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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Sam

A Ninja in the Dragon's Den. (Guess which one is the ninja!)

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When Damion stepped through his portal into the fortress interior, shadow’s peace settled around his shoulders like a mantle. No, not really, but it certainly made him feel better. Too often he was on his own: a lone m’aeshadar in a very hostile land. For a peace loving man he did not approve of conflict, least of which between his brother and sister channellers. Shadow’s peace made him feel safe. And safe was nice. The room he entered through was well lit and well guarded, but his passage was not impeded.

 

His knapsack was over one shoulder, and thin stave was in the opposite hand. Having something on hand (no pun intended!) made it easier for him to defend himself without having to reveal . . . certain aspects of his person. Thumping someone with a stick was also less likely to kill them. Murder tainted the soul, and Damion found it very difficult to stomach. He was a dread lord; not an animal.

 

As he walked through the courtyard he noticed a young boy drying his shirt with air weaves; very limited ones at that. Damion would have helped him, but it was a strange thing for an acolyte to be doing (as far as he knew) and spoke of a lesson in progress. Putting the shirt on a stick and waving it around in the air would have had better success, though. Then, so would removing the moisture.

 

He was looking for Rasputin, overseer of the Fortress, or master if the term were preferred. Unlikely as it was, he would begin his search in the Library. It was very big. Very splendid. There were various works that existed in no other place that Damion knew of and it was always nice to riffle through them.  Thom would be quick to mention any volume he believed might interest Damion, and in return Damion had brought a few things for his friend: several maps for his archives and a book on zoology, written by a sister of the Brown Ajah.  Damion expected the later would delight him.

 

. . . About four hours later, Damion managed to pull himself away. Thom had been very grateful and near bursting with excitement to share some of his new volumes with Damion, who had been more than pleased to allow his self to be tempted. By his counting it was time for dinner and there was a dining hall for that very purpose. It was the likeliest place to find his quarry.

 

Damion had visited the fortress library numerous times but seldom went any further, as such his dealings with other m’aeshadar were infrequent and he had never met the overseer Rasputin but heard much of his exploits and skills over the years. The man might almost have been one of the chosen himself.

 

Damion sat down at a table after spotting Rasputin in a raised dais at the end of the hall. The description he had been given was very precise. He ate a light meal, not allowing distractions to get in his way. This was his free time, more or less, but that did mean he was about to squander it on food and wine. He wished to make his way to Illian as soon as possible. There was much to be done, always much to be done and even his extended life was not long enough to fit all of his desires in. He was going to have to move a lot faster.

 

When Rasputin left, Damion followed. There was nothing worse than stalking someone in his own home, especially when it was such a unique home, so Damion waited only until he could see no others before calling softly: “Excuse me, M’aeshadar Rasputin?” He fished a small obsidian rock from inside his knapsack and handed placed it in the other man’s hand.

 

 

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It wasn't unusual to be stopped in the hall by this person or that for a word.  Indeed, there were a fair number who were more than comfortable to approach Rasputin within the Fortress, people who knew him well enough to know that he was not all consumed by his title or ambition.  The majority of these people were of the Aurani, or had been members before he had been forced to ask some of them to leave in order to keep the peace.  A thing that was now no longer necessary with Aginor's death, the Aurani were now Rasputin's to command with the majority deciding to remain under his leadership.  Not unexpected since most of them had served him before he and his followers had been given to Aginor by Demandred to begin with.

 

Those who had left, well, most of them had been newer recruits to the order.  People whom Rasputin had disapproved of and shunted to the side as much as possible.  Crazies who were too greedily ambitious or simply to self absorbed or insane.  Osan`gar's sickness of the mind had been catching with Aginor who had listened to Rasputin's counsel less and less, relying more on his fellow Chosen.  It had been his doom in the end.  When Aginor had been attacked and he needed anyone who could help, Rasputin and the core of the Order had remained where they were, the Fortress.

 

Things had been in flux somewhat since then, Rasputin had derived his authority from the Nae`blis and later Aginor, and now with both gone he continued on because he remained unchallenged.  But it was a precarious thing in case someone wished to make a move on the position, and why the portal room was now heavily guarded all the time, to ensure that they knew for certain who came and to be able to turn aside any party that was too large.  There would be no coup like the Black Ajah once attempted several centuries ago, there would be no change, the Fortress would stand as it always had and the Shadow's Peace would prevail.

 

But, his thoughts had drifted.  The reason for that was because the man who spoke to him was not known to him, and because of the stone that was presented.  Obsidian.  Folding his arms within the arms of his robe, Rasputin calmly spoke.  "Follow me, and not a word until then."

