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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

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   The shining walls of the city loomed ever larger in the distance, totally dominating the surrounding county side. Yrean slowed his horse to a walk and studied the vista in front of him. It had been sometime since he had last visited this city and upon leaving he had sworn that he would never return, there were too many painful memories associated with this place for him. However, he also had unfinished business in the city and now he had the information that he needed to allow him to complete matters, but he was in no rush to arrive and decided to spend one more night outside the city in a small inn he had stayed at before. The next morning Yrean was awake before dawn and after packing his saddlebags made his way to the common room to break his fast.

 

   Yrean arrived at the city mid afternoon and immediately made his way to the dock area. He kept his hood up and did his best to avoid any areas that he used to frequent. His purpose was solely business and he wanted to conclude his business as soon as possible.

 

   The inn he stayed at had the amusing name of the Spanked Woman and a smile came unbidden at the sight of the sign, gently swinging in the light breeze. Some said it was a painting of the owner and his wife, who was being chastised. Yrean had never been able to confirm this, but it was an amusing story none the less. Entering the inn he found the common room to be half full, mostly with dockworkers and stevedores who had finished their work for the day. Because of this there was much raucous laughter and a Gleeman was just starting his performance, playing a fiddle and singing some song about a wayward woman who was caught by her husband in a delicate position.

 

   Dumping his saddlebags on the floor in front of the bar, Yrean spoke quickly with the owner and after a short conversation made his way to his room. After closing and barring the door, Yrean stowed his gear and then lay on the bed, resting as much as he could. His business would take place during the hours of darkness and he wanted to be as rested as possible.

 

   Yrean finally left his room, three hours after the sun had set, and ate a hasty meal in the common room, washed down by a tankard of Dark. Leaving the Spanked Woman Yrean made his way through back alleys to where his shop used to stand. It had been destroyed in a fire and Yrean and Mat had only just got away with their lives, although their clothes were singed and Yrean’s eyebrows had been burned clean off and still had not grown back properly. Concealed by the shadow cast by a tall building, Yrean observed the area, making note of the changes since he had last been here. He paid particular attention to the rooftops, a favourite way of getting around for him and one that still provided the easiest route of escape for him. Many times his use of the rooftops had saved his life or allowed him to confuse anyone who had tried to follow him.

 

   Finally satisfied, Yrean made his way further into the deep shadows before finding the spot he was looking for. His ascent was swift and surefooted, having climbed buildings since he was a child in his home city of Illian. It was while he was there on a visit that he had come across the information that he had been searching for and would now make use of. The climb was not a hard one and soon Yrean emerged onto the rooftop and started to make his way across the roofs to North Harbour. When he got within range of the location he was searching for, Yrean settled down behind a large chimneystack and watched the surrounding houses for activity.

 

   This part of the city was still fairly busy and it was a few more hours before the late night revellers had returned to their homes. Not wanting to take any chances, Yrean stayed in position until he was certain the city was quiet and then made his move. He first sorted through the gear he had taken along, leaving his bow and quiver behind the chimneystack, along with his sword and a few other items. All the weapons he now carried were for close quarters fighting several concealed throwing daggers, a mace and a longer dagger, that was almost a short sword. Carefully he made his way across the roof to towards his target, jumping the few feet between the buildings and landing with cat like grace. Scanning the roof, Yrean soon located a few loose roof tiles and started to remove them, making sure they would not slide off the roof and alerting the people inside. Eventually he had made a hole large enough for him to be able to enter the house and he dropped silently through the hole.

 

   It took him longer than he had expected to find the way out of the loft, but he eventually found the loft hatch and dropped through it to the house proper. He knew the location of the rooms he needed to find and worked swiftly, identifying his targets and deciding on what order he would take them in. Most of the people in the house were males, and all had been implicated in the attack on his shop. He also had a sneaking suspicion they may have supplied information that led to Mat’s capture and subsequent death. This alone marked them out for special treatment and Yrean was only too happy to supply that treatment.

 

   The first door opened without a sound and Yrean stealthily made his way over to the bed containing the slumbering form of his first victim. Placing his hand over his victim’ mouth, with one swift thrust, Yrean severed the man’s jugular. It was a swifter death than Yrean felt the man deserved, but this was about retribution not punishment. Moving swiftly, Yrean dispatched his targets one by one until there was only one left. Moving to the room of his last target, Yrean had no way of knowing that the occupant of the room had placed a small bell behind the closed door to alert him of any intruders.

 

   The first Yrean knew of this was when the bell fell over and a loud voice demanded to know who was trying to enter the room. Throwing all caution to the winds, Yrean shoved the door open and dived into the room, narrowly missing the small crossbow bolt that thunked into the doorframe.

