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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Daes Dae'mar, Lesson #1


Phelix
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Sitting in her classroom, Gera observed every detail of the space. It calmed her to practice the skills that had made her a wealthy woman back in Cairhien. If things had gone differently, her old mentor might have selected another to take over his web, leaving Gera as simply his most senior informant... if she had been left there, she would either have become a lieutenant to the new Spy master, or she would have been found dead somewhere. Luckily, she had been selected.

As the first students came into the class, Gera observed them too, noting the few indicators of nationality that the Tower let girls keep. There were Andorans, Borderlanders of every stripe, girls from the southern nations, and more. It would be an interesting class. Some of these girls likely thought they knew how to play Daes Dae’mar already, and they surely had had lessons... but there was always more to learn in the Game.

Gera had honed her skills over decades, first learning from her own Master, then she learned by trying her skills against other players. That was the best method for truly learning to play the Game. If you walked away having achieved your end, you were the better player... or your end didn’t conflict with their plans... there were dozens of possible reasons for why any given situation came out the way it did.

Once all the girls were in the room, Gera stood, and immediately the girls went silent. They were ready.

“Girls, my name is Gera Mondwin, and I am an Accepted in the White Tower. Before coming to the Tower, I lived in the city of Cairhien. My business was information. I spent more than thirty years running a business where I dealt in information. I bought it, sold it, and used it to the advantage of my clients... and to my own advantage.” She paced the front of the room, making eye contact with each of the girls. Any of them who had come from noble families could have employed people like Gera, though she doubted any had been her clients.

“Something you must absorb into your thoughts is that the Great Game, Daes Dae’mar, truly is a game.” she paused, letting them think about that. “Just like with any other sport, there are people who play simply because every other person of significance does so, and there are people who play poorly, and those who play well. Money frequently makes a player better than they would be on their own merits, again like most sports.”

It was a fact. Wealthy lords could purchase the skills of better spies and buy more information than those with less means.

“In some countries, everyone plays the Game... notably, my home nation. In Cairhien, everyone from the beggars on the streets through the King in his Palace plays the game, each to their own level.” It made her smile to realize how involved her countrymen were with the Game. It was a part of ‘most everyone’s daily life. “Other nations, like the Borderlands from Shienar through Saldaea, are barely touched by the Game. Their nobles are so focused on defending the Blight Border that playing the Game is only a distraction. The last time someone sought to truly play the Great Game in a Borderland, it ended with a Darkfriend betraying their nation and the Blight took Malkier. Players of the Game in all the nations took a lesson from that.”

After another pause, she looked at the girls again. “The lesson was that no matter how important the Game may seem, it is always secondary to our battle against the Shadow. As initiates of the Tower, we must especially remember that fact. While the Game may be among the greatest of pleasures, and its rewards can be spectacular, it is nothing when compared with our fight against the Shadow. The Tower exists to serve and protect the World. We must all remember that, even as we play the Game to further our position.”

“Now, on a lighter note, each and every person who plays the Game is either a player or someone else’s piece. Everyone. In any given situation your role can change. There were times when I used some of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom, but there were more times when they used me to accomplish one of their goals.” She smiled, ruefully recalling a few incidents. “If you play, you will also be played. The question is: how often will you be played? Only your level of skill determines that, and how often you play.”

While the girls sat there, thinking about her words, Gera walked to the chalk board. “There are many kinds of moves one can take in the Great Game. In fact, according to some players, every action you take is a move. If you choose to eat a warm oat cereal for breakfast, it is obviously because your opponent recently lost his investment in a shipment of oats that were stolen by bandits. Your breakfast choice is meant to be observed by the clerk on your staff that you know is in the pay of your opponent, and then reported so that your opponent knows that you both know of and are celebrating his loss.”

The girls looked confused, and Gera let a small laugh. “Of course, not everyone is that involved. Most moves in the game are fairly obvious. You pay a person to gather information about an opponent. You send a thug to threaten an opponent. You enter a competing bid for a property, knowing your opponent wishes to develop it. Really, anything you do that is in direct opposition to another player is an aggressive move.”

“The corollary is that anything you do to shore up your own position, is a defensive move. If you purge your staff of spies; if you hire more guards; if you invest in the interests of more powerful Houses or Players... your opponents will see that as you either retreating or preparing to launch an attack of your own. Which will be their question... if you are retreating, you could be showing weakness or you could be feinting to draw them out. If you are preparing to attack, they should do some defending themselves.”

“True success to playing the game often involves studying your opponent, discovering his or her national habits and traits, as well as knowing what they expect of you.”

“Well, then girls... I believe we’ve covered the basic introductions into Daes Dae’mar. If you have any questions, you may ask them now. Tomorrow, we will discuss the styles the Game can take in the different nations.”

Gera waited to see if any of the girls had any questions, hoping that one or two might.

