion of the ship and the gibes coming their way from the sea-accustomed Atha’an Miere men and women had become less frequent.


The Warder now saw activity on the nearby Sea Folk Raker, they were preparing for departure, and he was quickly lost in old memories again..



.. Time passed in its own way on board the ship. Elessar had a daily routine and kept as normal a sleeping and training schedule as possible.


He rose at dawn, walked the deck every day, found a spot out of the way of the working Sea Folk where he could practice balance and sword-forms, and spent some time reading in his cabin. As time went by it also seemed from the emotions coming though the Bond - and from Carys’ sparse words on the matter when he asked - that the Sea Folk were putting somewhat less strain on her, something which comforted her Gaidin. Even so, he still felt some of her frustrations, at times, seeping through the Bond and his view of these Sea Folk remained adverse.


As the Sea Folk ship sailed further southwards, Elessar’s daily routine continued. In the late afternoons he retired to his small cabin to read. He had brought a couple of books about the Atha’an Miere from Caemlyn and had purchased a few more in the port towns they had stopped at on their journey south. Carys had only come ashore a few times since their departure from Falme - she had duties to carry out on board it seemed - but Elessar had taken every opportunity to do so. He used these port calls to ‘stretch his legs’ as it were, to gather news on events, and to listen for rumours on matters of interest. He also bought a few choice items on occasion.



The Sea Folk had several strange and unfamiliar customs, as Carys and Elessar learned during their sea journey, not the least the fact that Atha’an Miere women at sea, away from port, wore nothing above the waist. That particular custom was certainly.. exotic.. and Elessar tried not to stare too much. They had a dark complexion and their outlandish appearance was further enlivened by their colourful clothing and tattoos on their hands as well as gold and silver jewelry. Some authors pointed out that “Sea Folk women are known as the epitome of seductiveness and grace” and Elessar did not doubt it from the impressions he had gotten. 


He climbed the stairs to the raised stern deck of the ship one afternoon and stood there by the railing watching for a while as the Sea Folk worked. Looking at the dark-skinned men and women moving about the ship with quick and sure steps and ever-present alertness, with grace and proficiency and obvious pride in their work, the Borderlander Warder could not help but be somewhat impressed.


Shifting his attention, he sensed his Sedai through the Bond, working on a different deck at the other end of the Raker, and once again hoped they were now treating her with respect. With the Sea Folk general attitude toward Aes Sedai, that was far from a certainty. But things were getting better, or at least that was his impression, and that knowledge kept his latent anger at bay.


He turned to face the sea.


Standing there, with both hands on the railing, he gazed silently at the endless sapphire-blue ocean waters for a long, long time, tasting the salt sea air, feeling the growing breeze on his face, and he wondered where and when they would reach their next port of call..



Memories blended with the present as the Sea Folk Raker slipped its moorings and drifted slowly away from the quay. Elessar could see the dark Sea Folk shapes moving hurriedly about deck and it was almost a mirror image of what had occurred several years earlier except at the time the Warder had been standing on deck. He watched the departing ship until it was out of the harbour, heading into the Aryth Ocean, then walked back down the dock past a couple of smaller vessels.


A local fisherman, a grizzled-looking bald older man, was mending his nets aboard his thirty foot long moored fishing vessel. On impulse Elessar stopped beside where the fisherman was working and asked him about how the fishing was going these days. The man shook his head and grumbled that things were going poorly. “And the seas are restless these days”, he mumbled as he continued working. The Warder thought the comment was a bit strange but fishermen were known to be superstitious folk. When Elessar repeated the word “restless?” with a questioning tone, the fisherman met his eyes squarely and said that there were more Sea Folk ships about than usual and they seemed stresses out by something.



Elessar nodded and thanked him for the information, wondering inside what was going on. He departed the quay and headed back into the center of Falme. Aleorah Sedai should be finished with her errands by now. They were to meet up at the inn and speak some more about their options. They had still not agreed on their plans going forward and the Warder was still uncertain what was their best course of action.


They had important decisions to make.



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.. The Watchers Over the Waves ..



“I just don’t know”.


Elessar shook his head and shrugged.


Aleorah Sedai had explained that a local agent of the Blue Ajah’s extensive Eyes and Ears network had heard rumours that the High Lady in question - Evenia of House Almiathin - had had some rather shady dealings in the past.


That did not necessarily mean she was a Darkfriend, of course; many Noblemen -and women were used to playing the Game of Houses which sometimes involved shady dealings of one kind or another. But it did make them more suspicious of her. The Blue Sister had asked if he thought the High Lady was in fact a Darkfriend.


“We don’t have any evidence beside some rumours.” He added. “And as we know, half the rumours that fly about are never true, perhaps more than half as well.”


The Aes Sedai nodded, knowing well the truth of that.



“She is the local Noblewoman who has been on the best terms with the White Tower as far as I know”, the Blue Sister said, a thoughtful look on her face. “That could, of course, be a deft tactical way of appearing the least likely to betray the Light.”


Darkfriends were indeed often sly creatures in Elessar’s experience, but sometimes too clever for their own good.


“We can have her followed”, the Warder suggested. “That will at least give us an indication of her activities.”


The Aes Sedai nodded in agreement. She would talk to the local agent again.


They agreed to split up the following day. Elessar would walk the streets of Falme and see if he could pick up on anything useful while Aleorah Sedai would visit a second Noble House and have a discreet talk.



Clouds covered the sky the following morning as Elessar went through his sword forms at the back of the inn. When he was done, he went up to his room, washed himself, put on some clothes and then ate a small breakfast alone in the Common Room before heading out into the streets. There was rain in the air and the wind was picking up from the west. The city was coming to life with shops opening, stalls appearing and people walking hurriedly down the streets. They still seemed totally focused on their own tasks with hardly a moment to look around and this still puzzled the Borderlander.


Walking down one of the cobblestone streets he turned a corner and almost bumped into a rough-looking fellow with shabby clothes and a scowl on his face. The man cursed, threw the Warder a dark look and then hurried on his way. Elessar stared after him as he disappeared in the distance. That man was trouble. Elessar had seen his like many times before. If there was a guild of thieves in this place, that man would probably be a member. Continuing down the street he passed a florist shop (noting that there was a blue flower in the center of an intricate flower arrangement) and several small stalls selling wares. Further down the street he passed another inn. A painted sign above the entrance said “The Watchers”. The name interested him. He knew of a poem and song about “Watchers” that was popular around these parts. He had watched it performed on his earlier visit and he would bet this inn would have gleemen singing the tale often. Perhaps he would visit the inn that evening and see if he was lucky.




They spoke later that afternoon back at their inn. Elessar had little to inform in truth. He had not come across anything suspicious during his walks except the rough-looking man. He had bought an ale to a grizzled old man with little hair and no teeth (who had been very appreciative of the gesture) and tried to chit-chat and see if the man had heard any rumours he could tell, but the man had only repeated what the local fisherman had said before, that there were strange goings on out to sea.


The Blue Sister told him that she had spoken with the High Lord of the second Noble House (who had been very honoured by her unexpected visit) but that little had come of it. Her impression was that the Nobleman was clever and tactically astute, as most Noblemen needed to be to survive long, but nothing had pointed at anything suspicious.


“Of course”, she added squarely, “one never knows with people.” She met his eyes with a direct stare. “Sometimes the most innocent appearing is the least innocent when it comes down to it.”


Elessar nodded, knowing the truth of that as well.




When he later during dinner in the Common Room asked her what she thought of these apparent rumours that something was going on out in the Aryth Ocean, she replied smoothly that it was not something they needed to focus on right now. He thought the answer was a little strange since it indicated that she knew more about it than she let on. Certainly more than he did. Then again, it could be that he was reading too much into things. And their focus was on this mission.


The man following the High Lady had reported nothing of use and so the Blue Sister said she was going to meet the woman for the second time the next day. Perhaps she would learn something more; Evenia of House Almiathin might let something slip. Meanwhile, she had another errand that evening and would have an early night, she said. Elessar nodded and added that he would head down to “The Watchers” inn which was closer to the docks, and perhaps he might overhear something in the crowd. Fishermen and thirsty folk sometimes revealed more than they intended, especially when drunk, and the Warder would be there in case it happened.