 

   A shaft of moonlight illuminated the room and the man’s face creased up with anger as he recognised his assailant. “You! I thought we had done for you last year.”

 

   Yrean did not bother to answer the man, but the confirmation that this man had been one of those to target his shop, only caused a minor ripple to slide across the Void. Moving with much more caution now, Yrean advanced on the prone figure, who suddenly jumped out of the bed and lunged at Yrean with a concealed knife. Yrean waited until the last moment and then side stepped the man’s attack. Unfortunately Yrean’s assailant was quicker than Yrean and changed the angle of his attack. His blade penetrated Yrean’s upper arm, glancing off the bone.

 

   Yrean did not show any outward signs of pain, and cocooned inside the Void it only felt like a fly landing on his skin. However the wound started t o bleed profusely and the blood quickly flowed down Yrean’s arm and started to drip onto the floor. Knowing he had to finish this fight quickly, Yrean feigned pain and loss of concentration and sank to his knees, without taking his eyes off the man. Closing the distance between himself and Yrean, he kicked out aiming for Yrean’s head. However, Yrean was ready for him and swayed to one side, parrying the kick on his uninjured arm and turned most of the blow to one side.

 

   Yrean stepped away from his adversary, realising that the advantage of surprise would no longer work, Yrean decided on a different tactic. Pulling a throwing knife from its place of concealment, Yrean through it, aiming for the man’s chest. However the man was wise to this and dodged to the left, which was exactly what Yrean had hoped for and a well placed kick to the groin, followed by a bone jarring upper cut laid the man out. Taking a quick breath, Yrean moved swiftly, not knowing if the sounds of the struggle had alerted anyone or not, and grabbing the man’s hair Yrean lifted him from the floor. Reversing his grip on his dagger, Yrean used the pommel to smash the man’s larynx and then dropped him to the floor. As Yrean exited the room, the last sounds he heard were the dying gurgles of his last victim.

 

   Yrean had a dilemma now, he knew he would need to rest up for a day or so as the wound to his arm was deeper than he had realised. He also knew there would be a hue and cry raised throughout the city over his work this night. Having to explain how he got an obvious knife injury would not be easy, but neither would it be that easy to make his way to a place of refuge. Cutting a strip of cloth from his cloak, Yrean hastily bound up the wound and then made his way back to his lodgings, he needed time to recuperate and hopefully he would have at least a day and night of rest.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Time had been passing slowly in recent weeks. The drag of endless hours of study and chores making a rare day of freedom something to be treasured, even to one who would normally relish learning. There was a need for colour, vibrancy, normality… a release from being another anonymous Accepted amidst the muted buzz of daily business in the Tower.

 

Well, perhaps not quite anonymous, Kiyi acknowledged somewhat guiltily. There were hardly sufficient numbers of Novices or Accepted for one to go altogether unnoticed. She was definitely beginning to feel like one of a herd of sheep though, stuck with a crowd of girls who dressed the same way, followed the same routines, ate the same meals, chattered incessantly in private…even acted alike as they all strived to emulate the Aes Sedai they wished to one day become.

 

Despite choosing this path in life, occasionally events just didn’t move as fast as Kiyi felt they should. Today was one of those times and her naturally independent spirit was very much to the fore as she left the Tower intent on venturing into the city of Tar Valon itself.

 

The brisk chill of the morning air had Kiyi pulling her cloak tight around her body despite the bright sun and clear sky and she could not help but feel resentful as one of the Tower Guards standing by the gate politely requested that she stop. It was cold enough that she had no wish to stand around in the open for long. What he had to say, however, soon made her forget the cold.

 

Murders? In Tar Valon? That was no common occurrence. Oh it happened, she knew, but not so often that such news would be taken lightly. Kiyi was slightly surprised that her trip into the city was not being stopped altogether but other than a stern lecture on being careful and sticking to the main thoroughfares, the Guard did not prevent her from continuing on her way.

 

Well then, there can’t be much danger surely? The Mistress of Novices would never allow any of her charges to be put at risk. …and there are so many Guards about the streets, who would dare anyway? Kiyi mulled absently over the news then put it from her mind as she was absorbed into the crowds already thronging the city streets.

 

The shops held little interest for her and she spared their colourful window displays few glances while she walked, instead eating up every detail of the people she encountered. It didn’t take her long to find what she sought, slightly away from the too crowded centre of the city; an open market square filled with a mind-boggling array of stalls. The traders were doing a steady business but there remained enough room for people to actually breathe and, more to the point, for Kiyi to observe.

