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Two down and umpteen more to go. The excitement of being chosen to restore the portal stones had long since evolved into the drudgery of the task. It was kind of neat having a direct link to the One Power, and just being close to Jaja provided it's own thrill. But, other than that, this seemed to be a boring, tedious job. Clear the rubble. Remove all of the existing/remaining structure. Fabricate new pieces. Arrange everything just so. Install the new coloring. Seal the entire area in that special weave that will last for five or six ages. Move to the next site. Bo-ring.


Learning what needed to be done had been quite simple. The Ancient Ones were very good teachers. They didn't mind answering his or Jaja's questions. They insisted that both of them have the same understanding of what needed to be done. There were special weaves for each task. Jaja and he had caught on quickly and were praised for being so attentive and so smart. If they didn't catch on the first try, they kept trying until they had it right. Now, it all seemed so easy. And boring.


At first, Jaja had seemed standoffish. Bayree had never seen her as being shy before. Of course, before he had been observing her from a distance whereas now he was working with her sometimes literally hand-in-hand. He tried very hard not to blush when they incidentally contacted each other. In the worst way he wanted to yell at the top of his lungs what a huge crush he had on her. Until they were close. Then he wanted to find a hole to hide in. Maybe, one of these days, the time would be right and he would tell her of his attraction to her. Maybe. Someday. Anyway, now that the project was under way she was not quite as uneasy about being around him. The intense training had brought them together. They had to work as a team. Most of the weaves required a combination of powers. For now, being required to work together would have to be good enough. Later. Someday.




Such a mess. And no way out of it. Stuck. Like a bug in a bog. After all of the initial excitement of being chosen out of so many of the guardians for this project, now Jaja could almost wish that her luck had not been with her that day. How could the Pattern be so sadistic? ANY other guardian other than that miserable Bayree would have been kinder. If it weren't for the need of his half of the source, she would almost prefer to do all of the work herself. Not that there was anything specific that she could point to that made him so repulsive. He was far from ugly. And, for a male, his physique was acceptable. He didn't act goofy. He's kind of shy, but that's not all bad. There's just something about him that gives her the creeps.


He had kind of surprised her during the training. She had expected him to be thick skulled and hard to train. Most males were. Surprisingly, he caught on rather quickly. And he seemed to remember well, too. Those were pleasant surprises, indeed. He didn't clown around while the Ancient Ones were showing them what to do. He seemed to take the job seriously even though parts of the training were rather boring. He actually acted like he enjoyed intertwining his weaves with hers. It was kind of cute the way he blushed whenever they bumped against one another. He was definitely jealous of her ability to fly. She had even overheard him whispering to himself that he wished that he could. Well, he was male and she was female and that was that. He'd just have to live with it.


They seemed to be making good progress. It had only been a couple of weeks and they already had completed their second link restoration. The average observer probably wouldn't notice but Jaja could tell that they had done a MUCH better job on this one than they had on the first. If they continued to improve at this rate, the last link site should really shine! That would be some long time from now since there were so many of them to be repaired. Some were nearly totally ruined and a couple were simply gone. Oh, well. When she and Bayree were done with them they would all be as good as new! They were becoming a good team. That thought made her smile...briefly.

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"Gradhrt. Gradhrt. Gradhrt."


No matter how many times he said it, it just didn't sound right. After so many years of thinking of himself as Grzchrt, his new description just didn't fit somehow.


"GRADhrt. GrADhrt. GradHRT."


For a short instant, Gradhrt considered simply changing his name back to Grzchrt. After all. That name had served him well for so many years. Some who saw him today would still refer to him by that name. Why would it be so bad? Tradition? Protocol? What was in a name, anyway? Who should really care other than him?


This was not the first time that Gradhrt had had this discussion with himself. He remembered clearly having the same thoughts when he had evolved from Grychrt to Grzchrt. Just as he had when he quit being Grxchrt and became Grychrt. No different when he first molted from A to B. That memory was still clear, also. One would think that after this many transformations one would get used to having one's name change. It really should not be any big deal. But, Gradhrt knew that it would be several years before he was comfortable with his new name. It always was.


