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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Bonding before mission (attn: Mia)


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The Aes Sedai walking toward the Warder's Yard in her silken fineries and curls gathered on an elegant coiffure was the incarnation of serenity outwards but inside she was a pit of tangled knots. Light, today Annais would be walking on the grounds of the Black Tower surrounded by male channelers and she would have to satisfyingly explain to them why the White Tower had sent such a large party into their vicinity. Somehow she would have to get the Sisters captured by the Asha'man free without sacrificing too much Tower dignity and giving in to too outrageous demands. Her only protection would be the hope that the Black Tower would not want to worsen the issue between the White Tower, her own wits and a single Tower Guard.

 

Despite being a Blademaster, Annais was doubtful that this Mia Stavros could make much difference even if she were attacked but it would be a small comfort to have at least someone friendly with her. And a party of two was always a bit more respectable than just single ambassador without any escort at all. The Black Tower had forbidden a larger party but since they had already met Mia who had delivered the original message asking for parlay, they would likely have no issues with her accompanying Annais. Maybe they would assume that she was her Warder, a misconception she would never correct unless asked directly.

 

Before marching to the peaceful battlefield, the Gray Sister wanted to know who she was working with. A single afternoon was far too short time to get to know someone very deeply but they would have to do their best. She stopped a Tower Guard and asked him to point her Mia and she was directed to a woman flowing through her forms gracefully and with deathly precision. Noticing her approach, the woman paused. "Mia Stavros, I am Annais Nevell of the Gray Ajah. As you will be my companion during the mission to the Black Tower, we should have a talk. If you'll follow me please."

 

It was likely impolite to not let the woman bathe and change clothes but the Wheel waited on no woman. Annais headed to the gardens separating the Yards from the White Tower itself and took a seat at a bench patting a spot beside her. "Please, have a seat. We have much to discuss. I apologize beforehand that I will likely come off like a Whitecloak Questioner but I'm certain that you see the necessity here. I'm going to call you Mia and you should call me Annais while we are in private. Why don't you start by telling me about yourself. I don't know anything beyond your name, nationality, that you are a Blademistress and that there was some controversy about your brother." The last political incorrectness was deliberate as she needed to gauge the woman's reaction.

 

"Also tell me your impressions of the Black Tower. How did they behave and how was the atmosphere? What kind of a welcome can I possibly expect? Do they frighten you? And how do you behave when you are afraid or angry? I'm sure that by now you keep it all well in check but I need to recognise the signs."

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Frowning as her practice was disturbed, Mia Stavros Folded the Fan and inclined her head to the Aes Sedai who had introduced herself as Annais Nevell of the Gray Ajah.  There was little time for pleasantries as she fell into step with the sister, apparently something needed to be discussed and she suspected that it had something to do with her last mission.  It had only been a day earlier when Brand had given her the simple yet disquieting task of acting as a messenger of the White Tower.  Well, disquieting wouldn't have been the way that she would have described it, terrifying would have been closer to it.  There had been rumours about Estel Sedai's return, of things that had happened to those who had been captured by the Black Tower, and now she was to be sent to them in an effort to establish some sort of diplomatic relation between the two.

 

It had gone far more smoothly than she had anticipated.  Sent through a silver gate opened by one of the sisters, she had ridden for an hour until she had been stopped by several men in black coats that had appeared out of nowhere.  Dressed in her full uniform there had been little chance of mistaking her for anything else but a Tower Guard of the White Tower and when she had stated her mission as that of messenger, she had been quickly conducted to the man that the others had called M`hael.  Dalinarius Trachaanshield, a man who had been guarded as he had received her, but had received her nevertheless and read the message that she carried.  Given a message to take back to the White Tower in turn.

 

Her time there was not long, but Mia had studied what she could, trying to gauge them as best as she could manage.  They were like soldiers, but they were not the most disciplined of men.  Then again, considering what they were and what they lived with, perhaps that wasn't such an unexpected thing.  Either way she had committed what she could to memory before the men had sent her through another silver gate that had left her a mile outside of Tar Valon.  She had returned and given the message along with her report to Brand and that had been the end of the matter.  Some had been surprised to see that she had returned and was alive, Mia was a bit surprised herself but she had a fair idea of why she had been picked.

