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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Sirayn

Seeds of Secrecy [attn: Order of the Rose]

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A scatter of solitary stars up in the sky, touched here and there with fading tints of rose, heralded messages flying to several different folk. Like the spider at the heart of a great web Sirayn twitched the strings she had tied to people of ambition, cunning and wit, devious folk who, like her, would stop at nothing to achieve their ends; and obediently, small spiders in turn, waiting in her shadow to realise their full promise, those summoned came to her call. The seeds of secrecy scattered far across a citadel just starting to fall into slumber. Scarcely a whisper stirred among the ivory white corridors, a spell of footsteps in the silence, a shift of shadow maybe while folk flitted across open spaces, nothing to warn those who lived nearby.

 

One by one the recipients of her terse messages entered her quarters. Installed in a soft white chair near the fire Sirayn watched with a cool grey gaze, fingers lightly steepled, while they came to her; from the youngest only a few decades to the shawl, to some whom she had known for a century and more; Green Ajah in the most part, with a trio to make up other colours, they stood for a great sweep of generations and causes. Their loyalties lay with her now, of course, or otherwise she would not have involved them with this at all. The mission she had in mind for them was not illegal as such; but it required a certain discretion of which she deemed few truly capable, not to mention another uncommon quality, being trustworthy.

 

Few would dare to interfere in her business at all of course. Tradition dictated otherwise and her own standing was strong. Nevertheless, it was with a certain satisfaction that Sirayn noted the arrival of all those sisters she had summoned, from Domani youngsters Lavinya and Christine to Serena, once of Saldaea, Alyria the Mayener and of course her Cairhienin counterpart, Aramina sur Dulciena. Sisters. A slight inclination of her head, fractionally more than she would have granted those of similar rank had they not been sworn to her. Their courage in breaking long held custom deserved respect and, besides, one did not scorn those few one could trust. "Thank you for attending me this evening. Take a seat if you will."

 

A careless gesture indicated chairs set out ready for their gathering. Fire leaped bright and blazing in the grate; its heat warded against the night's cool. "I have a certain task which I intend to trust to you all." Sirayn cut straight to business, though her gaze remained just as sharp on those gathered to her. "There is work to be done over near Cairhien. Something which, shall we say, requires the kind of judgement only Aes Sedai can exercise properly. I shall not be leaving Tar Valon myself and I think you will perform this task commendably in my absence, in which, I trust, you will not disappoint me."

 

"I imagine everyone will know that the city of Cairhien," briefly she looked toward her fellow Cairhienin, both as composed as ever, "is currently held by Aiel and other madmen purporting to be pawns of the Dragon Reborn. The truth of that is open to question; however, what is indisputable is that strife and hardship has hold beneath the Topless Towers at this moment, resulting in a great many refugees. Near this city they have been massing and causing some difficulty to the local town folk. There is, possibly, some danger of an uprising. I am tasking you with investigating this refugee camp, the problems within and restoring some measure of calm to the region. I need not remind you that the whole place is swarming with dangers which may not scruple to target Aes Sedai. This is your official mission. Should anyone trouble you I trust you can think of other reasons.

 

"You will also be visiting a holding in the area. If my information is correct, there is a woman at the Rashad Ranch who is skilled in certain helpful substances; drugs, herbs and poisons, if I may be so blunt, in the supply and use of which I am greatly interested. You will locate her, negotiate with her for a supply of whatever poisons and so on she will agree to send, and otherwise see what you can learn from the area. This is your real mission. You will not fail it."

 

Briefly she paused measuring the responses of those present. These were good women, some harder than others, a few highly skilled at trades she did not herself practise, and all useful to her cause. "The party will be led by Aramina Sedai." She had not yet confided in the other woman exactly what she intended, in her experience it was best to conceal all from Cairhienin as much as possible given their subtlety and cunning, but as expected Aramina sur Dulciena gave no outward sign of startlement. She rather thought this one would make it into the Hall before long. She had that marked out for some others gathered here as well; not that she could overtly place those in other Ajahs, but there were more discreet moves she could make, and lack of caution could frustrate her plans as easily as any other. "Are there any questions?"

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Aramina sat in front of the fire, carefully watching the Sisters around her. Sisters in more than just the White Tower now, she thought to herself. If our other Sisters knew of this, they would have us stilled. Not a pleasant thought and not the first time it had come to her since she had joined Sirayn Sedai's cause, but one she supressed anyway. The Wheel wove as it willed and Aramina was hardly of the mind to try to stop it. Her own part might be small, but she would do what she could with the time given her.

