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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Guide to avoid the pitfalls (attn: Arath & Sereth)


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A deep breath escaped Annais as she exited the M'Hael's office. The first day of negotiations was done and it had gone alot better than she had ever dared to even dream. She and Brent had talked about a lot of things and established a good connection in her opinion. She hadn't expected to find herself getting along with the M'Hael. It didn't mean that the parlay would be any easier as he wasn't going to sell the Black Tower cheaply, just that they could chat amiably about things and actually speak straight forwardly instead of the diplomatical bullshit. She ought to thank Mia for that and she would tonight in their rooms. The lucky coincidence of her knowing the man and her unconventional behaviour had broken the ice.

 

Well, now started the tricky part. She was allowed to wander around but she had no idea how she would be received. Likely not with opened arms and most would avoid her. But Brent had asked her to get an escort so she should grab one of the Soldiers or Dedicated. She peered around trying to spot one but they didn't seem to frequent the M'Hael's place. After a moment she spotted a blackcloak but she couldn't see the number of pins on his collars. If he was a full Asha'man, at least he should be able to fish her one of their trainees.

 

"Excuse me! Please stop. Yes, right you", she called at the back that stopped and pivoted. Alas, no pins. She had found her Soldier. "I am Annais Sedai and the M'Hael told me that I should ask a Soldier or a Dedicated to show me around. If you are not busy currently, could you give me a tour. I will eventually try and meet an Asha'man named Rion Adamar but before that I would like to see the places. What is your name and can you act as my guide?"

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Sereth blinked. Was that a feminine voice calling after him, he turned, and sure enough it was. As she continued to talk, especially that word 'Sedai', he wasn't sure if he was supposed to smile, or run. <i>The M'Hael asked her to get a solder or dedicated? Why not a full Asha'mon? Light, twenty Asha'mon?</i> His thoughts led in circles, as they often do, before coming to the conclusion that Brent must trust her. So, he smiled, there were so many things he'd always wanted to ask an Aes Sedai! "Oh, I would be delighted Annais Sedai." He felt death glares bore into his fresh black silk coat. Giving him the strange feeling that he would regret his phrasing. Damn.

 

"Oh, yes, my name. Sereth Arian. This way, I know another great man, that you may like to meet." The solder took his place, only a hair in front of her to lead, his eyes far from where there going. "Well, I hope you don't mind, but I have a habit of talking, and I'll confess I've always wanted to have the opportunity to speak to an Aes Sedai. I hear the largest library in the world resides in Tar Valon. All the knowledge that could be gained from staying there..." is voice trailed off into thoughts. His mind picturing what his teachers had called the Shining Walls, all those beautiful spires with the cross walks high in the air, and most of all. The Tower. The home of most of the known world's knowledge, and of course, women who would like nothing better than to gentle his Asha'ass.

 

"Annais Sedai, would it be appropriate if I ask you questions about a wide variety of subjects? Most of the knowledge around here is extremely useful for my chosen path, but being a weapon is always going to be second to my greater loves of Philosophy and Knowledge." They took another corner, his eyes though, hardly on the road. Instead, they searched her ageless face for any signs of agitation. After all, the number of Asha'mon thinned as they distanced themselves from the M'Hael's office, and he hardly knew how to grasp Saidin.

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The young man seemed confused for a moment and deliberating on how he should react to it all. Finally he settled to a smile and his excited words were genuine enough that Annais' lips twitched in response. It cerftainly was pleasent to meet someone who seemed to enjoy the prospect of being able to speak to an Aes Sedai instead of being on their guard. She wondered who exactly the boy would take her to but didn't have the chance to ask as he rambled on. He certainly had a habit to talk and Annais very much prefered a guide like that to someone who conducted the tour in stony silence.

 

She couldn't help the unorthodox thought that the boy would have made a fine Brown aspirant if he were a woman. But no matter how Brent maintained the dream that maybe one day the Towers would be united or at least worked in better co-operation, it might take longer than Annais' days before it truly came to be. Maybe all the existing Aes Sedai had to die first and new generations to take their place. Philosophy too, hmm? Maybe a White Ajah too. It was a curious thought to see some of the Black Tower members through the lense she normally refrained to White Tower initiates only.

 

"It is nice to meet you, Sereth, and I don't mind at all you talking and asking questions. Why have you wanted to speak with an Aes Sedai and what kind of subjects are you interested in... well, more specifically than the general Philosophy and Knowledge? All Sisters naturally get a broad education but I am not specialized on those fields unlike the Brown and White Sisters. I belong to the Gray Ajah and my expertise is negotiating. Do you have anything like that here in the Black Tower or do you all focus on how to become weapons? How much are you able to focus on your own interests? And who is this Asha'man you are taking me to meet?"

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Sereth laughed, "Well, the general education that you received is probably more than my old teachers gave me. After all, your Aes Sedai. The White Tower has had three millennium, and, if my teachers are to believed, even has fragments of the Age of Legends. Not to mention that each individual Aes Sedai has centuries to horde knowledge. While we, well.." A note of sadness entered his voice, "hardly have years. Some hardly have hours after they come." His thoughts swirled around the taint, how long before his body fell to the waisting? Insanity he could deal with, it was to him merely another lens to view the world through, but falling apart as the taint stole your body. That would be a challenge.

