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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Digging in the Great Holding


Grimmlocke
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Baran Dholwin sneezed for what seemed like the thousandth time, squinting in the flickering light cast by lamps hung around the large room. This had to be a punishment for what had happened at the White Tower. It was the only thing that made sense. He wiped a hand across his sweating forehead, grimacing at the feel of dust smearing onto his face. He had thought he had escaped that feeling, but apparently even in the Black Tower there were opportunities to get your hands dirty, even if you didn't want to.

 

Sighing, Baran got back to work, tossing half-rotted baskets into a growing pile of trash. Trash was what most of this room was, this supposed Great Holding. True, they had found numerous sculptures and strange carvings, not to mention the bizarre furniture, pots and pans that had already been crated up and taken to the Black Tower. They had only gone through half the room though, which meant they still had to sift through dozens of piles of rusty chests and rotted sacks. He knew the High Lords had no love of the Power, but why treat anything so finely made with such disdain? He selected a heavy hammer and a chisel from the leather belt tied around his waist and knelt in front of a chest.

 

He positioned the chisel where it looked like the lock had rusted almost completely through. A few hits from his hammer was all it took to bash the lock away from the rest of the chest. Baran carefully lifted the lid up and back, but it wasn't enough to stop the hinges from snapping from the strain after being in one position for so long. Baran let the thing fall to the ground in disgust before reaching down into the chest to paw through another rotted sack for something of use. A small vase almost tumbled out of the thing before he caught it, fumbling awkwardly with the thing before he was able to get it under control. He tilted his head to look at it, wondering what it did, if it did anything at all.

 

Turning to bellow for a Soldier, he set the thing down next to the chest and went back to searching. A small statuette and a dagger had joined the vase before the Soldier arrived, inquiring as to what he needed.

 

“More artifacts for the Tsorovan'm'hael's crates.” Baran said, gesturing to the small pile. “Burn me if even half of this junk is of any more use than what you can find in the market.”

 

“What do you think he thinks we'll find down here, anyway, Dedicated?” The Soldier, a Domani, asked, looking down at the smaller man.

 

Baran grimaced at having to look up at the Soldier. “Ter'Angreal, I suppose. Something to make the Black Tower more equal with those women in the White Tower. Not a bad goal, but it's bloody sweaty work. Not even a breeze in the place, and we can't even channel to move the air around in here.”

 

The Soldier shrugged and scooped up the items before scurrying off. Baran turned, ready to move on to the next item in the pile, this time a small covered basket, when his foot caught on the lip of the broken lid, and he tripped, stumbling forward a few steps. He threw his weight backwards when he realized he was about to stumble into an unsorted pile, and somehow managed to send himself into the trash pile, covering himself in rotted reeds, spiderwebs, and dust. He stood, spitting what he could out of his mouth and walked over to the lid, giving it a swift, angry kick. To his surprise, the inside of the thing cracked, revealing an inner compartment. He blinked and bent down to brush the pieces away from what was hidden inside.

 

He stood, holding what looked like some kind of small carved stone sculpture, or maybe an amulet. It was smooth to the touch, and as he wiped dust away, Baran saw a kind of spiral pattern on one side. Standing there, looking at it, made him wonder what it was for, which didn't make sense at all. Who said it was for anything? Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that it had a use, whatever it was. He traced a finger along the spiral, almost entranced by it. It made him think of far-off places, but nowhere in particular. Something about speaking, but that couldn't be right. Maybe sending messages?

 

He wasn't aware of how long he had been standing there, resisting the urge to Seize Saidin and channel at the thing until he heard the sound of someone else entering the room.

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Digging through yet another pile of curious objects that the Asha'man had brought up from the Great Holding, Arath struggled to contain his disappointment. It was said by some that the amount of objects of the Power held in the Stone rivaled that held in the White Tower itself. What nobody ever mentioned was the sheer amount of utterly useless trash that was also in the Stone. For each true ter'angreal they found, they had to sift through a dozen rotten pieces of junk. It seemed to Arath that the Tairen paranoia about the One Power had led them to throw absolutely anything that looked even slightly out of the ordinary into this dungeon. Most of it was trash, rotten and no longer useable. Other things were still servicable, but not related to the Power.