Sipping his ale at “The Watchers” inn that late evening, Elessar (clad in his casual inconspicuous dark attire) watched the crowd without seeming to and listened to all the talk around. The inn was almost full, with a mixed crowd, and there was drink aplenty. A gleeman, a short dark-haired man in his late twenties wearing the cloak of his profession, had been playing the flute (decently enough but not at top level in the Warder’s opinion) but was now taking a well-earned break.


From what the Warder could hear, people were echoing the thoughts that something was up out to sea, fewer fishing boats were around and more Sea Folk vessels. No one seemed to have any idea what was going on though. Some joked that the fishermen were frightened of whatever was on the bottom of the sea, some sea-monster coming to get them, while others talked of silly superstitions. There was nothing of value to learn for the Gaidin, and so he focused once again on the gleeman who was returning to perform some more.


And he was in luck.


The gleeman spoke a few words of the history of this place here on the west coast and ended by saying that “the Watchers are always here” which brought banging on tables and many cheers from his enthusiastic crowd. They knew he would now sing “The Watchers Over the Waves”, a favourite song in this inn. Elessar smiled cheerfully and listened as the crowd was captivated by the gleeman’s performance.






The Watchers Over the Waves


To Watch and Wait, that was their Call

The proudest people of them All

Their duty clear, sworn on their Graves

They were The Watchers Over the Waves


Do Miere A’vron, the Old Tongue Learn

They waited for the Armies’ Return

That Hawkwing across the Ocean Sent

With mankind’s hope, their chances Spent


On Toman Head-coasts, watchtowers Raised

And the wisdom of the First Watcher Praised

They would remember, what others Forgot

Bending the knee, when others would Not


From dusk ‘till dawn they watched the Sea

Awaiting sights of sails that Be

The warriors of ships and Stones

Returning to their rightful Thrones


Long have they waited, their loyalty Strong

Their steadfastness will be remembered in Song

When Hawkwing’s armies return to the Land

In triumph and glory, the Watchers will Stand





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.. Evenia: a High Lady of Twilight ..



Evenia of House Almiathin was a proud woman.


Her House had been the most prominent in Falme for several generations and they had done whatever needed doing to stay the most dominant and powerful. They had become very proficient at playing the Game of Houses and although Falme was no Caemlyn or Cairhien the power-game was just as ruthless. To stay on top one had to neutralize or simply destroy the competition. And High Lady Evenia had become very good at both.


What the other Houses in Falme and on Toman Head did not know, was that her House was the central cell of a west coast network serving the Great Lord of the Dark.


That had been her House’s greatest secret for several years - a secret worth dying for.



Several years before, the High Lady had turned to the Shadow, losing faith in the Light. It had not happened overnight but been a gradual decision as she had felt an urge to increase her power in the region. In her dreams - which had seemed so lifelike - she had wielded much political power and she had always awakened with a feeling of bliss and an urge to conquer. Some time later she had been approached by a messenger who had invited her to a meeting. Curious what this was all about she had accepted the invitation. The people at the meeting had been unknown to her but they reflected power both in their dazzling attire and in their confident attitude. They had proposed an alliance of like-minded people and had promised her increased power if she joined. Sceptical at first she had soon come around to the idea - almost without being aware how it had happened - and she had left the meeting with a feeling of bliss.


A week or so later one of the men who had been at the meeting - average-looking in every way, the kind of person you overlook in a crowd - met her and whispered that she could achieve all she wanted and more if she decided to serve the Great Lord. She had begun to feel that the other Noblemen in Falme were cowards, unwilling to take necessary risks, almost sickeningly worshipping the Light, and had looked for a way out, a better way. She had no problem turning to the Shadow. It gave her the opportunities she craved for. It gave her increased power. It gave her standing in the circles of the Great Lord. But everything had to be kept secret, of course. Were it to come out that she was what Lightfools called a Darkfriend, she would be dragged through the streets of Falme by her long brown hair and into the local dungeon for a probable swift execution.


To add strength and believability to the perception that hers was a Noble House which abhorred the Shadow she had cultivated a relationship with the White Tower and Aes Sedai over several years to the point that the foolish Sisters thought she was their closest ally in Falme. It had been a very clever ploy, she thought to herself, and she felt quite confident no one from Tar Valon suspected her true allegiance.



And certainly not this Blue Sister Aleorah Sedai who she had met several times in the past few days. She had pretended deference at their first meeting and had listened silently as the Aes Sedai had informed that they suspected there were Darkfriends in Falme, a Darkfriend cell in fact. This was obviously a very delicate matter, the Blue Sister had insisted, and so she had been sent to discuss it in person. Evenia had admitted that she had heard rumours of such filth, but had no proof whatsoever. She had told the Aes Sedai that she was going to discreetly pass the word around her “network” and would get back to her in a day or two with any news.


It had been necessary to ‘play along’ but she thought the Sister had had no suspicions. Evenia had always considered herself a very good judge of character and though the Aes Sedai’s smooth face had given nothing away, Evenia felt this Sister was pretty dim-witted for one of her kind. Inside she had grinned elatedly, thinking about how this naive Sister of the Blue Ajah would react if she knew that she, the High Lady, was the major player behind everything.. unsavoury going on in the region. Their last conversation had not been that unlike their first. This time Evenia had told her that she had enquired in her network but they had found nothing to substantiate such dark rumours. She would stay alert though and would inform if she heard any filthy whispers, she told the Sister in a hard voice. When they parted, the Aes Sedai looked as smooth-faced as before but there was something in her eyes which made the High Lady think she was not happy.


Evenia was pleased by the fact.



She woke screaming from the dream.


Something or someone had tried to pull her into a dark well, simultaneously beating her and screaming at her to admit what secrets she had shared with the Aes Sedai.


Her head had come under water suddenly, as if it had risen from the bottom of the well, and she had struggled for life.


Pain had erupted in her lungs and she had almost become unconscious as her face had been dragged out of the water. Coughing and crying despite herself, she had been thrown to a stone floor and had sensed a shadow standing over her.


Have you betrayed the Shadow?! A voice screamed in her head. Betrayal is death!


Have you betrayed the Great Lord?


More pain. Endless pain.



She felt searing pain in her arms and legs as blood started to flow from wounds that suddenly appeared on her skin. The wounds burned and she screamed some more.


The voice - she was unable to identify whether it was male or female, young or old - kept asking her if she had betrayed her eternal allegiance. She screamed that she had not, that she would never.. but the pain just continued.


She sensed light in the darkness, as if whoever or whatever stood before her was retreating.. Where? How? She could not tell. It was all a confusing blur through her tears and the never-ending pain.


A final burning sensation, then all breath left her. A swirl of colours took hold of her, as if she was an eternal vessel of Twilight.


Her screams continued shamelessly for a long time after she awoke - and she was shocked to find blood running down her arms and legs.



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.. A Night’s Mission in Shadow ..



“It is the only way”.


Aleorah Sedai looked into this Gaidin’s eyes and saw the determination there. He had been a valuable companion on the road for this mission and had more experience than most Warders. He was not afraid to speak his mind either but at the same time showed her the respect that was her due. She could well understand that several of her Sisters had seen the value of Bonding such a man.


She nodded and turned away to stare at the Sea Folk ship that was leaving harbour.



They were at the Falme docks and it was early afternoon. The sun shone in a partially clouded sky and there was much activity around. A second Sea Folk ship was moored not far away and Elessar was gazing at the men and women running around that ship carrying out the necessary tasks at hand. On the top deck the Sailmistress was following all the activity with a serious face but inside she was proud of her crew. She turned to stare after the departing ship and wondered if her Sailmistress was thinking about the dangerous journey ahead. Of course she was. The Aryth Ocean was no longer the safe place it had once been.


Facing the Blue Sister again, Elessar added that he knew it was a dangerous option, but what other choice did they have?


They had spent several hours discussing the situation - and it was a serious one. The fact was they had no proof of any Darkfriend activity even after a week spent in Falme. All they had was rumours and suspicions. Aleorah Sedai had received a message the day before from the White Tower and it was clear they were not best pleased with the lack of progress. They had suggested perhaps sending more Sisters to investigate but Aleorah had insisted it was not necessary. It would be a huge loss of face for her and she did not intend to return to the White Tower in shame. She had never done so in her 145 years as a Sister and did not intend to start now. The fact remained though, they were stuck. And so, risky as Elessar’s suggestion was, she was at the point where she was willing to try almost anything to discover this supposed Darkfriend cell in Falme.



