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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

That Which Awaits (Attn: Covina)


Raeyn
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Ferena had been pensive ever since receiving her summons from the Wise Ones, and she wasn’t sure that feeling was going to go away anytime soon.  The entire trip to Rhuidean had been fraught with heavy thinking – why her?  What had she done to catch the Wise One’s eyes?  Not that she wasn’t honored beyond belief to be selected, but she couldn’t understand what she had done to garner this duty.

 

<i>”I mean, all I’ve done with my time was grow up, maybe help some of the other children of the sept out with this and that in my free time.  Nothing special with that, not really…”</i>

 

Eying her father, she smiled suddenly.  Both himself and her mother were thrilled beyond belief.  Both had wanted to see her on her way, and it had been both nice and stressful.  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a chance to travel with both her parents; her mother normally stayed home, leaving all the traveling to her father.  Still, she had been happy for the transit time.  It felt good to walk beneath the strong sun, and with her parents there to talk to each other, it left her ample chance to mull in her own thoughts.  Not that it did any good – she didn’t know what she was going to be facing, only who her contact would be on the mountain.

 

So when said mountain came into view as they made their way towards Rhuidean, Ferena’s stomach was a-quiver.  She had heard that some who went into Rhuidean didn’t come out, but only knew that to become a Wise One, she would have to enter the city twice in her training.  “What if she didn’t make it?”  she’d asked of her parents en route, and they had just chuckled gently before replying, “There is more to you than you give yourself credit for – you will do well.”

 

Either way, the moment of truth was drawing near.  They picked their way up the rocky path to find a small party camped out on the slopes.  Gulping, she steadied herself and approached, “Hello, I am Ferena.  I was told to meet with the Wise One Covina upon this mountain…”

 

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Covina’s spoon swirled in her cup making a steady tinkling on the side of the cup. Around the edge of the pillows crouched gai’shain in case she and the other Wise One’s needed anything, but all their attention was on the silent Covina.  It took days for anyone to return from the city, a mystery of the columns and rings that no Wise One before her had been able to solve, but long about day 5 she would feel a fluttering in her belly. Too many times she’d left the slopes after ten days, saddened at their loss and angry that there had been nothing more to be done but to return the girls belongings to her family. Sometimes the objects of their daughter’s death were a comfort and for others it was a constant reminder of failure and loss. All woke from the dream eventually, but that did not mean all could welcome death as openly as her husband seemed too.

 

Ghaul had left the day before, leaving her to Wise One’s work he had said. She knew that he needed to be with the hold, and that he’d only come because of the child, but she was not shamed to admit she hated to see him go. With these women she was their stern leader and guide and there was seldom a moment of weakness shown. Those weak moments were reserved for private times alone with Ghaul., and even then they didn’t happen often. Rubbing her hands across her belly she could feel the babies kicking and squirming inside. It wouldn’t be too much longer now…

 

“I need air, Adara, Mani accompany me.” She named the two Wise One’s closest to her, those she thought of as near Sisters, and led them out onto the rocks of the slope. Before she’d been able to begin her private council the face she knew as Ferena’s appeared over the hill.” Standing with only a little trouble Covina turned to meet the newcomer.

 

“Welcome Ferena” Covina’s hard gaze swept over the child’s parents and dismissed them just as quick. There would be time to welcome them once this last girl was sent. With a small gesture from Covina a gai’shain went to gather the other Wise One’s and see to the parents.

 

“Come, we can begin right away. “In Rhuidean you will find three rings, arranged so.” Covina used Saidar to draw the rings as they would be seen. “Step through any one. You will see your future laid before you, again and again, in variation. They will not guide you wholly, as is best, for they will fade together as stories heard long ago, yet you will remember enough to know that some things must be for you, despised as they may be, and some that must not, cherished hopes that they are. This is the beginning of being called wise. Some women never return from the rings; perhaps they could not face the future. Some who survive the rings do not survive their second trip to Rhuidean, to the heart.”

 

They were grave words that carried weight; stepping back to allow the others their turn Covina was again the last to kisses the woman’s cheeks. “Come back to us” Watching the last of this trip enter carried as big a relief as it did a burden in her eyes. Only the days would tell who would return.

 

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Taking a deep breath, she shot a reassuring smile over her shoulder to her parents and began to remove her garments as Covina spoke to her; her shift followed her bulky skirt, which in turn followed her blouse, all folded carefully and left in a pile at the Wise Ones’ feet.  Her shoufa went on the pile last; the sudden heat made her head swim a little.

 

As Covina wound down, the other Wise Ones stepped up in turn to kiss her cheeks, “Come back to us.”

