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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Intrigue in Murandy


Visar Falmaien
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Visar Falmaien urged his mare into a trot. He didn't need to head back immediately, but he wanted to feel the wind on his face. Cutting across an open field, the warder crested the hill which would bring the road into view again and jerked slightly on the reins for a halt. He scanned the horizon, seeing clumps of woods here and there as well as a small stream which flowed to the west. Sure enough, the delegation from the White Tower was just within sight, moving down the road at a slow, easy pace.

 

Seeing a good path down the gently sloping rise, Visar spurred his horse forward for speed until it reached a gallop on level ground. It was good to be able to ride full speed every now and then. They had been going at an alarmingly slow pace, cautious once they reached the borders. Twice the weary party from the White Tower had been openly attacked by bandits and they had just barely been able to hold them off. They had had to ride for miles around half a dozen other armed groups, unsure as to their loyalties. Two pack horses with precious supplies were gone, and one guardsman in the delegation had already lost his life. The trip so far had been an awful mess.

 

But at least it kept Visar more alert than he would otherwise feel. The long road wore down on even him, though the lack of sleep counted for that as much as anything else. As he felt the wind rush into his hair, Visar felt only the vaguest of notions that Rasheta Sedai was still on the other end. She had dampened emotions from the bond from him, and he could only now tell vaguely that she was up north, far distant.

 

He shook his head slightly as he slowed down, trying to forget about it for now. He had already almost gotten himself killed for not paying enough attention, and his relation with his "guest" Aes Sedai was anything but trusting. Kathleen and her warder kept a close enough eye on him that she was almost a nagging mother; Gera Sedai watched him cautiously, unsure whether he would be a threat to her leadership, something that she was clearly sensitive about, what with being a "newer" Aes Sedai from Salidar. This brief mission had been a pleasant break from their company, but it was over all too soon.

 

"Greetings, Aes Sedai," Visar began his report. "I scouted the road ahead: clear in all directions. I met with a rider from Lady Arman as well and told him to send word of our arrival. She should be expecting us by sundown if we quicken our pace."

 

The Aes Sedai regarded him cooly without clear emotion, though by their postures they seemed relieved that their long journey was almost over. Visar waited for them to speak before joining the others in the escort.

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Gera sat her horse well, as anyone of a certain station in Cairhien must, and as all Aes Sedai must... it still took some thought to remind herself that she was not just a Cairhienin now, but also an Aes Sedai. Her old life was gone, but it had formed the better part of 50 years of habits. One didn't up and become a new woman just because of a few years in the Tower. She had her shawl safely packed away, its crisp blue fringe still a source of pride. She was one of the first of a new type of Aes Sedai, and the fact that she had gained her shawl spoke to her hard work and the fitness of all women like her. Not long ago, the Tower had capped the age a woman could enter as a Novice at 18. No matter her potential, no matter if she were a wilder... no woman older than 18 was technically allowed to enroll. Some few slipped by with a white lie... or an outright lie... but they were rare. A few years past, the Hall had decided that with the Last Battle approaching, they must capture all the talent they could, so the Novice books were opened. The older women were called "Salidar Novices" not because they came from Salidar, a small town in Amadicia... but for some reason known only to the Hall and a few sisters higher in the ranks, like Talina Sedai, the Mistress of Novices.

 

This journey was a test... both of her personal skill as a sister, but also of the idea of older novices. If she failed, it would reflect poorly on all of the older initiates. If she succeeded, it would show that they were just as competent as women taught young.

 

Of course, their journey hadn't been easy. They had been attacked twice, losing pack horses with many of the supplies needed for this mission. Their spare clothing, some of their money, much of their food stores, and more, were now enriching some foolish bandit. Gera and Kathleen had used the Power to fend off the worst of the attacks, but there was only so much one could do when one's life was not directly in danger. It was a frustrating limit placed on them by the Oath Rod.

 

As Gera mused on their journey, she saw Visar Falmien approaching. The Warder was the leader of their guard, and he fulfilled the duties admirably, but he was still an enigma to Gera. She knew that he was Bonded to a Green... Rasheta... but she had stayed behind in the Tower, while Kathleen now acted as if she comanded Visar. Gera doubted the man's bond had been passed... someone would have mentioned it, even if only in passing gossip. He was quite useful... perhaps he had asked Rasheta to allow him to explore working with other Aes Sedai. It might be worth persuing to see if he would consider allowing his bond to be passed to another sister. Gera still had not found a man who met her requirements for a Warder. Visar seemed to match them well.

 

When he was close enough, Visar began his report without bowing. Here, alone in the countryside, that would be acceptable, but Gera hoped he would be more polite when they had others with them. Perhaps she should mention that to Kathleen.

 

"Greetings, Aes Sedai. I scouted the road ahead: clear in all directions. I met with a rider from Lady Arman as well and told him to send word of our arrival. She should be expecting us by sundown if we quicken our pace."

 

"Excellent, Visar," Gera nodded to the Warder. "Set the pace. It would not do to keep the Lady waiting any longer." There was a touch of irony in Gera's words. The situation they had been sent to deal with shouldn't require a single Aes Sedai, let alone two, but because of the nature of Murandian land disputes and the number of bandits and sell swords around, this minor conflict had the potential to flare, bringing the whole region into conflict. If the Tower didn't involve itself, some ambitious Andoran Lordling might decide to cross the border with his army to "assist in settling the dispute" while also extending his own holdings, and the Andoran Border, deep into Murandy.

 

So many nobles this far west thought their motives were obscured behind their pretty words. Few ever matched wits with a skilled player of the Game, and those that had likely didn't even realize they had been played.

 

As the sun began to lower in the west, the land around them began to show signs of farming and being cultivated, rather than wilderness. The lady's mansion was revealed as they came around a bend in the road. It was a rather large building, obviously built to be both a home and a fortification. In a nation where civil wars are more common than not, it pays to build with an eye to defense. Standing at the steps of the home were a row of servants, ready to take their horses, as well as the Lady herself and her household.

 

While she rode up the pathway, Gera scanned the waiting faces. Yes, the Lady kept up a strong facade... but there was something hidden there. Oddly enough, the Lady's daughter also wore the signs of someone hiding a secret. It might be useful to put some pressure on the girl... to see what developed.

 

Gera Mondwin

Aes Sedai

Blue Ajah

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When they had first left Kathleen had been worried about taking Visar along. It wasn't his abilities that worried her, she knew he was trained well and had a very good head on his shoulders. It was his emotional state that worried her. She knew she couldn't say no to Rasheta when she had been asked to take Visar along, but she didn't want to have the burden of watching over him. It was not common for an Aes Sedai to send her warder off with another, so Kathleen knew that something desperate was happening. She had known for some time that two were struggling, but she still didn't know the whole reasoning. When Rasheta and Visar had shown up at her door just days before she was to leave the White Tower, Kathleen could sense the tension and had agreed to take him along. She had told them that it could be dangerous and that extra protection and extra eyes would be helpful. While that was true, she was unsure how focused on this mission Visar would be. She worried that he would be distracted and let his inner turmoil jeopardize his position and care on the job. She hoped his training and previous dedication would keep him to task, but without his Aes Sedai there Kathleen just couldn't be sure.

 

Before they met with the rest of the party Kathleen had taken Visar aside to assess where he was. He was quite professional, but Kathleen still made the point to warn him that no matter what upset was going through his head she did need him to be present and focused. The journey they were on could be nothing more than a ride out, a discussion between two families and ride back. Simple with not much for a warder to do. She warned him that could be much more dangerous with the threat of bandits. She had hoped it would be simple, in and out, and that the bandits would stay away from a group of Aes Sedai and Tower Guards, but she almost knew it wouldn't be that simple. It never was when she left the Tower, she always seemed to get into some trouble. Visar seemed slightly annoyed as Kathleen was telling him to stay on his toes, of course he would do his job as he should, but Kathleen had to at least know that she had brought it up to him.

 

He had proven himself helpful, present and alert throughout the trip. Standing and fighting off the two attacks that had already came, before they had even made it to the bandits they were warned about. He had done a good job of scouting, keeping them from walking into more danger, but every time Visar set out to scout ahead Kathleen couldn't help but worry that he would get lost in his thoughts and make the decision to leave.She knew that he needed time to think and get his emotions under control, and she hoped that he was taking the time for it. If he decided not to return to Rasheta he may decide to ride off under cover of scouting and never return. The party wouldn't be able to go after him and if he traveled far enough away he could stay hidden from Rasheta as long as he wished. She worried every time he rode off, but so far he had always come back.