 

Settled on a fountain ledge off to one side of the market, her banded white dress hidden by the thick folds of her cloak, she knew her presence would go unremarked. Only someone with a trained eye or a person with good reason to note such things would take a second glance at the tiny, young woman ensconced with such a strange air of stillness in the midst of so much activity.

 

Behind that misleadingly calm façade, Kiyi’s brain was busy; busy cataloguing whatever came within range; noting who bought what, studying clothing styles, sifting through the plethora of accents and identifying unusual scents from the spice and herb stalls. The only outward sign that she was doing anything at all was the sharp gleam of enjoyment in her eyes; eyes that missed nothing. She noted the young farmer lad, shifting awkwardly on his feet and trying not to stare at a willowy blonde haired girl two stalls away who equally obviously pretended to admire some ribbons whilst throwing surrpetitious glances back at her admirer. Sweethearts, Kiyi thought in satisfaction. And clearly not wishing to be seen together. She idly wondered what their story was as her attention moved on. A wide girthed, balding man rapidly going to seed held a heated exchange at the top of his voice with an elderly matron, arguing over the price of some goods. From the familiarity inherent in the way the woman wagged a bony finger under the man's nose and the smell issuing from them both, Kiyi deduced they were a publican and his wife. The pale gentleman, his accent marking him as Arafellin, dressed in sober black, she marked down as a clerk. His fingers were stained with ink and the cloth he wore, whilst of reasonable quality, was threadbare.

 

The morning slipped inevitably towards mid-day and it was only the first nagging pangs of hunger that finally disturbed Kiyi's happy occupation. She stirred a little, easing the stiffness in her legs from her prolonged position on the hard stone of the fountain and was on the verge of standing when she heard a slight disturbance at the very edge of the square. People parted hastily as several Guards weaved smartly between the stalls, clearly asking questions as they went. The Guards had been working steadily through the city all morning, searching for any information on the murders and their efforts had naturally been the topic of much discussion amongst the populace. Now, apparently, they had an aim, some clue as to the person they hunted for and they moved methodically, purposefully, coming ever closer to the corner where Kiyi sat.

 

The movement was miniscule but the sense of it being involuntary was just enough for Kiyi to look for its source. He stood, with the kind of quiet self possession that Kiyi would normally ascribe to an exceptionally well trained soldier, by a stall filled with a mismatched assortment of silver objects. One arm was held oddly, a little away from his body, but that was not what arrested Kiyi's attention. Rather it was a pair of pale blue eyes, calculating and watchful, which she was certain had scanned and taken in every detail of the scene and was equally certain were looking for an escape route. How she knew that, she could not have explained but she could have told him there was none. There were no alleys in the secluded area; the stalls backed onto only sheer white walls. What struck her as incongruous was that he had allowed himself to be trapped in such a situation for there was little doubt in her mind that he was the one the Guards sought.

 

Kiyi moved before the intent was even fully formed, faking a clumsy stumble when she stood that landed her neatly at the man's feet and hoping that his natural reaction would be to help her up. She was not disappointed and was already preparing several flows when a pair of strong hands reached under her elbows, both lifting and steadying her. She grasped his injured arm, as though to lean on him and channelled quickly, hearing his tell tale gasp as the One Power touched him. The Healing was small, just enough to remove the injury and not so much that it would gain any undue attention or cause him to collapse.

 

"My thanks, sir. That was careless of me," she murmured huskily, conscious as always of how horrible her voice sounded, already turning away and allowing her cloak to fall back as she faced two of the Guards, giving the stranger time to compose himself. Astounded at her own actions, she did not plan to stay around long enough to be quizzed. The Guards' enquiries as to her wellbeing were cursory, accompanied by a brief admonition that it might be best to return to the Tower. An Accepted did not warrant the same respect or concern that a Sister would after all and Kiyi responded suitably to their words before walking past them, acutely aware of the man at her back. She was curious as to how he would handle the situation but she had given him all the chance she could. Still, something made her glance back. Soft, grey eyes widened as they clashed with piercing blue, swamping her with a sense of familiarity and she knew... this wasn't over.

 

Dragging her gaze away, more than a little shaken, she hurriedly rounded the corner, almost colliding with a small boy in the process and directed her steps towards a small establishment that would provide a restorative tea and a chance to gather her thoughts.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Yrean stood there, eyes boring into the back of the woman’s skull as she moved away from him. Suddenly she turned around and her gaze caught Yrean’s, only for a short moment, before she continued on her way. But in that moment, Yrean realised she knew far more than she should have, or at least she suspected she did. That supposition left him with an awkward dilemma, he did not want to leave any lose ends, especially as he knew from time to time he would need to return to Tar Valon.