 

Quickly he stomped out those thoughts, he was with a sister! He had so much to ask, and so little time. "I have a broad range of interests, history, language, though admittedly I show no promise in the Old Tongue. So many other things, but my greatest thirst for knowledge is tied into my greatest love in philosophy. The Source. Both halves, the differences between Saidin and Saider, what a man can do that a woman can not, vice versa, and what they can do together! Do we weave differently to get the same effect? Though most of these I fear I will only know if I could convince a woman to link with me, and that will be when I am a fully trained Asha'mon." His smile returned, and his voice picking up speed as he spoke.

 

"As to our separation, none that I can see. I don't believe the Lord Dragon Reborn ever intended us to be a rival to the white tower, but more of an Armory. To pick us up as tools, use us until we break, and grab another. Though I doubt I'll ever know unless the opportunity comes to speak with the man in depth, and he seems rather busy." He turned another corner, taking a deliberate route to pass by the training fields. He watched as solders, just like him, lifted boulders into place with air or earth, and incinerated them with fireballs, shards of earth, air, and a variety of other methods. "This is  an exercise for new recruits. It develops skill with the maneuvering of the boulder, and strength with blowing it up. Normally, each solder is expected to raise their own rocks. Do you train differently? I hear it can take novices over 10 to 20 years to become Aes Sedai, if they do at all, not to mention the incredibly low mortality rate." He watched a man strain, breaking down. He doubted he'd last another week.

 

He moved on, moving back through town on their path to meet someone very special. "As to who I am taking you to meet. Arath Faringal, an Attack Leader. He is a gifted Asha'mon, and one of the few who should give you a chance to talk to him. He hasn't shown the hatred of Aes Sedai that most other Asha'mon have demonstrated. At the very least, you being on good terms with the M'Hael should protect you." He deliberately passed by houses that contained women who were married or simply with a black coated man. "Families are allowed to come and stay on the farm, it helps men deal with the strain of being pushed so hard, or so I'm told. My family is far away, though I'm half expecting my old philosophy teacher to show up. He'd love this place."

 

He let out a chuckle, thinking of the insane black cloaked man. "Well, its about time for my first directed question, though I fear in my ranting I've asked many already." His hand raised to scratch the back of his head, a sign of embarrassment over just how much he talked. Old habits die hard. "How do you embrace the source, and how do you control it? I've heard it said that a woman can not teach a man to even embrace the source, let alone control it, and I've always wondered why." His steps slowed slightly, giving him more time to question, and her to answer. He didn't know how long he would be guiding her, but he knew it wouldn't be enough to ask all of his questions, or for her to ask hers. So, he would give them all the time he could together.

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Sereth had certainly been correct about one thing, he spoke alot. But most of what he said made sense and reminded Annais of some Brown Sisters she had met over the years. And this was the first unreservedly friendly person in the Black Tower she had met if Brent wasn't counted in. Maybe there would be others too. She nodded her head to admit that the White Tower certainly had focused on preserving and gathering knowledge. The sorrow in his voice when he spoke the truth that he likely wouldn't have time to learn for as long was a painful reminder of the reality these men faced every day. It all was so unfair and so unnecessary waste. Half of the channeling potential of the world was lost and in many ways the White Tower could be using its resources better.

 

His offhand mention of linking with a female channeler some day to find out how differently Saidin and Saidar really worked was intriguing. And worrying certainly. How much of the Taint would ooze over to the woman's mind from just that simple contact? But if the Towers really wanted to co-operate and prepare together for the Last Battle, linking together would be something they needed to practice. Annais couldn't contain the slight disapproving shake of her head when Sereth described the use the Dragon had created the order of Asha'man. They would all have to make sacrifices for the Last Battle and prepare themselves for hard decisions but even the most ruthless general could not afford to see their men as simply nameless soldiers or there would be mutiny sooner or later. Every soldier was a human being with their own dreams and families and it wasn't right to treat them as simply tools.

 

They turned around a corner and came to an open field where black coated men were clearly working with Saidin. She didn't expect them to snap that very instant or harm her but over hundred years of viewing channeling men as dangerous caused a first reaction of fearful shiver. And none of the men had any pins on their collars. They were only Soldiers but they were already able of feats the Tower initiates could perform only after a decade of training. Or not even then as the White Tower restricted learning destructive weaves only after the student was already bound by the Three Oaths. She had managed to squeeze some information out of Estel's mad ramblings about how the men trained in the Black Tower and Sereth's words confirmed her knowledge to be true. She wasn't certain if what she saw with her own two eyes was a result of the Forcing the Asha'man did or a result of the greater strenght in the One Power. It could have been both.

 

"You have heard correctly again. The average time to reach the Shawl is fifteen or so years", Annais replied calmly, trying to keep the disapproval at the inhuman treatment of the Black Tower trainees out of her voice. "But that is because being an Aes Sedai is not just being able to channel. You need to have an excellent basic education and demonstrate a right kind of strenght of personality. It will not do to have a Sister falter under the pressure out there in the world. Every Aes Sedai represents the White Tower itself and they must do it with honour."

