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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

The city sleeps in moonlight **Nyssa**


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The moon was rising over Tar Valon. Silver rays of moonlight were turning the night sky into a bright and pure indigo instead of it's usual inkblack. The night was cold as well; it was only a few degrees above freezing point, but there was still somebody braving the garden on top of the White Tower. On top of that large building with it's spiraling pyres, a garden lay. Hardly anyone ever came here to tend to the flowers and bushes, but that didn't really matter because they were of the hardened kind, the kind that grew without much encouragement. Battle-hardened, Lanfir called them in her mind, weathered through the elements and all the odds. Like me, she thought, and then grinned at the melodrama of her thoughts.

 

After her initial meeting with Nyssa a year ago, she had taken to coming here a bit more often. Somehow it seemed to orden her mind if she would be left with all her thoughts (melodramatic as they were, sometimes) to dissect them under the nightly sky and the icy wind. Sometimes Nyssa woulld join her and they would talk of the current state of affairs in the world and the Tower, but also about novices and accepted and ajah politics and mundane things about where to import honey and gossip about people in the Tower that they knew. In the past year, Nyssa was becoming a bit of a friend to Lannie. Not completely, because for that the younger woman was too skilled at playing politics and dodging questions... but where it came to spending time and bouncing off ideas she was a good person to talk to. Lannie appreciated Nyssa's presence if she was at the Top Garden, as they had gotten to call it, and she thought that the Gray Sister had similar sentiments about her.

 

A while ago, she had a low table and two chairs brought to the Top Garden, in addition to a small cabinet that would withstand the weather here where there was hardly any shelter.Within the cabinet, there was a pot with tealeaves, a cettle and a teapot of Sea Folk porcelain, with matching cups. Crazy as it might sound, Lanfir often enjoyed a cup of tea-with-honey while she and Nyssa looked down over the gorgeous view of Tar Valon and talked.

 

Tonight, the sky was pure. The moonlight was so bright that it nearly could have been mistaken the sun if the light was not so cold and silverwhite and the shadows it cast would not be so inkblack.In the vicinity of the moon, Lanfir could hardly make out the stars. Beneath the silver moonlight, the city of Tar Valon was sleeping. Lanfir thought for a moment of all those people down there, sleeping quietly while around them the world was crumbling and readying itself for the Last Battle. It will happen in most of your lifetimes, probably. It will happen in mine. We'll see it and the world will be rendered in blood and fire... and then it will change forever. And here we are, living and breathing and sleeping as if nothing is going to happen, as if nothing is going to change. People were strange like that; so was she.

 

Here she was, standing on top of the Tower; the Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin Seat... and she was wrapped in a fur-lined cloak because it was bloody cold here at night, even when the wind had gone to rest earlier that day. Arguably the most powerful woman in the world, and she was warming her hands around a teacup and hoping that another woman would show up so they could have a chat. Lanfir had been restless again tonight; she had been tossing and turning next to Lyanna who had been blissfully asleep. Everything seemed so blissfully quiet in the past week that Lanfir was growing suspicious. It felt like a silence for the storm, and she hated the feeling. For once there was no immediate damage control and it felt odd not to deal with an imminent crisis for once. Life was still busy, but there was time to sit down and deal with things, instead of patching up one problem only to find that another had been created.

 

Why then, was she so suspicious? She couldn't help it, though. Perhaps it were her battle-instincts itching for a fight. Cabin fever, her fellow soldiers in Kandor had called it all those years ago. Was she experiencing cabin fever?

 

Behind her, she heard Nyssa enter the Top Garden. Lanfir turned around and smiled at the Gray Sister. "Evening, Nyssa," she said. "Experiencing a bout of nightly cabin fever again? There is tea, if you want."

 

~ Lanfir

 

 

Silence filled the hallways that Nyssa ventured in. Even though she was a living, breathing creature, she made no more sound than a whisper. The rustling of her clothing was perhaps the only noise made, as her footsteps were so light that she might as well have been floating. Year after year of midnight wandering had made her a skilled sneak, even if she only called herself so in her mind. Not many were aware of her wandering. If they had been, one of the many sisters within the White Tower might have felt the need to speak to her about it, asking what it was she searched for when the world slept. As it was only a few servants and the one she called Mother knew. Her path was determined now, if anyone could call her meandering ways determined. Nyssa never went anywhere directly. It just wasn’t in her nature.

 

Slowly but steadily she made her way to the top of the White Tower, where she expected to find the Amyrlin Seat. Her lips curved in a slight smile as she thought of her many meetings with the most powerful of Aes Sedai. Those of her faith would be green with envy if they knew how close Nyssa could come to her. Merely a step away. A less patient person might have done something rash during the year they had been meeting. But not Nyssa. Never Nyssa. Not when Lanfir Leah Marithsen might still be useful to her in ways that did not involve death.