 

The fire crackled and Aramina noted each woman as they took a seat around her. Sirayn had drawn strange company in this group. More Greens than any other Ajah, but others dotted their numbers. It was expected, she supposed. Sirayn had to gain trust in these women and they her. Her own Ajah must have been easiest to work within without causing heads to turn. Still, Serena was of the Blue and Lavinya of the Grey. It could be interesting to see how they interacted with the Green Sisters, and each other.

 

As they all took a seat, Sirayn began explaining the reason for her summons. Cairhein. She hadn't dared step foot in her native land in years. Her eyes and ears kept her informed of what happened there, but to stand of the soil of her birth... it was hard to contain the excitement she felt at the prospect. A chance to see up close what the Aiel had done, to what this Dragon Reborn had done. Perhaps a chance to set some things right.

 

"This is your official mission. Should anyone trouble you I trust you can think of other reasons."

 

Aramina looked up from the fire, casting away her pretense at watching the flames where she had been watching her Sisters. Official mission. Meaning there was something more, something darker that had her calling them here. In her years in the shawl, Aramina had never stopped marveling at Sirayn's grasp of the Great Game. Aramina knew herself to be an excellent player as well and had often tried to watch her Captain for signs of what she truely intended. She was too skilled for that of course and they both knew it, but Aramina continued to look for the chinks in Sirayn's armor of companions. Her own machinations were just as heavily watched, she knew, by Sirayn and in the end it made her a greater player, to have so skillful a watch kept on her. It was an honor and a curse at times, but one that kept her edge as sharp as her blades.

 

Sometime, she would have to find a way to thank Sirayn properly for her influence and contribution to a young woman's initial dabblings into the wide world, but for now her attention remained solely on Sirayn and her other companions.

 

"...negotiate with her for a supply of whatever poisons and so on she will agree to send, and otherwise see what you can learn from the area. This is your real mission. You will not fail it.â€

 

Poisons? And so on. It was the so on that caught her attention and she wondered exactly what it was Sirayn was looking for. What sort of person would be dealing in that type of market? The word that sprang to mind, of course, she quickly tossed from thought. It was dangerous to think an Aes Sedai would send you to negotiate with... the word that came to mind. None other seemed to fit though. It was a puzzle that Aramina meant to figure out.

 

“The party will be led by Aramina Sedai.â€

 

Aramina kept her composure, but barely. Now that, she thought, was truely unexpected. It would have been more soothing to the whole group to use Serena as the leader. With three Greens the others could easily feel overpowered by them. Or perhaps Sirayn was hoping that Aramina's common Cairheinin background would ensure that not only would she complete their official task competantly, but that it would seem plausible to anyone outside this room why she was going in the first place. A Cairheinin sister, no matter how they said you shed your homeland, would certainly want to do what she could to help her people. Or perhaps there was more to Sirayn's needs and she trusted only a Green Sister to see to it. Or, perhaps Sirayn was simply stirring the pot to make sure chaos ruled and none of them could follow her logic.

 

She refused to sigh over the confounding problems of Sirayn Sedai's mind. No matter what loyalty she felt towards the woman, there was no telling where all this would end.

 

“Are there any questions?â€

 

A million, but you wouldn't answer them if I asked, Aramina thought. It would do no good to say it aloud anyway. There was no Sister here that didn't understand that already. "You have, I presume, a list of herbs and so on that you will wish us to work towards?" she asked. It was only the beginning of her questions, but for now it would do. In truth, she watched the other Sisters more, for their response to her Leadership and for their reaction to the missions themselves.

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Soft leather boots tied up to the knee, hardly made a sound on the cool stone tiles of the Green Ajah's Quarters. The swishing of skirts would have been too loud for Serena's liking, breeches and blouse were much easier to move in. The Blue Sisters long tight fitted coat held the only sign of her ajah; This coat, black, unlike any of her others had the flame of Tar Valon surrounded by blue stitching embroidered over her left breast only. Light, if her Sisters caught her in the Green's Quarters they would have her hide. Fortunately, for her sake and now Sirayn's, Serena was more skilled in sneaking about like a cat than most would think. Perhaps it was her small build, or the fact that she had been trained by Raisa Gaidin, she wasn't sure. Why ask questions when you have been given a great gift from the Creator? Wanting to smile, the Saldaean blue let her lips curl in a sly smile. Tilted emerald eyes shone with the spark of mischief.