“We need to take risks now”, the Blue Sister whispered, meeting his gaze. “We need to find out if the High Lady is indeed a Darkfriend.” Her eyes tightened. “If she is, then she will be judged. And harshly.” A short pause followed. “If she is not, then we must continue our search.”


She faced the ocean again and was silent for several long moments. She then spoke over her shoulder in a voice loud enough for him to hear but low enough so no one else could. “Begin your preparations, Gaidin. We break into the Manor at midnight.”


And the Light help us be successful!



As they crouched behind the wall facing the south-side of the Manor that night, darkness enveloping Falme with only a partial moon sending slivers of light, Elessar could not stop thinking that this situation mirrored another one when long ago he and his Bondholder at the time Myrrhi had attempted a similar break-in in their hunt of the Shadow.


It is so similar it is almost eerie, he thought to himself as he watched the Manor and the guard walking past the entrance door in the distance. Let’s hope we are as successful this time.


Taking the lead, he motioned for Aleorah to follow him as he crept along the wall and into the garden behind. They could see the entrance off to the side but had deliberately chosen to enter the grounds from this direction because there were several trees here giving cover. Stopping in his tracks, Elessar waited and listened. There was only the one guard outside as far as they had observed and probably one inside as well. The man on the grounds disappeared around the corner of the building and the Warder and Sedai went into motion. Hurriedly they moved from beneath the trees up to the building and put their backs against it. They were both wearing black cloaks and Aleorah wore the hood up. Elessar listened carefully, using all his senses, but all was quiet. It would take the guard another minute to return in the Warder’s estimation.



Nodding to the Blue Sister in the near-darkness he moved to beneath a window a little further along the building and reached upwards. Feeling the window sill he reached into his pocket and removed an item which Aleorah knew was a knife. She watched silently as he worked on the window lock and finally managed to open the window. She had experienced many different things in her decades on the road for the White Tower but breaking into a Manor of a suspected Noblewoman Darkfriend was not one of them. She was far from the squeamish type but she did feel a little tingling in the nerves of her neck as she half-climbed, was half-lifted through the window above and into the room beyond.


Elessar silently closed the window behind him and they both stopped breathing for a moment as they waited for an alarm to go up. There was only silence, however and they both breathed a sigh of relief. She might be an Aes Sedai but if she was caught breaking into this Noblewoman’s home she would be in trouble. It was, perhaps an act of desperation but it was too late to turn back now. The door in the room, a kind of sitting room, was not locked and they moved carefully into the corridor behind. It was mostly dark though a few candles lit up the hallway intermittently.



They crept silently along, at any moment expecting the inside guard to jump them but they encountered no one and reached the end of the corridor. They stopped again and waited for several long moments. A door separated them from another shorter corridor and then the door to the High Lady’s office where the Blue Sister had met the Noblewoman on that first occasion. This first door was locked but Elessar picked the lock with a small lockpick (this was something all Warders needed to have some skill in, he said) and it opened with only a small creak. It sounded loud in Elessar’s ears though and he was relieved when it did not appear anyone in the Manor had noticed.


They stepped into the next corridor closing the door behind them. When they came up to the office door, Elessar stopped again. They had been lucky so far, but would their luck hold up? Knowing the office would be locked he picked this lock in the fashion he had picked the first one though this one took a little longer to open. When they entered the dark office, they needed a few moments to get used to the blackness. A sliver of light came through the office window at the end but mostly it was dark and they had to focus as they moved toward the huge desk and the shelves that dominated the room.


Aleorah had taken notice of everything in the room when she had spoken to the High Lady. And, thinking back on the visit, she had figured that any special documents would probably be safely locked in a drawer in that prominent oak desk. She headed for it now while Elessar walked up to the book shelves and tried to get an idea of its contents in the partial light from the window. At the same time he was listening to any sounds in the Manor, anything which could indicate movement. He picked up a map from the shelf and attempted to read it. It seemed to be a map of Toman Head with some crosses here and there but did not seem that important. Meanwhile Aleorah was checking some documents on the desk. So far she had found nothing but it was difficult to see. She could have used Saidar to make a small light or to illuminate the room but she did not wish to use the One Power in case there were other channelers about. Breaking in was risk enough, and one could never know what lay in wait.



She looked at the desk drawer and tried to open it. As expected it was locked. Whispering to Elessar to come help he moved away from the shelf and up to the desk. He had to use a smaller lockpick to open this drawer but he finally succeeded. Aleorah was quite impressed though she said nothing. Opening the drawer carefully she shuffled through the papers inside holding them up to the partial light from the moon outside. Nothing of value so far. It seemed to be financial records, some merchants’ statements, and some letters that gave nothing away until she saw the final part of the bottom letter. It was of a private kind.


“Elessar, look at this”.


She handed him the letter and he read it quickly. It was a message from someone called Siriana and there was nothing untoward.. until the end. He read:


.. but the fool woman, Evenia, she stole the money and then blamed her husband. She has no wits about her, I don’t know what’s happened to her quite frankly. She used to be quite sensible. If she does not pull herself together, she might blabber about more serious things and the Great Lord knows what trouble she might get in.. I fear for her, Evenia, perhaps you should talk to her and make her see sense.



Aleorah could see Elessar’s smile in the near-darkness and knew it mirrored her own. This was the proof they had been looking for, or near enough. No person of the Light would ever speak of the Dark One as ‘Great Lord’. Only Darkfriends spoke of the Great Lord or Great Lord of the Dark. High Lady Evenia would not have kept a letter from a Darkfriend unless she had a similar association herself. This was incriminating evidence without a doubt.


“Good”, the Warder said as he handed the letter back to her. He nodded, clearly pleased.


They had been lucky to find such evidence but luck was always a part of any hunt. They spoke for a few seconds about whether to search some more or to leave quickly with what they had found. They agreed it was unlikely they wound find much else, at least in the time they had at their disposal, and that it was more important that they got out of there without being seen. Returning the same way they had come, they moved carefully down the corridor. The Manor was still silent and Elessar could almost not believe their luck. He had locked and closed the doors behind them and was half-way out of the window when he heard a sound from outside!



For a split second he was undecided whether to creep back inside or jump out but his instincts told him to jump and so he did, landing on his side and rolling to his feet, a knife in his hand. The tall guard saw him too late and crashed to the ground as Elessar’s shoulder smashed into his head. Pulling the unconscious body up to the Manor he looked around and waited for any other sound. There was nothing. Nodding to himself, all his senses alert, he sheathed his unused knife and turned back to the window and whispered for the Blue Sister to follow. She crept carefully out the window and he held up his arms and caught her when she jumped down. She stared for a second down at the man laying there, then focused on Elessar as he led them swiftly out of the Manor grounds.


They arrived back at their inn a little later, mentally weary but also elated, the night’s mission a success.


Elessar smiled darkly as he went to bed that night. He loved nothing better than to spit in the eye of the Shadow.



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.. A Mission Completed ..



In the following days High Lady Evenia of House Almiathin was arrested by the local law enforcers and put in the local dungeon.


Aleorah and Elessar participated in the interrogation of the Darkfriend who insisted upon her innocence and claimed the letter from a friend was no proof of anything. They had a game between them where they humourously used the phrasing ‘Great Lord’ in their correspondence, she claimed with a straight face, and Elessar could not help but be a little impressed with her performance. This was a lady of steel without doubt.



“She is a tough one”, the Warder commented drily to the Aes Sedai after several interrogations. Aleorah Sedai nodded, her eyes tightening. “Many Darkfriends are”, she replied. “You don’t sell your soul to the Shadow if you are a weakling.” Elessar nodded back, knowing well the truth of that.


“I think the time has come”, he said, “to take the interrogation to a new level”.


She looked at him closely and knew what he meant. Sometimes it was necessary to use harsher measures than words when interrogating Darkfriends. They would never physically torture a suspect, of course, but threats could often work just as well. And the Warder had one advantage that the Sedai lacked: he could lie. Elessar had made good use of it before even though horrible threats always left a bad taste in his mouth. It was one thing to meet a Darkfriend or Shadowspawn on the battlefield; this was different. Even so, it had to be done since they needed some sort of confession from this vile woman.