 

Than night Nyssa had wandered through the dreamscape, counting the dreams of those who slept peacefully within the walls of the White Tower. Some warded their dreams, and some did not. She ended her journey in the same place as she always did. The dreams of the Keeper and the Amyrlin. She hadn’t been surprised when Lanfir’s dreams had been missing. Instead she had risen, dressing herself swiftly in a deep red silk dress, and wrapping her Gray shawl around her shoulders. If the Mother was waiting in the Top Garden, Nyssa would not disappoint her. Besides, it would be bad form to let any kind of opportunity slip. Before she left her room she picked up the platter of cookies that Finella had brought her earlier that day. Nyssa had often wondered about the Sitter. Was her cheerful nature but a façade, or was it real? Either way, it worked. Sometimes Nyssa wished she had Finella’s natural brightness.

 

Though she was as silent as she had been the entire way to the Top, Lanfir still heard her coming. Nyssa smiled as she approached the woman. "Experiencing a bout of nightly cabin fever again? There is tea, if you want.". Nyssa put the platter of cookies down on the small table. “Always.†She said. She didn’t quite know which of Lanfir’s questions she was answering. The night’s chill seemed to wrap itself around her, and Nyssa found herself embracing Saidar, and shielding herself against it. She glanced at Lanfir’s fur cloak. “I’m afraid I’m not as hardened against nature’s attempts to get rid of us as you are.†She said as she walked over to the edge of the Tower. That too had become a part of the ritual they seemed to follow. Nyssa would walk to the edge, and watch the city for a moment. Then she would return to Lanfir’s side, and they would talk.

 

“Have a cookie.†She said, a catlike grin curving her lips. “Finella baked them. I don’t know how the woman finds time to bake perfect cookies between being a Sitter and a mother hen.†She joked. Nyssa settled in the free chair next to Lanfir. “All seems quiet in the world, don’t you agree?†she said, pouring herself a cup of tea. The moonlight cast it’s eerie light over the garden, and as Nyssa glanced sideways towards the Amyrlin Seat, she couldn’t help but notice how ghostly the elder woman looked. She turned away, trying to chase the memories of the world of dreams out of her mind. This was not Tel’aran’rhiod, and not everything had a meaning. Sometimes it was hard to remember that. “Have you heard about the return of Ata?†she asked. She was in no mood to chase around subjects she wanted to discuss. Not yet, at least.

 

~Nyssa

 

 

As always in the past few months, Nyssa embraced saidar to ward herself against the night's chill. It seemed to Lanfir that she had seen the gray sister do this many times before in this blasted winter that just did not seem to end. She watched as Nyssa walked to the edge and looked out over the sleeping city for a few moments before she joined Lanfir on one of the seats. "Have a cookie," she invited with a mischievous grin. “Finella baked them. I don’t know how the woman finds time to bake perfect cookies between being a Sitter and a mother hen.â€

 

Lanfir, craving sweetness at the late hour as usual, took one of the cookies and noted the taste of honey melting on her tongue. Honey cookies. Nyssa knew her too well, to bring these. She closed her eyes for a moment, savouring the taste.

 

Next to her, Nyssa was pouring herself a cup of tea. “All seems quiet in the world, don’t you agree?â€

 

Lanfir had her mouth full of cookie crumbs, so she just nodded in agreement. Funny, how they agreed tonight. It was exactly the silence that had made her feel so restless. No disaster recovery management and promptly Lannie didn't know what to do with herself. It was ironic, really.

 

“Have you heard about the return of Ata?†Nyssa asked then, sipping from her cup of tea. Straight to the gossip. Lanfir smiled. She was wondering when people would start asking questions about it. As it was, it had only been a few days.

 

"Yes, I definitely heard from it. I've talked to her, too... even more than that. She held the Oath Rod and swore the Three Oaths. I welcomed her back as Aes Sedai. Isn't it horrible, what happened to her? I looked at her and couldn't stop thinking what it would be like, to lose your ability to channel. To be thusly handicapped, it's like losing the light in your eyes. Or the joy in your life." She looked at Nyssa, sitting in her shield of Air that protected her from the night's chill. "She was healed, that was a miracle. Lwena has truly given her and us a great gift with her discovery. But I bloody surely wouldn't want to trade poor Ata, what with the loss of almost half her strength and what she's gone through..."

 

~Lanfir

 

 

The reaction Lanfir had to the mere thought of being stilled was the same that Nyssa had, when she had first heard of Ata’s return. Being who she was, and with the connections she had, it had been only hours after the former sitter had returned. Since that moment several nameless forces within the White Tower had been searching for the knowledge Lwena held safely within her mind. The influence of her allies ran far though, and as it was the knowledge was already being passed on to those who awaited outside of the Tower. A great deal of talent was needed to achieve even the slightest portion of the results Lwena had gained from her experiment. Nyssa knew that there were some very talented and dangerous people out there, just waiting to use to information to their benefits.