 

"As for the mortality rate...", her mouth twisted slightly with the words. "What you are doing here is called Forcing. You demand your trainees to be able to perform much more with the One Power than they are ready to handle yet. It is very dangerous and often results in Burning out the ability to channel. We caution our initiates to learn to walk before they run but I suppose that you don't have the time to do that properly. Still, you waste so much potential that could have been hardened and harnessed with little more time and guidance. It is very sad and a great shame. But then.... initiates die in the White Tower too. If you do not pass the tests to enter from novicehood to Accepted and from Accepted to Aes Sedai... you will never come out again from the testing ter'angreals. The morals of that are debatable too but the Hall of the Tower still believes that it is necessary." Or then they were just so tradition bound that revoking the practice didn't even cross the minds of Sitters.

 

Sereth finally named the man he was taking her to see and it was familiar to Annais to her startlement. Arath Faringal was Bonded to Serena of the Blue Ajah. He hadn't been the first one Brent had named as co-operative but she would have to trust on Sereth's judgement. Attack Leader, Storm Leader... even the ranks of Asha'man referred to battle and war. She recognised the houses they passed to be the ones where the families of Asha'man lived and connected Sereth's words. "How did your family take you getting recruited?", she asked carefully. "And I hope that your philosophy teacher will some day visit. What would he especially like in the Black Tower?"

 

Annais noticed the slowing of their pace and hid a smile as it seemed that the young man was eager to get as many answers out of her as possible. It suited her just fine as long as the topics of the questions weren't too delicate. "When I embrace Saidar, I imagine myself to be a flower bud. The bud's petals open out to the light of Saidar, and I let it fill me, all light and warmth and life. I surrender to Saidar, and by surrendering, I control it. That is the hardest thing to learn to many of our students, they are afraid to submit to Saidar, afraid that it will consume them. But that is not at all how it works, you cannot force Saidar. It is like a current in a river, you don't swim against it but you use its force to get you where you need to go."

 

"Is that at all how it is to embrace Saidin and to control it?"

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Sereth nodded listened to each word she said, nodding periodically. What she said made sense, the white tower had no time constraints, or, had none. With the Last Battle approaching, who knew how long either tower had to survive?  He noted how she reacted to watching men channel, he really didn't expect any different, but a confirmation of her and every other Aes Sedai's feelings toward  his brothers wasn't comforting. Still, she seemed sympathetic, and he couldn't blame her. So many remnants of the Age that his kind destroyed littered the land.

 

Speaking of left overs of another age, his brow raised at the mention of ter'angreals. The tower used items of the power to raise their novices? All he'd seen were pins being handed out. Another difference. Just how many were there? A representative of the tower, objects of the power, fifteen years to learn how to channel? So many factors almost made it impossible for any man here to live fifteen years. The taint, dieing in battle, and of course, what if they lost the last battle?

 

"My family? Oh, I left a note and my teacher to explain. They would never have accepted me going off to learn to channel. I was," he put the emphasis on the past tense, he had a new life now. "far from lower class, and they couldn't have had a son who was a channeler. It would have been bad for business, not to mention I didn't feel like ruining that glorious moment that my teacher told me I could channel by watching my mother cry. Oh, don't get the wrong idea though! I loved my parents, and they loved me, but imagine what would happen if the common people learned of just what sprung from my parents loins?" Of course, his reasoning wasn't very sound. They'd find out anyways, but then again the idea was put into his head by a mad man... "As to why my teacher would love it hear, is there a man like me out there who wouldn't seek this sanctuary? Well, I suppose would-be dreadlords, but that is a different story." He spoke casually of these particularly nasty breed of darkfriends. He knew full well he, and most of the other Asha'mon would have to face these monsters personally. It did no good to be afraid of them.

 

His steps faltered as she spoke of surrendering to the source. His voice grew loud, and laughter mixed with his words. "What? Surrender to Saidin! Forgive me Aes Sedai, but I ride the currents of lava and ice, wrestling it with my spirit to do what I command it to do. The only protection I have is the Ko'Di, I believe it is the same trick a Warder would use in battle?" He rose his hand to tap on his chin, a clear sign of him entering deep thought. "Well, this makes me wonder just how plausible linking is. I could never know without experience, but I would assume to link with a woman would be to embrace Saidar. To fight Saidin, while surrendering to Saidar? What a test of will that would be!" He seemed even more eager, thinking it yet another challenge to his mind. "Ahh, I apologize again. My eagerness gets the best of me. I have heard almost nothing of linking since I've been here. Enough so that I doubt two men can link together, and I'd like to know how two sisters link?"

 

He turned another corner, walking by two black coated men. One with the sword pin, and one with neither. Each embracing Saidin at the site of an Ageless face, and each practicly bore holes in his own black coat with their glares as he walked by. He resisted the temptation to embrace the source himself, it was wise not to issue any kind of challenge. When they passed, he took a deep breath. "Each one of those men just held enough of the source to make us less than dust on the wind. Did you feel anything? I've past a bonded sister when she held the power, and the skin on my arm tightened into goosebumps." Again the thought of the penalties of the knowledge he was gaining. How many enemies had he made by revealing himself as an Aes Sedai sympathizer? Would it be a mundane weapon that took him in his sleep, forever ending his quest to learn? Or the obliterating weaves that he was being taught? His face grew grim with the thoughts, he'd have to be more careful of expressing his views.