 

Kathleen sighed in relief as she saw Visar in the distance coming back to them. She knew deep down that he would always return, even if he had decided to leave the ties of the White Tower Kathleen knew he would finish this mission and see the group safely back to Tar Valon. She glanced at her warder and saw him smirk at her when Visar came back. Nevuel was finding the whole situation quiet comical. Well, at least someone was.

 

Visar gave his report and suggested they move faster, tired as they were Kathleen knew he was right. The sooner they got there the sooner they could be done with this and rest. Gera spoke up, taking charge of setting the Warder's suggestion into motion, as she always seemed to do. The girl, old as she was, Kathleen couldn't help but think of her as a girl due to the way she always seemed make her station and presence known, like newly raised Aes Sedai trying to make the leap from child to Queen. Kathleen knew she was trying to prove herself and the system she was raised in, she just hoped that the pressure she was putting on herself wouldn't be the girl's downfall. The group set off again, riding harder, and it wasn't long before they neared their destination.

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They were within sight of the manor, which was more of a stone walled fortress than a country estate. Visar rode ahead of the column a little, setting the pace as ordered, his eyes scanning either side of the road just in case there were further surprises. Thankfully there were none this close to the manor, or Visar would have assumed that Lady Arman's defense forces were completely incompetent at making patrols at least in the immediate vicinity. Though controlling her entire lands was another matter. . .

 

It was Kathleen's warder that saw the riders first, which rankled Visar's scouting pride a little, but the man did have an uncanny vision. Visar rode beside him as they fronted the envoy's formation, sure to be between the riders and the Aes Sedai.

 

The riders halted at about bowshot range and a man shouted, saying he was an escort from Lady Arman. The possible threat settled, the delegation from the Tower rode closer, and Visar got a better look at the man who led the dozen horsemen.

 

He was an imposing figure, very tall and strong, looking, with a curious weapon in hand; a double-bladed staff. Visar wondered why the man preferred to use such; it was true using the staff in a center grip could be very effective, but without being able to grip one end of it, the full reach of the weapon could not be utilized. Still, having a blade at the other end meant he could easily match a swordsman in speed closer in. Not a weapon for an amateur warrior, for certain. Visar rode up beside him, his eye focused on the hand holding the bladed staff.

 

"We thank your Lady Arman for her escort. I am Visar Falmaien, a Warder assigned to this delegation. What is your name, captain?"

 

Visar was unsure of what rank the man held, therefore he felt he could use caution on the upper side of things; perhaps this man was a captain in Lady Arman's guard.

 

After receiving Drayik's name and letting the Aes Sedai introduce themselves, Visar nodded and let the escort take them to the manor which was not far away. Servants were expecting the party and led away their horses.

 

The Aes Sedai led, Visar and the others trailing on foot, eyes glancing around but their stance remained casual and relaxed. The inside of the manor fortress was a lot more inviting than the outer wall; the courtyard had a vegetable garden and flowers which looked well tended.

 

Once they entered the inner keep, Visar was impressed with the rich furnishings as they made their way to the Lady's great hall where she was to receive them. There were expensive and exotic looking vases holding flowers in many nooks and crannies, as well as rich portraits and tapestries on the walls portraying scenes and people from the Lady's noble ancestry. There were even bolts of Sharan silk that Visar saw in one room, which looked set aside for sewing and embroidery and the like. Clearly the Lady possessed some wealth. And the guard at the fortress was ample. How was it then that the Lady was having so much difficulty governing the countryside?

 

Visar wondered what sort of character they were about to meet. Visar nodded to Drayik who looked like he was about to open the doors and introduce the delegation to Lady Arman.

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To gain great power risks had to be taken, her mother had taken risks for her; she had taken great risks for her daughter. All in the name of providing a better life..or at least that was the story on her lips. Since her husband’s passing she’d taken on all of his responsibilities, and with that his lust for glory. It had taken great backbone to call on the aid of the White Tower. It was a move that she hoped would unnerve her combatant.

 

Standing in front of her tall stand mirror Camiline carefully arranged her light brown waves of hair, making sure they were pinned just so. Appearance was nearly as important as content much of the time. Aes Sedai always had the upper hand, and she would need every edge if she was going to make her little plan work. Her messenger had brought word that they had reached the Borders of her land. Her guard, whom she’d had at the ready were sent forth to meet them. Strength met with a show of strength

 

Giving her gown a last look she went to gather her daughter assemble in the grand hall…it was time to begin.

 

Her guard had been given strict instructions to keep to the highest stands and to be as strict as they dared. She was a minor noble, but wealthy and her cause was important. Well it was important to her own plans at the least. Two uniformed guards opened the doors to her daughter’s sitting room, and it took only a look to get her moving. Giving the child a small smile, she reached out a tucked in a few stray hairs. “You have dressed impeccably my dear, it seems as if my choice to send you away for proper grooming was a good one.” Gesturing for the guards to open the doors to the hall she pointed to a line of chairs along the slightly raised dais. “You will sit just next to me my darling, and observe. Watch as your mother begins her bid to win you a better life.”

 

Looking at the lavishly furnished room, many would think life could not get much richer, but Camiline knew there was a world of wealth out there waiting for her; all she needed was the means to grasp it.

 

Less than half an hour passed, before the delegation was announced. Standing as the Aes Sedai were introduced she bent her head in a show of respect, but quickly straightened and returned to looking them in the eye.

 

“I hope your journey has not been too trying. While you are here, I wish you to think of my estate as your own. I want you to take advantage of every comfort I can offer.”

 

The Lady Camiline Arman

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  • 2 weeks later...

(ooc: oks looks like I'll post again lol)

 

They entered the great hall of the manor, which was, while not extremely spacious, was as grand as Visar had ever seen one noble possess. It made him think about the wealth of the White Tower. How much did it possess that it did not tell people about? Or perhaps it went all into building projects and paying the Guard and such... He wondered where the money came from and went sometimes, but it wasn't his place to ask.

 

Neither was it his place to talk here. He was just here to help protect Kathleen and Gera Sedai, and so he took a position near the exit next to the guard who had led them into the grounds. The man had his staff handy, but so far had not made any threatening moves with it. He seemed fairly relaxed, but Visar could tell he was just about as observant as the warders. Perhaps he was nervous?

 

Visar smiled slightly, almost itching for a good fight. He had not fought someone with a pole-weapon in a long time and it would be quite the challenge.

 

Come on, I dare you to try something, he thought, as he barely listened to the delegation and the lady speak to each other about hospitality and the hardships of their journey, and eventually the issues at hand. Though the latter seemed to take a while. It usually did when nobles were talking, and perhaps the Aes Sedai were deciding to humor the Lady Arman for a while before chastising her for not keeping the roads safe. Although, that was precisely the thing that she seemed to want help with, that and getting rid of her aggressive rival. You could never tell with these sort of discussions, and Visar didn't try to understand all the subteties behind the conversation.

 

Visar settled himself down to waiting, glancing occasionally at each guardsman, trying to measure their capabilities by just watching them at rest. Other than the man with the bladed staff, none of the others seemed to be worth the trouble. Visar resisted the urge to sigh in boredom, hoping the talks would be over with already.

 

Get on with it! his mind screamed.

 

-Visar Falmaien, a little bored.

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The lady's casual offer of every comfort her estate could offer almost made Gera break her composure. If not for decades of playing the Great Game in Cairhien and her more recent years in the Tower, she might have let a wry smile show. Their journey had been worse than most, what with the attacks and their lost baggage. When they returned to the Tower she would be more than a bit shamed to explain to the First Selector what had befallen their expedition.

 

"Thank you, Lady Camiline," Gera let a small, serene smile show. "Our journey was momentous at times, but we arrived with little harm done. The Tower thanks you for your generosity, though. I am sure our escorts will enjoy the chance to rest."

 

Pausing, Gera thought about how best to bring up how dangerous the roads were. Even here in Murandy, local nobility was expected to ensure the safety of the roads within the borders of the land they claimed.

 

"I imagine that the troubles we had are part of the larger problem that lead you to seek out the Tower's assistance. As well as your neighbor, of course."

 

While a small part of her mind focused on keeping her Aes Sedai serenity and not reflecting the weather conditions or the exertions of their journey, the rest of the Blue's mind was observing the lady and those she had brought out to meet their party. Though, a third, tiny part was dedicated to watching Visar and Kathleen. The former was less predictable because his Aes Sedai was not present, and so needed to be watched... while the latter would likely carry tales about how Gera performed out in the World... even if she didn't do so in an official capacity. Gera had learned that the women of the Tower liked their gossip as much, if not more, than the nobles they manipulated.