 

She was competent, not only with a blade but she knew hot to take note of things.  She knew that was one of the reasons she had been picked, but she suspected it was also because she was expendable.  The reason for which Annais strayed upon as she mentioned her twin brother, Con, a topic which Mia betrayed nothing about as her face remained smooth.  She missed him, deeply, but he had made his decision and, Light help her, she'd made hers.  There were enough times that she questioned the choice she had made without an Aes Sedai she did not know mentioning the topic.

 

She supposed she would have more than enough time to get to know her during the mission though, if Annais wished to share.  Brand had informed her earlier in the day that she was going to be going back, accompanying a Gray sister though he had not mentioned which.  Probably hadn't been informed himself, the Hall seemed to be in dissarray if the words of the Warders were anything to go off.  Not that Warders were usually given to being talkative, but chaos like this meant that Warders were concerned, they wanted to make sure their bonded were safe and the only way to find out with sisters being so tight lipped was to ask other Warders.  It was easy enough to overhear conversations from there.  But, the questions.

 

"The Black Tower is a home as much as it is a military compound.  Some men are already married when they discover they can channel, it seems that their wives did not abandon them.  Things are tense, they did not appreciate such a large group of Aes Sedai straying into their territory and they acted to defend themselves as they see it.  Not all of them are...  well, I think.  Some are calm, others are openly hostile, all of them watch each other to some degree I think.  Its probably not an easy existance living around hundreds of other men like yourself that could easily go insane.  As to how they will welcome you...  I would be cautious, they won't appreciate any attempt to push them and if there are as many as I think there are, considering what happened in Dumai Wells when they were smaller in number, I don't think force would even be a last option."

 

 

Mia Stavros

Grandmaster

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Mia had clearly trained herself out of the Illianer cant. Most of what she said she had mentioned in her report to Brand that Annais had already read and she had managed to squeeze as much out of Estel too who seemed to prefer to speak with her rather than the Sitters. The part that had really worried her was that the Asha'man were able to Travel mere few miles away from the Tar Valon. They had clearly done scouting trips and no one had noticed them. It would be impossible to guard the entire area around the city but something would have to be done about it and sooner rather than later when it could well be too late.

 

She also deliberately did not tell anything about herself and Annais wasn't going to play any games with her. "Is there a reason why you chose ignore my other questions? Out with it honestly. If there is some reason why you are reluctant to work with me, I need to know it now. You can't very well play the part of my Warder if that is the case." And she would rather go alone that drag an uncooperative Guard with her.

 

Mia kept her eyes ahead of her as Annais spoke, it was easier to keep her face schooled that way.  Not that she wasn't capable otherwise, but some Aes Sedai were sensitive to body language and she had little doubt that Annais was one of them as she was being sent to negotiate.  If Annais thought that playing the part of the Warder would be difficult without such information, Mia had to disagree.  "In public, a Warder is seen and not heard, that is something that I can do easily enough and does not require much from me except that I be there to ensure your safety.  I do not know you, why should I tell you about myself?  Perhaps I make assumptions, but every Aes Sedai I speak to, the conversation inevitably turns to my twin and that is not a topic I am willing to discuss.  Enough questions have been asked and I've long since learned that nothing good comes of discussing him."

 

The Guard tried to keep her posture and appearance smooth and unreadable but Annais didn't want to jump into concludions but instead was waiting for her to explain. It made sense but Mia's reservations about knowing her would prove out to be a problem no doubt. "Well, I am not every Aes Sedai and you are not your twin. I am interested of you and not him. If you don't want to talk of him, then you won't and I won't pry. I have never had a Warder and I assume that you have not been bonded either?" The slight nod confirmed it and she went on. "Regardless, we seem to have a bit different ideas of how even a fake Bond works. A Warder is supposed to be able to read their Aes Sedai's emotions and vice versa and in addition to keeping an eye on the surrounding situation, they monitor each others too. As there won't be such a connection between us, we need to be able to read each others otherwise. Hopefully it will never become necessary but I rather prepare for the worst."