Grschrta understood. She had admitted to him that she still had trouble accepting her new name each time that she was reborn. She said that it was like living inside of some other person's body. The old you still felt the same. The new you was like a stranger. She said she felt violated with every rebirth. She also struggled for several years after each molting. The good part of the story was that both he and she eventually gained acceptance of their new selves. Gradhrt remembered Grschrta being quite miserable to be around for many years following her last period of renewal. He had been glad when she finally came out of it. That memory helped him to control his own temper today.


Remembering the change was a...sobering...experience. Even though he had been through it so many times that it should have become routine, even this last time had left an impact on him that he would never forget.


"It is time.", came the voice. Not his own conscience. Not the voice of any living being that he had ever met. He knew that for a fact because he remembered every being that he had ever met...clearly...distinctly. It was always the same voice. Grzchrt envisioned it as being the voice of the Creator. Or possibly the Pattern itself. Wherever the voice originated from, it was never wrong. When the voice said it was time, it was time.


Each time had been basically the same. There had been slight differences depending upon whether he happened to be near a star or in the frigid darkness far away from anything. It also seemed to matter some whether or not he had an audience. It didn't seem to matter whether he was strong or ailing. There was no specific amount of time passage involved. The voice knew when it was time. Then, he evolved.


It always started immediately after hearing the voice. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, everything stopped. Time itself seemed to come to a screeching halt. Nothing else mattered. His change was everything. He crouched down and folded his legs beneath him. The front two were folded rearward and the rear two were folded forward. His slender curved trunk was allowed to relax until it heaped atop his folded legs and rump. The lower set of arms were wrapped rearward around the rear legs to hold them in place. His upper set of arms were wrapped forward around his front legs. Both sets of arms grasped each other to form a tight lower bundle. The flexible middle of his body was vibrated to allow all of his organs to settle into the newly formed nest amongst his legs and arms. Sort of like pressing Jello into a mold. He then curved his long head backward and relaxed his skull until it also melted into the body below. As he did, one pair of his tall eyes with the vertically slitted pupils oozed to one side and the other set oozed to the other. His vision became distorted but that did not matter. The change was all that mattered.


After a few hours of vibration to ensure that everything was settled, Grzchrt excreted the sealing goo from his mouth until his entire structure was coated. Under normal circumstances being covered with a sticky, slimy substance might have seemed gross. Not today. It was necessary. The change was all that mattered. And change he would.


When the goo had been sufficiently cured, perhaps after a week or two, the voice simply said "now". There was no urgency. No emphasis. Simply a statement that this was the moment in all of history that Grzchrt would become Gradhrt. Warmth. Uncomfortable warmth. Freezing cold. Loud noises. Bright lights. A need to move. Grzchrt could feel the One Power flowing through him full force yet he yearned with all of his being to hold MORE of it...ALL of it!!! Just as he thought that he had drank in the last possible drop, his cocoon burst open. Grzchrt was gone. Gradhrt was born.


No balloons. No party. No singing. He simply was. The old was gone. The new was here. All of the memories of all of his previous existences were instantly available. He could clearly recall every heartbeat of the time that he had just spent wadded into a lump. He could feel the ecstasy of holding every drop of the One Power. Yet, he felt no different. He didn't understand why the rebirth had been necessary. His body parts worked the same. His memory was the same. For some reason, totally irrational to him, the Pattern or the Creator felt that it was necessary. Maybe Grschrta would be in the mood for a quick game of stones.

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"The wolf who runs on his hind legs with golden eyes that reflect the fire light and has sharp claws and dull fangs" no longer thought of himself as Bahbee. Those days were gone. His old life no longer existed. His new life as a wolf was MUCH better. He no longer lived down below among the humans. Occasionally he would let out a sad whimper when a thought of his birth mother popped up out of nowhere. But, as soon as that thought was gone, so was that world. He was now a proud member of this pack UP THERE.