 

Setting those thoughts aside, Gera waited for the noblewoman's reactions, and hoped that Kathleen would maintain the public facade of unity that sisters on a joint mission.

 

-Gera Mondwin

Aes Sedai of the Blue

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Leanolle Arman stood in front of the mirror, fixing the way her dark blue dress sat on her shoulders. Once satisfied, Lean moved to the mirror and started slowly brushing her waist-long hair. The Aes Sedai shouldn't be too far away, she thought, and winced when the brush got caught in a tangle. Working her fingers through it, Lean continued to brush her hair, arranging it so that her hair settled neatly on her shoulders, and then fanning out. " Why must Mother complicate matters even more by involving Aes Sedai?," Lean muttered angrily as she lowered the brush and put it on the stand. Again, she was glad that she didn't have a maid to attend her, otherwise her mother would have found out that her daughter had opinions that differed to hers as soon as Lean came home from Lugard.

 

"If Mother only listened to reason instead of resorting to this foolish grudge against our neighbours!" Just as Lean finished muttering, the doors to her room swept open and her mother walked in. As soon as their eyes met, Leanolle hastened to her mother, who fixed her hair before speaking. "You have dressed impeccably, my dear, it seems as if my choice to send you away for proper grooming was the right one." Lean rolled her eyes at this, but followed her mother to the hall, where guards opened the doors for the two ladies of the family. “You will sit just next to me my darling, and observe. Watch as your mother begins her bid to win you a better life.” Her mother pointed to the chairs sitting at the opposite end of the hall to the doors, and Lean made her way to the assigned chair, sitting gracefully as she waited for the Aes Sedai to come in.

 

They did not wait as long as Lean expected, and when they entered, Lean stood and curtsied, rather than just bowing her head as her mother had done. If Mother does not give them the respect they deserve, it's unlikely that they will help us!, Lean thought angrily as she retook her seat, but her face remained calm and betrayed no sign of what was going on inside her head. Lean paid enough attention to hear the conversation between her mother and the Aes Sedai, but focused mainly on examining them and their facial expressions, which got her nowhere, as the Aes Sedai showed no sign of emotion on their faces. She started to pay more attention to what was being said when one of the Aes Sedai mentioned the cause of her mother's request to them. Lean looked at her mother, waiting for her reply.

 

 

~ Leanolle Arman

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Kathleen walked in silence from the horses to the room where they were meeting with the manor's Lady. She let Gera take lead, partially to give the experience and partially to give herself more chance of blending and studying from behind the scenes. It would be easier to pick up on the subtle things if the focus was on someone else. She knew the Lady would be watching her, but hopefully she would watch Gera more.

 

Kathleen stood as regally as her tired body would let her as they approached the Lady, and while she bowed her head slightly Kathleen's eyes never left the womans face. She wasn't trying to challenge the woman, but she would not come off as submissive either. She knew the woman would understand and would not be expecting the Aes Sedai to bow down to her. She had taken in the lay out of the manor and had her exits marked in her mind as surely as the warders would have. Too much time in tight situations had made her alert on these matters. She had also identified many things that could be used as weapons and she was on the ready to channel. She had no reason to think it would come to that, but she was in another's den and so she was on guard.

 

She stood in silence and listened to every word the Lady said, but she took more interest in studying the daughter's reactions. Surely this was a learning experience for the girl, how to deal with Aes Sedai being the topic, if this Lady was anything like the rest of the nobles Kathleen had dealt with. Kathleen tried to determine if this was a lesson the daughter had interest in or one the mother insisted on, so many heirs had no interest in taking over titles, and too many others had too much interest in taking over the power.

 

Tired as she was Kathleen was ready to learn more than her letter had given. A bath would be nice and a rest even better, but she could muster a little while longer to get information. It would be between the Lady and Blue which came first, and it looked like talk of rest was outweighing getting details on what the Lady had called them in for. Kathleen wished she could get it over with and be on her way to solve the problem. She was a do-er at heart and was not fond of sitting and chatting, but once again, she was in the Lady's den and would play by her rules for a while.

 

-Kathleen

Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah

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The discusion continued between Lady Arman and the entourage from the White Tower. Visar was relieved to hear that they would finally be spending the night and 'work on the details' tomorrow morning. And then, he wouldn't have to attend because it was a private meeting with only the lady and the aes sedai.

 

He didn't really get the Game of the Houses or what was going on. If anything the whole conversation looked like the epitomy of politeness and noble graciousness from both sides. How strange that the lady who seemed to be in so much trouble in the letter seemed so serene about everything? Or maybe her being confident and polite was an act? Visar had a suspicion the Aes Sedai might be avoiding the more important issues for now, trying to read the Lady Arman first. And her daughter nearby looked like she was trying not to say anything in the meeting, but also had a look on her face that was extremely hard to read otherwise.

 

The introductions were over for now, and Visar left the room with the Aes Sedai. He glanced askance at both Kathleen and Gera Sedai but they didn't tell him anything. They looked thoughtful if nothing else, but Aes Sedai were even harder to read than nobles. Judging from what they both said, neither appeared to have gone through the hardships on the road that Visar knew had happened. Fascinating, but would he ever get it? Probably not.

 

The night winding down, Visar spent his time musing over nothing important in particular as he stood watch outside the Aes Sedai's quarters. Everything looked like it would be a rather boring night. Then, when he felt almost tired enough to nodd off, he heard a soft rustling of fabric in the hallway.

 

"Who goes there?" Visar called out in a challenge, peering into the dimlit corridors. A voice responded, and Visar finally recognized the figure lit by the door's lanterns. It was Leanolle Arman!

 

"Your business here, my lady?" Visar asked, perplexed as to why the noble daughter wanted to visit the Aes Sedai in the dead of night.

Edited by Visar Falmaien
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The serenity and stately carriage of the Aes Sedai was a gift to be envied. She had always considered herself to be of above average breeding, but she could not match the Aes Sedai’s serenity on her best day. Her fingers moved slightly, smoothing unseen wrinkles in her dress. It was a small tell of her irritation at feeling inferior, that she allowed her emotions to manifest themselves in a physical way. Even such a minor slip was uncommon.

 

Keeping a pleasant look on her face she offered the Aes Sedai a chair. “I have never found traveling to be a comfortable experience; and I am sorry that it was my needs that brought you discomfort. While I am in desperate need of your services I do not wish to tax you any further this evening.”

 

Reaching over to the small side table she rang a tiny silver bell, and two servants appeared straight away. Looking at the Aes Sedai she smiled. “I will have my servants show you to your rooms. Please take your rest this evening, and we will begin talk of my troubles tomorrow.” Neither sister said a word and Camiline quickly added. “If that is amendable to you, of course. Take all the time you need to recover.”

 

She kept the smile plastered to her face until the sisters were well out of site; and then her face quickly fell back to its usual hard stare. The meeting had not gone as well as she’d liked. The Aes Sedai had not been very responsive, and she had no idea how they had received her greeting.

 

Smoothing her skirts in irritation Camiline gave a small nod to her daughter and stormed out of the room. She would need time to plan if tomorrow was to go any better than today.

 

The Lady Camiline Arman

*annoyed*

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Leanolle sat where she was for a while after her mother had left the room in a huff, given that it was dead silent after everyone had left. Why must she participate in her mother's idea, it's not as if she supported it, Lean thought angrily. On the contrary, she believed her mother was going about it entirely the wrong way. There was no need for the Aes Sedai to have come all this way, when the situation had an easy solution: marriage between the two families. Even if her mother wasn't amenable, Lean was her heir, and so was able to marry for the good of their estates, and was willing to marry if it meant an end to the fighting between the two families.

 

 

A marriage between her and the Lord Jac would be ideal. They had met in the court at Lugard, both having been sent there to learn the ways of the court. Over the year that Lean had known Jac, they had become quite good friends, and even though their parents were fighting over the family lands, Jac seemed to be a lot different to what her mother had told her about his father. Just before Lean was called back home by her mother, she broached the subject of marriage with Lord Jac, in hopes of their estates becoming peaceful again. He didn't seem to oppose the idea, and said that he would think it over and get back to her after a couple of days, but before he could tell her his thoughts about it, Lean was whisked away, back to the family manor.