 

"Now, what do you count as knowing each others? You have to start from somewhere or you can never get to know the other because you don't know the other. I think that it might be fair if we trade information. I tell you of myself what I want to know from you and vice versa. How does that sound like?"

 

Listening as Annais continued to talk, Mia couldn't say she was exactly inspired by the speech.  Others had been just as quick to say that they were not interested about her brother but he was always somehow drawn into the conversation.  It had been so much different before he had left, before it had all happened, but there was nothing to be done about it now.  After all, if wishes were fishes everyone would cast nets.  But, they were going to be on a mission together, Mia somewhat doubted Annais point but better to get along than to antagonise.  As long as the didn't touch on the subject of her brother than she would be fine.  "Alright, but I will start.  I arrived here twenty four years ago, before that I lived in the Perfumed Quarter in Illian on the Dock."

 

A smile bloomed on Annais' face as Mia turned out to be willing to work with her after all. "I arrived to Tar Valon about..." she had to actually think about it for a moment as ages were something Aes Sedai tried not to think very often " ...hundred and twenty years ago. Before that I lived where ever my father, a famous bandit named Crimson Carnelion, and his men happened to roam currently." The pride in her voice was faint but still audible. "Murandy, Altara, south of Andor, Ghealdan and even Amadicia occasionally. They all got a bit taxed by us. Until... I was put in charge of a robbery. My chosen target was a Green Sister and her two Warders. That's how I ended up here and you can imagine that I didn't like it at all at first. I might still hold the record of escape attempts. Got worn down by the Tower with time and I actually wanted to stay and saw the merit in what the Tower does and tries to achieve. I chose the Gray Ajah and I have been negotiating, traveling and carrying out various other functions since."

 

"How about you? Why did you want to become a Tower Guard?"

 

"I wanted to be something more than a fisherman's wife, to be something else." She skirted details, details that involved her brother.  Light that had been a long time ago, Con had argued with their father who wanted Con to stay.  But Con didn't want to be a fisherman, he wanted to go to Tar Valon, he'd wanted to ever since he had begun to tend the nets and wanted something else.  He'd hooked onto the Gleeman's tales and wanted to be something.  She'd interceded and had her nose damn near broken for the effort by their father when he'd swung at Con, and she'd ended up storming out with Con in tow.  Little did they suspect that Rae had decided to follow them all the way, out of sight until they'd arrived in Tar Valon itself and it was too late to send him back.

 

But those were old days, days long gone and Mia couldn't help but think that the chalice that Con had chased after had been poisoned all along.  At least for her brother.  "My mentor was Shoar Daemor, the one who recently returned and has been causing trouble.  After I became a Tower Guard I apprenticed under Alin Moridan and others for a time, and when I was twenty five I became an acknowledged Blademistress.  I am now considered a Grandmistress.  I remain because I have my oaths and I think that the Tower does more good than harm in the end, and I can't think of anything else I would do."

 

Not wanting to marry definately explained why Mia had left Illian but it didn't explain why she had come precisely to Tar Valon. But Annais was sensitive enough to guess and see that it had something to do with her brother so she didn't ask. She had promised after all. The familiar name made her smile; she and Shoar had served together during the Aiel War and they had renewed the acquaintance since his return. "Interesting. What do you mean by the harm the Tower has done?" There was no upset in her voice, merely curiousity. Unlike some Aes Sedai, she didn't believe that the Tower was flawless. "And why did you train yourself out of the Illian accent?"

 

"If I backtrack to the questions I asked previously. What frightens me... the Black Tower definately does as do the threats of the Shadow and the Seanchan. I am not so much worried for myself personally even though I have vivid enough imagination to see myself forcefully Bonded by an Asha'man or in a leash as as a damane. No, I am more worried about the bigger picture and how little role the White Tower in the end plays in the grand scheme of things even though we think that we are very important. Aes Sedai want to control things and people around them and I guess that I do too. When we can't predict things and we don't know what is happening... imagination magnifies unknown enemies."