 

"Why be it that there be always some entanglement in this bloody city?"

 

Yrean watched as she rounded a corner, counting slowly to ten, he then started to follow her. Keeping to what shadows there were, Yrean was able to follow her, without being noticed, and saw her enter a small establishment that served food and drink. This was the perfect opportunity for him, a chance to get something to eat which was always necessary after a Healing and to find out more about this mysterious stranger who without his by your leave had so casually Healed him.

 

However, Yrean did not enter immediately, instead taking a moment to think through what he was going to do. Right now the last thing he needed was further entanglement with anyone associated with Tar Valon, or more relevantly, the White Tower. But what were his choices here? He could just keep on walking and disappear from the city without a trace. He could befriend this young woman, but who knows where that could lead. Which left only one option, to kill her.

 

The more he thought about it, the more it seemed to him, that killing her was the only safe, viable, option. Having made his mind up was about to push open the door and enter the establishment when he suddenly realised he was planning to kill someone who’s only crime was to help him. That help had come unbidden, and without any strings, but even so it was help that was offered freely, and here he was contemplating another murder. Obviously the time he had spent with Cari had had a bigger effect on how he saw life than he had realised. It was one thing to kill the people who had robbed him and burnt down his shop, their actions had led to the consequences of last nights work.

 

However, this young girl had done nothing but help him and he still thought the only way out of this situation was to kill her.

 

The casualness that he reached this decision with shocked him and on another day would have led him to turn around and disappear to contemplate his proposed actions. That could not happen in this case, as he wanted away from Tar Valon as quickly as possible and without leaving any loose ends.

 

Smoothly Yrean opened the door and slipped inside, moving with a grace that was easily recognised by those who knew the training. But there was more than that. Another of Cari’s legacies had been the training she had put Yrean through and because of that the grace he moved with was accentuated even more. To say his movements were fluid, would be like saying a river was wet, nothing more than stating the obvious.

 

It took only a moment for Yrean to locate where she was sitting and without further thought he moved across the room to her table and without asking he sat down opposite her. Her eyes opened wide in astonishment, whether from shock or pretend outrage he did not know, or care. He had decided that the time they spent together here would be the deciding factor in whether she lived or died this day.

 

“You be no giving me time to thank you for your actions. I be called Yrean and I be finding myself in need of some food after your help this morning. Be I able to pay for your meal as recompense for your action this morning, Accepted?” He raised one eyebrow at her while holding her gaze. Her fate was now in her hands, how her future would unfold, and even if she had a future, would be decided over a meal and a couple of drinks. The fact she did not know this did not weigh heavily on Yrean. He had not asked her to interfere in his life, but she would now have to pay a price for that interference. What that price was, her actions and words would now dictate.

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Kiyi had been doing the right thing since she first understood right from wrong. It was not a question of being a prig or a spoil sport but more of simply knowing no other way to be. On the one hand she could happily take the blame in order to save a friend from trouble but on the other would go out of her way not to get into trouble herself. It was a strange dichotomy of character which had confused and exasperated many people but seemed as natural as breathing to Kiyi.

 

This time, however, she’d quite deliberately put herself in a predicament. If a Sister had seen her channel, she’d have been frogmarched straight to the Mistress of Novices. Perhaps she should report herself and take what punishment came? Kiyi debated the question quite seriously while one of the serving girls showed her to a table and took her order, but quickly discarded the notion. She could hardly do so without explaining all the particulars and that would in turn lead to the stranger being questioned. Then she would be responsible for his punishment too!

 

Why should that matter to me? If he is a murderer, he should be brought to justice. That brought her musings up short once more. Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t just turn him in without a shred of evidence. There could be many explanations for his injury after all. Yet Kiyi remained utterly convinced of the man’s guilt... which brought up a far more disturbing issue. Why, when she suspected such a crime, had she helped him instead of calling to the Guards? Moreover, why had she not been remotely frightened by a man who killed, not once, but several times?

 

Kiyi distracted herself momentarily by pouring tea from the delicate porcelain pot left by yet another serving girl, so self absorbed that, for once, she paid no heed to the other patrons or to anything outwith the confines of her quiet corner. Absently winding a long copper curl around one forefinger, she sipped the strong tea and stared morosely at the gleaming wood of the table top. Did she have some weakness of character that was only now manifesting itself? Maybe it was something the Sisters had already seen in her. Was that why she hadn’t been Raised at the same time as Esther?