 

“Come back to us.”

“Come back to us.”

 

And Covina the last, “Come back to us.”  A final kiss, and nodding to herself, she took off down the mountain for the city beyond.

 

----

 

Her feet carried her down the rocky slope as fast as they could.  However, she was no Maiden, trained in running all day to battle, and she could feel herself tiring as she neared the city proper. <i>”At least that… cloud?!  Looks refreshing”</i>

 

She made her way through the wall of mist; it seemed as if it would never end.  However, it suddenly did, and beneath a misty dome, she gasped in wonder at her first sight of a city.  “It’s so... strange… and yet, beautiful,”  Ferena whispered to herself as she made her way down the avenue.  Tall structures greeted her view no matter which way she looked; many of the buildings contained exquisite stained-glass windows, where there was actually any window to be seen..

 

Suddenly, her destination loomed before her.  Amidst a random-seeming collection of odds and ends, she saw it standing there – the rings Covina had described upon the very air for her.  She stared for a long minute; her fists were clenched tightly to her sides.  “It’s the future one way or the other… “

 

Taking a deep breath, she stepped through a ring.

 

Images flashed before her eyes.  Lives that might be, lives that would be, but for all that she made certain choices in her life.  One atop the other, they came at her.  A babe was laid in her arms – a son she might have named Taril.  A snake bit her as she left Rhuidean, and she died instantly.  It was decided that she was too weak in spirit to be a Wise One, and so she decided to prove her worth as a Maiden.  In another, her rejection led her to take up her father’s job, where she succeeded and failed as many times as there were numbers in the universe.  People died, people were saved.  A strangely mute girl shifted with her through a dream; what was the meaning of it?  Pictures and light, truth and fictions, it all screamed at her until…

 

Ferena wasn’t sure how long it had been since she had entered the arch, but it seemed as if the sun had hardly shifted at all.  She felt drained physically, yet her brain still darted around the fragments of… dream? prophecy?  that darted around her mind still.  It was already fading so quickly, but standing around wasn’t an option – her throat made sure of that.  “Water… if only I could drink that mist, but…”  she shook her head and willed her extremely weak-seeming legs forward, “But I’ve got another mountain to climb.”

 

She took her ease on the return – that is to say, didn’t force herself to run at speed up the mountain.  She didn’t understand why she felt so weak; hadn’t she only been in there moments, or maybe hours at most?  She was convinced that it was the same time coming out as it had been coming in, but that didn’t make sense; she was pretty sure that it was definitely the same hour of the day!  And why was she so very hungry? <i>”Sure, I didn’t have a meal before going in, but why… so hungry, so tired and thirsty…”</i>

 

And what had she learned from this experience?  Already the fragments chance remembered upon coming out of the rings had faded into the mists, other than a name or two. <i>”Why would the name Iriana mean anything?  I’ve never met anyone with such a strange name before!  And something about a child named Taril… my… my child?”</i>

 

Her thoughts cut off as she realized that she was almost back to her destination.  Already, she saw figures waiting on the ridge.  Determination set back in, and she picked up the pace – the future was waiting.

 

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Ferena was the second to arrive back, and the knot that had formed in Covina’s center loosened once again. Only one more and she would finally be able to relax. She always felt a great responsibility when she sent a woman to her fate in Rhuidean, but even more so since these girls would all be apprenticed to her.

 

With her hands on her stomach she watched the child climb back up the slope. Immediately water and blanket was provided. “Welcome back to us Ferena” With the still strong arms of a former maiden Covina supported the girl as she led them back to her tent. The other Wise One’s and Melanas were already there with ointments and hot tea. When night fully fell they would take to the sweat tents and fully give welcome to the new woman in their midst.

 

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Smiling tiredly, Ferena let herself sag into the pregnant woman's arms.  To her surprise, she felt tears welling up in her eyes. <i>"Why.. why am I...?"</i> her mind started to wonder before she started to take hold of herself.  <i>"It was just the shock of the experience, of something new and strange.  Do you really want to get yourself kicked out of training before you start properly?"</i>  Taking a deep breath, she dabbed at her eyes with a filthy hand and let herself be led into a tent.

 

"I'm sorry, Wise One," she started, "I.. I guess it was a shock and all.  I'll be fine in a moment, surely."  Realizing once again that she was clutching a waterskin, Ferena drank deeply of the lukewarm water.  Her head was swimming still from the jaunt through the harsh sunlight, and it was as if all her energy had completely fled the second she had been ushered into the relative cool of the shade.  At least, perhaps, she could take a little rest for now...

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