 

It was a good ten minutes before they reached his office.  A simple room with only the light above illuminating it, the main centrepiece was the large mahogany table with but a single chair before it and a single chair behind.  Gesturing for the man to take a seat as he closed the door behind them, Rasputin went to his own seat and made himself comfortable before sitting the rock on the table between them.  There was no need to hide his words now, the room was proofed against eavesdropping both of the power and the mundane nature.

 

"You are Duram's agent.  Who are you and why has he sent you here?"

 

 

Rasputin Felar

M`aeshadar

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“Agent . . .? I consider myself more a happy employee.” Damion supposed he ought to be used to suspicion whenever he showed up among unfamiliar people. Paranoia was chic. The sad fact was that it was in no way limited to followers of The Great Lord, who by minority should be more trusting than others, but was virulent everywhere. There was not a city he could step into without it upsetting someone, and unlike his fellows, Damion was very seldom called upon to act in any way detrimental to the happiness of anyone. Just the way he liked it.

 

“My name is Damion. M’aeshadar Damion if you feel it’s more appropriate to use the honourific; personally I do not. There are stronger, smarter and more cunning dreadlords out there and I really only got the job because everyone more suited died. Process of elimination is a wonderful thing.

 

“I am here on the orders of The Netweaver, yes, but not to embody his will. I am planning to spend some time in Illian, there is a Brown Sister there who has spent much time researching topics I am very interested in and I thought I would visit. I mentioned this to my Lord, who suggested it would be politic of me to inform you. I wouldn’t want to arrive there only to be . . . intercepted.”

 

Damion did not mention that he was aware Rasputin was involved with the city of Illian, he did not have to; that he was clearing his journey with him was enough to state it. Dreadlords were a personal bunch and did not like their plans messed with, foiled, or dragged out into the light for everyone to see. Damion liked being alive and he was determined to stay that way.

 

 

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Listening as the younger man spoke, Rasputin couldn't help but wonder whether all of Duram's followers were quite so flippant.  Well, not all of them were, but perhaps it stood out because it was so similar to the their master's own manner.  Having said that, flippant was better than condescending, which was why Rasputin did not mind so much dealing with Duram as he did others when the occasion demanded it.  In light of what had happened with Aginor, it had certainly been worth cultivating relations, he would need support if he were to hold the Fortress and Duram didn't want it.  He just wanted to make sure no one else had it either, which suited Rasputin perfectly well.

 

That Duram was polite enough to respect his interests, it was a good gesture.  Not one that Rasputin believed wholeheartedly, he was certain that if the Chosen wanted something badly enough, he would abandon the good grace he entertained, but respect was always good.  The interest in the Brown Sister in Illian was interesting though, there were two sisters there and there was only one that Duram could make the link to.  And only because they had discussed the matter, which made this Damion's interest all the more curious.

 

"I would like more details before I give your venture any blessing.  Which Brown Sister in particular and what topics?  Also, what is the manner that you shall adopt in order to learn wht you wish to know?  Ja'varan has fallen there and the Queen of Illian is ascendant, there is a lot of activity there currently and I am not particularly avid of the thought of stirring the pot there further.  Also, how long will you be staying for your visit?"

 

 

Rasputin Felar

M`aeshadar

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Against all probability and likelihood he had forgotten the Brown Sister’s name. How embarrassing. Damion could remember why he was going to see her, could say with pin-point accuracy to the second how long he intended to stay (he was a very busy man), and he could even rate on a scale of one to ten how excited by the prospect of this visit he was. For the record, one was the lowest, ten was the highest and it rated a nice, round, eight.

 

He grinned like he had just been caught by his mother stealing pie. “All right. You’ve got me there. I cannot for the life of me, hoping it won’t come to that, remember her name. If you will give me a moment I will reach down into my bag and grab my diary? I will, regrettably have to embrace saidin, or the next person in here is going to wonder why we were in such a hurry to leave that we tried to exit through the wall. It looks very sturdy.”

 

Damion uttered an unintelligible word before reaching into his knapsack, withdrawing his diary and placing it gently upon Rasputin’s desk. It glowed. Small, thin traces of power glittered across its surface. Several complicated hand gestures, words, soft touches with the power and even physical pressure later and the wards were gone. His diary could not fall into the wrong hands. It contained nothing that would damage Be’lal or his work, but it may place innocent people in jeopardy and this he would not allow.