 

The chair opposite scraped against the polished floorboards, interrupting the barrage of silent questions. Kiyi looked up and stared in surprise as the source of her problems materialised in front of her, calmly seating himself for all the world as if they were old acquaintances. He followed me! The realisation should have caused panic, or even fear but the day did not appear to be one for “should”. Instead, when the initial surprise passed, it was replaced with curiousity and she wondered, listening to him introduce himself, just what he had said to the Guards and what had prompted him to seek her out having made his escape. It took a few moments for her ears to adjust to his lilting accent, long enough to school her expression to one of polite interest.

 

“Be I able to pay for your meal as recompense for your action this morning, Accepted?”

 

It seemed risky to follow her simply to offer thanks but she decided it would be ungracious, not to mention tactless, to point that out. Besides...those eyes... He held her gaze with ease and she was again swamped by a sense of familiarity. But that’s impossible... I’ve never seen him before. I’d surely remember... Confusion swept briefly across her features before she finally tore her eyes away and found her tongue.

 

“A... pleasure... to meet you Yrean,” she spoke low and haltingly, fighting against the sudden closure in her throat that signalled an imminent coughing fit. “My name is Kiyissalle and that’s a kind offer, but truly, quite unnecessary.” Hastily drinking the last of the tea in her cup and hoping the heat would ease the tense muscles, Kiyi breathed slowly. A faint flush rose in her cheeks and she tried hard to ignore her embarassment at the rasp in her voice as she continued yet more quietly, “I’d be happy to keep you company while you eat though, if you wish it.”

 

Even in the direst of situations, manners were not to be forgotten but Kiyi wished that just for once, it did not have to be quite so mortifying.

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Yrean was slightly taken aback with the girls reaction to his appearance at her table, although she had obviously been through some of the training the White Tower provided, she had yet to master that aloofness that most members of the White Tower thought was so important. Either that or the usual aloofness of the Aes Sedai was forgotten about for the moment.

 

“It be important for you to be keeping up your strength, Accepted. You be the one who do be healing complete strangers without asking them.” Yrean signalled to one of the serving girls and when she arrived at their table he order his food and without looking at kiyi, ordered the same for her.

 

“You do be taking a risk though, using the One Power without an Aes Sedai being there to chaperone you. Be you thinking you be in trouble if they be finding out?” Yrean did his best to moderate his Illian accent, but even so he could not change the way he spoke completely.

 

“It may be none of my business, but I be thinking it be best if I be accompanying you on your return to the Tower in case you be in trouble. I be no wanting you punished for helping me.”

 

If any be punishing this slip of a girl it would be me.

 

As Yrean thought on the matter of punishment, he also thought about ways to remain near this meddling wench, until he could make his mind up about how he was going to proceed he needed to be as close to her as it was possible. Thankfully, from his time as a Tower Guard, he knew the routines the guards used and was sure he could get in and out of the Tower without too much trouble. No matter how secure a place may seem to be there was always a way in. Some may be of the unpalatable kind, some may be of the obvious kind, but whichever they were there was always a way in.

 

It was not long before the food arrived and Yrean ordered a tankard of Dark for himself and a glass of water for Kiyi. The young woman looked askance at her food, whereas Yrean grabbed his fork and tucked in with gusto.

 

As he ate, Yrean, surreptitiously, studied Kiyi, committing her features to memory. A plan was slowly forming in his mind regarding his future actions towards this girls survival, or lack there of. Taking a drink from his tankard, an idea suddenly came to Yrean how he could rid himself of this troublesome pest, and with no risk to himself.

 

No matter what city, or town you were in there was always a way to find people who would do certain jobs with no questions asked if the remuneration was to their liking. Now all Yrean had to do was find these people and explain the plan to them. Once they saw the amount of gold he would be offering he was sure there would be no way they would refuse him.

 

Suddenly the food tasted that much better, and the ale that much sweeter. There was nothing like a problem solved to make things seem that much better.

 

“So, what be your reasoning for wanting to be an Aes Sedai, Kiyissalle?” While he waited for Kiyi to answer, yrean refilled her cup from the tea pot. Just because the date for her death had been set that did not mean he could not be polite to her. Manners cost so little and usually produced results that far out weighed the cost.

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For someone born to The Great Game and so naturally skilled at it, Kiyi was surprisingly lacking in guile or falseness. It was, of course, intentional. Openness was an unexpected trait in a Cairhienin and she had amused herself over the years by watching people try to figure out her intentions when in fact she was being entirely straightforward. Aware that many Aes Sedai were deeply embedded in Daes Dae'mar, she had nevertheless chosen to put it aside during her years of study. She could hardly take the risk of matching wits with Sisters and the majority of her classmates wouldn’t have the remotest idea of its existence, never mind have the ability to play.