 

All these thoughts and more she hid by taking a sip from her tea. After a moment she put her cup down, and pulled her shawl a little closer around herself even though she didn’t feel the chill of the night the way Lanfir must have felt it. “Half her strength…†Nyssa shuddered at the thought. To be unable to light a candle without a great deal of effort. To no longer be able to enter the dream fully. It was a horrible thought, and a horrible reality which she had to avoid at all cost. Yet she faced it from both sides of the coin. Lanfir’s crusaders for the Light would happily sever her if they ever know about her persuasions. The irony was that the threat from those of her own side of the coin was perhaps even greater. It was no wonder the followers of the Great Lord of the Dark had never accomplished something even remotely close to world domination since the days of the Dragon. They were too pre-occupied with bickering amongst themselves.

 

“A frightening thought indeed.†She confessed, peering at the contents of her cup of tea. She emptied the cup swiftly, as if it contained something stronger than tea to soften the edges of the news about Ata. “That poor woman. How will she cope with the loss?†Nyssa couldn’t imagine how. To still have the sweetness of Saidar within your grasp, but to know you would never use it for great things again. A smile curved her lips. “And that coming from me. A mediator, who more often than not uses no Saidar at all to get people to do as she sees fit. Ata has survived this, she will survive more. I’m glad she returned to us. She is, after all, a beacon of hope in these dark days.†Hope, that perhaps the Aes Sedai of now had grown stronger, maybe even as strong as the Aes Sedai of old. Nyssa decided to see how Lanfir felt about that.

 

“There have been rumours about talents like the one Lwena possesses. Things of old. People with yellow eyes and a bond with wolves, and people who read the future in dreams. Do you think it’s a sign? That the time draws neigh?†there was no need to explain what time she spoke of. They had discussed the battle that would end all battles before, and she knew that it was always on Lanfir’s mind.

 

~Nyssa

 

 

“A frightening thought indeed," Nyssa admitted. Her voice was thoughtfull in the still icy air. “That poor woman. How will she cope with the loss?†She paused for a second and they both wondered for a bit, before she continued her musings. “And that coming from me. A mediator, who more often than not uses no Saidar at all to get people to do as she sees fit. Ata has survived this, she will survive more. I’m glad she returned to us. She is, after all, a beacon of hope in these dark days.â€

 

Nyssa was right. It was great to finally receive some good news after all the disasters that had been plaguing them as of late. The Fall of the Stone of Tear, Dragon Reborn, the Black Tower growing exponentially, the catastophe that they nowadays just called Dumais Wells, Forsaken on the loose (she had to cringe as she thought of Ja'varan), Chachin falling to the Shadow (Oh, Kandor - how she had wished to hop on a horse and to join the sisters going into Kandor, to fight or the land and people that had been stolen, raped, murdered from under their hands... why had they not seen it coming? Why?)... to hear that it was indeed possible to Heal a Stilling was a miracle indeed... finally some sweet victory, however small it might seem. Light knew they needed it.

 

Nyssa's thoughts were obviously meandering in another direction. “There have been rumours about talents like the one Lwena possesses. Things of old. People with yellow eyes and a bond with wolves, and people who read the future in dreams. Do you think it’s a sign? That the time draws neigh?â€

 

Lanfir took another cookie and nodded thoughtfully. "Definitely. I am not a Brown, nor am I specialized in the Karatheon Cycle like Lyanna is, but I think it is a sign. The Pattern is desperately trying to ready itself for the Last Battle and crazy things are happening to make it so. I always thought that for Tarmon Gai'don to come, we would have to live in a completely different world. But here we are in transition, and I think we don't have much time left before the field is levelled and the time comes for the Dragon Reborn to face the Shai-- the Dark One." Why had she nearly named the Father of Lies? What posessed her? She had only done that once before, during the fall of Fal Dara, when the walls exploded. She shook her head to get rid of the thought and smiled apologetically. "It seems very unreal to realize that this will indeed happen during our lifetime. We will see Tarmon Gai'don..." she smirked, "...and probably die horrible in it, but we will be alive to see some of it. This is what I hoped for when I trained my Battleweaves and fought in the Blight. The Battle to end all battles, to fight the good fight." She grinned at Nyssa and picked another cookie from Finella's tray. Light, but those were addictive! "I guess you can take a Green out of her Ajah, but you can't take the Ajah out of a Green.This is off the record, of course, but when Chachin fell, I wanted to go to Kandor so badly... but because of my station, I can't. I had to send some of my former Ajah Sisters. And that ached, strangely enough. I felt constrained. Lyanna and I talked extensively, and she told me that we will be there for the hardest battle of all, that was all that mattered."

 

Yet when she thought of Kandor - which was like a second home to her, after having there on the border of the Blight for the better part of two decades - her heart still cringed. Lyanna was right, and even Nyssa was nodding at her words, but it still hurt. She did want to fight, but there was no way to do so. Sometimes she wished she had never applied for Amyrlin... but she knew she wouldn't have wanted anyone else in the position. "Seems like I am stuck here until Tarmon Gai'don. Once, that seemed an eternity away. And now, with all the signs, all the prophecies being fulfilled... I think we have a year left. Maybe two, if we're lucky.. but not much longer."