 

He smiled apologetically, opened the lid and thumbed through the pages until at last he said, “Aha!” His eyes scanned the page momentarily before he closed the diary and slid it across the table to one side. “Her name is Arette Sedai, it turns out, and her speciality is . . . or was, the taint. A subject close to all our hearts, I think. To learn what I wish to know I will ask, of course, and hope she answers. My duration . . . I plan to stay exactly four hours, allowing an hour for tracking her down, another hour for niceties and two of actual conversation if I am lucky. If everything goes according to plan then that is how long I shall stay.”

 

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Watching as the man withdrew his diary and opened it, Rasputin failed to manage to follow the entire sequence.  Not that he was likely to ever need make use of it, but it was interesting to make note of the ability that the man exhibited.  The skill required was quite reasonable, and it was always good to be able to gauge others to better understand their limits and abilities.  It helped to ensure that one was never surprised, and while this one was seemingly nonchalant, Rasputin didn't know him nearly well enough to accept that was simply all there was to the man.

 

But, the matter at hand was more important.  Arette Sedai and her study of the taint, a stay of only four hours and he expected to have his answers?  It didn't sound plausible, or maybe the man just didn't anticipate how difficult Arette would be to access or to get to talk on a subject.  She was now an advisor to the Queen of Illian, they were knee deep in reconstruction work and he didn't see how Damion was going to get a couple of solid hours.  Not without coercion and Rasputin was not particularly keen on that thought.  There was no need to let the cat out of the bag.

 

"You will need longer than that to insinuate yourself so you can get your information without causing a disturbance.  The ground rules if you go are a simple.  Do not use threats, do not harm anyone, do not draw attention to yourself.  Duram has probably told you this a thousand times, but this time it isn't only him that could draw attention from this.  As far as anyone is concerned, you were never there and that is all there is to it.  Get what answers you can, but cause no ripples into the pond."

 

Leaning forward in his seat, Rasputin added.  "Lastly, while you are there, if you make note of any other Darkfriends in the area, I would like you to report them to me when you are done.  A simple price, but the one I ask in return for trusting you to maintain a low profile.  Any Darkfriend, you do not need to discover their allegiances.  I can discover that for myself if need be."

 

 

Rasputin Felar

M`aeshadar

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Damion would have spent weeks with Arette Sedai, given the opportunity; neither time nor duty permitted it. The four hour schedule was optimistic in the extreme, but he was sure he would have gleaned something useful in that time. He was pleased that Rasputin was giving him access to the city for a longer period of time, and without penning down a specific timetable. The best part was that the open-ended stay had been Rasputin's idea, and Damion had not even attempted to influence the outcome.

 

Not that he was stupid enough to try.

 

The stipulations were fine by him. His intentions were very similar already. He would cause no trouble, he would certainly not harm anyone unless it was absolutely necessary and reporting on any other darkfriends operating in the area was hardly an unreasonable demand. The world of dreadlords and ladies was complicated and lethal. He survived his interactions with others mostly by not having them. Damion enjoyed safe environments and any room with an inspired dreadlord could hardly be considered thus. Sometimes reality was a chore.

 

"These are fair expectations. If I see anything I feel is out of place, or anyone acting in suspicious ways I will inform you after I am done. If I believe it to be that important, I can delay my own operations for a time and report with more urgency. I also certaintly have no interest in cancelling random lives." Damion wrinkled his nose. "What the world must think of us . . . is there anything else we need discuss before I go?"

 

 

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Smiling slightly at the mention of what the world would think of them, Rasputin had to admit that the same thought strayed through his mind.  Of course, he knew the answer, they would be horrified.  They were indoctrinated, they had comfortable lies to cling to, but all those lies would be torn away to reveal the truth when Tarmon Gaidon came and the disjunction was healed with the Great Lord's release.  That which was fractured would be made whole once more, the ancient sin would be atoned for and humanity could move forward once more.

 

But, there was nothing else that Rasputin needed from the man now.  Moreover, they both had things to do and they would be best served by getting to them.  Perhaps another time, Rasputin would learn a bit more of him, maybe making a few inquiries would help as well, but for now it was best to end it.  So Rasputin simply shook his head as he stood.  "Nothing else, Shadow shelter you and may you have success in your endeavour.  Give my regards to your master when you see him."

 

Accepting the words that were returned with a polite nod, Rasputin waited until the man had left and the door was shut before he sat back down.  He would definitely investigate the man, and have him watched if it were possible while the man was in Illian.  As long as his eyes didn't betray themselves at least, especially now that Damion knew to look for them.  But that which was seamless raised no alarm.  Something to think on before taking any action.

 

It could wait till the morrow.

 

 

Rasputin Felar

M`aeshadar

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