Entering the interrogation chamber, Aleorah Sedai now seated herself behind the table in the middle while Elessar remained standing by the door, a knife now in his hands. The High Lady stared at him defiantly from the corner, bruises visible on her face and arms. The guards who had dragged her screaming from her Manor had insisted the marks had been there already, but the Warder knew some guards might get a tad “enthusiastic” when bringing in a suspected Darkfriend.


“So”, the Warder said and Aleorah was surprised by the cold ice in his voice. “Which ear shall we cut off first, my High Lady?” The Aes Sedai kept her smooth face but even she was taken aback at the tone in his voice. It sounded like that of a torturer who enjoyed his trade. She was impressed. Facing the Noblewoman she could see a touch of uncertainty in the High Lady’s eyes for the first time.


A vicious smile came upon Elessar’s lips as he slowly moved toward the Darkfriend. He brushed the knife with his fingertips and his eyes were the eyes of death. The High Lady’s mouth twitched as if to say he was bluffing but when she saw his dark eyes she knew he was not. She licked her lips and tried to stare defiantly at him. She was only partially successful.


“Now then”, Elessar said as he stood calmly before her. His hand touched her scarred face. “I think we shall remove your left ear.”



He sounded almost gleeful and Aleorah watched with almost morbid fascination as the Warder placed his knife against the woman’s ear. She tried to move away but he had cornered her and she was unable to move. She started to curse but stopped when she felt the knife against her ear. Great Lord, help me! But there was no help to be had. Elessar pushed her against the stone wall and pressed the knife slightly into her ear so droplets of blood started flowing.


“I think this Darkfriend lady will look pretty even with only one ear, don’t you think, Aleorah Sedai?” He said cheerfully over his shoulder. “Unless she confesses her crimes, of course. If she admits guilt, perhaps we will be more lenient”, he lied. A convicted Darkfriend would face death no matter what, he knew, but perhaps the High Lady did not know that.


“I am no Darkfr..” the High Lady began, repeating her much used statement of innocence, but stopped when the knife drew more blood. It was not much of a wound but enough to make her stop. It made her think of the endless pain of that dream.. the dream that had felt as real as life. She tried to suppress the shudder than went through her body.



“We could, of course, let you go”, the Warder added as if it were an afterthought, “and spread the word in your somewhat dark circles that you cooperated.. and betrayed the Shadow..”


He needed go no further. She gasped at the thought of what such seeming betrayal would mean. Not only death at the hands of powerful Darkfriends but eternal torture by the Great Lord. Endless pain, endless… She could not help herself and began sobbing, terror filling her now.


Elessar seized the moment and it only took another nudge before she started confessing, haltingly at first but then gradually more clearly. She did not give up any names of accomplices though, she only admitted her own guilt and shame. Show mercy, Great Lord!



They arrested her ‘friend’ and associate Siriana a day later, a middle-aged woman of noble blood, and she was not as strong as Evenia, soon giving up several other associates under interrogation and admitting theirs was a Darkfriend cell in Falme. She was not able to give them names of more powerful members though, only a few of the ordinary members. Of their activities she had been able to offer little.


Aleorah Sedai and Elessar Gaidin were pleased though with their findings and having uncovered this Darkfriend cell. The White Tower would be pleased also, Aleorah said with a satisfied glint in her eyes.


It was a good day for the Light.



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.. Homeward Bound along Twisted Paths ..



The journey back to Tar Valon was a long one but they took their time now having completed their mission and stayed for the most part at local inns along the road. They spoke a little at first about the mission and how they had carried it out, but as the days and weeks passed they kept mostly silent, lost in their own thoughts. Aleorah thought mostly about the success of the mission and that she had vindicated herself in the eyes of the Tower, while Elessar’s thoughts were mostly on what awaited him back in Tar Valon.


He had been invigorated by this journey out in the world and did not look forward to the slow life of a Warder or Tower Guard in the White Tower. He hoped something would come up, some new mission or new duty on the road or, best of all, if some Aes Sedai wanted to Bond him (Aleorah had thanked him for his valuable service and had said he had impressed her but that she was not looking for a Warder to Bond) but the Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills, a favourite Aes Sedai saying that especially Leandreen had used in his presence, and only time would tell.



They stayed two days in Caemlyn on the way back, resting their horses. Elessar enjoyed a couple of gleeman performances during his stay and went to bed late on the final night. That night he had weird dreams. They were a twisted bundle of real memories and things that had never happened with each of his former Sedais.


It began with Myrrhi. At the beginning it was all as he remembered…


“There is a change of plan”, Myrrhi had said as she had met his eyes squarely. “We have been ordered to Amadicia.”


There was a strange look in her eyes, as if she had not yet decided whether this was for the good or the bad.


Elessar knew from their talks that she wanted to go forward in her journey, return to Tar Valon as they had planned, but that she also enjoyed this ‘mission’ and journey that they were on together. He remembered also a young Leandreen saying she enjoyed the freedom on the road with her Warder, free of ‘Sisters looking over my shoulder all the time’ as she had put it. Perhaps Myrrhi felt the same.


Amadicia. Elessar thought to himself, as he nodded in reply. Never the best place for Aes Sedai..


He had visited the land of the - in his eyes - fanatic and often downright nasty Whitecloaks a couple of times through the years and each visit had been.. difficult. With broad anti-White Tower sentiment in those parts Aes Sedai and Warders had to take special care with people and places and tasks.


“Alright.” Elessar said at last, nodding again. “Amadicia it is.”



Part of White Tower duty and training, for Warder and Aes Sedai both, was to adapt to circumstances.


They would now have another long - and probably tiring - journey ahead of them into the South-west, but they would manage. They had become a well-functioning Warder-Aes Sedai team and partnership, the Gaidin thought. And this new journey would give them the opportunity to build on that strong foundation. Also it would mean they would get to travel together some more, on the road, in this new or extended mission. Elessar had always been happiest as a Warder on the road, with the freedom it entailed, rather than being ‘closed in’ in Tar Valon. So all in all, he could not say he was unhappy with this change of plan.


Myrrhi did not share any details from her letter, but that did not concern her Warder. She would explain later, if needed, and would let him know what was necessary for him to be aware of, so they could succeed in this ‘new’ mission for the White Tower.


They agreed to get provisions and to leave for the South-west as soon as was possible, and the Gaidin immediately left for the nearby shops to get the things they needed for the long journey ahead. He asked the shopkeeper if he knew where the nearest village on the River Erinin was and was given directions. The village was some leagues to the west but the Cairhienin had a cousin who in his business travelled between the two places a couple of times every day and if the Warder wanted he could ask his cousin to take a message on his journey this afternoon. Elessar thanked the man and gave him the necessary instructions. He then headed for the stable and talked to the young stableboy to have him ready their horses the next morning, and returned inside the inn.



That early evening he received a message at the inn, a piece of paper brought by the eager innkeeper, where the cousin in question confirmed that berths had been booked for the Warder and his Aes Sedai and space for two horses on the next riverboat, ‘the River Princess’ captained by a Southerner called Gueyam Ennariz, going southwards in the afternoon the following day. They would go by boat all the way to northern Tear and would then cut across country westwards toward Amadicia. Elessar nodded satisfied, then informed Myrrhi that everything was arranged..


Then things changed.. twisted reality..


Myrrhi’s sparkling blue eyes were now green.. and her hair had changed, her face older.. she looked accusingly at him and there was bitterness in her eyes as she stared at him..


“How could you!” she screamed bitterly and pointed at his chest. He looked down and blood was flowing through his shirt from a mortal wound… his eyes widened in disbelief and confusion and he tried to talk but was unable…


A scream formed in his head… this is not true! .. and he took a step forwards before falling…





..and then the darkness around him was gone.. replaced by green woods.. and he was with Kathleen.


They were riding northwards. An echo in his mind reminded him of Myrrhi and what had seemingly happened but it soon disappeared and he focused all his mind on this new journey. He recalled it well and in the beginning all was exactly as he remembered.


Slivers of sunlight shone down on them through small gaps in between the clusters of heavy tree-branches above as they made their way toward the wide path leading north. Another soft breeze made their travelling cloaks flap behind them as they rode, and seemed to awaken the forestland they were entering.