 

"Ahem, yes. You said you were a negotiator, and have obviously done well with the M'Hael, so I assume you to be a good one. Is there a way to moderate zealots, without force? This seems like a skill that we both may need very shortly." He let out a half-hearted chuckle, trying to lighten the mood again. He wanted her to remember him fondly, she would be of great use later. "Oh, and what kind of argument would I need, to say, study in the White Tower?" His eyes moved to her face, searching for any kind of shock or disapproval. If she didn't want Asha'mon in the White Tower, than he doubted any would. She didn't loathe his kind as many other Aes Sedai were must. They had an Ajah devoted to hunting his kind down. "Talking with whites and browns would be most educational, not to mention studying in the Tower Library."

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Sereth didn't seem to mind speaking about his family and Annais noted the stress on the past tense. Likely men of the Black Tower were expected to leave behind titles and family ties when they joined, just the same as novices and Accepted of the White Tower. His good education definately placed him to an upper class or rich merchant background and she hoped that there would be no ill consequences for his family despite their son turning out to be a male channeler. That certainly was a change the White Tower could help with if the Sitters could be persuaded to agree about it but it was going to be a gradual and slow process to change prejudices and fears of three thousand years. And the fact remained that the Taint still existed but the Black Tower had its own way of dealing with it as Brent had told her. It was truly tragic.

 

She still didn't quite comprehend why his teacher and seeking sanctuary from the Black Tower were related. Was he a male channeler too? But one of the ways the Aes Sedai maintained their mysterious facade was by never admitting that they didn't understand. A silly notion most of the time but likely useful now. His comment about Dreadlords made Annais frown. Thanks to the Taint, likely there was a greater number of male channelers serving the Shadow and the Tower had had its share of conflict with the darkfriend male channelers, Caladesh being the prime example. How he had made it to the Hall of the Tower without notice and killed the Keeper would remain a dark topic forever for the White Tower. She decided to disract herself off the unpleasent thought by returning to the previous topic. "So how did your teacher know that you could channel? How did you manifest your spark?"

 

Sereth's laughter at her description of Saidar made her arch an inquiring eyebrow. It seemed from his description that he found the whole concept unbelievable and from what he told, Saidin and Saidar really were like as different as a fish and a bird. Ko'Di, the Oneness or more commonly known as the Flame and the Void in the Warder's Yard. That drew an interesting parallel as she had always thought that the Spring, the other philosophy available to the Tower Guards resembled alot the mentality you used to approach Saidar. "We call Ko'Di the Flame and the Void and there is actually another technique that is quite different that the Tower Guards can learn. It is called the Spring and instead of supressing your emotions, you embrace them. But they don't just run amok, you feed them to the flame and they become fuel to it. You draw strenght from your fears, love and anger as they all meld into one huge pyre. I have heard Spring being compared to a tempest that rages around you. But in the eye of the storm it is calm and that is the state Spring users are in. They embrace the storm and it is part of them and because they don't try to block it out, they can control it."

 

"And yes, what you say about a male and female channeler linking sounds about right. It would be very difficult to balance the two extremely different approaches. For example in the Warder's Yard it is not possible to learn both, the Flame and the Void and Spring. But still somehow in the Age of Legends the channelers were able to make it work and they performed their greatest deeds with men and women linked. That is something that we need to rediscover if we want to win the Last Battle. Why you haven't heard of linking is because according to the old records men cannot link among themselves. You need female channelers to link with. But the maximum of female channelers who can link together is thirteen. After that we need to add men into the link to be able to bring in more women."

 

"As for how Sisters link, it actually resembles a bit how you use an angreal. You stand at the edge of embracing Saidar and the woman who will lead the link embraces the Source through you. She is in control of the amount of Saidar coming through you and others in the Circle and she directs the weaves of you all. My teachers used the metaphor of a well and a coin to describe how linking works. Saidar is the coin at the bottom of well that you reach and the other channeler - or angreal - is the water you reach through to grab the shiny thing."

 

As they came accross a pair of black coated men, a Soldier and a Dedicated, Annais had to school herself to not take a step back from the way they glared at her. It was a valuable reminder that Aes Sedai were not the most popular people around here and that she would better be careful. Even if everyone knew that she had a diplomatical immunity, someone might decide that they just didn't give a damn. She bit her lip when Sereth released a breath and revealed that the men had been quite ready to blast her. "No, I did not feel anything. It seems that it only works for the male channelers. The White Tower has studied the matter and we already knew about the goosebump effect." And better not say anything further about the issue as it was quite recent and only the Dragon's Amnesty had ended that line of experimentation. She noticed the darkening of his look and wondered what he was thinking.