 

She saw the brief surprise in Yrean’s eyes and guessed at the cause but saw no reason to enlighten him. No doubt he would put it down to her being only an Accepted or, erroneously, to youth as so many tended to do when faced with the small girl. Either way, she was content to have it so.

 

There was nothing to be gained by playing games here and when Yrean overruled her, quite solicitously she thought, on the matter of food, she took no offence. She merely favoured him with a genuinely warm smile and nod of thanks though a small pang of guilt did prick her conscience when he commented on her Healing him without his leave. It was soon pushed from her thoughts at his next words.

 

He wants to accompany me back to the Tower? Kiyi eyed the Illianer speculatively without replying. He acts as though innocent ... could I be wrong? The injury might have been come by through quite innocent means I suppose. She didn’t believe that at all but came back to the fact that without proof she couldn’t make any accusations. And you don’t want to... the small voice at the back of her mind piped up again in an accusation of its own.

 

Kiyi picked at the food on her plate, not really hungry any more with her throat so uncomfortable but not wishing to be rude. Yrean on the other hand appeared to be ravenous, attacking his meal with gusto. Not unusual after a Healing. Intent grey eyes watched him with interest, noting the neat efficiency of his movements that wasted no energy, the calluses on his hands that spoke of weapons training, the air of readiness which made it clear he could spring into action at a moment’s notice...and a light went on in Kiyi’s head just as he leaned over to pour her some more tea. No wonder he seems familiar... that must be all it is!

 

“So, what be your reasoning for wanting to be an Aes Sedai, Kiyissalle?”

 

“When did you train with the Warders, Yrean?” her soft words cut over his.

 

The minutest alteration in his expression told her she’d hit the mark, or close to it, but as those blue eyes caught her own yet again, the relief she felt at the revelation faded away like mist, replaced with a terror the likes of which she’d never felt before... worse even than when she had been caught in the fire...terror and a soul wrenching sadness... and yet...it was not terror of the man before her...no... she feared for him.

 

“But I don’t know him...” the words spilled forth in denial, almost too low to be heard and Kiyi unaware she’d even given them utterance. The sensation passed as quickly as it had come leaving her stunned and once more struggling for breath.

 

“I must...excuse...me,” she rasped hurriedly, pushing to her feet and hurrying for the door, oblivious to the concerned questions of the proprietor that followed her outside. Kiyi could feel her skin burning with shame. She hated to create a scene but she refused to collapse in public. Staggering now, she rushed around the side of the building into a mercifully empty side alley and bent double against the cool brick wall, overcome with coughing and gasping for air through an almost closed throat, her chest tightening in pain. Breathe! she ordered herself in panic as her vision began to blur.

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  • 5 months later...

After a moments hesistation, at Kiyi’s abrupt departure, Yrean continued to eat, a small smile appearing on his face, then just a suddenly disappearing. Outwardly he gave no sign that Kiyi’s departure troubled him, but his mind starting churning over the possibilities of why she would suddenly get up and leave like that. It was obvious that the girl had good manners, that was patently apparent. So Yrean searched for another reason as to why she would suddenly depart like that. As his mind methodically worked it’s way through the options, Yrean discarded them one by one.

 

By the time he had finished eating and drunk the last of his drink, Yrean was no further forward trying to fathom out her sudden departure. He knew it was not related to his activities the night before, otherwise the Tower Guard would have decended on the Inn by now. However he was a man who did not believe in coincidences and so decided to make sure that he was not going to find trouble dogging his every step if he stayed in Tar Valon, after all, as much as he hated the city there could one day be a reason for him to return. Departing the Inn, Yrean made his way to the docks. He knew there were certain people who for a price would take on jobs that were on the shadier side of the law and it was these people that Yrean was searching for.

 

Eventually he found exactly the sort of person he was searching for, gold coins changed hands and Yrean explained exactly what he wanted and how he wanted the job to be undertaken. The price was high, this type of work was never cheap and because it involved the White Tower and that coven of witches there was a higher than normal price to be paid. Yrean did not hesitate in paying as he knew that there was no one else in Tar Valon who was skilled enough, or discreet enough, to under take the work at hand. Once the contract had been accepted Yrean departed the Inn and made his way to where his horse had been stabled. He reasoned that it would be better for him to depart the city as soon as possible and he had every intent to be as far away as he could be before the contract was fulfilled.