 

She frowned. "These were actually more difficult questions than I thought. I try to behave especially carefully when I am afraid and to not show it at least. Depends on the situation really. I have tried to prepare myself for all kind of intimidation the Asha'man might come up with but I am sure that they will manage to catch me off guard in some way. Do you think that you might be able to notice then?"

 

Mia frowned at the amount of talking that Annais did, it would have been stereotyping to say it was because she was a Gray Sister, but it was safer than the irreverent thought that Annais might possibly be able to talk the Black Tower into submission.  Annais revealed a lot about herself, more than most people would have in a short space of time and Mia had to wonder why.  It couldn't have simply been because they were meant to read each other better, they both knew that if it came down to it, her presence was going to mean very little.  The male channelers could easily overwhelm them if they chose, Mia went so Annais did not go alone.  So what was the reason?  Mia could not say, and she wasn't about to ask and simply tip her hand straight away.

 

"Honestly, I think if the Black Tower betray the peace, we are dead or captured.  I could kill the nearest one near me perhaps, but that would be all I would accomplish and judging from the fact they captured all the sisters, you would be quickly caught as well.  What we do is on faith, and hope that it will be returned in kind.  We will walk in, and the wheel will weave as the wheel wills.  If they attempt to intimidate, well, you will know best what to do.  I am not the negotiator, simply the person there to do what she can to make sure you are safe.  There is no point fearing the unknown, otherwise all you are fearing is fear."

 

"As for my accent, well, some people struggle with it, and just being around here for years it changed."  Not that Con did, no, he kept their mother tongue.  Mia could still switch back to it just as easily, though she chose not to, she suspected she would not be so welcome amongst her family for what she did, if he told them.  "And the Tower is not innocent.  Iussi Dyfelle should have been gentled immediately instead of studied, his service for the Tower merited that much.  That is one of many things I disagree with, but in the end the Tower does enough good things that I let them outweigh the bad.  Perhaps I simply do not have the same perception of the world as the sisters and presume too much, but I am what I am and I think what I think.  It is hard to command respect from people who will give their lives for you when you take one of them and let them slowly turn mad rather than healing them."

 

Mia's words rang very true and Annais nodded sadly. Death or capture would be their fate if there would be false play but she trusted on their intentions. "If worst comes to worse, you shouldn't kill anyone", she said firmly. "That would truly complicate things even if they acted first and even if this went awry, there might still be a chance to somehow salvage it." Though she doubted that the Tower wouldn't have much will left to be recociliatory and as divded as the Hall was.... anything could happen. She would have to succeed. And the Hall would better start making some decisions soon if Sirayn Simeone did not show up. "And like you said, you could take down only the closest so it wouldn't make much difference except in the wrong way." There was a difference between letting your fear and worry incapacitate you and letting healthy worry to spur you and be more prepared for various possibilities.

 

"I agree that the Tower has done things that have not been acceptable." She had been away from the Tower during the Iussi Dyfelle debacle but her Sisters had written her incensed letters about it even if many had been upset for exactly for reasons, for breaking a thousands of years old tradition instead of the moral issues. "The Gray Ajah hotly opposed the Law change in the Hall but once the decision was made, everyone were obliged to stand behind it. And the Tower is notoriously good at applying a single rule and law at everyone and not taking into account case by case circumstances. I would have gotten him Gentled right away if I could have influenced it." Though she would have done it partially for other reasons, like to keep from antagonizing the other faction overly much. But likely that had been exactly Karana Majin's intent to keep the Dragon to herself and the Hall divided. Likely the case had affected her brother's willingness to serve too. Marce had been very angry about Con Stavros being allowed to speak in the Hall of the Tower and about the nature of his speech.

 

"The Tower hasn't done any major transgressions against the Tower Guards lately but the underlying attitude is still there. Many Aes Sedai do not appreciate the service you offer enough but we couldn't function without it. Still. like you said, the Tower does good things even if more could always be done. That is why I changed my mind about the Aes Sedai originally and why I haven't retired to do my own things." It was a startling thing to say as she had never even considered it before. In the way she saw it Sisters retired when they were very old she would have at least a century more left in the Tower.