 

Some of the soldiers had not yet been able to distinguish between mundane artifacts, and the ter'angreal they were looking for. For the most part they were soldiers who had only just begun training, who still had problems even grasping Saidin. This was a safety measure. They were less likely to channel around these things because they hadn't become accustomed to doing everything with the power yet. One fool dedicated had tried to sift through an entire pile of refuse with flows of air a couple of weeks earlier. He'd regained consciousness that morning, and had no memory of the last few months. Needless to say, the others were being more careful now. There were still incidents every day, but thankfully nothing large.

 

As Arath finished looking through the box of items, all bloody mundane objects, he turned and made his way back to the holding. Maybe enough had been sorted for him to examine another box?

 

As he pushed open the door leading into the latest room they had been clearing out, he was met by the sight of one of the Dedicated, staring down at something in his hand. He wasn't moving. He didn't seem to be doing anything at all except stare at the object he held.

 

Resisting the instinctive urge to sieze the source, Arath carefully made his way forward, brushing aside fallen junk from the path. The dedicated, Baran, stirred at the noise he made, which made the Storm Leader relax a little. But only a little. What was he up to? "Find something interesting Dedicated?"

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Baran jerked at the sound of another man's voice. He straightened, tearing his gaze from the small artifact in his hand. He turned around, his eyes widening as he realized it was Arath Faringal, not one of the Soldiers he was used to dealing with. Of course the Tsorovan'm'hael himself would be the one to walk in on him staring at...whatever it was he was holding. Flustered, he tried to salute with the hand holding the artifact, only to realize what he was doing at the last minute. He quickly fumbled the thing from one gnarled hand to the other, finally bringing his fist to his chest.

 

"Oh! Well, I think so, Tsorovan'm'hael. Er, that is to say, it might be. Well, I don't really know, Sir." His shoulders slumped as he offered the artifact over for inspection. No doubt this would lend to the already growing legend of insanity, if the man didn't just kill him on the spot. Thinking of insanity made him wonder about the strange ideas that had come to mind when he had first held the thing. Was that the form his insanity would take? No matter. He would hardly be the first one to develop strange quirks from wielding Saidin. He could still be of use, though. He could still do what he needed to do to be remembered.

 

Baran brought himself under control with a grimace. How had he allowed himself to become so flustered? He hadn't been so surprised in years. Some small part of him expected the children from his childhood to pop up from behind the piles of trash to laugh at him for allowing that much emotion to show on his face at once. It had happened once, when Keri Rondin had jumped out of a tree at him and scared him half to death. Light, it had taken years for him to live that down, if he ever had. Some of his friends still brought it up back home. Probably still drinking to their health and laughing at him even now. The Light shine on them and their somewhat happy lives.

 

With a shake of his head, Baran brought himself back to the present. "What do you make of it, Storm Leader?"

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Arath took the artifact that Baran offered him and turned it over in his hand. It was definitely a ter'angreal. He could tell simply by touching it. What it did ... now that was a bigger challenge. The challenge common to almost every ter'angreal they had found. It made him think of ... a line? A tunnel?

 

"I have no idea," he confessed. "I get a feeling of lines. Long lines. Distances maybe? It's hard to say. I know it is a ter'angreal, but other than that ..." Arath traced the spiral pattern on the disk with his thumb. "I wish there was a way to figure these things out, other than trial and error. It's mostly taking whatever vague impressions you get and slowly expanding them. Some people are better at feeling out ter'angreal than others. I'm better at it than most, but that's not really saying much. If I can figure it out, I can try to recreate it, but it's a slow, painful process. More frustrating than fruitful."