 

Upon entering Sirayns quarters, Serena nodded to each woman that had already arrived.The Green Ajah seemed to have quite an interest in serving one of their own, which seemed to make sense. Even IF the Amyrlin was Raised from their own Ajah, as well. The lithe Gray domani caught Serena's eye, she would have blushed had she not been so romanticly involved with Thera, her own Gaidin. Light, those Domani could distract an ant from a mountain of sugar! Perhaps the reason the woman had chosen Gray.

 

Taking a seat, only after Sirayn gestured towards an array of chairs displayed before the hearth, Serena locked her eyes on the leader of their cunning group and listened attentively.

 

Out of the corner of her eyes she could watch the others round her. Nods and slight gestures were always expected, what they meant was a different story altogether. Had Sirayn not chosen these women so she could trust them, as she had asked Serena? Biting the inside of her cheek, Serena suddenly understood. Granted, the women could all be trusted by Sirayn. They would be sworn to her as she had been, however, they had not sworn to be rigerously honest with eachother. Oh, the tangled webs we weave, the Blue thought as she listened and watched.

 

"I imagine everyone will know that the city of Cairhien,” The Saldaean Blue watched as Sirayns gaze moved quickly over towards the two Cairhienin, wondering if the Green would honestly, outwardly show more affection towards those of her homeland. “is currently held by Aiel and other madmen purporting to be pawns of the Dragon Reborn." The fire in the grate seemed to spit at the sound of the Dragon. Serena was sure that she would one day place herself close enough to smell that boy-child's every move. However, their mission was to solve things politcally, mostly, and had nothing to do with him.

 

The thought of Cairhien being filled with the Shadow, filled with refugees and homeless children, pulled at Serena. Her Causes would be fulfilled through her work under the Order of the Rose. There had never been any doubt about that. Each 'official' reason for the Order to be there, just reaked of an 'alternative' mission. A mission that would only be dealt with behind the front of the official reason. Each woman in the room had her place in this task. Negotiating, Battle, Scheming...there was a job for each woman.

 

Glancing around the room again, Serena saw the other Aes Sedai, her Sisters in secrecy, in a whole new light. Yes, Sirayn had chosen well. Young or Old, Stern or Manipulative, Beautiful or Plain...The Order of the Rose was made up of some of the most powerful and influential women in the White Tower. They would fight by eachothers side in whatever means they could, they would die together for Sirayn if she ordered it.

 

“You will also be visiting a holding in the area. If my information is correct, there is a woman at the Rashad Ranch who is skilled in certain helpful substances … drugs, herbs and poisons, if I may be so blunt, in the supply and use of which I am greatly interested. Willing her eyes not to widen in disbelief, Serena was sure that what Sirayn spoke of could only be one thing. Probably the most dangrous herb for any channeller...no, surely not. Biting her tongue, the Blue refused to ask any further questions on that particular subject. She wished to know why, but that was not her job.

 

“The party will be led by Aramina Sedai.” Again, Sirayns cold steel eyes glanced briefly towards the young Sister. Was it because she was Cairhienin? Was it because she was a Green? Would the other women not in the Green Ajah feel slightly preturbed, as Serena did? Was she over-reacting?

 

Studying the young Green, their leader into Cairhien, with flashing emerald eyes. The Blue merely pushed her questions to the back of her mind to sort through later, and nodded to Aramina. Serena let a smile touch only her lips. Aramina Sedai would have to prove her leadership capablities to Serena before the blue would give her a full smile that touched her eyes, as well. Surely, the young Cairhienin Sister would play the Great Game with her.

On the other hand, Sirayn would not entrust her Order to someone that the others shouldn't be able to follow...surely not.

 

“Are there any questions?” Sitting back in her chair, mimicing an image of relaxation that was firmly implanted in her brain, Serena waited for the others to speak first and listened to each answer as if Sirayn were telling them the secret of life.

 

 

Serena Morrigan

Blue Ajah

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Guest Estel

As silently as possible Estel slipped through the Halls of the Tower. She was dressed in black, not at all her usual attire, though the thin, tight black dress was in her usual style. Curiously though, her slim form was hidden by a thick black coat, too thick for the weather even had she not been Aes Sedai.

 

No Sister who knew her would for a moment believe it her. The Art of Diguise. Though few beyond those who knew her best would think her more than a decent player of the Great Game, she was better than most suspected.

 

To any in the Tower, she was blunt, straightforward, and especially shallow- not the usual traits of a Sister. While that may be true, under many accounts, she used her reputation as a mask, concealing her true self. Rarely did she really open up her heart to any. She had learned this the hard way, from the very person she was going to meet.