 

"But such morbid topics. What do you do on your free time? For me it varies depending on where I am but there is one constant, dancing and singing. Singing is mostly done in private but dance partners can be found from anywhere. I prefer the basic dances in inns as the atmosphere is always more jolly but court dances have some challeging intricate steps. And the slow ones are always good for flirting. But my favourites are those where you steal partners." She grinned. "Of course I sometimes do it in other dances too just because it is unexpected and watching the reactions is fun. Rules should be broken occasionally if it is done in a witty way and doesn't cause too much furor."

 

Listening, Mia was slightly surprised to hear that Annais enjoyed such time spent beyond the Tower and her sisters.  And her cavalier attitude towards rules was likewise different, but truth was truth and that was all the Aes Sedai could speak.  Much easier to listen to than the topic of Iussi Dyfelle, it was amazing the number of sisters that seemed to have disagreed with it but still failed to still get anything done for the man.  But, she wasn't going to argue the point, it would serve to achieve nothing but division and that wasn't what was needed, wheel weaved as the wheel willed.  But, of herself?  "I don't have free time, I train.  There are only a few occasions where I can be dragged away, but those times are rare and only if I am too tired to either sleep or train." A pause.  "Or special occasions with the company, but thats it."

 

Annais regarded Mia with surprised arch of eyebrows. The woman sounded like a work maniac, she really needed some more relaxation and fun into her life. Luckily she seemed to be having friends who did her the favour from time to time. "Why are you training so hard? Is there a special goal or do you just enjoy it? And do you dance?" If she was going to finish this mission succesfully, she would throw a party and Mia Stavros would be invited. She wondered if the Grandmistress could be persuaded to wear a dress but a pretty outfit with pants could be made as well. But first they would have to get through the Black Tower of course.

 

"Idle hands and idle thoughts usually result in trouble." That much was true, Con had known that better than anyone.  But then, Con had better reasons to know it than Mia had, at least until now.  But that was not for now, no, now she wanted to divert the conversation away to something more important, like when they were going to leave.  "When do we leave?  I would like to know how much time I have to prepare for our departure, and where shall I meet you?  Also, if there are any other requirements of me I would like to know of them so I may take them into account in my preparation."

 

"The right kind of a trouble can spice up your life", Annais replied with a smile. Mia seemed eager to end the conversation and since they were tight on schedule, there likely wouldn't much to gleaned from continuing it. At least she knew where she stood with the woman. She would have company and if it went badly, she wouldn't be captured alone - a small comfort. But she couldn't really draw much confidence from the woman and there would be no confiding into her. That was how it worked for most missions with Sisters she didn't know either even though most of them were willing to establish some rapport. She would try to do so with Mia because that was what she was like but she couldn't let herself to be distracted from the really important thing and that was the negotiations.

 

"We will leave in about three hours. We could meet at the stables as we will be riding for a while after going through the Gateway before we reach the Black Tower. I can't think of any other requirements. If you don't have any further questions, that was it for now." She would go to see Estel and try to see if there was still some more that the woman could tell her. She most certainly would not go and say goodbyes to anyone else because she intended to come back. And if she came across a Sitter, she would dodge and hide. She had gotten her instructions and she was not going to take any advice on how she should handle the talks. She knew her trade and the Hall had chosen to trust her expertise so trust they would have to.

 

Taking a step as if to walk away, something occurred to Mia that she had simply taken for granted.  No doubt Annais had already been informed, but she turned to Annais nevertheless to mention it.  "Just so you know, Dalinarius is...  It was already in my report that would have been given to you, but just in case it wasn't.  Dali was once trained here, he is not as bitter as some of his fellows because of it.  At the same time...  Well, you will see when you meet him."  Nodding at Annais, Mia walked away as she went to bathe and get herself prepared.  There was a lot to be done and not much time left.

 

Annais & Mia

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