 

Her smile was openly amused at Sereth's assessment of her skills. There were about two hundred Gray Sisters in the White Tower but she had been sent here so the Sitters did have faith in her abilities. She certainly was more hopeful herself too now when she had Brent and things had went well. Obviously her personality and strategy had been suitable for this particular mission. She chuckled at his question. "Dear boy, you would have me impart you a trade learned over many decades in but mere minutes. I can try to give some pointers but zealots certainly are the most difficult of all negotiation partners. The main thing is to not stoop to their level and get entangled into their fervour. Logic does not always help but keeping your cool and being rational and argumenting clearly is always good. And leading them by questions to make statements and to come to conclusions that are desireable to you. But that is something to be careful with. If zealots start feeling their views too threatened or that you are manipulating them, they will simply stop listening to you or any sense what so ever. Sometimes force is needed as a leverage but usually from an authority that they respect if not fear. I suppose that your M'Hael is such a figure here and manages to keep the most radical people in check - for now at least."

 

Annais smiled encouragingly as Sereth outlined his dream, to be able to learn in Tar Valon. "I hope that you one day could study in the White Tower but the current political situation between the Towers needs to stabilize first. Until we get our Sisters back, there isn't much hope of peaceful visits to Tar Valon for the Asha'man. If the negotiations go well, then the possibility will be there. You just need to convice your M'Hael or who ever decides of such matters that your studies would somehow benefit the whole Black Tower. Argument well the advantages your learning would bring and I doubt that there would be any issues from the Black Tower. I would imagine that the topics such as linking and more information about the White Tower and the Aes Sedai in general would be useful."

 

"Was that at all the kind of an answer you were looking for?"

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Sereth smiled, she didn't get it. "I didn't spark. I was trained. He discovered my ability by holding a flame in his hand, I focused on it with all of my mental ability, including Ko'Di, and a grin spread over his face. I'd never seen the old madman so happy, it was a great day." So, he had decided to spare her any embarrassment. He liked her. He heard her description of the spring, and shook his head. "The spring sounds useful with a sword in hand, as long as it is not of fire. Channeling Saidin is a battle, and one not easily one, at least for us beginners. To be surrounded by a maelstrom of emotions, even those in your control, may very well lead you to loose that battle. I can only assume its the same as if you tried to force Saidar, not only will it not work, but it will crush you. The 'void'" he spoke the word with a bit of distaste, it seemed far to simple a word for becoming one with everything around you, "Protects us. It is us versus Saidin, we have to direct or control nothing but those waves of molten ice, and the vileness of the taint. Besides,  if you can only use one, we'd need a Spring Master. The void is the only one I've seen taught here."

 

As they continued on, he watched more closely to the way she watched him. He supposed it normal for her to want to study him, he was different in so many ways. His sex, his channeling, and he was kind hearted to her. Very few would fall into that group. "A well and a ccoin, eh? Well then what would be Saidin in that analogy? Perhaps pushing against the stone slab as you try to gingery pick up that golden crown?" Another chuckle, my my he was full of them today! Again his overactive mind began to wander, wondering if his chuckling was a sign of his madness already beginning to manifest? He'd heard of men going mad in the first week of training, though he doubted he'd succumbed quite yet. He had kept careful notes of his thoughts, and how he thought them since he learned he could channel. He would have to check, but everything seemed normal so far.

 

"Well, I'm going to assume that this little piece of information is either rather recent, collected from the trolloc wars, or the age of legends. That or the Red Ajah." His features remained grim a moment longer, but quickly brightened. She told him a piece of the puzzle, he would have to puzzle the rest out. "Well, I expect a full demonstration of your abilities soon. Though if you ever want to impart some of these skills personally, I am a quick learner." He tossed her a wink, which quickly turned into a sigh. His face raising to shield his face, as her words caused it to shake. "Yes, I had thought the same myself. So my plans all fall on your shoulders. I wish you the best of luck." He looked around, looking for weaves for spying, or any black coated men. "Another question regarding my future trip," he expressed doubt over her chances, but not about his chance of going."Would I have to be shielded if I went to the White Tower? Or would the Aes Sedai let an Asha'mon roam as free as the opposite?"

 

As he talked, they walked a bit out side of town. Closing in on the manor. He sighed, "Not all that much further now, Annias Sedai." He looked into her eyes, a smile touching his own, "I suppose all I can hope for now is that he is out giving lessons, and those not in his yard." Another laugh rolled off his lips, perhaps he was being a bit of a flirt. Though it was hard to say if it was for her, or the knowledge welled up in her head. "I've only time for another few questions before we reach Arath's house. Though I'll only ask you one, and it is alright if you do not answer. What will the white tower do to the black, after the Last Battle?" It was a difficult question, but one that would eventually need to be answered.

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Annais' eyes widened slightly with realization as Sereth revealed that he was a learner, not a sparker. So obviously his teacher had been a channeler too. Sereth refered to him so easily as an old madman that she believed him to be still well and alive. "Weren't you alarmed when you realized that he was a channeler? Or had you known it for some time already? And why did you want to be tested? Let me guess, for the knowledge? And is your teacher an Asha'man?"