 

~Lanfir

 

 

The little hints of her faith, and her thoughts that Lanfir let slip through in conversations were only part of the reason why Nyssa enjoyed the time spent in the top garden so much. The little hints about strategy and actions taken that she could deduct from their talks had given her much prestige among the more secret of her Ajah’s. It had also persuaded some of her dark sisters that acting against the Amyrlin rashly would be wrong. They would wait until chaos ensued to act, if they would act at all. In a way the Black Ajah was far more reactive than they thought they were. That made them good at grasping opportunities, but less so in carrying out well-laid plans. Nyssa didn’t particularly care about what the ajah was good at. She had her own skills, and she would always trust on those before she would trust on something as fickle as an Ajah filled with ambitious and devious women.

 

“I don’t think I’ve touched the Karatheon Cycle in over a decade.†She mused as Lanfir mentioned it. It was interesting to hear that she and the Keeper did spend a significant amount of time pondering on the future as it was hinted at in various prophecies. “But I do suppose the signs are there.†Was her own dreamwalking not such a sign? Nyssa’s eyes narrowed slightly when Lanfir Leah came close to naming the Great Lord of the Dark. When the Amyrlin glanced over to her, she pretended she hadn’t noticed. It was an interesting fact though. Apparently Lanfir thought enough of the Dark Lord to almost name him. Even better was that she obviously thought of Him by His name, and not by one of his many titles. Nyssa stored the information for future reference.

 

Lanfir continued talking. Nyssa smirked when Lanfir joked about dying horribly in the Last Battle. “Some more horribly than others.†She muttered. Winning that battle was quite important for her, after all. It had been the one gamble on which she had bargained her life. If the coin fell the wrong way, she would be dead, and far more so than Lanfir could ever imagine. If the coin did fall her way… a slight shudder passed through her. She tried not to think about that option all that much. Lanfir confided in her some more, when she spoke of Chachin. Nyssa had heard of course. Some of the stories were a little more outrageous than others, but from what she had managed to gather, she knew it was safe to say that the Chosen had been involved, and that Demandred didn’t get out of that battle alive.

 

It was a surprise to hear that their Amyrlin, who had been appointed to keep the peace, hungered for battle so much. You really couldn’t take the green out of anyone. Nyssa had never seen the charm in a field littered with dead people, but when Lanfir spoke, it was with fire in her voice. People would follow her to Tarmon Gai’don. They would follow her into the home of the Great Lord, and cheer her on as she spat in the face of the Nae’Blis. And then she would die, and they would despair, for she was the figurehead of all that was good and pure, of all that was powerful under the Light. Perhaps she would convince her Ajah that Lanfir Leah Marithsen was exactly the Amyrlin they needed to win the last battle from.

 

“So many things to prepare for.†She mused, thinking not only of the Last Battle, but also of every battle that would come in between. “Somehow I don’t think that those last years before Tarmon Gai’don will be peaceful. There has been so much strife in the past year. And now, with the Dragon Reborn all seems to be rushing towards the end.†She shivered again. “I hope we’re ready.†I hope we’re all ready. Nyssa was not a violent person. Not like some of her persuasion. Ambitious, yes. Devious, yes. But bloodlust was one of the charges they would never put on her. If Tarmon Gai’don could be fought over a game of Stones, rather than a battlefield, she would chose the first option. She felt that her hopes were in vain though. The Dark Lord demanded a victory, and his victory would have to be complete.

 

“But let us talk of more cheerful things.†She said, turning to smile at Lanfir. She really didn’t want to think about the war right now, even though it loomed over her head like a blade. Then again, it wasn’t just her head it loomed over. “Tell me something about when you were younger. When you didn’t have to stay within these walls.†She took one of the remaining cookies from the plate, before Lanfir could eat them all.

 

~Nyssa

 

 

Her words struck a chord with the Gray Sister, Lanfir could see that. Nyssa's dark eyes were distant in the bright moonlight as she pondered the subject. "I hope we're ready."

 

I'm supposed to be ready, as a Green. Now all I have to do is make sure that the Tower is, as well. And let's not forget the rest of the world... The thought itself was nauseating.

 

“But let us talk of more cheerful things," Nyssa then said. She smiled brightly, while she took a cookie from the plate. Those things definitely were addictive! “Tell me something about when you were younger. When you didn’t have to stay within these walls.â€

 

Lanfir leaned back in her chair and smiled as she felt a tendril of a night breeze play with her loose curls. "When you say that it suddenly makes me feel old, you know that Nyssa? I am well aware that I've lived beyond many people's normal lifespans and it all feels natural to me - until someone calls me old and then I am startled. How can I still be alive? I wonder at those times, with the life I've led so far. I could have been killed dozens, hundreds of times over and I'm still here. It seems insane, with all the danger I've seen. And that while I've only really brushed with death once. It's been close many times, but never as close as it was that day in Fal Dara." The memory still hurt, even after all those years.