Elessar’s gaze swept across the terrain they were riding through, in the subtle but very effective way of experienced Warders, but his mind was partially on the evening before and on his shared words of the past with Kathleen. He had wanted to share, but had not, in truth, intended to share quite as much - it was very personal to him after all - but once he had started his story it had felt right somehow, and though he would not have admitted it aloud, a part of him was relieved to have opened up, as it were, to have given voice to some of his enduring inner pain.



Kathleen had shared her compassion and had offered her comfort and her ear, late into the night, something he had appreciated. She had thanked her Warder for sharing his story and had assured him that if he wished to stop in his old stomping ground she would be honoured to accompany him there.


He had not been at his old home in Kandor for a long time. His travels with Carys, and before that with Carrain, had not taken him there and, perhaps subconsciously, he had deliberately avoided the place. It was a place that had given him joy. But also pain. He appreciated Kathleen’s offer to stop there on their journey into the Borderlands, but his initial thought had been to decline. Now though, as he thought the matter over, sitting astride Stormbreaker as they made their way northwards, he began to reconsider. Perhaps it was time for him to visit his homeplace.


And to face my past.


He mulled it over in his head as morning approached midday, the sun peeking out from behind a cluster of clouds high above, and they had a short stop to rest their horses and to stretch their legs. Coming to a decision, he spoke with his Bondholder as they cared for their faithful mounts and accepted her offer. They would alter their northern path slightly westwards and head for Kandor and the estate where he had grown up. It was still a fairly long distance away, though, so they decided to ride until early evening and then set up another makeshift camp in the woods. Inns were few and far between in this part of the forested region and they would not be able to reach another one for several days.



Brushing down the horses, Elessar patted them caringly on their necks, giving them each a carrot - which they had brought from the Inn in Ainsbury - to enjoy. Satisfied that all was well with their mounts, he then made his customary quick scouting of the area. It was not that he really expected any danger, but it was an almost automatic routine a Warder developed when out in the wilds, one that could - and would - come to very good use if danger approached. It was better to be safe than sorry - and Kathleen was under his protection as her Warder. Bandits were known to inhabit some of these forested regions between Tar Valon and the Borderlands, and one could never discard the various minions of the Shadow. Elessar knew that from experience.


When he returned to the campsite, where Kathleen sat before a small fire, he gave her an almost imperceptible nod, indicating that he had seen nothing untoward. A short time later they were sharing some food and drink, as dusk was approaching anew. The Warder stared into the dancing flames as he chewed on another slice of mutton. They ate in silence, companions on the road.


They had made camp underneath a canopy of tall trees some way from the road, sheltered somewhat from the wind and weather. The rain that had come in the afternoon had passed, thankfully, and they hoped it would be a dry night. Staring into the trees, Elessar heard the noises of small animals moving about in the darkness. The enduring breeze also made the leaves rustle on the nearby trees and created a whistling sound in the night. The Warder and Sedai appeared caught up in their own thoughts - and the silence lengthened.



His gaze fell, across the flames, on Kathleen’s calm and collected Aes Sedai face - and he wondered for a moment who this woman really was. He did not know her well, after all. She had not shared her own past with him the evening before, something he respected and was fine with. She would speak when she was ready..


Then suddenly things changed and twisted.. and she faced him across the flames and asked him in a harsh voice why he was false. Her other Warder, her first Warder, was never false, she said. Her eyes looked at him accusingly and he was dumbstruck. In his dream he knew this was not what had happened in reality but he was unable to stop it.


“You are a coward!”, she spat and there was bitterness in her voice. Elessar began to reply but was stopped in his tracks by his Bondholder’s forceful accusing look. He got to his feet and felt fury and shock run through him, started to walk around the flames but stumbled and fell face first onto the ground.. blackness enveloped him.. darkness never-ending..


… And then he was suddenly somewhere else, the light of day all around..


..and Carys was now looking at him, with concerned eyes..



On and on throughout the night it went with all his former Bondholders, in an endless parade of true memories and false invented scenarios, a twisted blend of truth and lies, of right and wrong, of what had happened and what never had, which left him mentally exhausted. When he finally managed to sleep, a blessed dreamless sleep, he slept until late morning.


The following day as they made their way northwards he tried to forget all about those weird twisted dreams (what did they mean? was it the guilt that never truly went away that played with his mind? was it a manifestation of all his hopes and dreams and confusion?) and focused instead on the remaining part of their journey.


Finally, on a sunny afternoon under an azure-blue sky, Aleorah Sedai and Elessar Gaidin rode slowly across one of the many magnificent arching bridges over the River Erinin connecting the island city to the mainland. Fabled Dragonmount rose in the distance and on the city walls high above them the proud banners of Tar Valon - wonderous city of the Aes Sedai -  rippled strongly in the wind, as if welcoming them home.



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.. At the “White Flame” inn ..



The two Warders were joined in a Dance of the Blade.


Elessar attacked with skill but his opponent was almost as skilled and experienced. He parried deftly and went on the attack himself. Elessar stopped the attack with proficient moves and they circled one another in their corner of the Warder’s Yard. Some tentative strikes with their swords, clashing in the morning breeze, eyes meeting in challenge, and then they went at it again.



Back and forth they flowed, thrusting and parrying, attacking and spinning out of range and moving swiftly from stance to stance, two opponents locked in combat. At one point a sudden move from the Illianer Warder brought his blade arching towards Elessar’s neck. Steel met steel but the blow was deflected and the Gaidin sidestepped out of the way of an oncoming strike. He in turn swept his scimitar in low and the other man blocked it and immediately retaliated, bringing his sword up and around in a way that gave his opponent only one blocking-move and one which could well leave him open for new attacks..


At another point, a little later on, Elessar suddenly moved forwards and performed a vertical slash, high to low, but which altered course in mid-swing. The other blocked the move deftly but Elessar followed up with another hard swing which was parried. Then the Warder from Kandor changed form, performing a diagonal slash which began low and rose cleanly and on the return swing began a series of powerful overhand blows. This took great stamina and strength and Elessar was only able to keep it up for so long. He had less stamina now that he was unBonded, not gaining added strength from an Aes Sedai, and his strength was weakening as he fought. The Illianer Warder parried well, however, with powerful strokes, but was driven back on the defensive..


Finally they sheathed their swords in one smooth move and gave each other a respectful bow. Breathing hard they brushed off some sweat from their bare upper bodies with a towel.



“You do becoming slow in your old age, Elessar” the Illianer Warder said with a lopsided grin.


“Well, I can still handle younglings like you, Sedorin” Elessar replied which a chuckle, keeping up the friendly jesting between them.


The Illianer was, in fact, only 1 year younger than Elessar but always pointed out this “significant” age difference..


“Well at least we do not be stabbing ourselves in the foot anymore”, Sedorin said mirthfully. “At least not when anyone do be seeing..”


Elessar laughed heartily and joined his friend as they walked across the Warder’s Yard toward the Barracks.



“How are you?” Sedorin asked after a while, a more serious tone in his voice.


He knew that Elessar was restless when he had to spend too much time in Tar Valon. Elessar had returned from his mission to Falme several weeks before, a journey which had done him good in Sedorin’s opinion. Some Warders functioned well as Tower Guards in the City of the Aes Sedai. Elessar was not one of them. Sedorin hoped his friend would get the opportunity to leave on another mission soon or, even better, find an Aes Sedai to Bond. He knew Elessar’s proud history in the White Tower and knew that he very much hoped to be Bonded again and fulfil what he saw as his duty.


Elessar took a moment before he responded.


“I am doing alright, my friend”, he replied. “If I am asked though”, he added with a glint in his eyes, “I will go on another adventure for the White Tower.” He laughed softly but there was longing in his voice.


“You do never be knowing, my friend”, Sedorin said, giving Elessar a friendly pat on the back. “One of these days a Sister do be wanting you as her Bonded Gaidin”.


“I’m probably too old”, Elessar chuckled. “And too stubborn. Too set in my ways.”


Inside though he had not given up hope, and as he closed the door to his room in the Barracks behind him and settled on his bed, he wondered if he would get his wish some day.