 

 

 

She was startled of of her thoughts by a maid entering the room. “Oh, I'm sorry, m'lady. I thought the room empty,” the maid quickly said, afraid that she would get in trouble for disturbing Lean. It's okay, I was leaving anyway,” Leanolle said gently, and stayed only to smooth her dress before making her way to her rooms, where guards still stood watch outside. With a graceful nod to them, Lean entered her rooms, and sat in one of the few chairs.

 

 

A knock on the door woke Lean, and she grimaced as she realised that she had fallen asleep, and in a chair no less. As she got up, the knock came again, and Lean looked out the window, to see only darkness. She wondered who would bother her at this hour, and called out, “Come in.” One of the guards opened the door, and kept his gaze on the ground. “Milady, a summons from the Aes Sedai has arrived,” he said. Lean quickly glanced in the stand-mirror, and winced at the mess her hair had become. After a failed attempt at trying to get it sit the way it had earlier, she simply removed the clip holding it, and let it fall to half-hide her face. Lean walked from the room gracefully, dismissing the messenger. “I know my way around my home, thank you,” she said frostily, recognizing him as one of the men that listened and obeyed her mother over her. No doubt he would have tried to listen in on the conversation. With a sniff, Leanolle made her way to the rooms her mother had given to the Aes Sedai, and had almost reached the doors when a voice came out of the near-darkness.

 

 

 

“Who goes there?” a voice called, and she moved forward to try and get a view of the mystery watcher. “It is I, Lady Leanolle, of this house,” she replied calmly, wondering why the Aes Sedai would leave one of their Warders outside the door. “Your business here, my lady?” he asked, and Lean kept her face clear of the faint surprise she felt. Why does he not know I was summoned? She wondered. “ I received a summons from the Aes Sedai,” Lean said shortly, eying the Warder. She waited while he knocked and entered the room, her mind whirling as she thought of all the possible reasons the Aes Sedai would have to summon her.

 

Leanolle Arman ~ Slightly Confused

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Visar blinked in surprise. Leonolle had received a summons? Why hadn't he been told? Was he not considered trustworthy for such a simple bit of information that they were going to have a visitor? Did the Aes Sedai really think he was going to blather his mouth off to the nearest guardsmen about the visiting young lady?

 

Visar muttered something under his breath. Miss Arman raised an eyebrow wondering what he said.

 

"Hmm? No, nothing. I'll be right back." he said in intelligible words for once. Visar opened the door and found Kathleen and Gera sitting down at a table in the greeting room, waiting, well armed with the diplomatic weapons of biscuits and tea.

 

"Uh. . . Leonolle Arman is without waiting to see you," he said, not knowing what else to say.

 

"Send her in, Visar," Kathleen Sedai said without a hint of annoyance on her countenance. She must have easily read it on Visar's face, however.

"Yes I'll do that," Visar said. He went outside again and opened the door for the young lady. "They're expecting you, and look out: they have tea. It's terribly good I hear. . ."

 

Leonolle went in and Visar shut the door behind her. He immediately regretted not following her in, his curiosity making him anxious to know what they were going to talk about. He pressed his ear to the door, and heard introductory phrases here and there, but suddenly all sound from the room cut off. They must have used the Power so he couldn't listen in, he realized with disgust.

 

"Great. Back to watching the door." Visar leaned against the wall, looking at the opposite tapestry for the thousandth time, having already memorized every little feature of it.

 

Why won't they let me know what's going on? Bloody Aes Sedai! Even Rasheta would tell me what was happening instead of keep everything secret. . .

 

--Visar Falmaien, feeling out of the loop--

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Kathleen hated leaving Visar in the dark. She wasn't as prickly as some of her sisters but she had to show him how good he had it with Rasheta, and if that meant treating him poorly herself then that was a sacrifice she was willing to make. If he chose to leave his bond he would have to get used to not being involved in so much and not knowing what others were involved in. Still, the hint of surprise and the flash of displeasure in his eyes when he announced the noble daughter's sudden arrival tugged at Kathleen's heart. She wasn't overly attached to the man, but he was the warder of a very dear friend and that made this all the more personal. Yes, she was here to deal with the fueding and fear in this woman's land, and though she wished that it was all she had to focus on, it was not the only job she had to do and she took both just as seriously.

 

When Visar left to let the girl in Kathleen had only a few seconds to switch modes and focus back on the troubles of the land but she straightened her tea and nodded at Gera to make sure they were both on task. It seemed to be enough to get her head straight and all thoughts of Visar out of mind. When the girl entered Kathleen rose with a smile.

 

"I appologize for sending for you so late, but Gera Sedai and I have a few things we would like to discuss with you before our meeting with your mother in the morning. Come, have a seat and some tea. We will try not to be long, as we all need our rest." As the girl took her seat and Gera poured the tea and made polite converstation, Kathleen set a ward around the room so that they could be sure the conversation would stay private. Too many unseen ears could be anywhere and news of what was being discussed this night was not something Kathleen wanted spread about before the meeting with the girls mother in the morning. When the room was set Kathleen got comfortable in her seat and let Gera explain why the girl was summoned.

 

Kathleen was not in much of a mood for playing at the Great Game, they had had a rough journey and this day had been particularly long. She wanted this over and done with, and she was no Blue. She wanted information, but she wanted a bed more. Kathleen believed Gera could dance around the conversation for hours, but this was not the woman who needed the dance most. Gera could do the talking with the Lady of the manor in the morning, tonight would be short and sweet and perhaps the blunt talk would surprise the girl into saying more than she had planned. It had worked with others in the past, perhaps it would work again.

 

Kathleen sipped at her tea until she could take the small talk no longer, then politely cut the new Aes Sedai off when the girl had finished her thought. "We will have a full conversation with your mother in the morning, but I believe that will focus more on how to handle the situation and less about how it came to be and why we were asked to solve it. We did receive a letter that briefly explained your land's current situation. I would like to go into the meeting with your mother a little more knowledgeable of the issues. It wouldn't do any good to discuss how to fix things if I don't know what is broken, correct? Anything you can tell us about what we are dealing with and any history or suggestions on how to begin solving this would be much appreciated. You and your mother know your ways and your people better than my sister or I, after all. I apologize for being so blunt, but it is late, and we do need our rest if we are to be able to help you at our best in the morning."

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  • 4 weeks later...

The meeting in the night went on, Visar continuing to stand outside, irritated that he still didn't know what was going on. Perhaps there was some difference of opinion between the daughter and her mother and the Aes Sedai were taking advantage of it. But what could that be? She had seem perfectly normal sitting by her mother in the hall earlier.

 

All of it made Visar annoyed and increasingly angry. Why was he stuck here with nothing to do? Why didn't he even know what was going on? Why was he the subject of condescending patronization from Kathleen Sedai and open mistrust from Gera Sedai? Not knowing the answers, he fumed outside the door until pacing around got boring and he decided to just lean against the wall for a while and try not to think about anything at all, something that he was not too successful at doing.

 

He wondered what Rasheta was up to, way up north. He was willing to bet she wasn't as frustrated as he was. Or was she? It was so far away he couldn't even tell what she felt, only that she was somewhere up there, doing her Aes Sedai thing, which was certainly better than what he was stuck with at the moment. Which made him even more furious at her for sending him on this pointless mission where he wasn't needed or wanted. Visar swore that when he got back he would have their bond dissolved and be done with the whole bloody rubbish.

 

After a while being angry at everything and nothing was too intolerably boring as well, so he nodded off a little, confident his sense of hearing would detect any intrusion.

 

A hand on his shoulder woke him. Visar snapped his eyes open with a start and his hand darted nervously for his sword. Another hand checked his wrist almost gently.

 

"Relax, I mean you no harm." Visar relaxed a little. It was only Ned, probably finally sent out to relieve him on guard duty. Visar wearily nodded thanks and started to turn. Nev caught his shoulder again and spun him around.

 

"You were drifting." he stated bluntly. His eyes said that no warder worth his salt would ever drift while on watch.

 

"I wasn't," Visar started in protest, but Nev shook his head and repeated. "You were drifting. Don't do it again. It's not only your life on the line, and we're in a dangerous place here."

 

"You don't say..." Visar trailed off. There was nothing to say. He grunted and walked away, looking for a place to get a few more hours of sleep. He eventually settled on a secluded couch with a nice tapestry over it.