 

She nodded at his words about allowing emotions when holding Saidin to be as dangerous to a male channeler as forcing Saidar was to female channelers. It sounded about right comparison. It sounded so very alien and frightening what he described. Was there any joy in the Source for men? There was ample of evidence that they couldn't choose to live without Saidin so it was still likely as addictive as Saidar. But to be addicted to something that overwhelming... poor men. "The idea of a Spring Master for balance's sake might sound good but I believe that it is as I said. The Spring is akin to Saidar and the Flame and Void to Saidin. I doubt that you would benefit anything from such master's teaching save maybe for linking." It just wasn't very likely that the Asha'man would be allowed to lead Circles even if they ever got to that stage so maybe fostering such ideas wasn't wise.

 

He seemed to be observing her and she wondered why. But she was the first Aes Sedai he met and actually talked to so that could explain it. The curiousity was certainly mutual. She pursed her lips in thought as he asked her for an analogy for Saidin. "I think that the stoneslab blocking the well and the water might be a very accurate comparison." She was glad that he was relaxed enough to laugh around her and smiled slightly in response.

 

Annais gave no indication that any of his theories of the White Tower's source of information were correct and he moved on to another topic thankfully quickly. His wink and words made her smile deepen. "Well, stick around then and we will see what you can learn. If there is time for lessons, I will try to find you. Although naturally you would have to have time for them too. How are the schedules for Soldiers and Dedicated here in the Black Tower? Do you have some designated routines?" His face fell a bit at her words about his chances to study in the Tower relying on how the negotiations went and she sighed too. "I do not make the decision about whether you would be Shielded or not, Sereth, so I cannot predict it. I would say that no, though. Because if we were at the point where such visits were possible, then you would be considered allies and Shielding is not something you do to an associate."

 

They were almost there already. She felt a twinge of disappointment that the discussion would be over and a slight nervousness about approaching this Arath who she knew nothing about. "Time can be made if need", Annais said with a smile as he started but the actual question made her blink. Sereth certainly could throw curve balls. "I wish that I knew the answer to that but I would have to be able to Foretell. It depends on so many things, including how these negotiations go. Until they are concluded, everything is debatable. But if we got our Sisters back and if the Towers could become allied... then the Dragon Reborn's presence and the threat of the Last Battle might not be needed to back your claim for existance. So much depends on how the Battle goes and how much survives. If both the Towers make it through pretty much intact, there should be co-operation for rebuilding. A worst case scenario of course is a competition setting but I hope that it will not go to that. Only the Light knows."

 

"Before we go any further, could you please tell me something of master Faringal. What exactly does his title, the Attack Leader mean? What are his duties in the Black Tower? And what is he like? How do you think he will react to an Aes Sedai appearing on his doorstep? Since you wanted to practice negotiation skills, one of the most important tasks beforehand is to determine these things and craft a strategy of approach. How would you councel me to approach him?"

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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Sereth laughed, his fingers running through his hair. "And I thought I was the one who was supposed to be asking questions. The answer quite simply is, no. I wasn't scared, I didn't know, I don't care for the knowledge, and no he isn't an Asha'mon. He hadn't hurt me before, why would he begin with the revelation that he could channel? He hid his ability quite well, though in retrospect I can see times when he had channeled. As for me being tested, I didn't have a choice. He simply got a candle, made a move as to light it with his back to me and the candle blocked from my view, and told me to focus. He was my philosophy teacher, I was used to such things and so didn't suspect. Though I wanted to learn to channel for its own sake, from all the descriptions of channeling, a shear mental challenge, it sounded like great and wonderful thing. And as far as I know, my teacher has never stepped foot in the black tower. Though I do assume he will."

 

The conversation continued, him mostly nodding his head as she spoke. "I'd like that a lot. I fear my knowledge has been rather restricted since I've gotten here. Its not that they prevent me from learning other things, they just don't focus on it. I truly have no desire to destroy with the power, though I'm so clumsy with it that I fear I would not make a good healer." Another laugh, and he itched the back of his head. "As to my routine. I get up, and I usually have a lesson. Though I get less than some, because my talents aren't as common as the others. I show more ability in air and spirit, than earth, though fire is just as easy as the first. I hear thats uncommon, and it seems to be true." 

 

He nodded, "If our two towers are on that good of terms, then yes it makes sense. Though in truth, I wonder how many sisters it'd take to hold me at my full strength.I told you I'm clumsy with the power, but I make up for it in strength. We can only guess, men can't tell another's strength unless he has reached it, and is holding it, can women?" He gave her a moment to nod or respond more vocally, before continuing, "But my teachers still call me an ax. I can do more damage than a sword, but I'll never match that grace or speed."

 

"Again I digress, I can always find a free space in my schedule to learn from you, and negotiation hasn't been something my teachers had taught me. The closest I've had were arguing my views against my teacher. Though I usually lost, surrendering to one who has found a greater enlightenment than I, even if by questionable causes." Yes, he called the insane man enlightened, he had even admitted that the taint had made him as such. That was why Sereth could so easily talk about the insanity that was bound to catch up to him, he thought that he too could find a form of it. "Though negotiating for something, that I imagine to be a bit different. Trying to get something, or keep, would add a different level."