That evening, after his Warder duties were done, he put on a clean shirt and pants and wandered down the streets of Tar Valon to the “White Flame” inn. The streets were still busy with people from all over and when he entered the inn he saw that it too was near filled to the brim. The innkeeper though, upon seeing him, found him a table at the back and smiled before putting an ale in front of him. Elessar had been going to this inn for many years and knew the innkeeper well. It was not the best inn in the city but Elessar liked it the best. It was cozy and had charm and character and the innkeeper was a cheerful nice guy who appreciated the Warder’s many visits. Sometimes they talked a while but this evening the innkeeper had too much to do so he left Elessar alone with his ale.


Sipping from his drink Elessar studied the people in the room. There were some Southerners present, a few Northerners from the Borderlands which Elessar recognized easily being from that region himself, many locals and some Andorans recognizable from their complexion. Many were drunk but not overly so and there was much cheer in the room. A couple big guys stood by the entrance door ready to throw out troublemakers and they knew they job well. There was seldom trouble in this inn.



There were also some Warders present that Elessar recognized and a few Aes Sedai as often was the case in this inn. A gleeman was going to perform a little later but had not arrived yet. Elessar gazed at the Sisters sitting at different tables, a White Sedai with her Warder and a Gray and a Blue sitting alone, but did not recognize any of them.


He had not seen Aleorah Sedai since their return to the White Tower and did not really expect to see her again. Neither did he see any of his former Bondholders. As always when he thought of them, he wondered how they were doing and wished them well.


It also made him think of his complicated situation: of his wishes and hopes and dreams. He wondered what lay in store for him.


There was a sound then and movement and his gaze returned to the entrance door where another person was entering the room.




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Calia pushed the last of the heavy wooden desks back into place and eyed the reconstructed lines of furniture critically for a number of seconds. Then she grinned.


Let's see that new Janna ...whatsit... whine about the disorder of the room after my 'chaotic' classes now! 


She gave a self-satisfied nod and swept the dust from her hands in two swift wiping motions that happened so abruptly they each made a little clap.


Done for the day. 


She tilted her head slightly to the left, considering whether she really was done in the classroom, or if there was anything else she needed to do.


Lately the teaching duties she'd undertaken never seemed to end. After-class paperwork 'requirements' were piled on and on and on (and on) to teacher workloads, to ends ultimately unnecessary and untenable. She pressed her lips into a tight line. Time in the classroom was one thing - hunting and igniting those sparks of determination and understanding in the eyes of her students was almost as satisfying as imploding the earth under a hoard of trollocs. But pointless paperwork was an entirely different beast. The issue definitely needed to be brought up with the current Mistress of Novices and the Greens.


Tomorrow perhaps. She nodded again. This afternoon, Tar Valon and further preparations for travel. This evening, the Inn. 


She had the itch again, and once it had started, it would not be quelled. She loved teaching, yes. But there were whispers amongst her networks of a swell of shadowspawn throughout the Borderlands, particularly Saldea, that could not be ignored. Early signs, perhaps, but experience had taught her it was best to ensure she was well-prepared ahead of time. When the decision was made and the call came, it would be swift. Therefore, so would she. Both her and her belongings would be ready.


* * *


"And that's the deal done well, Master Eldwin, as usual," she smiled sincerely at the cobbler as she handed over the required coin and then some. In all of Tar Valon, there was nobody who had taken care of her boot and leather repairs as competently and quickly as he, for nigh on thirty years. It had been only a few days since she had put in her request, and yet she had barely needed to glance at the repaired goods he'd laid out on the counter for her to be impressed by the same high quality, once again.


"And with pleasure, as always, Calia Sedai," he smiled back at her, pocketing the coin and then tucking her gleaming belts, knife-sheaths and boots back into her saddlebags and bundling everything into an easy-to-manage package. Job done, he bobbed his head, turned from the counter and shuffled back towards his workroom, collecting a well-worn pair of shoes from a shelf along the way.


She watched his slightly hunched and aging form retreat, anchored the package under her arm, and tried not to wonder how much more grey there might be in his hair, how much frailer he might be on her next visit. If she ever managed to return.


* * *


The gurgling in her gut was growing in intensity. If she didn't stop for an evening meal soon, that gurgle was going to turn into an audible growl most unbecoming of an Aes Sedai strolling through the shops and sidewalks of Tar Valon. Calia arched an eyebrow ever-so-slightly and embraced saidar, weaving together a tiny, modified circle of silence and tying it off inconspicuously around her middle. 


There. Problem solved, she smiled serenely and carried on.


* * *


The gurgling and growling may have been silenced, but the gnawing was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. On the outside she was all Aes Sedai calm and poise as she travelled though the last of twilight - her weave held, the swishing of her green split skirts and deliberately soft foot-falls were the only audible sounds from her person, her face remained as smooth and unruffled as the simple, no-nonsense silk of her blouse. On the inside however, dull hunger had turned to increasingly savage pangs.


When was the last time I ate? she wondered, without any real hope of recall. It hadn't been lunch, that much was certain.


Breakfast? she gave up both wondering and wandering, and decidedly changed direction, towards the White Flame.


The inn came into sight with the edge of night, a warm glow spreading out from the windows and the occasionally opening door. She breathed deeply, memories of evenings here with Kaylan and Joesh and Shem right from the beginning of their time at the Tower lapping gently at her heart where once they had flooded it with grief. 


How many times did we laugh and dine well within these walls? she half-wondered as she slipped over the threshold, nodding to the young man who had simultaneously managed to stumble drunkenly through the exit and still hold the door open for her to walk straight in. One of the heavies at the door - Javen? bobbed his head to her and closed the door gently behind her, she smiled her thanks.


Her blue eyes scanned the room, counting things that had changed and stayed the same since her last visit, noting Sisters and Warders present, but no Gleeman yet. It was a busy night. Exactly the kind of night herself and Kaylan had revelled in as young girls. She smiled at Taman, the current inn-keeper and grandson to Aman, the original owner she had known, bustling in a corner. He quickened his pace toward her, nodding half-apologetically towards a table that was presently occupied by someone Calia assumed to be Gaidin, of Borderland origin - one she didn't believe she knew.




"- Sedai, apologies, I thought you were intending to dine a little later?" The noise of the room obscured the beginning of the inn-keeper's greeting, but his eyes conveyed all of his perplexity.


"And so did I, Taman, so did I. But here I am, and hungry to boot!" She smiled more broadly at him as momentum and her intention continued to lead them towards the table he had indicated. There was no harm in being early, really.


"And, since I'm here and hungry and the place is full, I'm happy to share a table, if you are, Sir?" Still smiling, and packages still tucked under-arm, she raised an eyebrow at the Borderlander and waited for his reply.

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.. Meeting a Sister of the Green ..



It was a woman who entered.


An Aes Sedai.


He could deduce as much from the way she carried herself, confident in her stride. Self-assured to a point. She wore a green dress and a matching silk blouse. She appeared to scan the room before being met by the innkeeper, Taman. He seemed to recognize her because he smiled broadly when he saw her enter and approached her quickly. They exchanged a few words and then they headed for Elessar’s table.


The Warder looked at them with some curiosity and surprise as they came to a stop before him. Had he seen her before? No, he did not think so, at least she did not spark a memory. She was a woman of fair complexion which made him think of Andor, of average build with long light brown/blonde streaked hair worn wound up, and she had blue eyes. Her voice was friendly when she spoke to him but he recognized some steel in her otherwise smooth Aes Sedai face. He had seen it in many Battle Ajah Sisters before.



"And, since I'm here and hungry and the place is full, I'm happy to share a table, if you are, Sir?" Still smiling, and packages still tucked under-arm, she raised an eyebrow at the Borderlander and waited for his reply.


“Please, Aes Sedai”, Elessar replied kindly with a respectful Warder’s bow. “The honour is mine.” He added. “ I am Elessar of Kandor.”


It sounded a little formal even to the Warder’s ears but formality had always been a part of him and of the way he sometimes spoke, especially to esteemed strangers. It was also a sign of respect and integrity and though some of his former Bondholders had teased him about it he had stayed true to himself. This Sister of the Green did not seem to mind his formal greeting. She sat down at his table with a smile, placing the packages on a stool, and presented herself as Calia Sedai.


The bobbing innkeeper gave them both a shy smile which seemed almost apologetic. Probably because there was no available table for the Aes Sedai this evening, the Warder assumed. Elessar, however did not mind sharing and studied the woman discreetly while she ordered a meal. He ordered something to eat too and sipped at his ale while they waited for the food to be served.