 

-------

 

Three days later and they were leaving the Arman manor well behind. An escort of the Lady's guardsmen rode with the main group, but only to the limit of the Lady's borders; then they would return and do whatever it was they did. Visar breathed in the strong aroma of pine needles and wildflowers as he stalked ahead of his horse, preferring to go silently in case of an ambush ahead. It was good to be out in open country again, and away from the confines of the manor, which often seemed like a prison to him. Sure, they were guests and treated with every courtesy, but Visar felt like they weren't really welcome there. Something had happened between the Aes Sedai and Lady Arman during their meetings, though Visar had not been present to hear them. He was sure he never wanted to just sit around and wait like that again if he could help it. Perhaps Nev would join him in a game of dice some time. . .

 

A soft whinny of a horse. A disgruntled curse. Steps. Visar slowed down and crouched down, letting his cloak drift over to cover most of his body as he crept forward. He darted from tree to tree to the side of the road, following the sounds and smells of the camp ahead. Sure enough, there were wagons and horses tied up. And men with spears and bows, too, looking rough and ready. Bandits, as sure as a river flows south.

 

Visar rode back with a sense of urgency.

 

"Bandits on the road ahead. I counted twenty-six of them, but there may have been a few more," he announced to the Aes Sedai. Their escort gave nervous looks, uncertain if they were expected to fight in this situation. The Aes Sedai's faces were completely unreadable. Visar could almost sense some level of their suspicion, however, as it had been under his watch before that they had run right into bandits before. "And no, I was not seen," Visar added stiffly, just in case they would ask.

 

He joined Nev to the side and waited for the Aes Sedai to make a decision about the bandits.

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Kathleen rode out with the others and pushed all distracting thoughts out of her head. The conversations with the Lady had been handled almost completely by Gera. Of course after the lady's daughter had left the meeting the night before the Aes Sedai had stayed longer to discuss where to go. Gera could be the face of the dealings with the nobles, but there was no way Kathleen wouldn't know full well what she was going to say before hand and there was certainly no way her thoughts wouldn't have an impact. The girl seemed to know well enough what she was doing, but Kathleen wasn't going to take the chance on the new Aes Sedai. Still the girl did surprising well. The true negotiations were yet to come, but Kathleen had less doubt about the girl's abilities. She wasn't sure if it was being so practiced from her many years before coming to the tower, or just that the Blues taught the girl well in her speedy raising, but whatever it came from the girl really was making a case for these new Aes Sedai.

 

However well the girl did in the nobles manor held no power now though. They were riding again, and no one would take the control from her out here. It wasn't that she didn't think the girl capable, or that she felt she needed control, it was simply that out here anything could happen, especially with the conditions the Lady had described. In such a unruley state it was only logical that the Green be the final voice. She didn't sit any straighter and bark orders, but the power in the group had shifted back to her the moment they mounted, even if only the Aes Sedai and Warders could feel it.

 

As they rode Kathleen kept a look out and tried to stay as close to Gera as she could. They needed to look like equals to the outside, or closest too, and they needed to discuss how Gera was going to handle things in the conversation with the Lord. That was where the real work would start. Hearing one side of the story and getting as much out of it as she could was one thing, but confronting the opposing side and still gaining more information was another. The girl would do a good job of it, but Kathleen still inquired to her plans as they rode.

 

The girl had told a similar story to her mother's, but there were subtle differences on emphasis and a few times the girl had seemed about to say one thing and changed her words before they were out. Kathleen and Gera had both picked up on this and were in discussing what they thought on it, careful not to be heard by the escorts, when Visar rode up to them, "Bandits on the road ahead. I counted twenty-six of them, but there may have been a few more," he paused, but quickly added,"And no, I was not seen." The escorts looked uneasy but that was not their concern. Kathleen's face stayed the porcelain face of an Aes Sedai as she quickly thought on what to do.

 

 

This wasn't something that she had hoped for, in fact it was something she had hoped to avoid, but it was something she would take advantage of. Every story has at least 3 sides and in this feud the bandits' would have a strong view too. It couldn't hurt to have their opinions. If it didn't help solve the feud between the nobles it could at least aide in finding a way to stop them later.

 

"Wonderful!" Kathleen replied, as if this had been part of her plan all along. It wasn't, but it was part of the plan now. "Well, you spotted them, so you get to go talk to them." Kathleen held off a smile as the shock hit Visar's face for a moment. Most would try to avoid being noticed especially if their scouts hadn't been seen, but that was not what was needed. "Find out all you can about what they are doing, and why they do it. And for Light's sake, don't let them get as close to us as you did last time." As soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted having said them. She wasn't often so loose with her tongue and this may have been overstepping her place with Rasheta's Warder. She had meant it, but she shouldn't have said it. "You did good to stay unseen to so many, but we are in need of their information. I trust you to be more than capable to approach these men, get what information you can and return without getting yourself killed or ourselves raided. Take a few moments to work out a sign with Nev. If you need his help he will come. If you need us, know we will back you." That was one advantage of not being on your own, someone is always there to help you out of trouble. Of course, you may not be in that trouble without that someone forcing you into in the first place. For now he had a purpose and he had to fulfill it. Kathleen waited as the warders worked out their signals and she kept her eyes on Visar's back as he rode back out. One on 26. She hoped it went smoothly for him, but she prepared her mind for a fight just the same. She would not let harm come to Rasheta's warder.

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  • 3 months later...

Visar's mouth hung open in protest: she wanted him to Talk to them?! To bandits, who forsook the laws to take what they pleased from innocent people? In his shock he could not find the words to say how foolish that sounded to him. The further insult that Kathleen implied, that he was a liability who could not protect them, stung harshly. Did Rasheta feel the same way about him?

 

She continued more sympathetically, but it was difficult for Visar to register any apology in her voice, he was too furious to listen closely to her reasoning or her expression of trust. So he was now a diplomat, a talker, but an expendable one.

 

He finally seemed to understand her back up plan: Nev would be nearby to signal, and the rest of them would be available to help if need be.

 

"Thank you, but I'm sure your help won't be needed." he said stiffly. "One against twenty-six. . ." he trailed off. Kathleen was looking at him with shock, Gera with something that might be interpreted as horror. Time to act the part, he thought.

 

"Never fought with my tongue before, Aes Sedai." he explained through his teeth. "I'll bring you your information." he concluded, and bowed formally to both of them.

 

As he rode off, Nev not far behind, Visar was almost alone with his thoughts. If he had felt like it, he probably could have done the Warder thing and sneak up on the bandits, make it through their lines and deal with their leader with some sort of clever bluff. But he was in no mood to be subtle. He would go straight in, ask for their leader. And if they weren't reasonable, he would cleave his way back out and let the Aes Sedai clean up the mess.

 

Yes, he thought. This'll be the last time I bloody have to deal with any of them, and then I'll be free!

 

He made it into the woods, and before he got close, Visar dismounted and donned his helmet and armor. Sending his horse (or was it his horse?) back to Nev with a word, he made the rest of the way on foot. He was sure that if he were taller, he would make quite an imposing figure; surely his fine equipment

 

and warder grace would have to supplement his stocky appearance.

 

He fumed about Aes Sedai and trust and a lot of things, which was why he didn't see the two sentries until they were only ten paces from him. One had an arrow fit to the bow, straining at full nock. In alarm, Visar ducked just as an arrow sailed overhead. He heard shouting, an argument of sorts. Could they have not meant to kill him? He rose, a snarl fixed to his face.

 

Nobody bloody shoots at me and flaming gets away with it! He thought about rushing them with his sword briefly, but remembered his mission just before he was about to draw his sword.

 

"Who goes there!" the other one shouted a challenge. He leaned lazily on a boar spear, but seemed confident, like he could use it. "That was a warning shot!" went the other one unsteadily, the young lad who had loosed an arrow. "You come any further without identifying yourself, you'll get more o' those!"

 

"I'm Vizrid," he replied in a loud voice, using his old Tairen name for kicks. "I don't bring you harm, I have a message. Take me to your leader, I will deliver it only to him personally."

 

They conferred with each other in hushed, excited tones, then the older one straightened.

"Come this way, we'll take you to him." He paused. "But no weapons! Give us your sword and knife there."

 

Visar raised an eyebrow. So these bandits possessed some intelligence. He grudgingly unbuckled his belt and handed his sword and dagger over. He wasn't defenseless; they didn't know about the knives he had hidden, though.

 

"I'd better get that back, or I'll make sure you both suffer," he threatened the sentries. The young one blinked and almost flinched, but the older one laughed it off bravely enough. They led him into the bandits' camp.