 

Sereth saw her blink at his question, and inside his head he was proud, though he carefully kept it from his face. He had heard all about Aes Sedai serenity, how you could almost never surprise one, but he had done it. "It makes sense, but in truth I see a competition. I don't doubt your abilities, but we men have something to prove. We're not monsters, and we are just as good as the Aes Sedai. Again, I mean no offense, but Aes Sedai have been at the top of the social ladder for three thousand years. I do not believe your sisters will surrender that very easily." He carefully kept her out of this grouping. To both show his faith that some sisters would accept the men, and more specifically she could. He knew she had her biases, it was the reason he hadn't accompanied his explanation of his skill and strength with a demonstration, but he believed she could overcome them.

 

A smirk crept over his face, "Yes, I suppose it is only fair that you know the man I am leading you to. Well, as I said he is Attack Leader, meaning assuming his sanity remains mostly whole, he will lead Asha'mon into battle. He will only have to take orders from Storm Leaders, who are above Attack Leaders, the M'Hael, and of course the dragon reborn. Around the Tower, he mostly trains us solders and dedicated. Though I'm not so sure that is an assigned duty. As to the man, he has a sense of humor though I don't recommend using that to much in the beginning. I wouldn't expect to be blasted or shielded, but perhaps a bit of coldness until he gets to know you a bit. I'm no negotiator, but I'd try to give him a reason to trust or like you. Once he gets comfortable with you, he should warm up and talk to you like a human being, instead of some zealot off to slay us monsters. And as with most Asha'mon, do not embrace the power. He'll be suspicious, I don't know your exact strength or his, but as men tend to be stronger, I would place my money on him. Not to mention our different specialties."

 

He looked into the distance, resisting the temptation to seize the source to aid his vision. "It isn't much further. Assuming I must leave you and you need me, ask around. I'm usually in the barracks, or in one of the practice fields I showed you. If ever you have time to teach me a portion of your trade, collect me from anything but a lesson with Saidin. I fear my teacher may lash out with you, and call it an accident." He sighed, thinking of the two men they had passed. She hadn't done anything to them, and from what Ihe could tell, she was here to help both towers get along. Still, the ring on her finger would mark her as a target. "I hope Attack Leader Arath won't mind if I stick around when he talks to you. After all, it would be a pain for you to find another solder to guide you around." He chuckle escaped him yet again. "Either way, we should move on." He began walking to the left, toward Faringal Manor. He didn't try to strike up to much more of a conversation, mostly since he'd regret it being cut off by the building that was coming into view. Still, he'd answer any last questions she had on the walk there. When he reached the door, he'd knock hard once, and if it opened he'd respond with a curt. "I'm here with Annias Aes Sedai, her guide around the Black Tower. She asked if there was anyone she should talk to, so I brought her here. Also, I'd like to stay. If not while you talk to her directly, to practice in your yard. It would be an inconvenience for her to have to find another guide." His voice was still its light, almost whimsical self. Yet it held a certain respect as he talked to Arath. Of course he respected Annias, but Arath shared a common goal with Sereth, a common path, and he was a great in the field.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Arath sat behind his desk, examining the figurine in his hands; a small silver man carrying a large shield.  Where had he gone wrong with it?  Maybe if he-

 

A sharp rap at his front door broke his concentration.  Rubbing his neck as he stood, he moved to answer the door, sort of glad for the break.  He tended to get lost in his projects lately.  If he could just get it right ...

 

Sereth, one of the newest Soldiers was waiting on the other side of the door.  "I'm here with Annias Aes Sedai, her guide around the Black Tower. She asked if there was anyone she should talk to, so I brought her here. Also, I'd like to stay. If not while you talk to her directly, to practice in your yard. It would be an inconvenience for her to have to find another guide."

 

Arath nodded at the Soldier.  "My students should be out back working on shields.  I'll let you know if we need you."  Sereth nodded in acknowldgement and wandered off to the other side of the house.  Arath held open the door and allowed the Aes Sedai to pass.  Not much was said as he led the way to his study.  He supposed this had something to do with Serena, who mercifully was not in the house at the moment. 

 

"So then," Arath said as he sat at his desk and picked up the statuette again.  "What can I do for you Annais Sedai?" 

 

OOC:  Sorry this took so long.  Real life's been crazy busy.

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It was an interesting morsel of information that men couldn't tell each others' potential strenghts but Annais wasn't quite certain what Sereth meant by his comment about holding it. She nodded that women could sense each others' strenghts but he wandered on to the next topic already and her chance to ask would have to come later. From his words they would be seeing each others quite often during her stay and Sereth would be another rare friendly face.

 

There would be competition. The White Tower and the Aes Sedai of the old guard would not give up their position in the world without protests and some fight. But things just couldn't continue the same they had been. Still, Annais hope that the White Tower would not loose too much influence since the Tower had potential to be really important in the events that would play out if they just adjusted right. She tilted her head slightly to acknowledge that there was some truth in his words but she didn't confirm them vocally. It was nice of him to exclude out of the group that would bitterly oppose the Black Tower and it was the truth.

 

Annais smiled slightly at Sereth's sarcastic remark about sanity being an important criteria to get a leadership position. It was likely bad taste to find amusement in such things but humour helped alot. It was really chilling that the Black Tower felt like they needed a position for leading men in battle but that was what the organization had been found for; to be the Dragon Reborn's weapons in the Last Battle. Sereth's advice certainly sounded sensible and embracing Saidar was out of the question during her whole stay as the male channelers could somehow detect it.