His stalking and hunting skills must be near their peak. He could run with the fastest of the pack. Cutting quickly from side to side as the prey tried to get away. His sharp "claws" made from the stones that he had gathered on his way UP THERE were now deadly killing tools. With them he could subdue food much larger than any of the rest of the pack could alone. He still preferred to hunt with the pack but he knew that he could survive on his own if he ever had to.


Most days were spent in relative boredom. The same games. The same mental interactions. The same hunts. The same meals. It was almost a pleasant change of pace to have a storm move in from the sea. The heavy rain would temporarily thin the clouds making the rest of the pack nervous. They didn't like the decreased cover. They were glad when the clouds returned. Since he ate most of his meals raw, he seldom bothered with making a fire. Just proving that he still could was enough to remind the wolves that he was special.


Today was special. While taking a break from a routine hunt he had wandered away from the pack and climbed a tree for a quick nap. He enjoyed doing that from time to time. He never allowed himself to drift off into too deep of a sleep. That was not a good idea. Ever. Too many dangers existed. Even while napping he needed to be aware of his surroundings. It was good today that he had remembered that lesson.




One small, damp twig. Several leaps away. In THAT direction. Over there. He did not pop up. The noise was too close. His nose almost detected a scent but not quite. Maybe ALL of his skills had not peaked yet. He eased himself into a comfortable crouch and narrowed his eyes staring in the direction that the noise had come from. He waited. There was no cause to panic. Yet.


The slightest rustle of damp dead leaves gave him his next clue. The direction had changed significantly for him to have heard nothing. Whatever was making the noise was VERY good and moving in silence. And, it was making good time. Yes. Caution was good. This was not frightened prey. Tactics of stealth and patience were needed. He tried to calm himself and reassured himself that he had a good grip on his tree branch. His plan payed off.


Through the branches below him in the near distance he caught a flicker of motion. A faint scent of uneasiness and near exhaustion made their way up to him. It was a man. Hard to see. Moving swiftly yet virtually silent. Not stalking. Not like other hunters from nearby tribes of men. Wearing strange clothing that seemed to fade into the brush. And a black veil up to his eyes.


For a moment Bahbee returned. Old memories walked in front of his eyes. Stories that his mother had told him. He almost whined but did not because he knew that the stranger would hear him. Scary stories. Black-veiled Aiel. The Sea Folk had built the legend during their visits. Wild men. Living only to kill. Fearsome warriors. Savages. Unreasonable traders. Blood thirsty villains. DANGER! He noticed three spears sticking up from the Aiel man's back and a knocked bow. Then, just as quickly as he had appeared, Bahbee was gone.

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Jamaykah's mom watched her as she played in the sand. She had built twenty-seven volcanic peaks in a circular pattern. Now she stood pondering as if trying to figure out how to add the clouds UP THERE. She was a smart girl for her age.


Bahbee had been smart, too. He probably would never return. That might be for the better. The "lessons" that his father had given him during his drunken tantrums had been brutal. She missed her son but knew that he was better off wherever he was now. That didn't stop her from missing his loving smile.


Soon it would be time. Jamaykah would see her tenth name day. Her mom did not look forward to it. A day that would change them both forever. A day that neither of them would ever forget. The lesson that Jamaykah would learn that day would have far more impact on her than any lesson that Bahbee had suffered. She still remembered the day that she had turned ten.


"Even though I never completed my training in the White Tower, know this to be true just as though I had actually taken the Three Oaths.", her mother told her. Her mother had always claimed that she had ended up living in Dorphalia as a result of failing some test for being raised to Accepted by the White Tower. She also claimed that before that test she had been able to channel the One Power. The woman was obviously delusional. "Remember what I tell you today exactly as I tell it and pass it along to all of your daughters that they might know the Truth of All Truths.".