He saw something of Leandreen in this woman. Something of Kathleen and Myrrhi too. Not that she looked like any of them physically, but it was the way she held herself. There was a particular strength in Green Sisters, the Warder had found over the years, and not just physical but just as much of character, a passion for life mingled with steel to survive war, something not as easily found in other Aes Sedai. Leandreen, his first Bondholder, and a Battle Ajah Sister if ever there was one, had stared at him silently but with a very amused look on her face when he had said as much many years before, but he had always felt he was right.


They chit-chatted a little - talking about this inn which it turned out they both loved - and Calia seemed interested when he then spoke a little about the Borderlands where he grew up and said he had not been back there for quite a while.


“There are rumours of Shadowspawn spreading across the Borderlands”, the Warder said with obvious distaste. “Some of my Brothers have mentioned it in passing.” His look became distant for a moment.


She knew he meant Warders, and as for the rumours.. she knew them to be true. She thought she detected some longing in his voice there at the end, as if he were a little frustrated that he was not up there fighting the Shadow, but did not comment, just studied his hard face as he sipped his ale. Perhaps they had more in common than he thought.


When the food arrived she tucked in, her body appreciating the nourishment even if her hunger had been quenched by her use of the One Power earlier. Elessar also enjoyed his meal which consisted of beef and potatoes with vegetables and some gravy.



Later a brown-haired man of middling years with an oval face and slightly sunken eyes wearing a cloak of many colourful patches walked onto the small stage at the front of the Common Room. He bowed to the audience and swiftly proceeded to play several jaunty melodies on his flute. The crowd recognized the tunes and clapped enthusiastically. Elessar smiled from the back of the room. He was particularly looking forward to the songs the gleeman would perform, songs of poetry and history. He had heard such songs many times before through the years but he enjoyed the performances every time.


Bowing again a little later, appreciating the applause from the enthusiastic crowd, the gleeman readied himself for his next song. Elessar’s eyes lit up when the gleeman said he was going to tell an epic story next, the epic and tragic story of the Fall of Manetheren. This was one of the Warder’s favourite poems and he had heard it countless times before but he rejoiced in it every single time.


The story of the Aes Sedai Queen Ellisande’s bravery and fall. Of her valiant Stand against the Shadow.


Of Manetheren’s valour. Of Glory and Tears.


A Glance into History. A Glance into the Past..


Calia turned her chair so that she too faced the stage. This story was part of both Andoran and Aes Sedai history and she appeared interested in the re-telling which quickly captivated most guests in the Common Room.


They were swept away on the Winds of Time…






Rose of the Sun (The Fall of Manetheren)


“Carrai an Ellisande!” For the honour of the Rose of the Sun!

The Shield against the darkness, the Hammer weight to Stun.

The Sword that could not be broken. Was shattered in the End.

As valiant Manetheren, no longer could Defend.


Brave fighters of the land. Fought with pride and with Heart.

Under Red Eagle banner, they resisted Shadow’s Start.

Until Mountain Home was taken. No one came to their Aid.

Weep for Manetheren!, all their allies were Afraid.


King Aemon and his men ran to aid from Field of Blood.

Countless miles they covered, daring river huge and Flood.

Slaughtered beasts of Shadow. Crying battle cries of Might.

“Carrai an Ellisande!” echoed everywhere in Sight.


Brave warriors, brave King! They fell to Darkness’ Yoke.

When Aemon husband died, Queen Eldrene’s heart Broke.

Woe to the Shadow! With anger, grief and Pain.

An Aes Sedai of might, she struck out like Insane.


She filled herself to bursting. The Power oh so Sweet!

The Sa’angreal beside her, glowed brightly with its Heat.

She was an awesome figure. Her arms she lifted High.

And then she threw her Balefire and Storms of Lightening Nigh!


A harbinger of death. She destroyed the Shadowspawn.

The messengers of Darkness disappeared from Battle’s Lawn.

But her body came on fire. Flames of Saidar burned her Soul.

In her agony she cried out, for Manetheren, her Goal!


The destruction levelled all. Old Manetheren was Dead.

The Rose of the Sun, she was gone, it was Said.

But she would live forever. In many people’s Hearts.

And Manetheren’s bravery, is eternal in its Parts.


Oh Ellisande! Greatest Queen, we won’t Forget!

Your fight against the Shadow and the death you Met.

Mourn for Manetheren! The bravest place of All.

Honour to the Mountain Home! Your enemies shall Fall.





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The Gleeman caught and held her eyes as he sang of Ellisande's fight against the Shadow, and the death she met. Calia inclined her head and lengthened her spine, obscuring the slight shiver that would otherwise have unsettled her poise. He did have news for her after all.


And the man knew how to sing a vivid saga, that was sure. A glance into history, a glance into the past... and perhaps parts of the future as well, she mused. With an effort, she relaxed her jaw. The Wheel would weave as the Wheel willed. All they could do was try to be ready. She smiled and clapped appreciatively along with the rest of the audience's applause, neatly wiping the memories of battle and Sisters burnt out from her mind.


Besider her, Elessar of Kandor's eyes had been alight with enthusiasm from the outset of the poem. Calia's smile and curiosity deepened. She studied his face momentarily. The Gaidin with impeccable manners liked history, then? She was sure by this point that he was, indeed, Gaidin, but she could not place him in all her time at the Tower. A curiosity, indeed. 


Gleeman Fenn bowed and launched from the wave of applause into a tale of Blaes of Matuchin, turned Hero of the Horn. Calia's thoughts turned to the Horn itself, and the words of the prophecy she had read so many years ago promising salvation in the last fight against the fall of long night. Not for the first time, she wondered where the Horn might be, should it still exist, and how it might be found to aid them in the Great Battle to come.


The tale ended with a roar of amusement from the crowd that shook Cal from her musings. She came back to the present to hear Fenn cry with a lift of his ale mug that next there would be dancing, and that the tables needed to be appropriately cleared. Innkeeper Taman laughed and nodded his assent as the patrons near the stage began to shuffle back tables and chairs towards the walls. Fenn picked up his flute and began a lively melody that soon saw half of the audience kicking up their feet. Calia watched with a slightly dimmed sparkle in her eyes. How many times had Joesh and Shem whirled herself and Kaylan to this tune?


She looked to the Borderlander beside her, wondering idly if he liked to dance even as she wondered if her dancing days were all but done. With a wistful shadow of a smile, she turned and signalled to one the wait staff for their attention.


"Something tells me I'm going to be here quite late waiting for Fenn to finish up," Cal confided to Elessar as she signalled, "The two of us go a long way back though, and I promised I would stay until the end. Would you like another ale?"


* * *


It was indeed late by the time the Gleeman finished up the last of his tunes and made his way over to their table, though the inn was still bustling with the business he'd brought in and more than one patron grumbled good-naturedly at him that they were sorry to see him step down for the evening to leave them to revel on their own.


"Calia Sedai - and friend? - I trust you enjoyed the show?" Fenn grinned as he approached, gallantly taking Cal's hand and offering both of them a full-flourished bow with a swirl of his multi-coloured cloak.


Cal smiled back at the man and shrugged, "Much better than the last one," she teased, tucking the tiny note he'd passed her into a skirt pocket and offering him a seat at the table she knew he would decline. 


"If you don't mind, Aes Sedai, I just came to say hello before I depart. It's been a busy day and I'm eager for my bed." 


"And to see your sweetheart in Town, no doubt," she teased some more with a knowing smile.


"But of course. It is late and I should be going too. Elessar, I believe we may all be headed more-or-less in the same direction part of the way at least, if you'd care to join us?" 


She smiled at the gamble, tilting her head in question as she waited for his answer. The Gleeman would veer off less than two blocks from here, she knew, and it would be nice to walk back the rest of the way accompanied for once - and to discover once and for all if this man from Kandor who liked history and missed the Borderlands was truly a Warder...

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.. What May Happen In Shadows ..



Three shadows detached themselves from the darkness in the desolate back-alley and moved silently toward their prey, the unknowing couple that were walking down this dark Tar Valon sidewalk this late evening. A strong breeze was coming in from the south-west and sounds of festivity came from the inns and bars further along. Here, however, there was just silence, a stillness only broken by the sound of a cat skittering across the cobblestones in the dark, and this suited the three young men well.