 

As Visar observed the camp, he noticed that most everyone was armed poorly, with modified farming or hunting tools for weapons, and practically no armor. The bandits all came out of their tents, curious to the new arrival. One of them, with an iron-shod staff, stepped up in front of the others. Their leader.

 

"By who's authority do you lead this band?" Visar asked, taking the initiative in the conversation. Diplomacy must be something like swordplay, the one who was on the defensive answering questions usually didn't have the upper hand. But Visar's temper had hardly gone out, so he doubted he would have much patience for anything this ruffian had to say.

 

 

-Visar Falmaien

about to do something really stupid.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pelian was up before the sun, waiting for the two farmers turned bandits to come back to their temporary camp. They only numbered twelve, yet when the tax collectors came through, it was more than enough to overwhelm the single guard that accompanied them. Two weeks ago, they had hit a tax collector carrying nearly double of what the previous collector had. It was obvious that the Lady was attempting to compensate for the stolen taxes by raising them even more, but the farmers who Pel and his men gave the money to were careful to keep it quiet.

 

A commotion outside had Pelian reaching for his staff. The sword he had brought from his farm had been given to one of the younger boys, and Pel had reverted back to the staff, with a modification, which was iron caps for the end. It had proven quite a useful addition, and made those fighting him wary. He grabbed the staff, and made his way outside, where the few men that weren't on guard were standing around a stranger. He had a strange cloak on, and Pel realised that this man must be a Warder. One of the younger boys had come back from the village with stories about Aes Sedai arriving to solve some dispute between the Lady and some lord, but Pel had just dismissed it as rumours. If this man was here, then that meant that the Aes Sedai couldn't be far behind. Stories said they were ten feet tall and lightning flew from their eyes, but Pel thought that was just plain superstition. That didn't mean that he and his men would be able to escape though, so he stepped forward to confront the man.

 

" By whose authority do you lead this band?" the Warder asked, standing at his ease in between the two sentries that had escorted him in to the camp. "My own," Pelian answered, grounding his staff beside him. "The Lady has unfairly raised the taxes for us farmers, and won't lower them, even though many of us have pleaded with her to. I gathered a few volunteers, and we disperse the unfairly taken money back among the farmers," Pel told the man, deeming it safe to say that the farmers were getting the money back.

Pelian Nirdon ~ Bandit Leader

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The bandit leader spoke with confidence and had the air of someone with purpose. Visar narrowed his eyes, trying to concentrate on his words.

 

"My own. The Lady has unfairly raised the taxes for us farmers, and won't lower them, even though many of us have pleaded with her to. I gathered a few volunteers, and we disperse the unfairly taken money back among the farmers."

 

Visar looked at those gathered again. Strong men, with rough hands. They held their weapons tensely, most of them adapted from farming or hunting tools. Bows, spears, axes; a sword here and there. And yet there was the feel that each man here had seen violence and death first hand. That they would do anything to protect what they had and what they took.

 

He wished he had his sword in hand to cut the lot of them down.

 

But this was a negotiation. That was what the Aes Sedai bloody wanted. Talk, not a fight. Burn me, but I itch for a good fight! his mind raged.

 

He went aside with the bandit leader and talked with him a little. They were still tense, unsure of his intentions, but he managed to insure the party's safe passage in return for promising to do something about the situation.

 

The party was headed to the Lord to try to open negotiations between the two. And after that, they would find the bandits, talk to them, and figure out what everyone wanted and see what could be done. The bandit leader agreed to spread the word, and he broke camp, headed farther north.

 

Visar wondered if he was getting his other compatriot farmer-bandits together or just moving on to easier hunting grounds. They would see.

 

He rode back to the party on the road, disappointed that nothing more interesting had happened.

 

"Made it back," he announced to Kathleen, trying to keep his teeth from clenching. What was it about these Aes Sedai that he couldn't stand? Oh yes. That they weren't Rasheta. But wasn't this about him not wanting to bother with Rasheta anymore? Seemed like he couldn't win either way he went.

 

"Their leader is a Pelian Nirdon," Visar explained to them. "They're former farmers. They claim that Lady Arman unjustly raised taxes on them and then did not defend them from raiders, whose origin they are not sure. Supposedly they are mercenaries hired by either the Lady or the Lord to stir up trouble. Sounds like the groups we had encountered earlier, if you ask me.

 

So this group takes up banditry, target her men and women, and merchants selling to her, in order to get that money back to their people still in the fields. Money and things they feel that she stole. I spoke to Pelian and he assured us that we could pass unharmed if we were going to do something to better the situation with both the Lady and the Lord, and remember that we would not hunt them down mercilessly, as they feel would be the form of "justice" the Lord or Lady would mete out. Those are the terms he wants for us moving through safely. He's moved on for now, but he left a guard for you both to give a message to him if you wanted to."

 

Visar spoke his piece and let the Aes Sedai mull over that information. He wondered what would be a more irritating response, a pat on the head and a treat like a dog? Or just ignoring him entirely? He would find out soon enough.

Edited by Visar Falmaien
need to move rp along
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  • 2 weeks later...

Kathleen waiting waited with the group for Visar to return. How she hoped he would return. As the days drew on she was less certain that his duty to the Tower would win out over his drive to be somewhere else. Where he wanted to be Kathleen couldn't be sure. Did he learn enough yet out here to pull him back to Rasheta, or had she pushed him over the edge and lost her sister's warder? She couldn't pull up now though, if she changed her ways now he would surely know it was all for show and then any progress that had been made would be lost. Still Kathleen sat waiting for something.

 

She waited for the best, Visar riding back them unharmed; her fear, Visar riding off away away from the party; and the worst case, Nev riding in to help the other warder in a fight. Kathleen was far too used to this tension she felt. It seemed almost as much a part of her as her arms. Still her arms couldn't be left behind in a hot tub, but hopefully this stress soon would be.

 

When Visar finally rode back Kathleen didn't let her relief show. She wasn't sure which she was more relieved over, his safe return, or just the fact that he returned at all.

 

"Made it back," Visar called out. Kathleen wasn't sure if it was condescending, but if it was it was warranted from the way she had spoken to him, and it was subtle enough that she would let it pass. Kathleen waited for the warder to finish his report before she spoke.

 

"I did not ask you, but I agree that if, and I stress if, the lady or lord hired such groups as these farmer's suggest, that they could possibly have been the groups we met on the way here. How ever, that is far to many if's based off the talk of angry men who seem themselves not to know for sure the details, to really give me much to go on here. Thank you for your report, Visar. And thank you for securing our safe passage through. Though I cannot guarantee any fate for those men. Be prepared to fight for our way back through if the talks with the lord this day do not work out in those farmer's favor."

 

With that Kathleen turned from the warder, kicked into her horses ribs and started the party moving on.

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"I did not ask you, but I agree that if, and I stress if, the lady or lord hired such groups as these farmer's suggest, that they could possibly have been the groups we met on the way here. How ever, that is far to many if's based off the talk of angry men who seem themselves not to know for sure the details, to really give me much to go on here. Thank you for your report, Visar. And thank you for securing our safe passage through. Though I cannot guarantee any fate for those men. Be prepared to fight for our way back through if the talks with the lord this day do not work out in those farmer's favor."

 

Visar stood there silently, taking in the Aes Sedai's words. He had felt some sort of connection with the bandits, just trying to rebel against the authority that held them and attain freedom. He felt like he had betrayed them. No, this Aes Sedai, Kathleen, had already betrayed them in her words, if it was not convenient to spare them.

 

Useless. It was all useless. He had tried so hard to control himself, to do things the way they wanted him to, and yet it just wasn't good enough. Visar dropped back, found his horse, and rode the rest of the day in relative silence.

 

- - -

 

That night, they had camped just outside the Lord's manor, the Aes Sedai in one tent meeting to discuss how they would approach the Lord the next morning. They had not been invited, after all, and they had sent word ahead that they would be arriving. Best let the Lord worry for a night about Aes Sedai coming to his court.

 

Visar didn't care about that, too concerned with his own planning. Let the Aes Sedai plan their negotiations. They certainly did not need him around, the way he was treated almost as much a tool as the Lord they were about the manipulate with the Game the high lords and Aes Sedai played so well.

 

Visar had no such talents with words or with some secret Power. He had only his sword, his dagger, his bare fists. He was a killer, nothing more. He had started a killer, murdered a man in Tear over a night's gamble. And some day, someone else would kill him one day too. That's what happened to killers.

 

Why would an Aes Sedai ever want the likes of him? He could not even protect himself from his own darkness. Visar sat in his tent, waiting for his watch as the night and the fire burned on.