OOC: For your response, please RP your thoughts about Daes Dae’mar BEFORE Gera begins talking... why you’re taking the class basically... and then your thoughts AS she teaches and AFTER the class. If you have a question, go ahead and ask it. Gera will answer them. :wink: I will post the next class soon. :smile:

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Caillean walked briskly down the hall looking for the classroom. She had picked up that purposeful way to walk from watching the other novices. Walk too slow and you just might be questioned or assigned extra chores. She had already had her fill of chores for the day and it was only just after midday. Already her arms were sore from scrubbing, and washing breakfast dishes. Bedtime was still a long way to go. Light, this was only her first full day as a novice! She stifled a yawn as she checked the doors, looking for the room number.

 

Caillean had mixed feelings about this class. Daes Dae’mar, the Great Game. She knew very little about Cairhien or this Great Game. What little bits Gleeman Jorin had mentioned when he taught her actually filled her with disdain. The rich playing games with peoples very lives…it just disgusted her. Why couldn’t people just be forthcoming and honest? She just couldn’t understand it. But if this Daes Dae’mar was a part of the world, and as dangerous as they said, Caillean figured she had better learn something about it whether she liked it or not. At least it might prove interesting. Maybe she could even use what she learned to create some more stories. Plus, it was a welcome respite from chores after all.

 

Finding the room at last, she realized that her thoughts about Daes Dae’mar had her eyes scrunched and her lips pursed tightly together. It certainly wouldn’t do to walk into her first class like that. Give it a chance, she told herself, Smoothing out her white dress she released the tension and entered the classroom taking a seat near the front and clearing her mind.

 

“Something you must absorb into your thoughts is that the Great Game, Daes Dae’mar, truly is a game.” she paused, letting them think about that. “Just like with any other sport, there are people who play simply because every other person of significance does so, and there are people who play poorly, and those who play well. Money frequently makes a player better than they would be on their own merits, again like most sports.”

 

This was the part that most bothered her about the game. People playing with others’ lives sometimes merely for sport, or because everyone else was doing it. She tried not to let her disdain show in her face beyond maybe a flash in her eyes. Admittedly she knew very little about this and she wasn’t ready to stand out and debate the matter.

 

“The lesson was that no matter how important the Game may seem, it is always secondary to our battle against the Shadow. As initiates of the Tower, we must especially remember that fact.

 

Caillean perked up at this. This was the first time anyone at the tower had mentioned it, and it sparked a lot of questions in her mind. What was this battle against the Shadow? How was it fought? What did it have to do with her and the other initiates? Suddenly she realized she had gotten so absorbed in her thoughts she had lost track of what their teacher was saying. Feeling nearly embarrassed enough to put pink on her cheeks she quickly let her other thoughts fall away for now. There were so many new things, and so many questions it was a wonder she could think straight at all.

 

“Now, on a lighter note, each and every person who plays the Game is either a player or someone else’s piece. Everyone. In any given situation your role can change. There were times when I used some of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom, but there were more times when they used me to accomplish one of their goals.” She smiled, ruefully recalling a few incidents. “If you play, you will also be played. The question is: how often will you be played? Only your level of skill determines that, and how often you play.”

 

Now this intrigued Caillean inspite of herself. She could tell by the Accepted’s rueful smile that she probably had some interesting stories behind that. If she thought about it only in terms of a game, and not something in real life that could really get people killed, Daes Dae’mar actually began to sound intriguing. She wondered if that was how the people who were good players thought of it. Even the richest and best players can be played. It’s like a big circle.

 

“There are many kinds of moves one can take in the Great Game. In fact, according to some players, every action you take is a move. If you choose to eat a warm oat cereal for breakfast, it is obviously because your opponent recently lost his investment in a shipment of oats that were stolen by bandits.

 

Caillean’s eyes widened in shock at this. The idea of having to spend so much time thinking how every action you take from breakfast to bedtime might be interpreted, or to have every little thing you did examined. She thought she might die of a hear attack having to live and worry like that all the time. How did they do it? It seemed you could even easily get involved in Daes Dae’mar without even knowing you were playing.

 

She was relieved to hear that not everyone played so deeply but thinking of all the different intricacies and the different maneuvers the Accepted was describing made her head spin. It was more tangled than any story she had ever heard and that made it interesting despite the fact that she hated the very idea.

 

When the lesson was finished Caillean remained quiet a moment trying to make sense of the myriad of different thoughts and questions flying through her mind. Should she dare ask about the one thing that was just burning to come out? Finally she raided her hand.

 

“I have one please. How did Daes Dae’mar start? Is it really necessary? I mean it seems people should just be straightforward and not play games idly with people’s lives. I just don’t understand.” Caillean realized that was far more than one question and she fidgeted, tugging at the end of her dress, hoping she had not spoken too much.

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This first question came from a girl who could have fit in well in many of the central countries, but Gera would put her money on either western Andor or perhaps southern Ghealdan. Her accent wasn't thick or indicative either.

 

“I have one please. How did Daes Dae’mar start? Is it really necessary? I mean it seems people should just be straightforward and not play games idly with people’s lives. I just don’t understand.”

 

"It is good to recognize when we have met our limits. Hopefully after this class is through, you will better understand the hows of the Great Game. As for when it began... well, the Game has existed as we know it at least since the fall of the Ten Nations. People surely played in similar manners before that, though they might not have called it the Great Game. A point to note is that we know that Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends played at the Great Game among themselves, in what they called the ever shifting sea of ajah." Gera smiled. "People have played the Great Game for as long as they have striven against each other."