 

"Perhaps you heard the name of Gytta Tarkene; she was a Gray Sister a hundred years ago. Newly raised. She was the niece of the Keeper, actually. She was a bright young woman, with a peaceful mind and demeanor. She had the nature of someone who you just wanted to please. She was a born mediator. How did she end up in the Battle for Fal Dara, you might ask... or not, since I am not being very straightforward in my telling. We lost her during the Battle of Fal Dara in 914. She had been in the neighbourhood when the call for backup came from Shienar, so she had come to our aid. She had a warder, bonded on the battlefield of all places. Or perhaps they had not been bonded yet, I am not sure anymore."

 

Lanfir stared in the distance, in the moonlight-filled night over the sleeping city, lost in memories. Gytta, with her bright dark eyes, and her Jeran. She had been so madly in love. "He was injured during the battle. There were no Healers around but me. I've studied with the Yellows because I specialized in battlefield healing. But although I have the strength, I do not know enough for the most complicated things. I am not skilled enough and that day, that day it broke me up. It didn't help that I'd been up over 36 hours of which I'd spent most channeling and fighting for my life, but I do not want to find excuses for what I did."

 

She closed her eyes for a moment, reliving that horrible day again as she told about it. The city wall, how it had exploded. The fights; the Shadow in the city near the brink of falling. Two Earth-talented sisters had erected the walls again and then the slaughter had begon between the walls of the city. They had taken heavy losses by the time the city was clear again. And then Jerad had been brought in and Gytta had begged, oh, how she had begged... "She asked me to try at least, her love was dying and even though it seemed impossible, maybe there /was/ a chance... and I indulged in her wish because I pitied her. I knew that he'd probably die, but for her piece of mind I wanted to give it a try - exhausted as I was. A try that would have phased any Yellow. His skull was broken, his brain tissue was exposed, he was bleeding to death and he'd probably lose most of his mind and functions if we would be able to keep him alive, but I did it. They linked... Gytta, Lyanna and Taya - to give me strenght. But the weave, it was the most complicated thing I've ever done, and we were slipping. The amount of power that we channeled..." Lanfir shook her head silently, as if to deny their foolishness, their desperation in that horrible moment. "I was so tired, I could not think anymore. I dropped my weave and Gytta, strung up as she was, she grabbed control over it - she took control of the link and the weave - in her panic, she was faster than I was. Perhaps I could have corrected my mistake, but perhaps not. Fact is, she went for my weave, and she couldn't hold it. She was not strong or skilled enough. And the weave exploded."

 

Lanfir paused for a second. She was holding her teacup, and her hands were cupped so closely that her fingers were beginning to lose their sensitivity. Nyssa said nothing, she just listened. "It was Spirit, that hit us. Perhaps that's what saved us... Taya, Lya and I. Gytta and her Jerad died at the spot. I felt her fall out of the link, she was the first one to go. The rest of us... we couldn't channel for days. And Reile... Reile Tarkene and I used to be fast friends, before she became Keeper. Then, when Gytta died, I've never had a more bitter enemy. She hated me as much as I hated myself." Lanfir closed her eyes and smiled weakly. "I'm sorry Nyssa... this is hardly the lighter subject that you proposed. It was just the first thing that came to mind. Have you ever heard of Gytta? I hope her memory will be preserved."

 

~Lanfir

 

 

Nyssa listened attentively as Lanfir spoke of an incident that happened years and years ago. She tried to remember how old she had been back then. An Accepted? Surely not raised to the shawl yet. She could still remember the look of sadness on Dawn’s face… Then Lanfir asked her a question, and she was drawn from her memory, but not before wondering, if briefly, if she had been the same person back then as she was now. “I’ve heard of Gytta.†She said, her voice soft and warm. Consoling. Another task most Gray sisters were better at than they wished to show. Comfort was often one of the first steps towards peace. Lanfir looked as if she could use some peace of mind of her own.

 

“My mentor, Dawn, she knew Gytta well.†She smiled briefly. “As well as one gets to know one’s sisters. Dawn hadn’t been raised all that long after Gytta, I think, but you know how people can live beside each other without truly knowing one another. Especially here.†She fell silent for a moment. “Dawn was still devastated though. Gytta had been her age, and full of dreams… and love. It seems foolish, to die for such things as love when the world thinks we are incapable of feeling such things.†Her voice was contemplative again. She toyed with the fringes of her shawl for a moment, and wondered if Gytta had worn it on the day she died. How had she experienced the weight on her shoulders? A comforting embrace? A burden, holding her down, forcing her to choose between her loved one and her duty?

 

“I don’t believe in that, of course. We’re all human, after all. Duty comes first at all times, but can we truly be rational when we are confronted by the loss of a loved one? I think not. Perhaps a white sister could, but I doubt it.†She shook her head softly, before brushing a few loose strands of hair out of her face. “In the end I don’t think Gytta would have wanted to live without her love. It was her choice to pick up the weave, you did not force her. Sometimes people would do well to remember that while we are manipulators even at the best of times, we are not gods. People are still responsible for their own actions, as much as others would like to claim that the blame lies with you.†Logic coming from a Gray. It really didn’t get any better than this.