 

Bouncing the ter'angreal in his palm for a moment, Arath handed it back to Baran. "So tell me, what do you think of it? There must be some reason why you picked out it from all of ... this."

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Baran almost told him what he thought of the Ter'angreal. A moment of thought made him hold his tongue, though. What if this was some sort of test Maybe the other man was expecting him to say no. If he said yes, would that be a telling sign of insanity? You couldn't trust a man who felt things that weren't there. What if his ability to set wards was the same? What if he felt that humans were darkspawn?

 

Gritting his teeth, the Dedicated cut off that particular line of thought and forced his mind back to the conversation at hand. If he had some kind of Talent it wouldn't hurt him, but if he said yes and it was a trap, he would be that much closer to being dead.

 

"Me? Oh, I don't really get any feelings from it at all. I just...well, it was in a hidden compartment in one of the chests. Just figured it had to be special if someone had gone through all the trouble of keeping it hidden. That's all." He took the Ter'angreal back and looked at it again, doing his best to ignore the notion of touching it with flows of...what? Resisting the urge to shake his head to clear it, Baran handed the Ter'angreal back. "Well, that's another one for the Black Tower, eh? Well, no use in me just standing around. Better get back to work." He gave a grin, not thinking that the expression was so out of character for him and turned around, plainly intent on getting back to the piles.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Arath watched curiously as the Dedicated lied with through his teeth. Odd ... He would have expected a Cairhienen to be far better at it. He didn't feel anything at all? Why had he been staring so intently at the thing for so long then? Imagining it's many uses as a paper weight?

 

"Hmmm ... that might be just as well. You could be down here for quite some time sorting through this mess, and if you don't feel any impressions about anything you find you'll be less likely to experiment in some fool way." Arath casually let the threat dangle for a moment before continuing. "Even if you're right about something you can be wrong. An Asha'man was here a few months ago, searching in the first chamber. He found a rod that he was sure would shoot fire out the end if he channeled into it. He was right. Too bad he was holding the wrong end." Despite himself, Arath grimaced at that particular memory. It had not been a pretty sight.

 

Bouncing the ter'angreal in his palm, Arath looked around the rest of the room. Some of those piles reached nearly to the vaulted cieling. And there were several more chambers just like this one. Larger in fact. This could be the job of months, especially for men accustomed to doing everything with the Power. "Well, I'd best leave you to it. I'll be in the Asha'man quarters sorting through another box. Let me know if you need anything, or if you find anything that looks important."

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"Yes, Tsorovan'm'hael."

 

Baran snapped to attention and saluted, grateful that the questions were over. He had almost felt as though he were being interrogated, though logically the Attack Leader would have been much more insistent had it actually been an interrogation. There might have been more pain involved, as well. Still, he was amazed that his horrendous excuse had worked. He usually had more time to prepare a story when he had to lie. Something to work on, he supposed. Improvising had never been one of his strong points when it came to something as complex as lying well. The thought was what made him stop from repeating that he probably wouldn't be able to find anything. Repeating himself probably wouldn't work here. It would just make him seem more guilty. He wasn't sure what the penalty was for lying to a superior was, but it probably wasn't very enjoyable.

 

After Arath left, Baran looked around very carefully before letting out a rather loud sigh of relief. He took a few more moments to calm himself before getting back to work, shifting boxes and going through the contents. More dusty artifacts were ready to clog his nose with dust and make his eyes water. Not a particularly enjoyable prospect. Certainly not what he had joined the Black Tower to do. He had expected to be slicing through trollocs and black-eyed Aiel. He had played at Aiel fighting as a child, his strength if not his size making him a good choice for either side. Though he had liked wielding his stick like a sword rather than a spear. How unusual then, that he had learned Aiel techniques for fighting with his hands as part of his training.

 

Shaking himself out of his reverie, Baran got back to work unpacking boxes. Sneezing, he began another careful pile and hoped he wouldn't find anything else that would...do whatever that Ter'Angreal had done.

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