 

Six weeks had passed, six weeks that had seen much change for Yrean, and none of it good. Through unfortunate circumstances, and some plain bad luck, Yrean found himself returning to Tar Valon guarding a merchant who traded in rare and hard to find items. If there had been an option to not undertake this job then Yrean would have grabbed it with both hands, however that was not the case and so Yrean had to take the job on and hope that there would be no fallout from the consequences of the contract he had placed before he left Tar Valon. Entering the City, Yrean and his boss, a merchant by the name of Alexia El’Bon, made their way to one of the more expensive Inn’s in the City and Alexia booked two rooms, next to each other.

 

That night, well after the hour that Alexia retired for the night, Yrean silently left his room and made his way onto the roof. Quickly gaining his bearings he made his way to the Dockside and soon found the people he had contacted those six weeks earlier. What he learnt that night did not sit well with him. It seemed that Kiyi had the Dark One’s own luck and had through happenstance avoided the three attempts on her life. The only good thing that Yrean heard that night was that it seemed Kiyi was not aware of any actual attempts on her life and carried on with her usual routine without any signs of unease or increased precautions. Yrean was told that in the next few days a fourth attempt would be made to kill Kiyi and to that end Yrean decided to wait around the City to see what the result would be of this fourth attempt. Alexia El’Bon would remain in the city for a week at least so Yrean knew he had enough time to witness the latest attempt to remove this loose end.

 

On the morning of his fifth day in the city, Yrean and Alexia were making their way through the city towards an area that was reknowned for its more exotic goods, just the location that Alexia liked. Their business transaction proceeded more smoothly than Alexia had predicted and as such they were back on the streets before noon. Because of the amount of profit Alexia had made from that deal she had decided to visit a couple of dress makers that she liked to frequent when in Tar Valon. To get there they had to pass through a district were a certain amount of construction work was going on and it was with some distaste that Alexia viewed the path they had to walk. Just as they were approaching the second building in the row, Yrean noticed Kiyi coming the other way. She had her head down and seemed lost in thought, but was easily avoiding the piles of rubbish that sprang up around any building site. Not knowing what to do, Yrean continued to walk towards Kiyi, but turned his head towards Alexia hoping that it looked like he was listening to her and that this would be enough to shield his face from Kiyi.

 

Just then, Yrean heard a shout from above, and involuntarily looked up. A rope net, containing bricks, had broken from the rope carrying it to the upper levels and had started to plummet towards the ground. Looking around to locate Kiyi, Yrean realised that she was directly in the path of the falling bricks and had no idea that she was about to be buried under a small mountain of masonry.

 

There was a momentary battle inside Yrean’s mind, as he tried to decide whether it was better to let the accident happen or to rescue her. He did not know when the next assassination attempt would take place and at no point did he think this was actually it, which of course it was.

 

Yrean shoved Alexia into a nearby doorway, telling her to stay there until he returned and then he threw himself at Kiyi, just managing to knock her clear as the masonry hit the ground and shattered into a myriad of pieces.

 

Once the dust had started to settle, Yrean found himself lying on top of Kiyi, which in and of itself was not a bad place to be, but hardly the place if he was trying to go unnoticed. Blood and bloody ashes, Yrean, you do be the biggest fool this side of the Aryth Ocean, there be no doubt of that. Climbing to his feet, Yrean offered his hand to the obviously shaken Kiyi to help her to her feet. It was then that he noticed the blood streaming from the gash on her left cheek; strangely enough, a wound that was mirrored on Yrean’s face. He slowly reached up to wipe away the dust and blood around the wound, just as Kiyi did the same thing to him.

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  • 2 years later...

Rarely did Kiyi allow herself to be so distracted that she paid no heed whatsoever to where she was going but on this occasion her head was filled with myriad thoughts. The kind which were troublesome enough to require all of her attention. For once, she took no delight in the busy streets of Tar Valon, spared no glance for those who jostled her as they passed and had no inclination to wonder about anyone else’s motivations and activities.

 

The contents of the letter received from her mother two days past had successfully wiped all other concerns from her mind. It had also prompted this particular visit into the city as several attempts to conjure up a sensible reply had resulted merely in a pile of crumpled pages and a distinct lack of writing paper. Giving in with what good grace she could muster, Kiyi had set forth to acquire more in the hope that some time and fresh air might help to formulate a more suitable epistle. Thus far, it was not proving to be the case.

 

 

“...intend to travel within the month to stay with Glarial. Though we are distant as siblings go, I rest assured of a comfortable welcome and we have at least remained in touch these many years. The company will do me good with our home so empty after the loss of your dear father.

 

The entire estate will come to you, Kiyissalle, and you must ensure it continues for the sake of all those who rely on it. Your father was quite insistent about that. I know you will do what is best my darling child, whatever path lies before you now. Everything is in Dalrian’s capable hands meantime and he will follow any instructions you send under your own seal....”