"Imagine a snail crawling across the surface of a rock. Behind that snail is a trail of slime. A dog walks along the beach. He leaves footprints in the sand. Smoke rises from a fire and disappears. You can see it. You can smell the scent of a skunk without being able to see it. Your finger tells you that the sea is wet. The song of the night bird can be heard from miles away in the dark. All of these things exist to you. You know that they are there."


"The sun exists. The moon exists. The stars exist. The wind. The air that you breath. Heat. Cold. Everything that you can see or hear or touch or smell or taste exists to you. Some people cannot see. Some cannot hear. Some have no taste or touch. There are probably some people who would not smell a skunk if it was standing beside them. Would that skunk still exist?".


"Trees exist but they do not leave tracks in the sand. Dirt and rocks exist but they have no sense of taste. Does fire exist? The trees think so. The rocks could care less. The idea of existence is relative to perception. There are things that exist in the eye of the Creator that you have no knowledge of. Things that you will NEVER see, feel, hear, taste or touch. But they ARE real. Today, on your tenth name day, you will learn of one of these things. You will live your entire life and never see it. But it does exist. Know this to be true."


All that exists is part of the Pattern of the Wheel of Time. The Wheel spins out the the Pattern according to it's design. The Wheel alone knows why it spins out what it does the way it does. The Dark One and the Creator are products of the Wheel. Everything exists because of the Will of the Wheel. Without the Wheel, there would be no Pattern. Without the Pattern, nothing would exist. Know this to be true. Remember it always.".


"YOU! You are a product of the Wheel. Because you exist, you are part of the Pattern. The Wheel needs you. You are important. The snail is important. The tree is important. Everything that exists is important to the Wheel. You are a thread in the weave of the Pattern. Your thread gives the Pattern it's strength. Without your thread, the Pattern is less strong...less complete. The same can be said for the rock. Or for a single drop of water that exists in the sea."


"You will make many decisions before you die. Many of your paths will be chosen for you as a result of the Pattern's needs. At times, you will not like the path that has been chosen for you. The snail does not like crawling across a hot rock. But, if that is the path that the Pattern has chosen, then crawl it will whether it wants to or not. And if the sun bakes all of the moisture out of it's belly before it gets across the rock and it dies to become food for a passing pelican then that is the Will of the Pattern. Know this to be true. Remember it always."


Jamaykah stopped sprinkling handfuls of sand across the area that would be UP THERE. With a disgusted frown on her face she jumped high into the air and landed square in the middle of her creation. She rolled back and forth until all twenty-seven volcanoes were destroyed. Then she stood up and laughed as she smoothed out the sand to it's original condition. Her mother smiled.

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Dahrn started to reach for the last drumstick then reconsidered. He really was getting quite full. This year's Dorphalia Day feast had not been quite as big as last year's but it was every bit as tasty and filling. He smiled and let out a huge burp before easing back to relax against a tree. He used a long stiff sliver of dried grass to pick the stuck meat out from between his teeth.


Every year. At least every year for the past how many years since his sixteenth name day. That was his first celebration in this manner. That year his "special guest" had been his mother. That was the year that he had learned who his biological father was. Dahrn could understand his mother being a darkfriend. He himself hoped to reap "rewards beyond the imagination" some day. It was just so unimaginable that she would actually give herself to a shadow walking lurk just to try to gain favor. Silly woman.


What was done was done. For the rest of the year Dahrn really felt very little influence of his father. He had gained great respect amongst the people in and around his community. This was partially necessary to hide his association with the Shadow. It had also gained him considerable wealth. His social standing also allowed him to enjoy Dorphalia Day in his own way without any...embarrassing...questions. Even those who might suspect kept their mouths shut.