- - -

 

When it was time, Visar Falmaien--no, he was no longer worthy of that name! He was not 'freedom's bright flame' anymore. He was his father's son, the poor merchant's boy from Tear, who ran and ran, towards trouble and away from it,and now would run some more.

 

Vizrid Belar took one last look at the fire, the camp. He looked up to the stars, crystal clear lights. No moon visible tonight; that was good. What were the stars? Were they little lights the Wheel wove just so that there would not be total darkness when the sun fled? Were they specks of hope in the greater void threatening to engulf all of them?

 

Vizrid looked at the trees. Smelled them.

 

His freedom. His doom.

 

Without a sound Vizrid slipped into the night's welcoming arms.

 

-Vizrid,

a renegade.

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Kathleen sat with Gera in the tent they brought to negotiate in. It was neutral ground. Silly as it seemed it was often the only way that exchanges could be thought of as being on equal ground when traveling with other Aes Sedai. Each sister had her personal tent for sleeping and preparing in the morning, and this was meeting tent. It seemed pretentious to Kathleen, this was her mission, she had more experience and everyone knew it didn't matter when and where a decision was made, there were rules around who was in charge and which tent you were in was not taken into consideration.

 

Still, the negotiation tent had been set up so she may as well use it. No need in shifting the girl's belongings to fit Kathleen in her tent, and there was certainly no need to make Nev leave his own tent to invite Gera to theirs.

 

There wasn't much to discuss, but she couldn't go in blindly either. They both had to know how it was going to go. They spent hours discussing the situation from every angle. What they each thought of Visar's report. What to do if it was the case that the Lord had hired these bandits. What to do if the Lady had hired them. What parts they would focus on with the meeting with the Lord was the main business, and it was late by the time they got to discussing it. It was decided that Kathleen would be the one to do the talks with him. Though the girl had done well with the Lady, they thought it best to have Kathleen take the lead with him. Not taking sides really, but it just seemed right to have them each take the lead with one. That way their was less chance of mixed wills having much affect. Or at least it would seem that way.

 

It was well past the time Kathleen had been hoping to be asleep when she finally left the meeting tent to go to bed. Gera had left at the same time and went straight to her own tent. Kathleen wanted to do the same, but decided to check on Visar before going to sleep. She looked around the camp for him and didn't find him. Panic struck her as she realized his horse and his things were gone. How long had he been gone? More importantly, where had he gone? She hoped she had ridden back to Rasheta, but if he was going back to her she knew he would have stayed with the party until they returned.

 

As she stared off into the distance she could feel Nev approach her side. She didn't say anything and for a moment the two just stood. Nev broke the silence and said he'd keep watch till the morning. Kathleen nodded. There was not much else she could do. She couldn't send Nev out looking for Visar, though she wished he would ride out and bring the other man back. They had a mission to take care of, and though Kathleen had failed in one of her missions she would not fail with the other.

 

********

 

When morning did come and Kathleen woke, she hoped she would see Visar's face as she left her tent. She scanned the small camp but she knew he wasn't there. She went to Gera's tent and informed her that Visar was gone. Deserted. Not missing, he had deserted the cause. She couldn't say it. She wouldn't say it! Even though it was true. Still the cause the went on, and so must she. She had to put Visar out of her mind, and focus on the meeting with the Lord.

 

She helped ready the group to leave and the thoughts of Visar were left behind as they road off to reach the Lord's manor. She would think on what to tell Rasheta when the tiff between these two nobles was settle and she was on her way home. Perhaps Visar would come to his senses and return to them before then and Kathleen wouldn't have to worry about it.

 

They rode late into the day and it was just after the supper hour when the party finally approached the manor. After a quick discussion with some guards who were caught off guard at there arrival the party was accepted in. Their horses were taken to the stables as they were ushered into the manor to await the Lord.

 

*****************

 

After a few too many welcoming words from the Lord Kathleen was dismissed and shown to her room. The real talk would come in the morning. How these nobles loved to keep Aes Sedai through the night. She wasn't sure which story would they boast about in the morning, how they had been so lucky to have the Aes Sedai choose to stay with them over the others, or just that they had survived the night trapped within walls with them.

 

Still the walls around what would be her bed were very comforting. She could relax at last. As Kathleen began taking her night clothes out of her bag Nevuel entered the room. He was moving slowly, almost unsure if he should continue. Kathleen didn't see him like this often so she set her bag aside and softly confronted him.

 

"What is it Nev? You've seemed off all day."

 

"I failed." It was almost a whisper, and he couldn't meet her eyes as he admitted it.

 

Kathleen sighed, "It was not your job to keep watch of Visar. He was not in your care, he was in mine. I failed, Nev, not you."

 

His eyes shifted around the room and Kathleen could tell he was holding back. He reached into is own bag and slowly pulled out the folded fan cloth cloak. "I have failed you and I have failed the Tower." He stated as he held the warder's cloak out to her.

 

"Don't be so foolish, Nevuel, you haven't failed anyone. You couldn't have known he was leaving, and even if you had, it wasn't your place to keep him here. Now, put your cloak away and stop being so dramatic."

 

"It's not mine, Kat." he hesitated, "It is..it was Visar's. I did try to stop him. But I failed."

 

Kathleen stared at him, shocked for just a moment, then she pulled herself together. It wasn't often she saw her warder like this. She wanted to know more, but she knew how hard it was for him to tell her what he had. She had to support him now, not force more information that wouldn't change anything.

 

"Well then, if you did try to stop him leaving, you did your duty to the Tower. You needn't win every fight to do your job. You must only be willing to persue the fight in the first place to live up to your duty. The fact that you tried to stop him means you did your duty. The fact that he has left means he did not do his. He let the Tower down, Nev. That was his choice."

 

Kathleen took the fan cloth from her warder's hands and ran her fingers over it as she tucked it into her own bag. She tried to push down the rage as it built in her, but holding his cloak made it swell. The coward! How could he betray her like this? After all the years that Rasheta had stood beside him, watching his back and fighting his fights, how could he just abandon her like this? How could he walk away and not even tell her? What kind of a man is he that he would send a messenger with his cloak to tell his own Aes Sedai he was running? And how could he possibly expect me to explain away his leaving. How can I tell her that her warder deserted the Tower? That he deserted her? That he ran, like a coward, in the night!?

 

Kathleen closed the bag and put it on the floor as she turned to Nevuel. "How terrible would we look if we asked someone to fetch us something stronger than tea?" she asked.

Edited by Kathleen
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Visar had not gone far when he felt the presence of another like him watching. He whirled around, frustrated that he had been discovered so soon.

 

"Nev." he stated.

 

"Visar. You leaving?" The slim form of Nev slid out of the shadow of a tree.

 

"Yes, and don't try to stop me." Vizrid growled, all of his instincts screaming a threat to his existance. Nev and he were about evenly matched in the blade, but at night, when it was so difficult to see. . .

 

"I'm afraid I have to, Visar," Nev said sadly, drawing his sword. Vizrid nodded, drawing his own. They understood. Vizrid could not let Nev take him back. Nev could not let Vizrid become a risk to the party's security.

 

No dance, no playing around like you would in the training yards, they rushed for each other, both striking in from above.

 

Their blades clashed together, a spark illuminating their faces for a brief moment before going dark again.

 

Feel! Feel the blade! Visar told himself, as he felt the pressure in the bind. Suddenly there was no pressure. . .He was striking around!

 

Vizrid brought his hilt up and blade down to defend his upper right side, the hit crashing against his flat and driving into his shoulder. It cut, but not badly enough to stop him fighting. They were close now, close enough to,

 

Without thought, Vizrid closed in, snaked his arm around Nev's, and with a deft jerk of his body weight, their swords fell out of their grasp in a muted tangle. Nev tried to go down for his sword, but Vizrid quickly closed in. Without their swords, he now had the upper hand. His arms crashed into Nev's, feeling that he was going forward. Quickly, Vizrid got a good grip behind his neck, grasping Nev's left shoulder. Then, he twisted his weight around, bringing Nev forward even more, and threw out his leg.

 

They struggled for a brief moment, and then Vixrid's leg shot up between Nev's like Tower of the Morning, removing his balance and bringing him to the ground. Nev held on tenaciously, breaking his fall and taking Visar with him. They struggled, Nev searching for his sword, Vizrid seeking the dominant position.

 

There! He pinned Nev's arm just as his hand closed on a sword hilt, and Vizrid had his dagger out in a blink of an eye.