 

She smiled at Lanfir for a moment, as if that one smile would lessen the guilt that Lanfir felt. “So you left, after that happened?†Though she had been young at the time, she still remembered hearing about it. Lanfir had been a great name at that time, almost as much as she was now. When the time had come to choose a new Amyrlin, Nyssa hadn’t been surprised to hear that Lanfir had been pushed forward. She hadn’t been surprised about her choice of Keeper either. You could always trust a Green to forget all about protocol and politics, and go for what feels best. Instinct. It was frowned upon by many, but Nyssa found herself acting upon it quite often. It kept her alive, even in politics. “Why did you return?â€

 

~Nyssa

 

 

Those were hard questions; Lannie did not really like to be reminded on those long years that she had searched for herself so desperately and had not found what she had looking for. First there had been the fruitless search for Souvan, which had ended in disillusionment and Lyanna returning to the Tower without her - and such a painful parting that had been, then there had been Kandor and years filled with adrenaline, soldiering and bloodshed... the debacle in Cairhien which she had only gotten out unnoticed because of Phaedra Sedai's interference... and then. Well, wandering, basically. She had been everywhere, seen everything. She had sent anonymous Eyes and Ears reports to the Tower, to lull her guilt that she really should be in the Tower to do her work. She had learnt a lot in those years before she had settled in Tanchico, more than she thought was possible. She had seen every nation on this side of the Spine of the World save for Shienar; she thought that she could not bear to see Fal Dara again for quite some time.

 

And then Lyanna had washed up on her doorstep in Tanchico. "Why did I return?" Lanfir mused, leaning back in her chair and gazing up at the moon. "It was time, I suppose. I was reminded that even though I learned a lot out in the world, that the Tower was where I belonged." She smiled vaguely, thinking of Lyanna and herself sitting on her verandah with tea, musing about how it was time for adventure again. They had come to the same conclusion at the same time, both healed of their hurts, both feeling the Green Sister in them reawaken. "Being Aes Sedai, and perhaps especially of one of the more sacrificial Ajahs like Green and Red - it takes a lot out of you. As a soldier you lose many loved ones to battle, to breakdowns, to things beyond your control. Gytta was only one of the disasters in Fal Dara."

 

She looked at Nyssa, who was listening attentively underneath her windbarrier shield. She was wearing her shawl, Lannie noticed off-handedly. Shrouded in the shadow of her body, it's fringes nearly looked black. She blinked a few times and then smiled at the Gray Sister. "A very wise man once told me that you're not a true leader until you've lost painfully at least once. That was a hard lesson we all have to learn at some point, I suppose. Lyanna and I went back to the Tower and we were welcomed, and then we went to fight the good fight. And not long upon returning, politics happened, the Dragon Reborn happened, and here we are, you and I, sitting on top of the Tower in the moonlight... Strange, how such things go."

 

The strangest thing of all, she thought, was probably how she was always trying to share her life lessons with her sisters and friends. Lately, she felt more and more like a teacher and a mother. Maybe it came with the territory of being the Amyrlin Seat. She wondered if Karana Majin ever felt that way, before her fall. Or Myrian Copan even, who had been her idol when she was a novice. "I'm sorry, I don't want to sound as if I'm lecturing you. It's not the night for lectures." She grinned as she saw the cookie plate, that was now sans cookies. "It appears it's the night for cookie-eating instead. Please send Finella my regards and my compliments for her baking skills. Speaking of which, I hope that all is well in the Gray Quarters these days?"

 

~Lanfir

 

 

She remembered the return of Lanfir Leah and Lyanna quite well. It hadn’t been all that long ago, after all. An aura of hero-worship had filtered through the entire tower. Lanfir might not have noticed it herself, but Nyssa imagined that quite a few conversations had halted as she walked past. Not because she was the subject of the conversations, but simply because of who she was. Lanfir Leah Marithsen . Nyssa could almost hear the whisper, as if it was not merely a sister of the Green they were looking at, but one of the heroes of old. People forgot easily. What had been a failure at the time was changed into a victory instead. People were fickle that way. Historians were.

 

And then politics had happened indeed. Oh, the uproar when she elected Lyanna Sedai as her keeper instead of that Blue… what was her name again? Nyssa found she couldn’t remember. The Blue sister hadn’t made a lasting impression on her. It was probably for the best that she wasn’t chosen. Political Chaos had ensued within the walls of the White Tower, and that happened to be the chaos she thrived on. Times had been… interesting, to say the least. And they were still interesting, with all the changes in the hall, and that sense of impending doom that not only Lanfir felt. The entire tower was bustling with a desperate kind of energy. Everything was rushed. What now… what now… what if we can’t finish what we’ve started. Nyssa’s lips curved in a small smile. The chaos remained evident in every little thing.