For one day each year he allowed his father's blood lust to flow through his veins. He did not feel guilty. Did the wolf feel guilty about consuming the deer? Did the eagle tell the fish that he was sorry for eating it? For one day each year, that just happened to occur of Dorphalia Day, Dahrn could not resist the urge to consume human flesh. That didn't make him a trolloc. It didn't make him bad. He was who and what he was. The Pattern contains threads of many different sizes, shapes, and colors.


He took a quick glance at the pile of bones near the spit. It really was hard to imagine that he had eaten that much. Especially since he was primarily a vegetarian for the rest of the year. For a brief second he considered slicing off another piece of Ping. She actually had been very tasty. A little tough, maybe. Next year he would have to entice a guest with a little more fat. No. He was full. It was time to go home.



OOC: hope this didn't upset anyone's stomach. There are all sorts living UP THERE. Happy Valentine's/Dorphalia Day! :wub:

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"Three more days.".


Jorj glanced around quickly to see if he had given away his position by being so careless. The involuntary outburst could jeopardize his entire mission. Only after he was totally convinced that he had not been heard did he allow himself to exhale...slowly...silently. Blunders like this and stepping on that twig when the cave man was watching him could cost him dearly. Not only in this life but after he was supposed to receive his reward, too.


The hard part should be over by now. He was beyond the half-way point. It should be down hill from here. He should be adapting to these strange surroundings. None of these "shoulds" were actually happening. Things seemed to be getting worse rather than better. Who would believe that it COULD get worse than seeing a cave man guarding his sleeping mate or a half naked wolf man clinging to a tree limb? Not to mention the strange beasts that he kept stumbling upon. Those things were like those that those Sinechin people had when he had went with Al'Thor to meet their queen or whatever. Those things had been creepy but at least they were tame. These are running about wild.


Failure. That would be worse than breathing in this terribly humid air for a week. It would be worse than having to kill a few locals. It could be worse than being devoured by one of these beasts if that larger-than-normal shadow walker decided that it didn't accept failure as an option. And, at this point in time, failure was looking like a definite possibility. Jorj had covered the greater part of this plateau and had yet to find so much as a feather off from the tail of a raven let alone an entire dead bird. His years spent searching for hidden pockets of water had made him a skilled seeker. This failure was eating at his soul.


Need. How could he possibly forget such a valuable tool? Just because he was on a hunt in the service of the Dark Lord did not mean that Need would not work. Finding what was killing the ravens was just as necessary to him at this moment as finding water had been in the Three Fold Land. Besides. He was ready for some rest. The food here had been tasty even though he had not built any fires for cooking. Water was easy to find. Jorj had purposely avoided sleep. His wife told him that he snored loudly. That would not be good in these surroundings. Promising himself to only doze deeply enough to find Need, he eased his eyelids shut and relaxed.

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OOC: see link in post 1 of this thread to remember who Knewst is.





"Yes indeed. There surely is something going on.", Knewst muttered to himself. For not the first time he wondered if he had caused all of this to happen. Perhaps this was the Pattern's way of correcting the ripple that he had created by coming here so long ago instead of accepting his destiny. The right thing to do back then would have been to open his veins. There was no honor for a man who could channel. He should not be alive.


"Yes, there is.", came the voice from behind him. Knewst had not heard Caramel approaching. She was the oldest and wisest woman in this village. She, too, could channel. Unlike him, she did not have to be ashamed of her ability. "Do you still claim to be free of the Dark One's taint?". Her eyes narrowed. She seemed to be staring straight to the innermost depths of his soul. He could not have lied if he tried to. "Yes.", he replied calmly and confidently.


Knewst really was not telling a lie. Several weeks back he had awakened feeling somehow different. Without realizing what he was doing he had reached out and grabbed hold of Saidin. For years he had purposely resisted the urge. On that morning he could not resist. The absence of the taint was so obvious that he immediately let loose of the source and physically jumped backward. It was so hard to believe that he just had to try again. Once again, it was clean. After so many years of struggling to avoid insanity, Knewst actually thought that perhaps he had finally lost that battle.