 

"Stop," he whispered, his blade point touching Nev's throat and his other arm effectively pinning Nev from making a strong cut. The Warder made a strangled, agonized sound, then he relaxed. He knew that Vizrid could have killed him, yet had chosen not to do so.

 

"Before I let you go, you will do three things."

 

Nev nodded slowly, waiting for Vizrid's terms.

 

"First, you will not follow me. Your duty is to Kathleen. Let the Tower hunt me down if they wish. Second, you will return to Kathleen and say nothing of what happened here."

 

Nev's eyes narrowed in the dim starlight; his body tensed for a moment, as if springing for a fight. Vizrid reminded him of his dagger blade, the point dug in just a little, almost drawing blood. Nev relaxed again, and nodded twice. He relented.

 

Carefully springing off of Nev, Vizrid found both swords on the ground before Nev rose unsteadily to his feet. Vizrid sheathed his own, and handed Nev his. The Warder silently took it.

 

"The third?" he asked, turning to go.

 

"Ah, yes." Vizrid had almost forgotten. "Give this to your Aes Sedai, but tell her nothing." He unfastened his Warder cloak and tossed it to Nev, who took it.

 

They went their separate ways. An hour later, Vizrid bound the wound in his shoulder, and continued on into the day.

 

- - -

 

Two days later, Viz found them, still traveling north along the border. He was right up on their sentry, and tapped him on the shoulder.

 

The poor man yelped with a start until he recognized who it was.

 

"The Warder?! Why are you here?"

 

"Will explain. Take me to Pelian."

 

The bandit leader came out of his tent with his staff.

 

"You again? And without your fancy cloak? Speak quickly, what do you want, Warder?"

 

Visar braced himself. He would have to be careful around these ones.

 

"I am no longer a Warder." he said. "My name is Vizrid Belar, and I'm here to join your bloody band."

 

-Vizrid Belar,

a bandit.

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A few blissful days were spent getting to know Pelian and the fellow band members. They really were half decent folks at their core, they had just resorted to desperate means in desperate times. They did not all trust Vizrid, thinking he was a spy, but he did not mind too much. He understood their distrust. Even so, he endeavored to try to win their fondness and trust.

 

It was a good few days. But it was never to be.

 

- - -

 

Vizrid was hunting with Risker, Pelian's younger farmer cousin, when it happened. He sensed danger nearby, though Risker laughed it off. He liked to laugh, and it was infectious. They continued to set snares in the woods.

 

When they came back into the camp, Viz stopped and crouched, sensing that something wasn't right. He tried to motion Risker to do the same, but the younger man had noticed something and rushed into the camp with his bow.

 

The camp members were all there, thank the Light, but they all had a sunken shade to their faces. They were terrified, Viz realized after some confusion. Something had happened to make them cower. They discussed their options in hushed voices. Some of them wanted to go back to serve the Lady. Pelian shouted at these, arguing that they should leave Murandy altogether. Flee to Andor. It took some time to get the full story out of them.

 

Darkly garbed warriors heading west. They had passed through, and the bandits, if they had stood and fought, would have been annihilated. For, as Vizrid learned from Pelian, they were a mercenary band of assassins, and they apparently had had orders from Lady Arman.

 

But what orders? And for what purpose? Vizrid easily guessed one or two, but it was too terrible to voice with his new friends.

 

Even so, as they prepared to flee north, he felt increasingly uneasy. What would he do, now that he knew for certain, in his gut, where those assassins were headed. He would have to make a choice, and soon.

 

Would he choose his new freedom, at the sacrifice of everything he had stood for for years? The new life he had been given, completely and irrevocably destroyed? He must do something, even if try to cut in front of the mercenaries to warn them, Kathleen and the others. They were in danger. But if he delayed, it would be too late. Even Aes Sedai might fall from a poisoned crossbow bolt, as these mercenaries were known for their skill, as well as their slim bladed swords and daggers.

 

Vizrid had to be by himself. None of the bandits would understand. They would never understand why he would even think of the idea of rushing after a group of well-trained assassins, which was suicide! Run away, live another day and live. That was what they did. They survived. Vizrid wanted to go with them. He didn't want to be tied up with Aes Sedai politics anymore. He wanted to be free. Or was he just telling himself that because he didn't want to confront himself? The way he chained himself with guilt and shame.

 

He wanted to tear his hair out! Why did this decision have to be so hard? Run away, abandon his duty, and be free and live, but know that he could have done something about it. Feel guilty about it for maybe the rest of his life. Or for honor's sake, run back into the fray and face certain death.

 

But as hard as Vizrid tried to flee, Visar could not, no matter how he pulled at the Aes Sedai yoke, knowingly abandon and betray them to a violent fate. And so after many agonizing hours of delay, he made his decision.

 

He did not say farewell to the bandits. It was possible that they might see him again. At any rate, if he ever survived this he knew exactly where they were going if he was able to reunite. Rather, he left the same way he came, like a thief in the night. He took some of their provisions, and took a hunting bow and arrows too, though he doubted he'd be able to hit the broad side of a barn more than a hundred paces away. They didn't notice or give an alarm. Amateurs, really.

 

Visar and Vizrid ran. But rather than running away, he was the pursuer. The hunter stalking a dangerous prey. And he was also running towards himself. Back to his life. Back to his problems. Back to his fears and terrors. Back to his despair and sadness. They pulsed unmercifully through his mind as he ran, unceasing, into the night and into the day. They forced him to confront them, for he wouldn't have time to once the fighting began. Once the fighting began, it would certainly be too late by then. He would take as many as he could, but he didn't realistically expect to survive an armed encounter with ten men. No one did that and lived, even in the stories.

 

Visar Falmaien,

-racing after certain death

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  • 1 month later...

Lord Daemon Hargrave stood on top of the roof of his four story high mansion, overlooking the surrounding area. He was a tall man, a hard man, a man not to be triffled with. As that witch of a Lady Arman would soon find out. Did she really think she could continue to bask in the wealth that was stolen from his family? His son, a young man of 20, stood at his side. They were of equal height but that's where the resemblance ended. Daemon had tried to teach his son through rod and whip that life was not for the weak of heart or the slow of mind. It hadn't worked. The boy was still soft hearted, though he has learned to hide it well. Years at that estate in Andor hadn't helped much either. Rumors of a friendship between Jac and the Arman brat had reached Daemon's ears and he instantly had ordered Jac's return and had locked him in a cell for a month. A daily beating had taken care of the boy's treason to his family and his bloodline.

 

"My Lord, forgive the intrusion." Larko, the family's key holder, approached with care and visible deference. Daemon had never beaten him or treated him badly, but his reputation was well known among all his servants and Larko was not the type to try his luck. "What is it, Larko?", Daemon asked without taking his eyes from the fields below. "A delegation of Aes Sedai, my Lord. They have arrived and are awaiting you in the audience chamber, my Lord."

 

Aes Sedai? Here? Now? Daemon's mind was instantly rushing through all sorts of possible explanations, but only one made sense for the Tower to become involved. What did those meddling women think they were doing? This was a family affair and none of their flaming business. "Come.", he snapped at his son and turned without another word towards the door. Footsteps behind told him the boy was following, with the key holder closely behind. He had no wish to see these women or anyone from Tar Valon, ever. But neither could he afford to simply turn them away, which didn't much to improve his already angry mood.

 

As they descended towards the chamber his mind calmed down and he started to spot opportunities in this unexpected turn of events. He still didn't know for sure why they were here, but regardless of the reason perhaps he could use them to his own advantage. He needed time to think. He needed first to find out why they were here and then time to think. A short welcome with a quick inquiry to the reason of their visit and then send them off to bed would give him several hours to think on the issue before having to engage in the discussion.

 

"Let's see what these women are up to then.", he said and entered the chamber. Daemon made a real show of welcoming the Sisters and their entourage to his house, offering food and drinks and trying to find out through chit chat the purpose of their visit. The unreadable faces never changed an inch and he felt himself becoming more and more annoyed and irritated as they would not disclose their intentions, no matter how he tried. After a short time, what seemed a lifetime to him, he offered to have them seen to their rooms which they accepted with grace and that was the end of that meeting.

 

Not too well pleased with the way things had gone, Daemon retired to his own rooms completely ignoring his son who had sat silently through the whole thing. There was nothing for it than to wait till morning when they would deem themselves ready to give him the information he needed.

 

Light! What did a man have to do to get some respect in his own home!?

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