 

"Thank you for the offer of help. I will keep it in mind and seek you out if need be."

 

The closer they got to the building Sereth had dubbed manor, the more uncertain Annais grew. She really would have prefered to go first to this Rion as she trusted Brent's judgement that he would be the most receptive toward an Aes Sedai. She didn't know anything about this Arath save what Sereth had told her and that he was Bonded to Serena of the Blue Ajah. She had no intention to let the Attack Leader see her hesitation so she would wing it up. It would have been better if Sereth had stayed but then back in the Tower a novice wouldn't have been allowed to remain during this kind of conversations either. At least Mia was there.

 

"Thank you for receiving me and my companion Mia Stavros, Attack Leader Faringal." Annais inclined her head to the Tower Guard at her heel. "I hope that I am not interrupting you." She pointed at the small figurine he took to his hands. "I will not take too much of your time. I merely wished to discuss with some members of the Black Tower of their views on the current situation between the White Tower and the Black Tower. And as you hold a rank and are... hosting one of the Aes Sedai currently here, the Soldier escorting me mentioned you as someone I could approach." Of course she also wanted to speak with Serena but it wouldn't do to mention that right away.

 

"Do you mind if I take a seat?" She kept her tone neutral as she did not wish to imply that he was an impolite host.

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

 

OOC: No worries :) I haven't been posting very much lately either.

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"By all means."  Arath was a little intrigued by her asking.  He had simply assumed that she would seat herself like most Aes Sedai he had met.  Drawing on pure Saidin through the interesting little angreal, he pulled a chair from the wall and slid it behind her, nodding at her to sit.  "I'd offer you something to drink, but I just finished this house.  I still don't have many of the comforts of home here."

 

Settling back into his seat, he mulled over what she had said while turning the statuette over in his hands.  "The current situation.  Diplomatic way to phrase it I suppose.  Regretable at any rate. I haven't had a decent nights sleep since then.  Serena can be . . . irritable at times." Arath tried unsuccessfully to surpress a smile.  Serena seemed to look for reasons to stay angry at everyone.

 

"I assume you have some specific questions you'd like answered.  I have a few things I would like to ask you as well, if you don't mind?"

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Well, well. The Attack Leader had also resorted in Saidin to fulfill a simple task of providing a chair or just letting Annais to get it herself. She had been half expecting it so she wasn't too startled. Her slight unease of being around when the male hald of Source used was quickly supressed by the amusement as she and Sereth had just discussed such strategies. Subtle power play was definately going on behind the scenes. She seated herself gracefully and nodded in thanks. No chair was given to Mia but the Tower Guards were used to standing when in attendance. Annais wondered if it would occur to Arath that Mia was also screening him and her surroundings. It would remain to be seen how much the woman would share of her observations with Annais but she couldn't let the possibility that Mia would report on her too to affect her behaviour too much. The most important thing was that the mission succeeded.

 

Annais smiled openly at his comment about being diplomatic. It was the bread and butter of Gray Sisters and the Tower wouldn't send someone who was clumsy with words. She nodded slightly and unconsciously as she fully agreed that the situation was regrettable. His smile when he spoke of his... Bonded Aes Sedai was both promising and disturbing. It resembled too much how a Sister might have expressed amusement over the quirks of their Warder but it spoke good of the man that he didn't resent Serena and seemed to like her despite her displays of temper. "I genuinely hope that the situation will get settled as soon as possible. Then you can sleep decently again, and well, we all can."

 

"It is just fair that you get to ask questions when I do the same." That left her neatly the option to not answer them if they were too risky. "I prefer a dialogue to an interrogation. But for the questions, I am curious as to what was your opinion of the White Tower before the event and how has it changed since. Such close personal contact to an Aes Sedai could affect things. Has it done so? This all is certainly a new experience to me. My specialisation and interest has always been something else than the male channelers but I think that it allows me some less bias." It wasn't maybe wise to bring up the Red Ajah but that was something the Asha'man would think anyway when they thought of Aes Sedai. And some candidness and personal confidence was necessary to establish a connection. "From what I have seen so far, you are no different from ordinary men, soldiers preparing for a battle. You just use more... unconventional means and are more dedicated to forging yourself into weapons."

 

Annais Nevell

Gray Sister

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  • 3 weeks later...

Arath considered her question for a moment.  His opinion about Aes Sedai?  "Usually the Red Ajah speaks for the Aes Sedai in general as far as the Asha'man are concerned.  There's an understandable distrust there, as I'm sure you would agree. 

 

"Personally, I never thought much about it.  I would simply have avoided all contact with the Aes Sedai in order to keep things simple.  I met one of your sisters in Illian, and we didn't get along too well.  Neither of us trusted the other very much." That was quite the understatement.  He was certain that Arette would have had him gentled at the first available opportunity if given a chance.

 

"Really, I don't think things have changed much lately.  It's hard to get past two thousand years of bias in just a matter of days.  Especially when we get to see how our 'guests' can wriggle around any oath or promise.  We've even seen them rationalize their way out of direct orders.  It's very hard to trust them."

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