"Well. For the first time in quite a long time I don't know what to do.", Car said to him. "Part of me wants to hold you under water until you tell me the truth or drown.". She glared an evil glare at him. "Another part of me wants to believe you. After all. You and I are the only people that I know who have this thing in common.". She looked distant as if thinking to herself. "I just don't know."


Knewst smiled. "Want to play a game of stones?". Car came out of her trance and smiled back at him. "Sure. Why not.".




OOC: Randland. UP THERE. Shara. Seanchan. The Pit of Doom. Wherever you roam. People are people. The stories might be different. Michigan. Florida. California. Different people. Different stories. Some more interesting than others. Spain. Germany. Scotland. Egypt. Thousands of billions of stories. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Enjoy the stories that you encounter. Share them with others. When you run out of stories that are real, look into your mind. There are just as many stories lingering..."UP THERE" in your own brain!




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  • 1 year later...

Gradhrt looked around the gathering of Guardians that he was about to address. They waited in eager anticipation. Yes. All had indeed selected this group. There could be no other explanation for the perfection. Their personalities and abilities had proven to be exactly what this task had required. All of the Ancient Ones with their memories linked could not have done better. It was common knowledge among the ancient ones that All had more ability in one blink of an eye than all of them combined had in all of their lifetimes of memory. The Creator. The Force. God. All. Whatever name was placed on him he deserved awe and respect if not worship. For perhaps the billionth time Gradhrt pondered if All considered himself male or female. Perhaps he was actually just like the Ancient Ones...both yet neither. It really didn't matter. All could be whatever he/she wanted to be.


The preparations were complete. The links were all repaired. Each of the volcanoes had been test fired individually. The "Tree" was renovated and ready for the new age. All that was left was for the inhabitants to complete their "Last Battle" ritual. Then all 27 volcanoes could be fired simultaneously in coordination with the other strategic sights scattered about the surface of this planet to begin the reorientation of the poles. Just as a rotated chicken on a spit cooks better, and planet that is rotated occasionally ages more evenly. Since they could not change on their own, it was up to the Ancient Ones to help them along every few thousand years. This reorientation also help stabilize and renew their momentum and reduced the tendency to "wobble". This was part of All's Pattern. All gave the orders and the Ancient Ones helped get them executed. These Guardians deserved a pat on the back for their efforts.


"Welcome!", he started. The Guardians could not help themselves. They burst into applause and cheers. Gradhrt tried his best to smile at them. After an adequate period of time he waved his arms to calm them. They responded perfectly, of course. "There are not adequate words to describe the... PRIDE... that I feel concerning the work that you have done here. I have been through countless numbers of projects like this and I can truthfully say that your efforts rank among the upper percentile. Give yourselves a hand." They did. When they were done he continued. "Every task has been completed flawlessly and timely. Your teamwork is exemplary. There has been very little questioning or complaining which is refreshing indeed. It has been a pleasure working with you. All must be pleased." The place erupted. Guardians jumped up and down and patted each other in celebration. Some wept openly. When things calmed down sufficiently he continued.


"I have a short story to tell you about another... UNNAMED... experience that I remember vividly. I won't tell you if it took place on this planet or another because it really doesn't matter. What does matter is the contrast to what you have done here. That race was TOTALLY opposite to you. When it came time for their renewal they faced it like cowards. Fear of change gripped them. They fought to keep things as they had been. Instead of working to aid All they did everything in their power to resist the inevitable. They couldn't comprehend the necessity of change. The end of their age meant the end of their world and they were NOT going to accept it! Rather than try to see the grand scheme of things they could see nothing but their own interests. Even though they had been given centuries to prepare physically and mentally they were far from prepared when the end of their days neared. They clung to their pitiful useless existence to the last strand even though the Pattern was dissolving around them. I speak of this race not to chastise them for being different but to praise you for being different from them. Yes. You have a right to be proud."


Gradhrt shuddered. What a mess that "Earth 2012" project had been.


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