 

When Lanfir spoke again, Nyssa was jostled out of her thoughts. It was really becoming a bad habit. Despite knowing that it was, Nyssa still found herself plotting on how to use a turn of events in her advantage at the most random of moments. She shrugged when the Amyrlin Seat asked her about the affairs in the Gray Hall. “It is as you said… politics as usual. The fact that we’re better at it than most doesn’t mean that we’re free of it.†She smiled wryly at Lanfir. “At least the peace within the Ajah has returned. For a while I was afraid that those rebels had indeed succeeded in devastating us.†She tried to keep the smugness out of her voice. Of course they hadn’t succeeded. The plan had been flawed at best. That made it obvious that they had merely been misguided lightfools. No servant of the Dark Lord would ever be thwarted that easily.

 

At least she had gotten a firm alliance with Phaedra out of it. The woman trusted her. Her, of all people. She had often wondered if she truly was the only one who saw her wicked nature. She saw it whenever she looked in the mirror. Perhaps it was the fact that she wasn’t bothered by it that kept it hidden from others. “We’re in a bit of a tight situation now though.†She said, thinking of how Phaedra had complained about the Gray Ajah choosing sides, while they were meant to be impartial at all times. “There has been some thought about breaking the alliance with the Red Ajah. The events in the past have proven to us that the Red sisters are not always capable of making decisions that are best for the White Tower.†She smiled slightly, thinking of the Dumai’s wells fiasco. That had been a nice piece of work. The White Tower would think twice now before trying to get the Dragon Reborn under their wing. And yet without the guidance of the White Tower, the young man would merely continue to create his own chaos all over the known world.

 

“Where do you stand, Lanfir?†she asked, not immediately recognising the need for further clarification of her question. Lanfir’s doubtful look reminded her of the fact that the Amyrlin could not read minds though. Such a fortunate thing that was. “In the matter of the Dragon Reborn. If he truly is the Dragon Reborn, that is.†It was a bold question, but she had learnt in the past that Lanfir reacted far better to blunt questions than she did to endless prodding for the same answers.

 

~Nyssa

 

 

“Where do you stand, Lanfir?" Nyssa suddenly asked. "In the matter of the Dragon Reborn. If he truly is the Dragon Reborn, that is.â€

 

Sometimes she truly wondered how Nyssa's mind worked. The Gray was so used to political scheming that it simmered through in every conversation they were in; it made her sometimes so vague in her expressions that Lannie had a hard time following her. Perhaps it was just because Lannie was by nature not equipped for politicking the way Nyssa and Lyanna were. I was not made for this, she had frustratedly cried out many a time. And she wasn't. She could lead and even rule, she had enough common sense and charisma to accomplish that without too much trouble, but actually politicking... that was a wholly different matter. Going out to the Hall and immersing into poltics was something she could do, but it was something that did not come naturally. She needed to prepare. People like Nyssa did it in their sleep and on silent moonlit rooftops. Moments like this just told Lannie how different they were.

 

It told her to be a bit more careful. "I think that by now, it's made abundantly clear that Jarron al'Tanin is the Dragon Reborn, even though we would like to believe he is not. Where do I stand, in this matter? It's a dangerous question to ask, but I've made my point clear in Hall matters before." Careful, and honest. She did not have any major secrets where it concerned her beliefs in the Dragon and the Light. Everybody had heard her declare against the Kidnap party int he Hall. "I believe he's the representative of the Light and that he is here to make sure that the Prophecies are all fulfilled until the moment he faces off with the Dark One. Hopefully he wins. The Tower should support him on his journey to Shayol Ghul for that last standoff; support and guide him where we can. It's what we're here for, to help him lead the armies of the Light into the Last Battle. It's what I'm trying to do, at least." Lanfir grinned wryly. "It's up to the historians and the critics later on to say if I succeeded or not. At least we're doing our best. Let's just hope it is enough."

 

She paused for a second to make eye contact with Nyssa again. "And what about you, Nyssa? Where do you stand?"

 

~Lanfir

 

 

Nyssa rose slowly, as if to give herself a little time to think of the question Lanfir asked. To be truthful, all the talk of the Dragon Reborn, the light and the shadow, the last battle… it made her uncomfortable. For years and years she had been wrapped in her belief that there was no such thing as a Creator. Indeed, that the tales of the Dragon had been no more than that… tales. Of course there had been a strong male channeller, but to break the world… impossible. And yet even now, as they spoke, things where happening. Things that should not happen. All the things that she had named parlour tricks before seemed to have a deeper meaning. It was essential for Nyssa to stay strong in her belief that there was no creator, but she found herself wavering. Too many things happened that could only be explained as the touch of the Creator, or the Great Lord of the Dark. And now the return of the Dragon.