 

The conditions of her supplication to Sirayn were unlike any grandiose swearing of fealty which one heard from a gleeman or bard. Instead, the ancient Green and jumped upon her at her weakest, manipulating her.

 

Bitterness had been her first reaction after realizing what it was she had really done and in stages she went through bitterness and hate, to self-loathing, to grudging acceptance. Now she was at the point where she could honestly, under the Three Oaths, say she actually trusted Sirayn. Because of Sirayn, she was the Sister she was today.

 

Carefully and quietly shutting the door behind her, she slipped into the room, letting the thick cloak fall to the ground as she sat beside her Ajah Sister: Serena.

 

Their 'master' greeted them as Sisters, which indeed they were in multiple forms. To some, sisters withing Ajahs, sisters of the Tower and all sisters of a greater cause they had all sworn to.

 

Not bothering to mask her momentary surprise, as all the others did though for some she could pick out small details bareing their emotions behind cool masks, she listenen as Sirayn described their true mission.

 

Upon the announcement of Aramina's leadership, Estel did not allow her curiousity to show. Aramina? The woman was a older Green, which would pacify the Greens for sure and due to her age, though it would never be mentioned aloud, the rest were likely to suffer her to lead. While not entirely pleased, Estel decided to try and remain indifferent. At least it was not Lavinya. She refused to alow herself to glare in the hated Grey's direction.

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Lavinya never responded well when summoned, especially when it arrived in the form of a terse note that brooked no argument. She sighed. She could dislike it all she liked, what was done was done, and now Sirayn was free to pull her strings like a puppeteer, and Lavinya would do nought but obey. Sirayn's promises always forefront in her mind, Lavinya glided smoothly along the twisted halls of the ancient tower as she made to answer the call, entering to find several others arrived before her.

 

As she waited her eyes flicked over her companions, shrewdly measuring each one from beneath lowered lashes. Were all of them drawn into Sirayn's service with similar promises of power and position? Several she knew to be of the Green Ajah, perhaps indicating that Sirayn's influence in her own Ajah was strong...or perhaps her knowledge of such secrets which could lead a person to swear fealty over exposure was the case. Regardless their reasons, Lavinya knew why she had done what she had. So long she had strived to fulfill her ambitions, to be the powerful woman she believed she was born to be. Sirayn had shown herself capable of assisting, and Lavinya would have been foolish to turn down the offer.

 

Lavinya listened intently as Sirayn outlined their mission, instantly perking at the thought of leaving the tower, regardless of what they would be doing in Cairhien. Travel sounded pleasant indeed. Lavinya raised a brow, the only outward show of emotion when it became apparant that there were hidden tasks in their mission. Lavinya's fingers tingled, already warming to the task at hand. It had been so long since she had had opportunity to use those skills with which she was gifted before joining thw tower. Negotiating prices was something that was as natural to her as breathing, and she had so little opportunity to flex that particular skill, besides pithy merchants in Tar Valon. Combine that with the chance to flee the shadow of the Tower for a time, Lavinya was positively eager for the experience.

 

“The party will be led by Aramina Sedai.â€Again her brow lifted, though she was not entirely surprised that Sirayn would entrust the party in the hands of a sitter of her own Ajah. Still, Sirayn was certainly not conventional, surely she could have appointed someone with more skill at negotiating - a Gray perhaps? Herself?! Mentally she chided herself. Her time would come. Sirayn had promised her all that she desired, and she would see it come to pass. Patience was all that she required, and some luck from the Creator to keep Estel's hands from her slender throat. Why Aes Sedai liked to blame Lavinya for their promised's wandering eyes and hands made no sense to Lavinya, though assuredly she was always given the blame.

 

"I'm intrigued by what dangers you may be referring to, that would not scruple to target Aes Sedai, sister." Lavinya spoke in a thoughtful tone, though her eyes gazed at shrewdly at Sirayn. "Are you inferring that we are likely to run into friends of the dark on our mission?" The question was innocent, but Lavinya was learning fast that Sirayn said little of what went on behind her mask, and burn her if she was going to go into a situation such as the one she believed was waiting for them ill-prepared and unwarned.