 

Pacing around the front of the room, Gera thought for a moment. "Now, is the Great Game necessary... that is indeed a large question. I admit, I am biased. My life has been centered around the Game, so I cannot imagine a world without it. Removing myself, though, I believe I must still say that yes, the Game is necessary."

 

She paused, thinking of the proper words to explain her opinion.

 

"Yes, people could be straightforward and not play with other peoples' lives, but that would limit people to a certain level of interaction. In a village, there is very little need for Daes Dae'mar... of course, you could scheme to manipulate the other women to follow your lead, using the skills of the Game to suppress resistance... but that is needlessly complex. If you are merely wise and reasonable, they will follow you anyway. However, if you are a Lady whose lands must compete with those of other Lords, of other nations, the Game is necessary to ensure the survival and profitability of your lands and people. The Game is merely one tool by which those with power exercise their power. As initiates of the Tower, we must preserve the image and power of the Tower itself. If we squander the Tower's influence, soon we will not have any influence when we seek to guide the world toward the proper paths."

 

"Does that make more sense, Caillean?"

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Caillean always was one for too many questions. When her parents weren’t yelling at her for daydreaming they were annoyed at her for asking them too many questions, most of which they did not know the answer to anyway. So she was very glad that Accepted Gera did not seem to take offense.

 

“As for when it began... well, the Game has existed as we know it at least since the fall of the Ten Nations. People surely played in similar manners before that, though they might not have called it the Great Game. A point to note is that we know that Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends played at the Great Game among themselves, in what they called the ever shifting sea of ajah." Gera smiled. "People have played the Great Game for as long as they have striven against each other."

 

Wow, did it really go back that long? Caillean paid rapt attention, her chin cupped in one hand. The ever shifting sea of ajahs, she mulled the phrase over in her mind. It even sounded rather poetic. Anything about the age of legends was fascinating to her.

 

"Yes, people could be straightforward and not play with other peoples' lives, but that would limit people to a certain level of interaction. In a village, there is very little need for Daes Dae'mar... of course, you could scheme to manipulate the other women to follow your lead, using the skills of the Game to suppress resistance... but that is needlessly complex. If you are merely wise and reasonable, they will follow you anyway.”

 

Caillean nodded thoughtfully. This at least she knew to be true coming from a small community herself. . That was precisely why she couldn’t see the use of the Great Game.

 

”However, if you are a Lady whose lands must compete with those of other Lords, of other nations, the Game is necessary to ensure the survival and profitability of your lands and people. The Game is merely one tool by which those with power exercise their power. As initiates of the Tower, we must preserve the image and power of the Tower itself. If we squander the Tower's influence, soon we will not have any influence when we seek to guide the world toward the proper paths."

 

That made a certain sort of sense, as much as she felt like denying it. Perhaps the Great Game prevented wars that might happen if nations and lords were honest and straightforward. Could Daes Dae’mar actually save lives as well? She begrudgingly had to admit that it was very possible. The tower even used it to try to do the right thing. It was certainly something to think about. “Yes Accepted Gera, thank you. “, Caillean said, flashing a quick smile.

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Auriane grumbled to herself as she stalked into the crowded classroom. That detestable woman had tricked her into signing up to this, and there was no way of getting out of it, even though she’d far prefer doing something more useful with her time. Scanning the pupils, she recognised one or two of them, but it seemed a diverse class. That was a good sign. She had been worried of entering a room filled with pasty-faced women all sitting upright like they had brooms tied to their backbones, dark hair aligned neatly and perfectly, who would look upon her with identical guarded expressions and say: “Yes, I had anticipated that.” A room full of young Geras.

 

No, this room was a varying group. There was one young Gera, but most of them had the look of a confused Novice who thought that this class would teach her how to “be an Aes Sedai.” As Auriane herself would have been, a few years ago. It was a pity that this class could not have been taken when she was at that age, before she had become cynical and suspecting of everything. It may not have been such a miserable experience had it happened then.

 

She began to move towards the back of the class, but at an arched eyebrow from that horrid Accepted, she turned nearer the front. Right in the centre. That would do. An ambivalent seat indeed, with no clear alignments. How appropriate, she thought to herself as she sat down. Assuming a mask of perfect calm, Auriane looked to the front and prepared to endure the oncoming hour or so of dull, dusty manipulation.

 

Some skinny chit in front of her looked up to the vile woman and asked: “How did Daes Dae’mar start? Is it really necessary?” Resisting the urge to sigh, Auriane thought decided that this must be a new initiate. “I mean,” she continued, “It seems people should just be straightforward and not play games idly with people’s lives. I just don’t understand.”

 

Definitely a new initiate.

 

The loathsome woman rattled off the tired old answer every initiate heard so many times before reaching the ring, and the girl looked at her with a thoughtful look on her face. Auriane bitterly thought to herself: is she being polite, or is it genuine stupidity?

 

Fully regretting the uninformed decision she had made little over a week ago, Auriane sat, wishing to the Light for the end of this class.

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