 

“I think we should be careful.†She said as she walked towards the edge of the Tower. She liked being there, walking on the edge, balancing so that all it would take was one strong gust of wind. One gust, and she’d fall and die. And yet there had never been that much wind. It was her way of saying ‘I dare you to prove you exist’ to the Creator. The longer she remained on the edge, the stronger her resolve got. There was no Creator. She turned the Lanfir, a merry twinkle in her eye as she spread her arms. “I stand in the middle, as always.†She could see Lanfir rolling her eyes. She slowly walked back to the table. “I do truly believe that we should be careful. There are too many things at stake for matters to be left in the hands of chance. The Dragon Reborn has shown us very clearly that he will not be controlled.†She smiled wryly as she sat down. The gamble the Reds had taken had weakened their position in the hall significantly, weakening the position of the Grays in the process. The alliance chafed now. Nyssa suspected that the Gray ajah would break away soon, in fact, she was aiming for it.

 

“Perhaps it is time for us to look into matters we can control, and make sure that our control is firm.†She mused, glancing at the empty tray of cookies. “Finella will be delighted to find that her cookies are so popular among the higher echelon of the White Tower.†Again her lips curved into a smile. It was only a little less wry than it had been before. “so easy to underestimate, Finella is. Yet for all her smiles and comforting gestures, and for all her silly fancies, I have yet to meet a better Mediator. I am convinced that she could get the Creator to reconcile with his eternal enemy, should she get the chance.†She stared out over the city once more. “I must admit, I like this… peace… that we’ve been granted for now. It gives us time to prepare.â€

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Lanfir smiled wanly. "They call it the calm before the storm, usually. One last lull of peace before it's all blasted into oblivion." She looked at the younger woman on the other side of the small table and twirled a wayward strand of white hair around her finger. "I'm usually not that cynical, but I have to admit I've seen it all before. Golden days full of rest and re-charging, before things start happening. I guess it's the Light's way of giving us time to prepare. But judging from this silence, I think that it won't be long before those preparation days are over and we're thrown head-first into madness."

 

She thought briefly of battle, of hot blood on her katana, of fire and of the Forsaken that she had let slip out of her reach - one that was walking around with a thirst for revenge - she thought of armies, of mud and snow, of a city wall exploding and trolloc guts steaming on the frozen ground. She thought of loss and grief and trying to keep yourself together until the madness is over... and then thought of duty, of the Light, and most importantly of love, life, and Lyanna. "Let us pray that this calm will last for a long time. After all, the battle that's about to come our way will be one to end all. I think we deserve some time to prepare before we lose all."

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“Lose? Such a depressing notion, mother, and that coming from you.†Nyssa smiled faintly, thinking of all the things that could be lost. Just a touch, just a push. No one would ever know or suspect, not her. She was such a promising sister, such a good mediator. Always fighting for the light. If they only knew… But they didn’t and they wouldn’t. Faithless as she might be, Nyssa would not risk her own hide on this. Oh, if she could only prove that the Creator was nothing but air. Surely he would come to save his precious child, the Amyrlin Seat… But what if he would not? What if he had other plans. There was that undeniable uncertainty that kept her from acting rashly. Better to plan and plot, to make sure that no one would think to point in her direction. She had time, after all. If Lanfir was right, they would still have months before decisions had to be made.

 

“Here’s to hoping.†She said, raising an imaginary glass. “I hope that the White Tower will remain a rock among the waves of chaos, and that it will stand forever to remind us that the Light lives, and is strong no matter what the odds are. May the Light prevail.†Those last words were muttered. Such lies. It was a good thing her oaths didn’t bind her anymore, for she would find herself choking on her words if it did. There was no Light. There was no Shadow. Only life, and ambition, and the Game. That was where her loyalty remained. The only thing she had seen and felt her entire life. Light or Shadow, the game would be played until the end of the ages.

 

A tingling on her skin warned her that something had been left on her doorstep. She had warded her chambers, not as thoroughly as some of her sisters did, but enough for her to know that something or someone had crossed the wards. She rose gracefully, intent on finding out what it was. “I fear that my eyes are falling shut. Some sleep seems to be in order.†She sighed. “Something tells me that tomorrow will be a long day.†The look on Lanfir’s face made her laugh. “Worry not, mother, it is no more than a feeling. The talent of Foretelling has not come to me all of a sudden.†Just the talent of Dreamwalking, but that was not something she wished to share with the Amyrlin Seat.

 

Acting on an overwhelming urge, Nyssa placed her hand on Lanfir’s shoulder, squeezing it softly. “I enjoy our conversations, Lanfir. It is good to learn from the past, so that we won’t make the same mistakes in the future.†She closed her eyes for a moment, before releasing Lanfir’s shoulder and walking towards the stairs. As she arrived at them she glanced back once more, to see that Lanfir Leah had not risen yet. She remained seated, staring out over the city, and the world behind it. No matter how hard she tried, Nyssa could not imagine feeling as lonely and lost as Lanfir must have felt at times, when the wheel turned and turned no matter how she tried to prevent it.

 

~Nyssa Deschain

Sister

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