No prying eyes, no inquisitive stares.


Elessar’s Warder instincts warned him a second or two before the three shadows were upon them and he shouted a quick warning to Calia as he leapt at a moving shadow and crashed into one of the attacking men, his shoulder slamming into the surprised man’s neck!



A little earlier, Elessar had clapped appreciatively as the gleeman finished his performance of the historic poem and song about the Fall of Manetheren. It seemed everyone had been captivated by the story and the gleeman bowed many times, his smile betraying how pleased he was with the audience reaction. Calia clapped as well and smiled. She enjoys a good story too, Elessar mused.


He knew his eyes were still alight with enthusiasm as always was the case when he enjoyed history and good stories. A Warrior Poet indeed, as Leandreen had teased him many years ago, her emerald green eyes sparkling in the firelight. Calia’s blue eyes seemed to study his face for a moment but then she shifted her focus to the next song on the gleeman’s repertoire. Elessar listened enthusiastically again because it was a tale of Blaes of Matuchin, turned Hero of the Horn. After more applause the gleeman said now there would be dancing and that the tables needed to be appropriately cleared. Soon half the audience were kicking up their feet, dancing joyfully while the gleeman played his flute.


Elessar could have imagined Myrrhi enjoying such a dance. Of all his former Bondholders she had been the youngest and the most impulsive. He had never been much of a dancer himself though he did recall dancing with Myrrhi at a Nobleman’s Ball in Cairhien during a mission. She had enjoyed herself a lot and had found his reaction somewhat amusing. His dancing had been passable, he guessed, but he preferred dancing with blades.



"Something tells me I'm going to be here quite late waiting for Fenn to finish up," Calia confided to Elessar a little later as she signaled to one of the waitress staff, "The two of us go a long way back though, and I promised I would stay until the end. Would you like another ale?"


The Warder was surprised that she knew the gleeman but did not comment. He probably frequented this inn quite often when he was in Tar Valon and she had confirmed that she had been here many times over the years. So his name is Fenn. And Calia knows him well. He nodded to the Aes Sedai, a smile on his lips, and replied that he would love one more ale, yes.


It was served quickly by a young blond-haired, long-legged, voluptuous waitress who winked at Elessar before heading off to another table. Senna was her name and she loved flirting with the Warder. They both knew nothing would come of it, she was not his type, but she kept up her ‘game’ whenever she saw him and it gave them both a few laughs.



Fenn performed more songs and provided ample entertainment. As the evening lengthened, however, Elessar’s mind drifted. He sipped his ale, enjoying the atmosphere, but his thoughts were on his homeland Kandor. Was that region one of those struggling with Trolloc raids right now? There had been intermittent raids even during his childhood in the Borderlands but the rumours now told a more serious story, of armies of Shadowspawn moving across the region. His eyes tightened in anticipation of fighting the Shadow again at some point. Soon, I hope. Soon.


Whenever he thought of home though he thought of his father and the bitterness that always existed between them. Father will never forgive me for what happened to Vehran, I just have to accept the fact. He clenched his fists momentarily in frustration, thinking back on the tragic accident which caused his younger brother’s death, but then gradually as the minutes went by he relaxed, putting aside his brooding, focusing instead on the joyful melody and the cheerful crowd. Soon he was caught up in the general merriment of the evening, taking further sips from his ale as the gleeman played on.



When Fenn was finished and had bowed to the audience a final time, he made his way over to their table and offered both of them a full-flourished bow with a swirl of his gleeman’s cloak before speaking to Calia. He declined the offer of seating himself at their table, saying it had been a busy day and he was eager for his bed, to which the Aes Sedai smiled and teased him about a sweetheart he had in the city. It was clear to Elessar that these two had known each other for a good while, they spoke in that comfortable fashion. Calia then said it was getting late and she ought to be going too, would they join her as she thought they were all heading more or less in the same direction?


Elessar realized the question was primarily aimed at him. The way Calia tilted her head reminded him of Leandreen. She had also had that ‘tilt’ when she asked a question she was particularly curious about. He wondered what this Aes Sedai could be curious about, but only smiled and replied affirmatively. She smiled back, her smooth face hiding what she was thinking, and soon they left the inn behind, Elessar walking in front of the other two who chit-chatted as they headed in the direction of the White Tower. The gleeman veered off less than two blocks from the “White Flame” inn, waving goodbye to Calia, and she and Elessar continued onwards.


He had considered which path to take, either the shorter path through some dark alleyways or the longer path through the main streets. The wind had picked up through the evening, now whipping their cloaks back and forth, and it was a bit chilly in the air, and so Elessar thought it best to get back to the Tower as quickly as possible. Calia did not seem to mind and he therefore chose those alleyways and side streets which be believed should be safe enough.


Who would, after all, try to rob a Warder and an Aes Sedai? He thought assuredly. Anyone would be a fool to attempt such a thing!




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  • 2 weeks later...

"And here we are." Cal slowed her pace at the entrance to the cross-street, turning to the Gleeman with a smile.


"Good-night, friend." She brought their conversation and wandering to a close. The chill wind, snapping at the hem of her cloak and doing its best to get in under her hood, continued unnoticed. 


"And to both of you!" Fenn bowed with a grin. He bounced backward into the street with a final flourish for them both as Elessar caught up, then he gave a wave, turned lightly on his toes and strolled happily away with the wind gusting at his back. Calia nodded at his retreat and turned her attention back to Elessar and the rest of their journey back to the Tower.


* * * 


The Kandori turned into a back alley she didn't recognise and the Aes Sedai smiled quietly to herself, pleased to find that there were still novelties for her to discover in this world, and particularly this town, even after all this time. She studied the stonework of the buildings on either side until she caught herself automatically setting her 'safe dome' wards in their usual spot and then she supressed a bigger, somewhat self-deprecating smile.


The alley they had turned into might have been unknown to her, desolate and dark, but it was also in Tar Valon.


With a shrug she cast and expanded the finished net of wards to a distance of ten paces and tied it to the simple circlet-necklace under her shirt. The weave glowed faintly and the circlet warmed against her skin, settling neutrally as it always did. No harm in keeping fresh practice, she reminded herself sternly, inverting the weave and tying it off.


An instant later the circlet all but burned at three points from a frontward direction and Elessar leapt away from her with a warning shout. 


The split second of warning was all Cal required.


She drew Saidar deep and near-simultaneously spun an orb of Spirit, Air and Fire and an expandable wall of solid Air. The orb she flung upwards for better light; the wall she softened to a thick, immovable-mallow-like consistency and snapped in front of what had previously been two more rushing shadows.


The young men seemed to freeze mid-stride. Cal wrapped the 'wall' tightly around both of them, until the warning points on her circlet returned to normal temperature, signalling the time of threat and excitement was all but over. She maintained her hold of Saidar nonetheless, thanking the Light as she always did that she had been blessed with sufficient strength in the One Power to channel quickly and maintain multiple weaves at once.


Battle in the Borderlands this ain't though. That much was certain. 


With the circlet a neutral temperature, she didn't have to look to know that Elessar would likely have his 'shadow' well-enough in hand, but she did anyway, assessing his manner and technique with an appreciative eye before turning her attention to the two men caught in her wall of Air. 

Young, yes. But most definitely old enough to know better, and quite possibly candidates for the Chair... if they're not up to something worse.


She turned her body slightly so she could continue to take in what was happening with Elessar and his would-be-aggressor as she studied the faces of the two in her net. No way to know the attacker's actual intentions or allegiance to the Light or otherwise at this point. That would come in time enough, as would the decision on whether to take them on to the Tower or to the watch-house of the City Guard. 


First things first. She made sure there was sufficient laxity in the net at the men's mouths and noses for breathing requirements, but with enough responsiveness and tension to tighten with the vibrations of yelling and smother any obnoxious sound. So much better than a gag, she reflected on the weave, not for the first time.

Then she allowed free movement of their eyes and stretched the sections of weave surrounding two exposed daggers in the men's hands, only just enough for them to open their fists, should they so choose. And then she unplugged their ears and spoke in a calm and level voice, her face smooth, eyes like deep ice.


"Release those knives, please boys. Now." 


She kept part of her attention on them, and began preparing short tendrils of concentrated Fire to snake in and heat the blades if they did not comply.

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