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Ooc: Sorry for the lateness of my response. Got a bit sidetracked by exams. ;)

 

Long ago, when imagination and desperation had first dreamed up the Order of the Rose, she had feared that the group would fall apart within months; that nothing could bind together such disparate sisters, cunning and strong willed enough to be useful to her yet so divided in their causes, into a working Order in a Tower so hostile to its very existence. The gamble she had taken first with a bold young Blue Sister and later with others had been staggering in its implications. If anything had gone wrong, all their careers would have been on the line and she especially would have been in line for the strongest punishment the Hall could mete out … and all the odds had seemed so stacked against them that she had doubted the fledgling Order would ever survive.

 

All this meant that while the fire crackled warmly in the grate and those skilled sisters sworn to her debated the tasks she had given them, Sirayn observed with her usual cool composure and an inward and fierce pride. Bright careers lay ahead of these women whom she had marked out from the masses; more than one had already begun their own path toward greatness. Yet for all their courage and cunning, these soldiers, spies and schemers had chosen to place themselves under her command. It told her that no matter all those years of striving, the lonely times and the loss and hardship, she still had that gift … the cunning, the silver tongue and persuasion, the one great dream to bind people together … the capacity to be an inspiration and a leader that she also sought in those working under her. Many still opposed her but she did not play this game for the passing acclaim of crowds. No, she had the tools she needed for that long term gain, and she intended to make it true.

 

Not unexpectedly, her designated leader did not show a moment’s surprise at the announcement that she was to be in charge on this dangerous task; it could scarcely have been predicted, Sirayn liked to keep her cards close, but this one was very capable at being cool in all conditions. On the other hand, she had anticipated some comment from the one and only Serena Morrigan, the fiery little Blue being one of few women she had a genuine liking for, though in truth she was grateful for the other woman’s unquestioning acceptance … and for the silence from young Estel Liones; a handful to be certain, somebody whose bitterness had posed difficulty for in the past, although nobody could have blamed her for her wrath after Sirayn had trapped her so skilfully at her lowest point.

 

The only member of the Gray Ajah here had such a burning drive beneath that painted, preening Domani mask that it might as well have scorched the air around her. Yet she refused to give up that weakness for young men and until she had discarded that last remainder of the child she had once been, Sirayn had little faith that she would be the Aes Sedai she had to be; as hard and cold as the iron itself, not distracted by the passing flash of a well turned calf. She had imagined that Lavinya Sedai in particular might give her trouble over her choice of party leader, since the youngster evidently thought herself more than qualified to lead any party, and found it quite suspicious that the Domani woman never challenged her. Maybe she had a better control over Lavinya than she had thought; or maybe the woman could think of better ways to cause trouble. Not a thought Sirayn contemplated with much satisfaction given the dangers they were about to go into.

 

“I will provide you with a list, Aramina Sedai.†Coolness as always on the words, though inwardly she was busy wondering whether even Aramina sur Dulciena’s undoubted talents would be enough to keep these women from each other’s throats. “There is one particular herb I have interest in. You may all have had a passing acquaintance with forkroot in the past?†she let the question linger open ended. Doubtless some would already be wondering how and in what way Sirayn herself had come across forkroot and she would be burned before she would admit the whole sorry story. How one supposedly loyal and devoted had done what he did … savagely she repressed those memories, helplessness and fear, she preferred to give the impression that she had never known such feelings.

 

She had no guarantee that these would not react the same way as a certain young Tower Guard had done anyway. They were bound to her by stronger pledges but possessed a greater measure of knowledge and cunning perhaps. No, she would not even entertain such thoughts. The one and most paramount reason why she had bound the Order of the Rose together with oaths of such great and illegal strength was so that she could finally trust them; women whom she would never have given an instant’s opportunity to turn on her in the past she could finally speak with in secrecy and confidence. It made for a difficult and desperate time since the Order had to remain so discreet but, on the other hand, at least these had sworn oaths she could trust.

 

Since she had the necessary confidence in these women it was time for Sirayn to discard her usual half truths and deception and to be uncommonly blunt. “You will all be aware of the rise of a number of channelling threats in the world of late. If not, you need to give your eyes and ears a good shaking. It is a dangerous time to be Aes Sedai, one in which the Tower faces dangers it has never taken on before, and in which we must resort to desperate measures to survive. The One Power is no longer restricted to other sisters, whom at least we could trust to have the world’s best interests at heart, nor even to rogue Dreadlords whom we can exterminate through sheer force. Saidar is being turned against us, even as tainted saidin becomes the instrument of our enemies … and we can scarce afford to face such threats unguarded. Forkroot is the future, ladies. Forkroot is one tool we cannot do without in these desperate times. Go to Cairhien. Go and bring it back for me.â€

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