 

 

There had been more. Warm wishes for Kiyi’s health and learning as well as a longing for a visit before too long...the usual loving words from mother to daughter... but the main substance of her parent’s missive was contained in those two brief paragraphs. Suddenly she was not only the Head of her household but a landowner of fairly comfortable means. Could her father truly have intended for Kiyi to leave the Tower, forget her studies and take up the mantle she’d been born to? Or did he simply expect her to oversee affairs at home from afar? Why not leave everything to his wife? The idea of managing the estate troubled Kiyi not at all but that of abandoning Tar Valon and all she was working towards was a far different matter. Even if the Sisters were willing to loosen their ties to her, which she harboured strong doubts about, the simple fact was that she didn’t want to leave!

 

No, she would certainly not be taking on the mantle of Head. That privilege must pass to whatever nearest male relation they could scare up. She would just have to hope he didn't prove to be a disappointment to their House. The property would naturally be gifted with the title but the lands... Kiyi was fairly sure she could simply liquidate those and tuck the money away in investments against her, eventual, retirement. 

 

This dilemma was compounded by shock at her mother’s choice. Glarial, whom Kiyi had met but once many years earlier, lived, not in Cairhien, but in Amadicia of all places. How was a soon-to-be Sister ever supposed to visit that place without fear of harm? Clearly her mother had taken leave of her senses. “It must be grief,” Kiyi nodded absently in agreement with the insight. “So strong an emotion can play terrible tricks on the mind....” Her own grief was still raw so she knew the truth of that all too well. She recalled clearly the mad race with Carina to reach Tremonsien, the last minute attempt to save her father and the overwhelming sadness when the Aes Sedai calmly admitted that nothing further could be done for him. A deep gloom had settled over her that she’d yet to shake completely. Now this. As well have lost her mother at the same time, for surely she would be just as far out of Kiyi’s reach.

 

As her internal debate continued, Kiyi’s feet somehow navigated her safely around the piles of building materials and other obstacles that were creating havoc in this particular quarter of the city. Some part of her mind knew in a vague fashion that she’d almost reached the beautifully kept premises of Master Frensham but nothing else disturbed the periphery of her awareness.

 

Certainly nothing prepared her for the incredible force that suddenly lifted her from her feet and slammed her to the ground. It seemed to her stunned mind that a small mountain had settled on her chest at the very least but there was no time to assimilate that information for as soon as she registered it, it was gone and the air flowed back into her lungs in great gulps. Choking past the dust in that air and struggling with dizziness, Kiyi finally grasped the helping hand that was offered and was pulled back to an upright position with ridiculous ease. Her eyes closing against another wave of dizziness, she stood very still until she was sure of her balance and very gingerly opened them again intent on thanking whomever had aided her. 

 

Kiyi's shaken gaze locked silently with Yrean's assessing one, the words of thanks dying frozen on her lips and oblivious to the concern of other passersby or the shouts being traded between the workmen on the ground and those on the roof. Where did he come from? What is he doing here? The questions faded to nothing as she noted the wound on his cheek and reached forth automatically to Heal it. The simultaeneous touching of his fingertips to her own face forestalled the act however, making Kiyi jump and bringing on another coughing fit.

 

The young woman got her breathing back under control with difficulty, nodding reassurance to Yrean that she was alright when she registered his question and took in her surroundings. It didn't take much figuring to realise what had happened. The look she then favoured Yrean with was equal parts gratitude and realisation of how near a miss she'd just had.

 

"It seems you have repaid a favour tenfold, Yrean," Kiyi murmured, watching him consideringly. "I would surely not have survived that landing on my head! You must return to the Tower with me and have your injury looked at by a Sister. It is the least I can do."

 

Yrean brushed the offer away with alacrity. "You do be in no state to be walking that far, Accepted, and my employer do be waiting for me." He indicated a woman standing in a nearby doorway, watching them with barely concealed impatience.

 

Something in his tone made Kiyi quite sure that this was a convenient excuse but she assumed he simply wanted to be about his own business. Not wishing to impose further, she dragged her dignity around herself like a cloak, withdrawing behind its shield and inclined her head, speaking past the growing pain in her throat. "Of course, do not let me hold you back. The place I was heading to is not far away. Do make sure you have the wound cleaned though, I would not see you gain an infection in return for your aid." She hesitated, looking at the man uncertainly before adding, "If... if you find yourself in need of anything while you remain in the city... if I can help at all...though I'm sure that's unlikely...well, a letter to the Tower will find me."

 

One thing Kiyi was decided on as she moved off, she would never forget what Yrean had done. Saving a life was no small thing to be brushed off and forgotten.

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